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
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…
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.
… 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.
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.
… 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.
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.
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.
Well, I did warn you this would be the title of my next post. It’s prompted by an email I received recently from a writing friend, with the subject line “Business”. And by the last couple of months, which seem to have been incredibly busy somehow with a bunch of things which, while writing-related, are not actually writing itself.
A couple of weeks ago, frustrated with my slow progress through the various WIPs, I decided to take a good hard look at where my days are going. Of course there is a slew of other bits and pieces crammed into my day – house, family, exercise and so on – but here is the graph that represents how the time I had available for work was divided over a two-week period.
A little alarming, no?
I’ve been thinking lately about poetry. I’ve been thinking about it and reading it but what I haven’t been doing is writing it. In fact, it’s been well over a year since I wrote a new poem. And I’m acutely aware that this is not a good thing, in ways which can be difficult to define.
In my rambling thoughts about poetry, and my own lack thereof, I found myself thinking about something Mark Tredinnick said at a workshop I attended at the Apropos Poetry Symposium here in Perth last year. I can’t recall exactly the words he used but he spoke about the notion of a poem itself – the work that appears on the page – as being an indicator species for the whole landscape that is the poem. I found this idea immediately compelling, and true, and filed it away in my brain under ‘quirky ideas I may return to later in unexpected ways’.