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Well, I’ll be.

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I’m thinking about becoming a florist, or a clothing designer, or a carpenter. What’s the word for people who make shoes? A shoemaker, Google? Surely not. I want a word like milliner. Ah, cobbler. I’m thinking about becoming a cobbler.

About becoming almost anything that involves creating physical things that can begin and end and be held and used. Anything that isn’t behind a screen and doesn’t involve grammar and sentence structure. I’m thinking about painting and lotion-making and preserving. About dill pickles and jam and crumb structure.

You should see my sourdough these days. You should try my jam.

I’m thinking about how much I love my job when I’m under pressure, and how that doesn’t go at all with any of these other wild, earth-mother desires I’m filled with. I’m thinking about how I’m applying for mentors at the same time as I’m wondering if I should be mentoring. Talking to schools. Helping. I’m clutching at everyone else’s philanthropy, knowing their cause isn’t quite mine but feeling so badly like I’m letting the side down, not contributing, not giving back.

Not even creating, really, in my own time. (Other than the sourdough and all that jam.) Instead, I take a lot of naps. I water the garden. I read recipe books and mindfulness books and Harry Potter in Portuguese (page 25!). I count the baby’s kicks. I fight nausea and fatigue by giving in to them, immediately and gracelessly. I make endless lists of things we need to change before the baby comes. I exhaust Brazil with trips to Mitre 10 and discussions about natural childbirth and my urgent desire for black and white curtains in the baby’s room.

I meditate, but restlessly. I’m working on it.

I’m too hot all the time.

I’m not interested in anything except the baby but I’m mad at anyone who dares to imply it. I drop things constantly. I eat too much sugar and I’m obsessed with fruit and I’m still not 100% sure if I’m allowed all this coffee. I feel beautiful and sexy and powerful, like my body was made to do this, and heavy and slow and broken, like every inch of me is falling apart. I’ve found myself and I’m losing myself. I’m a force of nature and a wild design error. Everything is exactly as it should be, but surely it shouldn’t be like this?

I am. We are. He’ll be.

We’ll see.

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Spicy food and cat litter

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When people talk about pregnancy cravings, they name normal things like ice cream or sawdust or pickles. This baby is obsessed with chilli. I’m putting it on everything, in quantities that would make my normal self burst into flame. I’d blame Brazil’s spicy Latin genes (#racism), but he’s an even bigger chilli wuss than I usually am.

My brain is adjusting to a new scale of time. We’re making plans for things that won’t happen for two years, or five, or twelve. It’s like my whole life has opened up in front of me, ripe and ready to finally be lived — but it’s also narrowed down, and thinned out.

So many things will be harder or take longer or be off limits for a while now. I don’t feel like I spent enough Wednesdays drinking impromptu wine… but I also did almost nothing else for over a decade, and I know I was ready to move on.

So many things will be out of my control. Baby will have their own timetable and set of priorities, and my career and social life are unlikely to make their list. The nature of what we do means the work comes when it comes — I don’t plan to take maternity leave, per se, but I also can’t make any plans about how or when I’ll work. Projects may or may not come up. Baby may or may not cooperate. We’ll make it work as best we can.

But at the same time, some sense of urgency has lifted. I’ve got time to do things and write things and see things. We might not get to travel beyond NZ and Brazil for a while, but we will eventually — and when we do, our little people get to do it too. (I’m sure that will come with its own set of issues, but it also feels pretty cool to me.)

I’m scared I’ll never have time to write for myself, but I need to make time for that, and currently I’m not doing that anyway. The optimistic, slightly dim part of myself is sort of hoping that “ask a busy person” thing will kick in and I’ll discover reserves of organisation and focus I never knew I had.

I fully expect future me to read that back and laugh until she cries.

The cat and I are in a battle over the garden. Everything I plant, he promptly digs up and shits on. I’m currently on the sixth iteration of my vegetable protection system.

After he dug up the carrots, I covered the whole garden in bird netting. Lucas immediately shat on top of it, managing to dig up the lettuces underneath without tearing a single hole in the material.

Next, I raised the netting with stakes. He sat on it until it collapsed, and then shat on it again.

Then I added a fortress of bamboo skewers poking through the netting. That night, as far as I can tell, he perched himself on a stake, backed gently over the netting, deposited a perfect pile of shit in the middle of it, and left without breaking a single skewer.

Finally, I raised the whole thing about a foot on each edge, then tented it over a teepee-like contraption in the middle. Then I fortified it with skewers and weighed all the edges down with blocks of wood.

Now he shits on my flowers.

IMG_9699

What an asshole.

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16 weeks

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I’m trying not to think too much about who this baby is. They’re their own person already, even inside me, and they have their own story. I don’t want to have too many expectations about what I want or hope for them.

Still, I hope they get their father’s musical talent and his easy way with people. I hope they love learning as much as we both do, and we can foster and build that love in them. I hope they feel my sense of wonder, but maybe direct it a little better. And now I’m projecting things again… I don’t want a baby to do the things I couldn’t or be what I can’t.

I hope they see the world is beautiful and magical, and that they have power within it — power to make things better; to change things for themselves and others; to get what they want if they have the courage and grit to work for it.

I hope the world is still a place worth living in when they’re grown. I hope my generation will do more than my parents’ to ensure that happens. I hope I can be a good mother. (I know Brazil will be a good father.)

Mostly, I think, looking at my friends’ kids and myself as a child and the world as it is right now, I hope they realise that life is an active thing, a verb to take and run with. This world loves passive box-ticking: school, work, mortgage, car, TV. You can follow all the rules and never actually live, never realise that your life is yours, and unique, and meant to be lived, not just consumed.

I desperately want my children to know what it took me so long to figure out: that there are more choices than anyone will ever give you. That breaking the rules isn’t always bad, and won’t always get you in trouble. That grown-ups don’t know everything, and you don’t have to listen to them when they tell you writing doesn’t pay and you should probably be a lawyer. That there’s time to figure all of this out. That your opinion of yourself matters more than anyone else’s of you. That you can’t please everyone. That love shouldn’t be hard, but it does take work. That you deserve it.

I hope I learn to listen to myself, too. I realise, the longer I think about it, that I need to work on some things myself if I want my children to be healthy, well-rounded people. I worry, if we have a girl, about everything society will teach her about the way she should interact with the world. About marketing and pornography and instutionalised, insidious sexism.

But I also think about how my mother was on a diet for most of my childhood, and my grandmother before her. I’ve been obsessed with my weight to varying degrees since I first noticed, probably around 11, that I was tall and strong and needed a bra. (Although I remember worrying about it earlier than that.) My self-confidence is so directly tied to my bathroom scales I can look at any photo of myself and tell you exactly what I weighed that day, and how I felt about it.

How can I teach a little person that their happiness isn’t tied to their size if I still don’t believe it myself? How do I show them that society’s arbitrary standards of beauty are bullshit when I wear makeup and shave my legs and sometimes buy stupid heels that make my feet bleed?

That stupid, endless feminist battle: sometimes I like to look pretty and dress up. I feel good when I look good, and I do that for me, not for anyone else. But I hate that it’s expected. I hate the sneaky, slimy subliminal messaging that tells girls from before they even hit puberty that everything about them needs to be altered or improved or removed to be found suitable for society. Wax this, dye that, tan these, tone those.

And, if we have a boy, how do I teach him to respect women in a society that still doesn’t? When he’ll grow up with violent mainstream entertainment that features women as passive set decoration, if at all. When anything for girls is considered shameful to everyone but girls. When porn.

We’re considering not finding out the sex in advance, partly because my head will probably explode at the inevitable deluge of pink gifts if it’s a girl. But there’s nothing wrong with pink just because it’s associated with girls. Deriding things for girls just because they’re things for girls is fucked up too. Pink isn’t the problem. Tiny tutus and glittery shoes are awesome, and every child who wants them should have them. Every child.

“Girls’” lego makes my blood boil, because lego is a children’s toy, not a boys’ toy. Heavily made-up baby dolls in tiny skirts make my blood pressure skyrocket. But I’d love my little boy to have a sparkly tutu and a baby doll, and I hope my little girl will be into dinosaurs and space.

But those are their own decisions, because they’ll be their own people. If I wish for anything, it’s just that they have the freedom in this crazy world to become whoever they want to be. To be true to themselves. To be kind to themselves.

And to listen to their mother.

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Hey baby

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I had ideas about the kind of pregnant person I was going to be. I was going to be effortless and energetic and lithe. I was going to do yoga every day, and fill my baby with positive energy, and never eat sugar or refined carbs.

All I eat is refined carbs. Right now, I’m sitting in Nando’s eating chips.

Pregnancy is rough, folks. It’s hard to talk about, because it’s exciting but also utterly terrifying, and you’re happy and grateful but also everything in your body has gone completely insane, and all the parts of your brain that aren’t occupied with throwing up or staying awake or acting like you’re still human at work are running a constant, anxious loop of “what if, what if, what if”.

In that first 12 weeks, I wanted to be excited. I wanted to talk to my baby and fill him or her with good thoughts and make all sorts of plans for our exciting life together… but it felt like any of that might jinx it, or like it was too scary to let it feel real when it all seemed so fragile.

So every week I looked up “fetal development at x weeks”, and then directly afterwards I looked up “miscarriage at x weeks”, and spent hours reading harrowing first-hand accounts of everything that’s ever gone wrong for anyone. With every pain or ache, I found someone, somewhere in the internet, who’d had that pain or ache before they lost a baby.

I called this strategy “being informed”. Brazil called it “insanity” and begged me to stop.

In between, I felt constantly ill and dragged myself around the house with the energy of a listless sloth. I thought about eating vegetables and whole grains, and instead ate bags of lollies and my body weight in buttered bagels. Everything I ate made me feel sick, but whenever I wasn’t eating I felt sicker. It was like having a round-the-clock hangover for three months — with a side of narcolepsy, since I’d frequently find myself accidentally asleep at all hours of the day. One afternoon I woke up on the floor beside my desk, curled around the heater like a puppy with a toy.

I did yoga twice, though. So there’s that.

Whenever I’ve tried to go on the pill, I’ve become anxious and depressed, losing interest in almost everything except crying and worrying. I’d forgotten until recently that the pill produces hormones that convince your body you’re a little bit pregnant. No wonder the first trimester went badly for me — progesterone and I just aren’t friends.

So I think my hormones went a bit loopy, but I also think this shit is just hard. You’re sick, and tired, and your body is doing all sorts of things it’s never done before. It’s hard not to lose yourself when nothing feels like you anymore — even without worrying about what’s happening with the baby and what life will be like once it’s born. It’s heavy stuff, made heavier because you’re not supposed to tell anyone it’s happening, and even if you do, it’s kind of not socially okay to express any feelings that aren’t 100% positive.

These two posts made everything better — I highly recommend them to pregnant ladies, mums and humans in general:

We’re midway through week 14 now, and the light, as everyone kept promising me, is at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t manage to even make that connection about progesterone and my feelings until the fog started to lift a couple of weeks ago — one morning I went outside and stood in the sun, and realised in feeling delighted by this that I hadn’t felt delight in anything for months. It feels like I spent some time trapped in a sleepy, dazed, directionless fog — not all bad, but just missing all the usual good bits.

It’s nice to have those back — the joys of food, of friends, of sunshine and gardens and cats and finding hedgehogs on the path in the night. Of having a lovely beardy gentleman to share a life and a family with. And now we have a baby to be excited about too. (All going well. Everything is looking fine so far, and without my hormones convincing me that the whole world is fundamentally terrible, it’s much easier to be reasonable about the odds of that continuing to be true.)

So my new aims for pregnant me are fewer, and kinder. I want to be gentle with myself, and remember to go outside, and spend time with the people and things that bring me joy. I want to let myself be excited about our future, and accept that I have little to no control over whatever’s going to happen. And maybe I’ll also cut down on the carbs.

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Thoughts on self-employment, six months in

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It’s six months this week since I resigned from my day job. Here’s what I’ve learned…

(First, some caveats. We’re very lucky. Very lucky. Things have worked out for us because we do something very specific that hardly anyone does well, in a very small city, with an even smaller web community filled with people we already knew either professionally or socially. Those people have taken chances on us that have given us the experience we needed to get clients on our own. Those people are amazing and we owe them a hell of a lot.)

If you think it’s possible to quit your job, quit your job.

Six months ago, I was terrified. I remember a late-night conversation in my kitchen — me asking my boyfriend for the eight thousandth time if he thought I was doing the right thing. Him reassuring me that it would work out, that money was just money, that he had a steady job if we didn’t get any work. The idea of not having a regular paycheque seemed so utterly terrifying, like I wouldn’t have any control at all.

Oddly, now I feel like I have more control than I ever have. I can’t guarantee we’ll have any money six months from now, but it’s within my power to go and get work, to turn down work, to decide when and how we’ll work.

When people hire us, they’re paying us enough that they have to take us seriously. They can’t squander our time or our work like employers can (and frequently do). I have the freedom to ask for what I need to get things done, and to go away and do it well, without interruptions. I can’t tell you what a difference those things make to my morale, my productivity and the quality of my work.

Until I didn’t have to do it anymore, I didn’t realise how much energy I’d been losing just by spending eight hours a day in a noisy, open-plan office filled with constant distractions, emails and meetings. Turns out I do my best thinking outside, usually while walking. If I lose focus, changing location can help me get it back — sometimes I migrate two or three times across the city in the course of the day. I’d spent twelve years battling my concentration span, only to find that, mostly, it’s just that nothing about a 9-5 office job matches the way my brain works.

(Central heating is amazing, though. God I miss central heating.)

Now, on days when I’m unproductive, I don’t waste anyone’s time or money but my own — I can give up, go and annoy my cat, and try again later. When I’ve got nothing to do, I might not get paid, but at least I’m free to spend my time on whatever I want.

The deal I made with myself when we started Sixtyproof was that I’d save enough money for six months’ rent and expenses before I quit, so I didn’t have to go to sleep every night worrying about paying the next bill. The first year we existed, I managed to save less than a quarter of that, and worked just about every weekend. If a client hadn’t cold-called to offer us tens of thousands of dollars of work we needed to be available Monday to Friday to take, I’d still be sitting at my desk in an agency, writing app micro-copy and trying not to die from boredom.

It’s good to have a plan. You need to have a plan. But at some point you have to take the risk — and that point is always going to come before you’re ready for it. Be sensible, but not too sensible.

Get good at talking…

I’m an introvert. I’m also a writer, not a talker, and a lover, not a fighter. The business world is not designed for people like me.

As an employee, I was endlessly frustrated by the fact that the people who made the most noise got the promotions, were credited with the ideas, and had their opinions considered. There is no correlation between talking the most and having the best ideas… but the entire system of corporate business is set up as if there is.

As a consequence, if you want to convince people you know what you’re talking about, you have to sound like you do. (This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say “I don’t know” when you don’t know — but say it with confidence, and offer to go and find out.)

The biggest thing I’ve learned in the last six months is to start talking. I used to wait until I had my entire thought mapped out before I started speaking — so, often, someone else got to my point first, or the moment passed before I could formulate my argument. I got nervous worrying that I’d forget my thought or my point would turn out to be irrelevant once I said it — and sometimes it was. But so much of everything is conversation and relationships that even if I put forward an idea that turns out to be a dud, it’s usually worth exploring to find out for sure.

I’m not saying I’ve become a noisy blowhard (or at least I hope not) — I think I’m still a good listener and a careful thinker. I just had to start trusting myself and taking risks, because confidence is so key to building trust with clients. They’re trusting you with their money and their intellectual property — you have to be able to show them that you deserve that trust.

…But don’t play the game.

Your work should speak for itself — you just have to be able to talk about it intelligently and on demand. You don’t have to become a jargon-slinging, bourbon-swigging ad-man. Our industry is filled with guys in tight shirts and hundred-dollar haircuts talking slick, stylish nothing over the top of one other. We don’t think we need to be like them to play in their sandpit. We’re (trying to be) unapologetic about being women, about Sara being a mother, about not having a fancy office and a retinue and polished pitch-patter that’s 90% name-dropping and buzzwords.

We’re also actively trying not to hire. It seems like that’s the thing everyone does — like growth is success in and of itself. We started Sixtyproof to do what we love to do, well, all the time. But we also started Sixtyproof because we hated working in offices and being tied to our desks for eight hours a day, and we have (or want to have) families.

We don’t need an office, so we don’t have one. We have almost no overheads — no one else’s wages to pay, no rent to keep up with, no equipment to buy. That means that if we want to work 15 hours a week, we can. Sara can take the morning off and play with her daughter. I can take a day to work on my novel (which is what I’m meant to be doing right now). On the flip-side of that, if a client needs us to work through the weekend to meet a deadline, we can and happily will.

Hiring six people might make us more “successful”, but it would also mean we’d have to go back to working in an office. We’d have to show up and leave on time, and we’d have to manage our staff’s work rather than doing the work ourselves. We’d definitely never get to go on holiday again (as opposed to now, when we’re hopeful that’s only a “probably”).

The week before I quit my job, I told one of the senior guys at work that I was thinking about taking the leap to self-employment. He asked me to think forward five years — did I want to be “some mom and pop two-man shop”, or be a top man in an agency like the one I worked for, making loads of money for prestigious clients and managing a bunch of juniors? It was obvious which one he thought sounded more impressive — and as soon as he said it, I knew exactly what I wanted.

Our goals have never been money or the trappings of success. Success, for me, is doing really good, involving work — on my own terms, in my own way, with time to write my own stuff and go on adventures with my boyfriend and read too many books about climate change.

Right now, we’re managing that. And that’s pretty cool.

I’m not sure why I felt the need to write any of this down, other than that maybe I wish someone had written it down for me so I could have felt slightly less scared and alone in my kitchen that night. But if anyone out there is thinking about going out on their own… be brave. Back yourself. And feel free to get in touch.

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Found a weta in my towel, though.

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I just asked Brazil to go and eat the leftover beef from Saturday’s dinner party, which means I’m officially turning into my mother — who I once found handing my father half-empty containers of cream cheese and pesto dip directly from the fridge, a pile of empties behind him and a spoon halfway to his mouth.

I’ve also started opening windows “to let the air in”, washing towels that patently don’t need it for the satisfaction of folding them and putting them neatly away later, and re-using ziplock bags.

At least I’m not washing the glad-wrap yet.

This afternoon, while you were all at your desks, doing whatever it is that you do at said, I went for a delightfully refreshing swim at Hataitai Bay. Yes, “delightfully refreshing” means exactly what you think it does, but it was still lovely. The air was warm, the breeze was playful, the water was still and sparkly and clear.

I’ve been determined, this summer, to keep swimming as often as I possibly can, and so far it’s been AMAZING — especially during the day, when the regular pack of leather-skinned Hataitai Bay retirees and I have that particular slice of beach to ourselves.

Swimming is something I forgot about for a few years there. As a kid, I LOVED the water. I would have spent all day in the sea, and slept moored by the ankle to a jetty if you’d let me. I wanted, almost desperately and nearly exclusively, to be a mermaid.

Then I grew up, and it got into my head that the ocean in Wellington was, being as Wellington is, a thing reserved for crazy people in wetsuits and leathery retirees in inappropriately brief briefs.

And now it’s March, and I’m still swimming. Someone said recently, probably at Webstock, that you can find the things that make you happy in what you liked as a child. I forgot about swimming for years, but every time I ease my cautious way back into that still, sparkling water, overtaken by a guy in a speedo and an elderly lady in a hot pink swimming cap, my heart slows, my head stills, and my
entire

body

 

relaxes.

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Welcome to Courage Road

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I start every year certain that this is the year I magically morph into a slender, willowy earth-mother type, strong of limb and centred of being. That I’m right on the cusp of becoming the type of person who grows tomatoes and saves the bees and gives up material longings — but stylishly, in a carefully thought-out and ethically sustainable capsule wardrobe.

The type of person who has more tattoos and nicer jewellery, and both of them look better because I also have a tan. And self control.

There are more than a few flaws in this plan.

So, this year, I’m growing lettuces. Start small.

One of them died immediately, and several of the others could be described as “peaky”.

I planted some herbs in a pot I bought in a fit of garden-centre yearning one sunny morning, and then I immediately drowned the mint. It turned yellow and curled in on itself, and then my boyfriend ran over my basil.

It seems like growth shouldn’t be this hard. All over the world, things are sprouting. Living. Thriving. Except for my mint. And this one lettuce. And half of my pot plants.

I’ve had a blog for a long time. Forever, maybe. I’ve had katiejohnston.net for five years, give or take, and before that there were livejournals and other domains and documents and journals, stretching all the way back to 1998. My life has been documented in some form or another since my teens. I’ve never been good at making sense of anything without writing it down.

This last year felt different. Like maybe I’d outgrown whatever katiejohnston.net has been – and it’s been many things. Depository of boredom, experiments in writing, receptacle of feelings. The threads of it were something young, something not-quite-yet: my own inability to navigate the real world, to understand boys and love and sex, to figure out my career and path and writing, to know myself. It’s been a five year exploration in who it is to be me.

And that’s awesome. Was awesome. Is awesome.

But I feel like I’ve worked out (some of) the things I couldn’t work out before. I’ve gained confidence in some of the things I’d wanted to say and couldn’t. I used to think “but who cares what you think about that?”. Now, I’m wondering if maybe the fact that I care is enough.

I quit my job two months ago. I’m fully self-employed now, writing website content for more clients than I can successfully juggle. I used to be terrified to say anything in a meeting in case I was wrong: now I start talking before I have any idea what I’m going to say. I have a really good relationship and a fancy coffee table and no free time at all, and all of that is growth.

The last few months, I wondered if I was done with blogging — or at least with this blog. Up until about a week ago, I was planning to archive this blog altogether and start over with something new. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised all I’d really done is sprout.

It might be growth, but I’m not grown.

So, instead, a name change.

Courage Road is the street my grandparents’ house is on. Their block of land, with its extensive vege gardens and fruit trees and DIY experiments, was the point around which my childhood revolved. It represents the things I want from my life – a connection with nature, self-sufficiency, compassion and kindness. It’s also a statement about how I’d like to live.

What goes here, I haven’t entirely figured out yet. But I’m excited to find out.

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100×19: Why I write

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A couple of weeks ago, I had a message from Mike. Mike is an all-around wonderful human who I’m always excited to see, as well as the owner of a carefully thought out blog about things worth thinking carefully about. Gentleman Caller and I have had more than one spontaneous conversation about what a generally great human we think he is, and how his perspective on anything always makes it better.

But then he asked me for a favour, so now he’s dead to me.

Just kidding — he said I had élan, so he gets as many favours as he likes. The favour is this blog — kind of a chain letter of bloggers talking about why they write. Mike’s blog is here. Here’s mine:

Why do I write?

Gentleman Caller asked me this, maybe the second time we ever hung out as more than friends. And I realised when he did that I’d been waiting for someone to ask me that for years.

But there’s not really a straightforward answer: I write because I always have. I write because I can’t not. I write because I don’t know what I think until I can put it in words and move them around. I write because I love language. I write because characters turn up in my head and demand to be let out. I write because I’m better at it than I am at anything else.

I write because I write, I guess.

How does my writing differ from others in its genre?

In fiction, that’s a work in progress. Confidence in my own voice and what I have to say has been a life-long battle that I’m still mostly losing.

In blogging, I don’t know that it does. I’m sporadic at best, leaking styles and feelings and subject matter all over the internet.

Professionally, I think I have a knack for simplicity that most others don’t. I can figure out what things mean, and I can get that into fewer words than most.

How does my writing process work?

Left to my own devices, I like a cafe of a morning. An enormous milky coffee and some white noise; maybe something tasty for brunch. I take my laptop out most Saturdays and Sundays, and lurk in my regular haunts for a few hours, typing and people watching.

The best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever received were “you have to do the work” and “first drafts always suck”. I saw this today and had one of those sudden, hard stings of identification. The moment when I got good at writing — when I stopped dabbling and started creating, when my career took off and my fiction started to come together — was the moment I stopped worrying about whether what I wrote sucked. First drafts always suck.

There’s no magical muse fairy who’ll turn up some day and deliver you the perfect words in the perfect phrases. Just write something — write anything — and then make it better.

What am I working on?

I have this 8,500-word working document for this blog. Parts of it are published already; parts of it never will be. It’s a hodge-podge of half-baked ideas and semi-formed paragraphs and the odd total mystery (one entry says only “Mirrors everywhere???”).

I have all sorts of things I want to write about here, but no time or courage to do so. There are blogs in my head about apathy, about history, about politics and gender roles. There’s more than one about sex as it relates to all those others. I still want to try some kind of ethical lifestyle situation too. One day.

One day.

Why do I write what I do?

I have a couple of recurring themes. Family is the first one — what it means to be family, what it means to be blood, how those things can be different and how they affect people. I’m adopted, so that one’s maybe not a huge reach.

Other than that, the nature of people. Of kindness. The way we all have the capacity to be better, to try harder, but on the whole we don’t really want to. Or can’t bring ourselves to. Or are scared to. I want to say so much more about humanity, about kindness, about strength and compassion… but mostly I don’t, because I worry I’m not quite informed enough, or people will think I’m full of myself.

I like the atmospheres of things, too. Everything fictional I’ve ever written has started with or been grounded in a place — a feeling in space and time. The weather there. The flora. The way the air smells. I get myself into a story through its surroundings, and writing about places and times other than my own is one of the key delights in making words up.

Nomination time!

Rachel Brown, come on down! I met Rach through blogging, although she’s a friend of friends. We have long-standing writerly crushes on each other, and she’s another hero of mine for the things mentioned above — she’s kind, compassionate and generous… and bold about being so. I pretty much just think she’s the actual best. Go and read her blog at once.

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100×18: Winter

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Picture.

photo 2 (1)

Words.

I read this thing a while ago… I can’t find it now, of course, but it talked about the creative process as a series of ebbs and flows. About the importance of shutting up, sometimes. Of sitting quietly and listening, and letting your mind drift where it will. The analogy, I think, was a forest in winter — the quiet, bare period that does the groundwork for the colour and chaos of summer.

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100×17: Tide

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Picture.

photo

Words.

I wrote this in February and never posted it:

I’m in one of those phases where everything is happening at once. The last big sea-change in my life was June 2010. There’s a very clear divide between before and after, and I feel like something similar is rapidly bearing down, like I’m approaching a critical mass, and right now is the bit where I dig in and just try to stay afloat until the wave passes. And then I see where I end up, and with any luck there’s still solid ground under my feet.

The thing I like about times like this is how the big stuff — the stuff that changes your life, the stuff that changes you — always sneaks in. You can never prepare for it, and it never goes the way you’d expect. Most of the time, it comes on that wave, and all you ever get to do is hold your breath and let it take you.

I watched this great TED talk in the weekend, about how we work so hard to provide for a future version of ourselves — for a person who’ll probably never exist, because we all underestimate how much we’re going to change. His point, I think, was that Future You may as well be a stranger, and isn’t necessarily worth the sacrifices Present You is making for them.