The other night I made a very healthy vegetable stir-fry for dinner and, while feeling pretty pleased that my gut flora would eat well in the morning, I was still a bit peckish. Suddenly I remembered I had an unopened box of BBQ Shapes in the pantry. I never eat BBQ Shapes, I don’t really know why I bought them, but they became my sole focus for the next two or three minutes.
Knowing they were not an ideal post-dinner snack, I decided just to have a look to see what the best before date was (I knew they had been in there a long time). It was the next day. Not the next week, or month, but best before the very next day. Clearly it was a sign that I should eat them.
I see signs all the time. I make decisions on signs, some a little more important than if I should allow myself to snack after dinner. I have to confess, I’m pretty happy with where those decisions have got me so far. While I’m not exactly where I’d like to be, I’m also not worried that ignoring the signs would have got me any closer at this point in my life.
But something about the BBQ Shapes ‘sign’ worried me.
The brain is a much more powerful thing than we ever give it credit for. I’m always setting it tasks which it consistently delivers on after spending a bit of time off in mysterious-brain-world. I can’t help but wonder if nearly a year ago when I bought those BBQ shapes, my brain took note of the best before date? Maybe there was a reminder set at that point, and when it did exactly what brains do best, I interpreted it as a sign?
How many of my other signs are actually super brain? And should I be worried? I’m a ridiculously logical person, so my normal brain always gets the last say over signs or super brain (for example, I didn’t eat the whole packet of BBQ shapes). But for me a little bit of magic disappeared from the world when I thought that my amazing sign was actually just amazing biology.
I guess that means the best thing to do would be the other thing my brain is really good at; forget about it. However the rest of the BBQ shapes might just find their way into the compost bin instead of me. I’m sure my microbiome will thank me.
I’ve got terrible facial recognition. I might know if I have seen a face before, but when seen out of context I just assume they are from the bus or a former workplace. I actually did a facial recognition test and got the exact average score, so all I can assume is lots of other people are terrible with faces too.
Last weekend I discovered that my next door neighbour works in my office. There are only about 50 people in my office, and I’ve been there for over six months. I think that gives you some idea of how bad my facial recognition is. (No wonder he never waved at me when I spotted him from my driveway – I must always be blanking him at work).
This got me thinking about my writing. I rarely, if ever, describe what my characters look like. I have an idea, but unless it is necessary to the story, I’ll let you fill in their height, weight, hair and eye colour. Obviously these things are just not that important to me. I would love to know if writers who do describe their characters in lots of detail (to the point where we even know what clothes they are wearing) what are they like with facial recognition?
Oddly, I see ‘faces’ where there are none. Below are two recent examples of faces I managed to capture, but I see them in trees, stones on the footpath, and in clouds. The one thing all these faces have in common is that they are non-human. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that in my writing I love to describe my monsters.
Relationships with animals are unlike anything we experience with humans. I’m not going to say better or worse, but to me they feel magical. This seems doubly true when those relationships are with wild animals. I had this with a local magpie who I called The Gardner.
Ours started off, as many relationships do, as one of convenience. When I mowed the lawn The Gardner would come down and pick off all the bugs I disturbed. Apologies for over-generalising to the oligochaetes, but worms are a silly bunch of critters, did you know they wriggle up when you cut the grass? The Gardner knew.
Later, when I was digging out the lawn to put in as many trees and bushes as possible, The Gardner would hang around because he knew that whenever I unearthed lawn beetle larvae I would throw them to him. Eventually he would sit right next to me while I dug the hole so I wouldn’t miss any.
Now I think The Gardner is dead. He has not come down for nearly two weeks. He does not swoop past me when I come home from the bus stop, brushing his wings against my shoulder to let me know he’s there. He doesn’t sit at my back door when I turn on the lights in the morning. He doesn’t do his little dinosaur run from the backyard when he hears me open the door.
I’d like to believe that The Gardner has just run away, and is making friends with other mowing/digging bipeds somewhere else safe, but in my heart I know that is not the case. I miss him terribly. I had no idea what a ray of happiness he was in my day until he went away.
Thank you for sharing your time with me Gardner, I miss you. 🙁
It was tempting to take another week off, if only to avoid the 200+ spam emails that have come in over the last month, but I suspect that if I didn’t come back today I might never. So here I am!
Typically the New Year brings a lot of reflection and self-analysis; questions about where one wants to be at the end of the year. Well I took a break from that too. Don’t get me wrong, I made a list, but I made it far more open than just what I wanted to achieve this year, it was what I wanted to achieve ever. No time limits, no deadlines, no sense of failure to be felt if it wasn’t ticked off by the end of 2016.
In fact the things are not even written up in a way conducive to being ticked off. I wrote things sideways, upside down, in circles, along the edge of the page… I let my imagination run riot and I dared to dream big.
I think it is my favourite list ever. And there is a lot to be said for starting the year with a sense of hope and inspiration instead of feeling the pressure of self-imposed expectations.
I hope you year has started with positive feelings too. See you next week.
I’ve been reading a few philosophical texts recently that have talked of living in the now. I’ve always found the whole now/future thing to be a balance that I never knew if I was getting right. There is no doubt that I’m more of a living for the future kind of gal, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe I’ve got that wrong?
Living in the now isn’t just about cleaning your floors now because you can, it is about really embracing life and going for that long walk when it is a beautiful day instead of prepping for the team meeting you need to present at on Monday. It is about spending your savings on that computer that will help you get on (and off) line faster so you have more of your time back.
I always thought of living for the now as being a life where your mortgage doesn’t get paid, you retire with no savings and one day everything you didn’t plan for comes crashing down on you. Maybe that is not so.
I’m not an existentialist, nor do I think I ever can be, but I do think I need to take a leaf out of their book. If I got hit by a bus tomorrow (more likely now they have moved the bus stop next to the part of the road where everyone speeds) what would I regret leaving behind? Is that the ‘now’ I need to work on?
Perhaps the best way for me to work this out is to live a week of questioning what is the now thing to do? The past five years feel like one very long year, I’ve spent nearly all my time on work, I don’t want the next five years to feel the same. After all, who knows when that bus is going to lose control.
I’ve just spent a day at home alone writing. Inspired by the authors at Adelaide Writers Week, I took a day off work to write. By 3pm I was feeling the need to get some words out, and I don’t mean on the page. I limit my conversations with the cat for sanity reasons, so I’ve spoken aloud no more than about three sentences. It isn’t natural.
I’ve contrived a reason for going to the shop, which was hard to do because the milk and bread supplies are all topped up. I hope the checkout assistant is feeling chatty, I have about 5,000 words to spend while I’m out.
This does make me wonder how sustainable a writing life would be for me. My day job requires that I talk (and listen) to people all day. How could I transition to a job where I interact with no-one outside my own head?
Maybe that is why so many writers have speaking engagements and run writing workshops; it’s not about making extra money, it’s about interacting with others. I guess the other option is that I could set up lunch dates each day. Hmmm, I might try that with the next day off.
I didn’t start out wanting to be a novelist. Originally I wanted to make movies. As a kid I loved films. I loved getting lost in them, it was a place where magic was real and dreams came true. It was only as I got older that I realised books did this as well (better even).
I worked out pretty quickly that I didn’t want to direct movies, act in them, or produce them; I just wanted to come up with the ideas. Movies back in the 80s and 90s were very limited by budgets, which is why I thought about writing books instead. There were no limitations on the special effects or cast size in books.
Leap forward twenty-plus years and I’m still writing these unlimited-budget-special-effects stories, but very few of them are getting out to the big wide world to be read. I am finally conceding that perhaps what I find interesting and funny does not appeal to the average person. Which begs the question; how much should this realisation shape my next steps?
It all comes down to why I write. The past five years have slowly killed my dreams of being published to the point where I can live off my writing. I’ve known too many people now who have been published by big publishing houses and they are still working in ‘temporary’ jobs to pay the bills. Mix with that the fact that I actually like my day job, and enjoy the people I work with and suddenly living off my writing becomes less of a goal.
When I think about why I sit down at this computer for so many hours, the same truth comes back to me; I like stories. I like to live in a world of my own making and explore all the what-if’s. I would love to have others read my work too, but that is just a bonus. I am my first audience, and I love to watch the stories unfold.
So I know I will continue to write, and I’m comfortable with the idea that I’ll write the stories I want to read. Who knows, maybe now that CGI is so cheap I could turn my hand to a special-effects script after all? It is all about getting the story out.
I work in the knowledge management area, so it is not uncommon, when I’m stressed or busy at work, for me to dream about categorising bits of my life; adding metadata to my cat, clothes and friends. The dreams don’t necessarily make a lot of sense, but they have their knowledge nicely tagged and ordered.
This got me thinking about what life might be like if I was to work as a writer – would I dream about my characters? I’ve only ever once dreamed about my characters, it was when I was nearing the end of the first draft of Paragon and I dreamed of the biosphere and saw two of my characters walk past. I was so excited I woke up.
When I wake from a metadata dream I want to hit myself in the head, and feel cheated that I have not been paid for the extra few hours of work I put in. I don’t think I would ever feel that way about dreams of my characters.
Thanks to our Prime Minister, I could potentially be facing another thirty years of metadata dreams. If I am going to be dreaming about work for all that time, I think I need to find something a bit more dream-worthy. Perhaps it is time for my mid-life crisis to really kick in?
When I was a kid ‘Choose Life’ t-shirts were all the rage and I think I even owned one. Now, some thirty years later, I really understand what it means. And just for the record, I don’t ever recall seeing a ‘Choose Metadata’ t-shirt.
Whenever the Christian festivals roll around I always feel a bit older and crotchetier. Easter particularly brings this out in me. I’m not a strongly Christian person, but it offends me on behalf of those who do strongly believe when hot cross buns come out in January. I think it is wrong when I see kids walking around the supermarket eating Easter eggs three months before Easter.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse I got inundated with toy catalogues in the past four weeks. Apparently the health conscious parent should not give their child chocolate eggs at Easter, they should give toys. Seriously?!? How about you give them an egg? Hard boiled. They can paint it.
We all love to watch the excitement of children going on an Easter egg hunt, but where is that excitement if they have been eating chocolate eggs all year? Are we not capable of a little self control? We already eat non-seasonal food artificially grown or imported from thousands of miles away. Can we really not go without chocolate eggs and hot cross buns for 10 months of the year?
Regardless of your beliefs, I think the religious holidays are a good time to consider your faith, to explore your spirituality and get in touch with a side of you that is not about work or homemaking.
I hope this Easter you get to share quality time with those you love, and look into yourself and find peace with who you are and your place in the world. And yes, you can eat the hot cross buns and chocolate eggs now.
Sometimes when I haven’t written for a long time I get scared that I’ll forget how to write. Up until now it hasn’t been the case. My little absence, once over, had tended to make me a better writer, if anything. But this break feels different.
Even when I don’t write, I still usually think about my stories. I imagine what the characters are going to do next, I picture myself writing the story in the future, sometimes I even get new ideas that I try to remember for later (but never do).
This time I seem to have relished the break so much that I have completely cut myself off from my stories. There was only one time in all of January when I found myself thinking about a story; that was in the middle of the night when the temperature didn’t dip below 25’C and there was something outside the window making noises that sounded like they might have been coming from an alien. My mind wandered a lot that night.
Even now, as I sit at the computer with hours of free time stretching out before me for the first time in weeks, my brain is blank. I don’t even know which story I want to work on, let alone what I want to happen next.
This time I really am worried that I have taken too much of a break. This time I feel it is possible that I can’t go back. Even worse, it is not so much that I have forgotten how to write, but for the first time in longer than I can remember, I just don’t want to.