Hello! I have moved my website to its very own grown-up domain, like a REAL BLOGGER.
You can find it here. Please still visit me!
Hello! I have moved my website to its very own grown-up domain, like a REAL BLOGGER.
You can find it here. Please still visit me!
This last fortnight has been… interesting. I got trolled by Men’s Rights Activists about an article I wrote, then a week later Donald Trump got elected. I took it completely personally and fell into a slump for a few days, then realised I am a white woman on the side of the world, and my outrage is possibly offensive to those who are actually fearing for their lives now.
Like any significant shift in power, the Trump era will be filled with an outpouring of art and passion, like during the Bush years, the Thatcher years, the Reagan years. Art thrives under pressure. I’m taking solace in that.
I’m reading the Magda Szubanski book, FINALLY, called The Reckoning. Loving it so far. Damn, she can write.
CHOOKS! So Archie’s kinder had a chook incubator for a while, and the kids all watched the baby chicks hatch. We asked to keep some of them, and now we have five little chicks called Nellie Frittado, Obama, Michelle, Nugget and Gregory Peck. I’m hoping at least two of them are hens.
They were living in a box in the living room until they grew their feathers, and now they are in a little pen outside. When the weather gets a bit warmer we will move them into their big chook palace adjoining the vegie garden. I’m so excited about having fresh eggs everyday, and the whole experience of collecting them and having chookens running around the yard.
The Crown (on Netflix). This has gotten a heap of attention, and it is WAY better than I thought it would be. It is all about Queen Elizabeth and how she came to be Queen. It never occurred to me that her dad had to die in order for her to become Queen. I also love the bits about how Price Phillip, played by Dr Who, struggles with having a wife who is about a gazillion times more important and powerful than he is.
Streets of Our Town (on iView). A two part series hosted and written by Tim Ross, all about Modernist architecture and the way that our houses and lifestyle has changed over time. It talked at length about Robin Boyd and his ethos, and was really interesting to watch while sitting in a Boyd home that totally encapsulated all the things Ross was talking about.
God, I have been binging on US election stuff this past week. There is plenty of really heavy stuff out there, but in the interest of keeping things light I will share my new obsession: memes of Joe Biden and Obama. SO GOOD.
A thing I wrote…
This is the article that got me the hate mail: Why feminists need to see The Red Pill
I wasn’t too upset as it never really got too personal (the worst was one guy who emailed to let me know that he felt sorry for my children as they were growing up emotionally castrated due to having a feminist mother. Thanks, mate.) and the messages and emails were all so crazy and incorrect. It was mostly just exhausting.
Archie: I want you to have a baby, mum. Then I can put it in my bed and cuddle it like a teddy, and dress it up like a puppy dog.
Archie: Or maybe we can just put it outside with the chooks.
So at ArtsHub I get to write about all sorts of topics, from book clubs to creativity, conquering self-doubt and artists’ residencies.
Here’s some of my latest pieces…
This week’s Man Booker winner, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, is a landmark work on race. But it’s not the only book on the black-white divide you should read.
From cartoon voices to household habits, it’s extraordinary what creative people do to keep their confidence up.
Your book club may have no more in common with mine than lawn bowls has with Sumo wrestling.
Digital media now dictates a child’s initial experience of literature, art and – most worryingly – often creative discovery.
From festivals and street art tours to event listings and orchestral insights, there’s an arts industry app out there for you.
Memoirs and autobiographies regularly fill the top spots on bestseller lists, but not everyone has a life worthy of memoir.
Tess and I have taken a podcast hiatus for the indefinite future, but I realised that I miss blathering on about the things I’ve been reading, listening to and watching lately. So instead, I’m going to periodically bore you all to death with the random things I’ve been consuming.
Or two, or three. I just finished Caroline Overington’s The One Who Got Away. Her books are much-hyped, and she is an excellent journalistic writer, but I was underwhelmed. Also on the finished pile: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (excellent, like an Aussie To Kill a Mockingbird), Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (okay, not groundbreaking but suitable captivating) and Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (fun easy read about maintaining adult friendships). Up next is Clem Ford’s Fight Like a Girl and the new Man Booker winner The Sellout, both of which look excellent.
A product recommendation…
MAC lipstick in Mangrove. It’s a good orange-red for ladies who look weird with pinky-red lippie (me, I’m talking about me) and literally lasts all bloody day.
Catastrophe. Several people have recommended it to me lately, and it is SO GOOD. Like literally so funny I have to pause it until I stop laughing. Also, the fashion is excellent, if you are into that.
A thing I’ve written…
The Real Thing, an Aussie podcast by the ABC featuring stories from the ‘real’ Australia
Archie was talking to Mum about my uncle, who passed away about 13 years ago.
A: Is he a skeleton?
M: Well, maybe.
A: Because skeletons are really good drummers.
Archie walks past Jed and brushes his shoulder.
Jed: *dramatically throws himself on the floor.* ARCHIE HURT ME! You a BUM, Archie!
Archie: *looks at me, rolls his eyes* Sometimes brothers are crazy, mum.
1. Cleaning the house. Procrasti-cleaning. Rearranging the pantry, catching sight of my laptop and feeling guilty about the book, then distracting myself by organising my wardrobe.
2. Writing this blog post. Also, writing pretty much anything that isn’t my book. I have finished an article that is due in mid-November. This never happens.
3. Baking chocolate banana cake, apple muffins sourdough bread, lasagne and homemade pasta.
3. Crocheting like a boss.
4. Watching Unreal.
5. Reading a LOT. Surely this counts, right? And actually reading with the view to learn, so lots of taking notes and highlighting passages. Lots of research for the book, not a lot of actual writing of the book.
6. Buying books about writing and using Australia Post as an excuse not to write the book, because I can’t possible start writing if I haven’t read Bird by Bird yet, right?
7. Playing play dough with my kids. They have benefitted greatly from my epic procrasination.
Writing a book is harder than I thought, you guys. I have done about 5,000 out of the target of 80,000. I am aiming to write a shitty draft then refine it later, but it’s even hard to write a shitty draft. Two children, a job and too many commitments does not make for a productive writer.
But! I am attempting to let things go in order to write. I want my legacy to be a bloody book, not the fact that I was always up to date with the washing and dutifully scraped weetbix off the table every day. Even if no one reads it. Especially if no one reads it.
Deciding to write a book is a culmination of lots of pieces falling into place: turning thirty and realising that there is no right time to do it; growing more confident in my ability as a writer; feeling that I have enough life experience to write with deeper insights; and wanting to leave a legacy for my children. Even if this book remains hidden in a folder on my desktop forever and never sees the light of day, I’ll at least know that I’ve done it.
God, writing fiction is hard work though. It stirs up every shred of self doubt that I have (I’m actually a terrible writer, no one will want to read this, Helen Garner would be horrified) and has become totally all encompassing. I’ve written plenty of journalistic work, memoir, essays and instructional writing, but never a full length novel so the pacing, structure and narrative is all new to me, and I don’t like the feeling of not knowing what I’m doing!
I have been devouring books in a similar style, so lots of Tim Winton, Helen Garner, Liane Moriarty. My writing is quite Australian, female and literary, so I am paying more attention to the details and structure of my favourite books. Not to copy them but to learn from the masters. I’m highlighting turns of phrase and making notes on dialogue and syntax.
I am aiming for 80,000 words, which seems like a good length for a first draft. I am trying to get a draft down as fast as possible, then the real work begins in the revision. The editing is my favourite part of writing: polishing and refining, shifting sentences around and often, removing language that is too flowery and cliched. I’m not ready to talk about the content (I’m still at the point of slamming the laptop shut when Lee walks near anywhere near me when I’m writing) but it is Australian literary fiction about a young family. It’s not autobiographical by any means, but there is a married couple, and there is a baby, so obviously there are parallels there with my own life.
I just ordered a pile of books on writing that I’ve been meaning to read for a while: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing, plus Cate Kennedy’s novel The World Beneath and short story collection Dark Roots. I dug out my old copy of John Marsden’s Everything I Know About Writing which I bought at thirteen after doing a writing camp with him in Romsey. It’s good to get a local perspective.
My rough aim is to enter the Vogel’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. I’m under no pretensions of winning, but it is for authors under 35 so it gives me five years to complete the damn book. Ideally I would finish it before then, but hey, I’m finally cutting myself some slack.
I started a new job this week!
It’s at ArtsHub, three days a week. Out of the house! With lunch breaks! And a regular paycheck! And colleagues I’m not married too! God, I love working. I love my kids, but jeepers, I am a better mother when I’m working. Also a better human and wife and friend and daughter.
That said, because we now live in the bush, my commute is about an hour each way. Annoying? Oh hell no. That’s six hours a week of bus time where I can read, listen to podcasts, crochet like a boss, stare out the window and not speak to anybody. Bliss. The next step is to see if I can somehow turn part of the commute into exercise time, but doing Kegels on the bus probably doesn’t count, right?
Because of the long commute, I need to get outta the house by 7am, drop the kids at childcare, then get to the bus stop at 7.30am. Our house at 6.45am is slightly hectic, to say the least. Luckily, my very excellent and helpful mother picks the boys up from childcare on Thursday afternoons and TAKES THEM TO HER HOUSE FOR A SLEEPOVER then brings them home on Friday when Lee gets home. That means we have one night a week kid-free. Hello date night.
Anyhow, here are my hot tips on getting yourself and your kids dressed and out of the house early and relatively sane. Lee leaves before 7am so obviously if your partner is home to help then WELL DONE YOU. But for the sake of these tips I’m assuming you’re flying solo.
Get up before your kids. Even just 10 minutes earlier gives you time to brush your teeth and slap on some makeup without little people trying to ‘help’.
Make time to play and acknowledge them. If I jump out of bed and am already in ‘work mode’ and hardly look at the kids while dressing them, packing bags and mentally calculating the latest bus I can take that will still get me to work on time, they are sure to start acting out. If I take 30 seconds to give them a big cuddle, ask how which undies they’d like, make a joke and talk about our day, then things seem to go way more smoothly.
Get ready beforehand. This is pretty obvious, but unless you naturally enjoy making lunches at 5.30am, then do that shite the night before. Same goes for getting your own lunch, finding your phone charger or whatever, and choosing your outfit. Speaking of outfits…
Put the kids to bed in their clothes. This was a game changer for me. Our house is freezing at night, so the kids are usually wearing a couple of layers anyway. Make one of the layers a t-shirt or trackies and BAM ten minutes saved in the AM.
Good luck, sister.
Jed is stuck in the doona cover. He and Archie are both laughing hysterically as Jed flails around, a tiny body stuck in a huge polka dot bag. “No help me! Jed okay!” as he clearly is not okay.
Archie turns four tomorrow. He wants me to sing him to sleep, so we snuggle under the (aforementioned) doona and curl our fingers together. I start with It’s a Small World, which I sang for hours and hours when he was a tiny baby, slowly sure that I was destroying both of us. He never slept well. Even now, he bends into me with sleepy eyes, but still wriggling and jiggling his legs. “I am very very tired but my body won’t sleep.” I understand that feeling, of exhaustion tipping into jittery wakefulness. We do some deep breathing as I rub his back, calling sleep in.
I eat baked chicken by the glow of the computer, shoveling and not tasting, but filling my hunger for words and news and stories and people.
There is a black wallaby in our front yard. It stays stock still as the boys yell out to it. “Wobbily! Do you have a baby in your pocket!” It turns and flees back down the hill to the river, bouncing comically through the scrub.
Someone has plastered the bridge and the roundabout with election campaign posters, or rather, anti-campaign posters. I feel a bubble of annoyance: surely this place, of all places, is above all that. I like to filter my news and thus my outrage.
We are going to Bali on Saturday. I sit in front of the heater wearing three layers as I pack the boy’s gear: three shorts, three t-shirts, a huge bottle of sunscreen, thongs, hats. I only have one decent bikini; it might be time to accept that I am 30 and have birthed two children and get a one piece. But my rising feminist streak wants to wear a goddamn bikini until I am 80 and a wrinkling, sagging old broad.
God knows creative types are more prone to mental health issues, amiright?! Except maybe Beyonce, although she probably falls less under the category of ‘Creative Type’ and more under ‘Goddess from another planet’. And who knows, maybe she’s popping the anti-anxiety meds like the rest of us.
Anyway, small business owners, creative people, hell, just WOMEN have a lot of shite to deal with, and the negative thoughts (AKA middle-of-the-night-fears that cause sleeplessness and existential angst) can come thick and fast.
After years (literally, like 10+ years) of seeing counsellors on and off, and a healthy addiction to books that fall into the ‘Personal Growth’ section, I have gathered some hot tips on how to deal when you can’t shake the negativity.
I am having a one woman pity party today. I have pneumonia in my left lung. (which sounds much more dramatic than it actually is – the reality is just heaps of coughing and an achey chest), I have an extremely messy house/car/life at the moment, caught conjunctivitis in my right eye and have run out of tea. Drama.
But! The kids are at kinder and I have just got back from the doctors and am now drinking some god-awful ginger and turmeric concoction which literally tastes like dirt but is supposed to make me better, am loaded up on antibiotics and staying in bed for the next three hours until it’s kinder pickup time. And I am going to HEAL this stupid lung with the sheer power of my mind, and modern science.
I’m also working on healing a whole heap of other shit: perfectionism, this food crap (always), the cult of busy, the need to have a Design Files-worthy house at all times. We are going to Bali in three weeks and my Bali body will look much like my current body: a pale size 12 sack of breath and blood. That sounds gross, right? But bodies are literally just a big ol’ sack of bones and organs and mucous, which we drag around and abuse and prod and ignore. Our bodies create life and people and dreams and then cop flack for not looking like they did when we were 16. I’m never going to be all ‘my stretch marks are empowering!’ because I’m slathering the vitamin E cream like the next thirty-year-old mother of two, but jeez, I wish I appreciated this bag of bones more when I was 22 and jumping off a boat into the ocean in southern Turkey, or spending three weeks on a beach towel in Zanzibar, or meeting my future husband when I was 20 and wearing my mum’s engagement dress. I had a huge blister on my toe which was bleeding profusely and preeeetty gross. He didn’t care. Because when you are falling for someone, you accept their blood and gore, right? Maybe part of accepting yourself is accepting your own blood and gore, the phlegmy lungs and start enjoying the forced recuperation from the busyness.
Anyway, I’m back to watching Broad City and coughing like a 75-year-old smoker. And washing down Big Pharma with some ayurvedic turmeric juice. Whatever works, right?