Today’s thought.

If I say I’m a writer, does that make me one?

I’ve written 2 blog posts in 24 hours, I’m planning a monograph, I write mini fiction, I write grants. I’m a published author. Am I a writer?

A recent opinion article by Australian author Nicki Gemmell talks about “grit”. She talks about an experience she had doing her Masters of Creative Writing, where she noted plenty of participants wrote much better prose than her. But she could kind of tell that they didn’t have the stamina, perseverance or resilience to keep writing that she possessed.

I know what grit is. I have grit because I’ve gritted my teeth and driven myself to the end of the path for certain things, like finishing my tertiary studies. But I don’t have grit in other areas, such as singing. I wonder whether I have the grit for writing.


(I love this image from F*****.com which I’m going to say is a bitch because it doesn’t want you to use an adblocker, so screw you stupid website.)

The image implies grit is gripping, gritty, dirty and hard won. It certainly is. Grit is a difficult thing to master. But when you succeed, it’s like you’ve held on through the dirt and the mud and the piss and the shit, and you’re now allowed to have a really long soaking bath with bath salts, candles and champagne. Hola champagne!

So. Grit. Do I have it for writing? Should I reinvent my identity and travel down a different path? Do I have the luxury of this in 2016? Well, short of getting a lovely paying job, I say hell yeah. Why not.

Grit. You don’t like it in your food, between your toes or in your teeth. But in your soul? It’s the necessary sandpaper to your complacency.



Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee, I’d be asking you: seriously, what do people without employment DO all day? I am so bored I’ve taken to DUSTING THE HOUSE.


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If we were having coffee you’d notice the house is clean and tidy but not spotless. I hate housework. Keeping the kitchen clean is as about as much as I can manage even on a good day. Never mind washing the floors – vacuuming is something I do only when I’ve reached maximum crunch underfoot. I’m not sure I’ve EVER cleaned the window panes. If we were having coffee I’d ask you if you do the dusting while you’re on the phone to your mother, like I do.


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So I’m writing in my blog (hello readers), I’m reading fiction novels. I’m reading the news, and opinion pieces, and websites about the next US Presidential campaign because we’re just getting the noisy people here in Australia – Clinton, Ben Carson, Idiots Trump, Cruz and Bush. The most likely Republican nominee Marco Rubio isn’t even getting any traction in Australia, which bothers me because he’s the candidate most likely to put up a fight against Democrat Clinton. I think I’d still prefer a Democrat in the White House thank you, even though Marco Rubio is damned fine looking: Mmm-Mmm! Republican Rubio’s politics are conservative and he likes guns. For those who care, my politics are moderately left-wing and I hate guns. One of the things I’ve noticed about my time with the TV series The West Wing is that I’m much more interested in and knowledgeable about American politics than formerly.

I pay bills, I apply for jobs, I cook, I bake, I watch renovation shows – I know: sad. I play computer games. I visit friends. Perhaps I’ll go back to the gym before I have to quit altogether. I paint when I can stand it. DH and I are doing small house things such as gardening and minor home maintenance. We walk the dog together and go to the movies.


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But folks, there’s a job-sized hole of about 10 hours in my day I just can’t fill. Every day. I’ve been advised to apply for a DECRA (which is an acronym for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award), which will certainly fill my time for the next 2 months, but it doesn’t pay the bills. DH gets so excited when he sees me thinking again – but I can’t maintain it when I’ve not much to think ABOUT. Saddest of all: I’m not a Stay At Home Mum. My children are adults. So this old blogpost I read just now totally resonates with me but you know something? At least this lady from Mommyish had someone to care for during the day!

If we were having coffee I’d be asking you how the unemployed keep going without going mad. You’d be telling me drily to take a second look at my bloody New Years Resolutions.

At least the coffee is excellent.



This blog is part of a weekly link-up hosted by the lovely Diana over at her blog Part-Time Monster

Check it out and join in!

Thinking about those goals again…

About 5 weeks ago I wrote about some goals I was thinking of aiming for, mostly to do with my personal and career goals. I was thinking at the time that I’d like to write. Maybe a fiction novel, or create a book out of my thesis. A cabaret. Or some journal articles, even.

The other thing I thought of doing was applying for a gig as a singing lecturer down south. But as time has rolled by, I had to explain to my DH just today that, actually, I don’t WANT to be a lecturer of singing, especially not down south, where I’d be away from him and our house and our life together. He has been super supportive about this job application – urging me to apply – but I just don’t want to go for it. I don’t really want to be teaching at all, if I can avoid it. It’s not that I can’t teach, I can, really very well. But I’m burnt out from it. And as much as I enjoy Musical Theatre, and as much as I love singing, I’m finding a new energy for writing.

I’ve been writing in this blog for several years, mostly agonizingly self-indulgent little pieces about my research and the sheer craziness of doing a PhD. Now I think I’d like to make forays into fiction again. I was always quite a good fiction writer although I’m not sure I like my narrative voice very much. I tend to write best when I create a narrative voice and prose style that is sparser than the one I use for my stream-of-consciousness one you see here. Actually, I’m a bit of a bower bird: I can mimic quite passably the narrative voice of any number of good writers. But as with academic writing, my best work comes from finding my authorial voice and creative muse.

So, as the weeks go by since I got the PhD email, I’m turning once more to reading and writing. Lots of it. I’m thinking short stories and small scenes first. To rebuild my creative writing chops. And, no, I don’t think I’ll go do yet another course on how to write – I’m done studying for now!

I’m not out of the woods yet – I am clearly in some sort of mid-life crisis, one that thankfully does not involve buying a sports car or dallying with a younger version of my DH – but the panic is over.

I’m taking time to think.

Also, I have a house and body to renovate.

Literature Review looms

I’ve nearly finished my uni teaching for the semester and for at least 3 days per week I now have all day to work on my PhD. This month it’s the literature review. I wrote half the review 3 years ago when I did my confirmation, but now I have to go back and rewrite with brand new and exciting information. The methods chapter was hard. This will be harder. My previous lit review had used Shulman’s “signature pedagogy” to unpack the ideas. I’ve abandoned that theory and am instead more interested in looking at cultural psychology theories to underpin my review. So I have to go back to the old review and scrub away all the old theories and reshape. Plus add the new stuff. I like the new stuff better, anyway. Signature pedagogy is a limited theory when you are looking at relational theories in singing teaching and learning.

So today I’m planning my next 6 weeks of work – I don’t go back to full time teaching until late July, and I plan to spend most of my days henceforth doing this one, exciting job. I need to spend time doing this one, exciting job because I have no money left to spend. Buying a car tends to do that to you.

Of course, I’ve planned a couple of weeks to do fun things like ICVT 13 (an international congress for voice teachers being held here in Brisvegas in mid-July, in which I’m revisiting some data from my survey that I did in 2010); plus I’m running an Winter Audition workshop for aspiring musical theatre performers from the 1st July.

So, actually, when you look at it, I really only have a month. But it should be about right to get some of the work done. So, rather than sit here and write about it, I’d better get on with it!!!!

Caffe Nero rocks! Plus, strategies for developing writer’s flow.

Just arrived in Cambridge for the conference an hour ago and am waiting for the cleaners to get to the house we are renting so they can let us in. Anyhoo, here I am at Caffe Nero, taking advantage of the free wifi. Here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure I’ve not used Caffe Nero wifi since 2008, when we were last in Cambridge. I’m not even aware of having set up an account. I just tried to set up a new account with my regular email client and lo! I am already on the system. Wow. And my password still works. Unnerving. Unfortunately the coffee is terrible.

Right now I should be working on my Methods chapter, and once I am in the house I will get stuck into it, but here, surrounded by the lunch crowd, it’s a bit noisy and I left my glasses in the car. Still, yesterday was an awesome day of work and I feel finally as if I am on the right track. Teaching and writing require two very different mind sets and I am aware now of being in a writerly mind frame. I’ve missed it and am wondering how I can more quickly get into this writerly brain as it took me 3 days to wind down from the travel – therefore losing about 5 days study time overall – and my capacity to concentrate for several hours is very poor.

Here are some strategies I’ve used in the past to get me beyond the 3 hour mark: standing and stretching and walking about; making a cup of tea; completing simple chores that take no more than 15 minutes; switching tasks momentarily from writing to reading. One of the problems of writer’s flow is that once it starts you don’t want it to stop, so you get “stuck” at the computer for hours on end, frequently needing a pee or some food and drink, and unwilling to get up. Another problem is that you can never predict when writer’s flow is going to hit, so you end up trying to emulate the best moments of flow which means you can spend hours sitting at the computer, enraged when flow is NOT happening.

So DH is due home after 6pm and our co-tenants are due to arrive any time now but they are currently attending a conference, which gives me several hours to set up home and my work station and just write. I have a strange suspicion that we may well have visitors and that our evenings could be quite lively. However, as I am not attending the conference I have plenty of time to walk the “Backs”, exercise, and write.

DH and I have co-written a bunch of papers together and now he has flung them into article form, and I’ve been looking over them prior to sending them out to journals for review. It’s great to see how fast he writes and how coherent his ideas are. It’s clear that 10 years out from his PhD he has mastered the art of article writing (minus some judicious editing and rewriting by yours truly). At the same time, I’ve been the creator of a few co-authored papers and the publications are slowly starting to pile up.

DH writes with admirable brevity and clarity, occasionally missing small words. I write reams and reams, often repeating myself, because I want to ram home a concept. Not sure if I’ll ever lose this tendency. To me it’s clear who is writing what, but as hubby and I discuss ideas more and our togetherness extends into the writing phase I feel that our writing will morph, too.

So, now that I have sufficiently unburdened myself, I can get on with the business of writing my methods chapter. Woohoo!



Writing again. Blurgh.

I’ve been having a lovely time obsessing about my current diet and exercise plan, plans for the house and plans for the new dog (name: Dougal or Poppy, depending on sex), and now that these are in train I have time to think and write again. Urgh. I’ve all these overdue articles to work on, and I’ve just opened one chapter for a book DH (darling hubby) and I are co-editing, and: BOOM. Urgh. Urgh and urgh again. I don’t wanna!

I’ve been putting these articles and book chapters off for so long they look brand new to me. Mind you, I’m rather impressed by how well I write at times. Always good to feel smug about one’s work. But now I’m supposed to do the work on them and finish one of the chapters and co-write 2 more, and then write another 2 with DH for a study we’ve been conducting, and it’s looking really annoyingly busy over the next few months. Blurgh. I just want to decorate my house and get thin and fit and be a “lady-who-lunches”. I really do. Instead, now that my teaching is nearly done for the year, I have all these left-overs to finish. And I betcha they don’t stop there. I bet that I’ll be doing all these little research projects for years, squeezing them into the teensy-tiny thinking gaps left over from teaching.

It’s not the writing that’s hard, it’s the structure of what I’m writing. I mean, it’s all really the same thing. Writing is really about the order of words on a page, in its most basic form. It’s the choice of words and the placement and the scansion and the flow. And right now it’s not flowing just yet. It will, I’m sure, but I’m having to revisit parts of my thesis to write this chapter and THAT’S a conundrum, because I don’t wanna look at it yet. Too cranky about it.

So while I can putter about noodling in my blog and “think of things I’ve never thunk before”, I still have to do that which I’ve promised myself to do (book chapters); that which I’ve been hired to do (research project); and that for which I will feel much better once I’ve done it (PhD). A love-hate relationship that shows me at my best and my worst. Whizz bang writer and whizz bang procrastinator. Blurgh.

Mastering time and becoming productive

Since my last supervisor meeting I’ve had a bunch of stuff on: I travelled OS for a conference, I’ve been teaching a lot, I had two major parties to organise, I’ve been conducting a minor research project, and my folks visited for a week. And I’ve just had the devil of all bad colds – so sick that I spent two days in bed, sleeping. So I’ve had to put my skates on to get prepared for my meeting with my supervisor in two weeks time. Fitting in my study around my life should not be the way to approach my PhD but it might be the best one for me. If I know I only have a few hours to squeeze in study, plus a deadline looming, I’m more inclined to set myself achievable goals.

I am a full time PhD student. Over the school holidays, which in Australia is early December through the end of January, I was not teaching. We had my step-children staying for three weeks, so I felt I could not work then. I know I should, but I tend to do little brainless things rather than big head-thinky stuff. Then, once they had gone, I was back into my study. I worked slowly and consistently but it was spectacularly unedifying without consistent supervisor meetings and support. I sent my supervisors two chapter drafts and they were pretty horrible. So, having great swathes of time for thinking and writing doesn’t seem to cut it for me.

Then February hit. The work was progressing as usual – badly, but my teaching load had recommenced. Not such a problem. Teaching for me is easy, especially the one-to-one experience. I love it, and I think I’m getting better at it. Rather, I was falling into a horrible hole with my PhD, depressed and directionless, and felt there was not much I could do to break the impasse. Finally, as mentioned in my last post, I saw my supervisor and things started to improve.

Now I am enjoying my study again. I have revisited one of my narrative drafts, which I have discovered is better than I realised. I have sliced 4000 words from it, I have started to make connections between accounts and I am even returning to the primary data for more detail. The chapter is still too long, but I think some of the minor repetitions can be culled.

Yesterday I worked for 6 hours on this chapter – more work done in a day than I had achieved for months. I realised then that I’m happy to work – but that it needs to be squeezed tight beside other activities. Such as doing my hair, which was yesterday’s pamper. So, when I awoke, I went to the computer straight from bed, and opened my PhD files. After returning from my hair appointment, I went straight back into my work. Three hours either side of a hair cut. Not bad work, and something I can certainly continue in future. It may only be three hours study on the days when I teach for eight, but it was a successful day for me. Perhaps a successful approach, too.

My supervisor recommended a course of action which included three main exercises – finding the “telling phrases” in each narrative, charting the research questions with the participants from each study, and revising my narratives with these in mind. I’m also trying to make connections between my survey findings, the narratives and my research questions. All this before I see my supervisor in 2 weeks. A lot to do between now and Friday, because I need to send my supervisor the draft a week in advance. This is challenging, but rewarding stuff.

So, today, on a Saturday, when I’ve had shopping and cooking and caring for our step-children to do, I’ve managed to fit in two hours of PhD work. I’m hopeful I can keep this up for the next few weeks at least. I read a blog by Patter – Pat Thomson, who writes  about their study space and the need for it to be separate, cut off from the home. My work space is also my teaching space, at the front of the house, and as our house is on a busy road, it is a noisy, intrusive, hot space at times. I prefer to write in our kitchen, at the back of the house: a lovely, friendly space away from the noise and heat. Today I even worked with my children and husband in the room. Finding space to write is not the problem, I suspect. It’s finding the space inside my head.

I feel that with an impending supervisor meeting and having some goals to achieve, that mastering time and becoming productive might not be so impossible after all.

*much, much later….it’s now 3.00am and I have been working solidly on one of my drafts since 10.30pm. So that’s 6 hours today, or is that yesterday? Time to manage my bed time, I think….

PhD work practices: back to the beginning.

The really dumb thing about doing a PhD is that you feel like you are continually on a loop back to the beginning of your journey. At least, this is what I feel like at the moment. Currently I am working on one of my narrative chapters. It is actually a really joyful experience because the participants have such interesting things to say and their interviews are so rich. The hardest thing for me to do will be to squeeze it all into 15000 words.

Notwithstanding my present joy, I feel that I’m always working from a position of beginnings. Learning how to read, learning how to write, learning how to edit, and learning how to think. It’s tiring. I’m wondering why at present I don’t have a sense of being experienced in my learning, and why this sense of ‘becoming’  (philosopher Heidegger’s idea and extended by Deleuze) is always a starting point. Why can’t I get it into my thick skull that I’m most of the way through, that the combined three years experience of reading, writing, thinking should really be coming into play here?

I feel like I’m on some kind of Twilight Zone nightmare feedback loop. Is it the procrastination that’s getting to me? I’ve had 2 excellent hours this morning flinging together my chapter. I’m 8000 words down, another 7000 to go, and I’m annoyed that I didn’t do this earlier. I should have something to send to my supervisor by the end of the month, which brings me to 4 chapters. I WAS hoping to submit 5, but I’ll get the next one in by the end of February.

Argh. Frustration time again. At least I’m working.

Building works

Right outside my office a building has been torn down: the old and completely revolting engineering offices at UQ. It could be noisier. Luckily, we can’t actually open the window, and the sound is not TOO penetrating. Today I arrived at work (just for a change I actually went IN to uni) before 8.30 am, a very good idea as my new and shiny MAC computer has now arrived. Although I can’t access it, as it does not currently recognise my password. Here I am, sitting at my smaller although equally gorgeous MACBOOK PRO and unable to get inside the new baby. Its 21 inch screen is pleading with me to be used. And I’m getting a crick in the neck. And now I can’t find my wireless keyboard, so I’ll have to sit at my MACBOOK PRO getting a crick in the neck until the IT boys come and fix the access issue.