On writing things down 


Help! I need a second brain – my first one is full of crap.

Recently I discovered how nice it feels to write things down, and how quiet my mind is after i’ve organised my thoughts. I saw people posting their fresh new diaries and was reminded how nice it is to work in analog. Filling in a blank page with words is intensely satisfying, similar to hitting publish on a blog post that i’d been mulling over for a week – like this one! A few weeks ago I picked up a Moleskine from Officeworks and designated him as my second brain for the year. Let me tell you about how Inigo, yes, I pretty much name every important object in my life, has changed me for the better.

 

I’m not one for glitter pens or planning my day into 30 minute increments in pastel pink, but lists? Lists are amazing. My previous method for writing lists and appointments would be to jot it down on the nearest piece of paper (receipts, labels, toilet paper etc.) and then lose the list immediately. This method is great if you’d like to spend your day worrying about what you’ve forgotten to do rather than writing, doing creative projects etc.

The feeling of trying to remember everything and worrying about what i’ve forgotten is enough to leave absolutely no room for creative thinking. I’ll sit down to write and all I can think about is “socks, socks, buy some damn socks you trench-footed baby adult.” The volume in my brain is turned up so loud that I am completely stalled in whatever i’m doing. Writing things down in the one spot is like letting my brain breathe, leaving plenty of room for my weird little ideas to convince me that they need to be written about. I know exactly where to go when I need to look at lists, timetables, rosters, and have somewhere to write if I come up with something and i’m not within arms length of my macbook.

If you also feel like writing things out is helpful, I loosely follow the bullet journal style of cataloguing and you can watch a quick video about it here.  I’ve found this method of logging daily tasks to be the best to ensure I get things done while giving me the freedom to write down anything, take up as many pages as I need, and know that I can still locate important information.

Keeping track of things and using method of organisation that condenses my useless internal chatter into an A5 rectangle?

Inconceivable!

inigo

Thanks Inigo.

*Seriously please watch The Princess Bride if you haven’t already, we’ll understand each other much more easily.

What is my writing process?


Let me tell you a thing: I don’t spend a huge amount of time writing. I don’t write 2000 words a day. My writing comes in waves, some days i’ll sit around thinking about writing all day, and other days some magical force picks me up and gets my fingers moving at a lightning pace. At the end of this strange possession-like period of zooming fingers I usually have something that doesn’t require a huge amount of reworking, and mostly makes sense. It looks a bit like this:

kermit

But some days I don’t wait around for the magic, and I have a go at forcing out a piece i’ve had kicking around in my Moleskine for a while. Sometimes it works, but it’s definitely not the same. It’s generally a bit of a hard slog and the words might not have that natural flow to them, but it’s undeniably satisfying to get something down after a fair bit of internal struggle. Other times, however, it’s more like trying to mine a nugget of gold from an old rotting compost heap using my 2 year old sister’s silicone Dora The Explorer spoon. Those days tend to not be as productive on the word count front, and I think it’s totally ok to throw down the dirty spoon and say hey, things aren’t working out today, let’s pick this up again tomorrow.

I think a lot of people think that I spend my every waking minute hunched over my word processor, and admittedly a lot of high-volume writers do that and it works for them, and ultimately I think i’d probably prefer to work like that just for that feeling of ‘working’ everyday. But I know myself to know that’s not going to produce my best work.  But what works for me is a slower paced method that occasionally involves waiting for some little house elf/gremlin-like creature of inspiration to come over and prod me into gear with a rusty knife with a loud guttural battlecry of “LEZ DO DISSSSSSSS!” It’s worth hanging out for, because  it’s like i’m not even typing, and I write things that perhaps I think in my head but dismiss as not even worth writing down. It’s not until either I or my partner read back over them with a chuckle that I realise what i’ve written, both surprised that I had that sort of language in me.

I used to think on the days that I didn’t write anything, that i’d failed, or had an unproductive day and I would beat myself up about it. But now i’ve realised that the days I spend thinking about writing are just as valuable, because those internal brainstorming days set me up for those moments of frantic writing. A book that has helped me stress less about my writing volume has been Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It took me a while to get past the acid-tripping bright cover and bring that baby home, but i’m so glad I did. It’s nice to know that other people, and a best selling author no less, has moments of stagnation, but also gets this feeling of being pushed along by an external force. If you’ve ever really struggled with your creative process I really encourage you to check out this book, it’s like the warm reassuring hug you never knew you needed.

Just to get an idea of my frantic bursts of writing thanks to my Inspiration Gremlin, I wrote all of this in as little as 10 minutes, and i’ll have it edited and posted in another 10. That might not be surprising to some people, but to me writing 700 words in that time that needs very little editing is crazy. It feels great when inspiration shows up.

What’s your process? Do you battle it out until it’s done, or do you wait around for those lightning moments? Or something completely different?

*Edit: It took me a fair bit longer than 20 minutes because my backspace got stuck and decided to chew up a whole paragraph – save frequently folks! Or at least don’t sit there panic-stricken as your computer slowly eats your work and do something other than mashing the keyboard.

Fear and Possums

full-fathom-five

For the next instalment of Alissa and Fear – lets talk about fear some more and the way in which I scare myself on an almost-daily basis, and why it’s ridiculous to be scared all the time.

As a child I was very highly strung. I remember wailing at my mother from the bathroom door as she showered, lamenting that I would never ever be able to tell the time, or pleading with my mother to promise me that my arm hair wouldn’t grow back black and wiry because I’d shaved it after following the advice of a friend.

I have my overactive imagination to blame; just see my last post which included an attractive little anecdote about me screeching in the street because I’d stepped on a passionfruit and my brain immediately deduced that I’d squished the life out of a frog, or refer to the time I drove off from a friends party and ran over a stick, which I really knew was a stick, but all the way home decided that it was definitely a baby possum and I had killed it and it was all my fault and had to text said friend when I got home just to make her go out and check that I hadn’t Jackson-Pollocked a baby possum on her driveway. It was of course, a stick.

Basically there’s endless examples of me being afraid of silly things, and while I can look back on it and laugh, it was definitely a genuine feeling of fear that I was experiencing at the time. It was something that I couldn’t, and still struggle to snap out of.

When it comes to writing, fear is what has held me back from sharing my blog with my friends and family. The comforting anonymity felt safe, and as soon as I opened my blog up to those that I knew I was expecting ridicule or judgment. Instead, I received a flood of heartwarming support which made me wish I’d shared it sooner.

Obviously, in some instances, fear is healthy. It’s what keeps us alive and stops us from doing stupid shit like attempting to jump off a cliff to see if we can fly. But in a lot of ways – and for me a lot of ridiculous ways – fear holds us back, self doubt stymies us and we only have ourselves to blame for not pushing on and following our passions or taking a leap. Maybe it’s a case of standing up to that part of you trying to ruin your day and telling it to shut the fuck up, or at least to quiet down for a bit.

How do you overcome fear? Asking for a friend.

 

23 and still afraid of being home alone

I have the house to myself for an entire week. My family have set off on a whirlwind motor home adventure up towards Mackay, leaving me to look after the house. I haven’t lived on my own for more than a night in over a year, and the prospect of being able to work on my own schedule with no distractions for an entire week is a dizzying feeling.  Unfortunately living alone has also turned me into a complete psycho. Did I mention that it’s only been 24 hours so far?

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Pottery Club

My love of clay began when I gifted my Nan a metallic green pig I had sculpted in art class at school.  It had little beady eyes and an altogether unsettling body composition, but I was so proud of it, and the deformed little sentinel still stands guard in her foyer.

I didn’t touch clay again until I discovered the joys of oven-bake clay in November 2011. Clay that you can cure in a little toaster oven in just 15 minutes? Magic! From there I began making miniature food sculptures you can wear as jewellery. I realise that sentence is a little confusing for someone who doesn’t spend hours sculpting a carrot the size of a matchstick, so it’s probably easier for you to get the gist by having a quick squiz here to really understand what i’m blabbing about. Yes, it’s an extremely niche market, but thankfully yes, people really do buy/wear them.

For as long as I can remember wheel thrown pottery has always mesmerised me, but classes were few and far between, and were almost always booked up well in advanced. For my 23rd birthday I was determined to find a class with open spaces, and a new studio opened up just a suburb away. The thought of trying to wrangle a hunk of clay on a spinning wheel using nothing but centrifugal force and my hands was a dizzying concept, and more than just being fun, it would be functional! I might be able to make things that can hold water and food and look aesthetically pleasing – unlike my metallic pig.

I struggled through my first couple of classes. Getting that little lump of stoneware clay to sit in the middle of the wheel-head seemed near impossible, and being left-handed added an exciting little learning curve. My instructor insisted I was a natural, but I felt more like a fraud as I did in music class, holding up the clarinet and pretending to play without having a clue what I was doing. After a few lessons of me gritting my teeth trying to make things that looked less like stunted little vessels that were either too thick or dangerously thin, it all started to flow much more easily.

Wheel throwing has forced me gather a modicum of patience. I was so used to having a near instant end result with oven-baked clay. I could start and finish a piece in under an hour, but now it takes more like 3 weeks, as I only have one day a week in the studio and things need time to firm up between trimming/bisque firing/glazing. I started classes almost two months ago and it was only last week that I sent my first two little planters to the mercy of the kiln gods. They’re not perfect, but they’ll be the first thing I’ll be able to hold in my hand as a finished product. As I put them on the firing shelf I muttered my goodbyes, telling them to “Make Mummy proud or don’t bother coming home.” One of the resident potters happened to walk in at that time and had a good giggle, noting that she too had that same nervous feeling when she started.

In just two days i’ll be able to see how they went on their little journey. They might have exploded, or the glaze might have run and turned them into a permanent art installation in the kiln. I’ll admit that the waiting is killing me, but the process was half the fun.

A x.

Phone Anxiety

Photo by Doug on Flickr under Creative Commons License https://flic.kr/p/7sYYEA
Photo by Doug on Flickr under Creative Commons License https://flic.kr/p/7sYYEA

“Yes who’s speaking please?”

This was the phrase I was taught when I was six years old. If the phone happened to ring and my Nan or Gran couldn’t make it to the phone in time, this was my go-to. I was more than happy to skip over to the landline and chew the ear of the poor soul on the other end. Everyone found my high-pitched little voice adorable, and it was usually just my mum, aunty, or Gran’s hairdresser on the other end.

I think it was probably the teenage years of MSN messenger and texting that helped nudge me on this path of phone awkwardness. We all preferred to chat through emojis and text speak than actually talk to each other, and it’s stunted me when I came out the other side where people in the real world did talk on the phone/skype. It makes me laugh a little when I think of that confident little girl chatting away on her Gran’s prehistoric telephone in comparison to me now, who has to psych herself up and gets sweaty behind the knees over a phone call – even if it’s just to order Thai food.

So I have a newfound trick that I decided I should share if by chance anyone else (please, tell me it’s not just me) has the same problem. So here it is:

I pretend i’m Mum. Obviously don’t pretend to be my Mum though because although I don’t doubt your stellar acting skills, I just don’t think you could get her voice down pat. An equally confident go-getter will do the trick though.

Mum loves the phone. She loved the phone back when texting wasn’t really a thing, and she loves it now because she can both text her girlfriends for everyday happenings and call them all in quick succession when something really exciting goes down. She is effortless when calling up about bills, making appointments, and even making a complaint. She has this very to the point, professional-yet polite voice that she puts on, and i’ve heard it so many times that my mimicry is spot on. I don’t even have to practise a little script of what i’m going to say before I call anymore, and the back of my knees perspire much less, thank god.

Hungry

Photo by Mark_K_ on Flickr
Photo by Mark_K_ on Flickr

After graduation I was satiated. I thought I had eaten and dished out more words than I could ever read/write/speak again. I revelled in the feeling of having nothing due, to go to sleep without triple-checking to ensure I did in fact set my alarm. I was in a state of blissful limbo, where I felt the space between graduating and work was a good place to rest because damn, I had worked hard.

I worked in my unfulfilling cafe job and spent all my in-between time sculpting. I loved having the time and freedom to pursue my art, and I had no intentions to write, read, or do anything in relation to my degree. I had no idea what I was doing, floating through the weeks in the hopes that my dream job would yank me out of hibernation and inspire me to continue what I used to love and do for fun.

That feeling of euphoric freedom faded as swiftly as it had come. Small talk with strangers became difficult, because when they asked what I do for a living I stuttered and made excuses trying to justify my state of nothingness.

Up until now I had been stagnant, but it all became too much. Doing nothing was weighing on me more than when I was running myself ragged, and that gnawing need to write started to bug me. At first writing was hard, I felt like a newborn baby giraffe stumbling around clumsily. But now it’s just started happening, as weird as it sounds. I’m writing in my head constantly, most of it is shit, I mean it’s not like I picked up a pen and became a writing savant or anything. But I’ve started carrying my journal around just in case, and i’ve actually picked up my university textbooks again. For the first time, in a very long time, I can call myself a writer and actually mean it.