Let’s Start At The Beginning – Blog Carnival 2014

You Can Do This

I’m not good at making plans. I’m someone who lives so much in the present that I’ve found myself at a point where I don’t know where to go with my future.

Yeah, we’ve been down this road before, but hear me out, just one last time. (At least, I hope it’s the last time…)

I am currently working on a plan like nothing I’ve ever done before. Okay, it’s kind of like something I’ve done before, but it’s different. It’s going to need organisation and plotting and vision and the kind of drive and work ethic that I’ve seen so many of my friends apply to their creative projects but has always eluded me. It’s a new project that I’ve only told a few friends and family about. I’m not quite ready to tell everyone the details yet, but it’s something that has been bubbling away in my brain for a good few months.

Now I’m finally ready to start putting my back into it.

To be honest, it’s not the ideal time to be starting seriously on something like this. I’ve been pretty emotionally fragile lately, and I’m pinning a lot of hope on this being something that drags me out of my funk. If it doesn’t, I’m going to be in quite a spot of bother, but optimism is the key right now.

I don’t know how I’m going to fit it around the fact that I really need to clean my bedroom and my bathroom, make sure I’m feeding myself decent home-cooked meals rather than buying fast food on the way home, or maintain the kind of social life I rely on to make sure I don’t slip into feeling completely isolated in the way that has been slowly creeping into my heart lately. I don’t know how I’m going to budget it around some of my newer financial commitments, or how I’m going to fit it around the fact that I really do seem to need a lot of sleep at the moment. Like I said, this is an endeavour fueled by hope that I can do it, with the occasional burst of I need this to work so that I can get a little bit closer to doing what I want to do full time as a booster.

I’m taking a week off work at the start of August to go home and spend some time with my family, but I’m hoping that it will also be a good time for me to get up and get some work done on this. I want to have the bare bones all laid out by the end of August so that I can start saving for and purchasing the equipment I’m going to need to make this thing work.

Right now, I’m marking out my process, the steps I’m going to have go through in order to get on the right path for this to work. I have to set up a work space and allocate the time I’m going to give to this, whether it be small chunks on weeknights or an extended period once a week on a Saturday or Sunday. I have to do an inventory of the resources I currently have, work out what I need to buy to fill out the rest of my requirements and start looking at the financial options I have to acquire them. I need to start looking for guides and mentors who’ve done this before who are going to be able to help me. I need to start plotting out the format, the progression of thoughts and phases of development. I need to see if I can actually turn this into some kind of business plan, but even if I can, that’s a long way off.

These are all things I’m not used to, and I’ve never really done before. Until now, I’ve always flown by the seat of my pants. I’m trying to totally change the way I work through things, and it’s a shift that I have to make in order to get this thing to work in the way I want and need it to.

My mum has always been keen on planning-related sayings. Fail to plan and you plan to fail. Proper planning prevents poor performance. She’s rattled them off to me a bunch of times, but it’s only now that I’m in enough of a career rut that I’m really starting to see just how important it is sometimes to get past just planning a day or a short term project with a deadline that finishes once it’s completed. For the first time in a long time, I’ve started thinking about longer term goals and how I’m going to reach them. This is me starting to play the long game, with 6 month and 12 month and 5 year goals and all that other stuff that I have always thought to be a pile of wank. Unlike back in high school, when the decision had to be made swiftly and securely, I now know myself well enough to understand what those goals are, how realistic they are and just how I can go about achieving them. I have more knowledge, more contacts and more resources than ever before, and now if the time to use them.

It’s new and it’s scary, and I’m almost inevitably going to fuck it up. But planning is not only necessary to the execution of this idea, it’s one of the core concepts behind it. I’m making a new adventure for myself, but this time I’m not just running blindly into the woods in the hope that I’ll find the things I’m looking for just by flailing around.

For the first time, I’m leaving home with a map. It won’t be perfect, and I’m sure I’ll fall off the trail from time to time, but the idea of being my own personal cartographer is intriguing and challenging and just what I need right now.

I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

*****

It’s taken almost a year for me to get there, but this blog post marks the end of my contributions to Alexandra Neill’s Blog Carnival collaboration project. THEY SAID IT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN. (“They” = me.)

If you want a refresher on what Blog Carnival was, this is where you need to click your mouse.

Siren Songs

Image: zen Sutherland.
Image: zen Sutherland.

I live about a block and a half from a fire station. Because we’re on a relatively busy road (not the main drag, but a street many people take to avoid it), we also get a lot of other emergency vehicles going past on the way to events elsewhere in the Inner North.

The sirens are nowhere near constant, but they aren’t entirely irregular either. They don’t wake me up when they go off at night, and they’re almost always still novel, and kind of reassuring, even after living in this house for almost 2 years. I don’t know any people who drive them, and I can’t quite tell which sound belongs to which vehicle from which service (although I am getting better at picking it). Yet strangely, they feel like home now.

Where I am currently living is as close to city living as I have ever been. I’m about to get even closer, moving into a flat closer to the CBD and the main thoroughfare in a matter of weeks.

As time ticks away to my move, I begin to wonder: am I a city person now?

I don’t think I am. I still crave being able to look up and see the stars without the glare of millions of streetlights. I still find comfort in the green paddocks that separate Canberra’s haphazard patchwork of suburbs, and I don’t mind that the middle of town doesn’t seem to have any buildings higher than about ten storeys.

But then I hear the sirens. I hear the rumbling of cars going down the avenue out the front of my house. I see the planes humming as they come into the airport. I hear the fireworks from the lake. I wander the streets and find little nooks and alleyways I hadn’t noticed before. I hear my heels clop on Civic’s tiles; I feel the cobblestones of Manuka’s back streets through the thin soles of my flats. I wander into familiar pubs and don’t see a single face I know beyond the bar staff. I taste new things. I hear new things. I read and talk and find places to hide from those whose opinions I find distasteful. I find new people when I cannot find a place to hide. I have discovered so much here, and I have found so much of myself in its grey and in its colour.

But Canberra is a safe city. Its enclaves and cliques, once infiltrated, are warm and comfortable and safe. I want to foster what I have here, but I don’t want to put down roots.

Not yet.

I want to hear more sirens. I want to hear the way the police come to your aid in other countries, the sound of panic in so many languages. I want to listen to hear if the sound of car wheels on asphalt is different in other climates, on different kinds of road.

When I go Home to visit my family, I notice the silence left by the lack of sirens. I wasn’t in this house when my parents lived on acreage, so I can’t compare that silence with the quiet they still have now they live in town. There, the only real noise is the screaming matches the neighbours engage in on a semi-regular basis, but even that can be blocked out with their fancy new roller shutters. It seems strange to be locked in by an invention made for the city in a town of just over 30,000 people.

The quiet of Home doesn’t help me sleep. I miss the drone of occasional traffic. The silence unnerves me now. It reminds me of how I want to run. It makes me want to run back to my City With The Man-Made Lake.

But I’m here now. So why am I thinking of running again, but to somewhere even grander?

I wonder if a bigger city would lull me into the land of slumber better than where I am now. More trains, more cars, more planes, more sirens. Would it be my lullaby, or the soundtrack to newfound insomnia?

I wonder when I’ll find out. I wonder how long I’ll live with it.

I know I will come back here eventually. Back to where the occasional sirens mark my safety. I will always come back to this city I have come to love.

But right now I want to chase the engine to the fire, so that I can throw my soul in and send it flying with the embers, up into the night.

Charting Success – Blog Carnival 2014

From "Before I Die".
From “Before I Die”.

I’ve been trying to work out how to write this blog entry for months. Literally, months. It seems like a simple enough premise: write about something I’m good at.

It should be simple, but it’s actually really bloody hard, for a number of reasons.

The first is that I am enough of a self-doubter that I initially couldn’t think of anything that I was good at that wasn’t actually a negative trait. I’m very good at procrastinating. I’m really good at forgetting things. My ability to make a mess is really, really impressive. These are all (not necessarily) secret talents of mine, but none of them are things I want to crow about from the rooftops.

The next thought I had was just to ask someone what I’m good at, but that felt like false modesty. I should know what I’m good at! I shouldn’t need someone to tell me, and even if I do, it would sound like I was fishing for praise if I was to ask. So that was quickly ruled out.

Finally, I saw down and scribbled down dot points about things people had complimented me on lately. None of them were particularly grand, and none of them were really anything I felt I could wring a sizable amount of words out of. So, I just left it and tried to ignore the fact that despite my best intentions, I was still stuck on this one topic. So close, yet so far.

In the end, I gave up on writing about something I was good at. Instead, I just drew a brainstorming chart and decided to let that do the talking.

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In conclusion: I appear to be good at writing about not being able to write about being good at something, and brainstorming charts.

 

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The End.

*****

This blog is the latest in a series of really, really late additions to Alexandra Neill’s Blog Carnival collaboration project. And by god, I’m going to get them all done eventually, mark my words.

While you’re waiting on the next installment, why not read what some other (more timely) folks had to say on the matter:

If you want a refresher on how Blog Carnival works: this is where you need to click your mouse.

In Which She Has The Confrontation Before It Happens

Click for source.

 

The following is a letter to an unknown subject, and a conversation that is yet to happen.

*****

Why do you keep doing it? Why do you have to share all our secrets with the internet?

I don’t have a satisfactory answer for him/her/them, but I don’t have a satisfactory mind for fiction at the moment, either. All I have right now are memories. So many of them are ripe for retelling, reworking and reinterpreting. There is nobody else living in my head right now, so I only have my own stories to fall back on.

You don’t have to tell everyone everything. You don’t have to write something every day.

Oh, on the contrary. I’ve let myself lie idle for far too long. I need to practice everyday if I can. I need to experiment with form and the way I think about stories, and oil the cogs so they can start turning more easily, all so I can get back to trying to tell the stories pulled from the lives of other characters, rather than being stuck in my own musings.

I don’t need to publish, certainly. But I do need feedback. I need criticism. I need advice and guidance. I’m not going to get that by keeping it all to myself, or by keeping it to those who think I’m already doing well.

Strangely, it’s a lot less confronting throwing it into the online ether than finding a one-on-one mentor. That said, I probably need one of those more than anything else. Until I find one and the courage to ask them, I will simply continue to practice in the public space. I am sure it will open more doors than it closes.

I don’t want to get caught in truncated, unstructured, rambling memoirs, but that’s where I am and I’m running with it. You work with what you’ve got, and these memories are what I have.

Can’t you write non-fiction about other things? You could write about politics, or famous people, or music! You’ve done it before. Why does it have to be about us/your family/your friends/yourself?

I will, and soon. But those things take time, research, resources, passion, and more. Again, my supplies are limited, but I’m trekking towards solutions for most of them. Baby steps, baby. Itty bitty baby steps.

And anyway, nobody even knows it’s you. Nobody knows how many lies are interwoven with my truth. You gave me these moments and I gave you fair warning that they would visit us again from time to time. And here they are.

I know that some will hurt, but maybe some will heal. Perhaps there will be a new peace now that it’s all been pulled apart and laid out like bike parts on the pavement. Maybe you’ll learn something. Maybe I will.

Don’t worry, baby. Don’t let it cloud your thoughts. Let it darken your opinion of me, if that’s what you want, but don’t fret about the marks on your screen. Nobody is paying attention.

Through it all, remember this: it’s just a phase. It will pass and soon I won’t need you to fuel my musings any more. There’s a box of letters under my bed, and that is where I’ll put you, along with all those other wonders, and once you’re there I promise I’ll never share you with strangers again.

Seven Songs

Seven songs. Seven stories. Some truths. Some lies.

Life On Mars – David Bowie

In bed, we’re tangled. I’ve lost count of the hours, and I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve done our best to eat each other alive, but I know that I have heard this song twice tonight. The first time was a sub-par cover by a female artist I do not dislike, but this time, it is The Man Himself, singing it how it should be sung.

My eyes are closed, and I see a stage that isn’t there. Performers stand on invisible platforms floating through the air. A grand Grimaldi stands opposite a Pierrot, strangely confident in his stance. Lions and silks and bubbles, all swirling around me, and yet I am not there. It’s all around me, but it’s still distant. It’s like watching television, except that I am surrounded and separated by and from its wonder. I feel like I’m spinning and swirling, draped in loose fitting robes that dance as I soar upwards-

He changes the track and I’m flung out of the trance. I am bitter, but I keep it to myself. The real world doesn’t allow me to float on the wind, but there are worse ways to spend your time than this.

 

Baby I Am Nobody Now – Andy Bull

Up front. Packed in. Sold out. Who would have thought it? Everyone should have thought it – it’s a well deserved warm welcome, and the audience are rewarded with a swathe of sound that twirls softly around us like a silk scarf. I get that hit, reach the little nirvana where I’m not stuck in this clunky body, instead I’m writhing through the air like an ethereal serpent.

The melodramatic metaphors come easily as the backing vocals swoop in to fill out the chorus. The sound is massive, so dense that it feels like it could scoop up underneath us and lift us to the ceiling like a cushion filled with air.

They’re playing their way through a fucking superb album, one that’s lifted even higher by hearing it being played live. I think about hearing it and seeing it again, this time with an orchestra filling out the places where the synths have been, raising the crescendo even higher. I get chills at the thought, on top of those I’ve already got.

I open my eyes and remember it’s still happening. I drink it in, and dance.

 

Cold As Canada – Paul Kelly

In the song, she’s watching him sleep, but he left hours ago. I’m sitting on the side of the bed, and I feel the light creep in through the shutters and hit my back. I didn’t stray like the woman in the lyrics, but that’s only because I was never really here to begin with.

There is no sound, save for my deep breaths and the ensuing sighs that reveal just how deep a hole I’m in. My ears don’t need to hear it; it’s embedded itself in my heart and my head and I just want to collapse in on myself and be wiped from the memory of the world.

Maybe not from the world’s memory. Just his.

I don’t know who’s committed a greater betrayal: the woman who knows what on earth she’s done; or the woman who could do no wrong.

She needs to walk away. She doesn’t know. She doesn’t know when, but it needs to be soon, before the guilt eats her away to nothing.

It doesn’t matter how it happens. There are no winners here.

There’s no good way to say goodbye.

 

He Called Me Baby – Patsy Cline

Three times.

She had always hated the idea of being called that word. She was not a child.

But he said it, and she enjoyed it.

Three times.

She heard someone say once, “You should only use the word ‘baby’ in a song if it’s actually about a newborn.” She was pretty sure it was a bastardised David Byrne quote, but it didn’t matter where it came from. It seemed like a good philosophy.

The first time. She figured it was the heat of the moment. She tried to ignore it. Instead, she loved it. But she winced a little. Something was wrong.

The second time. Now it sounded deliberate, like they were actually going places. She felt warm, glowing despite the cold air, but something was still niggling at the back of her mind.

The third time. The last time. It hit her like a concrete slab.

She wanted to tell him: “You’re not calling me that because you care. You’re saying it because you think it’s the right thing to say, and it would be.

“But you’re not saying it to me. The woman you’re saying it to isn’t here, is she?”

Instead, she just said, “Please, don’t call me that.”

And that was the last time it passed his lips.

 

Grandma’s Herbal Cure All – Moochers Inc

The fact that she would never see these people again intoxicated her to the point that she just let it happen. She danced in the street, tearing her shoes to pieces on the cobblestones, letting her hair fly in the wind.

 

Man Like That – Gin Wigmore

She often thought about the revenge fantasies she would play out on him.

But every time she thought of one, she would find herself taking him back.

It was a dreadful waste of plotting, in her opinion.

In the end, she just threw coffee on him. Easy and effective, cheap and classic. Him and her.

 

Good Intent – Kimbra

New shoes. Black. Small heel. Buckled, not laced.

Old shoes. Black-ish. Smaller heel, more worn on the left side; wobbles when walks. Buckles are buckled, coming undone.

These things that are comfortable never last.

Family Matters

Christmas 2007
Christmas 2007

I’ve just arrived back in Canberra after a ten day holiday with my family: mum, dad and younger sister. Half of that was spent in Dubbo in my parents’ house, the rest with extended family in Milton on the South Coast of New South Wales. To be honest, this has been one of the few times I’ve come back to Canberra wishing I was somewhere else. It’s only been three-and-a-bit hours since I saw them last, but I am already missing my family incredibly.

I’m constantly reminded just how wonderful it is and how lucky I am to have such a close and loving family. The way we all came together to mourn the passing of my grandfather back in April, the unbelievable support they’ve given me with present and future living arrangements, the career advice, the emotional support through humps in my personal life, and so much more: I’m so lucky to have them to call on when I need to.

After 27 years of marriage, my parents are still together, complete with the tendency to still be stupidly cute. They are a pillar of stability in a life that has been full of wobbles, and I’m so grateful that they’ve been there for me, time and time again.

My sister and I have a curious relationship that rocks back and forth like the world’s biggest see-saw. Sometimes she’s all cuddles and cuteness (I am always all about the cuddles); other times she wants to tear my face off (I don’t want to return the favour quite as often, but I have my moments). We live in a peculiar truce-like situation, ready to spark into a spat at a moment’s notice, but I would still do anything for a hug from her. (Except stop asking for them – she gives wonderful hugs, partly because I have to work so hard for them.)

My extended family are spread right along the Eastern states, with my mum’s family, to whom I am particularly close, all living within 8 hours drive. Most of them are in one of two towns in Western NSW. Knowing that an aunt or uncle or cousin could drop by is a nice feeling, and being so far from them most of the year sucks, especially when things are rough at either end. As my Grannie gets older, I realise that it’s also important that I get back to see her more regularly, but as I only get back to Dubbo once every four to six months or so, that’s really tricky. Seeing family is one of the reasons why I want to get my licence this year – it’s near impossible to hurry back on a 10 hour bus trip that only runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

One of the other things I’d like to do in the next year or so is live overseas. Friends of mine have gone to London, Thailand, New York and so many other wonderful places across the globe, and I want a piece of that.

But I keep coming back to one thing: how far away do I want to be from my family? Canberra is already a long way away – 5 hours by car, 5 hours and a couple of hundred dollars by plane and bus, and 10 hours by public transport. Do I really want to go any further afield? Can I even bear to be away that long, not knowing when I’ll get the chance to fly back and see them again?

Yes. I’m ready for the adventure of living in another country. But it’s all about baby steps: 7 hours of public transport to Sydney, then a 3 hour flight. I think I could do that. I’m ten hours commute away as it is, after all.

But the fact remains: it will be incredibly hard to be so far away from my family. That said, I’d be cheating myself if I didn’t go. They understand that.

And that’s another reason why I love them so bloody hard.

So every day, I count my blessings. This year, I resolve to call my family more often (I can already hear my mother whooping with joy), and write to them more, and do the best I can to spend more time in their company.

Because I have been blessed with falling into their mad lot, and you never know how long they’re going to be around for.

 

*****

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Inspired by a card from Ask Me A Question: 50 cards to start a conversation, from kikki.K.

Don’t Tell Him About Vincent Castiglia

I could have picked any of a number of actually confronting images, but I want my blog to be relatively SFW.

It’s such a rich colour, full of iron and platelets and life. We need it in our veins, in our hearts and brains, or it’s game over. When you think of all the symbolism, it makes sense to use it in my work. Portraits are, after all, a portrayal of life, committing something fleeting to something permanent. By using this as my paint, I infuse the canvas with life itself.

Mix it with water and you can get all kinds of lovely shades. I add aspirin to keep it from congealing on my brush, or to make a putty that I smear on with a small trowel when I want to add texture. It’s not dead like monochrome, but it leaves room for imagination in a way that full colour cannot. You get to decide whether his hair is brown or black. Are his eyes blue or green? As long as all the shapes and strokes are right, you can tell who it is or what they are thinking. You don’t need all those other details. They’re already in the paint.

He is going to make a fine subject. His long, black hair flops over his face so you can’t see his eyes. He laughs with friends in a way that makes me think of kestrels – he doesn’t screech like they do, it’s more that the sharp decline in pitch as he pulls out of the hoot reminds me of the sharp drop they make before they capture their prey. I wonder how I will integrate that sound into my painting. It seems so intrinsic to his personality that I feel a need to incorporate it somehow. Perhaps I will perch a bird of prey on his shoulder, wrapped in his dark locks.

I watch him as he leaves the bar. He stumbles on the step, despite the fact that he spends enough time here to know full well that it’s there, and it’s always been there. I can tell that he’s had quite a lot to drink. That should make painting him easier. Alcohol thins the blood remarkably well. I may not even have to knock him out.

But I do, just in case. I am so thankful that I live in a ground floor apartment, and so close to such a wonderful bar, full of beautiful people, coming and going at all hours of the night. It makes it so much easier to bring home supplies and subjects. The fact that it all comes in the one package helps too, I guess.

I work quickly, and he is drained by morning. But by god, the final product is incredible. When I was studying, my teachers told me that my style was unoriginal and lacked life; my technique was stale and my work would need something to stand out from the crowd. I guess I found it, huh.

Eventually the canvas starts to smell, so I have to throw them all away. Again, there is symmetry in this. I could seal them and keep that stale smell in, but instead I discard them like others have discarded me. The same way they discarded my talent and my originality.

Fuelled by the glee I take in proving them wrong, I have become hooked on this new, exciting artistic endeavour. I could have a harem on my walls, every colour, creed and gender represented, all with a limited lifespan, as they were when my supplies were flowing through them. They are short-lived, but they shine bright, and only for me.

 

*****

This post was inspired by a prompt from youshouldwrite.com.