Tag Archives: book

Writing By Rainbow Light…

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God.”
– Sidney Sheldon

Writing by rainbow light sounds rather romantic, yet incongruously intriguing. How could you ever write by rainbow light and where does it come from? How do you make it? If you turn on your garden hose and point it in the right direction, you can make your own rainbow but that certainly nothing you could write by, especially given that it’s just after midnight and the sun and the rest of my family are asleep and tucked into bed.

The truth is that I bought myself a neon rainbow which I can plug into the USB slot and it lights up my desk just enough for me to see, without turning on the main light which could disturb my daughter’s sleep. While I seem to run on my very own idiocyncratic clock with waking and sleeping at all sorts of hours through the day and night, I try to respect those who are already asleep and can’t catch up during the day.

This is the lot of the night owl and the parent who can seemingly only sneak in a little writing time at the very end of the day when everyone else is asleep. It’s my indulgence. My sanity pill…even if I can’t think of anything to write and my brain’s already gone to sleep but my fingers are still clicketty clacking over the keyboard.

The thing is, that I feel that I’m grappling with something and rather than sleeping on it, I thought I’d tinker around with it on the blog and see what I could draw out…a bit like putting peroxide on an infected cut.

I think my trouble is that too much is happening, and I feel like I’m running after a fleet of runaway steam trains. Or, perhaps I should make those Japanese bullet trains…something traveling much much faster. Indeed, traveling so fast, that the passengers can’t get their bearings or make out anything through the window. School assignments for the kids are due in and my daughter’s also going for auditions for anything she can audition for at the moment…great practice and I don’t expect her to land some of the more prestigious professional roles, but I think it took me an hour or so just to email everything off. I have also been writing letters to and about our National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which provides me with domestic assistance, OT and physio but knocked back my electric recliner and savagely cut back my budget in my second plan.

All these things give you, or should I say me, the feeling that you’re wrestling with an imaginary dragon, and it can feel very overwhelming. Too much to deal with and no one to delegate it to. After all, Rowena is a sole proprietor, even though my husband does an enormous amount, he still has to work.

It would be really lovely to get away and write in my notebook somewhere picturesque like I used to once upon a time. I remember going up to the Blue Mountains, West of Sydney when I was about 19 and I went bush walking at Katoomba with a friend. We went down the Scenic Railway, which was much more rustic than the one that’s there today although the track is just the same and just as scary steep. At the bottom, a track takes you round to Katoomba Falls which is dotted with tree ferns from memory. I remember writing at the bottom there…a perfect spot.

I also remember writing poetry beside the River Seine in Paris right near Pont Neuf at around 2.00AM and it was just me and a group of Africans listening to their ghetto blaster on the other side. Dumped and feeling like my heart had already been cut out by a dagger, I probably felt there wasn’t enough left of me for anyone else to kill off, harm or torment. After all, how many of us really ever think that as bad as it is, it could even get worse. Indeed, most of us humans are so good at shooting ourselves in the foot, that we often make it worse for ourselves without any input from anybody else. Anyway, let me just say that I know God was looking after me then, because I wasn’t looking out for myself. Added to that, I had good friends. They also stepped in.

“People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.”
– Harlan Ellison

Isn’t it funny what comes out when you just sit down and start writing! You have no idea where it’s going to take you and what ideas are going to crop up be it absolute drivel or creative brilliance…the germination of a masterpiece.

And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
– William Shakespeare (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

If you’re a writer or creative, do you believe you have a masterpiece inside? The ability to produce that best seller which is going to launch you into the dizzy heights of success, stardom and hopefully being able to buy yourself a cappuccino without counting your pennies. The lot of the true writer is hard, hungry and your blood, sweat and tears are etched into each and every word, especially if you’re writing by hand, which I do now and then, particularly if I’m on the train. It takes me about 1.5 hours to get to my medical appointments on the train and I can get in a bit of a hurry and forget to pack some paper and have been known to write endless words on those last few pages they leave at the end of a novel.

Have you ever wondered why they leave those blank pages there? Not every novel has them and I certainly see it as a mark of a tight-fisted publisher when they use up every inch of paper and don’t include those precious blanks. Indeed, I can see them all sitting beady-eyed around the boardroom table talking about how much they’ll save and how much they’ll make if they cut those pages out.

Personally, I feel like these blank pages are a gift from the author to the reader to go and write their own story. Have a creative response to all they’ve read. To write a poem. Jot down some ideas. But not for a shopping list. A To Do List or anything so mundane and practical. Well, that is unless your to do list is only about visions and dreams and how to launch into that flight of fancy.

Strangely, I’ve been spending a lot of time lately working on schedules, routines, calendars, planning, time management as I try to get my kids organized for new school year. Being the eternal optimist that I am  and having very little recent experience of organizing such matters, I thought this was something I could set in stone. Work out a system. Get it in place and walk away. Get back to my writing and leave the real world “far behind me” (remember somewhere Over the Rainbow…)

So far, no such luck. I think I’ll have term 1 sorted out just in time for term 2, but hopefully we’ll get that set up with the wave of a magic wand.

Do you ever just sit down and write late at night as though you’re letting out some kind of poltergeist or energy inside and you just have to write and write and write either with pen on paper or through the more convenient but not so romantic clicketty-clack of fingers on the keys.

However, as much as I’m addicted to these late night sessions, I must admit that I’m trying to get into more regular sleeping patterns and firing my brain up at midnight might not be the best recourse. Perhaps, I’d be better off ignoring the heebeegeebies and sleeping. Counting sheep instead of words? It’s very easy for other people to tell you what to do,  but they haven’t walked in your shoes. They haven’t slipped inside your skin and been you for a few days. Indeed, I’d really like to trade places with someone for a week or two just as long as I didn’t get stuck inside and couldn’t get back. That’s always a risk.

Well, on that note, I’m off to find my camera to photograph my little patch of rainbow light. I hope you like it!

xx Rowena

 

The Little Red Book Box.

“A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation… A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.”

― Henry Miller, The Books in My Life

Do you remember those snazzy red telephone booths from back in the day? Well, that’s what I thought of, when I stumbled across the little red book box at our local park. It was drop dead gorgeous. Indeed, to be perfectly honest, I wanted to take it home with me…along with the book. Designed to withstand the weather, it houses an arm full of books. The concept is, that you take a book and leave a book. So, it operates as a free, community-minded, book exchange.

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How good is that?!!

Well, I guess the system is only as good as it’s “clientelle”. Like those roadside food stalls with an honour box to leave your money, this system depends on trust. Integrity. Honesty. You need to be a giver and a taker.

Not a cheat and book thief like yours truly, who took a book without leaving one behind. Well, I didn’t have a book with me, and I do plan to drop one back. I truly do, even though I find it exceptionally hard to part with any of my books. Indeed, they might need a crow bar to pry the book out of me.

So, what was the book? It was Alexander McCall Smith’s: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I have other books in the series, but not the first one. So, it was a good find.

Now, I just need to read it.

Looking at my book pile, that could be a problem…along with parting with a book.

Humph…no one said that it had to be one of MY books, did they? That definitely puts a different slant on it.

Do you have anything like this book exchange system where you live? It’s a great idea!

xx Rowena

PS Just a little coincidence. I’m currently reading Markus Zusak’s: The Book Thief. Obviously, it’s led me astray.

PPS: It turns out that the little red book box in our local park, has “friends”. Known as “little free libraries, they’re the brainchildren of our local library. What a great idea. Sounds like I should be investing in a new trench coat to transport my book choices in appropriate attire. Wouldn’t that be great! Much better than a brown paper bag.

 

Must Read: Hugh Mackay, Selling the Dream.

For me, it’s a no brainer. Hugh McKay’s seventh novel, Selling The Dream is a must read.

In case you haven’t heard of Hugh McKay, he’s an accomplished Australian social researcher and best-selling author of eighteen books, including seven novels. I heard him present at the Sydney Writers’ Festival a few years ago, where he well and truly lived up to my very high expectations. He has amazing insight and can well and truly read in between the lines. More to the point, he takes us on the journey with him.  So, you can learn a hell of a lot from Hugh McKay, who is undoubtedly a man of great substance and wisdom. Words I don’t throw around lightly.

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Author Hugh Mackay.

If you have been following Beyond the Flow for some time, you might’ve noticed, that I very rarely do book reviews. This is no coincidence. Partly, it’s because I have a huge book pile, which is largely untouched. Moreover, I tend to feel that writing the odd book review bears more weight, unless you run a book review blog. I should also add, that I don’t finish books which don’t appeal on some level, let alone write a review. Indeed, I rarely write a bad review of any sort, although I’m about to spread the word about a brand of children’s vitamins which taste disgusting, despite being labelled: “chewable”.

So, when you see me write a book review and read that I couldn’t put the book down, you should take notice. Even more so, when I tell you that I bought this book for my Dad’s birthday, but read it BEFORE I gave it to him. Obviously, that says this book is not only good. It’s very good!  That’s very high praise from an Australian. (After all, “not bad” would be an Australian’s equivalent to an American’s “awesome” or something to that effect.)

Although reading a book before you gift it is poor form, my Dad’s a practical man. He’ll understand the logic in reading it while it’s here. Moreover, as a voracious reader, he’ll be grateful that I’ve bought him a book so good, that I couldn’t wait for him to read it first. I can also see Dad with his nose stuck in this book and laughing his head off, just like he did when I gave him: The Rosie Project. I’m really looking forward to talking it over with him too, especially as one of their close friends used to head up a multi-national advertising agency. That could well influence how Dad reads the book.

I’ve actually worked for two advertising agencies myself and would be back working in one in a flash. However, these days I’d be on the creative, rather than the sales side.

That said, I’m honest to a fault and would be chewed up and spat out by the likes of the characters in this book. Characters, who I’m sure weren’t characters at all. They’re so very real.

I really don’t like spoiling a read by exposing too many details. Indeed, I would recommend not even reading the back cover of this book. It says too much. Aside from being a book by Hugh Mackay which for me is reason enough, I also bought it based on this endorsement by John Clarke on the front cover:

 

“If someone asked me who should write a satirical novel about the advertising business – someone with inside knowledge who could write well and was extremely clever and amusing – I’d say, ‘See if Hugh Mackay is available.'” John Clarke

“Lincoln The Hunter is living the dream. Universally admired and terrifically charming, he has a formidable reputation in the world of advertising, and is the jewel in the crown of agency KK&C.

When Linc is handed the reins of the high-budget, high-profile campaign for the groundbreaking new snack ‘The Ripper’, he knows it’s his chance to leverage his way to greater success and greener, more glamourous pastures. No matter that it will leave KK&C floundering in his wake …”

Unfortunately, despite loving this book and being utterly impressed with McKay’s use of language, being a gift, I obviously couldn’t do my usual thing of underlining my favourite turns of phrase. So,I did a quick flick through after my post-it notes fell out. There was one excellent phrase I managed to rediscover: “Fishing off the company pier” , which refers to having an affair with a work colleague.

If you haven’t heard of Hugh McKay, perhaps I haven’t said a lot to convince you to go and read this hilarious, insightful read. That is, other than my word for it. Without spoiling its many twists and turns, I’m just going to say “you’ve gotta have faith”.

You can get to know Hugh Mackay a little better by visiting his web site.

Have you read Selling the Dream or any of Hugh Mackay’s other books? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Rainbow Bike & the Bookshop…Weekly Smile

Last Thursday, while I was being led astray by detour after detour after detour, I felt a strong twitch which turned into something of a magnetic pull and before I knew it, I was inside yet another bookshop.

Yikes! There’s something about bookshops for me, which is like the call of the wild and I am absolutely powerless to stay away. Like the children being lured away by the Pied Piper of Hameln, I am always lured in,. Moreover, shame upon shame upon shame, I almost never leave empty handed. Resistance is futile. It’s beyond my control.

Anyway, last Thursday I went on a bit of an “excursion”. To be exact, it started the moment I left the doctor’s surgery in St Leonards when instead of catching the train North towards home, I jumped platforms and was soon click clacketting my way across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, through the city and alighting at Kings Cross Station. From there, I explored the Anne & Otto Frank Exhibition at the Sydney Jewish Museum and then took a right and stumbled across Darlinghurst Gaol, which is now the National Art School. Struck by it’s imposing sandstone architecture, I HAD to explore it further especially as I had my camera with me. Before long, I was in Surry Hills, my usual stomping ground.

That’s where I stumbled across The Oscar & Friends Bookshop.

Well, in terms of budget control and not spending any money, I kept stumbling over.

Or, you could look at it on the bright side and say I only bought two books. One is a gift for my brother so I won’t give it away but the book, which I bought for myself, was very pertinent:

Tim Harwood’s Messy: How to Be Creative & Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World.

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‘Utterly fascinating. Tim Harford shows that if you want to be creative and resilient, you need a little more disorder in your world. It’s a masterful case for the life-changing magic of cluttering up’ – Adam Grant

Ranging expertly across business, politics and the arts, Tim Harford makes a compelling case for the creative benefits of disorganisation, improvisation and confusion. His liberating message: you’ll be more successful if you stop struggling so hard to plan or control your success. Messy is a deeply researched, endlessly eye-opening adventure’ – Oliver Burkeman

Now, I know that when you’re a bit quirky and spend your life swimming against the flow, you can get rather excited when you finally find someone who agrees with your point of view…AT LAST!! Indeed, given the thrill of finding a so-called published expert supporting your long held philosophical stance when you’ve been as a lone ranger on a tiny Pacific atoll,  is such a relief that you don’t even question whether the author’s legit. Indeed, here’s finally the proof you’ve always been looking for that messy desks beat tidy desks. Yippee!

Anyway, as you might gather finding Tim Harford’s book is a good enough reason to smile.

However, as I’m leaving the bookshop, I spotted a bicycle, which had been painted in luscious rainbow colours and I was in heaven.

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Indeed, I thought about riding that rainbow bike right up into the sky and into the heavens. That was, until I spotted the very secure bike chain.

While everyone has their own perspective of what rainbows mean to them, I love all the bright colours and how rainbows are formed by that mingling of sun and rain which must be viewed from the correct angle in what must be a fusion of magic and science.

Rainbows make me smile.

Hmm…and now thanks to Tim Harford I can ignore all the crap on my desk until my keyboard gets buried again and a rescue mission is required.

What has made you smile this week?

This has been part of The Weekly Smile hosted by Trent’s World. You can click on the linky here to check it out.

xx Rowena

 

An Unauthorised Book Tour…”My Father & Other Liars”: Geoff Le Pard.

For those of you who know Geoff Le Pard and his latest book: My Father & Other Liars, it is my duty to inform you that his book ran away from home in London and decided to brave the sharks, snakes, poisonous jellyfish, crocodiles and deadly drop bears and flew solo all the way to Australia.

Heading into Sydney.

Heading into Sydney.

By the time the book arrived here, it was clearly exhausted and handed me a note which said: “Please take care of this book.” Of course, there was a jar of marmalade in its suitcase and being the warm, friendly and book-loving Australian that I am, I took the book inside and it now calls Australia home. It’s even traded the marmalade in for Vegemite toast. Like most English backpackers who take up residence on your couch, I don’t think the book will be going home any time soon!

Although every author knows that their book takes on a life all of its own once it’s been published, I don’t think even Geoff expected his latest book to go on an Australian tour without him. Geoff is a very keen International traveller who has not only been to Australia but fallen in love with place. So, not unsurprisingly, I can hear Geoff shouting out all the way from the UK: “Wait for me!! How dare you leave without me!!”

I’ve had words like that with my own kids over the years and they haven’t listened and neither did Geoff’s book. It’s still here and Geoff’s nowhere in sight.

Apologies Geoff but we couldn’t wait. The book’s tour Down Under has unofficially been launched. Thanks to my filling fallen out, My Father and Other Liars and I boarded the train to Sydney to go to the dentist. My dentist is in Kirribilli just a stone’s throw from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you have ever seen the film Finding Nemo, the dentist in the movie could very well be my dentist, right down to the fish tank! Well, there is some debate but he’s close enough. So, of course, the book was thrilled to be on location. It fancies being turned into a movie one day!

The book takesin the view of the Sydney Opera House. I think it brought the London weather with it.

The book takes in the view of the Sydney Opera House. I think it brought the London weather with it.

Geoff's book really was refusing to toe the line and I seriously feared we'd be arrested or given our proximity to the Prime MInister's Sydney residence, be mistaken for terrorists. If you can't trust a package any more, who's to say you can trust a book these days? Particularly one which can not read signs!

Geoff’s book really was refusing to toe the line and I seriously feared we’d be arrested or given our proximity to the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence, be mistaken for terrorists. If you can’t trust a package any more, who’s to say you can trust a book these days? Particularly one which can not read signs!

After my appointment, we walked down the hill under the Bridge and the book insisted on photo after photo and even took a few selfies. Talk about pushy. I thought the book was trying to drum up some additional publicity but when I caught it emailing the photos to Geoff and tormenting him with those gorgeous harbour views, I had my doubts.

Do selfies always reverse the text in the picture or is it just me?

Do selfies always reverse the text in the picture or is it just me? Oh yes. Don’t you just love the wind! That is definitely NOT my usual coiffure!

Anyway, jokes aside, reading My Father & Other Liars has been quite a unique reading experience for me. Usually, when I’m reading a book, I’ve never met the author and know very little about them at all. After I’ve read the book, I might have been lucky enough to meet them at the Sydney Writer’s Festival or equivalent or read an article online but essentially the author remains a mystery…unknown.

Another dodgy selfie in front of Sydney's famous Luna Park face.

Another dodgy selfie in front of Sydney’s famous Luna Park face.

However, when it came to reading My Father & Other Liars, the cart went before the horse. Through reading each other’s blogs and numerous comments back and forth, Geoff and I have come to know each other pretty well, especially given we’ve never met in person. We’re friends. This meant of course that I knew the author before reading the book and I wondered whether I could divorce that from reading a work of fiction. For some of you, you might be able to make that disconnect easily but I tend to read mostly non-fiction and process the novels that I do read as real. You could say that for me the line between fact and fiction is rather thin. That is, if there is a line at all

To further complicate matters, I’ve also read a series of letters written by Geoff’s Dad outlining his experiences as a paratrooper, which Geoff has posted on his blog. While “Dad” seemed to have a good sense of humour, he seemed pretty honourable to me. He certainly didn’t appear to be the inspiration behind the book. So this was another connection I had to switch off.

After playing a spot of beach cricket, the book sunbakes at Umina Beach, North of Sydney.

After playing a spot of beach cricket, the book sunbakes at Umina Beach, North of Sydney.

Another thing I should tell you about how I read Geoff’s book was that I specifically ordered hard copy…a real book. Call me a late-adapter to technology but I don’t have a Kindle or any other such device and I find reading long chunks of text difficult on the computer. I have collected antiquarian books almost all my life and love the smell of must, those beautiful , meticulous etchings and the covers almost good enough to eat.

Proudly standing under the Australian flags

Proudly standing under the Australian flags

Yet, while I have my collection, when it comes to reading a book and I mean really reading a book, I not only read it with my eyes and I guess in turn my soul. I also read it with my pen. I have quite an elaborate system of taking notes in my book. I underline great phrases, similes or metaphors and if I really want to come back to something, I make a note in the margin. The ultimate though is circling the page number down the bottom so I can definitely find my way back to that point.

So, when it comes to me reading books: “No ink = no good.”

So as a good indicator of how I found My Father and Other Liars, it has plenty of ink throughout, not just highlighting Geoff’s expressions but also to highlight the scientific details. The book is educational as well as a great read.

When it comes to genres, just like its author, My Father and Other Liars isn’t a book you can simply pigeon-hole and slap one all-encompassing category. Indeed, it could easily be considered thriller, mystery, science fiction, drama and there’s even a bit of romance. It refuses to be contained.

Bilbo, our Border Collie, snaffled up the book.

Bilbo, our Border Collie, snaffled up the book.

So, what is the book about?

My Father and Other Liars addresses the tension between religion and science and what happens when these often conflicting spheres merge together. What emerges is a thrilling exploration which covers three continents and I must say, Geoff manages to convey a strong sense of these different cultures both through authentic dialogue but also through noting those little details. When he writes about England, there’s a “strong cup of tea” and while in Oklahoma, there was this bit of inimitable dialogue: “So who fancies biscuits and gravy, y’all?” I wrote “yuck” next to that one. For an Australian, biscuits are sweet and what Americans refer to as “cookies” whereas this is referring to what we would know as a “scone”. However, the character is not in Australia and using these authentic snippets, really helps to convey that sense of place, which is very important to me. After all, the inner person is also in an outer world.

Lady reading Geoff Le Pard's: "My Father & Other Liars."

Only to have Lady run off with it! Lady reading Geoff Le Pard’s: “My Father & Other Liars.”

In terms of reviewing the book as a whole, I’m going to defer to this review from Suffolk Scribblings: https://authordylanhearn.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/recommended-reads-my-father-and-other-liars-by-geoff-le-pard/

However, perhaps the greatest recommendation is that I as a non-reader of novels, haven’t put it down and am reading about 100 pages a day. I’m finding myself slipping into their world and almost talking to the characters or hearing their voices, which might suggest I need a psychiatrist but that’s been a long standing issue and something I call “being creative”. At the moment, I have 120pages to go and I feel that tension between racing to see how it ends and wanting to take my time because I don’t want the book to finish. I particularly like the character of Mo and so many of us, is well-intentioned and has blundered through life hurting those he loves most and struggles with intimacy. Mo is the book’s reluctant hero and I can’t but feel sorry for him getting embroiled in all of this but then again, a bit excitement speeds up the heart.

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I’ve just finished the book and strongly recommend it. It tells a suspense-filled, credible story filled with conspiracy and intrigue and well-developed, believable characters. Geoff has down a great job switching between three continents and even with my very poor sense of direction, I didn’t get lost. That said, at the start, I did find it hard to keep up with the number of characters but ultimately this just heightened the sense of conspiracy and those men in black were hiding everywhere.

Well done, Geoff and by the way, your book says: “G’day!” It also wants to know if the cheque’s in the mail? It’s had unexplained expenses and I swear there’s no mini bar anywhere in sight.

If you’d like to pop over to Geoff’s blog, you can find him at http://www.geofflepard.com

Have you read My Father and Other Liars or any of Geoff Le Pard’s other books? Any comments?

xx Rowena

PS: I must say that if you are wondering whether any red-faced embarrassment was experienced in the production of these photographs, the answer is most definitely. The kids were away and I felt like a real goose heading down to the beach with a plastic cricket bat. But the photo is paramount and I only ended up having to explain to one onlooker that I was photographing a friend’s book who was in the UK. “Publicity”, was all they said. Hmm…you seem to be able to get away with a lot as “publicity”!

Me, Myself & I….Writing A Complex Character Profile.

The train is quietly humming over the tracks heading for Sydney’s Central Railway. It’s a long, slow journey without any sense of speed or rush but I’ve come prepared with my journal, writing plans and a water bottle…all but a picnic lunch.

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These trains are usually packed, even out of peak hour but today I’m in luck. Bodies are spread out throughout the carriage, mostly slumped forward like inert sacks of potatoes. So, after settling in next to the window, I spread my stuff out across two seats and finally relax. Phew! I’m so thrilled not to be all squished up with a bunch of strangers inside a cramped sardine tin. There’s nothing worse than having your nose shoved in a stranger’s armpit…even in Winter.

I relax and yet I’m about to start work.

Somehow, I’ve got to start working on the Book Project. After all, it’s Monday and summoning up the threads of long-lost perseverance, determination and what I mistook for an iron-will, I’ve got to get started.

Unfortunately, this trip is challenging my best intentions. Instead of sitting down at my desk promptly at 10.00 AM and getting into that work routine, I’m off to Sydney for a medical appointment, detouring ever so slightly via Surry Hills. That’s where I had the most divine Coconut Chai Latte a few months ago and I also need to get my dose of urban funk.

While writing on the move wasn’t part of the plan, I remind myself that writing is like breastfeeding. You can do it anywhere, anytime. No need to write at the same place every day, being rigid and inflexible. You just need to get on with the job and before you know it, you can write anywhere.

Well, of course, I have no trouble writing anywhere about anything. My trouble is sticking to the Book Project and getting that done and dusted. Something tells me this will require strict, hardcore discipline, not bucket loads of creativity and that’s why the whole project’s become stonkered.

That’s why I’m trying to enforce a pretty rigid routine. Laissez-faire clearly isn’t producing results. Well, at least not a book.

So my task for today, as I pull out yet another fancy notebook, is to write a character profile. This will be for the protagonist, who I also suspect is the antagonist…me. I am working on a motivational memoir about overcoming trauma and setbacks and instead of just writing about what happened, I really want to develop this book into a piece of literature. Have well-developed characterisation as well as a strong sense of place. After all, I am not just a survivor telling their story. I am a writer.

While writing about yourself might sound egotistical and self-absorbed, it is actually a lot more challenging than I’d thought. I can’t just make myself up like a fictional character. I need to be true to life and not necessarily how I perceive myself but how others perceive me, which could potentially be very different to how I see myself.

So, who am I through someone else’s eyes? Of course, this varies from person to person, forming a complex kaleidoscope, which makes me think I am about to become a work of fiction anyway.

That there is, indeed, no “me” etched in stone.

Yet, I’m still not sure.

I pull out the character questionnaire. The one I’m using today comes out of a writing book for kids but I thought I might actually get further with Simple Simon that the more complex ones I’ve tried before. Keep it Simple Stupid (the KISS formula).
This feels so strange. As much as I might observe others, I’d never really considered that others are watching me and perhaps scrutinizing me in the same way. That they may also be trying to work out what makes me tick. Rather, I’ve felt quite invisible watching them.

Looking around the carriage, I start to wonder whether I could somehow describe myself using contrast. Who and what I’m not? What makes me stand out from the crowd?

The first clue is that I’m traveling in the “Quiet Carriage”, which is one way of sorting the chaff from the oats. This is where the readers, sleepers and lone travelers gravitate. That said, every now and then you get people who can’t read signs or at peak hour, grandparents returning bickering children home and simply need a seat (and a stiff drink as well I’ve heard!)

The next thing I’d notice is that I’m writing in a notebook at a furious pace. The notebook is covered in brightly-coloured butterflies, so you could possibly class me as a dreamer. You might also wonder why anyone these days would still be using pen and paper. While it is quite usual for me to write by hand in a paper notebook when I travel, I’m sure that for many, pen and paper are as obsolete as a quill and ink.

My shirt might also catch your eye. Distinctly vintage and rather loud, it’s covered in very large, incredibly bright orange, purple and pink flowers which could possibly be wild poppies. While this might all sound cringingly loud and excessively flower power, the volume is somewhat muted by the conservative, navy-blue background. The shirt is almost sane. I don’t think anyone else sitting in our carriage is wearing any colour whatsover…just dull greys, browns and black. That said, there is a girl sporting a large silver bow on her head a few seats away.

Then, by my side, there’s a bulky backpack and if your eyesight is half-decent, you’d notice “Nikon” printed on the front…a serious camera bag. Evidently, I’m not someone who simply takes photos with their phone on a daytrip to the city. I’m clearly a photography nut.

Artistic.

If they’re really paying attention, they might notice a ring on my finger. Married.

Then there’s the walking stick sitting beside me, which keeps falling over. I strike you as being rather young to have a walking stick and you remember how your Gran used to have one, then two and then forgot who she was and disappeared somewhere very deep inside behind those ice-blue eyes.

In between frenetic bursts of writing, you might notice that I’m staring out the window or looking around the carriage as though I’ve lost something or am looking for someone. Then, you remember about writers going on field trips and how they eavesdrop and observe. Soak up random strangers for material. Suddenly, you feel vulnerable and possibly even violated, suspecting you’re about to be cast as the axe-wielding maniac in my upcoming novel. You could discretely change seats to peer over my shoulder just to make sure but then you remember that you need to send a text. Make arrangements for tonight. Oh and did you put out the cat? You text home. Thank God for that phone! You don’t have to remember anything anymore!

Meanwhile, my attention strays out the window and I’m mesmerised by the passing trees. I feel quite dwarfed by the towering gum trees beside the track. They are soaring giants and I am but an ant.The wattle trees are just starting to flower and the dull green vegetation is illuminated with a stunning golden glow as the train speeds past.

Wattle trees morph into graffiti
sprayed on urban walls.
Red-bricked, ageing units
shuffled with Victorian terraces,
like a deck of cards.
A kaleidoscope of roofs
spread out across the urban plain
rusty, corrugated iron sheeting
dispersed with terracotta.
I wonder if anyone’s home?
Doubt it.
This gang of stragglers
is now millionaire’s row
double-income,
daycare kids.
Only the dog gets to call
the place home.

Once it was me.
Or, was it?

Further into Sydney, the trees are superseded by concrete walls sprayed with graffiti…something which has never made any sense to me… just meaningless tags, ugly scars on the landscape. There aren’t even any words or pictures…anything which could convey a message to anyone beyond their tribe.

Yet, I wonder if your words means as much to them as mine do to me.

Whoops! There I go interjecting my voice into the story when I am supposed to be the observed, not the observer. I am no longer narrating my own story but who can ever truly escape their own shoes, no matter how hard we try to place ourselves inside someone else’s skin?

We are who we are.

On that note, I should confess that anybody who knows me would say that I never shut up but it takes a lot of silence to write and I write a lot. Moreover, here I am sitting in the Quiet Carriage. That immediately divides me from the talkers.

While I haven’t polished off this character profile, I’ve come to a deeper appreciation of the complexity of human characterization. That we’re all kaleidoscopes and not so easily boxed.

However, that doesn’t let me off the hook. I still need to get my character profile done but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The train is now rapidly approaching Central and we are on just one of many tracks. Yes, we’re well and truly in the Big Smoke now! I start packing up my stuff, getting ready to leave.

I can’t wait to get into Surry Hills and lose myself in the coconut frothiness of the magical Coconut Chair Latte and I love being surrounded by all those quirky Victorian terrace houses while also enjoying the modern.

The Clock Tower at Central Station, viewed from Surry Hills.

The Clock Tower at Central Station, viewed from Surry Hills.

Finally, the train stops. “We are now at Central. This train will terminate. Please change here. All out. All change.”

All out…all change….indeed!

I could have used that line on the kids this morning. They were absolutely refusing to budge. Yes, they definitely needed to get out of the house and have a dramatic change of attitude.

That said. Monday morning is what it is and I have no idea why new projects always start on a Monday. They’re seemingly doomed before you’ve even downed your second coffee.

I guess that’s why I don’t like Mondays!

xx Rowena