Writing on, and about, an island

Posts Tagged ‘Bruny Island’

Twenty-First Century Ideas for Tasmania

In Books, Island Life, Tasmania, Writing on February 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I believe passionately in a new way of thinking and (more importantly) doing for Tasmania. For far too long, this island of huge potential has been held back by those who seek to maintain mediocrity – for what purpose, I can only begin to fathom. It makes me immensely angry.

There’s that thing called critical mass, though. And I feel we’re nearing it.

For example:

I was in the surf at North Bruny this past weekend (seeking relief from startling 40-degree heat; bushfires on the horizon) – and a few metres away from me, doing the same, was Dr Natasha Cica: fellow shack owner, talented author of Pedder Dreaming, former lawyer and current Director of the Inglis Clark Centre for Civil Society at UTAS.

In that moment, I felt grateful for the intelligence that can be found in Tasmania. Dr Cica is one of 12 ‘thought leaders’ who have received a 2012 Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship worth $160,000 over two years. She was selected with regard to two intellectual superhero-style criteria: outstanding talent and exceptional courage. Cool indeed.

Later that day, at North Bruny’s boat-inspired Jetty Cafe, I picked up a copy of the 2011 SALON/SOUTH: Twenty-First Century Ideas for Tasmania report. Natasha Cica has been instrumental in the SALON/SOUTH series; in its second successful year.

SALON/SOUTH brings thought leaders together to workshop new ideas and directions around ‘culture’, ‘community’ and ‘capital’ – all in the desire to create positive change for our challenging island environment.

As an example – and I can’t believe this is even an issue in 2012 – how about Tasmanian leaders investigate the idea of making Grade 12 the end of compulsory schooling, not Grade 10? Our education stats are improving, but still woefully inadequate on the world stage.

So, for the amateur thought leaders out there…

If you believe in thinking outside the lines, challenging the status quo, and looking forward – regardless of where you live – I recommend you read the report. And be inspired to create change.

Advertisements

Writing a Novel While Working Full-Time

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Freelance, Writing on February 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I wrote my crime novel during the Tasmanian winter of 2011. I wrote it while working full-time in advertising and running a successful freelance business, and managing a high-energy home life…

I have always gotten more done when I am at my busiest. To write a novel in 3 months, I wrote 1000+ words a day.

What I know now, about writing a novel while working full-time, is that you must let go of two preconceived (and false) writing concepts…

1. There is a perfect place for writing

Nope: there is no such thing.

If you wait for the perfect place to write, it won’t ever happen. I’ve fallen into this trap before. When I was younger and single and uncommitted, I wanted the cliched writer’s desk, study and all the trappings that go with it. Now that my life is – and looks like it will always be – perpetually chaotic and crazy, I know better.

Now, all I absolutely require is an uncluttered work area.

Generally, I work on my laptop in our study – or while sitting on my bed. Or on the couch. Or the kitchen table. For easy transportation, I also pasted my entire novel (in A4 sheets) into a scrapbook, which I’d take out into the park at lunchtime to work on. I’d also work on it while on the bus to and from work.

Occasionally, when I have been granted precious solo time, I have worked at my shack on Bruny Island. I don’t necessarily get lots more done there, but I’m grateful for the inspirational environment and the chance to totally immerse myself in my book.

2. There is a perfect time for writing

Nope: there is no such thing.

Writing is like anything else in life – you either choose to make it a priority, or you don’t. Simple.

When you work full-time and have a family, life is a non-stop juggling act. It’s easy to put yourself and your writing dreams last. I know this only too well.

But, if you passively wait for the perfect time to ‘be a writer’, something else is guaranteed to sabotage your intent.

So, then – and now – I have had to make choices:

Do I relax during my weekday lunch hours… or do I work on my book?

Do I lie in on weekends… or do I work on my book?

Do I watch something on TV… or do I work on my book?

Do I read a magazine on the bus to work… or do I work on my book?

You get the picture.

There is no magic formula

Writing a novel while managing the demands of a career and a family comes down to discipline, drive and lots of little decisions (that really add up).

Even when I didn’t feel like writing, I would still do it.

Even now, I have to work hard to continue to make writing a priority. It is somewhat exhausting. But I have committed to giving my writing the respect it deserves. And I keep my eye on the prize.

The Crime Writer’s Inspiration List

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on February 17, 2012 at 11:37 am

When you’re writing a crime/mystery novel, your focus gets very insular. You get so close to what you’re doing that, I find, it’s really important to occasionally look outside for inspiration.

When I’m stuck or stale, I get inspired by (and this is a work-in-progress list):

Books

The Dark is Rising Sequence – Susan Cooper

The Secret History/The Little Friend – Donna Tartt

Inspector Morse (the whole series) – Colin Dexter

Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow – Peter Hoeg

A Place of Execution – Val McDermid

The Ice House – Minette Walters

And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

Devices and Desires – PD James (the opening scene still gives me shivers)

Death of a Wombat – Ivan Smith and Clifton Pugh

Stasiland – Anna Funder

Anything by Henning Mankell

TV

Twin Peaks

The Killing (Danish version)

Red Riding Trilogy

Movies

Swimming Pool

Let The Right One In (Swedish version)

Lantana

Secret Window

Picnic at Hanging Rock

The Ghost Writer

Music

December – George Winston

Mozart

Muse

PJ Harvey

Places

Bruny Island – I stay at my shack on my own, which terrifies me (and is therefore good for crime-writing).

Tasmania’s East (the empty coastline from Swansea upwards) or West Coast (especially Strahan, Macquarie Harbour and Gordon River), or the Midlands (the wide open farmlands and bleak hills).

Online

I use Ommwriter occasionally

I love Toast‘s online catalogues and Toast Travels

Wallpaper – currently, this Donna Tartt one

Looking at this list, I realise the majority of items on it are notable for their remarkable expression of a ‘sense of place’ – particularly a cold, out-of-the-way, edge-of-the-world place… (hello Tasmania). There are many, many more books, for example, that I absolutely love, but they don’t all make the cut when I need to be inspired in my own writing.

Cliffs. Coast. Cloudy Bay

In Island Life, Tasmania, Travel on February 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I am perhaps very un-Tasmanian in the fact I don’t like the bush. Actually, it terrifies me – in a 1967-bushfire/Blair Witch kind of way. The bush makes me claustrophobic; there is nothing relaxing about that closeness of tall, dark trees. And I grew up in the bush – which, to many, is the idyllic childhood.

No, my Tasmanian island ideal involves great stretches of coastline. Ocean. High cliffs. Seagrasses… Which is why I love Cloudy Bay, on the Southern-most tip of Bruny Island.

This Cloudy Bay beauty is currently for sale, for $1.5 million.

Cloudy Bay is spartan, windswept, and wide. I stood on the sands of it only a few weeks ago, in a storm, and it was everything that is best about Tasmania – the mist was swirling over Cape Bruny, the rain was pelting my face and the vast expanse of the Southern Ocean was almost indistinguishable from the big sky.

(This view is what someone inside that glass house would see.)

As I stood there, a lone 4WD exited the gravel road, onto the beach. I watched it drive to the far, far end of the beach, where it turned off, up to a half-hidden shack – one of only a handful of buildings on this lonely beach.

I think Richard Flanagan lives somewhere around Cloudy Bay. His shack is where my favourite author, Ian McEwan, finished off one of his books. If you’re a writer, Cloudy Bay is certainly one of the moodiest, most-inspiring places you could ever work from.

Sailing…

In Island Life, Tasmania, Travel on January 4, 2012 at 1:32 am

I am no good at living in the moment. No good at mindfulness. I am a master multi-tasker, have made a career out of it, and every day is a series of insignificant tasks sticky-taped together.

However, I have come to realise that this is not something to be proud of. I react to outside demands, rather than consider what matters to me. Days are filled with busy-ness and to-do lists that fool me into thinking I’ve achieved something. Countless days that have left me exhausted and unsatisfied… and rudderless. The end result being that my life controls me – not the other way around.

Perhaps sailing will change that.

I sailed when I was younger (my father helped found the Wooden Boat Centre, and our boat, Lady Franklin, was the first to come out of the School’s shed on the Franklin waterfront. Tetsuya’s boat recently launched from there, also.)

Then I moved to Sydney – one of the world’s most beautiful sailing playgrounds – and despite living opposite the Cruising Yacht Club (home to the Sydney to Hobart), I skipped the boat part and instead made full use of the beer part.

Now: back in Tasmania. Tasmania has the highest amount of boats, per capita. As an island, sailing is inseparable from our history and our identity. I am now the proud owner of a beautiful 100-year-old, 35-foot Huon Pine yacht. Royal blue hull, white sails, oiled decks – the full cliché…

This Christmas holidays just past was spent sailing around Bruny Island on that boat – with a five-year-old (mine) and a husband (also mine).

The romanticism of sailing was given a beating by a 100-year storm, endless games of Snap and a port-a-loo that turns your poo blue (nice view from the seat, however).

It was a real test for me. Not the lack of creature comforts, although that was bloody hard. The test came in the lack of space and distractions. The fact that every simple dry-land task was made long and thoughtful at sea. Making coffee, for instance. You had to concentrate on making coffee. Not 12 things at once.

Somewhere between day three and four, between rain-damp sleeping bags and bottles of Gordon’s Gin*, it occurred to me that there was a lesson in my discomfort. Being forced to focus on the basics of daily living gave me space – not physical space, but the mental space to listen to my mind. Something I very rarely do.

(When I first had a baby and was going mad with the insignificance of each day, a wise woman said to me that it was the ultimate ‘Zen’ lesson. To learn to live in the moment. To realise that the past and the future don’t exist. To stop trying to ignore/escape stillness and stop trying to crowd out the chatter in your brain with ‘doing’. With a new baby there’s not a lot you can do on a grand scale – you have to embrace the small things, each moment. And the sooner your realise this, the better)

Perhaps sailing will strengthen my mindfulness muscle. Perhaps Tasmania will teach me mindfulness. The frustration I’ve felt since moving here – with how slowly things happen, how apathetic people seem in contrast to what I’m used to – is perhaps less an indication of something broken in Tasmania, and more an indication of something I need to address within myself.

Perhaps slow Tasmania has it right, and I have it wrong.

Here’s to more sailing.

*Gin and boats just go together. Gin is best kept in a dive bag, slung over the side of the boat. Tassie’s cool oceans make the perfect bar fridge.

%d bloggers like this: