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.