makar [ˈmækər]
n (Literature / Poetry) Scot a creative artist, esp a poet
[a Scot variant of maker]

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Poor neglected blog, I feel as if I treat you a bit like I did my parents when I first left home: I only bother to get in touch when things are rather shit. In the mood for a whinge? Better write a blog post and let it all spill out! The first week of the holidays has featured nits, rare skin reactions, and a lot of vomiting, so I could really get stuck in if I wanted too. But I don't. It's the crazy season (seriously, everyone does seem a little wired at the moment, don't they?) and I have a hundred things I want to do. And then there's a special birthday to celebrate, one that will mean I've been a mum for 7 years now! I guess I'm just feeling reflective and a little nostalgic, but also excited about what comes next...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

For about 25 minutes last Thursday, I had a scholarship. I was actually going to be paid to research and write, to do the things I love so much. They like my idea; they think what I'm doing is interesting! For once, I was fucking good enough! The money would be great, of course, but I was more interested in the acknowledgement of worth. There are endless reasons not to write, to give up and get on with something more rational, more practical, more likely to make a buck, but here was a sign to keep going. I was so happy (see above), I was reeling.

And then, I was told that they had decided not to offer part-time scholarships anymore and I could only have the award if I was studying full-time. That's impossible for me and so it's gone, just like that. I've tried to convince myself that it really doesn't matter, that it's great I was even offered one, and that one day, if I go full-time, maybe I will get another scholarship, and yet, right now, I feel completely undone by the experience.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Yesterday, I found this badge amongst all the clutter on my kitchen windowsills. It's from a show I saw in Edinburgh many years ago. I can't even remember much about it, except that it was quirky and whimsical and we all liked it. This funny little badge has somehow stuck with me through several moves, including the big one to the other side of the world. Many other, more treasured things, have been lost along the way. How on earth do I still have it in my possession? And why is it hanging out on my kitchen windowsill? Anyway, whatever - it got me thinking about connection and quite how unconnected I feel right now. If studying creative writing taught me anything, it's that being part of a community of writers is so much better than not being part of one. That year was ridiculously tough (I spent a lot of time crying over my laptop), but I loved all the discussions we had about each others work, the hours spent drinking tea and coffee very slowly in cafes and scrawling in our notebooks alongside each other. It was a special time and obviously, life can't always be like that, but I miss those connections over writing. I have some gorgeous friends, who I love talking to about books, but I guess what I crave is colleagues; people who are trying to create art and dealing with the same struggles that I am. I want to make those creative connections because even though writing is a solitary pursuit, friends, especially ones who share your passion, really do make life so much better.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I have a scar on my foot and it's been getting to me. Last week, I was forced to look at it more than I normally do. We were on holiday and spent most of the time barefoot and playing with the children on the beach. I've had this scar for about 18 months - it's not that big but it's ugly and in an annoying place, right on top of my foot. There isn't even an exciting story behind it - it was from a mosquito bite that got infected and for some reason turned into an angry red lump. I've been trying to decide whether to do something about it because I like being barefoot and I don't like having to look at it, but it just seems so silly to be that vain about something so small. And I do kind of like scars: obviously not the awful, tragic, disfiguring ones, but the little ones that we all collect throughout our lives. They make us unique and they tell the tales of our misadventures and misjudgements. I have so many scars; maybe more than some because I am rather clumsy! There is the tiny white line under my bottom lip that I've had since I fell over as a toddler and bit into my lip; the raised web on my knee from a teenage experiment with copious amounts of gin and a joint; the two inch line on my belly from a mole I had removed a few weeks after my daughter was born. There was nothing wrong with it - I just didn't like it - and the scar is so much worse. Then there is the silvery flow of stretchmarks from growing fast and growing babies. And all the many other tiny marks, here and there. My scars aren't very interesting - their stories are little, inconsequential - but they are mine, and they are the details that make up a person and the life they live. Like our memories, they fade and change; they become less vivid, less defining. They take their place alongside the others. Troubled with "bad" skin, I used to wish mine was as white and perfect as milk. If only I had no spots, no freckles, no distinguishing marks. But, of course, that would make me look like some strange alien-creature, airbrushing out all that makes me human. I am not a new born baby after all; I am a 34 year old woman. So instead of blank perfection, I think of my skin as a map of experiences and emotions, charting my journeys. And I've decided I'm just going to have to learn to live with that strange little scar on my foot.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I find it so tricky to balance the dreamy, withdrawn, almost trance-like state I'm in when I'm writing, with the quick, super alert (stressed), one-step-ahead-of-them state that I have to be in to look after my kids. Sometimes I feel like I'm physically present but my head, and even heart, is somewhere else. I guess all mums (and some dads too) struggle with balancing their own preoccupations with the requirements of their children, but I frequently feel so distracted by the fictional world that I want to inhabit and explore, that I wonder whether I'm just this replica mum, doing the things I need to do, but otherwise emotionally absent. I've been finding time (hey, who needs sleep?) everyday to be on my own for a while: it's kind of addictive because it feels so amazing to have that space. It seems to mean that I can be more fully present the rest of the day, although not all days are as successful as others. My minds wanders a lot and I often have to pull myself back to the here and now; to a small insistent voice asking me a question, or explaining something that happened to them; to focus on the details, the little things that can easily pass me by. I want to be be in this real world and I want to be in the other world of my imagination. Sometimes I feel so tired, endlessly trying to move between the two, but I know I need them both.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Today I got to write for three hours. It felt so good. And then I read this amazing essay, which just explored all these things I've been thinking about lately, in such a beautiful and succinct way, that I pretty much had to underline the entire thing! I need to have sessions like this more often. They make me a much nicer person; they make me feel like me, and not some empty, exhausted excuse.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

So, I've been thinking for a while about writing a post on relationships and having children, and how much pressure parenthood puts on couples, but I've been struggling to find a way to write about it. I consider myself an open book about most things but my relationship is just not something I want to share with the blogosphere. And yet, I feel it's a subject that needs to be discussed more: I wonder why we're so reluctant to be honest about the pressures of family life; are we all complicit in presenting a masquerade of perfection? Even amongst friends, I feel like it's a taboo subject that people occasionally allude to, but which they are reluctant to talk about in any depth. Perhaps, we're just wary of expressing things that then cannot be receded. I'm not sure. All, I know is that it's possible to forget to really see each other, when you are consumed by the needs of little ones. That just as it's easy to lose yourself in your children's lives; it's also all too easy to lose each other in the whirl of our somewhat chaotic, time-poor existence. I think we have to remind ourselves, over and over, to really look and listen, to be truly present. And above all else, to be kind to each other.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

For the last couple of months, I've been on a roll with my writing. It's just poured out onto the page every time I've managed to grab a moment to devote to it. I'm not sure it's great writing; in fact, I know a lot of it is nonsensical, stream-of-consciousness, overly indulgent tripe. But I have more than 15,000 words of my novel and I'm hopeful that not all of it sucks. In the last week or so, the words have dried up: I feel kind of empty. Partly, this is because the writing is getting a little trickier now, and involves more craft and skill. I also need to get on with some historical research to figure out a few issues before I can write certain parts. But I'm not panicking because I've realised that I've been here before, and that this lull is part of my creative process. It's a bit like refueling. I need to fill up on ideas and inspiration: to read, take in some interesting art, listen to music, walk and think. I read a quotation from Rumi today and it made so much sense to me:

Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance, when you're perfectly free. Struck, the dancer hears a tambourine inside her, like a wave that crests into foam at the very top, Begins. Maybe you don't hear that tambourine, or the tree leaves clapping time. Close the ears on your head, that listen mostly to lies and cynical jokes. There are other things to see, and hear. Music. Dance. A brilliant city inside your soul!

I'm going to bide my time and just allow myself some space to get back to that place where the words flow.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I've been reading a bit about the idea of home in recent weeks, while also suffering from a bout of "home-shame". I periodically get really self-conscious about the messy, crazy state of our house and what this says about the crazy, messy life we lead. I'm not much of a house-keeper: I'd rather cook or read or write or talk than clean. Someone told me that they find cleaning calming, but I find it infuriating. Once you start, you can't stop (or at least I can't) and suddenly everything is vile and needs to be dealt with immediately. Too boring. Plus whenever I attempt to clean, my kids want to "help" or take advantage of the distracted mum and trash some other part of the house. Seriously, it is hardly worth the bother.  Then, there's the fact that most of our furniture has been picked up from the verge or purchased from Gumtree; the rest is, of course, Ikea. It is mismatched, clunky, often falling to pieces, or missing parts (my desk with only three drawers), and generally a little odd. Factor in my obsession with colour (some kind of reaction to my architect parents and their love of muted greys and blues) and anything Mexican, and you have a brightly patterned, clashing clown-house. I read that a home is "a place we can never see with a stranger's eyes for more than a moment" but when we do, what a shock it is! I feel that our house might not be that of a grown-up: it kind of resembles my teenage bedroom spread out to fill an entire house and with the addition of lots of crappy plastic toys. I look at the houses of my friends, and they have beautiful and carefully selected furniture, and gorgeous artwork on the walls, and curtains that have been hemmed, and proper kitchens with dishwashers and all that jazz. But still, I love our home. It is a refuge for me and an extension of my self, and I guess that makes me a little crazy and rather messy. I can live with that.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I started my PhD two weeks ago and, of course, nothing much has changed in my life, except now I have this ticking time bomb of a deadline (albeit one that is very far away). I decided and declared that I would write 500 words every day because I've realised that writing regularly, even if it is totally crap, is the best way for me to keep my mind in the fictional world of whatever I'm working on. I started off pretty well, making up for the odd day when I didn't quite hit the word count, with a few hundred extra in my next session. Then life got crazy and it all kind of fell apart, and I didn't manage to write anything for four days. I started having horrible, self-doubting thoughts about my ability to do anything very well. But I know these thoughts are part of motherhood and of the creative process, and I'm just trying to roll with it. I think I'm probably going to aim to bang out 500 words every two days, so I don't have to exist in a perpetual state of failure! It's not a nice place to be.

I've also come to the realisation that I need either noise or music to write; the quietness of the library just doesn't cut it. I love the hustle and bustle of a cafe, so long as the conversations are a steady hum, and not too loud or interesting to distract me. Music has always been a really important part of my writing process, and is even more so now that I'm making myself sit down and write, even when I really don't feel like it. A little while ago, I read this article that proposed pairing together albums and books. I found it an intriguing idea, but one that doesn't really work for me, perhaps because I never listen to music when I read. Writing and music is a different matter entirely. When I'm working on a story or a novel, I become obsessed with a particular album or artist, and listen to them exclusively whenever I write. With my first novel, I listened to Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone and Edith Piaf. Nothing else would do! My protagonist was in a very dark and desperate place and maybe these women with their complicated love lives and depth of suffering, were able to transport me into her mindset. This time, I'm still trying to figure out what gets me to that place I need to be...

Monday, August 11, 2014

My daughter's doing a project on "work" this term and she has to do a little 5 minute presentation in a few weeks on the title: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" She's pretty adamant about what she wants to do and has been for a year or so. There have been a few others: super fairy, doctor, ballerina. Anyway, I imagine it will probably change again and possibly even come back to the one she wants to do at present. It made me think about all the jobs I've wanted to do over the years and what connects them. These are the ones I can remember:

artist (over and over, again and again)
children's book illustrator
chef (but I had a difficult teenage relationship to food, enough said)
fashion designer (for a looooong time)
actress (way too shy)
editor of British Vogue (way too scruffy)
film director
travel writer
script writer
set designer (even applied to central st martins but they told me to direct instead)
documentary director (worked in docs for a few years, made lots of tea)
florist (I love flowers)
cookery writer
novelist (this one has never gone away)
children's book editor (I kind of did do this for a little while; then I had a baby)
PhD student (yay!)

I guess what links most of these different jobs or types of work is people and their stories because that's really what makes me tick. I want to be creative and make something, and also to explore why people do what they do. I'm a really visual person and I love beautiful things, but I like ideas too. I enjoy being lost in my dreams and stories, and working where and when I want too. I think I have always wanted to be a writer or an artist but I've been too scared at times to admit it. I remember my mama saying to me once that her career made sense in retrospect but not when she was in the thick of it and trying to make decisions about what to do next. She did lots of exciting stuff and found a niche in her field that was satisfying and meaningful. I hope that my daughter enjoys the journey and finds the kind of work that best suits her temperament and talents; that gives her a sense of meaning and, above all, happiness.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A little tale of prejudice...

Today, I caught the bus to school with my three kids, just as we do most days. We hopped off at the train station, so that I could buy a new Smartrider card (mine had a crack in it and wouldn't work). When I reached the kiosk, the woman serving was chatting to a bus driver, presumably on his break. I asked her for a new Smartrider and she immediately pulled out a form. My heart sank - surely I didn't need to fill in a form just to get a replacement card. "Do you have your Centrelink card?" she said. "Uh no, I have a Medicare card..." "No, a Centrelink card for your concession." "I don't qualify for a concession," I replied. At which point, she turned to the bus driver and said: "Oh she's got so many kids, I thought she'd get a concession." Once I had my card, the bus driver asked me if I needed any help using it. I told him, "No thanks, we take the bus to school everyday". To which she said: "Oh you go to school," and looked right at me, still I guess trying to give me a concession. "No, I don't go to school - these two [kids] go to school," I responded. And that was that.

It took me a while to process this bizarre little encounter. That the woman assumed I would qualify for a concession because I have "so many" kids and we use public transport; that she spoke to the bus driver about me, rather than directly to me; that she thought that I went to school (I'm 34 and looked every year of it and some today) rather than my children. It was so odd that I didn't really get pissed off at the time, but the more I thought about, the angrier it made me feel.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Last week, I had one of those days of reckoning, when you realise that your cunning plans aren't that cunning. In short, it became apparent that I can't actually afford to pay for my 2 year old to attend childcare for one day a week. After working through quite a bit of guilt, I'd reached the point where I'd decided that this was the best option to enable me to have a decent chunk of writing time (I'm starting my PhD very soon!!!!!). But alas, it is not to be. So after a little sob (sorry Centrelink lady but I was at the end of 7 days of solo parenting...), I reassembled myself and decided to figure out how to write a novel and a thesis, while being a mum to 3 small children and wife to a workaholic. It's a plan-in-progress but I have a few ideas and some leads... I just really wish that libraries had creches. Why don't they?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Last night, I couldn't sleep. On either side of me, snuggled a small boy, both contentedly snoring, and at my feet, curled our cat, also happily snoring. There wasn't much room to move, but my mind was roaming. I was thinking about all the usual things that keep you awake in the early hours: the 4am panics, as I call these episodes. Fretting over money and house prices; parenting and schools; my children's teeth; the fatness of my hips; the state of the floorboards and the ceilings and the walls; the credit card balance...

And of course, all this is bullshit because life is good. A bit repetitive and dull sometimes, but gooooood. We have everything we need. We have the things that lots and lots of people struggle to pull together: shelter, food, education, stability. When I start worrying about renovations, and whether to buy a KitchenAid (and if so, which colour?), and when my kids should start music lessons, and if we should aim to buy a house near to the sea or in a good high school catchment area...well, it feels like I'm playing a game with very silly rules. And I've never been much of one for games. Yet, somehow at 4am, these things seem to matter.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I just haven't felt much like blogging lately. I keep coming up with things to write about but somehow they never seem substantial enough to constitute more than a few scrappy sentences. Also, I've been obsessively watching True Detective, so that's keeping me occupied! I'm fascinated by the dynamic between the two protagonists - it's reminded me how much I love writing dialogue and why I once wanted to be a scriptwriter. I'm also reading a really sad book that I'm finding quite emotionally draining - books can colour my whole mood - to the point that I really want to finish it, despite the poignancy and beauty of the language. And then there's the 7 days of solo parenting that's creeping up on me. I know that's nothing compared to some, but it will be a slog and I'm not sure I have much in reserve. So that's where I'm at: holding on out for some inspiration...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I found this piece (How Has Parenthood Informed Your Writing Life?) in The New York Times really interesting. This description sounds a lot like me:

"The writer is a muddy-eyed solitary, immersed in ungraspable moods. The defect, the brain splinter that makes her a writer is anti-domestic. She waits, yearning, for the moment when the imagination goes rogue and love and duty go out the window. Not easy to live with. And children need, require, deserve, must have attention. So what’s the answer? If you happen to find out, do me a favor and let me know." James Parker

But I also really loved this idea:

"But as a parent, I recognize I have something in common with everyone. Everyone is someone’s child. So I have given myself permission to write more widely, to range more freely in my selection of characters, to imagine being people I previously steered clear of imagining, entering them via our shared someone’s-child-ness. In this way, parenthood has expanded my sense of being human. It has made me more porous. To be a parent is to be utterly dependent on the mercy of strangers, to depend on humanity to do your children no grievous harm." Mohsin Hamed

Read the whole article - it's a good one.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

So you know that you're not coping too well when you walk into the monkey bars in the playground, say "oh shit" very loudly in front of lots of children, and then burst into tears. Yeah, that was me today. This parenting gig is tough; it just seems to get tougher. It forces you to revisit all your own childhood angst, dredging up horrible emotions you'd long ago (somehow) forgotten.  Then there's the guilt and the dabbling in amateur psychology to explain why it's all your fault. And all the time you're fighting your instinct to just wrap the kids up in cotton wool, move to the countryside, and start homeschooling. Oh my.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

School camp was a surprisingly rejuvenating experience...the two year old's three nights of fevers, accompanied by a hacking cough, less so. It's going to be one of those weeks...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The day after I wrote the previous post, one of the things I've been waiting for did come to fruition in the form of an admission offer to a PhD program. I was so happy for about 24 hours and then the doubt started creeping in. How was I going to do this? When would I find the time? Was I totally delusional? I've spent the rest of the week, trying to navigate my way out of this state. The problem is that I've always believed (and spouted) that a happy mum equals happy kids. If you want to go back to work because that's what makes you tick, then that is totally acceptable, and if you want to stay at home with the kids, then that's great too. We're all different and one person's decision needn't mean that they condemn an alternative path to the one they have taken. It's just that I've never managed to apply this to my own life. Every time I've been on the cusp of arranging some childcare to enable me to concentrate on writing or studying, I've talked myself out of it: they're too little; it's only another year or two; we can't afford it; I'm the one who should be looking after them, not some stranger; I can just work at night time... Yet, I've come to realise that I'm not completely fulfilled being at home all the time, and that I need something else to stop me losing the plot. I guess I'm a little slow because I only really came to accept this late last year! It seems greedy to want anything else; it feels like a betrayal of sorts. But I know that I need more, and so I'm going to have to find a way to make it happen, one that works for us all.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I'm in a kind of weird limbo these days, waiting for a couple of things to come to fruition and feeling like I don't really have any control over them, and just suffering a whole lot of anxiety and tension while I sit it out. I'm really engaged in my writing (even though I'm not getting many words onto the page), but physically exhausted. I was so determined to make some changes this year and it feels like we're 5 months in and not much has really altered. Someone said to me that I should: "Hope for the best and prepare for the worst". I think I really need to find some space to work out my Plan B, so I can take some pressure off this waiting game. Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Back when we were students, my housemate accused me of being a literary snob because I refused to read Harry Potter. She was, of course, completely right - I had absolutely no interest in wasting my time reading Harry Potter because firstly, it was for children, and secondly, everyone was hooked on it. Instead of admitting to my snobby, elitist inclinations, I told her I wanted to save the series for when I had children of my own. Then we could read them for the first time together - wouldn't that be wonderful? Well, here I am reading Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone to an enraptured 6 year old and a vaguely interested 4 year old. And what do I think? I really like it, and it is wonderful discovering the world of Hogwarts together, but that said, I'm not about to sneak off and read ahead on my own!

Here are some other books we've read lately and enjoyed:

Beyond the Pawpaw Trees by Palmer Brown
The Silver Nutmeg by Palmer Brown
A Fox called Sorrow by Isobelle Carmody
Classic Fairy Tales told by Berlie Doherty
Operation Bunny by Sally Gardener
The Fairy Doll & Other Tales from The Dolls' House by Rumer Godden
The Clockwork Forrest by Doug MacLeod
Oliver and The Seawigs by Philip Reeve

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Yesterday was a sad day for my family, with sad weather to match our mood, but this made me smile:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

One of those moments when you remember what you thought having kids would be like before you had them: drawing "weird" fairies with my daughter, while we waited for the chocolate cake to bake.  "I wish we had more time doing stuff like this, mummy." Yeah, me too.

Introducing Pistachio Passionfruit and Greengage:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A couple of days ago, a very lovely friend of mine mentioned that she knows a local writer who I really admire and would I maybe like to meet up for a cuppa with her. "Yes!" was my immediate reaction, and then a moment later a wave of panic rolled over me. What would I say to her? What do I want to know? What could I talk to her about that wouldn't make me sound like a complete idiot? Because, over the years, I've seen lots of writers, at various festivals, discussing their work, and sometimes they're wonderful and sometimes they are not, but the part that always makes my skin crawl is when members of the audience are allowed to ask questions. There seem to be two types of question: ones that are specific to a particular piece of work, often a single character, and frequently impossible for the author to answer. These questions are from frustrated readers who want more; who want the characters to live beyond the pages of the book; and who aren't willing to let go. The second type are concerned with the writing process and are pretty much always a variation on the following: "How do you do it? How do you write? Where? When? How much? Please tell me everything, 'cause I really want to be a successful writer and I need to know the secret, whatever it may be..."

I don't want to ask either type of question because I don't think they can be answered with any sense of satisfaction. So what do I want to know? I'm not sure. My writing sessions at the moment seem to be full of questions, literally long lists of them, and they are questions only I can answer. But that's not to say I don't want to meet her. I really do. There's nothing better than finding out someone else has experienced what you are experiencing, and who knows what I might discover...


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter! xxx

Saturday, April 19, 2014

One of the good things about getting older is being able to spot a pattern in the stupid things I keep doing. Or so I've found. Perhaps there's no escaping these habits but I'm hoping awareness counts for something. I've come to realise that I continually seek approval from individuals (usually men - read into that what you want...) to validate myself as an interesting and/or creative person. Over the years, I've done this again and again, and it's so ridiculous because whether or not they think I'm talented is generally irrelevant. It's a nasty habit and one I'd really like to quit.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The school holidays have been pretty intense so far. And we're only on day four. My kids are running the show and I have no hope of keeping up with them. I usually love the holidays because I hate having to rush everywhere and to keep to an external schedule, but I'm counting the days! Despite the craziness, there have been two magical moments this week. Yesterday, we had a dancing competition and I found myself dancing with all three to the song that was played as we walked down the aisle,  after saying "I do", almost eight years ago. Wow, that was kind of wonderful! And then today, my eldest two created their own cyclone survival kit, after consulting a book on the weather. It had everything, even a toilet, and they did it all themselves (aside from a request for two slices of bread; we'd run out of biscuits). I loved that they packed blackberry jam and a book. It was brilliant, but they admitted they had to use their imagination quite a lot for some things...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

I watched an incredible documentary on Friday night and I've been thinking about it all weekend. It's called Searching for Sugar Man and it is an amazing tale, beautifully depicted. I think what I liked most about the story of Rodriguez is the the idea that you can make something, send it out into the world, and that it can then have a life of its own, in this case, without the artist even knowing about it. I wonder if this is more or less likely to happen now that we have the Internet. I guess there is the possibility of a wider reach but not the anonymity... Anyway, watch it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

He makes me laugh EVERY day. He is kind and generous and he eats almost anything I cook him. He is ridiculously ticklish and chuckles a lot. Sometimes I really do have the urge to just gobble him up. Happy birthday little dude. You make our days so much brighter with your cheeky ways.

Monday, March 31, 2014

I'm pretty toughened to rejections but they still hurt, especially on a Monday morning when you're feeling a little delicate (I really don't have a good relationship with Mondays). Every time I get a rejection, all these thoughts flash through my head: who am I kidding? I can't write. I'm never going to write anything that anyone wants to read or publish. I've got no talent. I should just give up, do something else. Maybe I could be a florist...

And then I start to reassemble myself, piece by piece, until I'm back again: dreaming up stories as I wait for the bus, scrawling in my notebook while the toddler sleeps, trying to figure out the intricacies of a character and be present for my children. Just muddling through because I'm rubbish at everything else (okay, I'm quite good at making cakes) and because writing is the only thing that makes my heart sing. 

A little later today, this quotation from Junot Diaz popped up in my Twitter feed and it felt like a message; a reminder to move on and to just keep writing:

"You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I signed up to take part in the Australian Women Writers 2014 Challenge to read six books (and review four) by Australian women authors. So far, I've read two amazing books (Gilgamesh by Joan London and Cosmo Cosmolino by Helen Garner) and I'm just beginning a third (Burial Rites by Hannah Kent). I found them both fascinating in very different ways. I just wanted to devour Gilgamesh, carrying it everywhere and sneakily reading the odd paragraph whenever the kids allowed me too. I love Joan London's writing (The Good Parents is one of those books that has stayed with me) and this novel was full of adventure and the exotic, and was a wonderful escape from the reality of my days. Cosmo Cosmolino was a more uncomfortable and less easy read for me (a character with your name suffering a horrible death is always a little awkward...), but it was a powerful novel and ultimately, one that I will reflect on often. I think Helen Garner is an amazing writer but this was quite different from the other books of hers that I've read. Still, I found it bewitching. For me, both novels shared a pervading atmosphere and a powerful sense of place; qualities I very much like to find in a novel.

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's nearly four years since I started writing this blog. At the time, I was trying to find a way of writing that suited my new way of living. I was completely preoccupied with little people and our domestic world. I was feeling a bit desperate and I wanted to find a way of celebrating our days and being positive about the position I had found myself in. I once thought being a housewife was the worst possible fate for a woman but the blogs I'd discovered seemed to portray an altogether more appealing image, and one I was very attracted to. Here's what I wrote:

My recent thirtieth birthday prompted me to consider how different my life is from the one I once imagined I’d have. I thought I’d be a successful writer or artist, consumed by work, living somewhere fast-paced and urban, possibly married, but without kids. Babies were something you did after 35; then I’d get a nanny, so I could carry smoothly on with my brilliant career. Well, things haven’t exactly panned out like that! The girl who was once so angry and determined, who saw everything in black and white, seems to have mellowed into something far softer and far less serious. A mother of two, the bank lists my occupation as “homemaker”. I have one unpublished novel to my name and another simmering on the back-burner. I still wear a lot of black, but now it is covered in baby sick, mashed banana, and all manner of other best left unidentified substances. I don’t drink; I don’t smoke. My only vice is coffee, which I’ve limited to two a day (due to breastfeeding), but refuse to give up. I pad around barefoot in my 1950s cottage and more often than not, I feel like a 1950s housewife, cooking, cleaning and caring for the babies. And for the most part, I’m surprisingly happy doing this!

The down side to all this domestic bliss is that it’s near impossible to switch to writer-mode in the evening. When you’ve spent the day dealing with the relentless needs and demands of small children, your mind is not free to wander, but cemented down in the reality of moment-to-moment existence. How do you slip into the world of ideas when you have been so consumed by the thousand little things that occupy each day?

But why fight it? Why not just embrace all that is wonderful about being a mother at home? I am told, time-and-time again, that it will all be over before I know it and to make the most of these years because one day I will wish that I could do it all again.

So this is my blog; my way of sharing all the wonderful little things that make up our days. Here you’ll find recipes, photographs, a few hastily constructed sentences, maybe even paragraphs, the odd craft project, and many book recommendations. “Just enjoy it!” is my new mantra, so I hope you do…

As I've told people about my blog and they've started reading what I post, I've felt, at times, self-conscious about what I write. I don't want to offend people; I don't want them to think that I might be writing about them. I have no desire to hurt anyone, or exert power over them. I just want this place to be true. I have no objective with this blog, other than to use it as a means of expression, a place to vent what's in my head, and to communicate with others. Sometimes, I think I might just give it up, but I like blogging. I like the immediacy. Writing novels is a lonely slog through many, many drafts. Hitting the "Publish" button on a post provides a brilliant counterbalance to all that wading through page after page of words. Yep, I might keep doing it for a little while yet.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I'm turning 34 this month and for some reason this seems like a big one. Not that I'm freaking out; just taking note. I guess it's because I'm now in my mid-thirties and moving into a different realm. I think I had a similar reckoning when I was 24. I remember realising that I wasn't young anymore and that this was it! My life, happening, right now. Looking back a decade, I can see that it was a massive year for me. I decided I didn't want a career; I left London and my job; I moved to a new city; I started living with my boyfriend; I went back to university; I made friends with some amazing people and fellow writers; I lost my mum to cancer; and I began writing my first novel. Strangely, it was one of the happiest and saddest years of my life to date. And it seems like such a long time ago. Some days I feel really old; some days I still feel young (and very silly). I wonder what this year will hold for me...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I'm really intimidated by successful creative people. I have been for a long time (thinking back in particular to my first job after university and how terrified I was of everyone) but I've only recently worked out why I turn into a nervous wreck around certain individuals. My husband says it's because they're higher up the (creative) food chain, but I see it a little differently. I feel like successful creatives, be they artists, musicians, writers, whatever, have crossed some invisible line. They've worked out how to make it; they've stopped pretending and have become the person they want to be. I don't know... perhaps I've got it all wrong. But if I wasn't so in awe of those on the other side of the divide, this is what I'd like to know: when you're a success (doing what you do + others loving it + getting paid to do it), do you stop having those shitty days when you completely doubt yourself and your ability to produce anything of any merit? Do you shore up evidence of your greatness that keeps those shockers at bay? Or does it get worse? I was just wondering 'cause I'm on the other side and today was one of those days.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I've changed the way I write out of necessity and I've been placing a lot of pressure on myself, during those focused and brief bouts of creativity, to be as productive as I can. I've spent a lot of time plotting and structuring and building up the background of characters. These are things I've never been particularly concerned with before; certainly not in the early, first draft stages of writing. But I've lost something: the lyricism is missing. And so I've decided to just slow down. To read some poetry; to listen to more music; to allow myself some space to think; to stop and notice all the small things. I feel like I'm just hurtling through the days, trying to keep everything together, and I don't really allow myself to feel or experience the details of my environment. I need to feed my creativity; not just expect to be able to churn out the words without any nourishment. If I don't, my writing is going to start to resemble a spreadsheet and I hate spreadsheets.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wow, I can't believe this photo was taken two years ago! On ridiculously hot summer days like today, I'm very grateful not to be pregnant. I remember that the plaster was so cold on my skin and felt wonderful. And it was nice to sit still for a while, before mopping up the little white footprints that ran all through the house.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I had three hours to myself today - I wrote, I read, I walked, I stared at the beautiful Indian Ocean - and I felt just a little bit guilty about it, which is ridiculous. I totally need to get over this and accept that this time is crucial for me to function. I need the space to allow that creative magic to happen; it just feels so strange to me at the moment. It's as if I've been hiding behind my children, letting myself disappear from view, and now I'm stepping back out into the world and claiming a part in it. It's scary and heady and I definitely drank too much coffee today...but I'm so happy to be back!

Monday, February 17, 2014

I'm a bit of a homebody. I like to go out to grab a coffee and remind myself that the world is out there, but then I just love being at home. My parents used to despair of me, begging me to walk the ten minutes to the shop, just to get some fresh air. I'm no hermit - I love people; I want to understand them - but home is where it's at for me. I'm writing a book about a house and a home. I'm trying to figure out what one is and how this relates to our identities. I'm pretty consumed by it, which is tricky when you have so many other things to think and do! Last week, I started reading this amazing book called The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard (Beacon Press, 1994). It's making my sleep-deprived, flabby brain hurt but it's so interesting. I'm going to have to nibble away at it. I love this quotation from the foreword by John R. Stilgoe:

"If the house is the first universe for its young children, the first cosmos, how does its space shape all the subsequent knowledge of other space, of any larger cosmos? Is that house "a group of organic habits" or even something deeper, the shelter of the imagination itself?"

Beautiful, don't you think?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I feel as if I've lost my blogging mojo lately. I look back on posts and think I'm just repeating myself. I've been working on some new things and they seem to have been preoccupying me. Also the return to school (and in particular school lunches!) has been pretty intense and all-consuming. I think what it probably comes down to is that I'm on the cusp of change and a little frustrated and anxious about what comes next. I don't really know what to think yet; I'm just feeling rather confused, possibly a little conflicted. I'm not ready to step back and see the bigger picture. Or to write about it here. Maybe I should just post a few random photos or something...

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