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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Today, I was reminded of an odd little exercise I did back in November 2010. It was one of those Facebook shares that sometimes prove irresistible:

Fifteen Authors
The Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors (poets included) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.

This was my list, which I seem to recall typing one-handed, while breastfeeding my son:
 
Virginia Woolf
Salman Rushdie
Michel Faber
Annie Proulx
Tim Winton
Charles Dickens
William Shakespeare
Sylvia Plath
Maggie O'Farrell
A.S. Byatt
Richard Flanagan
Hilary Mantel
Emily Bronte
Angela Carter
Toni Morrison

I thought it would be interesting to write another list this evening and see how they compared (the purple names are those that appear in both):

William Shakespeare
Joan London
Maggie O'Farrell
Tim Winton
Hilary Mantel
Virginia Woolf
Rose Tremain
J.D. Salinger
Kate Atkinson
Charles Dickens
Angela Carter
Helen Garner
Emily Bronte
Salman Rushdie
Sylvia Plath
 
There are two writers who I hadn't read back then - Joan London and Helen Garner - but who I have since discovered and found hugely inspiring. Rose Tremain, J.D. Salinger and Kate Atkinson have been favorites of mine for a long time, but for whatever reason, didn't make it into the previous list. If I could include two more, Richard Flanagan and A.S. Byatt would have to be added back in because they are both brilliant writers, whose work I love. Initially I was surprised by a few of mine, but upon reflection, I think it's an interesting mix of male and female, historical and contemporary, literary and commercial, with writers originating from Australia, America, India and the UK. I wonder how it will evolve over the next five years...




Sunday, January 25, 2015

When I studied scriptwriting, many years ago, I remember there was a lot of discussion about turning points - an incident or opportunity which propels the character onto a new course - and I feel as if I'm currently experiencing that moment of altered direction. Until last week, I had thought, only fleetingly, about the possibility of quitting my PhD. It was more a reaction or a joke than anything I was seriously considering. Then all of a sudden it came to me, quite clearly, that what I needed to do was to walk away, at least for the time being. I thought the PhD would give me purpose, structure, a rejuvenated sense of self-esteem, but all it has done is create a lot of stress and frustration and anxiety. I am not going to discuss all the details of my decision, but in short, everything felt wrong and I had to do something to change that. I want to focus on my children, I want to enjoy being a mum, and I want to lead a creative life, full of joy and enthusiasm and discovery. Despite what many said, I don't think I was brave to embark on a PhD; I was playing it safe. It was my safety net. It made me feel secure about pursuing a creative life, but I need to be stronger; to believe in myself; to have the guts to do what I want to do. To just be the ridiculous person I am and stop apologizing for it. Time is too precious to waste.

So I'm going to just get on with it. Write my novel, take an art class, throw myself into life. Later, when my circumstances are different, I may go back and continue my PhD journey, but for now, it is on hold. I feel lighter having made the decision: more interested in the world, and in writing and in making art; more excited about the year ahead and all it will bring. Long may this feeling last!

Photo by Orla

Monday, January 19, 2015

A little while ago, I sat down to write in a favourite cafe and was confronted by this:

Woah! It was 9.30am and my long mac hadn't even arrived - I sure wasn't ready for that kind of BIG question. I tried not to think about it - I had a scene to write and books to read - but it crept into my head and refused to go away. Then yesterday, we were watching Mama Kin singing her beautiful songs and she mentioned this same question, worded slightly differently and far more positively: "What would you do if you had no fear?" This time, I really started to think about it...

I would learn to drive
I would talk to people who interest me, even if they intimidate me
I would swim out of my depth in the ocean (somewhere along the way, I became terrified of sharks)
I would draw and paint and sculpt and write and not worry about where it was heading

I'm sure there are more - I'm still thinking about it. While I am too fearful and it does hinder me, I also think a touch of fear might not be such a bad thing sometimes. It might make us a bit more cautious - allowing us to figure things out before we leap - and act as a means of self-preservation. But, yes, I do wish I could be braver.

Monday, January 12, 2015

So last week, I spent 5 days writing and reading and thinking about my novel and thesis. It went so fast, but it was bliss and I loved every minute of it. I wrote less than I thought I would, but I'm happy with what I produced, especially because I had a handful of breakthrough moments regarding character and plot. Yay! The best bit though was getting the chance to have that sustained concentration that you so need in order to see the bigger picture and to pull together all the seemingly disparate parts. I went through an array of emotions during the week - at one point I was ready to quit my doctorate, then I was going to take 6 months off - but by the end, everything began to slot into place and I started to feel confident again. It was almost as if I needed to get to that point of desperation - to feel I had nothing to lose - to just take some risks and see what came of it. More than anything, it gave me a little taste of the future; of a time when I'll be able to spend hour after hour, day after day, doing what I love. For the next year, I'm just going to enjoy the company of that cheeky almost 3 year old and grab the chance to write when I can.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

On New Year's Eve, we were drinking red wine and chatting with my dad about resolutions. When I said that mine was still a work-in-progress, my dad's response was: "Oh well I'll just read about it on your blog". So daddy-o, here you go...

This year has been a strange one. Nothing hugely dramatic has happened to me - I haven't traveled anywhere or had a baby or done anything much other than keep our little show on the road (I did start my PhD but that was more of an adjustment in my thinking, than a change in the way I live) - and yet, in many ways, it has been a year of turmoil for me. I thought a lot would change in 2014 - I needed it too - and some aspects have changed, just not as dramatically as I might have imagined they would. The biggest alteration has really been in my head - in the way I view the world and myself, and in my understanding of what I need to be happy and fulfilled. There have been some massive lows, as well as some wonderful moments of delight. I have really struggled but I have also found strength and resilience I did not know I possessed. I watched a TED talk a few weeks ago that mentioned the loneliness of motherhood and made me realise that I have actually felt very lonely this year. It's not something that's easy to admit or that you would necessarily associate with a mum of three children, leading a hectic life. I frequently complain about having no time alone and yet lonely is what I feel. I have tried to find ways to stop this feeling of disconnection (studying, trying to forge new friendships, keeping busy with little projects), but it has not always worked.

So, what do I hope for in 2015? What is my resolution? This is going to sound horrible, but I resolve to put myself first a little bit more often. I need to take my writing seriously and to carve out more time for it. I need to lower my standards in some areas of our life, delegate more, and make sacrifices less frequently. I know that it will benefit everyone in the family, if I can find a better balance and reclaim something for myself. Next week, I will spend the entire week writing, while my husband looks after the kids. It doesn't seem real yet. In fact, it feels like a dream come true. I can hardly wait.




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