My Quotes #5

“Like a tsunami that hits the coastline

A hurricane that throws up houses

Or an earthquake that splits the earth in two

Watch your words.

They can change relationships forever.

Think carefully.

Choose them wisely.

They cannot be unsaid.

Elephants don’t forget.”

– SmikG.

Some social commentary on isolation in COVID

Gee we’re living in interesting times.

And that’s not to trivialise any of the sicknesses or deaths associated with COVID here, or around the world.

Absolutely no.

But just look around you. Look around us. Look in your neighbourhood.

We’re all running around like a bunch of chooks with our heads cut off, not quite sure how to deal with another 6 weeks of isolation.

Buying up at the shops… going out quickly to grab those last minute things we just can’t live without!

Calm down people.

Why are we going nuts like we did at the start? Don’t you remember what happened the first time around?

We will still have eggs.

We will still have dishwashing tablets.

We will still have freaking toilet paper.

I for one, don’t mind this round two one bit.

So what? We’ve been in one form of isolation or another since late March. That’s approximately 15 weeks if you’ve been social distancing correctly, and 106 days going off my gratitude blog since this all began.

If this had been done properly the first time around, and restrictions hadn’t loosened as early as they did (I always felt they relaxed too soon) this may not be occurring.

Only Victoria. It had to happen in Victoria. The garden state. The state, ‘on the move.’

Too right coronavirus is on the move.

This time feels different. I honestly feel like if we’re able to get through these 6 weeks with EVERYONE isolating, we will kick this virus well and truly.

Read a book.

Watch a movie at home. You can rent, Netflix, subscribe to an online service.

Go for a walk. Remember that’s still allowed.

Connect via zoom and video calls.

Listen to some old records.

Dance in the kitchen.

Flick through photo albums.

Rediscover the fuel that makes you tick, that which makes your heart soar, and what makes your soul happy.

Sure, some things are gonna suck. Work will be hard, school will be hard (if it’s done from home again, especially hard) and being isolated from those you love can be especially disheartening.

But remember this. What sucks more is this thing going on for months and months because we as a state can’t get it right.

What sucks more is the people who have died from this.

Whatever problem, issue or inconvenience this isolation causes you, it is not as bad as dying alone in a hospital room.

No support. No holding hands. Because that’s what this virus does to you.

Keep that in perspective.

Do it right now, please. Do the right thing, so we can go out in the glorious Spring sunshine come September, and breathe in that fresh air, knowing it is finally, over.

Let’s go from corona, and ‘BC,’ before corona…

To ‘AD.’ After disaster. After disease. After death.

Let’s do it.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Friday night conversations #11 What is allowed on pizza?

I’m bringing you a very serious topic tonight.

It’s concerning food, and we all treat what we eat seriously, right?

We want to like it, right?

So then, why do weird things sometimes adorn it… like, for example, on pizza?

What topping do you think SHOULD, OR SHOULD NOT GO on top of pizza?

I’ll start it off by throwing out some obvious and not-so-obvious toppings to see where everyone stands.

Some might make you think ‘YES’ I hate that!

Others might make you go ‘NO’ I actually don’t mind it.

And then there might be some neutral ones that have you neither here or there, because yeah whatever, you like to eat, nom nom nom.

So firstly… Anchovies.

For me? No. I have strong memories of my childhood where we forgot to ask for no anchovies on the capricciosa, and because it all kind of blended in, biting into the pizza only to get that unmistakable extreme saltiness…

Ugh. Yuck. I still remember it.

Next up… Pineapple. I have nothing against the fruit. And I’ve had some things on pizza that people might find unusual.

I’ve had vegetables like cauliflower… I’ve had chicken strips and barbeque sauce… and I’ve had all forms of seafood… I’ve even had potatoes on pizza (with rosemary, mmm yum!)

But pineapple… I mean, is it trying to be a dessert pizza, with lashings of chocolate, bananas and strawberries all which AREN’T there? Did it miss the dessert bus? Hmm.

I’ve bitten in and come across the pineapple before… and I am not a fan. It feels kind of squeaky against the bread and meat and cheese, and let’s just say when Hubbie orders it on his half, and some of it encroaches onto my pineapple-free side, well I’m picking the pieces off and flinging them in his direction like “here, take it.”

Yes, take it.

Last, but definitely not least for my little survey… tomato sauce.

YES.

Now I’m not talking the base that the dough is spread with. I’m talking, you get your pizza delivered from the pizza shop…

And then at home, you squirt tomato sauce (or ketchup, whatever’s your fancy) all over your pizza.

It might sound crazy, but it actually makes complete sense.

You’re just making it saucier, that’s all. I learnt this one off my cousins when they moved to Australia from overseas, and it must be a European thing because Hubbie learnt the same from his own cousin when he came from overseas…

It must be a very Balkan thing.

Admittedly I don’t eat it like that anymore… but it’s a very easy thing to get used to.

So tell me… any of these tickle your fancy? Are you disgusted at the thought? Or do you have your own pet peeves?

Please tell… what does or doesn’t belong on pizza?

Photo by Dima Valkov on Pexels.com

A different ending for Narcissus

You don’t make an online splash,

But I hear the ripple of wind as you hawk over me.

Pretending like you don’t see it all,

Choosing where your thumbs up go

I’m not meant to know, that you watch me after all.

You wonder why I don’t mention you.

But things that have hurt you,

Events that have impacted you,

And people whose words and actions have harmed you beyond anything you’ve ever known,

Are not things you want to dwell on, dance in, and dawdle over.

I prefer to ignore forget it all.

Your image of yourself is flawless,

But you fail to see the many errors of your judgement.

How the smooth lines of your life are pulled so tight, like a Botoxed face,

Gnawing at the sides, tearing what is naturally there, and creating cracks in it’s wake like the desert ground.

You are actually lucky.

You have more love than you know what to do with

And just as well it comes from obligation

Since you continue to throw it all down the drain.

I feel your judgement, with every word written, and every syllable spoken

I feel it in all my good and bad moments.

And I know what you must say about me, because I’ve heard you say it about everyone else too.

Does anyone think,

Narcissus died not from the perfect vision of looking at himself in the waters reflection,

But in the horror of seeing his inner ugliness portrayed and distorted and swayed to him, that no one else but Mother Nature could show?

Hmm.

Well when you fall, it will be too late.

I won’t be standing by the waters edge, waiting to lend you a hand

I will watch you from the bushes, just as you’ve watched me from a distance, all this time.

You won’t see me, but you may hear my presence,

As a rustle in the trees… and a whisper in the wind…

“Pssst.

I see you.

I hear you.

I know you.

Yes, I know.”

It’s all fine, it’s alright

Keep smiling through all your lies

Tell them what they want to hear

Then turn your back and bash their ear

Give them a sweet name, that always works

But when they need you, you bitch and lurk

You treat them on a scale of 5, but always expect a 10

It’s never you… it’s all of THEM.

Jest guess? but caution over violent breaths.

Photo by Letícia Lua on Pexels.com

Friday night conversations #10 What was your childhood show?

On the way home from school today, baby girl asked me a question.

“Mama, have you heard of Pippi Longstocking?”

“Yes!”

“Our teacher read us that book today.”

It’s a real full circle moment when your child starts to get introduced to what you used to watch…. sooo long ago. I remember when she learnt who Mr Squiggle was last year… that dude is an Australian childhood institution!

I got her to tell Hubbie over dinner, what she found out about today.

“Who?” he asked.

“Pippi Longstocking!” I said.

“I don’t know him,” he replied.

“It’s a girl!” I cried. “Are you kidding me? You don’t know Pippi Longstocking?”

“Never heard of her.”

“How? This is when we were growing up! That’s like someone from our generation saying they don’t know He-Man.”

“But I know He-Man.”

“Yeah, but imagine they didn’t.”

We grew up with 5 channels, not an abundance of options and on demand services like what we have nowadays. And even though back then it was probably considered more of a girl show, I am still baffled as to how, with such limited kids content, with only certain times of the day where kids programs would air, that he NEVER came across Pippi Longstocking, with the curvy plaits going out to the sides in a smile.

I even brought up the theme song… oh it’s engraved in my head! Even after all these years!

We all wanted to be her!

Anyway, all this talk made me think… what was your childhood show? What show do you immediately think of, when you think of your childhood?

What show is synonymous with you growing up?

This could be anything. You could have grown up in the 70s, 80s, 90s, even the 2000s… for me it was the 80s and early 90s, and I struggle so hard to pick just one show.

So I will be cheeky and pick three.

Mine are:

Duck Tales. “Duck Tales, woo ooh!” I loved that theme song. Huey, Dewey and Louie were fun to follow, and their great-uncle Scrooge McDuck, well, who could understood him?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They were huge, EVERYONE loved them! My favourite was Donatello, because he was purple, and I liked that colour (typical 7 year-old rationale).

And finally… who can forget Scooby Doo! Oh gee. The amount of kids that scared themselves silly watching that show, huddled over, on, or behind the couch, terrified of the bad guys out to get the Scooby gang… that show was seriously freaky stuff! And then we all went to school like nothing at all happened, only to do it all over again the next morning.

What show do you think of when you remember your childhood?

Friday night conversations #9 How isolated are you?

Isolation. It’s not the nicest of words, because no one wants to be, or feel isolated… and yet it’s become a common sentiment over the past few months.

The definition of isolation: to set apart from others, to quarantine.

And yet the way we’ve all been isolating lately has been widely subjective according to personal circumstance.

I will put my hand up here. My family and I all started out really taking things seriously. Look to some extent we still do. We hand sanitise constantly, our social gatherings are at a nil, and we’ve grown accustomed to this new, quieter, more low-key way of life.

We’re also surprisingly, enjoying it.

We hear repeatedly that we must only do, or go out for essential things.

Groceries.

School.

Work.

Health/medical care.

Checking in on vulnerable loved ones.

Exercise.

But how many times can you say you’ve done something not considered essential?

Well, I can count them. Because I’ve done a few things that definitely did not qualify in the ‘necessary’ category.

Or did they? Let’s have a quick look.

After baby girl was denied back at school due to her NON-INFECTIOUS, post-cold cough, we went to Target… I bought her a toy, and in effect said stuff you to the whole community because I was shitty at the situation.

We went to Chadstone shopping centre during the Queens Birthday weekend. Us and the entire state, it felt like. We needed stuff, but did we really NEED it?

We’ve gone out to a couple of cafes since restrictions eased.

I’ve been to my sister’s place. It was her birthday and I was in the area.

Likewise, I just saw my parents.

Seeing your family is allowed. And cafes and restaurants are now open, so therefore supporting local, going in to grab a coffee should be ok, right?

Shopping for random stuff on the other hand, may not be the most important thing, but mental health is…

And therein lies the point. I think lots of people after all this time, may be getting a bit lax in their choices and their judgment when it comes to where they should go.

Because it’s been so long that we’ve been so strict on ourselves, that we need to get out, do something, go somewhere, see something or someone that we haven’t for so long, or else we’ll go crazy.

Maybe you haven’t been so strict… maybe you think I’ve been too lax…

Anyone game to put up their hand and share where you’ve been? Share a place or event that wasn’t essential?

What do you think will happen now? Do you think things will get even stricter as the cold descends further, or will we all just throw in the towel, and with that the sanitiser too?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Friday night conversations #8 What is your trash TV treasure?

Or treasures. Hey I’m not one to judge if you have multiple.

And yes, I know what I said… not guilty pleasure… but trash TV treasure.

Because let’s face it, what our favourite trash TV show brings us, is no reason to feel guilty for AT ALL. It brings unadulterated pleasure, and why the hell shouldn’t we enjoy it? Huh? Huh?

It allows us to escape into another world, one far, far removed from our own…

And the sordid stories, oh the juicy gossip! So much drama, tension, lust, it is just TOO MUCH.

Only it isn’t too much. Because we keep coming back for more.

It made me wonder, what do other people out there pine for? With the re-vamped Big Brother so close to hitting our screens, followed by the next season of Bachelor in Paradise chasing it… then there is that other one, the one that sounds something like maths…

Oh yeah, MAFS! Totally joshing with you.

As much as I loved the ‘middle’ seasons of Big Brother (the hilarity of the Hotdog season… if you know, you know), I’m not sure I’m up for this reimagined version… though I might give it a peek.

My big go-to? Bachelor in Paradise! Although there will be pre-planned plot points, a guaranteed love declaration, proposal, or two, with a just as guranteed public break-up after that will make me heavily disillusioned with the whole series… I will still lap it up, happily.

So, what are your trash TV treasures? Any from this list, or have I missed your favourite pleasure? 😉

Word by Word

ANNE LAMOTT – Bird by Bird

“I worry that Jesus drinks himself to sleep when he hears me talk like this.”

Much can be read from this line that comes from the book on writing and life advice by Anne Lamott.

1: Her mention of Jesus makes one think that she is religiously-inclined, that it is a significant part of her life, or that it plays a pivotal role in her daily decisions. From what I have read, that would be correct.

2: The fact that Jesus himself would become an alcoholic based on the things she says, kind of paints the picture of an insanely articulate yet unhinged, hilarious writer whose bark is worse than her bite, and who manages to make the darkest of themes, like even death, humorous.

From what I have read, that would also be correct.

Lamott has a wicked sense of humour. From the outset, I could tell that I would like her. Her witty, sharp, insightful remarks and views on the world, ability to poke fun at herself and allow us to see and hear all her very real insecurities and jealousies about being a human, and about being a writer, made me immediately sympathetic to her story. She’s honest and real about the struggles in a writer’s world, and let’s face it, trying to get into it in the first place, yet despite her stark frankness in the matter, suggesting that only a small number get to go on Letterman, she has put together this book in an effort to encourage and help aspiring writers, as she has often done in her writing workshops.

“The best thing about being an artist, instead of a madman or someone who writes letters to the editor, is that you get to engage in satisfying work. Even if you never publish your work, you have something important to pour yourself into.”

This book made me laugh, and it made me cry. It gave me some good hard advice, as well as some awesome little snippets and ideas on what I can do in my writing life to just generally be better at it.

So let’s begin Anne’s writing class. (I usually call writers by their surnames in my reviews but after reading this book I feel like I know her so well).

SET THE MOOD

“I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it…”

I got quite a few good tips from Anne on ways to improve my writing environment. Firstly, it seems simple, but using some kind of external trigger, like a candle, and the act of lighting it, when done repeatedly over time it can serve as a kind of switch for your writing conscious to kick in. This excited me because for my birthday I got given this beautiful candle in a glass jar, and the wick actually crackles as it burns (I actually picked the candle for myself and my parents paid, but same thing). As if I didn’t need further reason to get it, the lady behind the counter said “when the house is quiet, light it and listen to it crackle as you read a book.”

Um, what about write a book? God if she knew. So that will be my thing, the candle, in particular this most awesome-nest of awesome candles, the wicker-crackling candle.

And speaking of the conscious mind. The rational mind is probably our worst enemy. Second guessing ourselves, reading over what we’ve written, trying too hard, sticking to plans and not letting things flow – this all obstructs the natural story-telling and writing process. She says that characters are created in our unconscious mind, the area in which we have no control over, so it would come to reason that we should relax a little, try to listen to our intuition more, and just let the unconscious do its thing. She uses the metaphor of broccoli for her intuition, but whatever ‘voice’ it is that you can’t control within, as long as it works for you. I love the metaphor and vision of the butterfly, and it has significance for me on many levels, and with its random yet gentle fluttering, I’ve decided to watch this creature in my mind’s eye and follow where it leads me. Just as a green vegetable will work for Anne, a transformative insect will work for me.

Preparation-wise, Anne has index cards placed pretty much all over the place at her house, in her car, she even takes them with her on walks in case an idea, thought or inspiration strikes her. I have to say, when I’ve had a great thought and not had the necessary pen/paper/mobile to capture it, I whole-heartedly agree with Anne when she says:

“That is one of the worst feelings I can think of, to have had a wonderful moment or insight or vision or phrase, to know you had it, and then to lose it.”

There’s nothing wrong with needing a prompt to remember things. Being a mother herself, she offers a great insight into one reason you may need these cards in your life, something that despite my uber-organisation, I can totally relate with:

“When a child comes out of your body, it arrives with about a fifth of your brain clutched in its little hand, like those babies born clutching IUDs.”

There will be bad days. You will have writers block, which she says is less about being ‘stuck,’ and more about ‘filling up again.’ She tells her students to try to write at least a page of something, anything, dreams or streams of consciousness or memories, every day, and that on bad days to try and do this just to keep their fingers from becoming arthritic. And in the event of being ‘empty,’ to go out and fill up again.

“Writer’s block is going to happen to you. You will read what little you’ve written lately and see with absolute clarity that it is total dog shit.”

HOW TO WRITE

E.L. Doctorow once said “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” It was interesting to find this quote in Lamott’s book, because I had just finished reading Loon Lake before getting Bird by Bird, and it was in fact this precise Doctorow quote, reading it literally before his death, that rang very true for me.

I didn’t do a whole lot of research, or any writer’s workshops, or join any online writing groups when I first started on my book. I just went into it, with a handful of characters, some strong themes, and a round-a-bout destination in mind. I knew A, I knew somewhere E was going to come in, but then I didn’t know anything in between, just a rough Y and a hazy Z. It’s always comforting when you read that someone you aspire to, such as a successful writer, does the same thing you do, or confirms something you’ve always thought to be true. I never really thought of a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to write, I think we all just do what works for us, but this above metaphor that applies not just to writing, but to life, rang so true to me. Because from my A, B C and D sprang forward, and just by writing scene by scene, character by character, a whole story formed, and I surprised myself on multiple occasions.

You don’t need to see the path to your destination, nor even see your destination at all. Anne talks about ‘Short Assignments,’ and when you struggle in your writing to just think of getting one memory, one scene, one exchange out in front of you, enough that would fill up a one-inch frame. Focusing on one thing at a time is far less overwhelming than worrying about how your protagonist is going to confront the bad guy three chapters away.

“Your plot will fall into place as, one day at a time, you listen to your characters carefully, and watch them move around doing and saying things and bumping into each other.”

Writing can be a very difficult experience, something she admits for herself and for most writers she knows. Getting by is to write a shitty first draft. In this stage anything goes, even phrases like:

“Well so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?”

You just need to get anything down, no matter what it is. Her friend said:

“the first draft is the down draft – you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft – you fix it up….And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.”

 “Vonnegut said, ‘When I write, I feel like an armless legless man with a crayon in his mouth.’”

This is so comforting.

You can even liken your writing to your dreams – the way one absurd scene just flows into another, so too must your writing be “vivid and continuous.” In discovering plot, Anne says her characters know where they are going, she just needs to stay with them long enough. She needs to care for them, polish them, and then suddenly they will show her the way. Another way to think of it is this:

“they need me to write it down for them because their handwriting is so bad.”

What about me then? I need my characters to do everything for me because my handwriting beats that of a doctors!

In writing, you need to revoke all control you have. You may be focusing on the fence, but the yellow sparkling flower in the corner of your mind-frame starts to sparkle and all of a sudden, it’s stolen the show. You must explore that.

“If you stop trying to control your mind so much, you’ll have intuitive hunches about what this or that character is all about. It is hard to stop controlling, but you can do it.”

Anne says that when she starts writing she wants to fill the page with witty insights so that the world will see how smart she is. Whoops. Where I fall into step with the favourable Doctorow quote, so too do I have to begrudgingly agree that I sing along with this writing flaw. But as you write, you want your characters to act out the drama of humankind, which doesn’t include your witty and ground-breaking life insights.

“…the purpose of most great writing seems to be to reveal in an ethical light who we are.”

FUNNY STORIES

Anne made me LOL so hard, that in my re-reading of notes I was still laughing out loud. Oh geez.

The two below cases in point I think really paint a great picture of the dual character-traits she encompasses. Take the story of when readers were surprised to hear that she didn’t love to garden like one of the characters in her book, that she had in fact been researching it heavily and ‘winging’ it instead:

“’You don’t love to garden?’ they’d ask incredulously, and I’d shake my head and not mention that what I love are cut flowers, because this sounds so violent and decadent, like when Salvador Dali said his favourite animal was fillet of sole.”

Oh my fucking lord. I love it.

(I was on a swearing frenzy following Loon Lake, so screw it let’s go).

(Let’s not make much of the fact that one quote on my calendar once said ‘Swearing exposes weakness not strength.’)

A second moment, where she is talking about paying attention to the world around you and using religious metaphors in doing so, displays the heavy theme of God in her life, while also reminding us that she doesn’t give a shit:

“There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness, a sign that God is implicit in all of creation. Or maybe you are not predisposed to see the world sacramentally, to see everything as an outward and visible sign of inward, invisible grace. This does not mean that you are worthless Philistine scum.”

Her chapter on jealousy is refreshing. If a writing friend of hers is successful with writing, sometimes she wants –

“for him to wake up one morning with a pain in his prostate, because I don’t care how rich and successful someone is, if you wake up having to call your doctor and ask for a finger massage, it’s going to be a long day.”

These images are so clear and paint such a humorous picture, and the fact that she does it all, making it appear so effortless, makes you realise how great of a writer she really is.

I can re-type countless funny moments and stories of hers, but I just need to do one more, I promise. I love the following mental picture. When researching for the name of the ‘wire thing’ used for wines, she called a winery to try and found out its proper name. The receptionist there didn’t know the name of it either so she transferred her to:

“a two-thousand year old monk. Or at least this is how he sounded, faint, reedy, out of breath, like Noah after a brisk walk.

And he was so glad I’d called. He actually said so, and he sounded like he was. I have secretly believed ever since that he had somehow stayed alive just long enough to be there for my phone call, and that after he answered my question, he hung up, smiled, and keeled over.”

Oh God. I love it!

Okay, back to the serious writing stuff (clears throat). Writing can be hard (duh Fred). Even for published professionals such as herself, there is still a lot of staring at clocks, staring at blank screens, and yawning. Making phone calls and distracting oneself with other tasks other than writing, is very normal. Sometimes voices would continuously harp at her, and she’s use a tactic a hypnotist once suggested to her, to imagine all the voices as mice, and to one by one drop them into a jar, turn the volume on the jar up and then down, and watch them claw at her as she then muted them. It’s interesting she mentioned this, since I have a kind of different picture, just something I use for when someone I can’t stand is driving me insane in my head. I imagine them as a ball, and with a baseball bat (for some reason it’s baseball, maybe because the ball appears to go very far during that game) I strike it so hard and so out of view that they are no longer seen, or heard.

Perhaps slightly violent, but it does the trick. You can use that for yourself, tell me how you go.

Anne talks of the publishing fantasy, and how it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. She mentions the early draft process, and when she gets her friends to initially provide her feedback on her work. When she doesn’t hear from them by the next day, she starts to think –

“… about all the things I don’t like about either of them, how much in fact I hate them both, how it is no wonder neither of them has many friends.”

When she gets to sending her writing to her editor and agent, her thoughts are equally as insane and hilarious, if not more so. She convinces herself that they are in cahoots, laughing their arses off over her book, now proclaimed the worst book ever written.

“At one point your editor is laughing so hard that she has to take some digitalis, and your agent ruptures a blood vessel in his throat.”

But it doesn’t stop there. On the date of publication, the blow to the ego comes when your phone ISN’T ringing off the hook, and the 5 people that turn up at your book signings, as well as the review that likens your book to dog poo, just makes it all seem not worth it. Additionally, dealing with people who ask “have you written anything I might have heard of?” while others claim they read everything and yet do not know your name, leaves little to be desired in the world of publication.

She makes the process sound quite shit. She is a great writer after all.

SAD STORIES

Just as I laughed, so too did I cry.

The sad moments made me tear up, quite bad, punching me hard in the heart. Perhaps some of the saddest material came in her section on ‘Letters,’ where she suggested that if you’re stuck in your writing, write an informal letter to someone you know. This has not only been a beautiful present to the person in question in her own life, but has captured a moment of time that will never be forgotten.

The three letters she speaks of are the ones she wrote to her Dad, her best friend, and the couple of a boy who passed. The first two ended up being published books, with both her Dad and best friend getting to read her book dedicated to them, before they passed. It was especially hard for me to read the part of her Dad dying, since I have someone in the immediate family who died from the same thing that struck her Dad. It was shocking, and frightening, to say the least. The fact that she got to write something for her Dad and he read it, and it got published, is heartbreakingly bittersweet.

I was almost crying my eyes out at her third example of an informal letter. A couple she knew had lost their son at 5 months of age. He had been called ‘Cloud Boy’ by his mother’s friends: because he had been resuscitated at birth, he was neither here, nor there. She wrote a piece about him and it was broadcast on radio, and the fact that I had earlier been very cranky with baby girl, just broke my heart. My note on this read:

‘Makes me feel guilty for getting upset earlier at baby girl –big hug later :)’

Page 205, has quite frankly the best story of giving, EVER. It is so painfully moving and inspiring, that I cannot will myself to re-tell it here, in fear of butchering it to death. So just do yourself a favour and get the book and read the damn thing, especially page 205.

Finally, the following poem is one she re-tells, as having thought of it in regards to a student of hers who wasn’t doing so well in his writing. Its fragility is touching.

“Above me, wind does its best

to blow leaves off

the aspen tree a month too soon.

No use wind. All you succeed

in doing is making music, the noise

of failure growing beautiful.”

LIFE

The title of Anne’s book Bird by Bird comes from one of the best stories, in my opinion, to come out of the book (apart from page 205). It is so relevant to life, that I’ve found myself quoting and muttering it ever since I finished reading it.

Anne tells of the story of when her older brother had a report due on birds the next day, which he had had 3 months to write. Close to tears, surrounded by bird info, and overwhelmed by the hugeness of the task, his Dad had put his arm around him and said “Bird by bird buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Now I find that I’ll be doing something and I just go ‘bird by bird.’ Some passer-by may think it means I’m collecting the aviary kind, but the significance is just so great, I can’t help but to say it out loud.

She discusses libel, which is one of the most memorable and humorous lessons in the book. If you must make someone horrible from your life a character in one of your books (God help me, I threaten every twerp I meet in my mind with ‘oh you wait ‘til I make the world hate you in my novels, mwa ha ha!’) change all their traits so they can’t sue you, and make them impossible to trace and identify from the people in their life… and of course give them a little penis so they won’t come forward even if they’re suss on you.

It’s Okay. Anne says this every so often, and always with a capital ‘O.’ There is some significance, and I’ve been trying to work out what… suggesting that Okay is a state of being, holding much importance, it all goes back to being alright…. You got me, I’m not sure. But just remember all you writers out there, it will all be Okay.

She talks about all the great things about being a writer, which hey, we all knew already, right? (And if you didn’t, what kind of masochist are you?) Even though she says that publishing is in fact, a fantasy, telling her students that in writing “… devotion and commitment will be their own reward,” she also says:

“But the fact of publication is the acknowledgement from the community that you did your writing right. You acquire a rank that you never lose.”

Writers “get to stay home and still be public.”

Something I’ve always believed: you get the best of both worlds. I did come to question myself, as I have on so many occasions: why do I do it? Why write? Why do I feel the pull, the need, the obsessive urge to get everything down on paper? I journal passionately, having captured my entire pregnancy, the first year of baby girl’s life, and I have since continued, picking up from where I left off years ago and beginning to journal all of my life again.

There are many reasons. First, so we are not lost. One day we will die, and all that will remain of Hubbie and I, which our children will be able to hold onto, are photos, memories, and this. My journals. My journals will give them a view into our worlds like no one else can. Despite our absence, our stories that we’ve passed on to them, and my words, will still be alive.

This is something that I find so magical. That I can be reading ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ written by Shakespeare, and laughing out loud over the lines he wrote hundreds of years ago. That is amazing, that is inspiring, that kind of life-transcendence, for a story to be living and making people feel long after you’re gone.

Of course, I love to write. It is almost an obsessive urge in me, where I need to get stuff down. Additionally, I have a tremendous story in me that just needs to be told. I believe so whole-heartedly that it will resonate with people out there, that I simply must do whatever it takes to get it heard. I will try.

I don’t always love to write. But I always have to do it.

“But the tradition of artists will continue no matter what form the society takes. And this is another reason to write: people need us, to mirror for them and for each other without distortion…”

The world will always need writers. Stories have existed from the beginning of time, and will always be a necessity. You don’t have to write just for yourself: “Risk freeing someone else.” Make someone else’s day, help someone going through the troubles in their life, by telling them your story.

One of the greatest things her father taught her was to pay attention. And that in itself is beautiful. Going somewhere with a sense of purpose, noting things down, whether because you’re going to review it later (a restaurant you’ve been to, or a book you’re reading) or simply to capture the details for a written piece, either fictional or personal.

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore.”

In closing, this is a tremendously inspiring and informative book, one all writers should read, published or not. I’m not sure whether it is better than Stephen King’s ‘On Writing:” that I would need to read again, since his I read during my writing book process, and Anne’s one came much later in the game. But both are equally entertaining in their own way, and really, we should be grabbing ALL the advice that successful writers send out to us, and not question it! Take it, absorb it, memorise it, and then with your arms full run for the hills.

I want you all to take these two quotes I present from Anne’s book, and use it to fuel your story, your passion, and your purpose.

“All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions.”

“Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”

And now run.

Please let me know your thoughts on Bird by Bird in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you. 😊

My Quotes #4

“In most cases…

A problem can be lessened,

Pain can be halved,

And worries can be almost diminished.

If you –

Talk to a loved one,

Have a satisfying meal,

Drink a warm coffee, or

Have a restful sleep.

And if after any of things… all of these things,

Your heart isn’t full

Your tummy isn’t happy

Your soul isn’t dancing

And your body isn’t rested…

Then it’s time to talk to a professional.

But in most cases, and for most problems… these are the best, and most simplest cures of life.”

-SmikG.

Photo by Valentin Antonucci on Unsplash

Baby girl says the darndest things #10

I’m sitting on the toy box leaning against the wall, which I do every night as I’m waiting for baby girl to fall asleep.

My feet are up on her bed, while she lays, squirming, moving, underneath the covers.

My eyes are closed. I am still. Feigning sleep.

I feel her feet underneath the covers, start to tap against my feet on top of the bed.

“Yes, honey, I can feel your feet.”

I open my eyes and look at her warily.

“Mum, my feet just love your feet, they have to tap them.”

“Okay, but you won’t be able to sleep if you’re tapping my feet all night.”

“But Mum!” (Her favourite catchphrase at the moment).

“My feet are connected to your feet! And my feet are connected to Tato’s feet too, but he’s too far, they can’t reach them…” motions upstairs.

So, not only are our hearts connected… but our feet are too.

Photo by alleksana on Pexels.com