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.

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).

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.

Sunday morning

Home again

Even after my solemn vow to never neglect it again, I have this weekend rediscovered my blog after apparently forgetting it for ten months. Time after time it is this simple format that proves itself to be the most constant companion of my online life. After a facebook thread the other–a rare wave of discussion in a sea of nothing much–I was reminded of this article in Wired by Corey Doctorrow (my god, that man’s brain) on the enshitiffaction of tiktok (and encompassing pretty much every social media platform). At the same time, I’ve been back on the new writing trail. This always leads to me trawling through the scraps of every word I’ve committed to every space over the last year. A desperate search for the spark of something which might lead to something more substantial which might, eventually, add up to a fully-formed piece. With the enshitiffaction of facebook and insta, and the general patchiness of my substack newsletter there is less to trawl through than ever before. (And of course the fact that after five shows, I have already mined many of the seams–but this makes the scraps and sparks even more valuable).

I had thought that getting a bit more regular with my newsletter might help. But newsletters are only superficially like blogs. Newsletters aren’t the place for the meandering whimsy of nothing in particular that blogs have always allowed. As I started on my newsletter on Friday morning, filling it with this and that of nothing much including (but not limited to a visit to the chemist to buy a replacement cleanser), I was forced to ask, ‘Who wants this landing in their inbox really?’

The chemist story was the kind of thing that would once have been okay on facebook. A fleeting laugh for passers-by. But it’s so cluttered in there now, so few opportunities to chat. So it was back here.

Of course, when I got here, I had an idea to move it to a different domain so that it could be linked still to my substack newsletter and so that I could finally use this domain name that I’ve been renewing for years without knowing what I was going to do with it. And of course that led to all sorts of malarkey, including around 24 hours where I could see that everything was still there hiding, I just couldn’t get to it.

So here I am. Writing nothing of consequence with no consequence. Because in a beautiful way the enshitiffation of it all is beautifully freeing. I don’t need to worry about SEO because what’s the point? Google is almost worthless as a search engine now. I don’t need to worry about whether people will unsubscribe because I’m not imposing on anyone’s time (or inbox). And I’ve just got this lovely, old-school blog theme where I don’t have to worry about blocks and formats and all the blah that takes so much brain for so little reason.

Of course, I know myself well enough to know that another ten months might pass without a visit. But for now, I shall enjoy the deeply satisfying feelings of ‘I’m home’ that coming back here always bring.

I had something I wanted to write about …

… and now I’ve forgotten. But I can report that between these blog posts, opening the document where I’ve started writing my Christmas show and working out how to do a bit of storytelling through instagram my brain has started working in a writerly way. That is, it is making observations of things as I do them, narrating my own actions, exaggerating other people’s actions. It feels good. It hasn’t translated into a finished piece of work yet, but it’s coming.

One interesting thing about getting back into blogging is in looking around for blogs. Blogging was always about much more than simply the writing, and it feels physically impossible to login to my own blog without warming up by making a quick round of the other blogs in the neighbourhood.

The good thing about blogland these days is that it’s very chill. All the people who were looking for ways to gain traction, whose blogs were going to get them places, who knew to end every blog post with a question to get engagement…they’ve all moved on of course they have because blogging is no longer where it’s at.

But there are just enough blogs that have maintained their momentum throughout the years that it doesn’t feel like I’m all alone. I love that there are people who have kept their old templates, who don’t care about SEO and influencing, that blogging is still what it’s always been. Then, there are many people like me who have rebooted their blog, left their blog, rebooted it again. The posts coming semi-regularly, then one or two each year, then nothing. There’s a noticeable pandemic bump of course. And then there are those which is like making a journey to a place that’s frozen in time. We were writing about our children as they started school, about John Howard and Kevin Rudd, about our thirties sliding into our forties. And it’s of absolutely no use to lament the loss of blogging, and it seems only slightly less useful to insist that it could make a comeback. But I like the familiarity of this rhythm, I’m finding it soothing and grounding both at the same time. And I like the idea that there are blogs new to me out there waiting for me to find them, and maybe make new blogging friends.

I was at the gym earlier today–I decided that I would reboot my gym visitations along with my blog. The two are somewhat related in that they both used to be habits, both nourishing me in different ways, both bit by bit sliding out of my life. I like the gym on Fridays, though I try not to go too late on a Friday afternoon. By then it’s filled with young people all getting their pre-weekend workouts in. Honestly the place is so filled with pheromones I sometimes feel like even my menopausal being could get pregnant just by walking in. I did weights in a vaguely systematic way, but telling myself while I’m just getting back into it I don’t need to push too hard. And now I have that lovely feeling of knowing my body has been worked, but it’s not exhausted.

Are blog posts supposed to have a beginning, a middle and an end? Or is it all right to simply get to the end of a thought and then hit publish?

Third time is a critical time when …

… you’re setting yourself a new habit. In my world it is anyway. I can easily do two, but then the dopamine hit wears off, I forget I had set myself this new task and off it goes to join the (enormous and still growing) pile of abandoned projects.

So here I am, back on day three. I’ve actually crafted quite a lot of words this week. I have been helping with a number of funerals, I’ve got my new website launched (like literally just an hour ago the designers emailed me to let me know it’s live), I’ve been playing around on instagram with stories, I’ve started work in earnest on my Christmas show, and now I’ve been back here three days.

As part of my Christmas show, I was looking back through some old newsletters and discovered–as I always do when I look back on previous writing–a treasure trove of memories and potential material. And I was reminded–as I always am when I look back on previous writing–that a regular writing habit is one of the most valuable tools a writer has. And then I feel–as I always do when I look back on previous writing–grumpy at myself for all the material lost to laziness or whatever it is that so often stops me from maintaining a regular writing habit.

But I’ll need to write about something more interesting than the subject of writing on here. I mean, it’s been okay up until now, but I feel like that’s about as much as I can say on that topic without it starting to sound like a first-year’s English essay, full of words which have no meaning. I was going to write ‘and have no reason to exist’ but I think for writers, all words have reasons, even if it’s just to clear the way for future words to arrive.

I went to collect the guinea fowl keeps last night. After several intended visits didn’t eventuate for one reason or another it was nice to finally make it happen. They made it home, and they made it through the night, and I feel like that’s all a good sign and they’ll make it to adulthood now. But I’m worried they’ll be grown out of their cage before we’re ready to take them to the block and settle them into their permanent home (as permanent as any guinea fowl’s home ever is–I’m trying to be pragmatic here and acknowledge that they might not stay with us) and I’ll need to buy another cage. Which would make them expensive keets if you add up all the little bits that individually didn’t cost that much, but combined will have cost a lot.

Allright, well, that’s three days which is a solid start. And from tomorrow, I’m going to start writing about something more substantial. I know there’s no one listening, but if you’ve got any requests let me know. (Cracking myself up, like I always say my dad used to say, ‘If you can’t laugh at your own jokes, why would you expect anyone else to?’)

It was astonishing to find …

… that the simple act of writing 500 inconsequential words that I knew no-one except myself would read despite the fact of leaving them in a public (though largely invisible) place left me with such a deep feeling of satisfaction that said feeling of satisfaction followed me out of my house, through my morning meeting, along the aisles of Officeworks, back to my desk, through my afternoon (including a return to C25 ‘running’), around the house while I turned the Christmas lights on, and in then out of my embroidery lesson (online). Even the grumpiness of having to clean the kitchen at the very time I would have liked to go to bed (I mean, honestly, I am not the only cleaning-capable adult in this house) did not erode the sense of satisfaction of those 500 words.

So far did that feeling follow me that it was with me still this morning, and although it did not provide me with momentum enough to get me out of bed the first time the alarm rang (nor the second, nor the third), it has brought me back here to write again.

Perhaps it is less the fact of the 500 words themselves and more that I have finally started on the long-standing item on my to-do list. (Described yesterday in the 500 words I am describing today, I won’t repeat it now because it has (as I am describing) provided me with deep satisfaction, but they weren’t otherwise noteworthy).

As I write today, I am listening to parliament, the censure motion of our former prime minister. I have so moved on from his years as leader that I find myself surprisingly not caring too much about the result. (I assume it will be carried or the ALP wouldn’t have moved the motion in the first place). We all know he was a terrible prime minister who did indeed lead us through some difficult times but did so with such arrogance (including making such little headway on addressing climate change) that I just don’t feel like giving him any more of my time (and yet here I am watching parliament live, sigh).

On other matters, I have had two wins this morning. First, this very act of my second day of writing these slightly anonymous, largely invisible words. Second, the sets of chairs and the piece of machinery I bought many years ago and have failed to use have finally been sent off to the auctioneers. One day I will tell you about my terrible relationship with the auctions (suffice to say the worst of it is the chairs and I’m grateful for that), but I feel like I’ve drawn a line under that period of my life and I will never buy any furniture ever again (‘never’ and ‘any’ being more relative than absolute in this, and most other, instances).

Time for me to turn my attention away from this slightly anonymous, largely invisible place and towards the script for my upcoming show for which tickets go on sale tomorrow. Tomorrow? I only just put that together as I was writing that very sentence. I don’t have time for writing 500 largely incoherent words in a slightly anonymous, largely invisible place! And yet, here I am deriving great satisfaction from that very act.

Talk tomorrow.

There comes a point…

…when you grow so tired of telling yourself to do something that you finally just settle in and do it. I’ve been writing ‘a post a day’ in one form or another on my to-do list for so long, that the blergh of not doing it has started to outweigh the discomfort that I feel about sitting down to write.

I feel like I’ve forgotten how to write, and I’m hoping that writing on here, on this not-quite-anonymous but mostly invisible place will help me to train my brain to think in a writing kind of way. I wish I could write ‘re-train’ instead of ‘train’ but looking back through all my files I am faced with the truth that for someone who feels her life work to be ‘writing’ I ‘have written’ very little. I have almost nothing left in my years of notes that I haven’t already used, so whenever I start something new (like my Christmas show that is only three weeks away, or my new show for fringe which is only three months away) I am starting from absolute scratch. There is no momentum to kick things off. Which of course has its own momentum into reverse. The less I have that I can use to start, the less inclined I am to start. And the less inclined I am to start, the less I have that I can use to start. And so on.

But I remember when I had a blog. And I know I’ve talked about this a lot (too much), but for me blogging was a much deeper experience than any other form of social has ever been. If I didn’t write on my blog every day I at least visited my blog every day (many times every day), and I definitely visited the blogs of all my friends every day (many times every day), and it did make me think about writing a lot. And by ‘think about’ I don’t mean it made me think ‘oh, I must get around to writing’ it made me think about things in a writerly way. By which I mean it made me see things and feel things more deeply and in more detail. I composed lines in my head. Words and rhythms would form without conscious effort it seemed.

Already, I can feel something of that reignited. I did a quick flick through the somewhat reduced but nonetheless treasured blogroll. And there they are, my blogging friends, taking the time to observe, to record. While I’m typing, I feel the momentum of writing growing from within my chest.

Returning my blog to this standard, straightforward template has felt freeing too. No need for the complications of linking this to that, of making sure the SEO is doing its SEO thing. Of course, wordpress has got a little more complicated over the years, but I think I’ve got the editing module as simple as it can be.

So here I am back at the blog where, for months (years?), I’ve been promising myself 500 words a day. I hope as I get warmed up to the task they become slightly more interesting than this, slightly more thoughtful, but I have also promised myself that here are words and thoughts that I don’t need to judge. Their purpose is simply to be the foundations of what is coming next.