To quote one of the great philosophers of our time, Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
Ten years ago, I was feeling a bit discouraged. I’d been submitting work to publishers for a few years and had amassed a thick folder of rejection letters. There were a few personal notes in there, too — a few “Not for us but keep writing!”-type comments, a few “Revise and resubmit?” requests.
I felt like I was close, but also that I could stay close for the term of my natural life, that there was no guarantee a door would open for me, ever. I had begun wondering how much longer I could justify putting time into this writing thing for nil return. I was working long hours in academia; I had a young child. I was stealing time from all over the place in order to indulge this … whatever this was.
I knew I’d never stop writing, never stop jotting down small fragments here and there. But maybe I should stop trying to shape them into stories; maybe I should stick with poetry, which was where I’d started, after all.
Two months later, I signed a contract with Walker Books Australia to publish my first novel, Annabel, Again.
I’ve been thinking lately about creativity. About the complicated relationship between humility, confidence, and arrogance. About the precarious balance between the conviction that we might actually know what we’re doing and the gnawing fear that we don’t – a balance which is required to produce anything worthwhile. Or at least that’s how it seems to me.
I’ve been thinking about imposter syndrome.
And I’ve been ironing. Usually a school uniform, in the morning, at the last possible moment.
I did promise the occasional dash of random and I’m not sure I’ve really been delivering. To rectify that, here are two completely unrelated things:
Random Item #1
Surface Tension came out this week. This is excellent and I’m thrilled to see it on shelves. I’m told it received “a cracker of a review” in Bookseller + Publisher, though I’m yet to see it myself. As you do when you have a shiny new book, I’ve taken to picking up a copy, opening it, reading a few lines, sighing, and putting it back down.
Shall we call it Shiny New Book Syndrome? It is an identifiable disorder – I’m sure of it.
Today, I’m taking a leaf out of Julia Lawrinson’s blog, which took its own leaf from Anita Heiss (for such is the way of the madly intertextual interwebs), to talk about things I’ve been grateful for lately.
It has been a tricky couple of years for me on some fronts and there has been less writing and relaxation and metaphorical lying on my back looking at the clouds than I would have hoped. Very often, I have felt as if I am simply scrabbling to keep my ground, rather than actually making any progress. But good things have happened. Many good things. And I am very fortunate. Mostly fortunate, in fact, and it is too easy to lose sight of that.
This post is not about writing or reading or books. But it is about art and creativity and bringing the audience to the work and the work to the audience, which is in fact not really an audience but a key part of the work, simultaneously constructing it as they consume it and performing various other acts of deconstructive postmodernist discursive etcetera.
Oh, and getting wet.
People of Perth, this is awesome. And not just because you can – nay, must – get really, really wet in the centre of the city. But because, delightfully, while it’s about constructing walls, it’s at the same time about breaking them down, not just in water and rooms, but in people.
So I’ve finished the marking and the copyediting and the translating and the accounting and most of the extension planning (take that, grout colours!) and some of the other random bits and pieces that were clamouring for my fickle attentions. And I’ve cleaned my desk. Not completely, but the thing is, despite my many friends who emailed me to say “Call that a mess? This is a mess!” it was never really about the mess anyway. It was about the fact that there were just too many different things in there, too many disconnected and sometimes competing demands on my time and increasingly limited brainpower. I can take the mess, as long as it’s not pulling me in too many directions at once.
But that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is this:
In partially cleaning my desk, I found the leaf – whole and flat and entirely unbroken despite the chaos of its surrounds. That has to be a symbol of something, surely?
It’s the return of the writing desk and it’s just in time for the school holidays, of course, but that’s okay. It seems to be how things work around here, but when there are novels brewing, they will make their way into the light, school holidays or no.
There is other news on the horizon too, which is the current source of both excitement and blind panic. But I can’t tell you about that, not quite yet.
I was thrilled today to overhear a staff member in the children’s section of my local Dymocks enthusiastically recommending “classic Australian literature” to a stymied grandparent shopping for presents.
I was less than thrilled to hear that her suggestions were “The Naganun [sic] and the Stars, you know, by the author of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, as well as Picnic at Hanging Rock!”
Dymocks, might I suggest you spend a little less energy on the Coalition for Greater Profits and a little more on staff education?
Note to self: always always always have a notebook by your bed.
Still, at least I had a pen. And a hand. There are three different story ideas on this hand. All I need now is the time to write them, right after I finish this rewrite, and the next one, and the next two novels in the queue, and that grant application, and this editing project, and the academic semester.
Hmm. Must sleep less, write more. Preferably not on hands, though.
It’s been another year since I started this site, and this ‘notablog’ thingy, so here is my annual recap with some stats:
1) The Good:
books published: 1
books contracted but not yet published: 3
poems published: 2
school presentations/workshops: 36
poetry readings: 3
2) The Less Good:
books written but not contracted: 2 (these are manuscripts which made the list last year; I’m still planning to revise and resubmit, though. Just as soon as I have time …)
poems written: 3 (nowhere near enough, and I have a folder full of fragments I can’t seem to see my way clear to working through to completion. This must change, soon).
unbidden thoughts about turning these semi-regular updates into an actual blog: too many
This is the flowering eucalypt at the bottom of our driveway.
I love this tree, because every time I arrive home, this is what I hear:
But suddenly there it is
right in front of you
bright and vivid
quietly waiting …
These lines are from Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree. You read them and then turn the page, and there is the tree, luminous, and the girl’s querulous face staring at it, uplifted. I’ve always loved this book; I love the movement between these lines and the image of the tree on the final page. Even though I know what’s coming, even though I’ve seen it many times now, it never fails to move me.