When Not Writing A Book
My first day at my hot desk is eventful in some ways. I arrive with my laptop and some books. I get given a lanyard with a card that says STAFF on it and it is my key to building of Books, Writing And Ideas: The Wheeler Centre. The desks are in a line against a wall, on the fourth floor. My desk is second from the first desk you see as you walk up the last few stairs to the fourth floor. It is hot. The central heating is strong and there is no window. Is this is a problem for someone who hates feeling over heated. I set up my laptop and books on the huge expanse of clean desk space. I notice that the space of wall above my desk is a corkboard so i can pin stuff up. I have nothing to pin up and decorate the space with, but, my head starts making plans for desk flair. I write my youngest sister a letter. She is living in South Australia and i never get to see her. She is 22 and i am desperate to be the big well read and feminist minded sister that I would have loved at that age. I want her to be strong and kind and know that she can call me anytime. She does not call me anytime. This is why i writer her this letter. I hand write a poem by Warsan Shire. The one called Fr Women Who Are Difficult To Love. I write a collection of four Warsan Shire Quotes on a seperate piece of paper. The Paper is from a big red hard covered A4 lined notebook that my sister Romy gifted me while i was in the ICU after my kidney transplant. She gave me 2 of these notebooks and i love them. The paper is good strong stuff and because of this i do not fold the hand written poems and letter. I place them flat into a plastic pocket that has the Japanease pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu on the front. There were people handing them out as you left her show at Festival Hall. By the time I have filled six pages with words to my sister, my hand is hurting a little from holding the pen so tight. I write I love you. I write I am sorry.
I post the letter on my way home. By friday I have not heard from her. She could have gotten it and read it and then not texted me a thank you. She could have not gotten it yet. I will tell myself I do not do it for thanks. I do it to make her feel loved. I changed her nappies as a baby.
Tuesday I arrive with more things. I bring beautiful and luscious coloured Lyra oencils, the thick ones that feel so good and colour so nicely. I bring a small purple pencil case that has sharpies and coloured fine liner pens.I bring cute little tags that were collected from around Japan. A Yayoi Musako post card that is in the shape of one of her famous pumkin sculptures. The central heating is still on too high for my liking. I do no writing. I thnk alot about what to write. I meet the person in the first desk. They are working on a collection of short stories. The first thing they say when we are introduced is look at the book on my desk and smile. ”I love that book. Are you reading it for the first time?” I let that particularly pleasing sensation rush up inside of my chest and fizz up through my intellect. How wonderful to be seen in such a way. To be seen and recocognized not by things pertaining to the physical ( the book is a physical thing but not connected to me like my face or body) but, by a shared invisible thing. The shared randomness of me having that particular book with me and in plain sight on meeting a possible kindred spirit. ”I am rereading it.” I say. ”Thats how much I loved it and the second experience is proving my first impression correct.” I do not meet any of my other fellow hot deskers. Before I am about to leave for the day I am emailed about a thing taking place at The Moat. The previous Hot Deskers will be doing readings of what they have been working on. The event is part of The Next Big Thing. It is something I will have to do in September. I inwardly panic. I have written nothing. My new friend is typing away at his laptop while I sit and feel my heart start to hammer with anxiety. My new friend leaves as I am still sitting and thinking.
When I do eventually calm down enough to start packing up and make my way to the moat, my new friend is back. ”Are you going to The Moat?” I ask him. He says yes. ”I saw the email while i was at the train station and came back.”
We end up sitting together at the literary pub. I end up buying two red wines and some wasabi peas. He is younger than me but we talk about our projects and what this hot desk has meant for us. It is so lovely. The readings are not all readings. Some choose to describe thoer project as well as read out some. My favourite is by a woman called Bec who is doing a pod cast that revolves around how people sleep. Bec interviews couples about how they sleep together. I am enthralled by this and am devastated when she wraps it up.There is something so beautiful and intimate about being invited into the worlds of other people as they sleep or discuss how it is they sleep with thier significan other. The dim mood lighting of The Moat and its small and cozy interior coupled with the red wine in my system and the sound of Bec reading out an excerpt of one persons explanation of sleeping with thier significant other, creates a feeling of warmth and intimacy that is like an actual hug rom someone as you fall asleep. Her project is something that stays with me and ignites my own imagination for a long time after, for days and now it is nearing weeks of beautiful reverie. When it is all over and I go to pay for my treats. I am told the payment has been taken care of. I am so relieved. The wine was not the house red it was something french that I was told would go well with my wasabi peas. I was told this by a beautiful employee of The Moat who has a french accent. How could I ignore such advice from such a voice? It was far more powerful than the reality of my poverty. The walk to my house from the train station is bitter cold and night coloured cold seems to bite into my backbone and finger tips and toes. I am happy and giggly and chatty when I get home late. I make love before falling asleep.
Wednesday I sleep in and do not get to my Hot desk until after lunch time. I colour in the pages of a feminist colour in zine that I purchased from Sticky Institute. The zine has about 12 different images of feminist ladies being great. It is Called ANGRY GIRLD CLUB and is by a person called Gemma Flack (who i cannot find on twitter or Facebook). I listen to music from my headphones as I colour in. It is so nice to have a space away from my share house, I think as I listen to Tigers Jaw. I should be writing but maybe I need time to simply enjoy the space? I wonder hopefully as I colour in the bubble writing that says SMASH THE PATRIARCHY. A space away from the constant guilt I feel if I think about writing when there is washing to to or vacuuming, or dishes in the sink (even when the dishes are not mine). It occurs to me that is why I am so glad sometimes about the no uterus thing. If i had a baby I would be the kind of person who would simply give up any dreams of writing. Thanks to the values drilled into me at an impressionable age. As a result I would let my insides shrivel up and my heart would wrinkle like a prune.
I buy a ticket to the amazing sounding event at The Toff In Town: We Run With Wolves. Spoken word poetry by a collection of talented and diverse women? YES PLEASE. I figure if I am going to procrastinate from my own work. I should do so in a productive and inspiring way. A way that supports the creative communities around me in this amazing city. I am not dissapointed by my choice of quality procrastination. I sit next to a stunning woman in a red coat and red lipstick who also came here by herself. We sit together on the floor amongs countless other women. The vibe is friendly and excited. We all know why we are and we are happy to be here. The woman in the red coat is called Margaret. Each woman who gets up on stage and pours out thier talent for the taking and holding, is different and unique. It occurs to me how simply amazing and diverse woman are, it is in such contrast to men. The white men on this planet who seem to take up so much of the space. The whiteness that tries to engulf us and constantly seems to win, is depressing and sad and I carry it with me most noticeably when returning to the place I came from. We Run With Wolves was a bubble of brilliant intersectionality (no women with any visible disability) But, the colours, the voices, the way each woman held themselves and spoke, the way they did not shrink as we all have been taught. They stood upright and proud, defiant and empathic. Some poems hit different parts of my heart in different ways. Some poems did more inside me than others. They all affected me. At the end of one my new friend was wiping away tears and i hugged her. ”That was so moving.” She said as the claps and cheers swelled around us. There was love poems and family poems. There was poems about race and racism about fitting into a world that does not seem to want you. There was a poem about someones father being the reason she is a feminist. There was poetry about dying and getting old and the agony of text messages: the ones that come and the ones that dont. The hanging by a thread and what happens when somebody you trust, simply makes the snip. My heart and brain were awash with inspiration and feeling. There was no mention of it is what it is. There was nobody saying ‘You are too sensative, stop making things difficult for yourself.’ This was a place of action and a fefusal to accept the status quo. Nobdy here was benefiting from the status quo. There was no comment of ‘reverse racism’ or ‘Not all men.’ I was with family. I was with people who believed things could be better. I was with people who demanded that things get better and who were actively practising what they poetically preached. I did not want to go home. On the tram home I sat and ate a box of smartiesEating smarties on a tram grinning to myself and my head a swirl of beauty and words and faces.
I had only drunk water and the feeling inside was so much better than any wine. It could be said that the night had been a form of worship.
Thursday i do not go to my hot desk at all. A total failure. I had planned to get up early and try and write for a couple of hours before meeting my friend at 11:30am. The getting up early did not happen. The friend I am meeting is a freelance book designer and illustrator. She lives with her parents in Geelong at the moment because trying to live whilst working your ass off in anything creative is hard. She is super talented and thinks I am as well. This is nice. We have made one zine together (WHITE AND RED CELLS and it was a delight. We meet at the ACMI bar and sit in a booth like we always do on our catch ups. I never get bored when we are talking. As we wait for her food to arrive she tells me her exciting news. She has been head hunted by a publishing company. It is a senior position and they are offerring he more money than any of her previous publishing jobs. I am thrilled for her and me as this means she will move back to Melbourne. Living alone will give her the space and freedom to work on things with me. ”You can come over and we can create and listen to music.” I am totally excited by these very sincere and real plans. I tell her about my fears of not making the most of my hot desk fellowship. How im terrified i wont have anything done by the time it is my turn to take part in the second Next Big Thing event. ”When did you start?” She asks.
”Monday.” I say.
”That’s fine. You are so talented and creative. Don’t give up on yourself.”
It is exactly what I need to hear. I need face to face validation. I need to hear that this opportunity is something that i have earned. It is not something I got simply because of pity or obligation.
We go to gallery two of ACMI. It is a small space that is dedicated to the art and the screening of a short film animation adaptation of the Oscar Wilde poem The Nightingale And The Rose. The artwork in the film is by an Australian artist: Del Kathryn Barton. There are small studies of the process of creating the images for the film and blown up large works of Barton’s amazing work. There is a large image of The Daughter. An amazing work that shows off the regal and stubborn nature of the daughter herself. Barton;s use of whimsy and defiance is evident in the daughter’s face and stance as she listens unmoved to the student’s declaration of love. There are some small screens with headphones, so you can watch and listen to how the film was created. The painstaking work and process of Del Kathryn Bartons black line renderings and tiny dots and bright coloured inks and watercolour. One of my favourite of her techniques is the way she is avle to expertly control the bleeding effect of her colours and the way she is able to include and command the best visual outcome. I liken it to the visual art aquievalent to holding water and controlling rain.
The film is played on a loop in a small viewing area that is separated from the crowd walking around the exhibition, by a velvet curtain. We go in as the credits are rolling and get settled at the front. The animated film only lasts for ten minutes. It is ten minutes of jaw dropping dark and beautiful images. The original musical score is by Sarah Blasko and it is haunting and sad as well as euphoric and also oddly sensual. The story is of a young student who wants a red rose but cannot find one in all his garden. The red rose, is what The daughter said was required in order for her to dance with him at the ball. As he sits in his garden all sad and struggling with the complexities of the 19th century classism and conflicting ideals of love and metaphysics, he catches the eye of an idealastic nightingale. My favourite part of the film is perhaps also the hardest to watch. It is the scene in which the idealastick and niave nightingale pays the ultimate price for ”One red rose.” You see the nightingales
‘ two tiny and taught almost human looking breasts as she slowly pressed her chest against the thorn of a frozen white rose. Bartons bright perfectly bled ink drawings of the heart and the blood rushing from bird heart into the stem of the rose, is breath taking and painful. I can feel the pain in my own chest as i watch the bird breathily sing as she impales her own tiny heart. The shaky and sofl ragged breathing in pain, could also be the soft ragged breathing of pleasure and it is this that creates an intense feeling of discomfort within. I wonder if the people around and behind me also feel this sense of beautific unease. How close and almost indistinguishable the sounds of pleasure and the sound of pain can be at times. I love how Barton has created an image of The Daughter, she is youthful whilst also commanding a demeanor of mature intensity. It is true that she is ungrateful when presented with the rose. The rose cost more than she could ever imagine, ”far more than jewels.” The student did not know the object of his love. He thought that he could exchange a beautiful object for another beautiful object. A woman, even a selfish and beautiful one, has far going on than what is on the surface. It ocurs to me as I watch the poor and jaded student with his hand drawn and inked paper hair being blown in the breeze, that this could have been one of the many stories that launched so many insufferable white boy philosophy students.
”What a silly thing, love is. It is not half as useful as logic.” And so he vows to focus on philosophy and metaphysics. Thus helping to establish and cement the ”Im doing a Philosophy Degree” philosophical bro code.
My friend and I sat through it twice, so enthralled and ensnared in the all encompassing melancholic bleak filled beauty of it. It was the sort of filmic experience that required beer afterwards. At 3:30 we part ways. I go to pick up my partners nephew from school. He is 6 and loves lego.
Friday I go into the city and spend hours at my hot desk redecorating and arranging things on my cork board. I finish colouring in the last image from my feminist couling in zine. I arrange them and then start to write out one of my own poems to stick up. TO quote Leslie Knope from Parks And Recreation, ”Im a big enough person to admit that sometimes I am inspired by myself.” I write out the quote that is printed on a page at the beginning of the book I am re reading. It is a quote by Flannery O’Connor that states: The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience. I stick it up after writing it in sharpie. I write a quote by Warsan Shire that says:
”Don’t assume, ask. Be kind. Tell the truth. Don’t say anything you cannot stand behind fully.Have integrity. Tell people how you feel.” I marvel at my decorative flair. I leave my hot desk at 3:30 to pick up my partners nephew again. It is a disaster. I get on the wrong tram and start to read my book. I do not realize it is the wrong tram untill the end of the line, which is in North Balwyn. I stay on and get off at Kew Junction, so I can take the 109 to richmond. He goes to a primary school in Richmond. I am all discombobulated from the change in direction that i get the 109 going the wrong way.By this time it is getting dark and i am so so beside myself in a panic. I find myself in utter despaore at my life. How the hell did i mess up something so simple. It starts to get dark. I end getting to the school dead on 6pm. I had wanted to get there at 4:30 so he did not need to spend so much time in after care. He does not care that im so late. He is just happy to see me. Happy to be going home.