7 things I am doing instead of writing my book

1. Cleaning the house. Procrasti-cleaning. Rearranging the pantry, catching sight of my laptop and feeling guilty about the book, then distracting myself by organising my wardrobe. 2. Writing this blog post. Also, writing pretty much anything that isn't my book. I have finished an article that is due in mid-November. This never happens.

3. Baking chocolate banana cake, apple muffins sourdough bread, lasagne and homemade pasta.

3. Crocheting like a boss.

4. Watching Unreal.

5. Reading a LOT. Surely this counts, right? And actually reading with the view to learn, so lots of taking notes and highlighting passages. Lots of research for the book, not a lot of actual writing of the book.

6. Buying books about writing and using Australia Post as an excuse not to write the book, because I can't possible start writing if I haven't read Bird by Bird yet, right?

7. Playing play dough with my kids. They have benefitted greatly from my epic procrasination.

Writing a book is harder than I thought, you guys. I have done about 5,000 out of the target of 80,000. I am aiming to write a shitty draft then refine it later, but it's even hard to write a shitty draft. Two children, a job and too many commitments does not make for a productive writer.

But! I am attempting to let things go in order to write. I want my legacy to be a bloody book, not the fact that I was always up to date with the washing and dutifully scraped weetbix off the table every day. Even if no one reads it. Especially if no one reads it.

I'm writing a book.

Deciding to write a book is a culmination of lots of pieces falling into place: turning thirty and realising that there is no right time to do it; growing more confident in my ability as a writer; feeling that I have enough life experience to write with deeper insights; and wanting to leave a legacy for my children. Even if this book remains hidden in a folder on my desktop forever and never sees the light of day, I'll at least know that I've done it. God, writing fiction is hard work though. It stirs up every shred of self doubt that I have (I'm actually a terrible writer, no one will want to read this, Helen Garner would be horrified) and has become totally all encompassing. I've written plenty of journalistic work, memoir, essays and instructional writing, but never a full length novel so the pacing, structure and narrative is all new to me, and I don't like the feeling of not knowing what I'm doing!

I have been devouring books in a similar style, so lots of Tim Winton, Helen Garner, Liane Moriarty. My writing is quite Australian, female and literary, so I am paying more attention to the details and structure of my favourite books. Not to copy them but to learn from the masters. I'm highlighting turns of phrase and making notes on dialogue and syntax.

I am aiming for 80,000 words, which seems like a good length for a first draft. I am trying to get a draft down as fast as possible, then the real work begins in the revision. The editing is my favourite part of writing: polishing and refining, shifting sentences around and often, removing language that is too flowery and cliched. I'm not ready to talk about the content (I'm still at the point of slamming the laptop shut when Lee walks near anywhere near me when I'm writing) but it is Australian literary fiction about a young family. It's not autobiographical by any means, but there is a married couple, and there is a baby, so obviously there are parallels there with my own life.

I just ordered a pile of books on writing that I've been meaning to read for a while: Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and Stephen King's On Writing, plus Cate Kennedy's novel The World Beneath and short story collection Dark Roots. I dug out my old copy of John Marsden's Everything I Know About Writing which I bought at thirteen after doing a writing camp with him in Romsey. It's good to get a local perspective.

My rough aim is to enter the Vogel's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. I'm under no pretensions of winning, but it is for authors under 35 so it gives me five years to complete the damn book. Ideally I would finish it before then, but hey, I'm finally cutting myself some slack.

 

 

 

Monday.

IMG_9329 Jed is stuck in the doona cover. He and Archie are both laughing hysterically as Jed flails around, a tiny body stuck in a huge polka dot bag. “No help me! Jed okay!” as he clearly is not okay.

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Archie turns four tomorrow. He wants me to sing him to sleep, so we snuggle under the (aforementioned) doona and curl our fingers together. I start with It’s a Small World, which I sang for hours and hours when he was a tiny baby, slowly sure that I was destroying both of us. He never slept well. Even now, he bends into me with sleepy eyes, but still wriggling and jiggling his legs. “I am very very tired but my body won’t sleep.” I understand that feeling, of exhaustion tipping into jittery wakefulness. We do some deep breathing as I rub his back, calling sleep in.

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I eat baked chicken by the glow of the computer, shoveling and not tasting, but filling my hunger for words and news and stories and people.

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There is a black wallaby in our front yard. It stays stock still as the boys yell out to it. “Wobbily! Do you have a baby in your pocket!” It turns and flees back down the hill to the river, bouncing comically through the scrub.

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Someone has plastered the bridge and the roundabout with election campaign posters, or rather, anti-campaign posters. I feel a bubble of annoyance: surely this place, of all places, is above all that. I like to filter my news and thus my outrage.

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We are going to Bali on Saturday. I sit in front of the heater wearing three layers as I pack the boy’s gear: three shorts, three t-shirts, a huge bottle of sunscreen, thongs, hats. I only have one decent bikini; it might be time to accept that I am 30 and have birthed two children and get a one piece. But my rising feminist streak wants to wear a goddamn bikini until I am 80 and a wrinkling, sagging old broad.

I wrote a thing: Five common fears and how to deal with them

God knows creative types are more prone to mental health issues, amiright?!  Except maybe Beyonce, although she probably falls less under the category of 'Creative Type' and more under 'Goddess from another planet'. And who knows, maybe she's popping the anti-anxiety meds like the rest of us. Anyway, small business owners, creative people, hell, just WOMEN have a lot of shite to deal with, and the negative thoughts (AKA middle-of-the-night-fears that cause sleeplessness and existential angst) can come thick and fast.

After years (literally, like 10+ years) of seeing counsellors on and off, and a healthy addiction to books that fall into the 'Personal Growth' section, I have gathered some hot tips on how to deal when you can't shake the negativity.

More, here! And if you are a creative human who identifies as a female, consider joining the Creative Women's Circle. It is awesome. I am on the board. They do good things.

xx

Musings

6am. Archie bolts out of his bedroom, scratching the sleep out of his eyes. He slams his bedroom door with such ferocity that the picture frames rattle. “I’m so hungry, mum. I was just thinking about having weet bix with yoghurt instead of milk. Is that funny? Or not?” 9am. Jed is refusing shoes. He is full of rage, tears and snot and fury smearing his cherubic face into a snarl. I throw three pairs into the car and tell him a complicated story about Grandpa and motorbikes as I wrestle him into the carseat. He looks sadly out the window as we cross the bridge, still sobbing. “No ducks, mum.”

10am. The goat in our front yard nibbles the patch of Christmas lilies. We eyeball each other as I scull lukewarm tea on the deck. She uses her horn to scratch her matted fur, then turns her back and saunters down the hill.

12pm. I remember a conversation with the old owners of our house as I clamber up the hill to the washing line. “Snakes everywhere, ‘specially when it starts warming up. We found them in the compost bin, under the car. I stepped outside one day and a big tiger snake wrapped himself around my leg.” We laugh together but I feel cold as I scan the ground.

1pm. The program I use to do our business accounts is frozen. I slyly open up trashy websites and scroll through endless beauty advice. I contemplate dyeing my hair again, or eyelash extensions. Instead, I find a tube of hand cream in my bag and slather it on my dry, garden-worn knuckles.

3pm. I hear Jed calling me from the carpark as I walk up to kinder. “MUM’S CAR. Hi Mum. MUM!” He points frantically at all his friends, his teachers. His favourite ball. Showing me his day.

4.30pm. Archie is following me through the garden, holding the end of a hose. He is obsessed with rescue vehicles, outer space and knights. He pores over the birthday cake book. “I want the swimming pool for my party day, and the castle for my actual birthday, mum, okay?”

6pm. I clean the kitchen while the boys and their dad empty the bath of water, one splash at a time. Weetbix from this morning is cemented to the floor. I scratch my nails into it, then have a go with the Chux. “You could render a house with fucking Weetbix!”, I yell to Lee, not for the first time.

7.15pm. Archie and I lay in his bed, telling stories of knights who fly space rockets to rescue aliens. He smells of sweat and dinner. I pretend to tickle him but take a deep inhale behind his ear, my hand on his round belly.

8.30pm. I lay on my bed, idly scrolling through instagram. Other people’s kids. Impossibly clean rooms. Green smoothies. I wander into the kitchen and make sultana toast smeared thick with butter.

10pm. I shove my earplugs in and mutter “goodnight, honey. Love ya.” to Lee. His response is muffled but he pats me on the bum and we hook our feet together, facing away from each other as the twin glow from our Kindles joins the moonlight, and the world retreats into inertia.

 

 

 

Me, elsewhere: How to work from home with kids

On Mondays and Tuesdays, I work from home with Jed underfoot. I also manage to get quite a bit of work done from home with both kids around, too. It is bloody hard work, and I frequently feel like I am doing nothing right, but it is what works for our family at the moment. There has been a few times where I've hidden in the laundry (with two noisy boys banging on the door) to call a client or let Archie watch heaps of TV while I write an article, but we are continually getting better. I wrote an article on this very topic for the Creative Women's Circle blog.

 

The ‘juggle’ of working motherhood has become a bit of a cliché, but when your days involve filling sippy cups while simultaneously emailing clients on your phone and trying to stop a baby chewing through your laptop cord, it certainly does feel like a circus.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my husband and I run a handmade furniture business together, so we use a combination of grandparents, crèche and flexible work hours to care for our two young sons. This works well for us at the moment, but the wheels often fall off and I regularly find myself needing to work from home while the kids are around. It can be a challenge – there’s been plenty of of nappy changes on meeting room floors and client calls while playing Lego, but I’ve managed to come up with a mish-mash of solutions that work for our family, and may work for yours too!

Read the rest!

Me, elsewhere: How to run a business with your partner

I wrote an article earlier in the year about running a business with your partner. Lee and I are partners in life, business and crime (crimes include the illegal downloading of Mad Men, smoking pot while backpacking in Spain and occasionally letting Archie sit on our laps while we drive down the laneway. Gangsters!). There is no way I have all the answers, but we haven't killed each other yet, so we must be doing something right.

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For some couples, working together makes perfect sense. You have complementary skillsets, share a passion and vision and you obviously like them as a person and enjoy their company. Why not build on that and start a creative business together?

If you can make it work, setting up shop with your favourite person allows the kind of freedom, flexibility and work-life balance that creative people dream about. My husband and I run a bespoke timber furniture and joinery company, which allows us the flexibility to raise our young sons together. However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing and there has been plenty of roaring arguments negotiations to get to where we are now. Here’s our advice to keep your business and relationship on track and out of the divorce court.

Read the rest!

Me, elsewhere : How to hire your first employee

I wrote an article recently for the very excellent Creative Women's Circle website about hiring your first employee. We actually have a couple of guys working for the business now and while it was a very positive decision for us (I now even get to see Lee sometimes!), we had no idea how to actually hire someone. Here's my hot tips...

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So, you’ve built your business up from scratch and poured your own blood, sweat, tears and cash into it. You have more work than you can handle and are in need of help. If you’re a one-lady operation, bringing someone else into your business can be daunting, especially if you are used to doing everything yourself.

The first step is realising that you can’t do it all, which can be both a revelation and a frustration. The second step? Relinquishing control and realising that hiring the right person will save you time, money and stress!

Read the rest here!