Turning 59

Sunday blog 139 – 9th June 2024

It’s actually been a couple of weeks since my birthday, and I didn’t properly thank everyone who posted lovely messages on my birthday. Thank you. I love all that internet love, it’s the one day of the year when Facebook makes sense to me.

The photo above is from my birthday afternoon tea last week, the simple celebrations that make life rich. The refrain of “Happy Birthday” in the air. Some of my large family, still sitting in my house, gathered around the family table. The table I’ve been lucky enough to end up with when our family home on Cobb Street was sold. So Cobb Street is gone, but love and family carry on.

But I digress. Lately I’ve become obsessed with the late Gabrielle Carey. Who, you ask? The second author of the seminal Australian novel Puberty Blues. She co-wrote (and I mean, they really co-wrote everything at that point in their lives) with Kathy Lette. Then when it became hugely popular (because, seminal) she refused to join the publicity bandwagon and sort of disappeared. She wrote several riveting non-fiction works, including her memoirs, and spent her life working in the arts. Writing, teaching writing at university, mentoring other writers. At retirement age, her superannuation was minimal and her financial precariousness crowded in on her. In May 2023, she died suddenly, with no suspicious cause identified.

Not long before her death, she wrote, Why had I spent my life being a writer, thereby deliberately leaving myself in this perilous financial state?

My actual birthday was a couple of Mondays ago. I emerged from the wondrous creative cocoon of the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre fellowship, back to the full blast of the world. I worked very, very hard on my birthday, and most of the days in between and now. The work on my book has dried to a dribble again.

As I reflect on my 59th birthday, I’ve set a new, final line in the sand. I know this is the countdown. This is my last year of working like this. My menopausal gap years have been fun. Returning to part-time work has been positive, but it all takes up writing bandwidth. I need to work while I have a mortgage, but come 60, the game will be different.

Perhaps I have taken the coward’s way out, but I haven’t tried to make a living as an artist. As my dear friend and beloved YA author Julia Lawrinson has advised in her Substack newsletter today, and I quote;

don’t try so hard to get published. Don’t aim for a career in this industry. Enjoy the connections you develop with other people who want to create, who love stories and art and presenting to children. Enjoy the delight you feel when you share your story with kids, and get kids creating, and that connection sings. But if you want a career, go and get one that pays you, that shows its value to you through paying you.

Julia Lawrinson, Substack Newsletter What Were You Thinking, 9th June 2024

Now, I never will have to make a living as an artist. Always, I will have the luxury to stay in love with the process of writing, and savouring connecting with creatives. And that is exactly what I plan to do.

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