April already? Hell. Since February I’ve been focussed on a single project and so my engagement with the world wide web has diminished. My Twitter account lies sweetly languid most of the time, I dropped Facebook altogether last year and have not missed it (but that’s another story), and as you can see my last post here was as far back as January. The only place I’m ‘visible’ these days is my Tumblr account, Caroline’s Collage, where I post images of collages I make, many of which are related to the creative project that I’m working on. I’m not saying this disengagement with the internet is right (digital engagement seems to be more and more necessary for writers these days if they want to be noticed and heard above the clamour of so many others), it’s simply what is right for me, at this time.
So, to the project – like I said it is my focus, and is likely to be for the rest of the year and next. It doesn’t involve travelling (though I’m doing a lot of exploring) and it isn’t the sort of job that I’m paid a shit load for (I’m not paid at all) but it is a full time occupation and it involves writing. Instead of doing it solo, I am completing this project with the guidance of people at a university. Uni is not for every writer, I know, but I’ve discovered that at this time in my life, after many jobs spent caring and supporting others (in the creative arts and other industries) by being at university I am now allowing myself (giving myself permission) to focus on the intense creative and critical development of doing what I love, writing. I’m not receiving a scholarship but neither will I incur a HECS debt, which I find extraordinary. I am also blessed to have a partner who is supporting me financially through this (& in every other way), though with his own work being sporadic (he’s a sole trader in a shrinking industry), we’re living frugally. Still, the dog doesn’t go without a bone and all 3 of us have winter coats so it’s all good, as that overworked expression goes.
I’m at the University of Adelaide and the post-grad degree is a Master of Philosophy by research (creative writing). Sound grand? What it means is I’m writing my first novella (the creative bit) while researching and trying out the techniques of other writers, and then writing about that in an essay (the critical bit). In a nutshell, it’s a whole lot of reading, writing, and thinking. I’m currently reading the novels of Randolph Stow, about Randolph Stow (who, you might like to know, preferred to be called Mick – RS was his author identity) and about the musicalization of narrative literature. Interesting stuff. No really, it is. I balked at reading theory and literary criticism (which had everything to do with doubting my ability to understand it) but am now finding that it’s all about ideas and I enjoy reading about ideas. Not that reading, understanding, critiquing and writing about ideas is an easy process , far from it. In just two short months I have begun to understand just how much grit and determination it takes to have the courage of your convictions and to live with the uncertainty of research, just as it does, I might add, when embarking on any creative project. I’ve already had a few visits from that old friend, doubt, which I knew I would. Infact, as part of my preparation for returning to study I engaged the services of an excellent counselor so that I might have strategies for coping when this old friend paid a visit. (Worthwhile investment. I recommend it.) Though no counseling could stop me from overworking and getting tangled up in my own thoughts. Over Easter I had to take a complete break as I felt myself moving into the borderlands of anxiety. Unpleasant and exhausting. However, after having a break, I stopped ignoring that awful feeling in my stomach that I was barking up the wrong tree in terms of my subject proposal, and changed my focus. As a result I feel calmer and my sleeping has improved. And so I am reminded once again that intuition and rest are important.
There’s a lot more I’d like to share about this thing that I'm engaged with, this one thing, but for now that will have to do. Any more would be procrastinating.
Happy writing, reading and thinking.