Elixir has a Companion

Sometimes being concise, to the point or sparing, achieves more than being long winded or verbose.

Regular readers will remember I enjoy writing and reading short, short fiction, otherwise known as Nano, Micro, Flash or Hint fiction.  I had a modicum of success with this genre last year when one of my stories was longlisted for the joanne burns Award.

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It was published last month in Landmarks and to celebrate I decided to create Elixir’s sister blog, Concise.

THE NEW SITE is tottering about on unsteady feet at the moment but I hope to add more stories in the next few weeks and eventually open it to other writers of short, short fiction. In the meantime, I am shamelessly flogging my new creation to all and sundry in an effort to make it feel welcome. Feel free to visit, read the stories, comment, follow the blog and share the site with your friends.

Thank you,

Janet

Solitude: Why I love to Write, Part 1

I spend too much time complaining about writing instead of sharing its joys. Yes, writing is a gruelling task but because sitting in front of the computer and writing can be rewarding, the next few posts will celebrate writing and focus on its joys and benefits.

Let’s start with solitude. It’s good to spend time alone, to sit at a table, whether in an elegant, light-filled study or the local cafe, and relax, breathe, play with different methods of ordering and recording one’s thoughts and experience the thrill of catching an image, emotion or character. Writing is a way to listen deeply to the self and to the messages life scatters along our path: what to make of that recent dinner party? Why did that person behave so strangely? What were the elderly couple on the bus whispering to each other? Writing is a way to sift through the feelings, images and conversations of each day and share them with the page and maybe a reader or two.

William Wordsworth once wrote:

When from our better selves we have too long
been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
how gracious, how benign, is solitude.

‘The Prelude’, from Book IV “Summer Vacation”

The opportunity to write in solitude (even in a busy cafe) is a double blessing, and one of the many joys of writing.

Otherwise

A wise woman reassesses her priorities. She stops occasionally to work out what is important, what her values are. A wise woman knows life is a matter of fine-tuning. She takes stock and either polishes life or discards that which undermines her well being. I find myself in that moment: I am in need of space; I need a break. What was important nearly two years ago, when I started this blog, warrants recalibration. I look out of my window and I see the season is shifting; I drink coffee with a friend as she weighs up her options while burdened with many, too many, anxieties trying to crush her audacious spirit. 

Life is change; mindfulness is accepting change, even daunting, scarifying change. As I attempt to think this through, the word ‘otherwise’ comes to mind. From the Old English ‘on othre wisan, the prefix ‘other’ implies ‘distinct or different from’, while the archaic meaning of ‘wise’ is ‘the manner or extent of something’ as in ‘he did it this wise’. The word is related to ‘wit’, which means ‘to have knowledge … to see.’ I find I have a new knowledge of myself and my writing, different to the knowledge I had of my self and of writing in 2015. My ‘season’ as a writer, has changed. I can do little more than abide the change.

I am going to take a ‘blog break’ for the next seven weeks. I need to mind my health and prepare for a challenging and liberating journey to the other side of the world. I want, in addition, to draw on and clarify the confidence my blog, and my readers, have given me.

I do this with a deep sense of gratitude. Thank you for reading this blog. Thank you for your comments. Thank you for your support. If I decide, at the end of my break, to change direction please know it is because this blog, my readers and the experience of being part of this amazing community has shown me that,

… all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades

For ever and for ever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

to rust unburnished, not to shine in use!

‘Ulysses’ Alfred Lord Tennyson

On Womankind

It’s too late to recap 2016 and the first twelve days of 2017 have slipped away, so chronicling my hopes and goals for the year seems redundant. Maybe it’s time for a cliché: where has the year gone?

In my case the year has been plagued by indifferent health. I haven’t been gravely ill, merely laid low with a mean, stubborn chest infection. I felt no desire to sit at my computer; editing the novel I drafted last November was beyond me and even reading a novel seemed too large a task. I turned, therefore, to my pile of mostly unread Womankind magazines and found the perfect companion for my convalescence.

Womankind, an Australian magazine, was launched in 2014. The first issue (the only issue I don’t have) featured Simone de Beauvoir who, I believe, would be happy to grace the cover of one of the few advertisement free, celebrity free magazines in the world.

Womankind is an advertising-free women’s magazine on self, identity and meaning in today’s society. (Its) aim is to introduce ideas that challenge contemporary thought and conditioning.

Womankind
Womankind Issue 10. Cover Illustration by Charis Tsevis

I purchase my copies from the local newsagent, but it is available through subscription in Australia, New Zealand (Aotearoa), Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. It is edited by Antonia Case and produced by the folk behind the New Philosopher, an

independent quarterly magazine devoted to exploring philosophical ideas from past and present thinkers on ways to live a more fulfilling life. (It) caters to those who have not studied philosophy, as well as philosophy students and academics.

New Philosopher is also advertisement free.

I like Womankind because it doesn’t talk down to its readers; it treats them like independent, intelligent and thoughtful women. While it covers difficult issues, it also explores a range of options that can help create a better world and it consistently encourages and validates women’s creativity. The images and ideas contained in its pages encourage readers to think differently about the world and themselves. In issue nine, for example, readers are asked to help the editors compile a list of life enhancing ‘mental attributes’ a person might be ‘diagnosed’ with. An only slightly tongue in cheek request, the idea is to counter the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a tome which describes the ever-growing range of mental and behavioural disorders, with more positive and life enhancing attributes. The editors cite ‘café cordiality – the joy of chatting to others, especially in cafés’ and ‘sky gazing compulsion’ as examples of attributes we might aspire to. My attribute would be ‘book hugging – the joy of embracing a book before, during and after reading it in appreciation of its insight and charm.’ What would your chosen attribute be?

Womankind helped me make it through the first twelve difficult days of 2017, a year many of us are understandably wary of. Immersing myself in a graceful, thought provoking, beautifully produced and illustrated magazine that treats its readers with respect, gave me hope for the rest of the year. It encouraged me to take the time to meditate, to reflect and to rekindle my gratitude journal. It was like having a compassionate and gentle nurse constantly at my bedside, a companion who, during the drear days when I was forced to rest and battle whatever it was that ailed me, offered respite, nourished my mind and enriched my spirit.

A Four Year Old’s Christmas

Dear Velvet,
It’s Christmas Eve. You’ll spend your day thinking about a visit from Father Christmas, or as you have come to call him in your prematurely wise way of finding compromise, ‘Santa Christmas.’   stocksnap_a3gogu0bwf

Tomorrow Cadence and I will share lunch with you, Mummy and Daddy, your Adelaide uncles and, later in the afternoon, other friends and family. We’ll watch as you open your presents, refuse to taste the prawns Cadence will offer you, enjoy ice cream at the end of the meal and devour the after-dinner chocolates. It all sounds rather ordinary, doesn’t it, much like the Christmas I enjoyed sixty years ago, when I was four years old.

There will be differences though. You’ll talk to your Grandpa, Uncle and Aunts in Perth via Skype or Facetime, something I could never have imagined in 1956. The love your family feel for you will beam across Australia and through Daddy or Nannie’s devices. This will show you that families use any means possible to connect with each other, no matter the distance and circumstances.

I think, Velvet, that the Christmas you have when you’re four years old may well be your best Christmas; when you’re three the noise, the bright wrapping paper and so many unexpected gifts can be overwhelming. When you’re a savvy five year old, expectations can be heightened which could lead to the first of many small Christmastime disappointments that gather as the years pass. So, enjoy this special Christmas my darling, but there is something I think you need to know, maybe not this year or even the next, something important about tomorrow and how other little boys and girls across the world might spend their day.

Many children, who are as smart and as kind as you, won’t have a very happy time tomorrow. Some of them, like you, know about Father Christmas but he won’t leave them any presents. Others might find lots of presents under the Christmas tree but their parents will leave their children in a corner and expect them to be quiet and grateful while the grown-ups drink too much wine and end the day screaming at each other and the children, frightening the little ones so much they will grow up to hate Christmas.

There are other little children just like you who don’t know anything about Santa Claus but they do have a Mummy and Daddy and grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins who love them as much as we love you. All families want their children to enjoy a happy, peaceful day tomorrow and everyday, but some of those mummies and daddies will have to use their bodies to shelter their children from bombs and bullets. There will be other children, too many children, who will spend tomorrow hungry and tired and scared. Too many children will spend tomorrow alone because their parents have disappeared and too many children may not see tomorrow’s sunset.

8299680591_5061d4e91f_oI am grateful, Velvet, that you will not spend your tomorrow worrying about this. I pray your innocence will continue for another year or two more but I am also concerned, as are a lot of adults, about what 2017 may bring. It is sad to think that you may learn too soon how people can do terrible things to each other and you will be perplexed and maybe a little afraid. That’s why tomorrow is so special; your family will show you how important love and compassion is. We will teach you how to be tolerant towards every one you meet, we will help you understand that lots of people in the world think being kind and compassionate to each other is better than being mean and cruel.

There are many people who work hard everyday to change our world. Those people are good at imagining what it feels like to be another person. Here’s a game you can play one day to help you do this: pretend you are walking around in another person’s shoes; pretend you are that person; pretend their fears, their dreams and their memories, are yours. If you can do that you will understand everyone else, and yourself, better.

This, then, is my Christmas wish for you; on that terrible day when you learn other children suffer while you prosper, you won’t ignore their suffering. When you learn other children play with different toys and enjoy different celebrations than you, you won’t laugh at their games or beliefs. When you discover other children wear different clothes and don’t look like you, you won’t judge them and ridicule them, but respect and learn from them, you will play with them and, if they need it, or when they ask for it, you will help them whenever you can.

But that is a wish for your future, dear Velvet. It is not your task, this Christmas Eve, to wonder how the world can become a better place. You can leave that to the grownups. When it is your turn, I know your compassion and resilience, your resourcefulness and your magnificent imagination will help you create a world where all children feel as safe and as cherished as you feel today.
Love always,
Nannie

Do you remember your fourth Christmas? What important lessons did you learn around the table at Christmastime?

Finally, my dear readers, wherever you are and whatever you are doing on the 25th December I hope you will be with your loved ones, that you feel safe and cherished, and may peace sit lightly at your shoulder.

On Loss, Grief, Ideas, Small Successes and Gratitude

As the title of this post suggests, I have a lot to share today.

Loss

Fear not, cherished reader, it’s not as bad as it looks. My loss is, in the scheme of things, amore irritating than tragic, more time consuming than debilitating. This blog, however, is based on the notion that writing is healing so in that spirit …

… Most of the photographs I so carefully chose to accompany my posts have been swallowed by the internet. See, I told you it wasn’t important, although it has messed up the appearance and tone of my earlier posts.

It’s all my fault. I deleted a selection of photos from my media library. ‘Save some space,’ I thought, ‘avoid scrolling through photographs trying to remember which photos I have used and which I tucked away in the library for future use.’ The lesson is: ‘Don’t do this at home boys and girls’. For pictures to remain firmly adhered to your posts they must forever linger in your media library and while I wish someone had told me, I am more annoyed by the fact I should have known that!

matthew-wiebe01It didn’t help that I, as you would have noticed, changed my theme. I was aiming for a leaner, cleaner look, which I unwittingly achieved and then some. I’ve managed to return a few photographs to their rightful place but there are many more to go. It will probably take a week, maybe more … that will teach me to be more careful.

Grief

This minor loss lead me to ask: ‘Why is change, even welcomed, planned change, confronting?’ It’s a cliché, I know, but change is the only part of life we can rely on. Children grow and leave home, friends move interstate, people die.  The helplessness we experience when our world changes is rooted, says Buddha, in clinging to what we know and our aversion to the unknown. Let’s face it, the loss of a few pictures on a blog is hardly a cause for grief, but let’s also be real; most of us will experience, in our lifetime, a desperate and debilitating grief. When this happened to me, I learned grief is a normal and natural reaction. That doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt, mentally, emotionally and physically. Living with and through grief is the fearless labour of the harrowed soul; it is, possibly, the most important work we are called to do. I discovered two therapies (of many) that helped me when I experience a grief far more serious than the trifling disappearance of a few photographs. I offer them only as suggestions to explore, not as advice to be followed; if you are struggling with grief and it’s consequences, please see your medical practitioner.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy

Back in 2013 it was suggested that

MBCT appears to reduce depressive symptoms in … sample(s) of elderly bereaved people, but further studies of the effects of MBCT in this population are needed for firm conclusions.

More recently, in her chapter titled ‘When the Unthinkable Happens: A Mindfulness Approach to Perinatal and Pediatric Death’,  Joanne Cacciatore examines and analyses numerous studies of the benefits of MBCT (and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction MBSR) for grieving parents. She concludes that

preliminary data suggest these methods present less potential harm, are more cost effective, and may be highly effacious (sic) in helping bereaved parents, and they may also be protective for providers who are at high risk of negative psychological outcomes.

She adds, however, that more research is always beneficial. If you are interested in learning more about MBCT, you may find these sites interesting:

Therapeutic Writing

A photo by Matthew Wiebe. unsplash.com/photos/kX9lb7LUDWc

My own research confirmed writing about grief and loss can have positive outcomes. While searching for references into writing and grief (other than this), I discovered an assignment I wrote in 2003, while studying for my Diploma in Professional Counselling. I examined how writing a letter to a lost loved one, or writing about about the experience of grief, felt ‘cathartic and therefore difficult’ but the technique helped me gain a better understanding of an experience that occurred decades before. More recent links to information about the benefits of therapeutic writing can be found here:

Ideas

My home town loves to party; we stage (not all at the same time) the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Adelaide Guitar Festival, Adelaide Film Festival, Feast Festival, OzAsia,  the Sala Festival  and then there’s the GrandMama of them all the Adelaide Festival of Arts and her often wayward, always endearing offspring, the Fringe Festival. While the latter two are on we also host Womadelaide and Adelaide Writer’s Week all of which take place during what we locals call ‘Mad March’. This link should connect you to all of them and I assure you, Adelaide in March is particularly beautiful.dsc_9757

This weekend my partner and I attended one of the more staid, but just as stimulating, festivals, the Adelaide Festival of Ideas.  Thinkers and innovators, media mavens and determined disputers  descend on our town the way pixels coalesce on a computer screen. They enlightened and provoked, informed and, at times, depressed; the world, we decided, is in a parlous state but as long as we have ideas, and the people to implement them, we will survive.

Seventy separate sessions were held over two days and all but three were free and open to the public. Of those seventy sessions, I attended eleven. I ‘covered’ both ageing and the arts, in particular the grievous situation caused by the radical and cruel cuts to arts funding in Australia.

I can only summarise a few of the sessions I attended, but here are several things I learned last weekend:

  •  In  ‘Sleepwalking to the Future’, Professor Justin O’Connor suggested culture is, in Australia, viewed as unnecessary and our public conversations about the arts are stifled and muted. We need, declared Professor O’Connor, a positive and  affirming narrative that addresses this ‘cultural annihilation’. Part of the problem, O’Connor believes,  is very few artisans, and barely any of their ‘rituals’ of art practice/art making, are featured in Australia’s media. When art and artistic practices (other than ballet, opera, classical music and what can be viewed in large, regional art galleries), disappear from public view, Australians are hoodwinked into believing the value of making, and witnessing the making, of art is linked only to making money.  As you’ll see in the final point of this section, the association of art and money is, to say the least, dodgy.
  • In the next session, Dr Fiona Kerr discussed how the brain is shaped. She described how we develop a vast neurophysiological map of the world, and our experience of that world, chiefly through interconnecting with other brains. Dr Kerr emphasised that our map will be stunted if we are not encouraged, from the moment of birth, to connect with others. Physical touch and ‘eye gaze’, looking at and being looked at by our primary caregiver, has a profound effect on our map’s development, and on how we heal when ill. Eye gaze can calm a person, particularly when we know and trust that person. This means, in terms of the connection between humans and technology, we need to be more informed of the disconnect experienced by new brains, the ones developing inside a growing baby and child, if they spend hours on their tablets, computers. Likewise adolescent brains, whose maps are jeopardised through excessive use of their mobile phones. I also learned, in this session, that deep or intense mental work, or ‘thinking’, should be done while offline!! (I believe this means all my devices and phone should be turned off next month, if I’m to have any hope of getting through NaNoWriMo. )
  • I attended two sessions where the Australian moral philosopher and author Raimond Gaita spoke. (For an exquisite measure of the man and his majestic humanity read this article by the equally majestic Helen Garner). In Professor Gaita’s second session, which he shared with Nick Drake, I learned that when we accept the opportunity to ‘de-normalise’ our life, to leave the known world and explore natural wildernesses, we experience the beauty of our planet and reflect deeply on our relationship with it. Professor Gaita hopes our children will be exposed to art as well as to the wilder reaches of our world. For him, metaphysics is about love of the world, and is an evocation of the ‘spirit of love’ that is, in reality, an expression of gratitude for the gift of life. This echoed the challenge Gaita gave us in his first session: to accept the intrinsic, inarguable humanity that resides in every human on this planet, even those whose actions we believe are abhorrent.
  • The next day I went to the ‘wrong’ session; instead of learning who leads the ‘energy transition’, I mistakenly sat in on a discussion about  Joan of Arc. Ali Alizadeh believes Joan’s story makes us think about who we want, who we should choose, as a hero, particularly when it comes to political change and political action. This session rekindled my love of Medieval literature and I’m looking forward to reading Alizadeh’s forthcoming book.
  • In the final session (featuring Professor Julian Meyrick, Rebecca Evans, and Justin O’Connor) I went back to where I started, lamentations about culture, which instead of being the last thing we should access in our ‘hierarchy of needs’, is humanity’s base need. Culture, agreed the speakers, is the foundation of our being, the parchment, as Fiona Kerr might say, on which our neurophysiological map is drawn, the figurative and symbolic expression of beauty that is life on earth, the generator of our heroic (and not so heroic) archetypes. It is, as I believe Gaita suggested, the truest expression of the soul, a word he said he is more than comfortable with.

These sessions left me exhausted and exulted; so few of our current political discussions are dignified by the careful, deliberate, informed and unfettered thinking I witnessed last Saturday and Sunday. As festivals go, it is one of the best.

Small Successes

I learned several weeks ago – but can only now share the news – that one of my hint fictions is among the finalists in the NFW /Joanne Burns Award 2016. I am proud to be a part of this event, mostly because I enjoy reading and writing flash and micro fiction. It also means the risk I took leaving work to write full-time was worth it. Awards are recognition, not for the writing but for the work, for the sometimes loving, often desperate attention paid to practising art. I normally don’t share information like this, but having come from the Festival of Ideas and learning how close we are to losing the unique Australian cultural expression so dear to me and my partner, I want to expand, ever so slightly the cultural narrative; I am a 64 year old woman starting a much longed for career as a writer. My small success is possible for anyone on this glorious little planet.

And now I need to somehow pull this post together, to make sense of the last few days, to share what my blogging ‘accident’ and my experience at the Festival of Ideas mean to me.

Gratitude

I live in one of the best cities in one of the best countries on one of the best (there’s an assumption right there!) planets. How can I not be grateful? How can we not be grateful even as we do the work of grief, do the work of addressing our mistakes, do the work of political action, do the work of repairing the planet, do the work of forgiving humans for forgetting their shared and sacred humanity? As we form, deep among our neurons, dendrites and axons, the map that is our brain something else is formed, something numinous and mysterious; the puzzle that is our mind.  Our brain is too preoccupied with making sure we breathe, digest our food, avoid accidents and get to the toilet in time to be interested in our mind. It is not our brain, but our mind that undoes us. Whatever our ‘conscious mind’ is, it tangles us in knots of anxiety and depression, anger and despair, folly and illusion. Might the only way to unpick these snarls be through the simple, powerful act of gratitude? Alice Walker believes it is:

‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.

I am learning, slowly and surely, to be thankful for this inexplicable, wondrous gift of life.

When was the last time you said ‘thank you’ to your mistakes, thank you for a loss, thank you to those that vexed you, when you gave thanks for your life despite everything?

References

Joanne Cacciatore, ‘When the Unthinkable Happens: A Mindfulness Approach to Perinatal and Pediatric Death,’  in Black, Beth P, Patricia M. Wright, and Rana K. Limbo, Perinatal and Pediatric Bereavement in Nursing and Other Health Professions (New York: Springer Publishing Company), 2016, p 106.
O’Connor, Maja, Jacob Piet, and Esben Hougaard, ‘The effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on depressive symptoms in elderly bereaved people with loss-related distress: A controlled pilot study, Mindfulness 5.4 (2014): 400-409.

Of Family and other Connections

Personal connections are easily lost. People move, people change, relationships end.

Can ragged bonds ever be reforged?

Five women aged from 48 to 63 sit around a table and chat about their lives and families. They share stories of how they, and their mothers or fathers, were named. They swap news about their children and grandchildren, the almost too numerous to count descendants of these women’s, these cousin’s, grandparents.

from-old-iphone-778-2The woman retell stories of arguments and the deeper pain of family members lost through death or the attrition of indifference.

At family gatherings I remember, our grandfather sat at the head of the table and after dinner he’d play his harmonica. He and the men, sons and sons-in-law, were served whisky. Daughters and daughters-in-law drank shandies or sherry. Our grandfather was Welsh. He worked his passage from the UK to Australia but instead of going on to Sydney, he jumped ship in South Australia, met our grandmother, married and fathered nine children.

Of those, only four remain.

We women, we cousins, are tickled pink with the idea that we are the descendants of a ‘boat person’.

At those same family gatherings our grandmother, a Scot, served Dundee cake. She came to Australia in the hope a warmer climate would improve her health. We women, we cousins, remember her rolling a cigarette with one hand and stirring a pot with the other.

One of the women tells us she makes Dundee cakes every Christmas. She bakes them in individually sized baking pans and sprinkles them, once they are removed from the oven, with Drambuie. When they are cool she wraps them and gives them to her friends.

I am the oldest of these women, these cousins; I remember them as babes, toddlers and beautiful girls full of gumption but I am also the daughter of a mother who caused more than her share of disruption and discomfort in her family. Aware of the pain my mother caused, we women, we cousins, acknowledge her behaviour; we have the words for it now.

The connection between family members can be as fragile as that between friends. A thoughtless word, an offhand comment or unintentional slight can strain the best relationship. Within families it is a brave fragility; the ties are wrought not, as in friendship, from common interests or shared attitudes but from something deeper, something less easily explained, a sense of almost knowing the familial other the way we almost know ourselves.

Five women, cousins aged from 48 to 63, tend the roots, feed the soil and admire the branches of their family tree. It is good work. It is brave work, it is work we promise to do again; it isn’t really work at all.

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Spring Walk

This morning my partner and I celebrated the first day of spring with a walk along our section of the Linear Park and I took a few photographs …

On arriving home I found the following information and poem on Trove, a site that collects and shares a vast range of information relating to Australia  including material from

libraries, museums, archives, repositories and other research and collecting organisations big and small.

Unfortunately our current government doesn’t consider this resource important and plans to cut its funding. If we lose Trove we lose an important resource: we lose our heritage including access to gems like Miss Veronica Mason’s poem.

A WATTLE POEM.
The wattle has inspired many Australian poets, from Henry Kendall, and
Adam Lindsay Gordon downwards, but it is very interesting to notice that one of
the prettiest poems about our national flower was written by one—Miss Veronica
Mason—who, though a Lancashire girl by birth, learned to know and love the wattle
during her residence in Tasmania. Here is her poem:—
The bush was grey
A week to-day
(Olive-green and brown and grey);
But now the spring has come this way,
With blossoms for the wattle.
It seems to be
A fairy tree;
It dances to a melody,
And sings a little song to me
(The graceful, swaying wattle).
See how it weaves
Its feathery sheaves!
Before the wind a maze it weaves,
A misty whirl of powdery leaves—
(The dainty, curtseying wattle)!
Its boughs uplift
An elfin gift;
A spray of yellow, downy drift,
Through which the sunbeams shower and
sift
Their gold-dust o’er the wattle.
The bush was grey
A week to-day
(Olive-green and brown and grey);
But now its sunny all the way,
For, oh! the spring has come to stay,
With blossom for the wattle!

On Journals, Blogging, Letters and Constructing the (Writing) Self

The other day I was trying to catch up on reading the blogs I follow. One of the first things you learn as a blogger is the need to connect with other bloggers and read their posts. It’s not as easy as it sounds especially if, like me, you discover a blog, read one or two posts then follow it because it’s so interesting and well written and the blogger sounds like an astounding person you’d love to meet one day.

One of my former colleagues believes blogging is the offshoot of the personal diary or journal. I’m not so sure.  dsc_0319
I started keeping a journal thirty years before my colleague was born and I’d never write a post that even remotely resembles my journal entries. There are some things that just shouldn’t be made public. Granted, a lot of blogs are tell-all rants about the seedy and not so seedy side of life. Plenty of bloggers share moments of misery and loss, but I question whether this means blogging and writing a journal is the same thing. I will admit bloggers, like the folk who write a journal, are in the business of ‘constructing the self’, which is academic-speak for creating a persona, a fabricated self a blogger feels comfortable about appearing on a screen thousands of kilometres from home. I believe, however, that the self I have constructed for my blog is more carefully drawn than the self that inhabits the abandoned pages of my journals.

The other reason I don’t think writing a blog post is the same as writing a journal entry is because I feel blog posts are similar to letters. I have 80 or more followers (thank you, one and all) and I probably follow as many blogs. Not all my readers read all of my posts and I certainly don’t read every blog I follow – while I was catching up the other day I was interrupted – but, as all writers are admonished, I believe most of us learn to write, as much as possible, for our readers. This means, in the case of a blog post, writing so our readers feel it was written specifically for them.  Blogging, in much the same way as writing a novel, and unlike journal writing, is about supply and demand, specifically meeting the demands of readers. Yes, there are plenty of instances where journal writers share their private musings (or they are read, often clandestinely, by lovers, intrusive parents or inquisitive siblings) but bloggers want to be read, they want to form connections, they want to be shared.

Bloggers develop blogging friendships. I certainly have, and I’ve renewed old relationships (Hi, Kathy), so I often feel as if I’m writing a letter to my friends.   dsc_0323Not a newsy, chatty letter about the family’s latest escapades, but a letter that shares my ideas, the issues that concern me, my interest in therapeutic writing … which raises another point …

… is blogging therapeutic? I think it can be; shaping an event or feeling and sharing it with others can, if handled well,  help with healing. I doubt many bloggers feel they are alone in the world; for most of us there will be someone out there who’s interested in what we have to say, who reads what we write and who cares. Keeping a journal, while it helped in many ways, didn’t stop me from feeling alone, which is what writing for no one but oneself can do. My journal became a self-fulfilling rehash of personal (often self-induced) misery, which is why, despite intending to, I barely referred to my journals when I wrote my memoir.

The woman who wrote those journals is a mere echo of the woman I am now and I am an echo of the woman I will be. janetp03Blogging, as confessional and personal as it might be,  is a larger act of rebellion than writing a private journal ever was and believe me, I thought journal writing was truly rebellious. I was even advised by one counsellor to stop because she believed it would harm my relationship.

It’s hard to grasp exactly how massive the ‘blogosphere’ is, let alone imagine how many mega-millions of words are written and shared via blog posts. I am nevertheless content in my minuscule corner of it. I have readers, bloggers and otherwise, that I feel obligated to, not in an onerous, ‘dear me is it time to write another post?’ way, but  in a ‘I wonder what so and so is up to, and if they’d be interested in …’ way. More importantly, and this is a revelation born of knowing I do have readers, I look forward to sharing the (constructed) self who writes my blog; a self now past middle-age, an occasionally confused writer, by turns cynical and sentimental who is grateful to be a part of a sphere where readers and writers are not afraid to be whatever self they choose.

What about you? Are you writing a personal journal that you make public, a letter to far flung or nearby friends or something else entirely?

Developing your Eye: Day Ten

Going Monochrome

Today is the last day of this challenge. I’ve enjoyed taking part and I’m extremely grateful for my readers’ interest and positive comments. In addition to learning more about photography and cameras, I’ve discovered some wonderful blogs. Stepping from the world of words, sentences and paragraphs into the world of images, the rule of thirds, f-stops and shutter speeds has opened up a new way of seeing and thinking about my world. Thank you everyone.

I also want to thank my partner who patiently followed me around as I framed and shot some of my pictures and then, as he always does, edited each post. This post, and this photo, is dedicated to him. I took the photograph several years ago and it is my partner’s favourite bridge. Known as ‘City Bridge’, it is part of Adelaide’s central business district’s main thoroughfare. It was proposed in 1929 after floods destroyed three earlier structures and was designed to deal with the increasing volume of traffic entering and leaving the city. Completed in 1931 it is, as can be seen, a concrete structure that also features beautiful lamp fittings and pylons designed by South Australian artist John C. Goodchild.

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#developingyoureye: ‘City Bridge’

In a way, this photograph represents one of my goals: to create a bridge between my writing and the  images I hope to capture with my camera. I still have a lot to learn about creating those images but I hope more of them will appear on this blog.