I stand for tolerance

Yesterday, on a day when most of the world took in the terrible news about the massacre in New Zealand, a neighbour decided to leave an intolerant note on the windscreen of a car parked in front of our house.

As we finished our dinner we heard an elderly Egyptian woman calling to us from outside. She waved a piece of paper as she cried ‘Sorry’ over and again. We went outside and asked her what had happened. She explained that this note had been stuck to her windscreen and she was dreadfully sorry to have inconvenienced us.

We stopped her to explain that this was not our doing. This was not from us. That we would not do that.

She left the piece of paper with us and left, I hope, reassured that not everyone in our street thinks in the way that the letter represented.

I, however, have been left with a sadness that people around me are so small minded to be this angry and rude about a car space. That people can intimidate others in this way. That people can be so intolerant of others.

If we want tolerance, we need to practise this at home, in our streets and in our communities. Even if it means taking a breath and driving around the block for a car park. Even if it means being a little uncomfortable.

I stand for tolerance.

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An image of the note left on a stranger’s car. It reads: “You have parked in the middle of 2 spots. Just like parking is tight at your church, parking is tight in our street. Pls think of others when parking. If you can’t park your car in a single spot, pls get lessons.”

A 2018 wrap, and 2019

I’m late to the party with this, but here it is (finally)…

The year that was

Last year was a blur of juggling too many things, and managing chronic pain. I used visual goals that I set out at the start of the year in my Moleskine diary and found this to be really helpful. It helped me to get things done, and to also see in a glimpse what I wanted to get done. It was an incredibly busy year with juggling part-time work, freelance editing, writing workshops, parenting and writing. To say I am tired is a huge understatement. I am exhausted. Over this last year I read a lot of great books, exercised a lot despite a shoulder injury, wrote short stories, looked after editing clients, run lots of writing workshops, finished two drafts of my manuscript, hung out with writer mates and friends, mourned a friend, supported young people through some tough times, travelled over the seas for a wedding and some research, and went on dates with my love.

Each month I noted what books I read, how many painkillers I needed, how many days I was able to go without painkillers and how many days I consumed alcohol. It helped to keep me on track with the neurologist’s recommendations.

Over the year I had more migraines than I would like to calculate (the boxes that are filled in with black) with August being a killer month. They continue to plague me and I don’t have any solutions for them, but continue to work on this with my neurologist. What is not shown here are the number of very grumpy moments when I feel like I can’t survive the pain. I guess this page shows that anything is possible, even living with pain.

Writing highlights

This year I sent off loads of work with very little feedback. I pushed myself to keep putting it out there, it’s a numbers game, and just the act of submitting is an achievement. I ended up submitting to 27 different things. I attended a wonderful novel writing masterclass with an incredibly nurturing soul as the teacher. It was an intense and wonderful five days. I went to two writing retreats with my writing gang and managed to make my way through two drafts of my manuscript that is based on my First Fleet convict ancestor. I was lucky enough to be able to travel to England this year for a wedding, and while I was there, I was able to walk in my ancestor’s footsteps and understand what the lay of the land is. I felt very close to her there, like I did when I was in Sydney in 2017. It all helps with the writing.  I sent my young adult manuscript and a picture book manuscript out and received very positive feedback. I had two short stories shortlisted and longlisted in two different competitions. Most importantly, I kept going. I now have a draft of my biofiction that is looking pretty healthy and some great feedback for the other manuscripts. 

Family life

Family life has been great this year. My young men continue to grow and mature as people I am deeply proud of. The eldest has successfully transitioned into uni life, and the other two have completed another year of school. Home life is enjoyable, and I am grateful for these moments.

Writing gang

My writing gang continues to be a wonderful thing. We meet on a regular basis, we support each other through our lows, and celebrate our highs. This year we celebrated Katherine’s debut novel  The Helpline and Katherine and Kate’s podcast The First Time Podcast. If you are a writer, I encourage strongly to find your group. It is so important in a career that is full of rejection and loneliness.

Reading

What a great year of reading! I have read a lot this year. Ones of note are: Songwoman by Ilka Tampke, The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht, Ironback by Jay Carmichael, The Helpline by Katherine Collette, Understorey by Inga Simpson, Common People by Tony Birch, Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton, The Geography of Friendship by Sally Piper, A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly, Foals Bread by Gillian Mears, Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann, Into the World by Stephanie Parkyn, and Elizabeth Stroud’s Anything is Possible and My Name is Lucy Barton. 

You can follow my reading on Goodreads.

The year to come

This year I have created my goals like last year with some minor tweaking. I’m taking on full-time work at the school. I’ll be looking after the library in addition to the communications and marketing work. It’s going to be a busy year as I juggle this, but I plan to keep writing before I go to work each day. I will have to drop the freelance work, so the job I’m doing now will be my last for the time being. And as usual, I hope to have a year with lots of smiles, fewer migraines, fewer injuries, and more words.

Reading list

My to be read pile is threatening to tumble over me, so I’m hoping to get through a bit during the break. I have just finished reading Normal People by Sally Rooney and am about to read an advance copy of Graeme Simsion’s next book, The Rosie Result. Other books I’m reading this month are Border Districts (Gerald Murnane) and The Life to Come (Michelle De Kretser).  I also can’t wait to read Small Blessings by Emily Brewin when it comes out in February and Lucy Treloar’s new book when it comes out. With the work I’ll be doing in the school library, I know I will be reading quite a few young adult and teen books too.

Here’s to more time to read!

Thank you all for reading my blog, and for encouraging and supporting me along the way. This writing gig is a lonely and often fraught business where the most negative voice is your own. Your words of support are brilliant. I hope that 2019 holds some wonderful things for you. Have a safe and happy holiday and I’ll be back here in February.

Writing retreats and NaNoWriMo

At the end of October, I decided to do my fifth NaNoWriMo as a way to finish this draft of my manuscript. Each night I take a moment to think about what’s on for the next day, and I have added into my list four boxes for half hour blocks of writing. I have shuffled my life around to make those moment happen, even if it has meant staying up late, writing during lunch breaks, leaving the house early to park myself somewhere before I go to work. It’s been a good practice for me to think about how I can fit more writing time in.

I was on track until the last couple of days last week. I attended the Indigenous Place Intensive run through Writers Victoria, which was an incredible couple of days, but it used up every little bit of me.

This week, I’m tucked away in a room of my own with a wonderful view. It’s my writer’s group twice-yearly retreat. I’ve set the bar high for myself. In the five days that I’m here, I’m aiming for 30-40 thousand words redrafted. It’s going well, which may have something to do with the lack of internet (I’ve ducked into town to do this and catch up on some emails and other admin things) and the fact that my mind knows what do to when I’m here.

We come to the same place each time, and we run it with the Varuna rules (be quiet, keep to yourself, work hard, and gather at about 6pm to eat, drink and chat). So far I’ve managed to work through 17,000 words. I think I’m on track to hit my goal (WOOT!) which will mean that I have December and January to let it sit and rest while I work on other things.

Yay to everyone else out there doing NaNoWriMo! I hope you have wonderful views like I do.

Strategies for keeping deadlines

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve talked about dealing with those pesky internal critical voices, and making deadlines for yourself when you don’t have any external deadlines. Today, I’m going to talk about some strategies on how to meet those deadlines.

We all know how it goes. You’ve got a looming deadline yet there are so many other things that you find yourself doing. The toilet suddenly needs a scrub with a toothbrush, the kettle could do with a polish, that nap that you’ve promised yourself for the last year needs to be taken right now. The problem is not that you are scrubbing your toilet with a toothbrush (although, I must confess that I have not yet stooped to that), it is that you are avoiding doing what you have promised yourself you will do.

The difficulty lies in the fact that it seems easier to meet other people’s deadlines or commitments you have made to other people than it is to meet your own deadlines.

So how can you meet your own deadlines, when no one is going to yell at you because you haven’t done it?

It all comes down to thinking about what works best for you; that is, what kind of person you are, and what you best respond to. Are you a list person? Are you a person who needs to stand by something once it has been said out loud? Are you a person who loves to crunch the numbers on things? Are you a person who loves to get rewards once they have completed something? You may well be a mix of all this, and then a number of strategies will work for you.

Give me a list, and I’ll get it done

list-147904_1280If this is you, then the hardest thing for you is trying not to put everything on your list (i.e. 1. Finish manuscript. 2. Send manuscript. 3. Get published) as it can seem unachievable. The best help you can give yourself is to break down what you need to get done, and look at a) what is realistic, and b) when you want to get the overall thing done.

Grab yourself a notebook or your diary and start with a list of things you need to get done in the next month to complete your manuscript. Do you need to do some more reading? How many words can you write over the next month? If you are on the redrafting stage, how far through would you like to be by the end of the month?

Now think about the next week with these things in mind. What is realistic while helping you to get to your month’s goal? Write these down for the week.

Start each day either creating your list for the day on what you are going to do to help you reach your deadline and then at the end of the day, tick them off.

At the end of the week, and then the end of the month, tick off what you have done to work towards your deadline.

Check. Done.

Once I’ve said it out loud, I have to do it or I’ll be too embarrassed

whisper-voice-clipart-1This is easy if you are good at verbalising what you need to get done, and then feel compelled to complete it lest someone asks you. The problem can be that you know this is your modus operandi, so you keep your plans quiet.

Find a buddy. Find someone that is happy to hear from you at least once a week, and will hold you accountable for what you have committed to. This often works best when it is a two-way street. Offer to be their person too. It may be best for it to be someone who understands the creative process, but isn’t essential.

Agree to what you will share each week, and when. A good base is: what I’m planning to do this week, how I did with my goals last week, what was getting in my way last week, and what I’ll put in place to try to meet my goals this week.

It should be an encouraging interaction rather than one where you feel guilty. If you are anything like me, you start the week with great intentions, only to fall too often on the speed bumps that life throws your way. That should be okay with your buddy. If not, find another.

If you can’t find a buddy, or don’t want to, and are feeling brave, you could also throw it out to the world. Say it aloud on social media and then check in at the end of the week. Tell your partner or work colleague. It doesn’t really matter who.

Numbers are my thing; I love to watch them change

pay-1036469_1920.jpgIf numbers are your thing, and you loved my last post, then I recommend that you do a few things as you will feel well chuffed as you see the numbers change. There are so many numbers that you can focus on to complete the work: minutes spent working, words written, words deleted, days worked, days to deadline, etc.

Choose the numbers that will help you to get to thermometer-151236_1280your deadline. Now think about how you want to watch these numbers change. Will a wall chart help? If so, create one that enables you to cross numbers off, or add them in. Maybe you could draw up a target thermometer and colour it in each day. This works well for visual people.

Perhaps you could use Excel to add your numbers after each writing session to see how those numbers are adding up. Microsoft Word also has some great statistics built in for those who love this (look under the File Properties and you will see Statistics).

Toggl is a great tool for measuring time spent. You can use it for free.

Put the carrot on the end of the stick, and I will follow

desktop-1985856_1920Rewards. Who doesn’t love them? The problem can be that left on your own, you might ‘accidentally’ reward yourself before you’re done. Set your milestones, and plan out some ace rewards that you will be thrilled with.

Your rewards could be anything: a massage, a magazine, a lie in the sun, a book, a read of a book, a block of chocolate, a sesh at the gym. Anything that you know will drive you to get your work done. I know folks who aren’t allowed to do anything else until they have done their three hours/500 words/scene/etc. When that it is done, whammo, off to enjoy their days.

Then make sure you give them to yourself when you are done.


And me? I use a mix of the lot. On the days I work at an office, I pop into a cafe and write without interruption for a half hour. I tick it off my list, which I do daily. I crunch numbers. I love them. I fill out my visual goals in my diary. I reward myself when I am done with a milestone. The best thing for me, however, has been finding an accountability buddy. I feel the pressure to work through what I have committed to, even if she is not that tough on me.

How do you tackle your deadlines?

This post is the last in a series about deadlines and shutting out the inner critic. If you enjoyed the posts and found them useful, please consider passing them on to others. I’d also love to hear your thoughts about these posts, or other blockers you have with your writing.