Remembering Jane Austen-Pens and Potatoes

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I am standing at the sink scrubbing potatoes. I am doing it more quickly than usual as I am still editing the final copy of an article, and there is a very high possibility that the distraction of the spots on the potatoes will surpass the importance of dots that come at the end of sentences.

As I scrub, I think of Jane Austen, as I so often do at these times, who wrote her novels “in between peeling potatoes.”

I have always loved this image, ever since I first encountered it in Jane Austen Class at University. And how I loved that class. The way it sat so unapologetically against the backdrop of inner city share house squalor, boots that I had managed to fix using a bicycle repair kit, and the taunting persistent possibility of its complete irrelevance.

The magic of Jane Austen class was illuminated further by the fact that I was in love with the boy who sat in front of me. There was no greater Mr Darcy than he. Indeed, he was proud, brilliant and scornful, and even wore a cape. I think I just dropped my pencil.

While Mr Cape was a heady distraction, I did manage to absorb a great deal of the actual course material, and later encountered Austen over and again, in various courses on women’s literature and the like. Her relevance took many forms, and now, years later, in the absence of Darcensical distraction, the currently relevant part, is the insurmountable interference of women’s work in the creative life of a woman (or domestically tethered man). Peeling Potatoes.

Now Austen was not of the serving class, so we can imagine she had more time than many to attend to her craft. She was also without children, or husband and this would indeed have freed up some creative energy. But is it so, that as it was then, so it is now, and to support one’s creative inclination in life, one must hope for the passing of a very distant relative with a great deal of money. Or marry well?

Happily not. We are many of us free as individuals now, to make our way, as best we can. And this is a wonderful thing. But with basic needs met, the fact remains, that attempting to create quality creative work amongst the cacophony of domestic duties, work commitments and so on, can leave one feeling slightly disembodied. Ok, maniacally frustrated?

Morning dawns, the cat crows at the window and doves alight the branches of the Amber tree. I am, as always, awake before every one, and I smile at the new day and tip toe across the floor. Outside, I sit in half lotus and drink coffee, like I’m not supposed to, and get ready to go running. In this moment I cast out the net and fish for half remembered dreams,  enlightened solutions to problems , and heart’s yearnings, and bring in the net to see what I’ve caught.

I could write a novel, right there and then. I could sit on the rose coloured decking boards hunched over a typewriter, until the light faded and the evening had no choice but to come. I could sleep, curled up on the cane couch, and in my dreams I could write again, and the next day, throw food in a pack and drive to the lake and write, and  stand in the kitchen stirring a pot with one hand and write,  I could get it all down if I just started now….

A dove takes flight, and a leaf falls to the ground in its wake. Moved on by the sound of footsteps that even I have only just heard now. A sleepy child pads towards me, peering out under bothered hair, casting my way, a vaguely accusatory look, as if I personally made morning come too soon. She climbs onto my lap, an elbow to the ribs, a knee under my chin, and the novel drains away.

Later, I go walking across barmy paddocks, greeting pretty cows with a smile and rousing ducks from their marshy reveries. If Darcy were here he’d be breaking a sweat. And I’ve barely written all week.

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9 Really Good Reasons Not to be a Writer

Customer: Can I eat it?

Writer: No.IMG_2521

Customer: Can I wear it?

Writer: No

Customer: Okay Bye.

Being a writer is seriously one of the stupidest things a person could try and do. If you are one of those miserably afflicted by Remington dreaming, it’s time to take up something else, anything will do…   go now swiftly, while there’s still time.. …oh all right read on if you must, and then let it rest, because… and you know this already…

1. Writers have no career prospects.

Getting published is about as easy as rescuing a beached whale with a cheesegrater. While you are waiting to be published your ego will suffer so extensively that by the time you give up on being a writer you will have the professional confidence of a postage stamp licker, and have lost most of your hair. If you persist, you will find that..

2.Writers cannot say they are writers.

It is impossible to actually call yourself a writer and keep a straight face. No matter how you try and say it, a casual aside, purposeful optimism, raw bravado or self-deprecating cool, something will give you away. A twitch of the nose, an eyebrow, a hair flick. You cannot in all seriousness, be taken seriously, when you say you are a writer. You will inevitably cite your day job first and if you don’t have one, invent one.

3. All writers who do say they are writers, are tossers.

If you do somehow manage to get through the introductory sentence, you will then be required to describe what you are writing about. This second stage, is hardly ever traversed, unless you are Salman Rushdie, without sounding like you are in Grade 2 and you’ve just announced you plan to be an astronaut. However earnest your topic may be, you can guarantee the person listening is not actually listening but concentrating on nodding and shifting their gaze in equal parts, so as not to reveal their inner smirk with a nose twitch, eyebrow or hair flick.

4.Writers can’t speak properly.

Writers are constantly shifting their pitch between the affected English lyricist and the street wise, salt of the earth, common folk.So their sentences come out like this:

     Yes I quite agree my dear, One does tend to see things in an awfully

        feckin odd, bloody bizarre way

    when one is out there on the precipice of one’s life staring into

       the bloody great big cosmic nothin’, hey brother.

5. Writers have no friends.

Writers cannot have friends. Any friends they have are fodder for absurdist theatre, in which case they are no longer friends. Friends who are not satirised, feature in tragi-drama, and are equally deeply offended. Any friends that are left after that, are getting ready to leg it as they are tired of you never having any money to pay for lunch.

6. Writers are Thieves.

There are now so many thoughts in the world, that Writers have to constantly google their original thoughts to make sure someone else didn’t say it first. Which they inevitably did. So writers feel disproportionately guilty, false . Indeed, the range of new thoughts available are now so few, it makes a writer feel …. like butter scraped over too much bread, when one would rather feel sort of …unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life.

7. Writing poses a serious health risk.

When I was a young adult I discovered my favourite writer Richard Brautigan, had committed suicide.  Wha? Ba…? How?

RB was the coolest cleverest, funniest ,most unique Remington wielding individual on the planet.  How could he leave like this?

I soon discovered most writers commit suicide at some point in their lives.

8. Writing cannot be eaten or worn.

If you have tried, like me, to sell your wares at the local market, you will discover the true idiocy of this pursuit.

Customer : Can I eat it?

Writer: No

Customer: Can I wear it?

Writer: No.

Customer: Ok Bye.

9. Writers are terrible at maths.

10.   Writers cannot be happy.

If writers were happy, stories would go like this;

Once upon a time, they all lived happily ever after.

The End.

To all you writers who venture on…I take my hat off to you. And yes I am wearing a beret. ..What?…

 

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How to Write Poetry- Four Lines a Day

IMG_3092Not so long ago, when the faceless abyss of freelance writing seemed particularly jagged and packs were set down on the snow in silent pause, a friend threw me ‘a loop of rope’. Four lines a day he said. Poetry. Four lines a day, and we’ll get through this.

I had written many things before, some poetic in nature, but none of them in Iambic pentameter. I loved it. Instantly. I hadn’t even tried it yet and I loved it. I loved that it was a frivolous challenge void of a point, that it was a dialogue, that it had purpose and that most of all, it was driven by the spirit of writing just for the heck of it. Brooding clouds faded, the sun came out for a moment, and every day forthwith was a picnic in a storm in the brilliant shadows of poets long gone.

Being both in the possession of mildly obsessive temperament we rarely wrote four lines a day, as four lines was never enough. The poetry became a touchstone by which to measure the quality of each day, a meditation, a conversation, an archaeological investigation, and an affirmation of the collective writer’s mantra “I write therefore I am”.

And so the poetry set about its healing work, but it wasn’t always deep. In fact it usually wasn’t When you’re set the challenge of writing poetry every day you’re bound to authenticity. Sure some days the exaltations were fine and high. But when they weren’t , well, you simply had to be happy with what presented itself. A limerick about the boy beach band phenomena, rhyming verse about spinach pie, the first four lines of an epic science fiction tomb. Bad poetry, recited with a cockney accent.

On the days we wrote poetry we actually wanted to like, trusting another writer was invaluable. Happily, my friend was a disciple of precision, and would nae reward a badly written poem.  In his dedication to editing he was my perfect teacher.  Calling for last drinks and hailing the metaphorical taxi home, he kept my writing sober. And he was compassionate to the end about my need to write in a sort of semi possessed spontaneous style during which I had little space for re-reading and refining. Though, in my defence, I may have occasionally produced quality in this state. Still, I concede, much can be gained by a brave and thorough revisiting of one’s work.

Collaboration, the very thing my churlish ego had rejected was my now an irresistible muse. And in the end I wrote not for quality, but the joy of writing every day with purpose.

And so my lesson was spelled out in the sand.  When it comes to matters of the craft, whatever that may be, we must approach them with open hearts, hold them lightly and practice them often. The subsequent joy is exponential.

So next time you find yourself sitting before a half written page that taunts you like some stagnant ponding wasteland.. or parent in law..reflecting in ill fashioned shards the failings of your eternally misguided or worse, mediocre soul…get out of your head, find a writing pal and try it.

Four lines a day.

 

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Why I Love Fiverr

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I love Fiverr

I love its  ‘how fiverr works’ video.

Its strobe-like, migraine-inducing medium- voltage  diatribe, and its pushy, careless Haviana wearing voiceover.

I love its generous contribution to the overdiagnosis of ADHD, a mythology in which the problem lies with the individual, not the machine.

Its Tinder-like exploitation of the collective non-committal psyche. I love that it has two rr’s so you sound like a young American when you say it.

Its brazen pimpyoface profiles, its shiny, smiling writers driven drunk by the compulsion to simply exist, discounting their five dollar rates as though being paid for your work is a primitive habit we should have grown out of.

I love its broken promises to hardworking people in developing nations who just spent hours answering the inane questions of clients who were never going to pay anyway.

Most of all , I love its swift delivery of the final humiliation for us first world Loserrs who dedicated their youth to the humanities and took out unspeakable student loans for their craft. The years spent share housing with country club vegans, the guy with Tourettes and the cocktail glass twins while we huddled under a camping store blanket in the corner reading Tolstoy, throughly convinced an education would somehow lead to a roof over our heads.

If you haven’t heard of it, Fiverr is an online freelance discount store, where just behind the oversized moustaches and toxic scented votives you can bag yourself a freelancer for a fiverr. Fiverr is another welt on an already suffering body of workers, which captures perfectly the zeitgeist of our times. But the gall of its unapologetic exploitation, the limp assertion that this is a platform empowering people,  the laziness of its pitch, as though we have all fallen asleep at the wheel and won’t actually realise what’s going on..well  this is truly worth a round of applause.

More Soma anyone?

 

 

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