The last few weeks I’ve been reading The Artist’s Way. A friend of mine suggested a group of us go through the book and support one another in doing the activities. I’ve found the book quite interesting, some of the attitude challenges have been insightful, some of the activities have been fun. I decided some were too much bother and didn’t do them, others I meant to do but haven’t yet.
One of the things I’m exploring as part of the journey is blocking activities, namely scrolling endlessly through social media while watching TV, and have taken up crochet. The first couple of test patches I was making mistakes I couldn’t yet identify, but the third one was pretty good. I’m psyching myself up to try an actual pattern, something that will be a thing, a scarf or hat perhaps to start.
The images above a sample of crochet, and two collages I put together from activities in the Artist’s Way. The book has its drawbacks, and it’s very dated in certain aspects, but overall it has been a positive experience.
I’m also continuing work on various writing projects, a sequel to a previous novel, as yet not titled, and a rewrite of a novel I wrote a few years ago. I have a friend who I’m trying to convince to co-write a screen-play, so far it’s only at the pitch stage, and I am regularly working on my poetry.
The course, as described in the book, seems to be opening up a bunch of new and interesting avenues. It will be interesting to see how long they stick around, but on the other hand I suppose it doesn’t matter. The idea of play in my art practices has been a hard one to get my head around. I’ll persevere in trying to be playful and aim for a child-like glee. I hear it’s enjoyable.
I’ve been trying to come up with a blog post for about three weeks and so far, nothing good has come to mind, so I thought I would talk about maintenance.
Maintenance is the not at all sexy stuff we do to keep things running – it’s brushing your teeth, or eating healthy or exercising (for the body), cleaning the toilet or mopping the floors, it’s practicing scales and exercises (for music), it’s showing up to write even if you don’t feel like it.
There is an argument to be made that motivation follows action, and not the other way around. One must start doing something to feel like doing it. In a way it helps, because you don’t have to wait until you feel like something to get started, but it also means I have to start before I even feel like it, which can be hard sometimes, especially if things are tough for any reason.
This week I’ve worked on my manuscript a couple of times, I’ve done piano practice most days, I’ve done yoga or a walk or the gym and in most cases I didn’t feel like it. I’m not sure if it’s winter inertia, or I’m having a particularly low energy week, but life feels hard. Getting up for work when it’s under 10˚ C is probably not helping.
Is being an adult progressively adding more maintenance tasks to your list to feel vaguely normal? In my memory I didn’t worry so much about stuff when I was younger, but maybe I’m misremembering. I feel much less fun and spontaneous – my back pain, and ankle injury and the whole pandemic thing didn’t help with that either. Maybe I’ll get back to feeling spontaneous. Maybe I’ll want to create more, rather than relying on starting an activity and hoping I’ll get into it once I’ve begun.
I had coffee with a former work colleague earlier today, though more correctly my former boss, and we had a lovely chat about life, the universe and everything (with a long detour to cults started because I recently read the Book of Revelation and wow, was that a trip, I digress). As I went back to my car to head to my exercise physiology appointment, I found I had a parking ticket. I was in a zone where I had to pay for a ticket, but I had misread the sign and assumed it was two-hour free parking, not two-hour paid parking. I was annoyed because it’s another in a long line of expenses (let’s not even get into the cost of vegetables or petrol at the moment) I have and it would have been avoidable if I’d been more careful about reading the sign. The annoyance spread through the rest of the day, something I feel might not have happened when I was younger.
I guess I’m worried I’m becoming boring and curmudgeonly and I’m not even that old! On the other hand, the world has objectively been through a very bad last couple of years, so perhaps I should give myself a bit more time to get over the trauma (and ongoing stress) of the COVID-years.
I’ve had this blog for over a decade, and I have been posting semi-regularly to it so I think I can say I’m maintaining it. Here’s to trying to find more joy in maintenance.
I’ve been a bit quiet here on the blog, not for any reason apart from life getting the better of my time, including starting a new day job.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the book launch for my friend and poet, John Lowe’s collection Houndstooth. It was held at Brighton Library, a bit of a trek for me but worth it, and attended by around thirty people, friends, family, fellow writers.
I know John from my poetry group, I’ve workshopped various poems with him for several years, and have enjoyed the opportunity to give and receive feedback.
John was introduced by Chris Ringrose, a poet, academic, and member of our group. His insight were helpful in gaining a deeper understanding of the poetry in the collection.
I decided to mask, even though it’s not required. I go out into the world a lot more these days, I still wear my mask most of the time in large groups and in shops.
It’s too early to claim that we’re back to a pre-plague way of life, and we need to keep safe as we need to but it’s so lovely to be able to go out, to support the arts, especially the work of people I know.
April is my poetry writing month, as I undertake the Na/GloPoWriMo a month-long poetry challenge initiated by Maureen Thorson on the model of NaNoWriMo. Each day Maureen presents a prompt, relating to content, or form, or sometimes both.
I have written poetry since I was an angsty teen, some of my previous work still exists on my old website, as well as in my chapbook, Smells Like Teen Angst, but I often don’t make time for it, outside of April. I’m a member of a poetry workshop/collective, and I have been workshopping poems from last year’s NaPoWriMo all the way up to the start of this year’s challenge.
I’m heading out to the northwest of Melbourne to a writers’ retreat on the weekend. I’m looking forward to the stimulation and to the potential networking opportunities. I hope that I can get value from the content, as I haven’t worked with the organisers before. If nothing else, I will try to enjoy a weekend in the country. Maybe they will have a big bath that I can relax in, or a piano.
In my life outside of writing, I’ve resigned from my day job and will be starting a new day job after Easter. I’ve been working for the same organisation for almost six years, and it feels very strange preparing to leave it now. A lot has changed over that time; I’ve had three different managers, and we’ve been moved around departments a number of times, but a lot has stayed the same too. I won’t go into too many details, but I’m both excited and a little nervous about the new role. It’s with a similar organisation doing a similar job, hopefully with some more seniority.
Many of my colleagues have expressed their gratitude for the work I do, a couple have said I can’t leave, which I assume means something similar. The relationships I’ve forged with the people there have been the highlight, and one of the reasons I’ve been able to stay on so long. I’m sorry to leave the organisation, there will be a bit of messiness in the transition to a new person in my role, but I hope they’ll be able to structure things in a way that benefits everyone.
April seems to be a time for beginnings and endings. Closing one door allows another to open, I’m feeling pumped to find out what’s on the other side of this one. I might even be inspired to put up one of my daily poems too.
Each year I do a little wrap up post about the last twelve months and how they’ve gone for me. 2020 was, as I’m sure it was for many of you, a shit show. 2021 started out hopeful, I went back to working in the office sometimes, I saw a couple of Melbourne Comedy Festival shows and a few band nights and gigs around town.
I even managed to get through the year without testing positive for COVID which is nice; I’m not sure I’ll be able to say the same for next year. Our case numbers are in the thousands per day, but with over 90% of the population vaccinated, it seems hopeful that we’ll be able to stay open even with new variants.
I set my expectations pretty low, after 2020 I wanted to feel confident I would tick some of them off, even if there was another long lockdown. Turns out I was right to be sceptical that our freedom would last; from May until October, we were all stuck inside again and we’re only allowed out now because of high vaccination rates.
Put on a third Melbourne Fringe Festival show (October)*
Wasted Monday performances*
I achieved all my goals, except for the Fringe Show. If I’m honest, I’m not sure I would have done a show this year even without lockdown. There is a lot of joy in putting on a Fringe show, but an enormous amount of work. I’m focussing my energy on my writing, music, and doing some painting as well. I have three murals in my apartment now and have moved on to smaller boards that can be kept or given away to friends.
I took up piano lessons late in 2020, online only at the time since we were still in lockdown then. After a little over a year, I’m enjoying playing and tinkering on the piano. I might even build a repertoire so I can do some open mic nights with the keyboard – although the keyboard’s pretty massive so transporting it will be a pain. My piano teacher has organised two small concerts in 2021 with her adult students, and I have really enjoyed having an audience again, as well as being able to play two or three gigs with Wasted Monday when we were allowed.
My work that can be done at home has been pretty consistent, I have drafted about 80k of a new novel, and I have two novels that will be ready for publication in 2021 (stay turned for title and cover reveals).
Though I did a 30k goal for NaNoWriMo, I’m counting it. It’s been a tough year and my writing practice is pretty solid, so I don’t need to rely on November to make up the lion’s share of my first draft output.
My ankle, which was smashed when I was struck by a car in January 2020, is largely recovered, though there is some long-term damage and it’s never going to be back to the way it was. The biggest issue I have nowadays is chronic back pain, likely a secondary injury from the ankle problem. I find it hard to work when I’m in pain, a sentiment I’m sure many of you share.
I’m pleased to say my relationships–with friends, family and work colleagues–have remained solid for the duration, I am so grateful to have so many fantastic people around me. Even when we couldn’t see anyone in real life, I knew you were all there, at the end of the phone or over text.
My grandmother passed in September, she was 94, so had a good run. The funeral was weird, because we were in lockdown and had only two people in the chapel, and a few more watching online. Most other things have ticked along, in some cases limped along during lockdown, but have largely survived. I feel hopeful that 2022 will be enjoyable, possibly going out of the house more often, perhaps I’ll even be able to have a holiday outside of Victoria.
I wish you all health, happiness, relaxation and fulfilment, for the next year and beyond. The next post will include my new year goals.
It’s probably not news that COVID-19 is still a thing. In Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia are all in lockdown. We’re not allowed out except for the five basic needs; food, medical care, caregiving, essential work, and getting a vaccine.
In a little over two weeks I’m supposed to be going to the Gold Coast for a writers conference, but it’s unclear whether Queensland will even let my into the state – and that’s assuming our lockdown is lifted in time in order to leave Victoria. It’s not clear at this stage whether the conference will be able to go ahead, even if it’s moved online as it was last year.
It’s disappointing to be back here again, it’s disappointing to still be unvaccinated – though hopefully I’ll be on the way to that by the end of next week.
In the meantime, I’ve been able to work from home. I’ve been toiling away at various indoor projects, including piano practice, and a mural in my apartment. It’s based on a tarot card design by Matt Hughes for The High Priestess, a card that particularly resonates with me.
My latest writing project is editing a novel I’m planning to release in 2022. Part of a two-book series about a mother and daughter, as yet both are unnamed, but perhaps my editor will have some ideas in October when she has a look over it.
I was really looking forward to the conference, and to the break in sunny (or at least sunnier than here) Queensland. Perhaps I’ll be able to go somewhere in Victoria instead, or later in the year if all else fails. Until then it’s stay inside, wear my mask, do my bit, and hope the situation improves soon.
I tried to write this on New Year’s Day but got distracted by being tired and a bit sore from having a big night. Even now I’m still tired and scatterbrained.
When I wrote up this list I saw it’s exactly the same as last year’s. Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to stick to stuff I can do on my own, while in my house, until the COVID-19 vaccine is in wide circulation and the threat of another lockdown is not imminent.
So here’s the list:
Publish Singular Focus
Finish manuscript from NaNoWriMo 2020
NaPoWriMo 2021 (April)
NaNoWriMo 2021 (November)
Keep up the blog
Paint more murals
Put on a third Melbourne Fringe Festival show (October)*
Wasted Monday performances*
The last two are pretty much dependent on the ability to move around in the world. For a long time Victoria had no cases, but they’re back. We’re definitely doing much better than other places, so hopefully we can get the spread under control again.
Music, writing and art have kept me sane while socialising has not been possible. I really miss performing, but I know I’ll be back on stage soon.
For everyone’s sake I hope 2021 is easier than 2020, but if not, we’re all kick ass at staying inside and wearing masks now, and maybe that will make the difference.