Feeling Retro?

There is something about this time of year that encourages reflection. It is normal to want to spend a moment or two reviewing the year that was and thinking about plans and hopes for the year ahead. This pocket of reflection allows for consideration of personal and professional goals, and it is good to be able to think about what has been accomplished. It is easy to get caught up in the doing sometimes.

Lately I have been enjoying various posts from some of my favourite bloggers about their blog and book highlights of 2017. At times it can feel that there is so much content out there that it is hard to simply stop and revisit those snippets of writing that really had an impact throughout the year, and the recaps of popular posts are a handy reminder. Some of my favourite book bloggers have posted about a year in first lines (including Whispering Gums and Lisa Hill) which makes me think about the year in reading.

But what of my own year in writing?

A couple of months back I sat down with a notebook and thought about how I was travelling with my writing. I took into account what I had written, what I considered finished and what I still wanted to write. It didn’t take long to assess where I was, or to plan out what I would like to write in the short to medium term, but I found it to be a worthwhile exercise. It can be easy to get caught up in the doing and to lose a sense of direction.

This quick check-in helped to refocus my attention on the areas that I wanted to work on. It is not a one-off event, nor should it be yearly. It is something that I need to do on a regular basis, especially when I feel that I am creating but not completing, or maybe not even creating and I need to revisit what I have already done to help cheer me on for the next phase.

How often do you check in with your creative goals?

[Photo: some of the many signs at Portland, NSW]

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Looking Forward Looking Back*

With the end of the year approaching at speed, my mind tends to busy itself with thoughts about what I would like to work towards in the new year, as well as what was achieved in the past 12 months. It is too early for New Year resolutions, and I have learnt that having grand plans to change my life significantly as at 1 January tends to end in disappointment. What works better for me is to have a list of goals to work towards, with timeframes if appropriate, that I can refer to as needed. Although it is only early December, one of my friends was telling me recently of a raft of things that she has planned for 2017 which made me feel a bit remiss as I haven’t had or made the time to do so.

But first I wanted to outline a few of the significant changes that I’ve made in my life this year from a creativity perspective. Once changes are made it can be easy to overlook them as they become the norm, but creating change can be difficult and the effort required is worthy of acknowledgement. The top three changes I have made in terms of my creativity are:

  1. Honouring creative time: having rituals has helped this change. I write each morning before I head to work, and this alone reminds me that writing matters to me. I have also put time aside for writing and turned up at my desk. In a world of distractions and other demands, this is harder than it would seem but reminding myself that it is impossible to edit a blank page helps to get me writing.
  2. Making time to write. One of my best ideas this year was to take advantage of flexible working options in my job to book in a dozen days off, scattered throughout the year. These days have saved my sanity and contributed to greater creative output in various ways. I have also used these days to go on adventures which have in turn fed my creative output and my spirit. It has been a critical change and I have booked a stack of days for 2017 as it has been beneficial in so many ways.
  3. Blogging. I had wanted to blog for a long time before I took the plunge earlier this year. The main impetus was that I thought it would make me write more, and write consistently, and this has definitely been the case. The benefits to blogging are numerous and something that I will explore further in another post. Apart from the output – idea creation, writing, editing – there is also the feedback and interaction with other bloggers and readers which has been an absolute highlight of my year.

So with this creativity behind me, what will I be working towards in 2017? Again I will stick with three main thoughts. 

  1. Finishing the novel. I am in the edit phase at the moment and whilst there is work to do I am chipping away at it.
  2. Short stories. I want to continue writing short stories after polishing a few of them this year. There is an online course next year through the NSW Writers’ Centre which includes developing stories and critiquing to the point of submission. I have enrolled and am ready to take my stories to the next level.
  3. Keep having creative adventures. That might sound trite, but by making a conscious effort to pay more attention to what is happening around me, my creative output has significantly increased. This hasn’t just been blog based, although regular posting and the alphabetical adventures of I Spy have helped. I feel more engaged with what is happening, and more alert to creative opportunities.

Have you been reflecting on your creative output as the year end approaches? And do you have any creative plans for 2017?

*Taken from song title by Slim Dusty

[Photo: Newport Beach]

 

Not Telling

One of my favourite songs is ‘They Thought I Was Asleep‘ by Paul Kelly. There are three kids in the backseat of a car, one grizzling until the eldest child tells him ‘he’d better quit it or die’. They are travelling home, worn out after a day in the country playing with their cousins. One child wakes in the dark, the car moving through the night, and senses something big was happening. Something he didn’t understand and wasn’t meant to know about.

He hears his parents talking, his Dad says something and his Mum begins to cry. ‘No more words then, just soft sobs and my head began to throb, I just lay there playing dog breathing slow and deep, they thought I was asleep.’

I love what this song evokes, the light touches of childhood, the perplexity around his mother’s tears, his father’s too, not knowing why, feigning sleep.

As he sings I’m in the backseat of the car, wedged into the warmth of my siblings, vinyl bench seat beneath my legs, crocheted rug pulled across the three of us, staring out into the black night. Eyes turned up to the night sky, seeking out the moon which was guiding us home, picking out the shapes of trees with branches silvered in moonlight. Sensing something was amiss but not knowing what. Snippets of my memory, real and imagined, overlaid onto the lyrics of a song.

This is what we do, essentially, with songs, stories, artworks and poetry that have a particular resonance, or evoke a personal reaction. There might be familiarity too, or a synchronicity of time or place that embeds a response. It can be difficult to separate the personal at times, to peel back the layers of why a song, in this instance, pulls me up whenever I hear it.

In Kelly’s excellent mongrel memoir How To Make Gravy, a wide-ranging read mixing personal and family history with insights into his creative process and influences, there is a section about this song. One of his band members asked him a couple of times about the family in the song: did the parents break up, was one of them seriously ill, why was the mother crying? Kelly’s response: he didn’t know. He could recall travelling home as a child, pretending to sleep so that he would be carried inside, ‘floating across the threshold’, being gently placed into bed. The rest he made up.

This is what the act of creating is about, not telling. Being more of a conduit than providing an explanation for everything.

Are there any songs that make you pause for thought or reflection?

[Photo: dining room table at Wyalong Museum]