Reflection #1


From yesterday’s blue to today’s red, the colour shift is enough for me to know there is shift happening, though ironically the shift is actually a settle. It’s been a bumpy seven days!

This combo gave me pause to think on what I do to ground myself to align with my creativity. Here, CBR talks about the King’s confidence becoming a rigidness that prevents new ideas. 
I get that confidence has the capacity to create a false sense of security that can compel you to continue to do the same thing, with the same result, over and over (some will tell you that’s success!) but for me confidence has always inspired me to try new things. When I am confident I take major leaps and major risks. I also tend to sparkle enough with those new ideas to co-opt others into jumping with me.
I stay grounded with the mundane – washing, dishes, cooking to name three. They are great places to gestate new ideas. 

And walking.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I was forced to walk to retrieve my car from the mechanic. And guess what – I’m far from being as unfit as I think I am. I really enjoyed it. My routine , within my body, has settled enough now that I can think about an afternoon walk again without keeling over from exhaustion.

What do you do to stay grounded and available for the incoming flow of ideas? Is confidence restrictive or liberating?

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The Ineluctable Weight of Living


It is the final day of the 2016 academic year today. This marks the conclusion of my son’s transition year back into mainstream schooling (and also his first year at high school).

It’s been a hell bumpy ride before I add into the equation a less than smooth year for us all as a family. But you know what, we made it through. We didn’t just survive, at times we have thrived and going into the 2017 academic year we are poised for less survive and more thrive. 

This morning it was the hurried creation of thank you cards for those members of staff who have helped make this year a little easier for us. 

The above is the front of the card which I made for the acting Guidance Counsellor, who will have a few more days next year as the GC for the junior school. I am so grateful for her support and acknowledgement. The first person who said to us: you are doing a great job. The first to say: you have to be congratulated for how far you’ve come this year. 

It is impossible to articulate what this means after years of having blame and shame shunted onto us by successive educational professionals who didn’t want to engage, meet us where we were at, much less offer practical support and understanding. 

We have been so blessed this year. There has not been a single teacher, deputy, or any other member of staff that has not done their upmost to assist us. Right down to the fabulous ladies in the office.

I’m glad that I was able to hand make a few cards to accompany the obligatory chocolate and bubbly, as my act of appreciation and gratitude. 

A List of Alphabetical Advice 

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 “If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”
Marcus Aurelius

Emily Craven gifted me the little Typo journal above for Christmas in 2013. We have been writing in it every day since January 2014, responding to the journal prompts and the other prompts we’ve added to avoid the repetition of prompts like: ________ is a total babe.

Instagram and Twitter chronicle our our daily adventures and sometimes we’re lucky to have someone play along at home. We’ve been blessed this year to have Typo’s social media person on board with us.

AUGUST A to Z

August has a cluster of prompts (brain child of Em) to create an alphabetical list of advice. Rob Cook joined  and it was one of the most interactive and fun set of prompts we’ve done. I missed out on writing them last year (it was the precursor to The Churn) so I’m looking forward to next year when I’ll be able to do a compare and contrast.

For now, advice a la 2016.

Always be your most authentic self.

Behave with kindness and integrity.

Care of yourself IS a priority.

Devote time, energy and focus to the pursuits you love.

Evolve. Evolve-evolve-evolve.

Focus on the present; nothing can be done about the past and the future takes care of itself.

Go after your dreams; passion is your ally.

Hope keeps the glass half-full.

Innovate. Innovate-innovate-innovate.

Judge no-one, especially yourself.

Keep the faith, especially when despair threatens to swallow you.

Listen to your favourite songs in the shower.

Meditate. Appreciate. Invigorate.

Never give up. It you can’t be your own cheer squad let your friends shake the pompoms for you.

Open to adventure, curiosity and absurdity.

Perfection is only found in imperfection.

Quiet time is essential – however or wherever you find it.

Rest. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Bodies get old and tired.

Sing. Loudly. Offkey. For your own pleasure. Because you can.

Time travel will enrich your life.

Utilise your inherent skills and talents. This is how dreams bloom.

Voraciousness is not a sin. Celebrate your hungers.

Wing it. Sometimes the best plans, best ideas come together in motion.

X marks the spot. Know where your inner treasure is buried.

You are both your best friend and worst enemy. Choose wisely.

Zebras; because sometimes its good to be black and white.

If you were to collect your advice for life in an A-Z, how would it read?

 

Hello Silence, My Old Friend

IMG_2083My former business partner always said to be wary of me when I came calling with crazy ideas because they had a habit of catching. There is something of the catchy crazy idea in my friendship with Rus VanWestervelt. We don’t have the sort of friendship where we talk every day. We might go months without talking but you can be certain, when we inhabit the same think space, there’s a tilt of life’s axis.

Last week was no different.

But first let me back track a little…

The Social Media Sabbatical

When I was growing up television and radio were our main platforms for media consumption. The default was always ‘if you don’t like it, turn it off’ (and this was in the days when you actually had to get up off the couch to work your magic with the TV!)

Unlike no other time in my life (perhaps no other time in this planet’s history) has there been such a saturation of incoming data and a reliance of being ‘plugged in’. Last year in my fragile state, the bombardment of ‘unsolicited data’ began to take its toll on me. And it wasn’t always the general negative state of the news or inappropriate online behaviour of the minority. It was just as often a friend’s happy news that threatened to undo me.

In the end I unplugged. I announced  I was taking a break from social media, removed all the apps from my phone and steeled myself away from accessing Facebook and Twitter from my laptop. I took time, in the silence, to recalibrate. I did it several times, each time when I felt  I was unable to cope with what might come through my newsfeed. Usually it was for a week, one period lasted just shy of a month.

I was doing what I’d been groomed to do in the 70’s and 80’s. If you didn’t like it, turn it off.

This year I’ve taken a week’s break every month. I’ve taken it when I’ve felt I needed it and when I was sure I didn’t. I’ve tried to be a quiet advocate for less time engaged in online interaction and more time spent in other forms of interaction, championing as always, written correspondence (as the woman who continues to embrace her phobia of the telephone).

A Struggle

While taking time off social media has gone a long way to help me start to regain some equilibrium with my mental health, I still struggle with long term issues that stem from my son leaving mainstream schooling in 2012. It’s hard not to feel like you are not disappearing when your entire life shrinks to the size of your house. I’ve struggled with irrational ideas of being invisible and of suburbia slowly consuming me, until the point of disappearing forever. A bit like my dreams and ambitions which have been put perpetually on hold.

This year though, I’ve been trying hard to embrace the lot I’ve been dealt. I’ve been rethinking how I conceptualise myself. In March, rather than say I was a ‘shadow of my former self’ when I needed to turn down three project proposals, I looked for a more positive self expression because I’m not sure the person I was in 2011 was the best version of myself – someone who was a workaholic, who had no close friends and was barely writing. That’s hardly the best iteration of myself. The template for whom I do a compare and contrast.

So, on the way home from having coffee with a friend, as I cried barely able to see my way to walk, let along text, I said that perhaps I could think of myself as the strongest distillation of myself rather than a shadow of my former self – all the fire and heat and steam burning away all the things that didn’t really matter. At the end of it all, I had my family, my friends and my writing. Perhaps this was the strongest I had ever been, the purest form of me?

Accepting Limitations

Rather than change my limitations or mitigate them, rather than try to fix them or hope someone else might do it for me, I could instead try and own them. Make them my own. And I didn’t necessarily have to rebrand them to make them palatable.

As writers we are more often than not bound to perform within arbitrary parameters: word count, style, genre just to name a few. Given this is the world I inhabit, surely I’m able to work with my limitations (or what I perceived as them) rather than my limitations work again me.

Invisibility

The motif (aka the irrational fear) of being invisible remains indelible on my psyche, no matter what I do. The ridiculous thing is, Invisibility in any other realm would be considered a a super power  If I were to Facebook now and ask: What would you do if you were invisible for a day? I am pretty sure no one would answer: sit in a corner and cry. (And just in case you wanted to know, I’d be leaving the house without my clothes if I could be invisible for the day).

So I decided several weeks ago (and purely by accident, all this ‘insight’ is after the fact), that perhaps I could embrace my invisibility. I went to Continuum (the Victorian science fiction convention) without any one knowing. I didn’t nominate for panels. I didn’t organise to meet up with any other writers. I went as a writer, without adding any publishing credits or any other hats, to my name. While I did end up hooking up with other writers, I by-in-large lurked in the audience, knitted and soaked in the conversations around me. I enjoyed myself more than I have at any Con in the last few years. Being invisible had been far from awful.

But my extended social media sabbatical with Rus is a whole new level of invisibility.

105 Days

Rus has very fixed ideas on what he wants to achieve in the next 15 weeks. I’m more here because I can never say no to Rus, and I think it’s a really interesting social experiment, to black out all social media for 105 days. I’m hoping it’s an experiment that won’t leave anyone scared and will provide the opportunity for some enlightenment on the way.

While Rus has conceptualised our social media sabbatical as The Darkness (and yes, invisibility definitely fits with that idea) I’m thinking of it more in terms of The Silence (I won’t be getting around and wiping memories though!) I can live with my own invisibility within the world I usually inhabit by taking myself off social media and in doing so, I can seek the kind of silence and stillness that the here-right-now, at your finger tips, instantaneous type of communication and information stream doesn’t allow for.

It’s daunting though.

My life hasn’t changed since the end of 2012 when it reduced down to my home and even further, to the kitchen table where our lessons happen. Social media has always been my ‘water cooler’ – the place I’ve gone to for social interaction when I haven’t been able to have that kind of interaction in the real world. With it gone, I need to make a greater effort to stay in contact. I also need my closest friends to know that we need other forms of communication to keep in touch. Text messaging has always been my best friend, now it might have a slightly angelic glow about it. I’ll be forced to get out of the house. My son will be forced to deal with it, and come with me.

Coda

It’s one thing to own your invisibility as a concept. To embrace it. To live it over a weekend. It’s another thing entirely for it to be your default for 15 weeks. I know Rus is there, on the other end. The only catch is we both agreed to communicate entirely though letters for the duration of our sabbatical. So whatever I pour out on the page will be history by the time it reaches the US. But at the same time, in the perfect time machine a letter is, it will also be the present.

In the silence … there will be plenty of time and space to begin mending the brokenness I’ve inflicted on myself in the past six years. At no other time has the name of this blog been more pertinent: 1000 pieces of blue sky, all waiting to be fitted together.

On Saying No

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I’ve never been good at saying ‘no’. I am always afraid that no comes with it an inherent loss of the ‘big break’ or the ‘big exposure’. But with my change in circumstances in the last two years, I’ve had to really stop and assess things and how they fit, what I can contribute, what I can get out of something and how much time, energy and focus I have. It’s the kind of budgeting I never had to do.

This year I have decided there is time and space for homeschooling and writing. It’s meant having to say no to two projects already – one a potential, another an ongoing one. I’ve spent the better part of the day crying because I am not the uber organised, highly motivated, high-achieving person I used to be who could juggle multiple publishing projects with multiple authors and keep it all straight and on track. Now I’m hard pressed to just be able to write a to do and I hate myself for being unreliable and unable to function.

And while all this was going on, I had in front of me a brand new writing project, which fits all the parameters for what this year is about. Sparkling, shiny, with an in built cheer squad and loads of padding in case I fall while doing it. It’s what I really wanted. And it was just waiting there for me to get over myself.

Sometimes it’s easy to get sidetracked by everything you think you’re missing out on and in doing so, miss out on all the important stuff right in front of you.

I know I’m not the only one here who struggles with saying no. But sometimes in saying no, we create pathways to wonderful opportunities to say yes! Even if it’s just saying yes to loving yourself as the best person you can be on the day.

No Fear by VincePal via Flickr used under a Creative Commons License

#6in6 Challenge: A look at accidental community

Writing is a solitary activity, but as writers we were never meant to be alone.

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 It’s easy to get maudlin when you’re mired in rejection hell. I know the temptation well. But instead of falling prey to it, I decided to hustle and write more fiction and used social media to make myself accountable. That’s how the #6in6 group (with a god-awful official name of no less than ten words including ‘magic’ and ‘puppies’) began.

Looking back, I have no idea why I chose to publicly declare I would write six stories in six weeks. Who knows? All I know is that there was something in it because within hours other writers were commenting and committing to the same challenge on my Facebook status.

Fellow Brisbane-based spec-fic author, Ben Payne, summonsed his inner admin genie and convened a closed Facebook group. It was all set up before we went to bed on the Friday night.

And they came.

As I write this, the group has 26 members. We are poets, scriptwriters, short story writers, novelists and academics. We are international in our representation. At any hour of the day it is possible to find someone in the group to write alongside or talk/bitch/moan with. Each of us comes with our own aspirations and demons. We are honest in our struggles; genuine in our support. We swap markets, ideas, brainstorming sessions, beta reads, reflections on the highs and lows of the writer’s life, and writing extracts—often hot off the press!

This is community at its best.

The overall opinion is words might have been put down without the challenge, but the group has ensured they were. And more words are on their way as we race toward the end of July and the conclusion of the challenge.

I have no idea what will happen then. While I have some sneaky suspicions about the future, it’s not for me to say. I’m just one twenty-sixth of a group lashing words together in a sea of possibility.

Image by Emdot via Flickr used under a Creative Commons License

This post was updated on 22nd July.

Social Media Sabbatical

Since the start of the year, I’ve been consciously opting out of social media on a regular basis. For the first few months of the year, I was taking a week every month. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a break from it.

I don’t normally plan it in advance, but I’ve noted several things:

  • it normally happens around the dark moon — an innate sense of wanting to withdraw from the world and spend time in my cave.
  • it occurs at times of fragility — a conscious decision to protect myself from the outside world.

Social media is so seductive. And pervasive. And intrusive if we let it. In 2011 when I had my breakdowns I would have done well to have taken myself offline rather than stay on.

I know now that the times when I feel alone, depressed and generally disconnected, social media looks to offer a genuine connection, an umbilicus to a world I feel separated from. But in reality social media when I’m vulnerable is an avalanche of information, opinion, news, photographs that compound rather than ameliorate my feelings. It sets up greater  dissonance in my head and despair in my heart.

When I find myself resenting, hating, people on my newsfeed — people with kids who go happily to school, excel at sport and anything else that pings off my own struggles, I know it’s time to take break. To stop comparing apples and oranges, to stop feeding my anxieties and negative self talk.

In the quiet there is a chance to recalibrate. Find equilibrium. To appreciate what you have.

Other times its a matter of just being miserable in private or taking the potential of all the bile and vitriol I want to spit out into the world and contain it, work with it, try and find a way to make peace with it… while I wait for the swing of hormones or thoughts or circumstances to come back in my direction, along with a little sanity, a little comfort.

It’s not until I remove all my social media apps (I spend most of my time on social media via my phone) and disable the websites, do I remember how compulsive my use of them is. It’s beyond habit, it’s an ‘automation of use’. It’s like a fucked up version of breathing. You don’t think to breath. You do it regardless. I don’t think when I’m reaching for Facebook or Twitter. But unlike breathing, I don’t need it.

The first day (like today) is always the hardest, the process of weaning off. It feels lonely and empty — reaching for something that’s no longer there — at a time when I’m feeling lonely and empty.

Broken.

In time I’ll feel cohesive again. There will be an opportunity to relish the space, the quiet, the room to move in my head again. When I return there will be a frantic type of energy (there always is) that scares me. Like when I first moved to the city and driving in three lanes of traffic was overwhelming. It takes a few days to adjust to being part of the social amoeba again, to want to be part of it (even if I’ve been dying to get back into the thick of it).

Until then there is reading, housework, journalling, planning, prep work for teaching, time for introspection, movies and the other things from which time is regularly sucked from. And waiting, I know, are conversations that come about because the convenience of social media has gone.

Image via Photoree