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Inspiration

I was reading a question and answer session with Philip Pullman today on his site and in one of the answers he talked about how often writers work in the absence of any kind of inspiration, how amateurs think that if they were just more inspired they would be professionals, and professionals know that if they only wrote when inspired they would be amateurs.

Well, I clearly fall into the category of the amateur.

I have so much admiration for the women and men in this world who can actually write for a living.  When I was a child I always planned to be a writer.  I identified with heroines like Betsy and Anne who felt life without writing was not worth living.  But somehow my story ended up to be quite different, and now I moan and groan if I have to do any writing at all.  I have such a desire inside myself to create things, to make my own clothes out of sari fabric, or a book of wedding photos, or a really beautiful house.  But somehow I don’t even know how to get started.  I feel like I don’t even know what my inherent aesthetic sense IS, whether I even have a coherent sense of style.

But I keep trying.  And I have to trust that keeping going in the absence of inspiration is the mark of a true creative spirit.

I have really had it with being too busy. Enough with the too busy! Do you ever feel like this dear readers? Are you tired of being overwhelmed with work, managing households, picking up drycleaning, making appointments, going to appointments, every task crashing hard upon the shore of the last until you are unable to even think about what comes next? I AM!

I’m tired of replying “Good, just so busy” to every request into my state of being. How are you? Oh fine, just crazy busy.

Screw busy. Busy can just kiss off. I’ve had it with the busy! I mean, what is the SOURCE of the busy? Am I just a type A, overachiever, (oops, inner snigger, more like a snort) who devotes hours and hours to getting everything perfect, a yes man who can’t say no? (AM I a girl who caaaain’t saaaay nooooo?) Why is everyone I know busy? Why are our lives so jam packed? And here’s the most embarrassing part: I don’t even have KIDS. No OFFSPRING on which to blame all my busy-ness.

I’ve really had it. I declare war on busy. Actually, that IS who we should be spending our tax dollars fighting. LET’S BE MORE LIKE THE FRENCH! They only work 3 hours a week, right?

Well, I’m not hip enough to be up on this whole micro-blogging tweety tweet twitter craze or flog blog or what the hell ever, but I just felt like I HAD to get this thang going you know? Get back into the blog world and POST some stuff.

Even though I am far too busy to do so.

A Moving Target

I’ve been doing some career soul-searching.  This is not unusual for me.  I do all kinds soul-searching — ideal house soul-searching, ideal wardrobe soul-searching, ideal wedding-planning soul searching, ideal life plan soul-searching — all the damn time.  It drives Bartender Dude up the wall.  When he’s feeling particularly fed up with this trait of mine (generally concomitant with me begging him for things to fulfill this ever-moving target) he says I can’t be happy with the now, with what is currently in front of me or what I’m currently living.  He’s right of course, and there is a grain of truth, a need for the balanced view to mitigate this aspect of my personality.  But I can’t help it.  Its part of what makes me, me.

So back to the career soul-searching.  Like many people out there, I have never either known what I wanted to do or enjoyed what I did.  I’ve pretty much always made career choices that led me up a zig-zagging corporate ladder that has provided increasing levels of stability and salary.  I don’t really look back on any of this as being a waste of time — after all, its taken me this long to even begin to get my childhood/emotional/whatever you want to call them distortions out of the way and grow into a proper, self-knowing adult.  But now I’ve come to a realisation, spurred on by the availability of a different job within my organisation and the blank, tired feeling of trying to stay motivated in a current job that is both difficult and boring.

This is what I’ve realised: I think I would be happier doing work that is intellectually engaging or, for lack of a better term, intellectually creative.  The thing about being a "business person," which is essentially what I do now — a kind of vague catch-all for going to lots of meetings and duplicating lots of efforts — is that while it does require many kinds of intelligence, it does not require creative intelligence.  I need to be specific here — I don’t mean that people can’t be creative in the way they go about their jobs, or solve problems.  What I mean is that, for the most part, unless you are the very top of an organisation, being a "middle manager business person (THINGIE)" does not involve creating an intellectual offering.  It involves things like strategy and implementation and endless consulting and oiling the machine and soothing egos.  It involves a TON of communication and re-calibrating the way things get done and loads and loads of personality manouevering.  I tell you I find that kind of stuff emotionally draining.

The job that is open in my company that has caused this epiphany of understanding, or categorisation in my brain, is a producer for one of our web content channels (health, to be specific).  This job involves creating an intellectual offering for consumption by our members, or to speak more plainly, it involves spotting and developing (and even in some instances creating) good writing and cool online tools for our members to read and use.  Now this job, in terms of salary and responsibility, would constitute a step down for me, and I find myself in that difficult mid-career cake-and-eat-it-too dilemma.

Because if this step down represented a temporary diminishment in order to earn my chops "officially" doing something I already know I can do, in order to ascend later and re-fashion my career into a more agreeable future, then I really think I will go for it.  But if there is nowhere internally for this position to go, and if the salary drop is seriously considerable, then I don’t think I will go for it, not least because I have to save all my spare ducats for this damn wedding because Oh My Holy Lord I am constantly raising the bar on what I want for that part of my life too.

So you see.  Its a good thing I have Bartender Dude to slap some sense into me from time to time, but it doesn’t make these crossroad, golden-handcuff dilemmas any easier to wrestle with.

You can’t fight personality, baby.

Sloth and Envy

I’d
like to write more than I do.  I really
would. When I read my favourite blogs I
always feel so inspired to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and
compose some elegant treatise on the summer joys of peppery arugula or what I
love about being Anglican, or even a narrative about something funny that
happened recently.  But then, inevitably,
the surge of creativity welling almost to the point of action retreats back
down the shore to the sea, the inner sea, where it rests in a mildly undulating
passivity.

I
tell you now, dear readers, the sea of the inner self is vast, it is powerful,
and it is virtually dormant.  What a
crime! What neglect of the soul!

The
problem with me, as is so often the case with almost everything except cleaning
and cooking, is that all the interesting and creative things I want to do take
practice, and more importantly, trial and error. I don’t like error. I become angry and frustrated if I can’t
master something immediately, the first time I try it, and then my anger veers
off into boredom and I drop the whole project.  I have probably hundreds of books purchased in
a mad rush of infatuation with their titles and content that sit unread on our
(burgeoning and overstuffed) bookshelves.  I have a very long scarf that I’ve been
knitting for almost a year from pink eyelash yarn, which stares reproachfully
at me from the knitting basket on the floor.  I have $75 worth of recently purchased “art”
supplies – coloured card stock, shape punchers, gold ink, stamps, thin asian
paper squares – languishing in piles on the desk in our home office.  I have a very expensive mat cutter (bought in
the wild-eyed hope of matting and framing all my unframed prints myself)
cluttering up the walk-in closet cheek-by-jowl with Bartender Dude’s tools.

And
I read these blogs, like Orangette, and Not Martha, and HelloMyNameIsHeather,
and Nothing But Bonfires, and I feel so envious of their ability to lead
creative lives, to get up early in the morning and being doing, baking,
whipping up pincushions, and writing such beautiful prose.  I’m sure THEY don’t come home from work and
eat nachos on the couch watching three hours of crap television while the house
gets dustier and dustier and the unfinished scarf stays unfinished.  No I’m sure their lives are ordered and their
houses are clean and they have piles of time and energy to always be doing
something or making something or writing something.

And
I have to remember that these lucky women do not work 9 hours a day doing
Things They Don’t Care About and none of them (with the exception of Orangette)
are planning a wedding, and they are probably disciplined about getting enough
sleep. And I am sure if they read this
post each one of them would laugh hysterically and debunk every lovely myth I’ve
spun in my head about them – that their houses ARE dirty and that they have
LOADS of unfinished projects lying around – but the point is, I think I need to
change a few things about the way I currently conduct my life.

STARTING with Getting Enough Sleep. I’ve
tried the writing every day thing – well, see, again, I haven’t so much TRIED
it as done it once and abandoned it when the words wouldn’t come – but I don’t
want to set myself up for failure by being too ambitious (another terrible
habit of mine, scuppering my boat before I’ve even shoved off).  So we’ll see what I can do.

I
am going to attempt to change little by little, and report back here on how it all
goes.

Of Dreams and Horses

I just got back from a week’s holiday, and I don’t know if
all that heat at the beach melted some of my synapses but last night I had the
following dream:

I was at some kind of conference or event, at a big lodge in
the woods, and this conference was of national importance and included heads of
state.  People in tiaras and tuxes were
milling about the pine-needle-carpeted floor on their way in to the lodge to do
whatever it is this conference was supposed to do – probably solving the
combined political crises of the Middle East and Africa before dinner and
drinks.  But anyway, so I was watching
this from a distance and then suddenly I was in another part of the lodge complex in the woods, talking to my (temporary) boss (I
say temporary because I am currently on loan to his department).  And my temporary boss was
getting ready to attend this event as well but he needed a HORSE (of course he
did) to arrive upon, otherwise he would not strike the right note of gravitas.  So I turned to this unnaturally tall, lanky person
next to me, who incidentally possessed magical abilities to shape-shift, and who (in my dream) was my
(temporary) boss’s son and told him he’d have to turn into a horse and bear his
father on his back to this reception thingy and hurry up because the delegates
are all on their way into the building already.  His son strongly objected to this plan because
(he said) his magical abilities had been drained recently (oh please that is SO
unrealistic – once you have magical abilities you do not lose them) and to
prove to me that he could not turn into a horse he stretched his body out even
taller and arched over on all fours and remained there for a few minutes,
glaring at me.  “See?” he said
petulantly. “The magic isn’t working
today! I told you I need to go get
topped up.” Well, I thought to myself, I
can see through HIM like a PANE OF GLASS.  So then I was furious because he would not do
my bidding and I KNEW it was just because he didn’t want to help his father out. For a second I wasn’t sure how to solve the
problem and then I remembered there was a little white mare in the stable
around the corner (what stable? Suddenly there was a stable).  “We can send you in on the little white mare”
I told my boss, and he was fine with this plan and I glowered at the unhelpful
son and then the dream was over.

Yeah. I don’t. What? I don’t know. SO WEIRD.

When I am on my way to work, I do not like stoppages or
cessation of movement of any kind. People who stand on the escalators when they should walk, waiting at
stoplights for the left-turn lane to empty its contents across my path, just
missing a train and having to wait four more minutes for another one – these
are the things that send my pulse (and my feelings of fury!) through the roof
even though they only constitute differences of minutes in terms of my ultimate
arrival. I am notoriously late and I am
always rushing to get in on time, no matter how good the intentions. I hate and despise being late but I hate and
despise getting up even more.

I have come to realize that for me time balloons in the
morning when I am lying in bed hitting the snooze button but collapses shortly
thereafter when I step out the door to begin my commute. 

This morning I had to be in for a 9 am meeting, that I was
leading, and for which people were COMING TO MY OFFICE. It was vitally important to the small part of
me that still cares about saving face (Dance on the bar? Sure! Draw attention
to myself at parties? I’M YOUR MAN. But
show up in a harried panic to my office where a coterie of bright-eyed and
bushy-tailed morning risers is waiting for me, coffee in hand, exchanging looks?
No. Fucking. Way. Dude.) that I arrive in enough time to take off my coat, get
some water, and turn on my computer.

So do you think that happened this morning? DO YOU?

Well if you did you would be wrong dear readers.

The dialogue in my head before stepping out the door this
morning at 8:26 am went something like this (keep in mind the original plan was
to leave at 8 to be in by 8:30):

7:30 am – If I don’t take a shower I can sleep for another 10
minutes. I can leave at 8:05 and it will
be fine. 

7:40 am – [snooze]

7:50 am – Must. Sleep. Longer. As long as I leave by 8:15 I will be
fine. I’ll get in at 8:45, and really, 15
minutes is enough time to get settled in.

8:00 am – Oh lord I really have to get up. I guess I can leave at 8:20. 8:20 will be fine. 

8:05 am – I mean 8:25. As long as I am in BEFORE 9 am. Getting in at 8:55 will work. Yeah.

Needless to say, I arrived at 8:55 am and guess what? GUESS WHAT? The bright-eyed bushy-tailed folks were EARLY (these fucking people I swear
to God) and waiting at my door. WAITING
AT THE DOOR! Who shows up to a meeting
EARLY?

I hate morning people.

Disasterville

Our calm little flat is in an upraor of confusion.  For some unknown reason, and despite repeated assurances from me and from Bartender Dude that we don’t care about this at all, our benevolent landlords have decided to push forward with ripping apart our kitchen in order to fix the hairline cracks in the tile floor.  When we first brought these infintesimal cracks to their attention at our year anniversary walk-through in October last, we made it clear that we only wanted to let them know to protect the eventual return of our security deposit, but that we didn’t care two straws about getting them fixed.  The tiles weren’t shifting around, or chipping at the edges, or deteriorating in any way, and we didn’t want the landlords to think we were superfussy or prima donnas about every tiny flaw in our 100-year old apartment.  We made a list of the top three things we wanted fixed if they were amenable (the sticking door, the sticking windows, the busted floorboards), but the chimerical cracks in the kitchen tile that looked like the spidery tracing of wind patterns on frosted surfaces were NOT on the list.  In fact, they were second to last on the List of Stuff We Wanted You to Be Aware of But You Needn’t Bother Spending Your Money On.

Nevertheless, the landlords are in a fury of improvement.  First there was the project to re-enamel the tub, after which we had to wash it out with dishwashing liquid and a soft cloth every time we used it FOR A MONTH.  Then there was the project to re-carpet the sitting room, after which we’ve been terrified to eat anything remotely greasy or red in there, which has greatly cut into our television viewing.  And our drinking of red wine.

Now we are living in a demolition zone, with no ability to boil water or dump empty glasses in the sink or chuck things in the dishwasher.  Behold the destruction:

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The worst part of having no kitchen is having all of it piled in the adjacent office.

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I can’t get to anything, I can’t find anything, I can’t cut lemons for my tea or pull out a bowl for microwaveable soup.  Neither can I cook anything, which is difficult in itself, but I can’t even slice cheese or make iced tea or locate the grater to make nachos.

In situations like this, my new poster comes in handy:

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Kicking it old school, washing dishes like my grandma did:

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Where are the candles, the bowl and pitcher, the symmetrical Laura Ingalls braids?  I feel like I am living in a hotel with detritus piled in one corner of the room.

Today, Bartender Dude and I drove to the grocery store and loaded up on frozen dinners and a huge jug of Arizona iced tea.  I’ve never been so embarrassed in the checkout line in my life.

Okay, so it’s not like I stockpile KY Jelly and bleaching cream and Beano on a regular basis, but STILL.