No, really. Coz I’ve got to say, I’m on edge. I am scanning the news for information, hanging on the words of politicians and medical specialists and generally wondering, “Do I have this?”
Since March the message I’ve been giving my kids is, “Remember the three Cs – calm, cautious, common sense.” Buuuuuuut, sometimes is hard to stay calm, not spiral into full blown paranoia and not to start hoarding toilet paper and spaghetti sauce. And I think I’m probably not alone.
So, not for the first time and probably not for the last time I’m going to say…
If you’ve reached a stage in your writing career where you submitting your work to publishers you’ve probably noticed that many of them say they welcome or encourage submissions by authors from marginalised communities. Usually it’s only a sentence at the end of the submission instructions. It’s an important sentence.
I am a straight, white, cis woman. While I have experienced racial prejudice I don’t know what it’s like to be judged by the colour of my skin, to not have dolls that look like me, to only see my people represented by stereotypes or in tokenism. I have never had to explain my sexuality to anyone. I’ve never had to argue that my feelings and experiences of my body are real, and that my genitals do not match the person I feel like inside. I’ve never had people from outside of my community take my experiences and, no matter how well intentioned, use them as their own and profit from them.
Publishing is a competitive world. Honestly, getting published is a struggle. But in my mind, letting authors from marginalised groups know that their stories, their experiences and their unique points of view, are not only welcome, they’re desired, is a good thing for everybody. It’s wonderful for readers but it’s also good for writers regardless of their background because it means the playing field is becoming more even, that we are getting closer to equity of opportunity. That if you are a good writer, with a compelling story to tell, regardless of your race or religion or gender or sexuality, there are people out there who want to bring your stories to the world.
And that’s the world I want my children to grow up in.
I am one of those people. One of those people who doesn’t really know what they’re doing, who’s always looking for the thumbs-up or the gold star to tell me I’m on the right track. It’s not that I don’t have internal motivation to follow certain paths, it’s more that I don’t trust that internal pull and therefore look to others to validate that I’m doing the right thing.
This works well when you’re a kid in school because extrinsic motivators are a big part of schooling. It works less well as an adult when so much of life doesn’t have anyone watching over you and telling you you’ve done well or, conversely, you can find just as many people telling you you’re doing wrong as telling you you’re doing right.
For someone like me, that leads to a life lived in doubt and guilt.
Are there really people out there that know what they’re doing? They’re adulting and getting it right? REALLY!?
Are you one of those people. And if so, can you give me some tips?
Anxiety for me is not something new. I’ve mentioned before that I have an anxiety and depression disorder, which I control with cognitive behaviour therapy and medication (I love my medication. For me it has made the world of difference). But in circumstances like we’re in now, anxiety is a pretty universal feeling.
Right now, all I want to do is take everyone I love and put us all in a bubble where nothing can get to us. Possibly a little unrealistic. I said to my (long suffering) husband last night, “We just need to take care of ourselves, and our little boys…and mum and dad, and your mum. And my brothers and sister and their partners. And T1. And your sisters and their families. And Adrienne. And then we’ll be OK.” And he laughed. Because what can you say to that?
Swimming in this anxiety, let’s take a breath. Let’s all try to be our own therapist. You feel anxious, but what are the thoughts that are driving that anxiety. Are those thoughts justified? If so, can you fix the problem right now? If not, let it float for a while. If you can, go do it.
I feel anxious. I’m worried about my children getting sick. Is this justified. Yes and no. Yes, because they have a compromised immune system. No, because children are less likely to develop Covid-19, even if they do contract the virus. So what can I do? I can keep them in isolation for the time being.
I still feel anxious. But, honestly, less so.
And remember, you are not alone. We are all feeling the same way. So try to be calm, be courteous, be compassionate and have courage.
I wanted this post to be about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and maybe even taking a risk. I was so excited about the work I had done for the dPICTUS unpublished picturebook showcase, that I wanted to share that with you and talk about how taking a risk can be incredibly empowering. And then, I discovered that I’d submitted my book dummy with a typo.
Submitting work, as a writer, with typos or grammatical errors is a bit like turning up for an interview as a hairdresser with a hideously bad haircut. Or going for a job as an accountant and disclosing that you hadn’t filed your tax statement for ten years. Basically, if you want to be ‘hired’ to write, you want to show you can write. And, in a highly competitive industry, where everything else is equal, that typo can be your downfall.
So I did what any other self-respecting adult would do, I berated myself, did some panic googling, berated myself some more and then I cried. And then, I took a deep breath, got perspective and reminded myself that even mistakes are blessings (note, I didn’t start with silver-linings and perspective. I had to implode and become emotional mush first).
If you’re currently beating yourself up over a mistake (and if you’re not right now, let’s face it, you will make a mistake eventually) let me offer you some positivity.
Very Few Mistakes are Fatal
True, we’re starting with a big one but sometimes you really need to latch on to something. All mistakes are where there’s an unwanted consequence of our actions, but for the most part these consequences do not result in death and permanent injury. Thank God.
If you have made a mistake that has resulted in death or something equally significant and final, then that can be very hard to reconcile, precisely because there seems to be no way to come back from them. For most mistakes though, although they might seem horrendous at the time (and have you laying awake and midnight saying, “why? Why?”), chances are there will be other opportunities or at least a way to make amends.
Mistakes are Learning Opportunities
Don’t shoot the messenger. It might seem trite, but it’s true. It’s true of even our biggest mistakes. In my case I learnt to read my work out loud a final time before hitting the send button. Did I need time to pass before I could be open to this lesson. Hell yeah! But once I settled down, I could take the lesson on. Now, if you keep making the same mistake and not paying attention to the lesson, that’s just being stupid.
It is Your Fault – Let that Empower You
Why did I send my work off with a typo? I was tired – I’d been working solidly on it for for two weeks. I was complacent – I thought I’d read through it enough. I was impatient – it wasn’t due in until the next day but I couldn’t wait. These may be reasons, but they’re not excuses. What I should have done is waited until the next day and looked at it with fresh eyes before sending it off. It was within my power to do that, but I didn’t.
That might not sound very positive but it is, because I can do things differently next time. It’s no one else’s fault but mine, and I alone have full control over my actions and behaviours. I don’t need to repeat my mistakes, because I recognise what I did wrong and I can change that in the future. I might sound like Dr. Phil Lite but that doesn’t make it less true.
All human beings make mistakes. Me, you, our parents, teachers, politicians and religious leaders. None of us are immune. Once you’ve stopped beating yourself up or crying (both of which are fine and natural) try and remember that there is a positive spin to making mistakes. That you aren’t alone. And that you can do better next time.
On Saturday Australia held it’s federal elections. If you’re not Australian you might not be familiar with how this works. Voting is compulsory – if you are 18 or older you are expected to enroll to vote (most people do) and if you are enrolled to vote you are required to attend the voting place, have your name checked off the list, and post your voting papers into the appropriate cardboard box (we have a bicameral system, so we vote for members of a lower and upper house). If, in between having your name checked off and putting the sheets of paper into the box, you also want to step into a private booth and vote, you can do that. You don’t have to. But, while you’re there, why not.
Voting is anonymous. Voting is also based on preference rather than first-past-the-post. Therefore, you don’t just vote for who you most want to win, you also say who your second, third, fourth (and so on) choice would be, if you first choice doesn’t get enough votes.
Indonesia is the worlds biggest democracy. America is, perhaps, the most famous, but personally (and with obvious bias) I think Australia is the best.
That said, I was a lot more excited about voting when I was in my 20s. Now, I’m much more disillusioned, not just by the politicians who speak in rhetoric and tell lies and half-truths, but also by the vitriol and recriminations that appear around election time. The idea that, if someone doesn’t vote the way you would vote they must be an idiot, is offensive to me. My parents, for example, are intelligent, well read and engaged people. So am I. We didn’t vote the same way. That doesn’t make either of us less intelligent. It makes us human.
My husband and I hardly ever vote the same way. So far, we’ve avoided a divorce.
I think the thing I like least is the labeling. All political parties have numerous policies on numerous issues. Some of those policies even conflict (they think we don’t notice). Unless you are a rusted on supporter of a party, it’s unlikely that you won’t have to weigh up priorities and make compromises when you vote. But, when we label people Left or Right, liberal (small ‘l’ liberal) or conservative, or anything else, we ignore this.
All that said, being able to vote – a right and a duty that people died for me to have – fills me with pride. And, with each election, I am refilled with hope that the people elected will take all Australia’s people towards a brighter future. It remains to be seen, of course.
If all else fails – we’ll have another crack at it in four years.
I’m a morning person. Morning, in my opinion, is the best time of the day. It’s also my most productive part of the day. I achieve more between eight and ten in the morning than I can in the whole of the afternoon.
That said, before I had kids my mornings were much more restful. When I was in my last years of high school I was up at 5 to study and complete homework. I would turn my tiny heater on, pop my ear-buds in, and work away. This continued until I started to share my bed full time, then I found the other person under the doona wasn’t keen on loosing his living hot water bottle. And besides, it’s nicer to sleep-in when someone’s giving you a cuddle.
Now, when I drag myself out of bed at 6, there’s already two little people up. They seem to start the day like horses start a race. There’s no time for a gentle cup of tea and a perusal of the paper. They have questions, demands, they’re hungry and simultaneously too sick to go to school.
And on the weekend, they watch people play Minecraft. I miss watching actual cartoons, with characters and a storyline. Now I get to watch (usually) young men explain how to make a portal to the Nether (did I spell that right? If you’re interested, you need lots of obsidian blocks and a steel and flint). I know you-tubers like Poet and MC Naveed. Theoretically I could go sit somewhere else but I like to be with my kids (especially on the weekends) and I like to know what they’re watching, because not everything on the internet is suitable (I know. I was shocked too).
But, it does make mornings much louder and prone to zombie attack then they were when I was younger.
I suppose, though, the day will come when they’ll want stay in bed until lunch and I’ll have my mornings back to myself.
I’m not sure I’m actually looking forward to that.
Apparently ‘unsociablity’ isn’t a word. But ‘unsociable’ is and ‘sociability’ is so I’m just combining them. It’s probably an unfair thing to say, anyway. I find social media unsociable but clearly millions of people don’t.
It is overwhelming. I can’t be the only one who feels that. This year I’m trying to get on top of my use of social media. I visited a social media consultant, Media Tribe, who were brilliant, because I know that social media is a key tool in any author’s toolbox. This is my job, not my hobby, and thus I need to make use of means of marketing that other authors use.
We’ve been away. The thing about going away is, no matter how wonderful the trip, it’s always such a relief to get home. I don’t know if it’s the journey, or the strange bed or the rich food but being away is always more draining to be at home and it certainly makes me appreciate my own little corner of the world.
Our trip this time was to South Australia, a state I’d never visited before. We spent time with my younger brother, visited Hahndorf (which apparently was the first settlement set up for non-English settlers) and saw the pandas at the zoo. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen pandas in real life so I was thrilled. The place we stayed was very close to the water, so we had a lot of long walks on the beach.
And despite all that, I am so glad to be home again.