Create & Delineate

Rediscovering my creative soul

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Life is too damn short

On Monday I lost a friend.

Not figuratively. Literally. A dear friend passed away after battling leukaemia for the past three years. She was 27. Newly married. 

And I know this is complete cliche, but life is too short. 

Too short to live a life governed by fear.

Too short to be so stuck in a rut that you call a comfort zone.

Tonight, I was telling a friend just that and I got told that life is not that simple. She went off at me about how just because she’s unhappy at work doesn’t mean she can chuck it in and yes, life is short but money is important. And I got angry but then I realised she was angry at herself. Which is easier than making a change because change is hard. 

And it is. Change is hard. 

But if you never change, you never grow. 

And life is too short.

They tell the truth

Love

From siucu.tumblr.com

The crinkling of his eyes,

a cheeky grin

and I fall in love all over again.

We dance among the drinking

drunk couples, those on the prowl,

we see none of it. Just us.

They tell the truth,

those movies.

Only they don’t say it happens all the time,

in every moment,

this falling. 

A little bit of friendly competition

I never used to think of myself as competitive. Whenever friends of mine would try harness competition as a motivating tool, I’d quietly make excuses and sit it out. Competition didn’t motivate me, I’d say. It made me freak out and want to vanish because I hated the idea of failure but I was never as driven as they were to win. It was a catch-22 situation that I had no desire to change. I was happy in my mediocrity. It was safe, secure – nobody was fighting me for my place and that was fine.

Fine. What a boring place to be.

But apparently I am intensely motivated by competition but not overt competition. I don’t respond to someone pushing me to a target necessarily or yelling at me, bootcamp-style. No, I respond to the green-eyed monster.

A friend of mine, not known for her writing, told me this week that she’s writing a novel. Just like that. No preamble, no nothing. Just that she’s writing a novel. And I found myself annoyed. Who’s she to take that away from me? Not that she’s intentionally taking my crown, of course. Not that I’ve actually ever written a complete novel either. It’s not really my crown to take if I’m not driven enough to do it. But the thought of her writing a novel while I whinge and moan about how I’d love to write but I don’t actually write is galling beyond belief.

Normally I’d simply bitch and moan and then forget about it. But this time, I’ve been writing my Morning Pages most days and I have a good start on a short story for class, due next week. Yes, I’m still procrastinating but I’m not looking at it as laziness because my procrastination involves reading and watching documentaries, which feeds directly into my creativity. It’s all about feeding the creative brain. I’m using this little green-eyed monster (which I’ve written about before – I’m nothing if not consistent) to my advantage. This is not about writing a novel just to spite her. It’s about looking at what I felt when I read her email and translating that into action.

I don’t want to be fine anymore. I want to be creative and inspired and fulfilled. And if it takes a little competitive spirit to get me there and keep me there, so be it.

Words swirling, fingertips buzzing

It’s amazing – I restarted doing Morning Pages on Wednesday and already, three days in, my mind is buzzing with blog posts – or perhaps blog rants. I have posts in my mind about the ridiculousness of body image and gender and the idea that writing about body image in relation to weight excludes men, because obviously men don’t care about their weight – only muscles and penis size.

I have posts in my mind about being frustrated with people who hate something but can’t tell you why.

I have posts in my mind about the negative voices I hear, the ones who tell me that I am a terrible friend, a terrible writer and I’ll never amount to much. That’s not a post I really want to write but it’s one that I think needs to be written in order to take the sting out of it all.

But most importantly, I have words. Buzzing through my head. Making their way to my fingertips, begging to come out and play. And it’s wonderful.  I don’t know whether it’s because school is back and I’m thinking in words again or whether it’s because I started the Morning Pages, but whatever it is, I don’t want it to go away. Words make me happy.

But you work with words every day, I hear you say. That’s true but they’re not my words. They’re words within the constructs of a genre, words that come second to the beautiful images of houses and buildings and details. And they should be second because the focus is not on the words. The words are supporting characters and I want my words to be the stars again.

So my post today is more a case of getting some words out, getting my mind working and not making any promises. But I have ideas and words swirling around my head and I love it. The fact that I’m getting up at 6:45am to write my Morning Pages before going to work is worth every little bit of it. 

An Education (or Should I be reading all the Classics?)

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This past weekend, The Boy and I were out for dinner at uni friends of mine. They’re a lovely couple and dinner was delicious, albeit a bit hot under the collar thanks to the very modern floodlights in the living room combined with 36 degrees outside. Let’s just say those two or three ciders I enjoyed were very refreshing.

We were driving home when The Boy turned to me (metaphorically of course – he kept his eyes on the road) and said ‘you know, sometimes I just feel a bit, well, uneducated when I’m around them’ and while I disagreed with him being uneducated, I knew exactly what he meant. I feel the same way. Not to say either of us are uneducated but we value different things and have different strengths. I like to think of myself as well-read and literate but I realized this weekend that I’m the equivalent of a teenager at the adult’s dinner table. I read a lot but I’ve never read many of the books on my friend’s bookshelf – no Updike, no Hemingway, no Russian tomes. I’m anti Ayn Rand but really, that’s based on reading half of Atlas Shrugged when I was 15 and not really anything else. I feel like there’s this assumption that because I’m doing my Masters, I should have read all these things years ago and be able to debate the merits of libertarianism and Objectivism with the best of them.

Is it ridiculous that I haven’t read these fine authors because, well, I’m really not interested? Should I forfeit my university degree? Hand over my diploma for a lack of intellect or education?

I’m one of those who really believes that we all have our own strengths and passions – listening to The Boy talk about the American Civil War or (God help me) zombies, or anything to do with technology leaves me in awe because he knows so much more than I do. But I can’t help but feel as if I’m missing out by being keener on popular fiction than classic literature, for choosing reality TV over Casablanca (which I have seen but really only recently).

Should I put down the remote and dedicate myself to reading Proust? Or do you have any suggestions of classics I should read to educate myself?

The internet stole my brain

Electronic clutter takes up more space in my life than anything else sometimes. It’s ridiculous really, especially considering that all those bits and bytes are, essentially, tiny. And yet, all my bookmarks and feeds and emails crowd my mind and leave me little space for thoughts and debates and discussions.

I grew up without the internet, without ready access to everything. No, I lie. I had access to all the information I wanted at the library or in the set of encyclopaedias that lived in our study bookshelf. I remember when my brother – hardly the world’s biggest reader – would take one of the massive encyclopaedia volumes to bed to figure something out. I remember school projects that actually taught me something about research. (Sidenote: I also remember the first colour printer I ever tried. I carried around that printed rose for DAYS.)

So I had access but not like today. Today, we can access everything anywhere at the click of a mouse. Any recipe I want. Any story I want. But in the rush to access ALL the things NOW, I’m scared I’m going to miss something. So I bookmark and move on, or subscribe to the feed, thinking that one day, I’ll need that and I won’t be able to find it again. As a result, I have so much to get through, so much crowding my mind that I can’t focus or take any of it in.

People. I have over 400 books on my Goodreads ‘To be read’ list. 400. When the heck am I ever going to get through that? Let’s say I read a book a week, so I get through 52 books a year. That’s almost eight years to get through this list if I don’t add another book to it. And we all know that’s impossible. I really need to win the lottery so my full-time job can be working my way through this damn list.

I have no solution except that I think I need to wean myself off the internets. I’m not sure how possible this will be but I have to start somewhere. Tomorrow though. Today I have too many sites to catch up on.

The little Green-eyed Monster

I am suffering from a major case of the Green-eyed Monster.

I’ve always called myself a writer, even when I wasn’t writing all that much. I figured that I thought like a writer, I read like a writer (not sure exactly what that is but moving on) so I was a writer, albeit a lapsed one.

I’m questioning myself now.

Last night, I read through two awesome pieces that are being workshopped in class tomorrow. Two classmates of mine who can really write. One in particular blew my mind. I mean, sure, there are problems and it’s only a first draft but damn, that man can write. And it’s reading those first drafts and comparing it to my first draft that the green-eyed monster comes out to play.

How can I call myself a writer when my writing cannot compare to this?

Reading this piece made me realise how stilted and wooden my writing is, how immature it is. I remember laughing quietly to myself years ago when I read a piece of writing at Tafe. I remember the guy who wrote it was 18 or 19 and I thought to myself ‘jeez, so immature‘ but now I’m that person. The lapsed-writer in me is stuck at who she was at 23 and boy, does it show.

Part of me is tempted to hang my head in shame and focus on the editing and publishing classes in my course and slowly, but surely, stop talking about writing and just enjoy reading. Don’t worry, it’s only part of me. The rest of me will beat that part into submission and I’ll work my ass off to get my writing up to scratch. I will put my head down and work on the craft instead of pretending to myself that I have some innate talent. The guy who wrote the piece I read last night? That’s innate talent but it’s probably come from damn hard work too. But that’s okay. There’s a place for both of us in the literary world.

My writing is more likely to be on the popular fiction shelf while his may end up winning awards. And that’s okay too. Gotta remember that!

Mocking that which you don’t understand

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

I’ll be the first to admit that I was not an early adopter of Twitter. I didn’t get it for a long time. I just couldn’t see how it was different and better than Facebook and blogging and everything I was already doing.

Then I met The Boy and he was on Twitter a lot. Being long distance (and before such apps as Whats App allowing text messages over data instead of using up a phone plan), we would tweet each other all the time. And then I realised that hey, this Twitter things was fun and cool and whatever you made it. Sure, there were (and still are) those people who were tweeting inane, random stuff and those spending hours crafting the ‘perfect’ tweet but most people were just connecting. It was more real-time than Facebook and more conversationalist than blogging. It was immediate gratification in a fast-paced world but somehow still intimate and engaging.

In short, I fell hard for Twitter. But not hard enough to become entirely obsessed. I didn’t then and still don’t tweet about what I had for lunch (which is what everyone who’s never even looked at Twitter for two minutes assumes we’re all doing) and I don’t usually feel the need to announce a Twitter ‘break’ amid fanfare. I have my weeks of constantly refreshing the screen and following conversations intently and weeks of barely opening Twitter at all. There are days where I feel invisible, as if I’m tweeting into the wilderness, and other days where I can forget that I’m working at home alone because I’ve built a virtual office around me.

And this is why I hate those people who have never looked at Twitter, never spent some time following some conversations, never asked questions to try to understand the whole shebang. They assume that it’s useless because they don’t get it and they don’t get it because they assume it’s useless. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard two freelancers – a writer and an editor – tell me that we shouldn’t bother with Twitter since it’s a waste of our marketing time and both times it’s emerged that these supposedly knowledgeable freelancers have no idea how Twitter works. That’s great for them but they’re advising a whole new breed of freelancers that it’s pointless and that’s wrong. Perhaps they’re doing fine without it but for so many people it’s a a way to connect and market themselves. More importantly, it’s a source of knowledge and it’s just fun!

Next time someone tells me that they’re not on Twitter because it’s all about what you ate for lunch, I’ll let them go on. Once they’ve finished their rant, I’ll open up Twitter on my iPhone and show them how amazing it can be. Hopefully nobody will have tweeted a phone of their lunch though.

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Filling up the glass

If you’d asked me six weeks ago if I was excited about being freelance again, I would have looked at you aghast. After my experience in New Zealand, I associate freelancing with isolation, frustration and no work/life balance. I hated freelancing and couldn’t wait to be back in the full time workplace.

Six weeks ago, I was reeling from being made redundant and, for the first time in my working life, losing my job. I felt out of control and a little bit panicked. My aim was to relax for December and then put all my energy towards finding a full time job. In the meantime, I’d pick up any freelance work I could and keep busy.

And then I started thinking. Being freelance would work with my university schedule and it would allow me more flexibility to take on more subjects and life. I resigned myself to the fact that there are very few full time jobs out there. I started planning my time and thinking of ways to increase my freelance work to take the frustration out of the equation as much as possible. After all, it may be true that my experience lies in educational publishing but that doesn’t mean that my skills are limited. I didn’t really look for more work in New Zealand since I had ongoing clients at the time, but this time, I could do things differently.

And now I have an interview for a full time role tomorrow. Part of the interview will include an editing test and I’m really nervous. It’s a hard copy edit and I haven’t edited hard copy for years and my recent editing experience is thin on the ground, as most of my recent work has been overseeing projects more than hands on work. I know I have the skills but the pressure of showing them on an editing test is freaking me out. I know I interview well, but tests are objective – you’re either right or wrong.

So I’m thinking again. This job would be fantastic to get – it’s with an organisation that I’ve done freelance work for in the past and would love to work for. The job would be great experience but if I don’t get it, it’s not the end of the world. I have a bunch of ideas for getting some freelance work and I’m looking forward to having some time for my uni work as well.

Part of me is preparing to bomb on the editing test and therefore lose a client as well as a potential job. Maybe that’s a negative way to think about it but I’m confident that whatever happens tomorrow, I’ll be okay. The glass may not be full half yet but I have plans for filling it up.

I am no Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was focused and determined. He had drive and dedication.

Steve never made excuses and kept his eye on the details so that, as much as possible, everything that Apple released (and continues to release) works and is just right.

I am no Steve Jobs.

I lack focus. I am so all over the place that I never finish what I started. I am full of ideas and ideals – be a writer! Be an editor! Be the best of the best except the work to get there never gets done. My mind gets distracted and the hours I would need to put in become too onerous. I need my sleep, I need to relax, I need to do something else until I need to stop doing that too. I am so busy coming up with the ideas and then making excuses why I can’t do what I dream, that I have no time to achieve my goals.

I need to channel Steve. I need is some discipline. Some determination.

Right now I’m disappointed in the results I’m getting in my first semester of uni but really, I have no right to be disappointed. I’m not putting in the work. I’m putting in just enough to get by and that’s it. So what right do I have to expect anything more? None. It’s as if I feel like I deserve to get top marks by osmosis.

But if I’m honest with myself, this is how I get through life. By doing just enough to make people think I’m doing an amazing job. I should be ashamed when people thank me for the work I’m doing. I procrastinate. I avoid. I get distracted. I jump on Facebook and then check out The Age and any other website I can think of before I actually start work.

I say I want to write but I don’t do it because actually writing would entail getting up early or staying up late and I need my sleep don’t you know. I say I want to lose weight and exercise more but again, that would entail actually putting in the effort and I apparently don’t have the wherewithal to actually do that.

Right now, right this moment, I disgust myself. Yeah, I’m being harsh but honest. I disappoint myself.

So I need to change that. Obviously changing 31 years of habit is not going to be easy. I’ve made grand sweeping statements about change and determination before and that’s gotten me nowhere fast so this time, it’s about small things. My assignment is finished for today and before I submit it this afternoon, I’m going to proofread it again over lunch. I’m leaving work early to submit it and once that’s done, I’m going to make a start on the next assignment before class. I have my laptop, I have my phone to use as a hotspot and I can set up anywhere around uni to work. No more excuses.

I’d like to redo my work area and make it more “me” even though I know that sounds like more procrastination really. For the next month, I need to focus on my assignments. Minimal socialising and maximum assignment work. Every night, do a little more. Be focused. Be determined. Start what I finish. Stop putting in just enough to get by and start being a star.

I know I’m in a funk. I’m tired, I’m jetlagged and I’m overwhelmed with the day. The first day back in routine after a lovely holiday is never your best day. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe I won’t feel so angsty but right now, I’m pissed off enough to want to make some changes.

Steve Jobs didn’t become the creative genius that he was by doing just enough to get by. I’m no Steve Jobs and I don’t expect to be but dammit, I can be more than I am right now.

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