For the last thirty days I have been participating in the NaPoWriMo challenge. I have undertaken this challenge the last few years, and have found it valuable if not always easy.
This year I followed the prompts for each day, all except for the final day as I’m up in Sydney visiting a friend and didn’t have access to the poetry books at home to do a cento. Also, a cento seemed like a lot of work choosing lines from other poems to collate into a new one.
It has been strange travelling in this COVID-conscious world. The daily case numbers in Sydney are comparable to Melbourne, but mask wearing up here is much less common than at home. I guess we’re all still a bit traumatised after our two long lockdowns.
It was strange thinking about getting on a plane to come up here, but once I was there waiting to board it seemed normal. Most people were masked in the terminal, maybe 75%, and they were very clear on the plane that masks were mandatory. It was fully booked, so I wasn’t used to being so close to so many people, but I coped.
I’ve written a few good poems as part of this year’s NaPoWriMo challenge, and a few that might not make the cut. I’m sure you’ll see a few on this blog in the coming months and maybe in the next poetry chapbook I release (no dates for that, it’s still in the concept phase).
I hope you’re all doing well in the change of seasons; the weather has been varied to say the least. At least up here in Sydney I don’t need to worry so much whether I have a jacket and umbrella with me.
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.
Here we are again, the first day of a new year, 2022. I am hesitant to say I’m feeling optimistic, since the plague is still with us, and travel seems like it’s not really on the cards yet, but perhaps we will be able to do more stuff this year.
I don’t usually make new years’ resolutions, anecdotal evidence suggests that resolutions last about three weeks, if that, so having goals seems to be better in terms of being consistent. I’ve set goals for the coming year for a few years running now, it seems to work better.
My goals for 2022 are similar to my previous annual goals, but let’s call it consistency rather than unoriginality:
Publish two manuscripts (titles and covers coming soon)
Finish manuscript for Singular Focus 2 (working title)
NaPoWriMo 2022 (April)
NaNoWriMo 2022 (November)
Keep up the blog
Painting projects, including a proposal for a mural in my apartment building hallway
Wasted Monday performances*
Piano open mic performance*
The last two, as with last year, are dependent on things being open for performances, but fingers crossed we should be able to get a couple of performances in somewhere.
I would like to spend a bit less time watching TV, more time reading and doing my various projects. Habits are the best predictors of future behaviour, so if I can get into the habit of doing a bit more than rewatching crime procedurals, that’d be good.
I’ll keep working on my garden, it’s looking pretty good these days. I have some berry bushes that produce pretty well and I’ve planted a couple of tomatoes that I hopefully won’t kill before they fruit too.
There was talk we wouldn’t get a proper summer here because of La Niña but the last couple of days have been hot and sunny, so perhaps those predictions were wrong. Outdoor gatherings of a few people seem to be the way to go these days, perhaps coffee outside at a cafe or two. So I will wish you all a very Happy New Year; may 2022 be kind to you and be full of joy and just enough challenge to keep things interesting, but not enough to make you miserable.
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.
I wrote every day, some of the poems were even moderately good. It seems writing every day is good for producing quantity, and theoretically some of it will be quality.
In Melbourne we’re back to almost pre-pandemic levels of socialising, so I’ve been going to work in my city office, going to see bands and out for dinner, modelling for art classes and all the other things I filled my time with before the car accident and lockdowns. It means my ability to find time for writing has been tested; I’ll have to be more strategic with my time.
I’m enjoying getting out there and seeing people, and unlike last year, my poems this month weren’t all just about being in quarantine! I’m sure to post a couple of poems here as I work through them, but now I turn my attention back to my latest novel manuscript. I have a set of two books I hope to release next year so I need to get a wriggle on.
I hope you’re all dealing with the colder weather okay, I’m certainly enjoying the excuse to have a knee blanket and hot water bottle. See you out in the real world soon!
Today I will try to write a poem that rhymes with strong meter and development I acknowledge content suffers sometimes in the pursuit of perfect accompaniment
Time marches ever onwards, I’m in a hurry to get one thing or another done. Finished before the next one is due. I scurry towards the end, usually diminished
Lessened by the need to produce, propel some project or other, as though it matters In five years, who will notice? Maybe rest a spell and observe the world, urgency shatters
When life is a rat race, if you win, you’re still a rat vainly trying to change the system from within Twisting and turning yourself, as an acrobat working to maintain the status quo. To spin
out of control, nose diving toward the ground mixing metaphors to fit the rhyme scheme Fit the concept to the words, as they surround My poem. I don’t seem to have put in a theme.
I wrote this today as part of NaPoWriMo. So far I’ve been able to produce something everyday, though the quality is wildly variable. I’ve been a bit quiet here on the blog, not least because here in Australia we’ve pretty much got the pandemic under control and we’re allowed out of the house. I’ve been to parties, and bars and restaurants with a reasonable expectation of not dying. It’s great, but I’m back to being busy all the time.
Mother’s day is coming up, and later in the month are my mother’s and grandmother’s birthdays, it’s getting cold and dark earlier and earlier in the evening. At the end of this month I’ll go back to working on my manuscript, hopefully I’ll be able to get a bit more done on it than I have this month. I have big plans for my next couple of releases I just have to finish them!
For the last few years, in April, I’ve signed myself up to the National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMo. Modelled of the novel equivalent, NaNoWriMo, in which I also usually participate in, the aim is to write a poem each day in April.
This year I’m doing it again. I had a rough start, on 1 April I was performing with Wasted Monday at a dive bar in Thornbury after a full day of work and I didn’t get my poem done for the first day. I have managed to catch up, but it’s quite hard to write two poems in a day.
I can often pump out about 2,000 words in an hour or so when I’m sprinting on a fiction manuscript, but poetry is a different process. It’s about selecting just the right word, taking the time to consider the myriad meanings and nuances, the rhythm, the double entendre, the flow, metre, assonance-the list goes on.
Does anyone else do this month long challenge? A friend of mine wrote a poem every day for a year once, she found the process instructive, inspiring, frustrating, and sometimes defeating. I think part of the point of writing challenges like these are to force me to produce something. With poetry, perhaps more so than other types of writing, it’s easy to get caught up in the perfection of the piece. To obsess over exact word choice and placement, sometimes to the point of paralysis. At least if I write thirty poems, a few will be worth continuing. Plus Maureen, who manages the NaPoWriMo website, provides daily prompts for those of us who can’t think of something to write about every day.
Perhaps that’s another reason I find this harder, in some ways, than NaNoWriMo-I need a new concept for each poem. I could do a series, but it would still be a lot more ideas than for a novel, which is essentially one big idea, instead of thirty small ones.
I should get back to it, though, since writing this blog is procrastination for today’s poem. I’m sure I’ll publish one or two here on the blog, but others will stay locked away in the archives not for public consumption.
I went back to find my new year’s post from earlier this year and boy, did I have no idea what was coming. Wow.
Usually at the end of the year I do a little wrap up post, I cover the goals I set in the beginning of the year and how I’ve gone achieving them. This year has been a shit show in a lot of ways so let’s see how I went.
From certain points of view, I’ve had it pretty easy – my housing, my job, and my income have all stayed stable. I have been safe in my home. I have had family and friends around me, whether virtual or in person when restrictions allowed.
On the other hand, 2020 can go straight in the bin. I was hit by a car in late January, and only now, eleven months later, is my ankle is starting to behave like a normal ankle again in the way where I sometimes forget it’s bung. There were periods where I was convinced I’d never walk unaided, but I can. I thought I would never be able to do normal activity, but mostly I can. For a while I was worried I would be in pain constantly, but while the ankle still hurts sometimes, it’s manageable. The surgeons have said it will become arthritic in 10-20 years, so I have that to look forward to, but I still have my leg so that’s definitely a bonus.
I’ve worked on skills I had not spent time on before; I painted a large wall in my house with a mural, I regularly make my own sourdough bread, I make stock, and compost and I’ve recently started doing home-made pasta, which is a bit fun. I started having piano lessons and am finally using the keyboard I have had for several years. I was even able to continue with my writing.
So the goals from January:
Finish revising and submit My Mother’s Secret to publishers
Finish manuscript from NaNoWriMo 2019
NaPoWriMo 2020 (April)
NaNoWriMo 2020 (November)
Redraft Janine’s story (working title)
Put on a third Melbourne Fringe Festival show (October)
Keep up the blog
Wasted Monday performances
Paint mural (in my house)
I’m surprised to have crossed off almost all the things. The two I missed were explicitly impossible under the government restrictions.
Wasted Monday is still pottering along, we’ve been able to secure a lead guitarist, Aaron, and there may be some new demo recordings soon. Actually that might be a secret so don’t tell anyone.
Even without the pandemic, the car accident would have taken the Fringe show off the table for this year. I have been recovering well, but I want to be able to leap and cavort on the stage without worrying I’ll fall on my face or hurt myself.
One other thing I did this year was to be elected as the President of the LMS. I’ve been heavily involved in running the society for several years now, and it’s nice to see that work being recognised by the membership. I hope I can do the position justice and uphold the legacy of the outgoing President.
Next year is probably going to be interrupted by more COVID-19 restrictions. It would be naive to believe that we would have no more outbreaks. Just this morning we had three community transmissions after weeks and weeks of zero cases. It’s an ever-present spectre, but one I had been putting to the back of my mind.
Let’s hope 2021 is less of a roller coaster. May your projects run smoothly, may your friendships be warm, may your income and housing be stable and safe. I’ll post my new year’s goals in the next few days.