Looking into the well – seeing what is impacting on my writing

It has been quite a week. Lots of reflecting and prioritising as I sort through what is important now and how that relates to my longer-term goals.

Progress on my thesis is slow. I’m still working out how to best present my intended direction in the introduction and I’ve been working on some philological material. The good thing is that I’ve come across some really useful material in the last couple of days. My other writing … has been even slower. Despite that, I’ve come out of the week inspired and, I hope, refreshed.

Festival time

February and March in Perth are – if you’re me – pretty much perfect. First there’s Fringe World and then there’s PIAF – the Perth International Arts Festival. There’s so much to love.

Fringe World gateway in Northbridge
The entrance to the Chevron Festival Gardens

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been filling that well again, nourishing my the ‘arts’ part of me. And the best way to do that is, like it or not, to dive in.It isn’t without its challenges – questions about life paths and choices, anyone? – but it is fabulous. I’m blessed.

Despite there being all sorts of temptations, I’ve been restrained. The Fringe acts I’ve caught (over a two week period) are The Epic (Finn O’Branagain and Scott Sandwich), This Boy’s In Love (Adriano Cappelletta) and The Kransky Sisters. As far as PIAF goes, it’s early days. Tonight I enjoyed a mellow evening featuring William Fitzsimmons. I haven’t decided what is next. It will come down to how much progress I’ve made and how efficient I’ve been in making that progress. At the end of the day … now that I’ve had a modest helping the rest needs to be become a treat.

Except for the writers festival which is next weekend. I’m going to have to put that down to a necessity and work out how to be productive in and around the program. I have no idea which sessions I’m going to make it to. Previous experience would suggest that I should pace myself and not gorge on fully packed timetable. Should. Then again, I don’t want to be a wreck when Sunday afternoon comes around.

Material history

Another ‘diversion’ that I think will be helpful was a symposium I attended at the Western Australian Museum. The WAM’s current exhibition is A History of the World in 100 Objects. There are quite a few events scheduled in connection with the exhibition. Yesterday’s theme was ‘Unwritten Stories: Objects, Power and Shared Histories’. There was a half-hour walk through before the presentations that focused on the structure of the exhibition and highlighted some connections. I’ll be needing to go back a few more times. There’s plenty to think about. I’d like to do some of that thinking while looking at particular pieces.*

The symposium reminded me to stop and think about the problems I’m dealing with regarding textual evidence for my own work. The ‘dress’ element of my thesis is, in part, to anchor the topic to something concrete, so I can play with the idea of the material as well as abstractions. The usefulness of material/object history is something I’ve included already but there needs to be more of it in the work.

The bonus of the symposium, in addition to sharing a fascinating day with a good friend, is that it triggered some ideas for creative work. It is too soon for details – and it might turn into a nothing – but I love it when ‘study’ and ‘creativity’ come together. The symbiosis is part of the magic of my world.

A swing and a roundabout in one
In the air

On a (not so) slightly political note

In a packed with much to think about – I’ve barely touched the surface – there was something else …

I took time out to attend a protest against children being sent to offshore detention. When I first wrote the About Me page for this blog I indicated I planned to cover topics from the Middle Ages to modern Australia. As it turns out, I’ve shied away from making comments on current events in general, and political matters in particular. A while ago I edited the About Me page so modern Australia no longer ‘features.

I spend a lot of my time, reflecting on those who are silenced in history, questioning the nature and experience of agency in relation to medieval women. I also spend time writing poems about trees and the objects that frame my life. That said, I know there are more important things. There are people who need other people to raise their voices. So, in among my gadding about ‘getting culture’ and digging through research about people long since gone and all the other things that have filled my days in recent weeks, I’ve been engaging in some (I have to admit, pretty low key) activism and I feel I should own that here.

To be clear: I do not think children should be kept in detention. I do not support the detention of asylum seekers. I am opposed to offshore processing. I am dismayed that Australia’s human rights standing at the moment is so parlous. I hold both sides of politics in Australia responsible for the current state of affairs. I believe Australia is better than this.

My longer-term goals – whether pursuing further study and research, building (and perhaps shifting) my career, rolling my sleeves up to play around with creative projects – are hollow, they matter little, if I do not hold true to what I value.

FREEDOM spelt out
Let Them Stay


*Brace yourselves for musings about emptied coffins, childhood memories of Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth and thoughts about ephemera.


Paper trails, paper trials – a meditation on why notebooks are important

Summer has been an on-again, off-again affair so far and now Perth is at the start of a heatwave. In these past couple of days, I feel I’ve been crisping and melting by turns.

The blessing of hot days in Perth is the sea breeze that tends to arrive in the afternoon. The heat doesn’t always seep away with nightfall, but days often end with some relief. On Friday evening there was time with family by the river with the bonus of dolphins. This morning I planted myself in front of a fan while I sorted papers and the general clutter of desks.

Colours and patterns

While I was sticking close to the fan I took some time out to do some colouring in. This might seem like a small thing. Kids colour in. How hard can it be?

heatwave colouring
Cool mindfulness

The current craze with adult colouring in promotes the potential for colouring in to promote mindfulness, to be meditative. I have a chequered history with colouring in. I’m not sure how relaxing it is.

I remember being in Year 1 and the first line of most pages being given over to making patterns. I wanted my workbooks to be beautiful, my patterns to be perfect. Spiral after spiral, mountains and arrows, patterns that repeated and were expected to be even before being coloured in after the work was done. The teacher in me understands the point of hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness. The residual five-year-old me remembers stress.

In Year 2 there was some sort of an issue with my handwriting. The solution? The teacher recommended colouring in. My mum got hold of a roll of pages for a colouring book. The same set of images, repeated. I can still see the mushroom house I dutifully coloured … and coloured and coloured. In the end I walked away with quite nice handwriting. Looking at my recent efforts with coloured pencils, I see I need to work on pressure and control.

I’m finding colouring in has its stresses. I’m working on breathing through the scrappy bits and where I’ve misunderstood the patterns. With summer raging outside, I’m trying to use colouring in to engage with the same sort of processing that can happen on a walk when my thinking has become stuck. Colouring in is cooler than a walk but I don’t think it is as ‘cleansing’.

Paper nests

Part of my reason for anchoring myself to the paperwork at home this morning is my search for a scrap of paper. Not really a scrap. It is a double page from an exercise book I had folded to be quite small. You can fold a sheet of paper seven times? I think I went with six.

Six, seven. Whatever. The page is now quite small and, now, lost. I suspect forever.

Pieces of paper come and go. I try not to be wasteful but I admit I sometimes quietly apologise to trees; there are days when I think it is probably best not to sit under one. I was thinking about this as I worked through what could be recycled, what could be composted and what needed to be filed.

All the while, I was looking for my scrap. Why? I gave myself an hour for poetry on the recent public holiday I sketched out seven (and a half) poems, four of which made it into my computer. I know there were seven (and a half) because I made a note on Facebook. The poems are on the scrap of paper. They’re nowhere near finished but I was happy with them as a start.

I took a photo of the front of the page. I had used a mechanical pencil with a fine lead and enjoyed shaping the letters on the page. The poems sat in boxed off blocks and snaked around the page when I ran out of space. The image was too sharp. I didn’t want anyone to read the poems in their rough form if I posted the photo so I deleted it and took another with a deliberate blur. This was, obviously, a foolish move.* I can make out most of what is on the page but I’m struggling to remember what was on the back of the sheet. I know that what you can’t see always seems better than it was in reality. I have pieced together bits and pieces but I’ve missed something. It might come back to me.

It’s the same with writing for uni. I keep everything in notebooks and in my computer. I love sticky notes because they tend to be hard to lose. I avoid loose pages, but it can be tempting to grab a clean sheet and start writing. I spend my days surrounded by paper. The pages pile up. I think of them as a nest for ideas. Page after page in a type of feathering the nest with multiple versions of drafts as I work out what I really want to say about my topic … and when to say it.

Peacock tail feather resting in front of desk
A writing nest

I share my uni desk with another part-time student.  I suspect the scrap would have been safe if I’d left it on that desk.

*It was also unnecessary. I didn’t end up posting the photo.