Every Year on Mother’s Day

IMG_1117Every year on Mother’s Day I feel weird and uneasy at all the hoopla. I know it’s a tough day for many people, for a variety of reasons.

Some women aren’t mothers and never wanted to be mothers, and this day can make them feel as though a person only has value if they’ve procreated.

Some women want so much to be mothers but it doesn’t happen, and Mother’s Day is a slap.

For women who have lost babies and children, this day can bring fresh tears.

Many men and women have lost their mothers. This day reminds them of how their mum used to laugh, or cut onions a specific way, or how their mother smelt when she hugged them. There may be mixed emotions, but always emotions.

Others can’t wish their own mothers a Happy Mother’s Day even though their mother is still alive. The relationship was simply too toxic. Their mother is mentally unwell, nasty, and not seeking help or understanding their own illness. The only way to stop the unending damage from that unwell mother has been to move away, in every sense. I have two friends who have found themselves in this situation, and they are two of the kindest women you could meet. Both tried for years to solve the issues before making the break. Although it has been the best decision for both of them, it was not done without great heartache. So on Mother’s Day, there can be sadness.

When the second Sunday in May arrives each year, I can’t help but reflect on the mix of feelings that must swirl around on this day. Pride. Betrayal. Loss. Adoration.

My wish is that everyone still has a moment to feel good on the day – whether it’s paying tribute to a mother, being celebrated as a mother, or being hugged by a mother (your own or not, as long as they hug you well). xoxo

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going wild

IMG_3414I went away for a few days with my family, and the cabin we stayed in had no mobile phone reception, no internet connection, no tv channels. We were on the edge of a national park, so during the day we walked the tracks and in the evening we ate simple dinners, read and watched movies on the couch (I did appreciate the DVD player and TV screen!). I had mobile reception on top of two rocky climbs in the middle of nowhere, and found myself answering texts from work, much to my family’s disgust. But apart from that, we were disconnected. We talked and joked and hung out together. Annoyed each other and ate potato chips. My son made a fire in the pot-belly stove. None of us were glued to our phones. We didn’t wander away to separate areas of the house, to separate computers and devices.

I realise that families are made up of individuals, all pursuing different goals. We all have different interests. It’s natural that we’ll spend time apart. And using technology is a part of life these days. But I loved having those three days without the intrusion of connectivity (well, apart from my work texts!), all together.

It was so relaxing, I wonder if a ‘fake’ disconnect would be almost as good? For when the news gets too grim, when every email is junk, when the Facebook feed is never-ending and the phone keeps ringing … just for one Sunday at home. Switched off from the internet with the answering machine taking all calls, going for long walks, taking baths, eating food cooked slowly whilst sipping wine or soda water. Maybe that would work, too, when getting physically away is impossible.

In the meantime, I’m determined to be intentional in how I spend my time, and how connected I am. Because as much as I love social media and interacting with people, sometimes I let myself get swamped by it, and I can spend hours flicking, reading, clicking. These past few days in the wilderness have reminded me I have choices, if only I pay attention. If only I pay attention.

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Earnestly, yes

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I’ve been reading a lot of short fiction lately. Short fiction and commentary about short fiction. And I’ve been feeling unsettled. Not by the short fiction, which has been varied and fresh and intriguing. It’s the talk about the Australian short fiction scene that has been bothering me.

A couple of male writers have made remarks to the effect that Australia short fiction tends to be boring and bland. One gave the example of too many stories set in rural Australia where not much happens. I’m sure I read an interview where one said he hated writing that was too earnest. And right away that comment made me defensive and squirmy. Is that me? It might be me.

I actually agree that some stories struggle to excite. They try too hard to be ‘literary’. Farmers’ wives gaze out over fields and farmers’ brows crease and the fly-blown sheep carcass is a metaphor. Clouds gather and it looks like rain but then it doesn’t and the story ends.

However. People in glass houses and all. Because I can’t help it, my stories are a bit earnest, they’re really not funny in any ha-ha way, I don’t write satire or fantasy, my characters frown a bit too. But I write the only way I can. It’s the only thing I know – people and what’s in their deepest hearts, what secretly moves them, what makes them cry at night, what they fear and what they hope for. What they can’t forget. Who they’ll always love.

I don’t believe that stories in traditional narrative form are boring if the content is good. I don’t believe a short story has to be humorous, or satirical, or contain magical elements to be entertaining. I believe there is a place for every kind of story, done well.

I like trying new things, within my capabilities. I’ve written dystopian fiction, magic realism, a dialogue-only story and crime fiction. I try to learn and to stretch myself. I read widely. But ultimately I am developing my own voice, and that voice is emotional and I guess it’s a bit earnest too. I need to own that without shame.

 

 

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Writing amongst the trees

IMG_3297I can hardly believe my two weeks at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre are almost over. I’ve had such a good time here, and not in exactly the way I expected.

I thought I’d write three or more stories during my residency. But I arrived with a story yet to be finished, and worked on that for a couple of days. Then I panicked for a couple of days, because I felt this intense pressure to choose a Good Idea for my next story and nothing seemed close to adequate (normally I would take the vaguest of concepts and just wing it). Eventually I calmed down and told myself to just play. So I tried something I’ve never tried – writing a story in second person. It was truly bad at first, so I worked on it, and now it’s approaching fair. After that I began a new story which I’m having fun writing. And here I am on the Friday of the last week.

So with two full writing days to go, I’ve edited one story, written a full story in second person, and am perhaps halfway through a new tragi-comedy sort of piece. I wouldn’t call that an enormous output yet. I say yet because I have no doubt that my experiences here will lead to more stories, perhaps as many again as I have written so far. I have walked at sunset, shopped in an Indian grocery store, met many creative people, attended writing groups and had dinner with a lovely writer friend I hadn’t yet been able to meet in person. I’ve had meals and discussions and lots of laughter with the other two Fellows here. I’ve read every night before bed. I’ve had time to become immersed in writing.

It became a bit of a catchcry between myself and my next-door neighbour Fellow Mark J Keenan (who is going through the re-drafting process with his novel) – It’s not about the word count, it’s about the whole writing experience. Thinking, planning, dreaming, talking and writing amongst the trees.

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Talking around my toes

I spend way too much of my time with my foot in my mouth. Not literally. I am not one of those disgusting people who nibbles toenails or toe cuticles or whatever it is those toe-chewers do (my apologies if you’re a foot-eater but seriously … that habit is cute in babies only).

I’m talking about social clangers: forgetting names, talking too much, over-revealing, asking people unwanted questions, unknowingly joking about sensitive topics. Not just talking too much, but sort of feverishly. Fast and full of irrelevant detail, wandering off topic, and forgetting what topic I started on as it dawns on me how crazy I’m sounding and the heat rises up in my face. This mainly happens when I’m a bit nervous, but can happen any time. In the supermarket. At a meeting. At a party.

I’ve asked a few friends about this foot-in-mouth thing, including people who are outwardly confident, and they swear they often feel awkward, but I find it hard to believe. They can’t be as dorky as I am. I wonder if they’re telling me they’re nerdy out of kindness (poor Fi, let’s all tell her we’re also dorky so she won’t feel so alone).

It seems ridiculous that I should be on the verge of buying orthopaedic shoes and yet I’m still as inept as kid. I wonder if I’ll ever become wise and sage and venerable. Serene and calm and collected. I picture myself gliding into rooms, smiling and nodding, saying and doing exactly the right thing. Definitely not asking the lady whose new baby is five months old how far along she is.

I suspect it is my lot in life to blunder about, treading on toes and shoving mine into my gob in the process. Making those around me shake their heads but perhaps also stand a little taller, feel a little better about themselves.

It’s just a community service I provide.

***

Do you also suffer from Foot-in-Mouth? I’d love to hear.

If not, please help with anti-dork tips.

 

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How to Write – a manual for distractible writers

Step 1. Check email, in case you have won some nationwide competition or had a world-renowned journal accept one of your stories.

Step 2. Check Facebook. There could be a writing opportunity on a page you’ve liked. Or a cute puppy video.

Step 3. Check Twitter. You may hear some interesting news that prompts you to write a brilliant new piece of fiction. Or creative non-fiction. Or a cool sort of limerick.

Step 4. Check Instagram. You may get good ideas for a snack.

Step 5. Get a snack. And a drink while you’re at it.

Step 6. Sit back down. Open your document. Yes, just go to the toilet. Be quick.

Step 7. Write. Stay there. Do not access the internet, ring people or text people. Write.

Step 8. Briefly congratulate self. You’re writing!

Step 9. Keep writing.

 

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In Praise of Twitter

I never really got Twitter. Up until six months ago, that is. It seemed like Facebook in hyperdrive, and I hardly ever post on Facebook, so why would I use Twitter? On Facebook I can just slip around finding out how everyone is, admiring their growing-up children and holiday snaps, so again – why Twitter?

I joined to find out. Because you never really know if you don’t try something. And even then, you have to give it time. For example, when I first tried wine (as a twelve-year-old on New Year’s Eve, just a small sip) I thought it was disgusting. Now I feel differently.

At first on Twitter there was not much going on. Well obviously – I was following maybe twenty people and about two people were following me. But slowly I began to follow more people – mostly writers, since none of my non-writer friends are on Twitter – and I began to interact a little. After reading an article I enjoyed in The Australian, I tweeted to the journalist, who responded with a comment. I re-tweeted tweets by other writers. I realised there is a whole writing community out there, linked by Twitter on a day-to-day basis. It’s supportive. It’s informative. And it’s fun.*

It’s also a bit addictive, so I’m trying to be intentional in how I spend my time. But I’m happy to spend some of that time on Twitter, connecting with other writers and hearing about their news. Because writing is a lonely business – the actual bum-on-chair writing – and interaction with other writers who understand the whole hair-pulling joy …. it’s a great tonic.

If you feel so inclined, I might see you on Twitter 🙂 @FionaRRobertson

*This post is not funded by Twitter

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