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Organising a life around the need for creativity: what's the priority?

Organising a life around the need for creativity: what’s the priority?

At the beginning of a plane flight recently I dutifully watched the airhost go through the safety drill, which is a drill that’s been so drummed into us that most of us don’t even watch it anymore, preferring to sort out the headphones and see what’s on the movie menu.  Often I don’t watch the drill either, but I did this time.  Except I wasn’t really listening.  Because I found myself thinking about the advice that parents must always put their own oxygen-mask on first before assisting children.  It just doesn’t seem right.  Surely in a moment of terrifying panic we should over-ride any innate selfishness we might have and help the helpless.  But, of course, the airline advice is sensible – how can a parent assist a child if the parent can’t breathe?  It’s an instance of when thinking about ourselves is logical.  And if there’s one part of society that is constantly accused of thinking about themselves it’s our artists.

There is nothing like writing.  There’s the heady rush when it’s all coming together: words flowing, characters forming, predicaments becoming drama; when time – real time – is lost and hours pass in the mark of a pen.  Or the gut-wrenching frustration when it all falls apart as though it was never meant to be, a wordy nightmare, a mushy mess that should be forgotten as quickly as possible.  And then there’s publication, attempts at publication at least, the odds so resolutely stacked against the author – where I live, Australia, it’s estimated that only one in a thousand novel manuscripts are published.  But still, despite these realities, millions of us, potentially even billions, are dedicated to some kind of creative practice – the writing of stories, the composition of music, making paintings, taking photographs, building sculptures, and acting and directing and dancing and singing.  For many, most perhaps, it’s a hobby, an ‘outlet’.  For others, however, it’s a dedicated pursuit, a serious intent, a commitment, a profession, perhaps even an obsession.

But how to organise a life, especially a domestic life, when this commitment, profession, obsession brings in an unreliable income at best, or no income at all, or actually costs money?

Keep reading over at Role/Reboot. Thanks to Meredith Landry.

What might I be

‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life,
and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,
and not, when I came to die,
discover that I had not lived.

– Henry David Thoreau

What would you say to your 20-year-old self?

What is the one thing you’d say to your 20-year-old self?

Quite frankly, I didn’t know if I was Arthur or Martha, intelligent or stupid, boy or a man, barely sane or as mad as a cut snake.

I simply didn’t know.

Looking back from the grand heights of now being in my mid-40s, back then, as a 20-year-old, I was just a gangly, still pimply, dreamy post-youth who loved wearing Blundstone boots and listening to The Cure and The Smiths and playing my 12-string acoustic guitar. I attended university. I lived in a suburban grouphouse, which I didn’t like—my housemates that year were narrow-minded bigots from the bush. But I loved being in Canberra, Australia’s designed-from-the-sky-down national capital, which at the time had a population of only 220,000, most of whom were university students, or university students who’d become public servants. But I didn’t know anything about population figures or public servants; I didn’t really know anything about university students either. I only knew about melancholic pop music and the mystery I was to myself and the small group of friends around me.

Despite being born and bred on Sydney’s affluent North Shore, I really did love those Blundstone boots—they were the sort workers wear—and was fond of black jeans and dark-colored shirts with floral prints and black, misshapen woolen jumpers with holes in the sleeves. My browny-black fringe hung long and low; I seem to recall that I could easily get the end into my mouth and taste the stringy grit of the thing. It was, after all, the 1980s. I was tall, sometimes painfully thin, sometimes portly.

I studied landscape architecture, but really I’d always wanted to do something with music: be a rock star, or be a rhythm guitarist in a band (Robert Smith and Johnny Marr were my heroes, obviously). Or perhaps I could just become a studio technician so at least I’d be in the company of rock stars and rhythm guitarists; I remember how in my last year of high school I rang a private music studio training academy and asked them to send me a brochure. My mother, however, made it clear that a life in music would be tough, perhaps even an embarrassment (for her at least), so that dream ended in a series of long sulks over dinner.

At some point that final high school year, no doubt sensing that someone better come up with a decent idea before this situation dragged on too much longer, my older brother said that as I liked art and was good at geography, maybe I should look into landscape architecture. I’m convinced that he had no inside knowledge of the profession; perhaps he’d just heard mention of it and now it was an idea for my consideration. My mother, being a keen gardener, liked this proposal very much. So, not wanting to be a problem for anyone, I applied, got in, left home, and became a university student in Canberra who liked wearing Blundstone boots and listening to The Cure and The Smiths and playing 12-string guitar.

Keep reading over at Role/Reboot.  Thanks to Meredith Landry.

How important is it to put all our effort into living uniquely?

How important is it to put all our effort into living uniquely?

You can always trust bank advertising to make clear what’s considered normal, the desires we’re all meant to have, the standard way of being. Stuck in a bank queue recently, I looked beyond the tellers to the large, multi-paned ad board on the wall. On it was a man and woman looking comfortable in their expensive white-and-beige clothes, beside them a pair of magazine-beautiful children, behind the family a brick-and-tile home in perfect repair, a white picket fence out front. And I thought, why would anyone in their right mind want any of that? All those rooms of the house filled with the sounds of the kids running up and down and around and everywhere, all that housework, the constant state of negotiation, so much communication and companionship but so little peace and quiet, next-to-no time alone.

Of course, many people (most?) do want this, but not me, not on your life.

I’ve been with my partner for 15 years. For five and a half of these years, we lived together in a cute 1960s house, a pretty garden, a car and matching car-loan, a Dalmatian named Willow and a very naughty cat named Sam. No picket fence, thank God, otherwise we would have looked as though destined for a bank advertisement. But, as it happens to most of us, we hit a road-block, we split up. Only to get together again ten months later. I now owned the house—actually the bank did, through the mother of all mortgages—and my partner now owned a place on the other side of town. Immediately we decided not to jump straight back into cohabiting, we’d take things slowly, just find our own way this time, play by our own rules. Wednesday would be our ‘date night’ and we’d spend weekends together; sometimes we’d take a trip interstate or even overseas. But the rest of the time would be our own—our own time in our own homes.

And it worked. You bet it did. We’re both independent souls, we like privacy and a little solace; neither of us needs constant company, though we do like being in a partnership.

But then came another change; relationships are nothing if not constant wretched change.

Keep reading over at Role/Reboot.  Thanks to Meredith Landry.

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The past