Archive for September, 2013

I write for a living. That doesn’t mean I’m a full-time author – it means I’m employed as a writer, journalist, editor and consultant in my job, and I write fiction some week nights, on the weekends and fervently throughout holidays.

Balancing my love of fiction writing with my career is a tricky thing. When you’re writing all day, there’s often not the inspiration to sit down and do it at night. On the weekends, there are enough commitments with family and domestic living, without finding extra time to write novels. But I always seems to squeeze writing in and have penned a sequel to my first novel in the past 6 months – Dawn of the Shadowcasters which is currently in copy editing with John Hunt Publishing.

So how do novel writers, who work full time, manage to churn out novel after novel. I must say I’m not in that league, nor do I want to be. When I write fiction, I insist it must be inspirational for me (getting the thoughts and ideas down that matter the most to me), and it must be fun. If it becomes all about quantity and deadlines, then forget it; I get rebellious.

And then once the time is found, inspiration is the next challenge. Writing, for me anyway, is all about digging deep into the recesses of creativity and inner meaning. This is not a state of mind that can just be conjured up. It needs to be cultivated, like a fallowed paddock. The trouble with putting a fence around your writing time, is that it interferes with the spontaneity and the flow of creativity.

So what’s the answer? Well as we all know writers aren’t rich. They do what they do for the love of it, for self-expression and because creating through words is more than a want, it is a deep-seated need.

So we reconcile with ourselves that pushing through and writing the fiction by burning the midnight oil is absolutely worth it, because it is a love that self-sustains. Hats off to all the writers who pen their novels at night and on the weekends. You are making your ideal possible.

And now that self-publishing has opened the gate to publication (though not necessary sales unless the work is good and well promoted/marketed), the work we toil over at the end of the day, can be read and experienced by anyone who was meant to read our stories.

 

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There are few things which goad me into writing a stinging piece these days – most of the time, I like to be of a gentler persuasion. But when rights are overriden, blatantly and perversely, well that’s cause to get the pen out. The pen as we all know can sometimes be mightier than the sword.

I live in a small community called Goulburn. It’s inland from the east coast of Australia and is populated by approx 24,000 citizens. It’s a cliquey place and you need to be here for about 5 years before you’re considered a local. The people can be either very passionate or very apathetic. And after their passion is gone, their apathy is a case study on why they have a local government that has restricted their right to speak in a council open forum, has made council agendas harder to report on, and has set up a complaints forum which takes months to look into anything…if at all, and if you’re lucky.

Oh and local government staff has recently commented that public land is their land, and theirs to do what they like with. They don’t have to tell anybody anything on what they consider are ‘minor matters’. And they judge what is minor or not.  Hummmph!

This series of actions is designed, no doubt, to shut critics down, and send the message that we have much more power than you. And, the ultimate message? You can’t fight city hall because you will lose.

So just how did this big headed, unrepresentative local government body get away with such a blatant attitude of disrespect and dismissal of  the people that it is supposed to serve? Yep, you guessed it, the majority allowed it too.

Democracy works on majority rule and it relies on either most of the people wanting or protesting a certain thing, or enough participation (lobbying) of interested groups to turn the tide. When the majority has been so burned, so many times that it’s passion and will has been eroded, and apathy has set in, well it gives those in power with their self-interested agendas and intentions, a freer reign.

And that’s what’s wrong with my small home town, inland from the east coast of Australia, at the moment. It could be a well represented democracy, but instead whenever a public meeting is held, such as to find out more about the councillors up for election, there is lucky to be 100 people attend. The good people of Goulburn have simply turned off. Switched off. Couldn’t give a damn. Couldn’t give a rats…whatever. They are stone cold sober with apathy and, as a result, they’ve got an arrogant, unrepresentative local government that twists the truth and makes a mockery out of the concept of democracy.

What’s the message here? Well I guess there are good communities where the people care about each other, and there are those that care but couldn’t be bothered. That’s how apathy comes about. The passion runs hot for a short while, people get sucked into believing in the ideal and slowly, but surely, they are knocked down, disillusioned and often bullied into inaction. After a while they begin to think that complaining, rallying against something or rocking the boat is just not worth it.

The real moral here is that apathy, like cowardice, allows dictatorships to spring up – and the longer apathy prevails, the more rights we lose – subtly at first and then arrogantly and blatantly. We live in a democracy in Australia, but is it a representative democracy? Not a lot of the time for the individual and certainly not for me in Goulburn when it comes to my dismal local government.

When I was at uni I fell in love, rather passionately, with the existential writers, particularly Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The  fact they were writing about how I had felt all my life, was the most incredible of revelations.

That you could be isolated  in a world that was both absurd and indifferent had not been lost on me, and that to live on the edge and try and make sense out of what can only be described as often bizarre behaviour, situations and systems…well, I thought I was the only one who noticed.

That’s how I felt; very different from everyone else at that stage of my life. That was until I read Albert Camus’ The Plague and Jean Paul Sartre’s The Wall. At once I saw truthfulness sit down beside absurdity; such sharp observations in those writings that I saw at once just how peculiar people, and life, can be. It was at that moment I understood that I was not the absurd, rather a spectator of the absurd.

Mind you, that is not to say that people, life and situations are not incredibly wonderful at times. It’s just that sometimes life can border on the senseless and the illogical. And you are left speechless in its wake.

Uni days aside, now that I have grown from that rebellious young adult, into that rebellious middle aged, married mum of three, I still catch a glimpse of Camus’ existential world – every now and then. When I do, I smile a half smile and walk on by, to the next situation where I hope there is meaning.

And that brings me to freedom. For the existential writers, freedom was the ideal and something to be attained because to be truly free was to be above the meaningless. In freedom you found yourself, and in yourself you found freedom.

 “In freedom you found yourself, and in yourself you found freedom.”

If someone was to ask me what was the most important thing to me, personally (family and children aside), I would have to say freedom. In the end, just like at uni, I am always striving for freedom.

I had quite a pressurised few days to get through, on a national stage recently. It’s the kind of pressure that when something goes wrong it can be quite disastrous, and it stays with you for awhile. You can come away bruised and battered and regretting the way time unwound for you.

I spent a good deal of time mentally preparing for this major task, and did what I could professionally to make sure things went smoothly. In the pressure cooker that steamed away over 48 hours, I chose to remain calm and take every opportunity to have a laugh.

A young colleague of mine reminded me of the Charlie Chaplin quote that ‘a day without laughter is a day wasted’. It is quite true. Laughter relaxes and causes you to look at things differently. I kept thinking to myself: what is so grave that it needs to be taken that seriously. Once you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your ‘t’s’ professionally and satisfied yourself that you have done everything you can possibly do – the only place to go, is with the flow.

So I flowed along during my 48 hours in the pressure cooker. I laughed when I could and really listened to the new people I met. I marvelled at the situations I found myself in, like a dawn coming up over the Sydney Opera House at 5am, or a midnight walk through the streets of Sydney, or watching the lights glisten on the harbour against that beautiful sound of the ocean nearby.

I kept thinking to myself, if only we could navigate through every pressurized situation in life, to avoid the stressful mental and physical impacts that can sometimes result.

It helps to have no fear which in turn provokes a philosophical frame of mind. And it certainly helps to laugh a lot, when you can. That smile and lightness then becomes a gift to others.

There is not much of a line between being down and hard to be around, and giving the best of yourself. It’s a curved line, and it’s called a smile.

 

We all go into things hoping for the best. Whether that’s a business partnership, job, love relationship or friendship. Sometimes, things go pear shaped and that’s even more devastating when it happens within families.

When a proposition is put forward, and it’s something you want, there is the initial excitement. You then dot your ‘i’s and cross your ‘t’s’, you research, you discuss and you try and examine the success or otherwise of your venture. In the case of relationships, sometimes we just leap in boots ‘n all.

What we fail to sometimes consider is our own true intentions and that of the other person, and unless we are honest about this, disappointment will inevitably follow when things don’t go to plan. When it goes pear shaped, we search for the reason, and then play the blame game.

But it’s a bit more complex than that. The reason we sometimes fail, is that we are not consciously aware of our own intentions or agendas, and we haven’t thought through what the other’s intentions or agenda might be. In a partnership of any kind it takes honesty and a healthy dose of realism to be upfront with yourself about why you’re doing something.

If you’re committing to a business relationship, then why, and it’s generally not just because you ‘like’ the other person. It could be because you lack the confidence to go it alone and need a partner who is not afraid to give something a go. If this is the case, then admit it to yourself upfront and lay down the ground rules from the beginning. ‘I’d like to get more involved in x further down the track when I see how it’s done…’

Approaches like this are far better than waiting for the disenchanted partner to accuse you of not pulling your weight in the business. And consider your business partner might be taking you on because he/she simply needs your investment and really doesn’t want your involvement anyway….or whatever. Or maybe he/she is a closet bully and really likes you being passive – and won’t be so happy when you’re more assertive.

The point is, that unless you are honest with yourself and realistic about other people’s intentions and agendas, then you are being naive and likely to be disappointed down the track.

What’s all this got to do with anything, I can hear you thinking. Well, we enter formal and informal ‘contracts’ all the time, and doing it right in the beginning or even doing it the best you can and pointing it in the right direction, may just save a lot of grief later on.