InspirationI would call this a book review, but I haven’t actually finished the book yet.  I’m too excited by the concepts in the book to wait until I finish to write about it.  The book is The War of Art and among a number of mind-blowing gems is the importance of showing up, each and every day.  Rather than being hypnotised by the enormity of an artistic endeavour, just-show-up;

“Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying … Because when we sit down, day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen…. power concentrates around us.  The Muse takes note of our dedication.  She approves… we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron fillings.  Ideas come.”

As if that is not enough to help you get out of procrastination and into doing, this gem on insight and encouragement to just sit down and get on with it appears in Book Two.  You will have already read Book One which dissects Resistance in its many ingenious forms.  The Enemy Within; resistance as we all know it, Procrastination.

There is something so helpful to see Resistance mapped out in its many forms that we can all recognise – self-dramatization, self-medication, sex, celebrity gossip, facebook… As each form of resistance is named its power seems to crumble.

The book contains a warning of the daily nature of resistance and how it needs to be overcome not once or twice, but daily.  Forever.

And that is the War of Art.

You will note that I am sitting down, blogging.  I have only had to do a whole load of volunteer work and have coffee with my sister before getting this done.  All in a morning’s artistic work!

 

 

Melbourne hotel viewIt’s been two weekends since Melbourne, and I have had a few wistful moments thinking about the East Melbourne hotel room I stayed in, and worked my way through an impressive list of projects that had stalled just due to lack of time.  Not just a room of one’s own, but a serviced room, where there are no requirements to do any housework.

Sigh.

Now that I am back home, I do have a room, it’s just not mine.  You can be halfway through a beautiful sentence in your head and then – boom – an interruption and it is gone.

However, I am not lonely this weekend, and for that I am definitely, truly grateful.

It can be hard being a Gemini, wanting solitude and company at the same time.

But overwhelmingly today, I think a room of one’s own beckons!

 

clarityI would answer that yes, I am usually very clear.  It is sad and rather humbling to realise that we treasure these illusions about ourselves until compelling evidence to the contrary comes our way.  I will admit, I am somewhat over-confident in my writing and communicating skills.  Sure, I do have these but – clarity is not always a key feature.  Rapidity is.  Clarity – not so much.

I will take this chastisement from Mr Darcy, originally intended for Mr Bingley in Pride and Prejudice;

“…you are really proud of your defects in writing, because you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity of thought and carelessness of execution, which, if not estimable, you think at least highly interesting.”

On more occasions than I care to remember, a missing half of a sentence or a vital absent noun will be remarked on by recipients of my emails.  Especially long, complicated emails which have required me to jump in and out of the rabbit hole of my inbox (see here) and get thoroughly distracted before hitting send.

Yesterday was fascinating.  I sent what I thought was a really clear text.  “Hey one and all! Can you please update your mobile contact for me, Pip Brennan to 0406 290 923”.  What I meant was, I now have a new number, please replace the current number you have for me with this new number.  Why didn’t I just write that???

I would say 50% of people got what I meant, the other 50% have texted me with their name. I can only hope that they also update the number while they are at it.

Others of course texted me with messages of concern about what on earth I was doing with my life and had I gone mad, leaving my job? Or worse still, been kicked out?

So if you did get my text and am wondering, it is all part of the plan.  I am taking a conscious decision to move on to a new chapter of my life, and am lucky enough to have someone good to take over the reins.  Now I just need a bit of clarity around my new direction…

InspirationApparently it used to be about 5% of the population, now it has shot up to 26%.  People who procrastinate, that is. (Steele, 2007)

Alas, it appears that I am one of the 26%.  Perhaps starting a daily blog challenge in the middle of changing jobs was a little ambitious, but at the time it felt exciting, challenging and eminently achievable.It started with a missed day here and there, and then a creeping sense of failure for not having done my daily blog for more than two days then – boom – a week has gone past.  The date-stamping of the blogs leave me no room for prevaricating around the bush.  I have not met my daily blog challenge.

No matter, I can re-commit now to a daily blog and neatly avert that ongoing sense of failure and procrastination. To paraphrase a well known marketing tag line – “Just re-do it.”

It seems the most important thing is to get the creative wheel re-started.  It certainly is easier to keep the wheel bowling along when it already has momentum, whereas re-starting the stationary creative wheel moving takes more energy.

But imperfect action is what it is all about – action being the really important defining thing.  Turning up. Taking imperfect action and hoping for that inspiration to come and find you, hard at work!

Paul KellyI am old enough to recall going to the Herdsman Hotel in Perth in 1990, to catch the last set of a Paul Kelly gig before leaving for Europe. No queue, no charge. All the time I lived in Europe, which was pretty much all of the 90’s, I never stopped playing his music.  It drove my Northern flat mate around the twist.  She didn’t get Paul Kelly; he is our voice.

He told first person Australian stories as men, women, black, white, cruel, victimised.

While I thoroughly enjoy all his new material, there are two songs of his that have prodded painful feelings, difficult to articulate. They were a lament, and finally, a call to action.

My karma became entangled with another person’s when he intruded into my home and assaulted me.  I of course reported it, but 14 months passed before he was found.

I had never been a fan of the prison system, no doubt deeply coloured by the experience as a young adult of visiting a friend in maximum security (at the medieval Fremantle Prison before it became a museum).

After the strange limbo of 14 months of not knowing who this person was and if he had struck again, abruptly he was found through DNA back-capture and the police once again required to formalise paperwork and facilitate his arrest.

All weekend, I knew, and he didn’t, that an arrest was about to happen.  Instead of feeling elated I felt a terrible sadness at the waste of his life, from boy to man, in and out of corrective institutions’ revolving doors. A profound grief that we put people right outside society where there is no way back into the fold.  Over and over again I played God’s Hotel that weekend, to help articulate and move these feelings through.

Nearly another year passed before he was sentenced to nine years, seven with parole.  God’s Hotel was joined by How To Make Gravy for obvious reasons. When I heard Paul Kelly play it live some years after that in a vineyard (huge queue, definitely not free now) I couldn’t stop the tears from seeping down my face from behind my dark glasses.

I mobilised on my emotions about incarceration by volunteering to attend a restorative justice Sycamore Tree program in a Perth prison.  I took in a CD and played God’s Hotel and read out my diary entry of how I had felt about the perpetrator being arrested, and cried. A few of the prisoners cried, too. One talked about how he couldn’t ever imagine a victim of crime feeling sad about the lot of the prisoner.

Still, How To Make Gravy  haunted me, encouraging me to take the step of doing a Victim Offender Mediation conference with the unknown perpetrator.

And finally, in his sixth year in prison, I did. I had spent much of the intervening six years feeing that profound loss on his part, for being completely shut out of society. I shared this with very few people as it was an unacceptable feeling. Everyone wanted him dead, or thought about him as little as possible. I could seep tears listening to How to Make Gravy when no-one was looking. Or once, not that long before the actual mediation conference was organised, I startled my 11 year old daughter my crying quite loudly and impulsively in the car when it came on when we were driving home.

The feeling wasn’t going anywhere.

Neither was the Victim Offender Mediation Office, who had created a file for me six years earlier when I had mentioned I was thinking about doing a mediation conference. Every now and then they would touch base with me, ask me if the time was right, back away gently when they sensed my ambivalence.

So when I was sure, they dusted off the file, and just six weeks after startling my daughter, I was sitting opposite the faceless perpetrator, having a mediation conference. He was no longer faceless but I certainly would have walked past him in the street, I would not have known him at all. I had seen him once, six years earlier in the court room, but it was only a quick glance and his features hadn’t stayed with me.

I began the conversation by explaining why I was there, how I felt that the prison and legal system were somewhat flawed, and that I had always felt somewhat distressed by the whole situation. He listened, then when it was his turn to speak, he said he was sorry.

Then, he said how glad he was that he’d had a long sentence so that he could get clean, loosen the hold of the drugs that were threatening to kill him.

And just like that, the heavy feeling I had carried around for six years dissipated.

I can’t say that I never tear up when I hear How to Make Gravy  but I walked out of there a lighter woman.

I’ll end with a question: why he would break into my house and assault me rather than attend a drug rehabilitation service that would have rolled out the red recovery carpet? This is the conundrum I am still pondering to this day.

Mosaic Image for Book CoverAs you may know, I am using my few more days in Melbourne as thinking time, rounding off time, getting things squared away.

It certainly feels very indulgent to have so much time to myself and my projects! No housework, no school wash, no work, no worries.  My big to-do list item was making final edits to my book, and getting a cover done.

Yesterday I sent my eyes quite spare by doing the grammatical changes that had been lovingly marked up by a fellow Book Club member who like everyone, read the draft for me, but actually marked it up for me, page by page.  I was so grateful for her time and effort, and rejoiced yesterday as I picked up the (let’s hope) last typo errors.  I then got stuck into the search and replace editing which can go so horribly wrong at the touch of a button (thank heavens for Control + Z!).  More than once I had that discombobulating experience of suddenly wondering at the spelling of words like “does” which had morphed into an alien appearing word instead of a commonplace verb.

Having done that I was allowed to play with the cover ideas, and get that in progress while I do some more of that dull fine-tuning stuff.  I already have an ISBN and I just need to get it all together and hit send.

Sounds very straight-forward but I am overwhelmed at my audacity.  Must be on the right track then!

 

 

LighthouseTo make progress in life, one needs a coach. I have heard this so often in the last few years and eventually this year I finally heeded this advice.

The energy changes immediately – you know that you are going to be held responsible at the end of each week  for those things you said you were going to do.

I started to see her 10 weeks ago when the siren song to leave my day job became more and more irresistible.  Of the many pearls of wisdom she shared with me was to visualise myself as a lighthouse.  Be still,  but be very visible and people will find you.

Righto.

Work is progressing on my website as you can see, and  I am definitely on the road now to whatever is next.  Terrifying, but the only things worth doing in life are the things you are scared of.  Must be on the right track then.

imageThere is nothing like a week’s retreat in Bali to freshen the senses and make everything seem like new.  Especially in the middle of a cold, wet, Perth September which is showing no signs of relenting for Spring and then Summer.  It is so magical to be able to fly in just over three hours to another country with a whole different climate, culture and pace.  Ah, Bali!

An even bigger treat to indulge in an art and yoga retreat in a little villa just above the teeming bustle that is now Ubud.

The edits from the draft I submitted to a professional editor were all there for me to complete – and yet with all the excursions, downward dogs and painting, they only half got done.

Since coming home to the cold and rain, some intense sandwiching issues of mother and daughter, I have nonetheless managed to get these done. So now, the first three chapters at least are edited.  I even met with a colleague who had read through and unlike everyone else I have submitted the book draft to, she has actually supplied her edits.  ‘Just go for it and publish it how it is!’ she advised.

Looking into online publishing options….

editing-ratesA dear kind friend met me for coffee at the end of June – yikes that is three weeks ago.He had read the manuscript and was full of warm commendation and praise, and in the spirit of the Japanese “this is perfect, now let’s explore” he kindly offered suggestions and tips to keep moving it forward to publishable quality – or at least the quality to obtain a publisher’s interest and get it moving forward through that process.

He lent me a very useful book; “The First Five Pages”, which highlights all the usual mistakes people can make, and how to avoid them.  Each chapter has exercises to do, and I duly began reading the book (and not doing any of the exercises) then…

Nada.

Not a single bit of writing.  Not even a blog.

So today it is back on the horse.  I have even started another blog, so I can write about all sorts of things, other than Not My Story.  So, like I could spend heaps of time driving myself mad with wordpress rather than actually writing.

Having grown up in Perth in the 60s and 70s I was conditioned to know that to be creative, you had to get out of Perth.

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In 1979 I was extremely fortunate as a 14 year old to travel to Europe, and my fate was sealed. I left Perth for Europe in 1990, returning only when pregnant in 1998.

But by now, having been back for around 15 years, and having reached the age where one cares less and less what anyone thinks and more and more about doing whatever it is that we are here to do – I am re-thinking Perth as a cultural wilderness.

I have been too chicken-shit to own my writing ambitions, so have been attending art classes with the lovely Dawn Meader, who knows more than most about how to get the creative mojo happening. I swore at the last class that my next fun class would be a writing one.

Somehow my googling led me to the Federation of Writers WA – and their forthcoming workshop When the Personal is Political. How very apt. Memoir for social change. Just what I am trying to do. And I did not fail to note that the original date for the workshop was anniversary date, 10th May. It had been moved, seemingly for my own convenience!

While the session itself was useful, perhaps more so was connecting with such a lovely group of like-minded people, and finding the lovely Mattie Furphy House in Swanbourne. “Creativity beyond reason” is the by-line. Where have you been all my life?

The presenter Madeleine Ostrander highlighted how the personal and the political can be effectively interwoven in an engaging writing style that lends itself to moving the reader and hence maximising the potential impact of the message. Although this is what I have instinctively done in all four drafts of my book to date, it will be good to bring some consciousness to the process as the book transmutes into its published form.

We spent much of the time reviewing examples of relevant writing to get a feel for the concept, and the last little bit of the workshop having a go. I found myself inextricably drawn to “tweak” the letter I wrote for the paper on 10 May 2002, the morning of the assault. Perhaps it breaks all the rules, but I changed it slightly. Memoir – can it ever be really what happened? Here it is:

“On 10th May 2002 I began my memoir in earnest. It was in the afternoon, after all The Formalities were completed. I finally got a moment alone after greeting my 3 year old daughter at the end of an uncharacteristic day’s absence, and after allaying the concerns of close family.

I snuck off to the end room of my parent’s house, where I was taking temporary refuge, and I started to write a life-changing letter to the paper:

At just before 5am this morning my home was invaded by an unknown man who sexually assaulted me. The outrage occurred in my own home, with my young daughter on the other side of the door, protesting very loudly at mummy’s lack of attention and parenting.

The “act”, once I had given up the hopeless effort of trying to escape, took all of 60 seconds. The initial paperwork took ten people (including myself) a full working day to process. The aftermath may take months. When and how I will feel safe to sleep soundly in my bed is anyone’s guess. I flatter myself that it is a case of bad things happening to good people. I work voluntarily; I raise my daughter single-handedly, without maintenance, and yet keep the doors open for her overseas father to be involved in her life.

As the “victim” of a serious crime I went to through every police and forensic process that I could. This took the entire day. And what is the best I can hope for after such a day? A captured and convicted criminal to avoid other women suffering what I did, or much worse. That I can assure you I do hope for and spent the whole working day achieving. Whatever I may feel about the limits of the prison system, it is painfully, personally obvious to me that the removal of such people from the streets is essential.

But how could it be that a young and seemingly healthy man could reach the point of perpetrating such a violent, empty gesture? I feel contempt for my attacker, but also bafflement. If, as I believe, all humans are fundamentally interconnected, how can I be connected with this person? I am connected to him forever in the statement that took so many tedious and painful hours in preparation. But I am connected to him in that we are both human and alive tonight. Yes, I do spare a thought for him on this evening, as I nurse my wounds and pray that I and my daughter will not be permanently scarred from this experience. Is there anything that I could do, anything that I could say that would make him see how foul and impotent his actions are? Is there one magic word that could scatter forever the possibility of women suffering this kind of treatment, perhaps even at the hands of their “loved” ones?

Of course not, of course not. And so I have achieved nothing. I am alive however, and so is my daughter. Amen to that, and a long happy life. Forgiveness to my attacker wherever he is hiding. Peace on earth, however unachievable.

I do not send it in. The world is not changed.”

I have long since given up on the media to be the right vehicle to tell all of the story. But I am sure re-thinking Perth as a cultural wilderness. That is another excuse to not write or be creative which must go by the wayside!