Creativity and Time Management

April 28, 2013 at 5:32 am | Posted in Books, Quotations | Leave a comment
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I’m working on a commissioned book (more on that another time), I have a four day a week writing job already plus I go routinely to the library and borrow the books I’ve reserved and try to find the time to read them before their due date. Some of the books relate to the commissioned book, but many don’t. Hmmm … most don’t. Is my ambition to read the following list of books within three weeks an unrealistic commitment of my time?

A Spirit of Play by David Malouf
Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers
Car Sick: Solutions for our car-addicted culture by Lynn Sloman
In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honorée
The Engagement by Chloe Hooper
and also a captivating book I bought at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, Paul Klee for Children by the beautifully named Silke Vry.

I didn’t buy Paul Klee for Children for a child. I bought it for me. It is a fabulous book about creativity. I’ve always thought that it’s the child in me that creates. One needs that spirit of play, to let go and take risks, to have a holiday from that habitual state that our society forces us into most of the time, the right-brained, logical, linear approach to life.

To answer the question above about unrealistic assessments of what I can do in a given time, I probably can read that number of books in three weeks because of the spectacular inefficiency of the Canberra public transport system or at least the bus routes by which I have to travel to work. I could look at the scenic tour of the eight suburbs the No 2 bus meanders through while en route to Deakin West, or I can use that time to read. (Car Sick by Lynn Sloman is about English transport conditions; if you want to read about Australian conditions and solutions, read anything by Paul Mees. Fantastic writer and creative thinker.)

Knowing that most people drive, however, I realise that it’s a problem finding time to read, let alone time to be a child and to paint or write or do other creative things. I find it difficult myself to be as creative as I’d like to be, so this following little parable is a case of ‘Do what I say, not Do what I do’. The story of Big Rocks makes it clear what we have to do if we are serious about squeezing our creative pursuits into our too-busy, too-full, frenetic lives.

Big Rocks

A man teaching a class had a wide-mouthed jar, which represented the amount of time per week – or day. He filled the jar with big rocks.
‘Is it full?’ he asked his class.
‘Yes,’ they answered.
‘No.’ He filled it with gravel. ‘Is it full now?’
‘Maybe,’ the class answered.
‘No.’ He filled it with sand.
‘Is it full now?’
‘Probably not,’ the class answered.
‘Correct.’ And he filled it with water.

If you don’t put the big rocks in first, they will never fit into the jar because it will be full of small things. What you must decide is: What are your big rocks?”

L. K. Ludwig. Creative Wildfire. Mass., Quarry, 2010.

Annie March’s wise words

April 20, 2013 at 1:54 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
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My favourite newspaper is The Guardian Weekly. I tried googling Annie March, a woman after my own heart who writes the most wonderful letters sometimes, published in their Reply section. Google suggested Linked In but the illogical, Catch-22 nature of Linked In made it impossible to get her email address. (If I want to contact Annie March, ‘type in her email address here’: duh!) I love everything she writes. But she’s a Cassandra – no one will listen. So I wanted to spread a sample of her succinct and humane words of warning a little wider. They relate to Ivan Illich’s Energy and Equity section in my 27 April 2012 blog.

Annie March in The Guardian Weekly 5 may 2013, p. 23, wrote a letter entitled ‘The real cost of cars’, which points out what so few people see:
‘…The cult of privatised, instant mobility has a hideous underside: cars generate 20% of greenhouse gases; poison soil, water and air at all stages of their life cycle; drive oil wars; usurp 35% of urban land, turning our streets into noisy, dangerous rat-runs while forcing everyone to inhale their excretions; annually kill 1.2 million; and are complicit in the epidemics of asthma and obesity. There are a billion cars in the world; the number is growing exponentially.
Now it’s proposed, as an act of terminal and bloated self-indulgence, to turn these Molochs into giant smartphones. The mining and processing of the rare earths underpinning this technology have already turned Baotou in Mongolia into a noxious wasteland (Hunger for rare earths leaves toxic legacy, 10 August 2012). Coltan, another essential ingredient, fuels civil war in the Congo; in a brutal twist, Congolese women end up working as slaves in the coltan mines.
Cars not only displace their real cost on to less privileged humans and our 8bn co-species, but defraud and despoil the future; how can driving be freedom when it’s based on an ecocidal, fundamentalist lie? Fundamentalists can go to perdition any way they like, as long as they don’t take my children’s children with them.
How do we strip the glamour from cars? What’s the difference between driving in a public place and smoking in one? Cigarettes are at least silent.
We’re driving our way to extinction. Cars are incompatible with a healthy biosphere. They’re as small-brained and doomed as the dinosaurs; so are we, if we don’t break their addictive spell.’

On a lighter note, the phrase ‘a woman after my own heart’ recalls a funny comment made to me on a hot day recently. I’d got off the No 2 bus and was walking the long walk on concrete paths to tango class. Then I would be squeezing my hot feet into high heels. (One toe has a minor deformity which makes the foot half a size bigger than the other, so unless I’m wearing sandals or boots, it feels like the first stage of Chinese foot-binding on that side.)
I walked along in the heat, my feet swelling inside my sandal straps. Suddenly I saw a long stretch of beautifully green, cool, dewy-looking, shaded grass beside the footpath in front of a posh building, probably some legal firm that charges an arm and a leg, if you’ll pardon the cliché.
No one was around and I risked slipping off my sandals and sinking my feet into the coolness of that soft grass and walking through it in refreshingly cold bliss. Just then an immaculately coiffed woman in a charcoal grey suit and black high heels stepped out of that building looking as if she owned it. There were no signs saying ‘Don’t walk on the grass,’ but I felt as if I were trespassing. I thought she was going to reprimand me. But she said when she spotted me, ‘Ah, a woman after my own feet!’

Adelaide and a new Barbara Vine

April 15, 2013 at 6:20 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
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After a few days of Conference early mornings and late nights, organising interviews for rural health experts and liaising with them and journalists, I realised yet again how much I love the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission to you lovely people from Canada, the UK and the US who discourse with me about my blogs). Their journalists and producers invariably take the time to learn the facts and get to know the important things before interviewing the person.

I was in Adelaide doing this for my work Conference, as mentioned in last blog. But a couple of years ago I did many radio interviews about my book Creative Lives. With the very short ones (through no fault of the journalist some were just too short) I found it hard to compress 18 months of research and writing of 22 people’s lives and careers into convenient sound bytes; whereas the longer interviews were much easier and I was able to convey something of the complexity and nuance of the task and the subjects, as well as establish some sort of relationship with the interviewer, which is essential in any conversation.

Theodore Zeldin writes that conversation is an adventure ‘in which we agree to cook the world together and make it taste less bitter’ (Conversation, 1998, p.6). This of course is what blogs can do too.

After the Conference I had a few days off, and moved to a hotel I could afford and which I had booked online. Having no real knowledge of Adelaide apart from seeing the Festival, the Hills and the beaches a couple of times over 15 years ago, I discovered that I’d booked a hotel in the Kings Cross (Sydney) of Adelaide: the Plaza in Hindley Street. The people were nice and I had a big bathroom and sitting room, but it was all very shabby, noisy and grubby. The corridors smelt of chain-smoking and the streets rang into the early hours with the noise of endlessly repeating bass notes, fist fights and traffic.

I saw friends, had lunches in vineyards, caught the Turner exhibition (can never resist) and didn’t want to wait till it comes to Canberra. I saw most of that collection often before at the Tate but find new things every time. I’d forgotten how abstract many of his works were – and so early! I love Adelaide’s Markets and went there twice. And I bought a copy of the new Barbara Vine: The Child’s Child. It’s a psychological thriller ‘book-ending’ a historical novel also having thriller elements, and both plots dealing with the changing moral and legal landscapes in England surrounding illegitimacy and homosexuality.  I can hardly put it down.

At the wonderful ‘Flights of the Mind’ conference at the National Library of Australia 24-25 October 2009, author Geraldine Brooks said that historical novels contain more than facts: ‘they contain emotional truths’. Her books certainly do, and Barbara Vine’s do too. (Ruth Rendell, as you probably know, writes her psychological thrillers under the name Barbara Vine.) I haven’t finished The Child’s Child but two-thirds of the way through I’m finding it fascinating. Her language has the clarity of Simenon but more depth, and her psychological insights are profound, but her real genius is in plotting. It was so hard to unpack and do domestic things when I was desperate to finish that novel. In fact, I still am. That’s what I will do right now.

If you haven’t read any of Barbara Vine’s there are about 14. So if you read one and like it you’re in for a treat: 13 more to go! More actually, if she continues to write them for a few more years. I love them because I’m interested in psychology and human nature; I rarely read detective novels and the ones with all the focus on the forensic details. I’m just not that interested in that aspect of life.

Bush Nurses

April 7, 2013 at 1:26 am | Posted in Books | 2 Comments
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This is an instance of my literary and professional worlds meeting, which is wonderful! Penguin books published a chapter of mine in their recent book, Bush Nurses. So I’m pasting a word from the Editor: attached is a link to Bush Nurses on the Penguin site

Professional and literary worlds

April 7, 2013 at 1:14 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
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Thank you for your interest in my blog, and yours are really interesting – work has been too busy to respond properly but after the Conference is over, I will. Huge Conference is on now – more than 1,000 delegates. So, I am in beautiful Adelaide in the Media Room of the biggest venue (Adelaide Convention Centre) I and probably you have ever seen. So no proper bog this week, just an apology of sorts because semi-frantic with interviews and writing about rural health so no time to do my own writing, not even a blog! Head crammed with things you wouldn’t want to hear about – except for my favourite strand of all this: Arts and Health. Always interesting, inspiring and incredible. But that strand starts tomorrow.

And by next week I’ll have also been to some vineyards – for all those antioxidants in red wine, of course. Only have time for one literary note, but what a note: Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel, Instructions for a Heatwave. Set in the big heatwave of 1975 in London plus some of it in Ireland – the novel plus the heat! Wonderful novel about the extraordinary in ordinary life. A family so plausible and recognisable that you feel you really know them through and through by the end, with the sibling differences and familiarity, the misunderstandings and the warmth, the craziness of one’s parents and the differences being the eldest or youngest makes – all that family stuff expressed so poignantly. I was so glad to be immersed in that world before being sucked into a week of professional milieu – not that that is not interesting, and it’s certainly worthwhile, but: it’s not fiction, it’s not literature, even though I can use my literary background and way with language in its service. I love health, sure, but I love the literary world more. I consider myself lucky to be able to write about health for a living. But I so enjoyed the immersion in that beautifully written and gripping novel before this Conference took over my life completely.

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