Tag Archives: not-writing

Creative Time!

Hello Adelaide! Hello lovely studio! Hello long-awaited and twice-postponed May Gibbs Creative Time Residency!

I am so grateful to be here, to have the luxury of spending the whole of November ensconced in ‘The Burrow’, the cozy and beautifully appointed studio apartment owned and administered by the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust.

Since 2000, The Burrow’s sole purpose has been to provide a home-away-from-home for children’s authors and illustrators seeking time and space or a change of pace – an incredibly generous gift to our community.

On its website, the Trust writes:

Some Creative Time Residency fellows will spend the entire month working on their creative project quietly alone; some may have a mentorship component to their CTR fellowship; some may be provided with paid speaking, teaching and promotional activities by a MGCLT partner; and others may arrange their own speaking, teaching and/or promotional activities.

If you know me, you can probably guess which option I’ve chosen! What is a burrow for if not burrowing?

But perhaps you are wondering why I need this? As a wise woman once said to me, narrowly avoiding being punched in the face, “But, Meg, what do you actually do all day?”

In all honesty, I have asked myself the same thing. From the outside, my creative life looks pretty cruisy these days. I’m not working another job, I’ve pulled right back on speaking commitments, I have the proverbial empty nest. In that nest, I have a room of my own – a lovely, light-filled study that looks out on to my native garden, full of honeyeaters and cockatoos and the occasional glorious pardalote. I have time and space and loveliness.

But I have something else too.

I have a very messy head. And I’ve had a difficult few years. And somewhere along the line, this lovely light-filled space has become a place of avoidance and procrastination, of self-doubt and recrimination and wondering whether I’m even a writer any more or maybe this whole thing has run its race. The garden has become a place I decamp to, obsessively pulling weeds and trimming things because it is so immediately satisfying and so much easier than writing.

The thing is – it isn’t always about time and space, at least not in the obvious ways.

Still, as Covid restrictions eased, and my family issues settled to the point where I could commit to taking the re-re-scheduled residency, and as the date approached, and I said enthusiastic yeses and made plans, I did wonder what I was doing. Did I need this? Did I have the right to need this? Wasn’t I just being self-indulgent and should just give myself a good slap in the face and stay at home where everything was set up so beautifully for me if I could just get my messy head right? Which surely I could do by myself, being an adult person who’s always managed to do that in the past, and possibly even free up a residency for someone who actually, truly needed it!

Friends, I will just say this: If you find a good psychologist, hang onto them for dear life. And when they somehow manage to open up a space in which you can give yourself permission to stop trying to march doggedly onward, to stop treating creative work like some kind of battering-ram production line in whose service you must BUTT-IN-CHAIR WORDS-ON-PAGE DEADLINE-DEADLINE-DEADLINE, and instead send you right back to the heart of things, to the reason you started this writing thing, to just noodle about and play and see what shakes loose … when that window appears, open it. Climb through.

So here I am, in Adelaide, in a burrow. Noodling and playing and feeling more like myself than I have in a long time. I have a project but I’m not thinking of it in those terms, and I’m beginning by simply messing about, which right now looks a bit like this …

It is early days, but I’m not going to think about days for now; only moments. In this one, I offer a huge thanks to the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust. And if you need any proof that being here is surely my destiny, I offer these images from my distant past. The year: 1975. The occasion: The Decorated Bicycle Competition, Eaglehawk Dahlia and Arts Procession. The winners: ME AND MY BROTHER! (or, more accurately, our mother, who went above and beyond to make not only our costumes but also hundreds and hundreds of crepe paper flowers and cunning wire frames to weave them through. We won a transistor radio. What a time to be alive!)

Me on the right as Cuddlepie and my brother on the left as Snugglepot, his face cunningly concealed behind whatever that guy with the pole is meant to be.
Let’s just zoom in on that serious little face, shall we?

Getting the Blog Back Together

Hey. Hello. It’s been a while.

Three years, to be exact-ish. I do love a good ish.

Despite my silence, many things have happened. Writing things. Non-writing things. Big things. Small things. Hard things. Harder things.

In fact, when I look at the date of my last post – 3 May, 2019 – it’s immediately obvious to me why the silence began. It was exactly a week later that my father died, bringing with it the many things that loss does. And then, as my breath was starting to return, almost exactly a year later that my mother died, bringing with it the many things, compounded now and layered, and in the midst of it all I flew back-and-forth across the country multiple times, sorting and sifting through emotions and things and people and feelings, and walking and walking through the bush behind my childhood home, the clay of Bendigo feeling, as it always does, so firm beneath my feet. The metaphor that has struck me so many times over the years returning to me again, even as I wondered whether all that is now changed, whether I’ll keep coming back to this place, whether I’ll ever return to those scribbled notes, write that poem that’s been sleeping in the back of my mind for so long.

The thing is – one thing is – I talk too much and say too little. I ramble. I endlessly circle and get lost in metaphor. I start and don’t finish, can’t find a structure, resist it. Words have been difficult the last few years. Plot has been impossible. I don’t know yet if that’s going to change but I’m taking little steps. I don’t think we need the firmness of clay; I think we can learn to stay steady on sand, to soften ourselves as the surface shifts beneath our feet.

I’ve returned to this space several times since my last post, stared at the wall of white and the silence and wondered what to do with it. Who even blogs anymore anyway? Isn’t all this stuff on Twitter and Instagram and ye olde Facebook, served up in banter and small palatable bites?

The truth is that I quite like banter and palatable things. I’m even fond of a little biting. But I also like talking too much and saying too little. I like rambling and endlessly circling and getting lost in metaphor and forgetting all about structure and throwing words out into the white silence. I have things to say and thoughts to ponder and so I’ve decided to return to this little room of my own – sporadically, self-indulgently, possibly sometimes nonsensically. When I think about it, those three ‘ly’s sum up some really important things about my creative life. Random notes and scribbles, moments scooped up and stored, then set aside. Maybe they become something or maybe they’re already what they’re going to be, in all their mess and formlessness. Anyway. It doesn’t seem like a bad place to begin again.

A Quick Note From the Trenches

Hello, dear people. I am currently occupied with life rather than writing (Oh, as if the two could be separated! you exclaim, but yes it seems they can and indeed sometimes must), but now take a break from life-rather-than-writing to celebrate the US publication of A Single Stone earlier this month and wave across the distance to those new readers who have been stopping by.

People ask me how sales are going and I say, “I have no idea”, because I don’t.

People ask me how reviews are going, and I say, “As they always do,” because how could it be otherwise?

Because it’s a book, a story, a subjective thing, and some people like my writing and some people don’t and there is nothing at all I can do about that. What I can do is try and make the way that I write the very best version of itself it can be, and that’s something I work on every day. (Except for now. Because now is life-rather-than-writing. As I have said too many times already and will not mention again.) Continue reading

The Year of Doing Way Too Much & Nowhere Near Enough

So it’s come to this, November. Or perhaps I should call you by your real name — almost-December-dear-god-where-has-the-year-gone?

2016 has been a year of many things. But mostly of two things, which are subtly connected. For me it will go down as i) The Year of Doing Way Too Much and ii) The Year of Not Writing the Novel I Should Have Written Long Ago (subtitle dear-god-where-has-the-year gone-is-that-my-editor-coming-quick-everybody-hide!).

In 2016, I encountered a perfect and unrelenting storm of day job and volunteer work and family stuff and RSI and book-related commitments and assorted essential but fundamentally not-writing administrivia, all of which combined to leave me with an amount of head-space/writing time which can be best characterised as nowhere near enough.

Herewith a Twitter-ish chronicle of my descent into chaos…

tweets2

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Ten Years and Still Counting

Last week, I posted a little something about where I was ten years ago versus where I am now.

It’s a post I almost didn’t write because I was worried it would seem braggy. CHECK OUT ALL MY SWAG! AND THIS IS JUST IN ONE WEEK! NEXT WEEK I’LL SPLIT THE PUBLISHING ATOM!

It wasn’t meant to be like that. It was intended as a kind of self-talk, a rejoinder to the messy stuff that goes on in my head, which seems to focus almost entirely on how I could be writing faster or better or differently or just plain more, and never mentions – hardly even seems to notice – the good stuff.

When I shared last week’s post, I prefaced it with the comment: “A few things have changed.”

And that’s true. But here’s something that’s even truer: most things haven’t.

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Picking Up The Pieces …

… of 2012, in order to move hopefully into this new year. Last year got a little crazy for me and many things fell by the wayside. In hindsight, perhaps I should have seen it coming. I had two new books out here in Australia, two books coming out for the first time in the US, and a third in the pipeline to do the same. Lots of people wanted me for lots of things. They were all good things, useful things, things it made absolute and perfect sense for me to do. And so I said ‘Of course!’ and ‘I’d be delighted’ and ‘Thank you for asking’.

Last year, it felt like I reached a tipping point of some kind. There were simply too many things pulling on me for to do much but keep paddling madly and try and keep my head above water.

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Princesses and Books and Monsters? Oh, My!

Today, an unexpected thing has happened. For the first time in weeks I have a couple of clear hours in which to get some writing done. I’m going to get right on that. There is a novel to finish, and then rewrite from the ground up.

But because it’s a shock to be suddenly presented with writing time, I had to settle my nerves by doing a little procrastinating first. So I decided to make a word cloud for No Bears. I thought it would be amusing. I thought I would simply get one giant word – BEARS – blocking out everything else.

Instead, I got this …

Huh. Turns out that book really isn’t about bears after all. I guess sometimes the writer is the last to know.

I do like word clouds. They’re fun. But also kind of pointless. Which is why I have allowed myself just one. And now I am off, to get.this.elusive.novel.done.

I promise.

This Is The Part …

… where I tell you I’ve been busy.

And where I use the cunning technique of splitting the first sentence in order to form a pointlessly catchy title for the post. A title that tells you nothing much at all. A title that if it tells you anything, tells you that this is going to be one of those shapeless, formless catch-up posts that people who are fond of articles with titles like “Ten Top Tips For Terrific Blogging” are so appalled by.

So I’ve been busy – busy being hard on myself for not having finished the novel I began so-called ‘fast-drafting’ at the beginning of the year. Apparently for me, fast drafting means an average of about 12.6 words a day. Which are then thrown out the next day, to be replaced by 12.6 possibly better ones.

But then I’ve been busy remembering that I have three books coming out in the US this year (No Bears, Duck for a Day, and Surface Tension, now known as Below, about which I shall write a vastly more terrific post at a later date), and two in Australia (Ten Tiny Things, Wreck the Halls, about which, terrific-ness, also later). And that I have in fact been occupied rewriting and copy-editing and proofreading and visiting schools and libraries and conferences and answering interview questions and doing promotional stuff here and there and everywhere and the many, many other bits and pieces associated with what it means to have five books coming out in the same year.

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On Being Exhausted

So this appears to be the fourth in the three-part blog-a-palooza I embarked on recently with Sally Murphy and Anna Branford.

Yes, I am aware that makes no sense.

I’m adding this coda simply to say that although it was fun, I doubt I’ll be doing something like that again. I have no idea how anyone keeps to a regular posting schedule and still manages to keep up with all the regular aspects of work and life and writing and all of that. Impossible.

I really enjoyed thinking about all those topics, and there’s a satisfying discipline in committing to setting my thoughts in order for public consumption. But when writing time is at a premium, I’d rather be chipping away at stories than composing blog posts.

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Tales From Inner Libraria

Although I work at home a lot, I don’t always work at home. Sometimes I take my laptop down to Fremantle and park myself in a cafe. Sometimes I head up to my local library. It helps to have a change of scenery, to avoid the many demands of an insistent house, and there’s something satisfying about writing surrounded by books and readers.

Because my house is currently an inviting combination of bomb-site, dust bowl and storage facility, I’ve been doing this more often lately. And because I’ve been doing it more, I’ve broadened my reach. In the last couple of months, I’ve sampled over a dozen libraries. And I can’t help noticing that although some features are common to most – from the expected (books!) to the less-expected (flat-screen TV!) – each also has its own idiosyncrasies, its own particular culture.

So I bring you the first in an occasional series: “Tales from Inner Libraria*”. Reading these entries, perhaps you’ll nod, because you recognise your library here. Perhaps you’ll shake your head because you think I’m making it up. I won’t be.

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