Today’s soundtrack: Wintersun – The Forest Seasons. Again. I’m going to see them live in concert soon, so I am trying to memorise as many of the lyrics from the new album as I can.
Current word count: 1,883/50,000 words.
It’s 11⁰C (51.8⁰F) outside. The ground is damp and soggy after a heavy rainfall overnight. It’s spring here in Melbourne, and during November that means wild fluctuations between freezing cold rainy days and almost overbearingly hot sunny days. To be honest I would have preferred a few sunny days – especially today, as I’ll be lining up outside a live music venue in freezing cold Melbourne. I often try to not wear too many layers of clothing when I go to live music events (read: heavy metal concerts, usually to see European folk metal bands, usually in the exact same venue every time, usually standing in roughly the same patch of beer-sticky carpet next to the mosh pit every time – often seeing the same other regular European folk metal music fans standing in their regular spots, too). Firstly, because it always ends up too warm inside the venue, and secondly because I like to buy band merchandise (tshirts, hooded jumpers, etc). I don’t take a large bag so I have to wear the merch home. Not that it’s a huge problem, it’s just one of those little practical questions I face about once every six months. I’m lucky to have the privilege of being annoyed by such things, really.
This morning I’m parked in front of the heater, still in my pyjamas, half-eaten breakfast and a black coffee on the coffee table, laptop computer perched on my knees. I was keen to fire up the laptop and get writing before I clean the house prior to the babysitter’s arrival. My daughter’s well-loved copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban still sits there after we finally finished reading it out aloud to each other last night. It’s taken several months but we have now read aloud these first three books. Only four to go! (And I am probably going to ugly cry when we get to Snape’s death…) Coming back to the books is interesting after watching the films several times between reads. The films had heavily influenced how I visualise the story, but reading out the books aloud forces me to really comprehend the text more deeply than I did reading them silently to myself.
Sometimes I picture being an author as something more formal than I’ve managed to make it so far. My sloppy pyjamas-and-cereal arrangement irritates me on one level because it feels terribly slobby. I need a shower. I need to brush my teeth. My cats have been fed but now they are howling at me that they want to go in their cat run; of course, the moment I do, they will start howling because it’s so cold. I talk to them in between sips of coffee, having long conversations as if we understand each other.
“Sorry, Riker, but you will feel too cold,” I say to my Siberian Forest Cat X with his tabby grey-brown extra-long fur, as if he isn’t more-or-less bred to cope with Arctic weather conditions.
“Mmmmmnnnrrrrgggghhh,” he replies, rolling onto his back in front of the heater that blows his fur in different directions. He kicks his white-socked feet in the air and looks at me with black eyes. He’s an oddly intelligent cat. Often he reminds me of my human children when they were toddlers – except that he was easier to toilet train and he’s much better at climbing trees.
“I know,” I say, “but I think we should wait until the air gets a bit warmer first.” I look to Odin, my ginger cat, who is draped in what looks like a silent tantrum across the top of the couch that he’s progressively shredded over the years. “What about you, Odin? Think we should wait?”
He wiggles his ears in what I perceive to be assent.
Where was I going with all this? Oh yes, it’s that when I picture my favourite authors at work, I imagine they’re a lot fancier than I am. I couldn’t even find the correct waist-tie for my blue polar fleece dressing gown and the contrast between it and the tie I took from a different dressing gown makes me feel horrendously lazy. I guess I imagine that an Anne Rice or J.K. Rowling gets dressed in – what? – business suits? – to work on a novel. Does Rowling dress up to type out paragraphs in between roasting folks on Twitter? Maybe Rice has a special writing room tastefully decorated with elegant vampire-appropriate décor. Me, I have baggy blue pants and stacks of dvds on IKEA shelves (actually I love IKEA furniture so I’m not complaining) and photos of Formula One drivers and hex code colour charts stuck to my filing cabinet. A framed postcard of a painting by an Australian artist adorns the computer desk next to a frog-themed pen holder. My record player sits next to my record “collection” – three vinyl albums (Tool, Jeff Buckley and Led Zeppelin) and a sign acknowledging the traditional owners of this part of Australia, the Kulin nation (I bought it at a fundraiser for the local Indigenous community services group). My space is okay. It’s very me in some ways. A bit haphazard, taking in multiple hobbies and interests, arranged on minimalist Scandinavian furniture.
I imagine my ideal writing space as something prettier and more aesthetically representative of the fact that I’m an artist. I’d hang framed pictures on the wall if the landlords allowed it but as I’ve lamented ad nauseum, being a tenant in Australia basically means having very few rights, and being in a lot of ways controlled and micromanaged by landlords and real estate agents.
Writerly setting and space aside, the fact is that the only thing that makes someone a writer is whether they write. I wish I was writing in grandeur, in some 18th century mansion with haunted rooms, mysterious sealed-off wings oozing in mystery, with servants to handle the cleaning and leave me to the task of taking walks, getting caught in general intrigue, attending inane dinner parties and solving mysteries… but I’m not. I’m in an old rental house in suburban Melbourne, with curtains that don’t quite cover the windows enough to give us privacy, food preparation surfaces that are bewilderingly coated in a flaky paint that make them unsafe for preparing food so we’ve had to cover them in plastic shelf liners so we don’t accidentally eat paint, old threadbare carpets with scorch marks left by a previous tenant (were they holding a candlelit séance on the dining room floor?), and a nice-looking pergola that feels very flimsy underfoot. And this was the best place we could afford out of dozens of rentals for exorbitant prices across seven suburbs in South-East Melbourne.
So I am grateful for my old computer that keeps working enough for me to be able to tap out some words. I am grateful for cheap notebooks where I can sketch out ideas. I’m grateful that my husband holds down a steady job and supports me to pursue my art and writing dreams. (I’ve applied for heaps of traditional jobs over the last few years but to no avail so I make my own work through my art.)
I’m grateful that I still get to do fun things from time-to-time, like going to heavy metal concerts once or twice a year (which are thankfully much cheaper tickets than popular concerts!). I’m grateful I can sit and write of a morning in my ugly pjs and have conversations with my cats. I’m grateful my kids’ school is walking distance from home, so that I no longer have to grapple with the chaos of Melbourne’s peak hour traffic each morning to drive them. I’m grateful I can write. It might not be the fancy coffee shop writing a bestseller on a napkin vibe but honestly… that’s okay. Have you ever tried writing on a paper napkin? The ballpoint of the pen shreds the paper! And the coffee? I make better coffee at home for a fraction of the price. A decent plunger and some beans I grind by hand as I need them, one shot’s worth at a time, works out to be much better value than buying café coffee.
And so begins a busy day. Hopefully I can get a nap in before the concert. Mosh pits take it out of me these days far more than they used to when I was a younger person. Late nights make me really, really tired!