life, Uncategorized, writing

Recap and look forward

This has been a Year.

I’ve seen it capitalized all over the place – people from across the world have been having a hard time of it, and it was no different for me. It’s been almost four months since we moved cities, which was a total upheaval but has given me a lot of time to reflect and grow. Growing can be painful, but I really believe it’s worthwhile. And I think in the last few months, in particular, I’ve come a long way.

I was watching a friends video the other day (FB Live, have you tried it? I think if I ever did a live thing my kids would totally video bomb me lol), and she was talking about what her word for the year might be in 2017. It got me reflecting on what my word of the year has been in recent history, and while I haven’t always ‘set’ them purposefully, they have been there.

They go something like this ‘Survival’ or ‘Balance’. ‘Not falling apart’ could probably make it to the list too. Because on reflection, I’ve had a few hard years. In 2014 I finished my studies and published my first book. At that point, I was struggling hard, I just didn’t know it yet. One of the topics of my study ripped me apart and I’d spent months spiraling that, and I determined that in 2015 I would put myself back together again, in some fashion. I decided to give antidepressants a shot, and while they helped somewhat, it was a lot of ups and downs, side effects, and eventually feeling incredibly numb.

I didn’t write a lot of new stuff in 2015, though I published several things that had been waiting. Towards the end of 2015 I was toying with the idea of coming off my meds, and I did that and felt a huge sense of relief. I could actually FEEL again, and that was amazing. I’ve not doubted that decision for a moment since, and despite all the turmoil this year has brought me, I’m feeling better than I have in a long time. I am strong. And I have bad days, but I get through those, much like most people do. Life is full of ups and downs.

2016 was a light year for writing too. Very light. I did a good chunk of editing, worked for others, but always put aside my own work.

Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying that my writing has not been a priority for a long time. I’ve been dealing with so many real life issues that there wasn’t room for that creativity and it was much easier to do things for other people. But I’m ready now.

And my word for 2017 is going to be FOCUS. Because it’s time. It’s time I actually gave this a real chance, time I made my writing a priority. Time to stop putting everyone else’s work ahead of my own. This both terrifies and excites me, because if I actually try, then there is always the chance I can fail, and failing sucks. But I’d rather try and know than just keep putting it on the backburner.

2017 will be a year of words. A year of saying no to the things I don’t really want to do but maybe feel like I should. Of saying YES to my own worlds.

What are you saying yes to in 2017?

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july, life, Uncategorized

On the Move

Once again, it’s been a long time – I have a really good reason this time, though it’s by no means ‘over’ and will mean I lack any rhythm for… well, until whenever it is that things stop being all up in the air.

You see, we’re moving cities! We’d talked about this in the past – I’d said Wellington was the only other place I’d live, he said that he’d be pretty depressed if we still lived in Taranaki in ten years time – and we made a plan. It was a five year plan. It was a plan that meant our eldest would be old enough to babysit the other two, and he would be finished the degree he started working on part time by the time we moved.

That was a year ago.

A few months ago a job cropped up that he was seriously interested in. I said he could apply. He didn’t get it, but by the time that happened we’d all had a massive brain shift which saw him applying for more jobs, me beginning to get my head around the fact this might happen, and the kids bursting at the seams for a move.

And then last week he got an amazing job. And that means we ARE moving, and all of the things that come along with that – prepping our house for sale, house hunting in another city, research research research into good places to live with a family, homeschooling groups, lifestyle, packing, decluttering, crying, saying goodbye – are now here. Big time.

I’m still getting my head around this. It’s not something I have any experience with, but it feels like it will all have happened in no time at all – we’ll be living in a new house, in a new area, far away from our friends and family (well, most of them) before we even really know it, and I have a feeling it’s going to take several months after that until it’s really sunken in and we’re feeling settled. Or me, at least, the kids are busting a gut to get on with it – let’s hope their enthusiasm lasts!

20160716_164615

life, office, writing

And the office is no more…

A few months ago I took a step towards claiming some space in the house that was all mine. It was lovely. I obtained a bookshelf from my brother, all my books came out of the boxes under the bed, and it was a really nice space. I had the illusion of privacy when I needed it, and I really made the most of it.

While it lasted.

I think my favourite thing was having a place for all my bits and pieces that have been stashed away for so long. And curling up in my la-z-boy in the mornings with a book and my coffee. Mmm.

My new space
My new space

Anyway. Eldest turned ten. Eldest has matured to the next level and now requires her own space. I can totally understand. I remember being young. However, our house is small and in order to give her that precious space, I’ve had to move my office again. Back into the lounge.

Now, there are some perks to being in the centre of the home. It’s not far to go to get anywhere else in the house. The kids can find me really easily. It’s warm. It’s also frequently noisy. But I can deal with that. I have some excellent headphones that cut out some of the noise and make it a little easier to focus. I am happy with the move, and eldest is REALLY happy to have her own room.

IMG_20150602_124128948And I finally received a package I’ve been waiting for, which went a long way to soften the loss of my office. Recently my go-to bag has begun to break, so a few weeks ago I went searching for a replacement and fell in love with this one. Meow!!! It’s the perfect size for my SP3 and everything else I need. ❤

life

Confessions of a girl who should be working on her final assignment

I'd love pink hair, maybe one day I'll be brave enough ;-)
I’d love pink hair, maybe one day I’ll be brave enough 😉

Naturally, I am the queen of procrastination. If I weren’t, I’d be working on my final assignment, which I just today realized is due on the 10th and not the 17th, not dwelling on the random thoughts that have been assaulting me of late. I think, though, perhaps they are all converging for a reason.

This year has been the hardest year of study yet. In fact, even outside of study it’s been hard. I’ve been challenged by the world, by my memories, by my assignments, by my writing. To push past barriers, to question who I am and what I stand for, to not stop when it’s difficult, to step past the hurt and damage and hardship and be really, brutally honest with myself.

Not about all things, of course, but many things, and once you start looking at the world like that, everything starts to change. I think as a result I am both more confident, and more anxious. I don’t know when this self-learning stops. I’m not sure it can be switched off, and my baseline fear is that it will change my life in ways I’m not ready for. My mother changed, dramatically, and when she was true to herself she had to leave my father. I just have to trust that my marriage can withstand my changes, that I was enough myself with my husband when we met that we will still work when I am changed*.

It feels like I am becoming. What, I am not sure. But something, something more than I am right now. It’s exciting, and raw, and fraught with a kind of tension that isn’t normal.

It’s slowly dawning on me that I set high standards for myself. I’ve been convinced my whole life that I half-ass everything. I am going to pin that on my father berating me for being a scruff, for never doing anything properly, never finishing tasks in the way that he deemed acceptable. I’m not up to scratch. I’m a mess. Sure. I’ve been living with this belief for 30+ years now. People have been holding mirrors up lately though, and I’m starting to see myself as they do – hard working, passionate, skilled, dedicated, caring, with a desire to do things well. It’s quite strange to see myself that way for a change. Moments of feeling like a success at anything have been fleeting. I think I like it. I can see myself becoming the things they think of me, or rather, I can see myself begin to believe that maybe those reflections are true. More true than my self-perception.

And that means that actually I get to make some informed decisions about who I am. I get to try things out, experiment with how I show my inner self to the world. This ‘becoming’ is huge for me. I’ve spent so much of my life being the girl everyone else told me I should be – being that proverbial good girl (it’s no wonder that song from Frozen makes me teary) – that it is well and truly time to shake those shackles off. At the end of the day I’m confident I’m still going to be awesome, caring, generous, kind, and hard-working among other things, but I’ll be those things because that’s me, not because I’ve been told I should be that way.

*I’m fairly confident this is the case, I even said as much in my wedding toast – that he’s the first man I could just be me around and feel like that was totally fine. There is something very special about that.

life, writing

It’s all in the words you use

I am a writer.

I wrote in primary school – stories five times as long as those of my peers. I wrote in high school – every afternoon I’d get off the bus, grab some food and boot up the old computer, black screen, green type, and I would disappear. I remember printing one book off and giving it to my art teacher to read. I recall her face as I handed her the pages – you know, the one that says they will read this, but only because they want to be supportive, not because they think it will be any good. I recall her face as she handed them back – surprised that actually, it was much better than she had imagined. There was a complete story, potential.

I’ve always had a story in me, and when my cousins and I would get together to play games over the school holidays it would most often be me who picked names, ages, who filled out the back stories for the personas we’d take on. They were sprawling games, taking place all day, across my grandparents farm where we’d immerse ourselves so deeply into the story that the natural landscape was invisible, merely a backdrop to our invented lives.

My friends and family all know I’m a writer. They know it’s a part of me that isn’t going away. I’ve seen the looks on their faces too when they’ve read things, not expecting them to be good, and then being surprised. Some of them don’t like the content of my stories, but they can’t deny that they get engaged, that I can draw them into my other worlds.

So, I am a writer. This is a well known fact. It’s set in stone. It is not going to change.

But recently, I’ve changed what I am saying. Recently, I’ve begun to say not just “I’m a writer”, but, “I’m going to publish a novel later this year”, and I have been amazed by how much that changes things.

I’m not just someone who writes, someone who occasionally publishes a short story anymore (short stories don’t seem to count with a lot of people, they read NOVELS, not shorts). But I’m someone with a whole book, and people want to read it…

This has been, really bizarre, and interesting. They WANT to read this book! Most people might not even know what it’s about, but they still want a look at it. I’ve had people ask me if they’ll be able to get it in paperback or will I just be doing digital, when it will be out, and whether I can sign a copy, whether I need another reader, if I want them to review it when it’s released.

This small change in the words I use to describe what I am doing has changed everything. It’s like it signifies a transition from the act of writing (which essentially, one does by oneself so is not such a visible thing) to the act of publishing. It’s that opening of the door to finally reveal what I’ve been working on for years, and it’s scary and exciting and wonderful.

I really hope I don’t disappoint, but the fact that people are curious is really encouraging – I can’t wait to share my worlds with you all!

life, writing

Work in Progress – of the DIY kind

This is one of the kids photos, because I always forget to take 'before' pics. it was the best I could find (excuse the mess...)
This is one of the kids photos, because I always forget to take ‘before’ pics. it was the best I could find (excuse the mess…)

It’s no secret that I am constantly trying to reclaim my household from chaos. It’s also no secret that I’m a busy gal and things never happen as fast as I might like.

We have an older house. 1950’s. It hasn’t been renovated in probably 20 years, and boy oh boy, it needs it. I quite often have several projects on the go, but I’ve finally got to the point where I think the house is more done, than undone (well, as long as you don’t count the bathroom/laundry!).

This past week I’ve been terribly pleased because I have finally eradicated three of the four terracotta walls in the living room. The colour has been annoying me for the five years we’ve lived here, and after painting some walls in our room a nice dove grey, the terracotta was literally making me angry every time I looked at it.

ahhhhhh
ahhhhhh

So now it’s grey too, and there is just one final wall waiting to be papered.

I’m in love, and staring at my beautiful, clean, calming walls, does wonders for my brain. The room seems bigger, and taller and I love it. Don’t worry though, the room is not going to be a ‘white box’. We have some amazing lime green and silver wallpaper for the last wall 😉 I can finally relax a little bit – not too much though, or that wallpaper will never make it on the wall.

Actually, I have the same trouble with novels as I do with renovations – those last little bits are the hardest. I’m just a few chapters off being finished my edits but I can’t seem to get them done. The finishing touches always seem to take me the longest to get to, and then when I do, they are over so fast that I have to wonder what took me so long in the first place!

Hopefully the wallpapering, and the editing, will come together around the same time and I can tick a couple more things off my list in the very near future.

Have you got any ongoing projects at the moment?

Uncategorized

Plans, they keep a-changing

I’ve made a lot of plans this year, and it seems like every time I’ve been on track with one of them, something has cropped up that means I veer off in another direction, or get jolted off course altogether.

And that’s life, isn’t it?

This was meant to be the year of the novel, but it wasn’t. Apparently it was actually the year of the novella, which in some ways makes sense. Making that leap from short fiction to long can be difficult, making that leap when your family is in chaos and stress levels are through the roof is just ridiculous.

However, I DID finish writing my novel Sun-Touched, and it’s at the top of my list for revision come the new year, but Surplus to Requirements simply did not get further than about 5k into the rewrite. I couldn’t get past those opening scenes, and then the nudge to write Burn came along so I ran with that. Sometimes you have to run with things.

My writing group has been a great help in my sanity this year, and in keeping me moving forward. Even though we’ve all been busy, just knowing that these other writers give a damn and are there when I need a boost, or need to be challenged or cajoled does a great deal in keeping one foot moving in front of the other.

I think I am slowly learning to be okay about the fact that just about anything can derail a writing plan – the important lesson this year has been that no matter what else is going on in my life, writing will be there when I recover enough from life to get back to it. I can’t count the number of times this year I’ve been sure the muse has abandoned me forever, only to find that the moment my stress level has dropped below that line where I can begin to think of other things, the ideas are there, waiting for me.

And I do have ideas, good ones. I’m just starting to rough draft a new short story, as well as planning for a new novella to launch into come December. They’re both set in New Zealand, which is exciting for me, and I’m looking forward to tapping into some of my personal history, my heritage and experiences of life in NZ and using them creatively in fiction.

What have you all got lined up for the last few weeks of the year?

Uncategorized

Spring is coming!!

I can tell because I really want to clean my windows. It’s my internal signal that the season  is changing. That and wanting to throw stuff away.

I can’t put into words just how much I am looking forward to Spring. It’s a time of growth and change and that is perfect for me. You see, I feel like I’ve been experiencing limbo lately, and it’s been very hard to make any progress. I’m waiting, waiting, waiting. Treading water.

Or at least I have been. This weekend has marked some change for me, and I’m hoping that will help spur me on.

Yesterday I had my final meeting with SpecFicNZ as the secretary. Once I get the minutes written up, I’ll be done with my duties and revert back to a regular member (aside from helping the new Secretary find her feet).

I’ve been part of the committee since the very beginning, and I still remember when Ripley posted a thread on the Kiwiwriters forums asking if anyone would be interested. I immediately sent her a message and that was it for me. I’ve been dedicated to the organization ever since and have been so thrilled with how it’s grown and developed. I’m really proud of what we’ve done in these last few years and I know that the new committee has lots of fresh blood that will make it another great year.

Earlier this year I also stepped down from 5 years on the staff at Kiwiwriters, so in a lot of ways this year has been about change. I bowed out of training for Lifeline even though I have been wanting to do that for years now. I finished up at my copy editing job. I’ve been slowly stepping away from my other commitments to make room for… well, I thought it was for writing, and for study, but maybe somewhere in the back of my subconscious I was actually freeing myself up for home schooling. Or at least finding a way to help Ivy.

In any event. We are still waiting on that exemption certificate, and we’ll just have to keep waiting until it comes. I can’t let everything else stagnate while that happens though. Now that I have finished up a couple of other commitments it’s time to get back into Burn.

I read the novella a week ago and have made copious notes about the changes that need to be made. In general I’m left feeling pretty good about the whole thing though. It’s a decent novella and I am going to do my best to make it shine 🙂 Revision begins TODAY. And that’s probably me for the next month.

What are you up to at the moment?

Uncategorized

and then I realized…

I spent all of the second to last weekend of July writing out the home schooling exemption forms for Ivy. There is a lot to put in them, and it came out to be five pages of single spaced information. Five pages!! I had no idea going into it, that it would be that long. And hopefully it’s enough. I’ve learned that it’s very common, in fact expected, that the Ministry of Education get back to you asking for more information, so we will just have to wait and see.

But that’s not what this post was meant to be about… It was meant to be about the fact that it took me an entire week to realize what this massive change meant for me.

And I’m not talking about the fact that I will have my three beautiful children home will me full time, or about the fact that I will be primarily responsible for my daughters education, or the extra work that will involve. I love all of those things. I am excited by each of them and I just know that Ivy is going to really thrive in the nurturing, supportive environment we have at home.

No, I’m talking about the fact that this means I will not be looking for a job in three years time when Natalie begins school. Because, she may not go to school. Lauren may not either, and though we’ll look at traditionally schooling again when Ivy hits intermediate age, there is every chance that all of our children will be home schooled for the foreseeable future.

I’m no longer on the path to a day job. Not in my immediate future (and yes sometimes 3yrs does feel like the immediate future). And that never even came into consideration when we made this decision.

And that’s not a bad thing.

I’ve always had it in my head that in order to not go back to full time work when Natalie started school, I needed to have a novel published or in the process of being published. So there was this self-imposed deadline on my writing career (not that I would ever stop writing, but that this was the time I had to really work at it, before I had to insert an evil-day-job into the mix), which has now been removed. And wow, that feels good!

I am still working towards publication, of course, but not having that deadline looming over me is really freeing. Which is funny, because I didn’t even realize it had been weighing me down to begin with. Now that it’s gone though… Yeah I can feel the difference.

In regards to my own studies, I am still going to finish my Post Grad Diploma. I was going to be doing that over three years anyway, and that’s still the plan. But it does probably mean I won’t be launching into my Master’s straight after. Which is okay, it means I have heaps of time to explore all my options and I’m really happy about that. I feel that we’re on the right track now, and that outweighs any concerns that might be hovering around.

When it comes down to it, this simply means that I don’t have to go and get a job just for money. I don’t want that. I want to be a writer, or a counsellor, preferably both. And I can do that now. There doesn’t have to be some intermediary job happening somewhere in between kids going to school and me being qualified. And that, my friends, is bloody marvelous!

I’m still laughing at myself that this wasn’t something that factored into my decision to home-school. But then, I guess that’s part of being a mother, right? You take your families needs into consideration ahead of your own – it’s just a bonus that in this case, it works out better for me too 😉

Uncategorized

Change is afoot

Over the last several months my husband and I have been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of talking, reading, learning, and soul searching. Because we’ve had this problem, you see, and it just didn’t seem like it was going away, at least not without compromising and doing things that we weren’t entirely comfortable with.

The problem was that our eldest was unhappy. Hugely unhappy. Crying every day for hours, wishing that she could just hide under a rock, unhappy. And this unhappiness also showed itself in anger, and frustration, and raging against the world for no particular reason that we could fathom. It meant conflict about everything as she struggled with life. And all of these un-fun emotions were being directed at our family.

I just want to make it clear that Ivy is NOT the problem. But her misery was. We needed to help her. To find a way to make the world make more sense to her. It is not okay for a child of seven to be feeling like the world is a terrible place. We love her dearly and it was heartbreaking to know she was feeling like this. And so we got help, which included therapy sessions every week for the last four months, a fair few tests to see if they could figure out what was going on, and finally, a trial of some medication for ADD which they determined is the cause of Ivy’s struggles.

Except the medication didn’t work as I was told it would. In fact it had the opposite effect which suggests she doesn’t have ADD, though they are leaving her with that diagnosis for now. I took her off it as quickly as I could – neither of us were thrilled about trying them to begin with, but we got what we wanted from it.

On reflection, with this diagnosis of ‘ADD’ and the discovery that she has difficulty focusing in a classroom environment, and the knowledge that while she was holding herself together during class, she losing it within moments of school finishing, we realized that maybe the real problem here was school. It was a huge contributor to her misery. And we decided (after lots of consideration) that what we wanted to do was home school her.

Prior to this, I’d had thoughts about pulling her out of school approximately 10 times in the last couple of years. Incidences would crop up, things that made me uncomfortable but weren’t big enough issues, or solid enough to really place my finger on the cause, but there, all the same. But school is what a lot of people do, and I had never really considered being a home schooling mum, and didn’t I want a career at some point in the near future? And didn’t I desperately need the break from Ivy’s misery that those hours at school gave me?

Well, I did. Until I realized that so much of our conflict revolves around school. Until I realized that in the school holidays, when it’s her at home, being a part of the family, she’s actually really happy and I love being around her. I can and will still have a career at some point, but my time as a stay at home mum has now been extended by a few years, and that’s fine.

In fact, I’m really freaking excited about this. I have so many plans, and every time I talk to Ivy about it she comes up with plans of her own, and we bounce ideas and I can see her brain working overtime, being creative and being excited about learning, which is so wonderful to see because she’s been so resistant to regular schooling.

One of the things I think is important to gift to our children is an innate sense of curiosity about the world. Creativity, a desire to learn and explore and the skills with which to do those things under your own steam. And I can see that already. I can see she has the desire, and I can be the one to teach her the skills she needs.

We’re going to be embarking on an amazing adventure. Not just for her, but for our whole family. Lauren is thrilled that Ivy will be home and is keen to get in on the learning. Natalie will enjoy it too, and Ivy… She is so happy. She can’t wait to get started and has been telling everyone she can about it.

It’s going to be very interesting finding a new groove once we get the exemption certificate through. But I can’t help but be filled with hope. It feels like finally we’re onto a winning thing. Finally, we can help Ivy follow her passions, encourage her dreams and support her in learning the way that suits her best. Very exciting. Very exciting indeed.