Farewell 2017

Farewell 2017, you’ve been a pretty good year.

I was feeling pretty overwhelmed between work and life in the early-to-middle part of the year. But I took some steps to regain control and I’m ending the year feeling much more positive and lighter. I feel like I’m ending the year having achieved some goals this year and well placed for a great 2018.

I kicked some goals in my career. As well as editing the Money section for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and writing regular columns, I worked on two podcasts and gave a major speech at a conference. The first podcast was the Herald’s everyday economics podcast, It All Adds Up, with Jessica Irvine, Matt Wade, Ross Gittins and Anna Patty. The second was Kinderling Radio’s family finance podcast, Your Family, Your Money, which I co-hosted with Georgina Dent. The public speaking was an hour-long keynote speech on the future of work for the AIS Skills Forum, which quite a few people described as “brilliant” and nominated as their favourite session.

My biggest personal achievement was finally becoming an ocean swimmer. I have wanted to take up ocean swimming for a while, but never felt confident enough. But this year, I started by doing a clinic by a small business called OceanFit in Bondi. I then had the nerve to join my friend Sally to do the 1.5km race at Bilgola on the Northern Beaches in early December. I caught a few dumpers as I entered the water and nearly gave up but I went back out. I came last but I was so proud of myself for getting out there and finishing the race. Since then we’ve done the Bold and the Beautiful squad, which goes daily from Manly to Shelly Beach, once and we hope to do a few more races in January. I need to invest in some prescription goggles though!

The other landmark, the week after the Bilgola swim, was singing in the end-of-year showcase for my music teacher’s students. She teaches piano, guitar and singing to children and adults and most of us sang or played piece of music individually in front of each other and our friends and families at a small, local venue. I’ve always loved singing but I don’t have a natural talent for it – put it this way, I have to work hard on pitch, modulation and rhythm. I’m happy to sing karaoke with friends or in a choir with many other voices, but it was a big deal to sing solo in front of strangers. I chose Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden to honour Chris Cornell, who died this year. It’s a difficult song but I practised a lot and I think I was passable.

I’ve enjoyed some great bushwalks and a holiday up the coast with my family, quite a few music concerts, a ton of theatre with my husband, and a yoga retreat.

Teen power

I am sitting up in bed nursing a hangover from last night’s work drinks and listening to Lorde’s extraordinary new album (Melodrama). You can read a review here or just jump over to Spotify. It makes me even more excited that I’m going to the Lorde concert in the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House later this year.

It amazes me that she’s only 20 now and was 16 when her first album (Pure Heroine) was released. She’s such a talented songwriter and singer. There’s an  interview with her in the paper today.

But of course teenagers are capable of amazing things. That’s something adults sometimes forget, but it’s every young-adult writer needs to remember. Never underestimate.

Lorde performing in 2013. Creative Commons via Flickr.


The story of my life (not my life story)

Credit: Ivo Kendra (Creative Commons).

This is what happens: I start a project and then get slammed with life, blink, and it’s a month or two later and the project has fallen by the wayside. Every. Damn. Time.

Since my last post, Fairfax journos went out on strike for a week to protest mass redundancies, we’ve gone back to work and people have started leaving. There are huge numbers going, but at least they got there with voluntary redundancies and didn’t have to go to forced. That’s been rather … distracting.

I’ve also had to deal with some family and health matters. Oh and I had a birthday and celebrated with going out for bowling and karaoke. Among other things, I sang “Black Hole Sun” in tribute to the late, great Chris Cornell of Soundgarden.

Chris Cornell performing in 2007.

On the writing front, I have finished an article for Good Weekend that has been taking up a lot of mental space. There’s been a change in editor in the mean time. The old editor says I did a “marvellous job” so fingers crossed that the new editor likes it too.

I’ve also been doing a lot of reading particularly in young adult fantasy, the genre I’m writing in. I would like to share that with you soon.

Weekly update (April 22-28)

I’m planning to make a weekly post to update you on the week that was and the week ahead, with a focus on writing. I hope this will keep me focused and accountable.

My writing this week:

What I learned:

  • Writing the column about deliberate rest has made me think a lot about how to incorporate writing into my routine, but also making time for the activities that recharge me. It’s beyond sleep and exercise – I need walks where I can let my mind wander, time in nature, and deep play. I’m going to think about my schedule more deeply over the weekend.
View of Sydney Harbour and North Head from the Spit to Manly bushwalk.
  • My deliberate rest this week included a singing lesson, bushwalking with my family, a workout at the gym, singing in the Welcome Choir, and seeing a play at Belvoir St Theatre. Also generally better discipline about going to bed on time – the previous week I had been gorging myself on a TV series, but that’s over now.

My focus next week:

  • Working on a podcast pilot at work.
  • Writing the final draft (hopefully) of a feature for Good Weekend.
  • My Mind Over Money column.
  • Getting up and 6am every day and doing free writing and exercises themed on my novel to get myself immersed in the world and the characters.
  • Taking my broken computer with the draft of my novel to see if the data can be retrieved. I do have backups but I think they’re old.
The box office at Belvoir St Theatre. The bubbles and the duck lamp featured in the play.

My treat for you:

Word of the day:

  • Smoothole: A gap designed in a drystone wall to allow free passage of some creatures (eg. hares) and not others (eg. sheep). (Credit: @RobGMacfarlane on Twitter).

Mother of twins and dragons

One of my favourite games when I was a kid was imagining what I would be when I grew up. I toyed with all sorts of things… marine biologist … archaeologist … circus performer. Really I didn’t have a clue what was involved, it was all about the glamour of coral reefs, ancient ruins and the trapeze.

For all the years of my childhood, there were two professions that remained on the list no matter what else changed in my life: writer and actor. This was a little more real as I made both creative disciplines part of my daily life. I was a voracious reader and prolific storyteller, poet and diarist. And I grabbed all the acting opportunities I could, doing classes and productions at Australian Theatre 4 Young People and plays and musicals at school.

When I finished school, I auditioned for the National Institute of Dramatic Art. They rarely take people straight from school, so I knew I was unlikely to get in, but still wanted to try. I didn’t beat the odds, so instead I went to Bathurst to study journalism and took theatre as an elective. I was academic and there was no way I was going to miss out on university and of course one thing follows another and my life took a different path. Sometimes I wonder what might have been if I’d refused to give up on my acting dream, but I have no regrets.

In my adult life I’ve dabbled with amateur theatre – I was a member of a company when I lived in London and played Miranda in our production of The Tempest. I would love to do this again one day if and when I have more time, but I’m at peace with the fact that acting for me is a hobby. I draw on the skills at work for presentation – at live events, on video and, soon, with podcasting. But I’m never going to be a full-time actor and that’s OK.

Writing is the great creative possibility that is still unfolding. Of course, I write for a living in my work as a journalist. I have worked in Sydney, London and San Francisco and covered many topics, from business to travel. In my present incarnation, I am an editor and columnist at the Sydney Morning Herald, writing about business, particularly personal finance, economics and workplace trends. I love my job.

From time to time I’ve tried to come up with a Plan B, given the parlous state of the media industry and declining number of journalism jobs.  But there’s nothing else I want to do nearly as much. So I’m going to stick around as long as I can, and build as much profile as I can, and hopefully survive and thrive.

I believe writing is my life’s work, but my job is only one aspect of it. My deepest desire is to write fiction. I have a young adult fantasy novel in progress, but work has stalled while I juggle a full-time job, a marriage and six-year-old twins, and try to keep my mind and body healthy. I feel that I can’t truly afford to centre my creative work, at least not in terms of the hours I dedicate to it. Yet the idea that I might just fritter away my days and years with easy professional wins and let my creative dreams fade terrifies me.

I imagine myself as Daenerys Targaryen early in her story and my creative dream as a tiny, fluttering fragile dragon hatchling. It could easily die. But if I make space and give it my love and passion and tender care, it  might grow into something faithful and powerful.

This blog is about how I write my novel, while also living my life and kicking goals in my job. Join me on my journey.