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Sam van Zweden

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uni

The Other Side

It’s over, and I’ve taken my week to fall in a heap. Yes, I am unreasonably hopeful that the one week is all it takes. Let’s not talk about other possibilities at this point.

In the last week, I handed in my manuscript and ‘contextual essay’ (for all intents and purposes, an exegesis). I partied reasonably hard that night. The following day I worked, and came home and vomited myself silly – I was knocked down for the remainder of the week with gastro. It was quite an unhappy week. Last night I panicked, because I felt myself falling into a very familiar hole. That place I find myself when a big milestone is passed, and I have to ask myself, “What now?”

Today, however, I came across two articles that really spoke to me, and which have helped me pull myself a little bit out of that hole.

Karen Andrews at Miscellaneous Mum posted her talk from the weekend’s Offset Arts Festival. In it, she talks about her very personal reasons for blogging, and how blogging acted as a distraction during recovery from a breakdown. Karen goes on to talk about how her continued blogging journey has been backed by passion – she kept going, and that’s how she discovered her voice. Karen’s successes (many and varied) have come because she has kept going – she loves what she’s doing, and that’s the motivator.

Another article about reading and writing in relation to emotional healing was posted at The Wheeler Centre website. In an interview with the beautiful Melinda Harvey, she talks about the relationship between reading and healing. For Melinda, at a certain point literature is useless to that process – I’m really struck by the bravery of refuting that idea of literature as a lifeline in times of crisis. At another point, however, reading and writing becomes instrumental in making sense of things – a sentiment I can certainly relate to, having just handed in 10,000 words of a memoir about my mother’s mental illness. Likewise, Melinda talks about how much of a mind-bending change it was for her to think of herself writing a memoir. It’s an uncomfortable kind of negotiation, thinking of yourself as a memoirist when it’s something you’d never considered previously.

Both Karen and Melinda’s words really touched me today, when I’m finding myself at a bit of a cross-roads. I don’t exactly know where life takes me to from here. But I am standing on the other side of a very big milestone, and for today at least, I have pulled myself out of a dark spot thanks to these ladies.

A Perfect Day

Yeah, the sky’s blessedly blue outside for the first time in forever, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

It’s the end of the holidays for me – I’ve found them to be long, but productive. It’s only taken me about 7 weeks, but I’ve finally figured out how I would (try to) spend each and every working day if I were a full-time professional writer, in order to get shit done. For the last week or so, on days when I haven’t worked, this is what I’ve done.

I’d wake up early. Well, early for me: 8am, maybe 8.30. This still gives me two hours of quiet writing time before my boyfriend even thinks about consciousness. I check my email and Facebook, but only out of the neurological need – I don’t spend a long time on there. If there’s stuff to reply to, I do that later in the day. I update my GoodReads account with what I’d read the night before.

I read a short story. This week I’ve been chewing through the contents of Tiny Epics, which has been sitting on my shelf for over a year now. I regret not reading it earlier. Likewise with Bel Woods’ Get Smart¬†which I read last week in page seventeen #8. That girl can write! What do your days look like to produce such brilliance, Bel?

After my short story, as per my writing goals, I read an essay. It’s not always pertinent to what I’m writing, but I’ve been learning an awful lot. Did you know that stabbing a lobster in the head doesn’t actually kill it? And that lobster deaths are a big point of concern for the RSPCA? And I never knew anything about Peter Porter, but now I do, thanks to Clive James – weird to read a dying great write about a dying great.

I write morning pages. These are at least three pages (so, for those of you who can’t convert longhand ideas into tech-speak, that’s about 750w) of whatever. They’re the pages where I supposedly get my brain warmed up to write my way into brilliance. Usually it’s just me pondering story ideas, brainstorming or bitching about how I can’t be arsed doing the dishes.

I do a writing exercise. Also, as per my writing goals, I’ve done one every day so far. It’s been fun. Out of six days, I’ve only had one day turn into something I feel I could follow up. But that’s still a higher hit-rate than when I wasn’t doing an exercise every day.

I work on a WIP.

I work on something that potentially can make me some money. I know that writing for money isn’t the point; I’m not trying to turn all my writing into a money-making scheme – that’s dumb, and would take the enjoyment out of it. I’m trying to find places that I can make money for doing something I enjoy more than my current job. I’ve been writing some copy for Weekendnotes, a guide to things you can do on weekends in Melbourne. It’s fun – it’s not exactly lucrative, but I’m enjoying the experience, and it’s really good exercise for banging things out on demand.

I do any business stuff I need to do. These last few weeks that’s involved getting an ABN, making an invoice template, posting submissions. Looking for comps and new publications I’d like to submit to happens during this time too.

Lastly, I catch up on my Google Reader feed (which is looking comparatively clean at the moment), and I blog, if I’ve got something worth saying or sharing.

Usually this whole routine takes up most of a day. Some days I don’t get around to all of it. As you can imagine, I sometimes get stuck in one piece or another – if it’s a good exercise, or a long story or essay, or if I find myself venting something worthwhile in Morning Pages…

But I feel like finally, after faffing about for six weeks, I’ve figured out how to execute a truly productive day. Now I go back to uni and that’ll jumble everything up a bit, but I’ll be trying to keep at least a few days a week like this.

What do your writing days look like?

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