Spring hail – making plans but remembering to stay flexible

It is just gone 8:30 on Sunday. I’ve been up for hours and I don’t know that I have that much to show for my efforts.

I’m in a bit of a rush…

I have a stack of writing to do. Some of it will be fun. Some of it I’m dreading – but I have to do it. (I should possibly have started with the must-do writing rather than this post.)

I’m dressed to go to the gym.* I must go to the gym. I must, I must, I must. I’m not convinced this afternoon’s weather will be walk-friendly. I could take one of my little notepads and pencils with me so I can jot down ideas for this afternoon’s writing. That would make sense.

Finally, I’ve decided to reinforce the sense of being in a rush by passing over my regular Mozart, Vivaldi, Beethoven options for writing. Instead I’m listening to The Black Eyed Peas. The idea there is that I won’t settle into the mooching about that is so tempting on a Sunday morning.

Mooching is especially tempting today after yesterday’s storms.

Light hail falling on the Reid Library moat
I always want to stop and watch hail as it falls

The photo I’ve chosen doesn’t really show the hail shower from yesterday. It is, however, one of my favourite views from the reading terrace.

The hail stones that fell outside the Reid were just pebble sized. They fell and bounced on the turf. The water lilies closed in protest. Everyone on the terrace stopped to watch the shower. The hail melted in minutes.

The storm was much more severe in other suburbs. My social media streams have had a flurry of images showing flooding and destruction. Some of us were able to have fun with the storm. My thoughts are with those who didn’t have that luxury.

The last hail storm I was caught in was terrifying. It was back in 2010 and a freak storm hit Perth. I’ve never been so scared.

Yesterday’s storm – for me – was ‘gentle’. One of my favourite people had called by uni for a quick chat and cup of tea. The booming thunder made us jump and laugh. We took pictures of the hail. We sat back and talked about various approaches to study and revision. We planned blog posts.

The storm went on around us. The air cooled and after a while we went inside, but for the most part we sat on the terrace with our tea and enjoyed the weather.

We passed the time. The storm passed.

Hitting twenty

Despite the louring clouds, yesterday’s storm took me by surprise.

So did the realisation – despite the regular ‘You’ve posted your xth…’ message that pops up after posting – that this is my twentieth post.

Twenty posts seems as good a time as any to step back and think how things are going.

My original plan was to create a space to ‘think out loud’. I think I’m doing that.

I’ve realised that the space I wanted wasn’t just about the physical space of the blog. It was also about the time that I made in my schedule – for reflection and planning as well as writing.

I know that I spend a lot of time – perhaps too much time – thinking.

I like the processes that go with analysis and planning. I like putting ideas together. I like just playing with them – for no reason or purpose other than the moment of play.

Riffing on an idea is my idea of a good time.

Turning up to write a post is proving to be a useful tool for reflecting on whether I’ve made any progress and setting out what I’m planning to do next.

There’s also the bonus of being part of a community of bloggers. I can see that reading, liking, commenting on, following other people’s blogs is part of being a member of the community.

I’m afraid I’m not a terribly good community member, though.

I’ve just finished Blogging 101 and I have a lot – read most – of the activities left to do. There are people whose blogs I follow and I don’t get to check in on them nearly as much as I’d like. I hardly ever leave a well constructed, thoughtful comment. There never seems time and I worry about being trite.

I like to take time to think before I write. (There it is again. That whole thinking it over before making a commitment thing. I do a lot of paper-free drafting before setting words down.)

The community element is so important, though. Otherwise, I can see this blog might be just self-indulgent alternative to a personal journal. That’s not my intention. I’m happy to be a part of conversations. I like conversations.

That said, I can also be pretty quiet during face-to-face conversations. You might know how it is; I listen and find myself just thinking things through. Sometimes the conversation ends, people move on and then, then, I work out what I want to say.

I might need to take a moment to sign. I tend to sigh a fair bit. I should stop.

Fully blown yellow rose
A week on and fading

I took another picture of the rose bud I used for last week’s post yesterday morning. It doesn’t look like the same flower but it is.

Time moves on. Roses fade. Hail melts. Opportunities to relevantly articulate a thought drift away.

Where am I going with this?

I don’t want to be wasting time. Mine or anyone else’s.

In the past week I’ve been thinking a lot about how quickly time goes. Whether you’re having fun or not. I’m fortunate in that I mostly have fun.

It is one of the most helpful things about having an irreverent sense of humour. I don’t always share it but I do tend to amuse myself.

It’s just over 10 weeks to the New Year. That’s ok. I’ve made pretty good progress with the goals I set myself earlier in the year but longer-term planning is critical for me right now.

If I take the full 8 years maximum as a part-time student for a PhD I have 416 weeks. I’m three weeks in, so there are 413 weeks left.

If I can do it in the minimum 312 weeks as a part-timer, I have 309 weeks left.

I think I’ll need to spend more than the 309 weeks. I hope I don’t need to use up all 413.

As I move through the next 350 weeks (splitting the difference, more or less, seems like a fair thing), I think that the thinking out loud element of this blog is going to be important to me. I’m aware that I lost touch with reading for enjoyment and just plain fun while I was completing my MMEMS. I prefer that not to happen again.

The fact of the matter is there is reading and writing that I want and need to do that is outside my topic.

I’ve been loving reading on public transport, for example.

My car is back from the repairer and I need to use it to get to appointments after work. I’m one (short) commute from finishing Slaughterhouse 5 and I’d really like to report back on how that went for me once I finish it.

Plain clock face showing 8:00.
Time flies

The year is ebbing away. Today is slipping away. (How is it nearly 10:30 now?) I’ve reached this twentieth blog point in almost no time at all. Or, so it seems.

Thank you for stopping by to read – and for reading (skimming, skipping) to the end.

Thank you for letting me think about all this out loud.

*Apart from my shoes. I tend to leave putting on my shoes to the last possible moment. I take them off as soon as I can. There’s no getting around the fact that I’m not a huge fan of shoes.

Introducing myself (for Blogging 101)

Hi, I’m Jo from Perth, Western Australia. How do you do?

Why am I here?

I posted my 14th post on my blog – joleemerrey –  over the weekend. My main purpose in starting to blog was because I wanted a place to think aloud – mostly about writing but also about books and films. In my first post I said I was planning to ‘think out loud about topics that might range from fourteenth-century England to modern day Australia’. I figured it would be good to keep my options open.

For the most part, I’ve found myself focusing on my writing processes and reading practices. There are some topics that I’ve decided are out of the scope of my posts. For example,  I have a day job and a family that I choose not to write about. I’ve avoided commenting on modern day Australia up to this point. I think I will stay with that decision for a while.

I don’t want to politicise my blog and I think I might if start commenting on current events…

I’m in the process of organising to enrol in a PhD (late medieval and Early Modern English focus) so there’s the reading and writing I’ll be thinking about around that. I also write poetry and prose and I’m interested in the (shifting) processes that go along with the writing I do ‘for fun’.  I’ve been enjoying just mucking around so far.

While I have a couple of dud posts – there are a couple that really didn’t do what I wanted them to do and I should have walked away rather than hitting ‘publish’ – I’m pleased that I’ve made it to my desk and committed to pulling some ideas together.

I’ve signed up for Blogging 101 because there are some things I don’t quite understand – about the process of blogging and the mechanics of the platform. I know that I would be able to work most things out for myself given time but it’s always nice to learn things as part of a community of learners…

Hi there, fellow Blogging 101ers!

The plan

Keeping to the schedule of posts might be a shade tricky. My dance card is always pretty full (day job, family, friends, study – even though I’m not officially enrolled at the moment – writing, books, daydreaming … the bits of life that fill up days so quickly and, it seems at time, silently) but I plan to get to the tasks as I can. At this point, I want to keep my Blogging 101 posts and my regular weekend posts ‘separate’. I’ll just have to see how I go.

Perth city skyline at night
I love living in Perth

Poetry, memory and readiness – daily life and poetry

As I walked back to my car after last week’s symposium there was a kookaburra scrabbling for its dinner in the dirt under a tree. I stood for a while to watch. It was getting on for dusk and the campus was quiet. I was tired but happy. My head buzzed with ideas.

That brief moment watching the bird was calming. I took some time. I breathed.

I’m sure the memory of that moment will find its way into a poem at some point. I tend not to keep a journal as such but some (not all) of my writing contains snippets that are memories I want to keep. They are incidental – loading that word in a way I’ve not considered before.

It would be lovely if I had a photo to share of the kookaburra. Unfortunately, I don’t. (My phone – and therefore my camera – was in a bag of rice at the time.)

A week of poetry

Reading, writing and listening to poetry gives me joy. I think it is the play of words on the page and in the air.

Words were certainly in the air at Voicebox Fremantle on Monday night. Voicebox is a poetry performance event that comes around on the last Monday of the month. The format is generally three guest poets who read for about 20 minutes each.  Then there are about ten five-minute open mic spots that are slotted in around breaks. It’s a format that works well.

I don’t get to go as often as I would like. This time around I was feeling pretty tired with plenty to be working on after the symposium but I dragged myself to Freo. I’m so glad I did.

It turned out it was Voicebox’s birthday – and a year since the Voicebox performances moved to The Fly Trap, the side-bar at the Fly by Night .

The three guest poets for June were Allan Padget, Anne Elvey and Murray Jennings. I enjoyed each of their readings. I would happily listen to their poems again, and read them on the page. Elvey’s poems stood out for me, I think because of the way she was using some complex vocab in interesting ways. She’s reading again this afternoon – at the Perth Poetry Club – but I need to crack into some research and can’t make it.

Some of the open mic spots were particularly good. Anna Minska’s a capella performance of a new poem that ‘insists’ on being sung was outstanding. It mesmerised the audience. I was in awe of the poem and her performance.

After effects

The thing about going to events like Voicebox – even if I am just quietly sitting in the corner – is how they energise and connect.  I had felt so tired after work (and the busyness of the weekend) that I had considered not driving the half hour to get to Freo. At the end of the evening, I walked back to my car – this time well into the night – feeling calm and just that little less fatigued.

I’m back to filling the well really.

In the days that followed I reflected on the performances. I talked about them, and about writing. I also followed up on some poems from the symposium: Byron, Coleridge, Marvell. I thought about Keats for a bit.

Papers, notebooks and text
Bits of poetry taking shape

One of those conversations I had led to a request that I share some poems. I was reluctant but I found myself looking through my ‘finished’ poems. That, in turn, led to something of a mini-stocktake.

On taking stock

My heart sank a little when I saw the hard evidence that I haven’t had a lot of poems make it into a ‘finished’ pile in the last few years. I’ve done plenty of writing (thousands of words for uni, for example) but I’ve steered clear of the personal and the poetic.

That’s ok – it’s too bad if it’s not, to be honest. I’ve made choices and I’ve been aware of doing so as I’ve gone along and not committed to finishing poems. (I also haven’t finished other bits of writing. The poems are not alone in this.)

It strikes me, though, that this week’s stocktake went deeper than just flicking through. I wasn’t simply looking at what was there. I was looking for what I considered to be ready for sharing. It was material that I’ve shared before, why would it no longer be ready for sharing? The question seemed silly even as I thought about it.

I know that there has to come a point where I draw a line under a piece of writing (again, it’s not just the poems) and say ‘enough, it’s done’.

Drawing a line

So, in the spirit of sharing and drawing a line, here’s a poem (from 2009) that I consciously wrote as a memory piece. When I was writing it I really enjoyed the idea I was playing with. I was at the window of a room at the back of the Art Gallery of WA, at the Á propos poetry conference. It might not be ‘ready’, but here it is…

Falling

At the window
a tree lets loose
its blooms

To rain soft white
in overcast
morning

Autumn coming
a touch ahead
of time.

This brief prelude
heralding the
season.

Filling the well – inspiration, creativity and productivity

The idea of ‘filling the well’ is one of the best things that I took away from working through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (Pan, 1994).

It is years since I worked through the book. I remember making myself all sorts of commitments at the time. The one that has stayed with me is ‘filling the well’. If I’m drawing from the well then I need to make sure it isn’t going to run dry. I also need to make sure I can get to it. That’s pretty obvious. It makes sense.

Part of me would like to hunt out the notebook where I worked through Cameron’s exercises. I’ve no idea of where to begin to look for it now, though. It’s too long since I’ve seen it. There might be a chance that I jettisoned it in one of my (thankfully rare) I-must-not-hoard-this-clutter purges.

To be honest, I don’t need the notebook in my hand to remember what is in it. Especially for the ‘filling the well’ exercise. I know what, who and where I identified as keeping the well I draw from fresh.

Why am I thinking about it now?

This has all come to mind because this is the week of the medieval and early modern studies symposium that I try to get to each year. Many of the topics are often out of my direct area of expertise. Sometimes it’s hard to shift my schedule around, but it’s always worth the effort. It is one of the events that come up that I move my life around to be able to get to.

While most of my commitments from ‘the way’ have slipped into (fond) memory – morning pages and regular ‘artist dates’ used to be regular features of my creative life – making the time and space in my life to get to the symposium has stayed.  It is part of my filling the well.

The symposium brings together a lot of the elements of the list I came up with for the exercise: what – medieval and early modern literature (and now history), where – there are some places which help me focus on getting down to work, the UWA campus (and the general area of the river and King’s Park)  is one, and  who – my original list included individuals but also acknowledged how being a part of a community of writers is important to me, the symposium reflects (and creates) a community of scholars and writers that I enjoy being a part of.

Invariably, my understandings are deepened or my awareness extended by the papers given and conversations had at the symposium. There will always be something new that I will want to look up, even if just to satisfy my curiosity or find a point of clarification. I find links to my work – academic and creative – that I would never have thought of or, if I did, would have come about much later. Sometimes I find that I walk away with a bunch of ideas and images that will end up in a poem or a story. It all makes me happy.

In the past couple of days I’ve had the good fortune to participate in a master class on chivalry and the first day of a symposium on emotions and warfare in writing in the medieval and early modern period. It’s all been fascinating. I’m looking forward to today’s programme – most of which will be completely new to me. There are some poems being discussed which I’ve looked at a bit in the past – Andrew Marvell’s ‘Upon Appleton House’ I’ve thought about but done nothing with, the Alliterative Morte Arthure I’ve dipped into – but the other papers look like new territory. I can’t wait.

Not in the least distracting
Not in the least distracting

 A funny thing about the well

As I’ve been writing this a new idea has come to me for a spot of research (that I possibly should leave until later, because I already have a few projects on the go). I think I’d like to look at moments in medieval romances to see when knights ask for water. There are a couple I can think of where they stop in mid-fight to drink – or ask to be allowed to drink. I wonder how much work has already been done on that.

Perhaps there’s a poem/story that I want to work, too. But it will have to wait until later…