Month: February 2014

Where I write

This is the piece I wrote for Mapping the Words. Take a look. There might be a writer just around the corner from you.

The place I think of as my study is, in everyone else’s mind, the room where the best computer is kept and the place to turn on the WiFi. Our house is old, a child of 1969. We’ve not done a lot. The study has orange curtains. Very good, very solid orange curtains. The window sills are mission brown. The lightshade is a wavy beige thing something like an old fashioned hat at race day. The checked couch that came over the back fence when our neighbours moved to Singapore several years ago sits by one wall covered by as many throws and cushions as possible. The smell of after shave has finally worn off. There’s a toilet separated from the study by a sliding door. A toilet nobody uses, largely because it didn’t work for many years. Water would gush from the cistern merrily and without cease and because nobody could manage to turn the tap off, the float was held up by an old wooden school ruler. ‘That’s very MacGyver of you,’ said the plumber when we could finally afford him. I was both embarrassed and proud. But now nobody thinks to use the brand new toilet and I usually pretend it isn’t there.

So the study’s not that beautiful. But that doesn’t mean I want anyone else using the room. Doctor Who sits on my desk. (The Tenth Doctor, though I love them all.) He lost his sonic screwdriver a while back. There’s also a silver elephant and a Wangechi Mutu card with fox people. There’s an administrative pile of things to do. It only grows larger. And a notebook with Hokusai’s The Great Wave at Kanagawa on the front. There’s a bookshelf, of course, with knick-knacks and beautiful cards and lovely papers scattered around and about. And a green chair piled with writing notes and some relevant books I’m meant to read.

The view is mostly trees; lots of green with a bit of pool fence where, if I’m lucky, an Eastern Sea Dragon will defy the dogs. The dogs are usually in the sunniest spot on the deck. But they’ll come and sit outside the window if they’ve been inadvertently locked outside. Birds swoop across. Cockatoos, a kookaburra, sometimes a king parrot. Too idyllic? All that is often marred by the sound of a leaf blower or by the incessant rounds of renovation next door.

I don’t know that any of it inspires me. My inspiration’s as likely to come from a drive in the car or a supermarket shop. It finds its way into barely legible notes that, when translated to the page, seem less than imagined. But the study’s the place where my brain knows how to draw into itself. At least once it’s stopped requesting cups of coffee and a look at emails and twitter and a round or two of solitaire. The study’s a castle of mist with dreadful furnishings. And though nobody else knows it, it’s all mine.

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A techno Doctor and other bots of note

I’ve been taking a quick, running look at the Digital Writers Festival. I’ve added something about my writing space at Mapping the Words, (I’m all jammed in with the other Sydney writers) and I’ve tried to spot truly human poems in a literary Turing Test at Bot or Not. For example:
The other,
the Romantic search:
Now I watch you.
is computer generated.

And so is this:

The moon rises like a small shore.
Cold, lively lads swiftly desire a sunny, misty ship.
Ah, desolation!
Gulls travel like rough girls.

But this:

Only themselves understand themselves, and the like of themselves,
As Souls only understand Souls.
was written by Walt Whitman (and according to the site, 70% of people thought this was a bot)

Maybe it’s all the editing I’ve done this week, but I feel a little bit bot or not myself.

So finally, for something restorative, the perfect meld of tech and human, how about this:

Once more unto the breach

Coin_of_Ukraine_Year_of_the_Horse_5_RChinese New Year has always seemed to me a more civilised start to the year. January is holiday time, time for relaxing into late nights and lazy mornings. Kids who are detangled from stress. But that time is over, for better or for worse, and courage must be summoned to enter into the affray of the school year. Nikki Gemmell has written something similar in her recent article for the Weekend Australian.

(Her column, honest with touches of beauty, is one of the few things I will miss about the Australian – our subscription is almost over and we have decided not to renew. In fact we’ve been waiting it out. The paper has long since moved from being substantial journalism with a point of view and a known bias to propaganda.)

Gemmell’s column ends with an Edith Wharton quote from The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton.
“But I have sometimes thought that a woman’s nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes in going in and out; the drawing-room, where one receives formal visits; the sitting-room, where the members of the family come and go as they list; but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; no one knows the way to them, no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes.”

This resonates, very much, but also puts me in mind of a new project – the one after this thing, then the next, then the other – a novel which uses the rooms of a house as its structure. It’s still vague and misty at the moment, but I’m looking forward to its time. Which, I know, can only truly come when the kids are at school.