To be or not to be

I always a struggle a bit at this time of the year. I think it has to do with being on holidays. The heat doesn’t help and neither does the availability of excellent white wine. It all contributes to a state of ennui (one of my very favourite words) whereby I am reduced to reading trashy books and sleeping a lot. It’s fun, but I also worry about the fact that I’m not making any progress towards my goals.

Actually, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really have any concrete goals, so I’m not even sure what I was hoping to achieve last year, but I’m plagued with the idea that I should have made more progress. Someone once told me that I was an over-achiever which I find hilarious as I’m chronically lazy. I tell myself that it’s okay to have a rest and a break, but I worry about my inability to focus on anything or make a decision about what I’d like to achieve in the next 12 months.

It’s a first world problem I know, but I suspect that by not setting any goals I am effectively protecting myself from failing. It makes perfect sense that if I don’t try, I can’t possibly fail, but I can still fool myself into thinking that a brilliant future awaits me if only I had the time and money to pursue my dreams. 

The reality is that the only thing holding me back (apart from fear of failure) is deciding where I should focus my efforts. It would be great if a great big sign descended from the sky to let me know what I should do, what things I might find interesting, but not too difficult to master. Alas, there is no-one to make such a prophecy so I’ll have to resort to trial and error.

I’ll be going back to work on Monday so no doubt I’ll be too busy to worry about re-inventing myself or deciding who or what to be. Once again, busyness will be my saviour and I can go back to daydreaming about writing that best-selling non-fiction book on a topic yet to be decided.

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Getting Feedback Can Hurt—Here’s How to Ask for It

Here’s a lovely piece that I thought was worth sharing. I still cringe when I think of the time that I corrected the grammar in a poem lovingly presented to me by my partner. I’m still wary about giving feedback and always try to be both kind and constructive, but this article gives me more options.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zz-roger_0991By L. Roger Owens

Asking for feedback on your writing is a delicate dance, the steps tricky to learn, as I was reminded when my eight year-old read me her story the other day.

She ran to me with the unlined pages clutched in her hand. I could see how her impossibly small scrawl sloped down the right side of the page; she had to tilt her head slowly, yoga-like, as she read. The story was a barely veiled display of her deep wish to join the family of a wealthy friend. A protagonist (with my daughter’s name) and seven siblings (one of whom is named after her best friend, their parents named for the friend’s parents), have magical powers, but the use of these powers is stymied when one of the siblings falls from a tree and shatters his arm.

She finished with a smile, and as she held…

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Dear Muse

A lot has been written over the years about the difficulty of getting started, or maybe getting re-inspired after a hiatus, but nevertheless this post really resonated with me. I am only too conscious that reading about writing is also just another form of procrastination but it’s more fun than doing the ironing.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

mulloyBy Marla Mulloy

Write a letter to your muse, my writer friend said, in answer to my sad, self-loathing, whine about the writing life.  So I did.  I was mad.

Dear Muse,

I haven’t heard from you for a long time.  I wonder, are you having a nice time on your little holiday?  You must be having a holiday; you are certainly not paying any attention to me.  Perhaps you are on a beach somewhere in the sun, reading something that someone has actually written?  Or maybe you are simply watching people cavort in the sand or wander by the ice cream store, bored silly by my procrastination and delusion.   I realize I wasn’t the easiest charge you’ve had.  I realize I was hard to motivate, boring to watch.  Most likely, you are in my living room sitting in that chair that I placed near the small table where I…

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The unfaithful blogger

It’s nearly the end of July and I’m conscious that it’s over a month since I posted on my blog. I feel a bit bad about that. I know that I usually use the excuse of “I’ve been busy” when I haven’t posted for a while and although this is true, there are plenty of times when I’ve been busy but I’ve still managed to write fairly regularly.

The real truth is that when I stop writing I can almost feel my confidence draining away. Those mean little voices in your head say things like “what were you thinking? Why would anyone be even vaguely interested in anything you have to say?” I’m not sure if you suffer from the same problem, but once I stop writing I find it increasingly hard to convince myself that I have anything new or interesting to offer.

On the other hand, I still find articles I’d like to share and I feel that perhaps someone out there in the world just needs a little boost, so today I’d like to share this article from the Book of Life on the Origins of Confidence. 

There are a couple of ideas in this article that I especially like. One is the notion that we have a variety of voices in our heads that speak to us. Some are kind and gentle and some are mean and critical, but we can choose to listen to the supportive voices. Typically this is the voice of a beloved parent or perhaps grandparent. This is the voice you should listen to. This voice doesn’t tell you that you are awesome. It just tells you that you are capable and you should give it a try. It’s the voice of the friend who knows your innermost secrets and loves you without judgement.

The other idea is that if things aren’t going to well at work you shouldn’t assume that this makes you unloveable or less of a person. The degree to which we succeed in our endeavours at work or at home isn’t related to what kind of person we are. It’s just work.

I heard a nice quote the other day that said that people don’t remember us for what we do or say, but for how we make them feel. I think this means that if we are kind to other people (and ourselves), that’s how we’ll be remembered. I like that idea.

He said to honor ourselves

Last year I did a podcasting course with Valorie and was surprised to see her name pop up when I was reading some book reviews on Goodreads. She’s a lovely writer so I thought I’d share this post. I was also interested learn that we have similar backgrounds, having both worked in instructional design and in the photographic industry.

Books Can Save A Life

taughfalls Somewhere near Lake of the Coheeries, a place that can have cruel winters but is nevertheless enchanting. (Photo by A. Hallinan)

New Year’s weekend I retrieved from the closet the boxes of letters I’d saved from my younger days, back when people took up pen and paper to communicate. I thought it was about time to sort, organize, and purge.

I’m not sure why I saved these missives, but I’m glad I did, especially now that I write memoir. Picking up an old letter and hearing the voice of a friend from long ago can take me back in an instant and call up a stream of long-lost memories. After decades, I can still recognize a friend’s distinctive handwriting before I even begin to read the letter.

You may be familiar with the mega bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by

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Back in the land of the living

Here I am, back in the land of the living, or more accurately back in blogging land. I’ve been reading a few posts about how to revive a much neglected blog (like this one) and how to get back to doing what you really love doing but for some reason have stopped doing!

The most helpful advice was to stop being precious about what you write. Just write something, anything to get you back in the groove and back into the habit of writing and posting.

Taking that first tiny step is hard though. Every time I thought about writing a post I thought about whether it would be useful, interesting, or even just plain coherent. In desperation I’ve taken the somewhat radical and counter-intuitive step of disconnecting this blog with all of my other social media platforms (i.e. FaceBook, Twitter etc) in the hope that a degree of anonymity will give me the freedom to say what I really want to say. I want to quieten down the inner editor, the little voice that insists that every word is rubbish.

If you’ve subscribed to this blog in good faith, then quite possibly you are a lovely person who shares my view that being creative is hard but kind of unavoidable. I really do believe that there’s a creative person hiding inside everyone, just waiting for the chance to express themselves. My particular passion is writing, but for you it might be art, music or painting. Or cooking, or needlework, or anything really!

There’s never been a great rush of comments in response to any of my posts, but my teaching experience tells me that sometimes you can touch people’s lives in ways that are subtle and unpredictable. I’ve been privileged to teach many adults over the years and on a couple of occasions I’ve met people later in life who’ve told me that something I said when I was teaching a class had really influenced their lives or the way they thought about the world. It’s a good feeling but also a warning to be very careful what you say to people, especially if they’ve had a tough life.

So here I am. Where are you? Chime in with a comment or just let me know about your struggles. It would be good to share experiences.

Full circle

full circle

When I was young and just beginning to think about who I wanted to be in the world I settled on the idea of becoming a sound engineer. I loved listening to music and to a lesser extent playing music. Even at a young age I knew I didn’t have the commitment or talent to become a professional musician, but I loved the whole idea of working in a creative field with people who loved music as much as I did.

Unfortunately I lived in a smallish city in Australia and the options for becoming a sound engineer were limited to say the least. There was only one recording studio and jobs in the music industry were few and far between. Somewhat naively, I sent off a few letters to all of the film companies and television and radio stations in Perth asking if they had a position for me. I was 15.

Funnily enough, I received two job offers. One was as a telecine operator at Channel 9, a job which I later found out was extremely boring. I didn’t even consider that taking job because it was located in a suburb way out in the sticks and I didn’t have a drivers licence.

The other position was for an editing assistant at a small production company in the city, and this was the job I took.

I soon found that the job entailed not only film and sound editing, but typing invoices, doing the banking, getting lunches and hauling around cameras and recording gear on location. It was an interesting way to start my career.

My interest in sound came to the fore again several years later when I took a position as a sound editing assistant at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Sydney, Australia. This job involved replacing dialogue, recording sound effects and laying music tracks for television dramas. It was fun and in those days it was all analogue which meant that every track was a physical entity and had to be created and carried from the editing room to the sound mixing studio. The tracks were then laced up on big machines (dubbers) and mixed down into a single sound track. This is all done digitally now.

Since then I’ve had a lot of other jobs, some creative and some less so, but my recent foray into podcasting represents a return to something I’ve always had a yen for.