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. 😊

A sign of Tassie times

Signal Station Brasserie
700 Nelson Road, Mount Nelson TAS

(Visited August ’18)

It was our last, FULL day in Hobart. The days were still sunny and calm (did we get lucky or what?) and after we discovered that traveling to the top of Mount Wellington from our accommodation would take us 40 minutes, one way, we decided to opt for the much shorter distance to Mount Nelson… we had driven to Port Arthur the day before and were getting seriously over driving. This was a holiday after all.

Mount Wellington would have to wait until next time.

We drove under 20 minutes instead, along winding roads with scenery that continued to grow and expand and show us snippets of what we were coming to see… far off mountains and valleys and endless greenery. After a couple of wrong turns we finally made our way up a residential looking street, and came to a dead end at what was the summit.

Not only did we find views… but we found a café (heart).

The signal station brasserie.

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Now those are my kind of views. 180 degree views along Southern Tasmania, thank you very much.

First, we had to take in some splendid scenery.

Breathe in with me…

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And breathe out.

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Ahhh.

The signal station was the first to be built in Tasmania, back in 1811… holey moley. Used back then for signalling and the reporting of shipping to the Port of Hobart and eventually to Port Arthur, it is now a place of rich history and fascination as tourists and locals alike come to feast their eyes on outlooks that were once used for very different means.

And to have a spot of afternoon tea, of course 😉

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Back then it would have been in operation every day as the café was now… 7 days a week. We turned our attentions to the few tables that were getting baked in the Winter sun, and grabbed one before anyone else beat us. Soon, an interesting looking chap walked over and gave us some menus before walking away and talking to himself as he had been talking to us – like he had known us forever.

 

There was both himself, and a woman making the inner and outer café rounds, and it was with the latter that we made our afternoon orders, before proceeding to sit back and enjoy the fresh and beautiful surrounds.

It is a most magical spot. There is also inside seating within a small building that would have most likely been a house, sitting opposite the signal station tower on the other side…

But on the day that we had, you would have been crazy to wanna miss those views, and that sunshine.

Soon we were very happily being attended to.

Hubbie was happy to receive his short black with James Boags

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Baby girl got a very colourful babycino

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And I got a cap, while she and I shared some Signal Station Lemon Scones – with housemade jam and freshly whipped cream (2 per serve. $11.50)

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Those scones were just sky high. They were a very decent serving, even for two, and baby girl enjoyed them as much as I did, applying lashings of cream… licking it off the scone… then applying more cream.

Ahh. Kid life.

Her marshmallows were forgotten but had been promised, so the man promptly called her into the café so she could pick up her never-ever-forgotten cushions of pillowy goodness from out of the jar. She was in heaven.

My coffee was great as was Hubbie’s short black, and he enjoyed it alongside his Sunday arvo beer, classic Aussie style. It was a lovely afternoon out in the sun and we felt particularly lucky to have been granted such pristine weather on our stay in Hobart, since we had definitely not expected it being Winter… being Tasmania.

When it was time to pay and go, I ventured inside to see the interior, and passed the most fantastic sign, that I was immediately compelled to capture:

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What a beautiful sentiment. It gave me ALL the feels, and had me in such a happy state, that when what happened later inside, happened, I guess it was fortunate for them, as I had already been buttered up like a sky-high scone before my massive letdown…

Like a pancake.

Because you see, I went inside to pay, and was standing in front of the register/coffee making counter, waiting to pay. The man who had tended to us earlier was busy making coffees and playing catch up, and there was a father and daughter duo who were ordering a specific drink for the girl… it could have been lactose, gluten free, almond milk perhaps, who knows. But the discussion as the man behind the counter made the drinks, was that she had a difficult order, the man had successfully made it, and they were now telling the man that they were appreciative of his efforts. The father and daughter walked off, the girl with her takeaway drink in hand.

Stay with me.

Meanwhile, as eccentric man as we’ll call him, was behind the counter playing catch up on drink-making, having his last of the conversation with the father and daughter duo, another couple walked up and were to the side, also appearing to want to pay. At this stage I did that thing where you move a bit closer to the counter, in an effort to say ‘I was here first,’ hopeful that surely, eccentric man would realise I had been waiting longer.

But then as the father and daughter duo exited, eccentric man started talking to the couple – they knew each other. Jokes were shared, inside convo, local lingo, things about the café, upcoming events… they mucked about and laughed and meanwhile I smiled profusely in the background as eccentric man made these drinks, thinking ‘any time now. Any time.’

Any time now, he will finish his drink making, turn to this couple and say “sorry I’ll just serve this young lady, she was here first.”

This young lady, tourist from Melbourne.

This young lady, first timer to Signal Station Brasserie.

This young lady, patiently standing and waiting.

This young lady, whose alias is SmikG and is a food blogger.

!!!

Then the UNTHINKABLE.

(Or perhaps, thinkable by now because I have been leading there).

He started to put through their order first.

(Mouth gaping open emoji.)

More unthinkable… the couple let him.

Sure, they kind of may not have known what I wanted… I was simply WAITING THERE TO PAY NOT DOING ANYTHING ELSE.

I enjoy just standing around doing nothing on sunny Sundays.

Majority blame, goes entirely to eccentric man. Making the drinks, ignoring me the entire time, and going ahead to let someone else pay before me.

In horror I watched as he unapologetically put through the other couple’s order, and as he did, and they paid, they continued chatting, and laughing, and taking their GOD DAMN TIME.

By the time they decided they had been there long enough, the couple walked off SLOWLY, talking to him over their shoulder, and I, feeling like a volcano about to erupt, walked hastily RIGHT UP to the counter and waited to pay. He made no apology, made small talk, I paid and was OFF.

I was gob-smacked.

Hubbie looked at me like ‘where the hell have you been?’

I said “don’t – I can’t talk about it now. I’ll fill you in in the car.”

And then we proceeded to verbally bash the unhospitable event for the next 30 minutes. Oh the story has even made its way to people back home, don’t worry. More in the below notes…

Food: I can only score on the scones, so a 7.5/10. Generous servings make for happy customers.

Coffee: 7/10. Pleasing and adequate.

Ambience: Unmistakably serene and chilled… a beautiful place to enjoy on a sunny day, with uninterrupted mountain and coastal views, and the cafe building a quaint interior, cottage-feel type place where you could easily hide away in and feel like you have stepped into someplace special.

Staff: Away from my comical exclamation marks and open-mouthed emojis, is this cold, hard FACT:

In Melbourne, this kind of queue jumping would not stand up.

Would not hold court.

Would not be acceptable.

The ignorance and blatant disregard would be dealt with, like a lion taking prey upon a stray zebra.

It is just not on. To be standing there waiting to pay, (busy or not busy) and then someone jumps in front you (their friend or no friend) is just so unprofessional and so unhospitable, it speaks volumes.

Hubbie told a workmate about this story, and his work mate said ‘that is not unlike Tasmania.’

No where else did anything like this happen. Everyone was wonderful in fact. So I don’t know how isolated this incident is, but if there are fellow travellers or Tasmanian locals who know of this kind of disregard for decency and order, please by all means enlighten me on what THE RULES ARE.

But, if I am waiting to pay, anywhere in the world, and someone else comes along and then jumps in front, the wait staff allows it and then proceeds to not even apologise or make any mention of it and there is no emergency to justify the queue-jumping?

Well in the matter of common global human decency, that is not on. In no language or country is that ON.

It just makes no sense. I am actually a very fair and understanding person, and I try to see both sides, but in this one I see only ONE.

Massive rant over.

People: Older couples (grrr) as mentioned, families, and kids. Tourists are onto this place equally as much as the locals are, yet it still remains quite secluded, private and unique.

Price: I paid, but got no receipt, or else I misplaced it in my overwhelming confusion and frustration. I have it on strong suspicion it was in the low $30s, which would make sense as we had predominantly drinks.

Advice: Despite everything said above, I urge you to visit this place… there’s nothing quite like enjoying a drink or a snack, and being able to see amazing vistas with your butt still firmly planted on a bench. Go early on a sunny day and enjoy the outdoors.

In a nutshell: Again, despite all I have vented about, I would come here again… and to eat, and coffee… I don’t know how I would be come face-to-face with eccentric man… but I would just turn my gaze towards the mountains, and Signal to myself –

‘something good will happen to me today.’

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Signal Station Brasserie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

How I handled f%$king writing rejection and lived to tell the tale.

Step 1: Stare at the computer in horror. Do this for as long as you have to, to let it really SINK IN.

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Photo by Pim Chu on Unsplash

Step 2: Physically express yourself. Scream. Cry. YELL. Do all 3 and then some. If you are going to throw something across the room make sure you don’t have any strong attachment to the item, it is not heavy/sharp/strong, and also, you don’t care about your flooring/it is virtually unbreakable.

Step 3: Keep crying and telling yourself self-defeating words. Things like:

“I’m a failure.”

“I am shit.”

“I am a shit writer AND I’m just plain shit.”

“I can’t fucking write.”

“I got rejected for a fucking writing course…”

And so on. If you have come this far you are doing well. Your self-loathing is working brilliantly.

Step 4: Wallow in self-pity. Pick someone who has to put up with you (i.e partner, parent, sibling) and tell them how shit you are. Cry as you are doing so. Tell them all your sorrows, including that time in grade 4 when you walked into a pole at school and your canteen partner laughed their head off at you. Go on.

Step 5: More than likely you have just been yelled at and scolded by your loved one. Go off and sulk for about 37 minutes.

I’ll wait…

Step 6: Ok you’re back. Now I want you to ask yourself…

“Are you going to let this beat you?”

That just jarred you didn’t it? You expected me to tell you to go cut some onions and rub them over your eyelids after all that self-hatred and the pity party you just attended with yourself as the star D-grade celebrity.

But SmikG is getting glass half-full right now and she is gonna whoop your ass.

Sit down! You’re not going anywhere.

Step 7: Ask yourself some more questions. Things like:

“Are you going to let one individual/organisation dictate what you can do?

“Will you someone else control your belief of yourself?”

“Is this one incident going to make you stop writing? Really? This ONE thing?”

At this stage, you may want to wallow in some more self-defeating talk for a couple more moments. Go on, whimper. Sniffle. Get some Kleenex super soft tissues, from the Aloe Vera range you weak piece of shit.

Step 8: “Are you REALLY going to let this get you down?”

“You know… you’re not that shit.”

“You’re actually, not bad.”

NOW we’re talking.

Step 9: Time to recall some famous writer stories.

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J.K Rowling. An unemployed and poor single mother goes from her Harry Potter manuscript being rejected 12 times before finally getting picked up… but even so, her editor encourages her to get a teaching job as it is unlikely she will earn much from writing children’s books.

She is now worth over 1 billion dollars (read, BILLION) with her name to one of the best-selling series in the world with 450 million copies SOLD.

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Stephen King. Rejected his own story, Carrie, only to find his wife had taken it out of the garbage with the note for him to finish it. It was rejected over 30 times, but was eventually picked up and even turned into a movie.

He has over 50 novels to his name, has written hundreds of short stories, and remains one of the great fiction writers of this generation.

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Dr Seuss. He had been rejected 27 times, and was literally on his way home to burn the manuscript when he bumped into an old friend. When he spoke of his woes from “a book no one will publish” his friend (also a children’s editor… how “co in-chi-den-che” – see the Tomei-Downey Jr. movie Only You for reference!♥ ) he read it and it was published.

He went on to write over 60 children’s books and remains a classic children’s writer through the ages.

Step 10: Woah. Now we are feeling just a little bit invincible. Almost like the way we felt when we first ventured into the writing world with fear and trepidation, hovering over the keyboard as we posed those first few words.

But we need something else.

Inject some creativity in your life… in the form of, MUSIC.

My fave go-to: Something loud and pumping, ROCK is real good.

Queen, for example.

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Prince doing his Beautiful Ones where he screeches at the end is also uplifting in a very RAW way.

Or you know, on the other spectrum we can go ‘alternative/new wave rock’ and play something like INXS’ Need You Tonight… you know the story, of how Andrew Farriss famously made the taxi driver who was meant to take him to the airport, wait an hour as he wrote the riff to the song? He then passed it onto Michael, who quickly penned the words to what would become the song… incredible.

You need to surround yourself with genius. Genius thoughts. Genius inspiration. Genius creativity.

Step 11: Ok, we are HERE. Perhaps you feel so unstoppable, so charged, the muse starting to move within you, that something you scribble on toilet paper while passing a bowel movement (why do you have a pen in there?) can be considered LEGENDARY.

“What am I going to do next?”

“What course will I look at?”

“What can I learn from this?”

Start work-shopping ideas to get around your initial rejection.

Step 12: Start with this quote by Albert Einstein: “Failure is success in progress.”

NEXT, sit at your computer.

And start writing.

🙂

 

 

 

The difficult pursuit of Happiness

How do inspirational quotes make you feel? Happy? Elated? Like you can take on the world?

Our modern world is consumed with the notion of happiness – obtaining it, being it, and revelling in it. Often the pursuit of it however, becomes a journey littered with insecurity, frustration, and disappointment.

That is because of this very real and true fact: a full, adventurous and passionate life, will also undoubtedly come with its fair share of trouble and difficulty, challenge and sadness. In many cases, equal to any experiences of ‘happiness.’

We spend so much of our time trying to be happy, that this can often make us more depressed. Suppressing our normal day-to-day feelings and ignoring the root of our dis-ease, can cause us more harm than good, delaying the emotions that will inevitably surface at a later point in time.

I am not saying that trying to be of an optimistic disposition is a quality you shouldn’t try to adhere to and live by. It is certainly a better headspace to be in, and learning to be happy in a very consumeristic world riddled with technological issues and social media problems, old-age tests of character and identity involving family and friends, petty fights, injustices of race and class and sexual orientation and gender… well, finding a simple thing to be grateful for, such as something beautiful your daughter said to you, it can be the one thing that saves you in an otherwise upsetting and disappointing day.

I keep an online gratitude blog. Not to promote my profile, send a false image of myself out into the world, or even to pretend all is right in my life. It is not.

And even though I practice gratitude every day, I am by no means exceptionally skilled or a master of my craft. In the words of Dicky Fox in one of my most favourite of movies, Jerry Maguire…

“I’ve failed as much as I’ve succeeded.”

On that note, back to inspiring quotes. I love to read them, see them, put them up on my walls… hell, I even have a daily calendar that gives me a new quote to ponder every day.

Sometimes they speak to me, and other times they don’t. Today’s one jumped out at me in a very real way:

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And then later on social media, I saw another that triggered some sad tags of my heart.

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Translated from Croatian, it reads

“Don’t give up if it’s hard. Give up if it’s not important.”

Both of these quotes, though uplifting, have a certain degree of realism and ‘life is scary’ knocked into them, enough to keep you humble, yet also lift your head towards the clouds and give you Hope.

Well then, how do those quotes compare to this more positive one?

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How did you feel reading each? Did you feel better reading the cheerier, latter quote? Or did the ones with a real sense of everyday life grab you more? Is it purely based upon experiences and life circumstance, or do you think we are bound to feel better about ourselves when reading a more realistic quote, as opposed to a super-happy one that we feel forced to be like? Something that we are meant to aspire to, even if on that particular day, we may be better off just staring off into the sunset with sadness in our eyes?

Something to consider.

Oh, and because I can…

And that my friends, is a quote that makes me feel GREAT.

Metaphors, everywhere

It was cold. I was sick. The day had been long, but now I was headed home.

Life throws obstacles at you, life is not smooth.

I walked quickly, shoulders hunched, trying to turn my body into itself to shield myself from the cold. There was not much wind, but nonetheless, it hit me on every available bit of exposed skin: face, ears, hands.

No matter how fast you try to speed things up, things will come at you. Don’t let them stop you. Keep moving on, moving on. Don’t let them stop you.

I pulled my woolly scarf over and around my ears, burying my mouth into it so as not to intake the sharp Winter air.

You will need to use all your resources and depend on your closest crew to help you get by. Have them on call for a word of support, and make sure that those that surround you will only give you that. You may find you only have one, two, if you’re lucky three people like this. You’re rich already, that’s perfect.

I shoved my hands into my coat pockets trying to temporarily shield them.

You will need to dig deep to find that ‘thing’ within you: passion? belief? truth? courage? inspiration? determination? ALL OF THE ABOVE.

It’s so cold, it’s so cold… no it’s ok, it’s ok, one step closer, one step closer, each step is bringing me closer to my destination…

You will be tired, and hungry, and maybe even cold, but you must not lose sight of the bigger picture. You must not forget why you started. Why did you start? Don’t give up. Each step, each setback, each failure, is bringing you closer to where you want to go.

I get to my car, and sink into the seat with a sigh. Ahh. Finally. I’m here.

When you get to your destination, use whatever creative release to celebrate. You have made it.

You will make it.

(These were my background thoughts to my latest post #132 over at my other blog, carcrashgratitude).