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

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

In the last few days of 2018, I was feeling reflective, as I always do at that time of year. So many thoughts were buzzing around my head and I thought I really should write a blog post to get all of this into some order, and perhaps even make sense of it. But here we are on February 6th: the year is well and truly under way! Last year was FULL, in a good, if completely exhausting, way. Time and again, I had to summon energy from a seemingly depleted source, and just keep going. I worked harder than I have ever worked (not the paid kind, but the slog of looking after children and a house and a garden and a bunch of pets), and I faced some demons in regards to my writing (the type that live in your head and tell you to give up because you're no good). Somehow though, I powered on through it all, structuring my whole day around the precious hour or so when my baby napped, so that I could literally run to my desk and fill my cup with some creative expression. If I missed a day or two, I suffered for it. That fleeting time was my sustenance for the rest of the day. I made progress, not in terms of finding an agent or a publisher, but with my manuscript - it is far better now and I have a clearer idea of how it could be made even better - and also in relation to who I am, where my passions lie, and the direction I want to take next. I'm excited for the year ahead. I have lots of plans and a little bit more energy...


Friday, July 20, 2018

At the beginning of the year, on the first day of the school term, I received a rejection email, politely declining my novel, the second one I have written and the focus of my work for the last five years or so. Nothing new there, and you'd think I'd be somewhat hardened to it by now. Often they don't bother me too much - I'm disappointed but not devastated. I wallow momentarily and move on. For whatever reason - partly timing, partly who it was doing the rejecting - this one REALLY got to me. I was completely derailed by it. I found myself crying and saying things like: "Maybe I get to have these four lovely kids but I don't get to be a writer," as if it was some bargain I'd unwittingly agreed too. I pushed the pram along, busy traffic hurtling past me, and thought: "Why the hell am I doing this? It causes me so much pain." Because it was pain I was experiencing; the pain of realising that perhaps I wasn't going to be a writer (by which I mean a published writer). It wasn't looking great, and I just couldn't imagine consigning another body of work - years and years of work - to the bottom drawer. It occurred to me that the world is full of failures - people who wanted to be this, that, or the other - and didn't make it for any number of reasons. I'd always just told myself that if I kept going, I would eventually get the book deal, but was I just delusional? At what point, do you walk away? When do you realise that your dream is never going to happen? And if you do, what then? Possibly some people realise that it didn't actually matter to them that much after all. People change and dreams change. What is important at 20, is not nearly so important at 40. It might even come as a relief to be free of this idea of yourself, to pursue some other direction.

But I still loved writing. It is at the centre of my identity. Reading, writing, making art - these are the things that make my heart soar with passion. And yet I felt like turning my back on writing; I just wasn't sure that it was worth the heartbreak.

I was miserable for a while, at least, when it came to my creative life (it's impossible to be unhappy with Little Miss Sunshine keeping me busy). I didn't even want to think about writing - I cut myself off from it. It suddenly seemed like everyone was writing books, getting publishing deals, being offered exciting opportunities, while I was stagnant, anchored down by the day-to-day slog of things-that-need-to-be-done. I concentrated on drawing and printing - pursuits that make me feel content and joyful. No pain whatsoever; just ink under my fingernails and the curiosity-led drive to keep making more.

I decided that I needed to start a new novel to remind myself that I love to write, no matter what the outcome. I couldn't though; I just couldn't face it, even with two exciting ideas to research and develop. I pondered how it is possible to be depressed in one area of your life and not others.

I regretted not taking an alternative path. I thought about all the things I could have done, all the other possible careers, all the time I had wasted on this futile course. All the hours, all the compromises, all the agonising, for what?

And then I decided that I couldn't walk away, not yet. My wise 10-year old said to me: "I want to read your stories, and why do you need to get them published, anyway?" We talked about art and expression and communicating ideas, and the need for an audience, but her words made me pause and think about my motivations. Some are pure and some less so. I crave kudos and acknowledgement, praise and acceptance as much as the next person. Of course, it is not all lofty ideals that drive me to spend hours and hours crafting imaginary worlds on paper. I would very much like someone to say: " You are good at this."

So, I'm tenacious and stubborn. I took action. I found an editor to read the first fifty pages of my book (she was busy and it's expensive to get strangers to read your work), and she was enthusiastic, but also quite brutal. I was so delighted to have some feedback. It made me feel interested in my novel again. Here was a way back into my writing. Then, a very generous and clever friend offered to read the whole novel. I was nervous but I took her up on the offer. She made some insightful comments and said she liked it. One like was enough for me. It countered all those cold, standard rejection letters, all those agents that you never even hear anything from (I know the volume of submissions they receive is vast; I'm not blaming anyone), all those times you fail to make the long list, let alone the short list. It was enough for me; enough to keep going for now. I do believe stories matter - I want my stories to matter. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. I'm going to keep telling them, either which way.



Thursday, February 1, 2018

I think in all my years of writing this blog, I've never gone so long without posting. I guess with the arrival of baby four something had to give and it was the blog! I toyed with whether to just end it, never to return, but I don't think I'm done with this space, quite yet... So what have I been doing? Well, there's that cliche stock image, which the media love to use, of a woman juggling all the component parts of her busy life. Imagine that, except with an exceptionally uncoordinated person... Plus, I'm only managing the tiniest amount of print-making and absolutely no writing, so it's pretty much just domestic drudgery and four kids, who never stop talking (and the littlest is included in that). But really, all is well. I'm very much enjoying my days with the baby and the big kids grow more fascinating and engaging the older they get. It's TOTALLY full on and it never lets up. I lose it all the time and I get very frustrated about the gap between what I want to achieve and what I do achieve. It's an inevitable gap, but that doesn't make it easy to accept! And it seems that I have an early walker, (standing independently at 7 months!!), who likes to take very short naps (just like her sister did), so please don't expect too much of me...



Friday, July 21, 2017

Hello from the other side of childbirth! My littlest girl is now almost 6 weeks old but she is still very much a curled up ball of sleepiness and hunger. I'm not really one for birth stories - I'm not sure why - but let me just say some things were the same, some things were different, it definitely doesn't get any easier, and it hurt like crazy! I am very happy to have her snuggled up against me, night and day, and to be discovering who she is and imagining who she will be. I feel so damn fortunate to be doing this all again. And this is very short and sweet because, while the baby is softly snoring, the couch beckons and so does my book.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I'm playing the waiting game and it's agonising, but I'm trying to be at one with it and accept it for what it is, while also going slightly insane. My baby's due date is three days away and every day I'm experiencing little spells of contractions and backache and cramps. Then it eases off and I realise that this day will not be the day. I feel very grounded in my body and all its aches and pains, but also, at times, rather trippy and detached from reality. I can't quite believe that I'll be meeting another baby soon, even while I sit here and feel her limbs move under my skin. It is as awe-inspiring and miraculous as the first time, maybe even more so because I know all that comes next. And despite, having given birth three times, I'm scared and nervous. All I can remember is that it hurts a lot and it is the hardest work I have ever done, and at the end you feel like a fucking goddess for surviving it. That the moment, they put the baby on your chest, you go: "oh here you are at last - I know you, little one". And it is a fierce, fierce emotion that courses through you; something even more powerful, more primal, more brutal, than love.

Oh my, here we go...





Monday, April 17, 2017

I've been trying for ages to write something about anxiety, but I haven't been able to work out what I want to say. A month or so ago, I agonised over a post and then somehow managed to accidentally delete it. I took this as a sign, but also, to be honest, I just didn't have it in me to rewrite it. I never considered myself anxious, until I came to the realisation that the frustrating and somewhat erratic reactions of one of my kids was down to anxiety. I'd always considered anxious people to be super organised, neat types, who overthink every tiny detail and attempt to control and order all aspects of their lives. I was a bit of a worrier, but not anxious; a little lackadaisical and slapdash if anything. I took risks and was reckless at times; I was often more scared of not doing things, than of doing them. It was only through trying to understand the responses of my child to certain situations that I began to see that I too had irrational reactions to areas of my life; that there were activities and scenarios that I avoided at all costs; that my anxiety sometimes paralysed me. Of course, some anxiety is okay - it keeps us safe - but not when it reaches a debilitating level. Mine stops me from doing and enjoying certain things. It would be good to find a way around that, but if I can't, then so be it. The problem is when something traumatic happens, which feeds that baseline of anxiety and confirm its necessity: "You were right - bad stuff stuff does happen. See!" Last year, it was a miscarriage, 5 years ago it was a high risk result for downs syndrome, a few years earlier it was crashing the car, further back it was my mum dying, and so on and so on. These events have flipped me into a whole other dimension of anxiety, where my thoughts spiral out of all control and way beyond the reach of rationality. More than anything, anxiety is exhausting; it sucks up energy. I know there is no quick fix - that it is a question of managing it, rather than overcoming it - but I've also come to conclude that certain habits are a way of coping: reading, drawing, walking. These are the things I turn to when the world gets too loud, too fast, too much. They are solitary and slow and occupy me to the extent that time moves at a different pace. Anxiety seems like a totally reasonable reaction to our crazy world and way of living - it is certainly something you hear a great deal about these days - and I guess, sooner or later, we might all have to find our own ways to survive its tight grip.




Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I'm really good at remembering dates, which is great for history exams and appointments, but not so much for days you'd rather not recollect. I was going to have a baby this month. In recent weeks, there have been many humid, hot days, when I've thought how awful it would be to be in my final weeks of pregnancy, but still, there is no escaping it. It has been there, always, in the back of my mind. Mostly, I'm okay with it now. I have a lot of distractions, not least of all the tiny girl that squirms around inside me and makes my hips ache. Then, last week, when talking about something quite removed from the subject, I unexpectedly lost it and, once again, sobbed my heart out. It was cathartic, it felt like a release, and it left me exhausted.

The day I realised I was pregnant with that baby, days before my period was due, I was crossing the bridge on the train, when I saw two dolphins just below me. They were so close and so majestic, and I just had this very strong feeling that I was pregnant. And then all those weeks later, when I was sitting on a balcony on Rottnest Island, I saw a pod of dolphins in the bay. It was a subdued, cloudy day, but the light was incredible and seemed to match my grief and sense of helplessness at realising that there was no hope for this little life that was leaving my body. It felt special seeing them - a moment of beautiful, painful clarity in the fog of confused emotions. Yesterday, I was going over the bridge, as I now do every day, when I spotted them, far away this time, moving slowly through the flat, opaque water, like black stitches through steel-grey silk, and even though I see them all the time in the river, I felt suddenly overcome with loss and the tears welled up behind my sunglasses and ran down my cheeks. 

In the weeks after my miscarriage, I really wasn't sure that we would try again. I'm so pleased we did, and, as my daughter said: "If we'd had the other baby, then we wouldn't have this one." And, of course, she's right. 


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