This endless conversation I have with myself is so boring

I have been down the rabbit hole of looking at people who have made a success of their lives in the way that I wanted to make a success of mine. When I was younger (by which I mean quite young in my twenties and so forth), I was always looking at how old the people I wanted to be were. I spent hours looking for hints about dates of birth and then doing the sums from there. And because I was young, they were inevitably older than I was, I thought that the secret ingredient was age. The reason things hadn’t come together for me was simply a matter of being too young.

Now, of course, all the people who have success in the domains I want to have success are a lot younger than I am. So I was right, in that there is an age where it all comes together. But I have passed that age.

It turns out that the ingredient wasn’t simply time, but what was happening during that time. What I was doing with that time. And what I was doing with that time was sometimes, but not enough, writing.

With the result that here I am in my mid-fifties, and I’m feeling two highly contradictory things about my writing work. One is that I really did miss my chance. I feel that the years I spent wishing I were a writer but not doing the writing have led to here, a bit of finished work, but not all that much. The second thing I feel is that I am here to do the work now, and that I have good projects to lose myself in, and if I just focus on them it really will all come together.

Of course the other thing is the constant question: if I’m not going to sit down and do the writing then what am I going to do with that time? And if I get to the end of another five years and I still haven’t finished this or that, then I’ll be even more frustrated than I am now.

So back to the (writing) work it is.

Sunday night

I had a busy weekend cleaning and tidying things in preparation for December visitors. I whipped all the weeds and I swept all the cobwebs. And instead of being grumpy when the vacuum cleaner bumped into things, I tried to focus on how good it would feel to sit and work in a lovely, shiny, glistening space. It kind of worked, but still housework makes me way more grumpy than it seems to make other people.

Tonight, just now before I sat down on the couch to write this, I looked in the box of Favourites. The Favouries aren’t mine, but they were given to another person in the house as a gift and he has kindly said that I’m allowed to have some. In order of choosing, I chose Crunchie, Cherry Ripe and Milk Chocolate. That is also the order in which I ate them. Which seems strange, because I would have thought I chose the Crunchie first because that was the one I wanted the most, but then why did I eat it first instead of saving it to last? While I was eating the Crunchie I did indeed think I’d made a mistake by eating it first, but as I was eating the milk chocolate, I knew that I’d made the right decision to eat it last.

I feel like if I could unravel the cognitive flow underlying each of the decisions in that small sequence of events that I would have enormous insight into myself and possibly learn the secret to making only the very best of decisions for myself.

Making promises

I think I did actually believe myself when I told myself that I’d be finished the first draft of my script by the end of this week. Actually I’m pretty sure I did believe it, even though I have zero evidence of this being even a possibility. Like, have I ever finished anything that quickly before? However, the promise to myself has at least had the effect of spurring me on to work a little faster. So by the end of the week I’ll be closer to finished than I was at the beginning of the week, and I’ll have to be satisfied with that.

If I have one thing I’m going to focus on in this new phase of my working life, it is on working faster. Or it might be more accurate to say that I’m going to focus on completing things more quickly. And the only way to do that is to sit at my desk more often and just blat words onto the page.

Whenever I do sit down and blat things onto the page, I’m satisfied with myself for doing that. But at the same time, I’m grumpy with myself for having spent so much of my life not doing that. I can’t help thinking I’ve got so little to show for my time. Oh, more angst! How surprising.

Despite the angst I also mean it when I say that I am satisfied with myself for how much I’ve been sitting at my desk to get things done. I feel like I’m (re)training myself and finding a new working groove. This is kind of along the lines of ‘better late than never’ but it’s also along the lines of ‘right place, right time.’

I’m also going well on my ‘tidy person’ quest. It takes up a lot of time though, constantly picking up after myself. But it’s always nice to walk into a room and think, ‘oh, this is tidy.’

Nearly time for me to log off, but there’s one other change I think I should mention about myself. I’ve started having large iced lattes instead of small. But I’m also having them skim milk or low fat which is fine when they’re iced, but might not be so great when it’s time to switch back to normal (that is, not iced).

Talk tomorrow! Or the day after, or the day after that or sometime later anyway.

I thought one thing, then a different thing

Back to reminding myself that angst is boring and that it’s time to perk myself up and get on with things.

One problem being that I’m not completely sure what this mood is about. I can guess at the usual–what have I done with my life, what am I doing with my life, how could I have wasted so much time–but I feel like I’ve pretty much resolved all that and made peace with where things have landed. Because you have to, don’t you? I think that maybe this is the way I always feel when I first put shows on sale. Extremely out of sorts.

Several days later…

I have come back to the blog, opened the posts tab (rather than just hitting ‘new post’)* and I have totally left that angst behind to the point I’d forgotten that I’m even supposed to be angsting.

Naturally I’m still grumpy and still dissatisfied with my life and still ‘why, why, why’ and ‘what, what, what’, but for the most part I’m feeling reasonably well-balanced. It’s frustrating though, that no matter how many times I remind myself of it, I seem always to forget ‘this too shall pass.’

Yesterday I went into art school for my assessment meeting. Which was kind of fun to realise how enormously much my ability to draw has improved. But weirdly, it went so well that it’s making me think twice about continuing. What if my next teacher is not as willing to accept someone who is not here to be any good, merely to learn what she’s not good at? And what if–and this would be the worst–I ended up a with a teacher with all that energy we had in the second-to-last class of the year (and the last class I attended).

I have applied for leave for the first semester which is only sensible as I’ll be busy with fringe shows and it’s too hard to keep up with the work. Getting behind is not only stressful but also means that I can’t learn what I want to learn, because I’m too busy stressing about what I’m not caught up with.

After my assessment, I went into town and met an old blogging friend at the art gallery. She was making a short trip here from Melbourne. How lovely that was. How bloody brilliant. She asked whether they still make you put your work on the wall at the end of the day and talk about it and then other people can talk about it. I said they do indeed. And then we talked about how difficult that process can be. And that made me think even more that I might not be in the right place, because I don’t really need to look at my work in a critical light, in fact it is kind of ridiculous to look at it that way. I’m still at the ‘well that looks recognisably like what you were trying to do’ and I don’t expect that realistically I’ll ever move much past that.

Today I’m going to get out more of the new show, Stitches. I’ve got myself into that messy part where I’m all, ‘what is happening, it was going so well, why am I so useless?’ So it’s time to remind myself that ‘this too shall pass’, but in this case it can only pass if I sit down and do the work. So that’s what I’m off to do.

Talk tomorrow. Or the day after that. Or possibly the day after the day after the day after that.

*one of the rules of this blog is that I’m not allowed to abandon posts entirely, if I come back and there’s one started then I have to finish that instead of starting a new one).

Tidy person

A few months ago I was reflecting on myself as a minimalist and Adrian guffawed. A guffaw is the kind of thing you just intuitively know what it is even though it’s the kind of thing you only ever see written down but never hear. I was so shocked by this, because although I would say I often have a lot of things spilling all around the house, I do like to think that I live in an orderly kind of way.

Feeling insulted by his guffaw, I repeated my claims of minimalism to my children, one of them looked at my in a perplexed way, ‘What do you mean?’ and the other was outright rude, ‘That’s ridiculous.’

Determined to demonstrate my truth, I embarked on this path of tidiness, (re)declaring myself to be a tidy person. This has been made a lot easier this week by the extreme clean I did on my workspace, and in particular by the box labelled ‘catalogues and pamphlets’. There is somewhere to put all of the random little things that gather like the pointy end of a whirlpool on the table in the kitchen.

One thing I have noticed about being a tidy person is that I’m spending a lot of time walking around the house carrying things from one place to another. The other thing I’ve noticed is that the more time I spend tidying, the more often I am looking around the house and thinking, ‘This isn’t a tidy house.’

While the general sense of tidiness has improved, there is a new sense of chaos as we have brought all of the Christmas boxes out and they are in the middle of the floor just where you walk in. It’s hard to say it’s a tidy space when we all have to walk around a big pile of things.

In honour of being a tidy person, yesterday I went to Officeworks to buy myself a small 2024 diary for my handbag, a large wall calendar, a display binder and manila inserts for the display binder. When I left Officeworks I had those four things and nothing more. That is definitely the actions of a tidy person.

Back at home, I saw the devastation of my new Christmas glasses, smashed into a million pieces. Somehow this is all tied into my decisions made at Officeworks, and it seemed to symbolise something about Christmas. A sign that I need to take care, and not get sucked into the vortex of Christmas consumerism. Three broke, I still have three, and last night I very much enjoyed a glass of fiano, my fingers wrapped awkwardly around the Christmas tree stem.

When I woke up this morning I gave thought to the idea that I might cancel my booking for my gym class. But I kept it, and now it’s time to leave if I want to make it in time. I am definitely a person who gets places on time. No one can argue with that.

Expected high of forty

I went for a quick early run. By ‘quick’ I mean that I went for a short time not that my running style was fast. Half past seven and it was already hot. I hadn’t had a coffee because I wanted to get out before it got too hot. So I was struggling right from the beginning, and went only to the surf club and back. I’ll get t the gym later today to make it a full day’s workout.

Already the beach was packed with adults, children and dogs, the tables at the surf club coffee shop were full. And already it was warmer than is optimal for me. I’ve been thinking lately that I miss living closer to the city, getting on the tram and being there in more or less no time at all. But when I got out of the car yesterday and could smell the sea in the air, and this morning as I joined the throngs at the beach, I remembered what it is I love about living here. Every single day I breathe in the sea.

The boys are on the verge of finishing exams. I will miss the focused energy that they have brought to the house. They are so much more committed to their learning than I ever was. Not that their focus has really rubbed off on me of course. I continue to faff about, and last night realised that it’s been two weeks since I did my reading and I’ve done little to no new writing since then.

Yesterday I did manage to finish another page of my new website, but of course that’s a displacement activity from new writing. However, there were two other wins. I put all my clothes away, and I did not take my ipad to bed so I went to sleep without watching endless episodes of Sister Wives. Oh, there was a third win: switched the quilt cover to the lighter one, so went to bed in the deliciousness and lightness of new season bedding.

Nine o’clock which is the time I told myself I’d get started on new writing, so I’d best be off.

What happened when the art teacher was away

Yesterday’s drawing class was hard. All the drawing classes have been hard so that’s a redundant statement. But this one was hard for a new reason: our teacher was away, so we had a different teacher. This different teacher hadn’t been briefed on my status as Least Talented Person ever to enter art school, so I had to spend the whole lesson living with the low-level anxiety of slowly being revealed as the Least Talented Person ever to enter art school.

I hadn’t realised how comfortable I’d grown with my teacher, knowing that she knows I’m hopeless, but she also knows what I will be able to achieve, and kind of just gets me to do the best I can within the limits of what I’ll be able to do. The relief teacher didn’t know this and was pushing me to make things bigger, to finish way more than I’d be able to finish, to try way more than I would have time to try. This is important in a teacher, but not when the student is me.

It took me all the way back to my first few weeks. The sense of floundering at my easel. The physical sensations of flustering, heart racing, skin prickling, overheating. The single question turning over and over in my mind: What the fk am I doing enrolled in a visual arts course? No, but really, what the fk. I think I actually am the only person who has ever enrolled not because I have always enjoyed drawing, but because I’ve always not enjoyed it.

I’m trying to understand what it is about my brain that keeps making me start on things for which I have no natural talent instead of taking the things I am good at and focusing on getting better at them.

At the end of the day I had something that looked like an apple, a pomegranate and a pear. The colours weren’t anything like they had been on the originals, but they were lovely colours nonetheless. I had a teapot that looked like it could be finished into a teapot. And I had a background that looked like a big scribbled mess.

It did crystallise my thinking around what I’m going to do next semester. I’ll have to take time off. Apart from anything else, I won’t be able to keep up with the drawing while I’ve got fringe shows going on. But more than that, I need a bit of time to consolidate everything I’ve learned. The main thing I’ve learned is how to go about getting the things that I see onto the page. How to draw the lines and the angles and the distances between things. This is, in fact, amazing to me. Every week, the homework has made more and more sense and been more and more successful. I have, in that sense, learnt to draw. However, it still takes me a very, very long time to work out exactly what it is that I am seeing in order to get it onto the page, and this has a huge impact on how things go in class. I can’t really spend another semester being quite this hopeless.

That means I’ve got just one more class to go, and fingers crossed my regular teacher will be there and I will only have to cope with the knowledge that I’m hopeless not the added stress of having this fact discovered by a new teacher.

Before the doing is always the sorting

The drawing subject I’ve been studying has naturally resulted in the accumulation of a whole bunch of new things. It has also meant that I’ve finally found a use for some things that I’ve bought in the pass without having any idea how to use them (about three different tins of graphite pencils for example). Because they were new things (or old things but finally being used), they didn’t really have a proper home and hadn’t been integrated into my little study. This meant that they were spread either all around the living room or piled up on the floor in my study–both of these things being counterproductive if you’re trying to create a calm working environment.

It was also growing super inefficient, and I was spending way too much time looking for things. I don’t enjoy looking for things, and I find it extremely frustrating, and this leads me to get twitchy, then annoyed, then grumpy.

I spent all of yesterday doing (yet another) sort and organise of my working space. It’s got a bit of a different purpose this time as I try to get all of my sewing and embroidery stuff into the little space that we made by getting an extra wall put in. Which has meant that what is left in this space is only the writing things, the folders and the notebooks. (It was kind of revealing as I put all of the notebooks into one square of the kallax). I made a few archive boxes for things like catalogues and postcards and other kinds of categories that make complete sense to me but would be laughable to anyone else. And for now I’ve got a place for everything, which means that I can put anything I pick up in a place where I will find it quickly and easily.

Today I have done (yet another) big push on sorting out my admin to-do list, including getting on top of some glitchy email thing. One of my email addresses isn’t working properly–well I guess it’s working, I haven’t set it up properly but it amounts to the same thing. So today I sat at my desk determined to work through everything and find all of the lost emails.

Combine all this with the fact that last week I caught up on my oustanding art homework, and I have that sense of righteous calm. Which is a good foundation for the large amount of creative work that I want to get finished over the next couple of months. At the same time, of course now that I’ve started on another round of sorting and organising I’m a bit seduced by other opportunities for sorting, of which there are still (always) many. But I am reminding myself that ultimately creative work is more rewarding than sorting, especially if that creative work is built on the back of a bunch of sorting.

Talk tomorrow (or the day after or maybe even next week).

Night one of two

My name shifted up the waitlist and I got a seat at the Dog Eared Readings last night. With Shannon Burns in conversation with J.M. Coetzee it was never going to be anything except extraordinary. Naturally, it left me with that strange dissonance I always experience after such events. On the on hand, exhilaration from being witness to such depth of thought and thinking. On the other, despair. What’s the point of living a writing life when you know you are never going to achieve that level not only of perception but of connection with your readers and audience.

It also reminded me how entrenched I am on the fringes of everything, a result partly of my level of (okay, but not outstanding) talent, partly of being a little bit in a lot of things but not fully immersed in any, partly of being a little bit lazy and not doing enough work, partly of being too shy etceterarrgghhh. Most of the time I’m not only reconciled to my life on the fringes of our arts scenes, but leaning into it. Every now and then, however, I can’t help wishing I were slightly more successful.

No time for self-pity though, because I’m reading an extract of my new show at the SA Playwrights Theatre staged readings this evening and the deadline is, as always, an excellent distraction. I know telling you that I’m reading seems to contradict my previously discussed status of being on the fringe, but the rest of the lineup is a solid range of talent invited to be in curated programs and a list of prizes and none of them will know my work at all.

I do know this all sounds angsty and self-pitying, but it honestly isn’t. Like I say, I’m mostly at peace with who I am and where I’ve ended up. But it’s useful to leave myself little reminders when this feeling sneaks in, so that next time I feel it, I can look back over things, think, ‘oh, that’s right, this again,’ and move on.

What I especially loved about last night was the discussion of class. My own notions of class are ridiculously outdated I know. My sense of connection to my working class background is, by now, highly romanticised. My children would have absolutely no sense of what it means to feel working class. I’m not sure what to do with that knowledge, especially in the context of the referendum result.

I’m going to have leave this here as a placeholder because it’s 2.30 which is the time I promised myself I’d get back to work. But it’s something I’d like to explore in more depth, if I can work out where to start.

Confirmation bias

After writing about him only two days ago and his influence on my return to my blogging space, I am–at this very minute–listening to Cory Doctorrow talking about his new book on Radio National. Not surprisingly, he sounds exactly like the kind of person you want to listen to. Calm and smart and a little bit funny.

I spent all of yesterday at my desk, moving between this blog, my substack page, my new website, and of course the script that I’m reading from tomorrow night. I also had a bunch of notebooks and journals open in front of me. It sounds like distraction hell, but actually it’s helping me to get all of my many thoughts out of my head and down on the page in a reasonably orderly way. Kind of like when you’re doing a clean-out or moving house or organising the cupboards and you have a bunch of tubs or buckets or boxes and you go through everything one-by-one and throw each thing into whichever bucket they fit and at the end of the day you’ve got a bunch of tubs or buckets or boxes with a group of more-or-less cohesive things.

It was a really rewarding day. Messy, but not overwhelming. And I can see a way forward to getting a bunch of things finished over the next year or so. It’s frustrating of course because its nothing I didn’t already know, and what have I been doing with my time, and I should have finished much more than I have over the years. But here we are and I’m feeling surprising hopeful about how things are going to go over the next little while. (Future me is going to have a good laugh about this one, eh?).

Back to work.