Creative writing and blogging don’t necessarily have a lot in common. They occupy different head-spaces and require a completely different set of skills. That’s the excuse I’ve been using for posting so rarely in the last year.
My biggest impediment to blogging is that I have been working on two major projects. One, a novel – The Year It All Ended – proved to be emotionally draining and incredibly complex. It was only when an advance copy arrived in the post the other day and I held it in my hands that I could believe it was finished. It will be in bookshops at the beginning of September.
The other project that foxed my blogging ambitions was c0-editing an anthology of speculative fiction (to which I was also contributing). Whenever I thought of posting a blog, the novel screamed out for attention like the most difficult and fractious child imaginable or the piles of notes connected to the anthology would suddenly catch my eye and I’d abandon the idea of a blogpost completely and get back to the grindstone of ‘real writing’.
Is blogging worth the effort when you can be spending your time on creating new work? Yes and no.
I’m not one of those super-organised people that can structure their day into neat parcels. At various stages when working on a novel, I have to abandon everything and throw myself at the project. If I don’t immerse myself in the writing I can’t seem to hold the whole story in my mind. I’ll spend months living inside the novel, then have a necessary break while I work on something else, then go back to the novel again, hammer and tongs, as soon as I’ve caught my breath. There’s been a lot of satisfaction in finishing the latest novel but it was heavy going. I missed the lightness of blogging.
For a writer, blogging offers its own consolations. All writing is a conversation between writers and readers and there’s a satisfying immediacy about blogging that I used to really enjoy. It’s a way of sharing ideas and small inspirations without the high stakes of threading them into a prolonged and exhausting narrative. Since finishing ‘The Year it All Ended’ I’ve been struggling to put my office and my life in order gain. Not every novel that I’ve written has been as taxing as ‘The Year it All Ended’. The fact that its creation coincided with working on editing an anthology meant blogging became an abandoned pleasure.
Watch this space.
I never used to understand that saying ‘change is the only constant’. I used to favour ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’. But change can sneak up on you. Sometimes things change imperceptibly, without you really noticing, and all of a sudden the world is a different place.
This morning I spent some time flicking through my journals of the last decade. A lot happens in ten years. In 2001 my husband, Ken, and I had six kids – five teenagers (and one almost teenager)- living under our roof plus a dog and a bunch of chickens. Ken was working as a drama teacher. I had published one novel (Zarconi’s Magic Flying Fish) and was about to release my second (Market Blues). Our days were jam-packed with school events and driving our tribe to and from a million different activities as well as juggling our work loads. The dinner table was always noisy and and crowded. Life was a blur of chaotic dramas.
Now the house is almost empty – of both offspring and furniture -and we’re packing up and picking over the detritus of all the years of bringing up our family. Since 2001, I have had seven more novels published and won a few awards. Ken has turned into a full-time puppeteer and we’ve both travelled to to China, Indonesia, India and Europe repeatedly. You’d think I would have seen it coming but so many of the changes in my life feel like they snuck up on me
This year, I’m going to consciously make big changes. As I write this, I’m surrounded by boxes and many of the rooms in our house are stripped bare and smell of fresh paint. In the driveway, our Punchmobile stands waiting to be loaded up with everything we can cram into it for 12 months of travel. The photo above shows Ken (The Professor) repairing poor old Officer Plod after Mr Punch had given him too much stick at Stawell Library last month. Once all the tools, puppets, paraphernalia, my mini-office and all our gear are finally on board, it’s going to be pretty cosy inside Gloria. There’s still a lot to do before the Professor and I can set out on our Year of Living Puncherously but it’s a change that we’re willing into existence, rather than the sort that takes you by surprise.
New Year’s Day is always a good time for reflection. For me, 2011 will be a big year of change on many fronts, including the way I use this blog. When I started it in July 2007 it was an experiment. Since then, I’ve read enough blogs to understand their form a little better and to come to enjoy the craft. I started out mostly writing reviews of books because I wasn’t comfortable with writing about my life. But in tiny increments, the way I think about blogging has changed. Many of the best blogs open a small window into the lives of their authors, rather than simply tackling a particular subject or issue. One of my favourite blogs, Eglantine’s Cake, is by the Australian author Penni Russon. She has a lovely quote from CS Lewis in the margin: There is an extraordinary charm in other people’s domesticities. Every lighted house, seen from the road, is magical: every pram or lawn-mower in someone else’s garden: all smells or stirs of cookery from the windows of alien kitchens.
C.S. Lewis, Time and Tide, 16 June 1945
All good writing offers us the opportunity to look through a window into someone else’s world. In 2011 I’d like to both document and share all the adventures of me and The Professor. I’ll be writing posts a lot more often and trying to be bold enough to be a little more autobiographical. Top of my list of New Year’s resolutions is to read more, write more and open a whole new array of ‘magic casements’.
So much for my list of future blogs. Looks like they’ll take a lot longer than a month to get through. Especially when I haven’t managed to write a single post for twelve days.
So here’s where the twelve blogless days of July went:
1. Two days spent in Narre Warren and St Kilda, respectively, with young writers
2. A mediocre effort to get back to the gym after three weeks in the West and trying to reacquaint myself with Melbourne and familiar routines
3. A new term of yoga and remembering what it means to relax
4. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners with a dozen or more varied assortments of young people – both kith and kin
5. A lightning visit to Sydney for Allen & Unwin’s twentieth birthday bash: the frock, the frolicking, the finger food, the speeches, the idle desire to transform myself into a dragon
6. Several hundred emails written and received and countless hours fretting about and talking to folk about the upcoming launches of India Dark
7. Three play dates with the lovely 2-year-old Louis and the reading of many picture books
8. Toy Story III with the great-nephews and the intensely interesting philosophies of four and six year old boys.
9. A blitz on the chaos of my office
10. Pruning the roses and playing in my winter garden
11. Coping with the strange emptiness of my rapidly emptying nest and visiting the new homes of two of the most recently transited younger inhabitants
12. Not writing anything in the least bit creative and pondering my shadowy writerly future. Sigh.
In their own way, each of the above twelve points were things about which I contemplated writing blog posts or journal entries because writing can help you make sense of the most intimidating and contrary experiences. I guess the point of today’s blog post is to illustrate the problem with blogging is not having something to write about but being disciplined enough to decide that today, or on any given day, one must simply write. Decent ideas and coherent strands of thought deserve time and attention. In the end writing is a discipline, not a gift.