Tag Archives: writing

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

 

Welcome Back Desk.

After writing on my laptop in the loungeroom for goodness knows how long, yesterday I finally migrated back to my desk. It’s been such a good move, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Almost as soon as I pressed the power button, I could feel my thoughts sharpening and my entire being was ready for action in a way I haven’t experienced for such a long time. Could it be that this small step for Rowena, could be the impetus to finally get the book project done? Right now, I think it could, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. At the same time, we have reverse cycle air-conditioning in the loungeroom and the office is a freezer in Winter and a furnace in Summer.  So, I usually retreat there from the elements, as well as trying to be more social with the family. The desk is much quieter, but it’s also solitary and I am not an island.

The other reason that I wasn’t writing at my desk was also pretty straightforward. Like so many desks and flat surfaces, my desk had become a dumping ground for just about anything and a breeding ground for paperwork. Indeed, it was something like a farm barn overrun by cats with people constantly driving by and dumping more. I needed to erect a large sign:  KEEP OUT. TRESSPASSERS WILL BE EXTERMINATED. However, knowing the folk around here, it wouldn’t make a difference. Mummy’s Desk is not a sacred site. The dumping would continue regardless.

This whole very simple experience at home, has cast a different light on that whole philosophy of: “life is not a journey. It’s a destination.”

As someone who frequently doesn’t make it to their destination, I love this point of view.  It’s also a great philosophy for a creative, because so often what you find along the way, could well transcend your original plans. I particularly love heading to Sydney’s Surry Hills, and wandering through the streets, staring through the lens and finding such treasure! However, these spontaneous discoveries are very different from being unable to use my much faster desktop computer and desk space, because it’s bogged down in stuff. That’s not a destination. More of a catastrophic mess…a disaster zone. Hazmat required.

However, there are times you need to reach your destination, and some of those times, you even need to get there as quickly as possible

So, my whole experience with my desk challenges that philosophy, showing how it can be used as a cop out, as a justification for one of a writer’s greatest sins…procrastination and its twin…distraction.

Indeed, even research, which is ostensibly a means of reaching the destination, can become an end in itself, preventing the completion of the original project. Moreover, much of my research just remains a pile of rubble in my head, aside from telling the odd story at the family Christmas party. It never comes out in any usable form.

This brings me back to my desk.

I don’t know about you, but working from my desk feels a lot more like WORK. I immediately felt more organized and “on the job”. Although I can and do write anywhere, I am starting to wonder whether I’m paying too big a price for not writing at my desk, and that it is the best place for me to rev up the writing several notches, and finally get these big writing projects knocked off. There’s quite a swag of them.

At the moment, I’m researching and writing the story of my 4th Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan, who migrated from famine-torn Ireland, out to Australia under the Earl Grey Scheme. She was among a group of young women known collectively as “Irish famine orphans”, who were sent out here in part of relieve the financial burden back in Ireland, but also to redress the gender imbalance in the Australian colonies. I first found out about Bridget from her daughter’s birth certificate, which had been sitting in the safe at the family business for over a hundred years. I found the rest out, when a random Google search found Bridget on the  Irish Famine Orphans Database and the facts matched up.

For the past few years, I’ve pictured Bridget as a woman without a face, framed by a white bonnet. Yet, I’ve also wondered whether she looked like her daughter, Charlotte as I do have a handful of photos of her as a young woman. That’s something. More than something perhaps. Although I knew Bridget had married George Merrit and they’d had six kids, that’s about all I knew about Bridget Donovan. Despite my most dogged efforts to fill in even just a bit of her face, she didn’t want to be found.

However, recently I was contacted by a researcher who told me 2-3  of Bridget’s sons married Aboriginal women. This look me back into the online newspapers, and found an actual mention of George and Bridget running a store at Avisford on the Meroo Goldfields, near Mudgee. This was gold.  I’m now going to be chipping away at that, starting with a time line and a photo board. Hopefully, some sort of scaffold or framework will help give this project legs and the kind of solid foundations required for it to take off.

Meanwhile, I’m back on the laptop in the loungeroom. Microsoft Word needed updating and my trust Systems Administrator’s at work. I also just caught a puppy running out of my bedroom with my pink Ug boot. Seems no matter when or where I write, I’m fraught with interruptions, but I’d rather that than being an island.

Where do you do your best writing?

xx Rowena

 

 

Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational.

Strangely, my invitation to join Mensa, must’ve got lost in the mail. However, I strayed across The Washington Post‘s Mensa Invitational, which asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing of one letter, and supplying a new definition.

A friend of mine put me onto this and I’m wondering whether you agree that some of these coud really take off.

Here are this year’s {2005}1 winners:

  1. Cashtration (n.):
    The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
  2. Ignoranus:
    A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
  3. Intaxication:
    Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
  4. Reintarnation:
    Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
  5. Bozone2 (n.):
    The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
  6. Foreploy:
    Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
  7. Giraffiti:
    Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
  8. Sarchasm:
    The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
  9. Inoculatte:
    To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
  10. Hipatitis:
    Terminal coolness.
  11. Osteopornosis:
    A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
  12. Karmageddon:
    It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
  13. Decafalon (n.):
    The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
  14. Glibido:
    All talk and no action.
  15. Dopeler effect:
    The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
  16. Arachnoleptic fit (n.):
    The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a! spider web.
  17. Beelzebug (n.):
    Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
  18. Caterpallor (n):
    The color you turn after finding half of a worm in the fruit you?re eating.

1 I’ve run across at least 1 reference stating that this list, under this same name, has been running around since 1999.

2 This one sounds like a near rip-off of one of Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons. Check out page 37 of this Photochemistry Manual(PDF

Do you have a particular favourite? I really liked them all.

xx Rowena

PS I might keep this list handy for when we next play Scrabble. I’ve been known to be a bit inventive with some of my offerings.

Out of the Depths…Friday Fictioneers.

The river’s fury knew no bounds. Swallowing and regurgitating all in its path, the river gushed through precious Queenslander homes, but didn’t care… just buried its dead in mud.

Pete and Julie clung to each other like limpets. Photograph after sodden photograph fished out of the mud, their memories were falling apart in gloved hands.

Despair…utter despair.

Then, the aliens landed. Strangers wearing gumboots, rubber gloves, carrying spades, mops and plates of food. They’d salvaged their daughter’s precious teddies. Mud was glued to each and every fibre, but for the very first time, they knew they could make it.

………

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo prompt is © Karuna

A series of floods hit Queensland, Australia, beginning in December 2010. The floods forced the evacuation of thousands of people from towns and cities.[2] At least 90 towns and over 200,000 people were affected.[2] Damage initially was estimated at around A$1 billion[3] before it was raised to $2.38 billion.[1]

Three-quarters of the council areas within the state of Queensland were declared disaster zones.[5] Communities along the Fitzroy and Burnett Rivers were particularly hard hit, while the Condamine, Ballone and Mary Rivers recorded substantial flooding. An unexpected flash flood caused by a thunderstorm raced through Toowoomba’s central business district. Water from the same storm devastated communities in the Lockyer Valley. A few days later thousands of houses in Ipswich and Brisbane were inundated as the Brisbane River rose and Wivenhoe Dam used a considerable proportion of its flood mitigation capacity. Volunteers were quick to offer assistance, and sympathy was expressed from afar…Wikipedia

At the time of the floods, I was staying near Byron Bay in Northern New South Wales and also experienced the deluge. People talk about the sound of rain on a tin roof, but this was terrifying and yet at the same time, strangely beautiful at the same time. We have family and close friends in Brisbane so these floods were very close to our hearts.

I felt I had to write something uplifting in response to this prompt which I found quite disturbing.

xx Rowena

I wish I Had Dance Feet…

People often say to me, ‘I don’t know anything about dance.’ I say, ‘Stop. You got up this morning, and you’re walking. You are an expert.’

Twyla Tharp

As you may recall, I’ve been attending a weekly adult dance class for roughly the last year. This has been a huge step for me, because I live with a severe muscle-wasting auto-immune disease as well as hydrocephalus and let’s just say mobility and coordination are not my strengths.

However, as I’ve mentioned, my daughter dances quite seriously and after watching countless open days, concerts and at times having serious difficulties getting her to class, I started getting sick of being stuck in the driver’s seat. I wanted to dance myself.

My motto – sans limites.

Isadora Duncan

Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.

Martha Graham

At first, I started dancing in my head and was amazed by my grace, poise and ability to jeter across the room.

Well, to be honest, it wasn’t exactly me. Taking a leaf out of the bower bird’s book, I sub-consciously “borrowed” or perhaps you could even say, that I moved into Miss Larissa’s feet and became a legend inside my own head.

That’s when I first started feeling like a dancer, even though I was unable to dance and to be perfectly honest, often struggled to walk, especially on public footpaths, which are forever trying to trip me up. In what felt like a very bold leap at the time, I gingerly approached my daughter’s teacher and confessed. Naturally, this felt rather “weird” and I wondered if I’d finally tipped the scales of madness to the point of no return. Dancing was light years away from “me”…a writer, photographer and someone living with a chronic illness.

writing

So, it was from this very tentative and reticent corner of the room, that I arrived at my first adult ballet class fully expecting to spend most of the night sitting in a chair. From where I sat, this wasn’t so much a position of defeat. Rather, even being in the room as a class member was an achievement and it felt incredible just to be a part of the inner sanctum. As I didn’t know what to expect of myself,  I simply hoped to have beautiful, ballet hands at the end of the six week course.

While I clearly didn’t have much in the way of personal expectations, even turning up was brave and courageous. That being there in itself, represented a huge gear shift I could be proud of. After all, wasn’t most of the world parked in front of their TV, computer or mobile phone screens, while I was stepping out and being challenged by something completely out of my realm.

Sometimes, you deserve  a bit of praise and enthusiastic applause simply for getting out of bed. and if you make it out the front door that’s a bonus.

That’s where I was coming from. So, my expectations of being able to dance weren’t great.

So, you could just imagine my delight when I was somewhat keeping up with the class. That I didn’t spend the entire class in a chair and wasn’t as uncoordinated as I’d thought. After all, there’s nothing like a bit of brain surgery and tinkering away in your head to get the cogs moving.

Those early nights of adult ballet classes, almost feel like a dream a year down the track. I’ve since done two short contemporary/lyrical classes under Miss Karina Russell. She’s not only been teaching us about dance and choreography, she’s taken us on a journey through various choreographic styles and given me something to Google when I get home. I was as proud as punch of my research and the growing list of dance quotes I’d compiled, until she asked me if I’d actually watch them dance. Of course, not.  Yes, I was still very much the writer and researcher than a dancer…a woman of action. Yet, it was still early days.

Last night, we had our last contemporary class for the time being and next term, we’re switching to tap. So, last night was special and a bit like performing at the end of year concert. I wanted to put my best feet forward and perfect our routine. Or, at least, be facing the right direction at the right time.

However, after going on our long walk on Sunday and obviously overdoing it round the house yesterday, my systems were overstretched and I couldn’t get it together. For the very first time, I was struggling with left and right as we attempted pirouettes, and was facing all the wrong directions doing our warm ups and stretches. This was so bad and as much as I laughed it off, there was also that frustrated, annoyed dancer stuck inside me trying so hard to get out, yet battling the mortal realm.

Why couldn’t I have dance feet? A dance brain? I was feeling like someone had switched all the wires over and when I meant to go left, I went right. Or, I just ended up in a mental knot…a spin which was anything but a shanay turn.

Aside from the fatigue, there was another sound explanation for my brain-body confusion.

While watching Miss Karina so intently, I was absorbing her moves as my own and couldn’t understand why my body wouldn’t cooperate. Why didn’t my foot point like that. Why couldn’t I stand on one leg while rotating my hands and foot without wobbling and falling over like a house of cards? It was like I was having some kind of massive computational error…Miss Karina in, Rowena out. There was a definite bug in the program!

However, I’m not that hard on myself that I didn’t know I was tired. That I wasn’t dancing at my best. Or, that Miss Karina not only has natural talent, she’s also worked exceptionally hard for a very long time. As  she will testify, there’s no fairy Godmother and no magic wand either.

“Destiny, quite often, is a determined parent. Mozart was hardly some naive prodigy who sat down at the keyboard and, with God whispering in his ears, let music flow from his fingertips. It’s a nice image for selling tickets to movies, but whether or not God has kissed your brow, you still have to work. Without learning and preparation, you won’t know how to harness the power of that kiss.”
― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Yet, I am simply grateful to be a part of it, find acceptance even on an off night, and to be able to see Miss Karina dance up close and appreciate all the detail that goes into being a brilliant dancer. Not only for my own benefit, but also for my daughter. Since I’ve been doing these adult dance classes, we’ve been able to share a common language and last weekend when I saw her draw a semi-circle in the sand with a pointed foot, I knew exactly what she was doing.

“Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It’s a miracle, and the dance is a celebration of that miracle.”

Martha Graham

 

dance feet

Secret dance business. We only reveal our feet.

“My feet are dogs”.

Rudolf Nureyev

So, last night at the end of our class, I lined everyone up for a few photos. I’ve really been hanging out to photograph all our feet. While this might seem strange, for me our diverse range of footwear reflects who we are. There were socks, joggers, toe shoes, jazz shoes… as well as me wearing my pink satin ballet slippers with the satin ribbons to a contemporary class. We are a motley crew who take our dance seriously and work hard. Yet, there’s also this constant laughter, good humour, fun personalities as well as the joy of belonging and being part of the dance, which is an incredible feeling all by itself.

I don’t know why more creatives don’t cross-train and do some painting, dance, try some artistic photography with an SLR instead of their “camera phone”. While cross-training has become standard for athletes, I get that sense that creatives are still very much absorbed by their thing and it’s a rare soul who ventures beyond the usual streams which go together. In the performing arts, you hear about being the “triple threat”. That means you can dance, sing and act. Yet, I’m not aware of an equivalent term for someone who can write, do photography and say graphic design.

There’s so much to be gained from stepping beyond our comfort zones and what we’re naturally good at and enjoy. Instead of every writer writing about what it means to be a writer, you can write about the exhilaration of dance from an inside perspective instead. You’re not just a voyeur watching life pass by through the keyhole. You’re living it too.

That is, even if you’ve only got duck feet.

Do you dance?

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share December 4, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Would you prefer coffee, tea or something else?

Can you believe it’s December already? I sure can’t. Well I sort of can because all that end of year madness is already in full swing. Aside from buying presents, I haven’t even thought about Christmas.

school-spec-amelia

Rather, the end of the year is also concert season. Last week, our daughter performed at NSW Schools Spectacular in Sydney and next weekend, is the dance concert. Miss does jazz, modern and ballet so that’s three costume changes. Today, there was a rehearsal and tomorrow is photo call. Well, there’s photo call after she does a guest appearance at her friend’s birthday party. I know she’s doing too much and it is exhausting, but I want her to have a balanced life. Friends are important.

scan10538

I have some exciting news this week. I’m finally making progress on the book writing front. For many, many years now I’ve been reworking and reworking books in my head and I can see the words cascading like a fountain without sticking to the page. For me, the trouble has been knowing where to start. How to start. Moreover, just when I’ve got in the groove and the flow is well and truly flowing, there’s been some significant catastrophe which at the very least, has blocked the flow or redirected it. Finishing a book is not that easy, especially when you can’t get started.

So, I’m thrilled to have a plan and even though I’m back to my usual “research mode”, I’m making headway. I can see a structure, a plan, a purpose.  Even better, I can feel it all coming together.

That’s why I’m fessing up here. I need to make myself accountable. Commit to this course of action in paper and ink…even if it is more a case of tapping away on my laptop.

Anyway, I’ve spent much of this week trying to immerse myself in Paris to reawaken all those slumbering brain cells of mine. I need the to take me back to the past to lead me into the future. Fortunately, I have photos, diaries, letters from the trip as well as the world wide web at my disposal. I guess you could say it’s now been redefined as “material”.

You might like to check out some of my Paris posts:

Poem: Amnesia Paris 92.

Writing Memoir: Paris Encore.

Virtual Cafe Crawl Through Paris.

I am continuing to read  Tim Harford’s:  Messy: How to be Creative in A Tidy-Minded World. I’m now about halfway through and am going to try to keep going with it while throwing myself into Paris and that writing. I find it hard to split myself up like that, especially when I’m already juggling the family and the house. Well, I’m not exactly juggling the house. I think I dropped it on its head awhile back and it’s never recovered. Besides, I’d much rather write.

I’ve had another go at Friday Fictioneers. The prompt this week depicted a camping scene. My effort is called The Camping Virgins. I should point out that the title refers to first time campers…nothing more, nothing less.

The rest of the week feels like a blur. I’m sure it’s there somewhere.

How was your week? Good, I hope.

This has been another contribution to Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at Part-Time Monster.

xx Rowena