Fashion Friday – Guest Post

Today, I’m guest posting at the excellent and varied Sappho’s Torque blog, which is written by author Angelique Jamail. Angelique has recently released her first novel Finis, so I’m delighted that she has taken time out of her busy schedule to host something from me.

Somewhat out of the usual cast of posts here, I’m writing about my take on Fashion, so please do pop by and feel free to cast mud at my opinions (or cheer them on, alternatively, and much more pleasantly!)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Thanks!

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Dinosaur unearthed, inspiration refreshed

New species of giant dinosaur unearthed

I realise that this is perhaps a little off-topic for my blog of late, but I just had to share this wonderful new discovery. They have found a new dinosaur which they have called Dreadnoughtus schrani, and it’s a seriously big beast. As the scientist in the video says – “It had a really big butt.” 😉

New species of giant dinosaur unearthed.

What I love about this is that even now, when we think we know so much about the world, there is still something as gigantic as this to discover. Writing fantasy or sci-fi is really about imagining new worlds for me, and if we start to think that there is nothing left to explore and discover, inspiration can evaporate.

Knowing that there are still 26m long dinosaurs out there to find is a truly wonderful thing. 🙂

Transitions

One of the greatest challenges I seem to face as a writer is managing transitions. As I work and have a toddler, my ‘spare’ time is intensely, painfully precious, and the pressure to use it fruitfully is keen. However, my frustration is that my creativity doesn’t seem to want to work like that. It is a lazy beast, and doesn’t respond well to whipping. In fact, it flips its top lip and sneers at the concept. It needs time to lumber thoughtfully into it’s stride, and I just don’t have that luxury. We need to go from 0 to 60 in under an hour.

My beast may look a little like this, but he is elusive… Image by Sargon the Dark at DeviantArt

I feel like when those opportunities to write do come along, I should be sitting down and pounding out as many hundred words as I can, but somehow mundane things keep getting in the way.
Following a terrific suggestion from readers of this blog, I carry a little notebook with me at all times, and that has been wonderful for poetry and jotting down ideas as they occur. That little notebook is like the slice of ‘me’ that remains just ‘me’, without any other hats heavy with responsibility. However, ideas are building up in there without the time to bring them to their full dreadful glory.
Any other suggestions as to how to manage these transitions better? To go from ‘worker’ to ‘Mum’ to ‘Writer’ in the blink of en eye?

Some possibly useful links I’ve found:
You may not be able to force creativity, but you can certainly invite it.

You cannot force creativity. You must force creativity.

The Power of Forced Creativity

Cynicism

Hi! It seems like ages since I last posted. That’s partly because life is, as ever, a merry-go-round that’s spinning slightly too fast for comfort. Partly because I’ve been feeling just a tiny bit cynical about the cyber-spin of social media: the flash card life of Twitter, Facebook and even this blog. I’m sure I’ll dive in again soon as whole-heartedly as ever, but for now here’s a few lines I penned on the subject.

 

Strut upon the stage

of social media

An electronic confection

as flimsy and addictive

as spun sugar.

.

Masked and blinded

shout into the darkness

Here is my soul

but not my real face –

Desperate for approval

.

Cyber cocooned

the intangible audience

Each one misled

A galaxy of unfound stars

Wit and thought pulped –

by repetition.

Mum trumps all

I don’t normally write about my private life on here, (other than my private creative endeavors of course), but this week is different. This week my child had gastroenteritis serious enough to get us admitted to hospital.

He is starting to turn the corner, I hope, but it has really brought home to me some truths about being a mother like a snowball to the face.

Firstly, there is nothing more important than your child, especially when they are sick. I love my partner dearly, and so I almost hesitate to type that, but being an adult he can look after himself, rationalise things, and he can seek help and resources outside me. My bub, especially as he can’t speak more than a few words, is entirely dependent on us to help him. We are his entire world. Sometimes all you can do is cuddle him. My professional work and my creative work, come so far down the list of priorities in comparison that they don’t even rate a number on the list.

The other thing is that gender equality and that delicate balance we weave as joint partners in bringing up this little person go completely out the window. My child is no respecter of politics, or even other people’s feelings. All week he has pushed his father away (and is grandfather is out of the question), because he needs ME. Intensely, 24 hours, and in close contact at all times. It’s been hard on my partner to be left feeling second best, especially as they have such fun when he is well.

Someone at my work recently suggested that a colleague who was going on maternity leave at the end of the month would have a lovely relaxing time when the baby comes, reading books and putting her feet up. I confess that I did have to pipe up and put him straight – about the intensity of the relationship – about how it is hard to explain what you do all day, but your days are completely full – about how my child was so demanding when he was tiny that I lost weight as I had no chance to eat.

One of our reviewers (Ella Dee) for ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’ said that as she is not a mother, reading the book was like reading science fiction, the worlds of mothers’ real and honest experiences were so different from her own. I can completely agree with that. I don’t think you can have any real idea of the intensity of the relationship until you are caught up in its whirlwind.

Hopefully this particular whirlwind will set us down somewhere a little sunnier and calmer soon.

Early morning haiku

I’ve been getting up ridiculously early to get to work lately. Here are some of the words which have spilled out of my addled brain in those dark hours.

 

Black dawn silhouettes

The hoot of a waiting train

Square of lilac sky

.

Glimpsed from a rocking train

Balloons hang improbably

Fire shines within

.

Indigo morning

Cold light pools at the station

Runner shuffles past

.

Hard white stars greet me

the air cools my sandalled feet

Hurrying to work

.

Musselshell sky

Fleeting shadow puppets

Birds in bare branches

 

Giving yourself a Green Light

ImageHave you heard of slashies?

It’s a label that is being attached to people who do multiple things, typically actor / writer / dancer / superheroine, etc.

Somehow I’ve managed to become a slashie, and I can tell you, at times that slash feels like a physical one. Personally, I’m a writer/ mother/ landscape architect. But with the writer part, there also comes the baggage of writer / publicist / marketer, which I’m really not all that keen on. There are other slashes I could add, but let’s not go crazy here. Yet. Going crazy might let some of the things I’m balancing topple.

The other day, all my slashes were starting to wear me down a bit, I confess. I think particularly because I have a little one, time out without him is so precious that I feel I have to stuff in something useful. I’m new at this parenting lark, so I guess I’m still trying to find the right balance, but it had gone too far into the “All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl,” territory.

So I chucked it all in, and in my precious free time, ripped into the garden. I pulled out weeds, snapped dead branches, and stuffed them enthusiastically into the green bin. I clipped and pruned and freed poor light starved plants. It was tiring, but so cathartic. At work, I try to remind myself that I need to get up from my computer and go for a walk in the park at lunchtime. It may not be directly productive, but I’ve come to the conclusion that some green time is like sleep.

You need some time out, preferably in nature, to recharge.

It’s actually one of the principles that they use in Bhutan to measure how happy their population is, and they are a country taking happiness seriously, since they use it instead of GDP to see how they are doing as a nation.

My best ideas usually come not when I’m slogging away at my keyboard, but when I’m idle – although sometimes that mental idleness has to be forced upon me, like when walking with my bub in his pusher, or when the trains have been cancelled. I understand that it’s actually a recognised phenomenon, which has something to do with allowing the right brain to have a bit of a kick outside the controlling influence of that stern task-master, the left brain.

So if I have a New Year’s resolution, it’s to give myself the Green Light. ‘Go’ to getting out there: ‘Go’ to a bit more balance: and ‘Go’ to some guilt free idleness. 🙂

Have you resolved to be more idle too? Would love to chat about the idea.

Guest post at the ‘Writer’s Shack’

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Guest post at the ‘Writer’s Shack’

I’m Guest Posting today over at ‘The Writer’s Shack‘ which is Riley Banks’ blog, with a bit of a grumble about Amazon. Riley makes a very pertinent comment on the post, about how non-US authors are treated. If enough people grumble, could it result in some changes to Amazon? You never know the strength of people power….

Fighting the Boredom Beast

office_boredomI’m back at work now, pretending to be all grown up. My partner is taking some time off his work to be a full-time Dad, which is wonderful for us all. I can go to work knowing that my lad (who we have dubbed The Beast) is going to have a fun day, and my partner gets some time with our little guy while he’s still little, which is something I suspect many dads miss out on.Sounds great, right?

It is, and yet, and yet…

I suppose it’s part of human nature to not be able to bask in the glow of contentment for long. Don’t get me wrong – I know I am incredibly lucky, in so many ways which I won’t enumerate here. But take yesterday, as an example. The chaps went to Healesville Sanctuary, and had a lovely time looking at Australian animals in the sunshine. I was bored out of my brain behind a computer terminal. Work just isn’t that interesting. It’s a ridiculously middle class, privileged viewpoint, but I’m interested in discussing what the implications of that boredom are.

I remember quite clearly that in all honesty, I was pretty bored some days when I was at home full time with The Beast, as well. Am I easily bored? My mother would say so, but left to my own devices, I am more than competent at filling in a day. There are an awful lot of things which I’d like to be doing, which engage me and which I can totally lose myself in. The experts apparently call this state ‘flow’.

I watched a documentary on the weekend about the pursuit of happiness, and how having a profession where you are in a state of ‘flow’ much of the time is a big help. All of us who write, or paint, or draw, know that blissful feeling of being carried away to the extent that you forget to eat, and hours zoom by win the blink of an eye. Some people get it through running, or cooking. It is, in many ways, the antithesis of boredom. Instead of time dragging, it evaporates. You emerge tousled, exhausted, and yet joyful.

It’s for this reason that I can’t take on board the prescribed wisdom that to write, you must do so every day, whether you feel like it or not. For me, creativity is a great form of pleasure, and one which should be indulged as a spoilt child – frequently, frivolously, and without imposed rules and schedules.

What are your thoughts? Is being bored a privileged position? Is it necessary to experience boredom to appreciate the joy of ‘flow’?

Matter of Opinion

I’m back at work now, which is odd. It’s rather like everyone has been in stasis for the year while so many things have changed in my own life.

There is one person who had some news for me though – he and his partner will be expecting a baby about the same time that my lad turns one. We had a chat about it over lunch one day, as even though he’s already a father, it’s been a long time since he had a baby around. And I’m embarrassed to say that I ended up giving him a bit of an ear bashing. Probably not guaranteed to win friends and influence people when you’re newly back into the fold.

What got me going was his attitude to having a baby. He started spouting opinions like “I think women who don’t breastfeed are just bottle feeding for their own convenience,” and “I don’t believe in sending a child to be cared for by strangers.” He’s entitled to his opinion, of course, and to express his thoughts about raising his own child,  but what got my back up is that both these positions cannot help but have serious implications for his partner, unless she tells him to go jump. If she shares them – fine. It seemed to me that he was making decisions for her which would affect her body, identity and career, and that’s not on in my book.

So I told him what I thought, and knew from other mothers I’d been speaking to. At length, although thankfully not at volume as I’m pretty quiet.

opinionated_people1256328679

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not always forcing my own ideas down other people’s throats, and I sincerely hope that he didn’t take it in that spirit. That said, when I was about nine, a woman came to the house to ask my mother’s opinions about development of our area. I had thoughts of my own, and let her know them. As she left, she said to my mother, “She’s very…articulate, isn’t she?” Mum decoded this euphemism to mean that I was highly opinionated.

Which leads me to ponder the different books I’ve worked on. My novel, ‘The Artemis Effect’, and the short story collection I’m working on are just fun for me. They’re escapism – a telling of the tales which bubble up in my head. But the Anthology, ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’ is different. It’s an honest account of motherhood – sharing the real story, from real women. Someone commented on this blog recently that there are strong parallels between my novel and the anthology, in that they both deal with some of the same issues. This is true, but more of a coincidence than anything else.

The Anthology is where my passionate, opinionated nature erupts forth. I am, as the lady years ago noted, at my most articulate when moved by a subject I care deeply about. It’s a very good thing that there are so many other women involved in ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’, as otherwise it could become my personal rant, and as I’m pretty new to this whole motherhood thing, that could end up being spectacularly ill-informed! It is deliberately diverse, so that we can all have a rant! 🙂

Hopefully, hearing the stories and opinions of so many different people will allow people reading the book to make up their own minds. It’s a complicated and often ambiguous area, and no-one should have to have a single person’s views forced upon them. Fingers crossed, the partner of my workmate will be thinking for herself.