Transition Girl

Why transition girl?... Best answered by a quote from the Iliad....."The soul was not made to dwell in a thing; and when forced to it, there is no part of that soul but suffers violence."

Monday, January 24, 2011

fringe dweller

I have felt a wee bit isolated the last five days. Mainly because a throat infection has kept me pretty much housebound (and practically speechless) during this time. My biggest conversation (if my monosyllabic grunts count) has been with my uber-precise German locum, Heinz. The good doctor told me about pus and mucus and all manner of bodily fluids. At least the drugs he has prescribed are making a dent on killing those nasty bacteria that are currently squatting in my body for an extended period in the full knowledge there is no mean spleen landlord to drive them away.

My body is my temple. My body is my temple with a lot of graffiti tarnishing its image.

I have spent the time at home sleeping (fever induced), remotely logging into my work email to deal with any emerging issues (with a whole new batch of work being piled onto my already very busy team), and editing novel number two. It has taken me five days to work my way through the editorial comments covering the first sixty pages of the novel and only one of the eight major plot changes offered as part of those comments. Hard yards. So much more to do! But feeling good about the improvements to the text - it lifts my spirits a little and compensates for the current crappy health karma.

I was quite struck by reading the following phrase during the week: "There's a beautiful world outside of my unlocked cage, yet I have the tragic courage to remain inside." I haven't really had a choice this week. I spend half my time at work lecturing my team about staying at home when they are infectious, the least I can do is practice what I preach. At least I am over the worst of it. Just reverting to my normal hermit leanings now (especially with a lot of novel editing to do). I do have friends I want to (and will see) while I'm recovering because I like their company as much as I like writing. (Aside: yes, that is a big call.)

It hasn't always been so and sometimes it still isn't so. I wrote the poem below, called Fringe Dweller, during one of my periods of complete disconnect:

Like oil to water -
sits on the surface.
Efforts to mix are fruitless.
No matter how much agitation.
On the outer looking in -
hard to see what is within.
Watching a whirlwind of activity.
Without opportunity or scope
to understand its meaning.
And never invited to participate.
Good enough to talk to in small doses.
Being that close to the boundaries
offers a unique perspective
- worth a cursory examination.
But never explored to gain insight.
Feelings kept at a distance.
The walls are set high.
Impenetrable armors
provides a shield from the
constant attempts to make an impression.
It’s safer that way.
That sense of invulnerability provides security.
Except never more isolated.

It was a deliberately ambiguous poem implying both that the person whose perspective is revealed may be forced to be a fringe dweller among others but at the same time has chosen to be so by building barriers around their true self. The person has chosen to be invisible. The person thought it would be easier. Less risk of being asked awkward questions. There were very strong themes of disassociation and a lack of commitment in that poem.

I wrote the poem at a time when I was really thinking about the black box that lies deep inside of me (you know, the one the holds my essence and all the things that define me) and was wondering if I could ever really learn about myself if I was not prepared to reach in to grab and examine its contents. Then reach that "tacit point when you hear the click of the safety cap” and realise that something has changed. Most people do not recognise when they go through the moment of transition. Most of us "spend our life half asleep – without freedom – living lives of quiet desperation”.

Is the change a logical or emotional experience? Is it incremental or evolutionary? I was drawing a lot of “Mecca” cubes back then too and asking which face was the front of the cube. How my mind perceived this cube was my visualisation of change as a break in thought – a shift in focus – of disconnection before reconnection.

I have learned alot about myself since then mainly through the process of writing my first novel. While that novel itself is a piece of fiction, its exploration of philosophical themes is really my exploration of such themes. It is an illuminating snapshot of my own journey to understand the absurdity of this world.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

editorial feedback

I received the editorial feedback on my first draft of novel number two yesterday and it was really positive and constructive feedback. I am a little excited about it, though I'm not entirely sure if my delirium is more likely a product of the summer flu that seems to have gripped me tightly in the last 24 hours. (Aside: my throat is so sore, I cannot speak, which IS a disaster!)

While my editor said the draft was not yet publishable (in its current form), she said she really enjoyed reading it and that she thought it was be very appealing for readers of fantasy novels in general especially those interested in mythology(suggesting my target demographic of 18-35 year olds may in fact be too narrow). Another confidence boost for me too was that the scenes I'd written that I really thought I had nailed were scenes she also thought were really well written. It was good to discover my own instincts on quality were reasonable. She said I had a really good ear for dialogue and a strong ability to structure my narrative to tell a good story. And (apparently) I write great sex scenes... All fantastic stuff.

On the constructive side of the ledger, she has gone through the document with a fine tooth comb and provided a tonne of editorial suggestions. Everything from word changes, sentence changes, movement of ideas in and across scenes and paragraphs and chapters and about a half a dozen suggestions for alternative plot developments. All but one of those suggestions have considerable appeal to me even if it will take me several weeks to process the ideas and redraft the novel. I had been hoping to take my draft to the agent by the end of January but I just don't think it is feasible given the amount of redrafting I need to do.

Still, I continue to feel really positive about the year that is to come. Don't really know why. There's just something about 2011 that feeds my optimism and drives me to want to spring forward even if it is bounding into the unknown. Reminds me of a passage from a poem called “Committed” (by anonymous):

There’s always going to be some people
who are willing to take a leap.
Just dive off a cliff with everything they’ve got
and hope for the best.
What can you say about these people?
Are they stupid?
Or are the brave?
Are they crazy?
Or are they just very very lucky?
I guess it is one of those things
you can look at either way.

I am so ready to take a leap.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I am starting my Sunday morning in dire need to reflect briefly upon a revelation announced by one of my friends yesterday that took me by surprise. It was a good revelation even if it has made me think about days long past and days to come.

But before I get into one of my predisposed "thinking about what it means (if anything)" moments, I will briefly digress into some early reflections about my visiting cousin. (A big plus is that he is a night owl so I have the luxury of a few hours in the morning to do my own thing before he wakes up! There is hope yet that I will still be able to do a decent amount of writing during his stay with me.)

The cousin safely arrived from Verona on Friday morning and has been exposed to the quintessential Australian experience, the summer BBQ, not once but twice in his first weekend here. It was just seredipity that his arrival coincided with two of my social gatherings lined up for this weekend and the weather has (after over a week of flood producing deluge) put on a fine show for him. It is, of course, a truism that the extreme weather will mark the remainder of his lengthy stay but it was good to have a positive start.

I have also been reminded about how fortunate we are in Australia compared to the world - with my cousin in awe of the wide open spaces, the greenery, how relaxed everyone seems to be and the quality of democratic life here in general. Even though I have travelled to Europe many times and am always so happy to return home after exposure to the greyness and bustle and throngs of people there, it was a welcome reminder of just how much Australians have to take for granted. We are genuinely blessed and it only after visiting somewhere else that it is possible to really appreciate that gift.

Now - reflection time! At the first of the BBQs, a friend of mine said quite randomly that he thought he and I think alike, that pretty much everything I said he agreed with. It wasn't really out of the blue that he should say something like that because we really do think about certain things in the same way and both of us appear to be fascinated by the same things with questioning minds that desire to delve into the philosophical much more than your average punter.

Truth is I've known for a very long time he could be on a common wavelength to me. I suspect it occurred to me shortly after I met him, when his sister dragged him along to one of my Spring deck drinks. It was clear to me that his mind was in a far away place that particular day and I saw a part of myself reflected in him in that moment. What part of me did I see? I saw the "not really wanting to be around people on that particular day" part, with some hurt, which had occurred in the not too distant past, contributing to a sense of disconnectedness. There but not there. A prevailing sadness that is rarely noticed by others (except those close enough to catch glimpses of it and learn to accept this is just what it is).

The search for life meaning is not something many people even contemplate pursuing (most people when give a choice would prefer to sleep walk through their lives - of itself something that saddens me). And I have an advantage of having well over a dozen years head start on my friend. I doubt the extra years has made me wiser than him but it has given me more time to think about such things. My first novel was nothing but the deepest of reflection about the most philosophical of questions - what defines us as a person. I sometimes think about loaning him a copy of this novel as I know beyond any doubt that he would "get it", and get so much more out of it than most readers because he is in a mind space where the words on the page would resonate with him to his very core. But then I worry he might read too much of himself in those words and, if he is genuinely like me, it will take him to the darkest of places (as it did me at times when I was writing it).

I admit I was a little taken aback by his revelation. I have seen glimpses to suggest he is like me but no one has ever said it out loud to me before. In my entire life. I am rather used to managing my communication to 'translate' how my mind processes everything from complex policy analysis to deep feelings into a language that the world can understand because my mind is almost entirely a world of tangents and the mainstream prefer linear. It is unusual for me to encounter someone who speaks even remotely a similar internal language as me. Part of the reason I write fiction is to help me make sense of my thoughts and feelings because I have never really encountered anyone who can actually hear what I am saying and make true sense of it when the words spill out of my mouth. (Aside: I do not think I am particularly unique by the way; things being lost in translation is a universal truism for as much communication between people generally as it is not.)

But I feel very comfortable with this friend to talk about the tangents as my mind actually experiences them (in real time!), to relax enough (most of the time) to speak in my own language, and to be myself. It is incredible that I have finally encountered a mind mate. It only took a few decades to find a friend like this. It is a really good place to be. Even if I need just a little time to adjust to this most welcome discovery. Life IS full of surprises.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I have a few minutes to advise my blog updates over the next several weeks may be a tad sporadic. Mainly because I have a cousin from Verona visiting me over this period.

I picked him up from the airport this morning and he's now in a jet lagged induced sleep coma so I have not yet figured out how much of my already limited spare time will need to be spent showing him around the city and surrounds. Even a small amount will eat into my writing time so the near distant future will be less productive than usual. Don't want to lose that momentum that comes with the discipline of regular writing so I need to figure out a way to juggle work, writing, and being a tourist all at once. My hand-eye coordination is crap so this prospective "trying to do three things at once" exercise kind of scares me a little.

I am expecting comments back from my editor next week though. She emailed me yesterday to apologise for the delay as she's been on holiday and has not been able to complete her assessment in the usual timeframe. Hopefully I won't have to do too much rewriting as I'm keen to stay on track to get the manuscript to the agent by the end of January.

I feel exhaustred already.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

separation anxiety

I'm a little early with my blog this week (the ink is barely dry on the last one). It's just that I've been on a creative frenzy for two straight days. It's been fantastic. Clear head, intense dreams, and the words surrendering themselves to the page filled with sibylline expressiveness (which is great given the subject matter of the novel being drafted). A sanguine start to 2011.

It has inspired me to finish my weekend afternoon by penning a poem, which I've called Separation Anxiety. It is meant to be metaphorical - symbolising 'letting go' of baggage that holds us back. It is a raw first draft but I wanted to share.

Last night I took a walk
and separated from my shadow.
It stood alongside me for a while;
not really sure if it wanted to stay or go.
Such a thorny decision to make
when you have been stuck in sync
as one for so long.
Through the lows and lows together.
Basking in the glory of the muck and mire.

I knew the time had come to let go.
It was the long silences between us
that gave the game away.
The petty jealousy whenever I dared
to gaze into the darkness of another.
Only one abyss per person.
Those are the rules.

We paused momentarily
eye balled each other
in a Mexican standoff
only inches apart.
One of us had to make the break;
run like hell and never look back.
I was the first to blink.
Not stopping until I was out of breath.
Hiding; ignoring its bellowing catcalls.

I feel a little strange now.
A little lost.
A little liberated.
Lighter somehow.

I am feeling it now. I just know that 2011 is going to be a great year.