My computer weary hands

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There is an autumn leaf caught in a spider’s web in one corner of my writing room window near the outside ledge. I wonder how long it will stay there. Until the next gust of wind tears it away, until someone opens the window and forces it from its sticky moorings or later still when it has disintegrated and turned into lace ready to fall back down to earth, dust to dust.

I had so much wanted to write this morning and now I am here ideas evade me, and words refuse to come.

Perhaps I am ready for a break. Writing has become too much like housework. I do it everyday and like housework it comes back again the next day even more insistent than the day before and with the same relentless, ruthless, unending quality. Rarely do I reach a stage when I can say well at last this is finished, this is good. This will stand the test of time.

Most of my writing at the moment feels like the autumn leaf caught in the spider’s web outside my window. It hangs there, a leaf torn from a tree, a leaf close to the end of its life, a leaf that no longer serves a purpose other than to disintegrate and join the earth’s surface, a layer of dust, like my writing, a layer of words.

There’s a hole in my cardigan that needs stitching but I cannot be bothered finding needle and thread. Such a simple task and yet it remains like so many others – unfinished.

I have lost my sense of momentum. These days, tasks rise up for attention and I look away. I put off what was once an imperative till another day when it can no longer wait.

Why can I not settle into the business of completion, of housework, PhD, house renovations, writing?

Things I once embraced I push aside.

Is it a stage of my life, like the autumn leaf on my windowsill?
Have I lost my tenacity?
When did it start?

If I were to sit face to face with a listener I would say that I have lost my grip, that I have lost energy. I once had energy to get on and complete the tasks at hand.

I am not sure when it began, this downward trend, this energy less state, this wish to escape into isolation and comfort.

My memories lose their translucence, their conviction. I begin to doubt the certainty of my grip on the past.

Once I begin to write down a memory it shifts and sways. It loses the clarity it once possessed when held firmly in my mind and then takes on the clarity of the written word. It slips from me and onto the page and no longer feels to be mine.

I have leached out so many memories over these last several years that I begin to doubt my memory of myself. Have I explored too many memories now to believe them anymore?

Once I have written about an event I find I no longer have the impetus or desire to record that event again. It feels old and stale. It loses its guts. The clash between the way I imagine things might be and the way they are leaves me empty and listless.

I remember such times when I enrolled for a course through the mail – fifty piano lessons at a set price at the end of which I would be able to play stock standard favourites for family and friends. I found it advertised in the Reader’s Digest.

I had stopped learning the piano after only one year of lessons at school as a ten year old. I resented the way I had needed to practice after school when I could have been outside playing with my sister and my mother had better things to do with her money if I was not going to attend to my practice.

I dropped out of learning to play the piano but the image of myself as a concert pianist remained. In the advertisement the offer to get to this fantasy without any exertion beckoned.

My mother agreed, as long as we spread the lessons over time, so that she should not have to spend too much money too soon and I could prove myself by sticking to the practice.

The pages arrived. Pages of instruction, followed by pages of notes on paper, no different from the notes in my preliminary piano lesson book. I could not trouble myself with the tedium of reading through such instructions, if it did not happen by magic it would not happen at all.

Years later when we had been forced by circumstance to leave home and go into boarding school my mother told me she had finally paid off the last of my lessons. The contract meant that she could not evade the fees even if I did not use the opportunity.

And so it goes. Another opportunity wasted.

But I was young then. The worst years of my life were the years of my adolescence and beyond into early adulthood. Those were the years when I wanted nothing but for time to pass, that I cared only about the appearance of things, when I longed for love and in its absence contented myself with getting by.

Why was I not more dedicated then, why not more dedicated now?

In a few days we leave for England. Whether I want it or not, I will have a break from my writing. I will give my computer weary hands a rest from typing out words. I hope to come back refreshed and full of energy, enough to take a new tack in this blog.

I leave on 25 June for two weeks. I will most likely not post again until my return, but I’ll float around the blogosphere for the next six days and then take my leave.

Good wishes to you all.

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85 Comments on My computer weary hands

  1. Titus
    June 19, 2010 at 12:36 am (7 years ago)

    God love you Elisabeth, sounds like a sure case of ennui to me and I hope the holiday helps you recover some joie de vivre.
    This must be your seed time: things will get sown whilst you do not notice, and when you're ready, germination will happen.
    So forget, enjoy, and most of, relax.

    Reply
  2. Ralph
    June 19, 2010 at 1:00 am (7 years ago)

    thoughtful piece. it's nice when the energy comes back with a rush

    Reply
  3. Kass
    June 19, 2010 at 1:01 am (7 years ago)

    Even when you're feeling drained, words come pouring out of you like quicksilver. It's all art, even when it's despair.

    You say, "My memories lose their translucence, their conviction. I begin to doubt the certainty of my grip on the past." – I find that so interesting in the light of my mother's memory loss. She is sweet and docile and very frail and my heart goes out to her, but both my sister and I remember devastating words and actions from her. We've never called her on it. We're far too contained and proper. With her memory dim, is she off the hook? When do I get taken down from my hanging perch? Do I want to lose my ability to recall painful events? I feel I am becoming dull in some ways. I wonder what your thoughts are about memory and emotional reconciliation.

    I hope your stay in England refreshes you. I look forward to hearing about it.

    Reply
  4. Robert the Skeptic
    June 19, 2010 at 1:41 am (7 years ago)

    Creativity is an interesting thing. Clearly it cannot be forced, and it is not always easily managed. I believe creativity can evolve, but like things that evolve, it can also become extinct.

    I think of cartoonists like "Calvin and Hobbes" creator Bill Watterson or "The Far Side's" Gary Larson, both felt their creative well running dry, preferring to end those projects rather than continue on and have their work lapse into mediocrity.

    Being a filmmaker, I see so much that is unoriginal; simply variations on the same repeated themes. I find myself not motivated to put my energy into something unless it can distinctly deviate from the norm. I wrestle with valuating if some works are even worth doing.

    Perhaps a sabbatical is just the thing; giving your mind free range without the little voice in the background nagging to continually produce. Kick back, enjoy the trip. I would love such a trip myself.

    Reply
  5. Dan
    June 19, 2010 at 2:26 am (7 years ago)

    You may recall I'm a bicyclist. In training the body, and I'm sure the mind as well, periods of hard effort are best interspersed with periods of intentional rest and recovery. A trip to England, with a change of scenery and routine, may be just what's needed to spark you to new creativity and insight.

    Your writing and thoughts are like an elixir to me, even if they may seem forced to you.

    Reply
  6. Anthony Duce
    June 19, 2010 at 4:11 am (7 years ago)

    Your analogy of the leaf in the window with tasks unfinished over time is very good. I think we all at one time or another question why we keep working at sometimes old dreams, thinking the results will go unnoticed anyway. Yet it’s the dreams that make life worth living, even if the accomplishment are only for us to realize that lets us enjoy the journey of the leaf sometimes.

    Reply
  7. Ocean Girl
    June 19, 2010 at 4:37 am (7 years ago)

    I think (I could be wrong), creative people has a restless mind. They are eager to move on to the next project and they are not easily contented with anything less than perfect. I think (I could be wrong), creative people continuously need a dream, they don't feel well when things are good, they need to struggle and be challenged. I think the cure is they must realise that dreams don't come but must be created and invented. I think.

    Reply
  8. Marylinn Kelly
    June 19, 2010 at 4:43 am (7 years ago)

    Titus called it ennui; your description sounded a bit like depression, to which I am no stranger. My life has ebb and flow, energy and fatigue, blazing moments of clarity and inspiration, then an overwhelming desire to nap. I find that things come in their time, not mine, and the hours and energy I've spent wishing it were different have never changed anything. Your trip, even if it is just a change of scene, will help shift perspective. There are times when almost nothing makes sense…the leaf caught in the web…we are continually in transition and change, for most of us, is not a comfortable state. We are as much manifestations of nature as the trees, the skin-shedding creatures; perhaps what we rid ourselves of is outgrown ways of thinking, seeing. I believe new visions are on their way.

    Reply
  9. Elisabelle
    June 19, 2010 at 6:19 am (7 years ago)

    Elizabeth, enjoy your time away.
    I am sure it will recharge your batteries.

    Reply
  10. Alberto Oliver
    June 19, 2010 at 6:21 am (7 years ago)

    Sorry to hear about your current mood Elisabeth. Unfortunately, intelligence is not exactly happiness´ best friend, and i am afraid you are intelligent. Let´s not misundertand intelligence with cheap cleverness, exceptional people don´t have to be necessarily the must apt for life and its triffles. Intelligent people have that inherent need for discover and go beyond of what their senses meet, but at the same time, are aware of the limitations their human condition imposes. A paradox that lead to a melancolic mood. We do must admit that writing is an act of faith, faith on what?? that depends on the person. Have you lost the faith that prompted you to write?? such questions corresponds to you, and only to tou, to be answered. For what you describe about that piano lessons, i can figure out that your soul is a free one, a soul that need a constant source of stimulus that a routine will never offer. We born to a world whose rules were already stablished and nobody gave us the chance to make any proposition, but to obey with blind eyes in order to achieve a little space within social order. Art, and i mean real art, knows no about rules, stablishments and orders, art is a free maid, maybe your lack of energy would be understood as a complain by such maid, to whom the weight of the chains of dailly rutine are starting to be unbearable. Dedicated?? you must dedicate yourself only and just only to one thing, to embrace all what existance has to offer you, you that was blessed with the gift of being able of watching life´s wide gamut. You will find then oportunities that would be worth to be seized indeed. Freedom has its toll, i expensive one, but it would be a most expensive toll, the remorseful of arrive to the winter of our lives and realize that we never heard what our inner emotions, soul, or however you wish to name it, got to say us. I wish you good luck in your travel, and keep well. =)

    Reply
  11. ScoMan
    June 19, 2010 at 7:28 am (7 years ago)

    A break is an excellent thing. Especially for someone who writes frequently.

    It doesn't matter how good you are at anything, you will get tired of the repetition and you can't fake interest or dedication to a task, and the quality drops.

    But if you give it up for a few weeks, the passion will return.

    Reply
  12. Ann
    June 19, 2010 at 9:22 am (7 years ago)

    This is your blog, you can write what you like and when you like.

    Enjoy your holiday in England. May be you have what they call the writer's block. When you come back, you will feel afresh, and there will be plenty to write.

    There's a lot of spiders in Australia. I looked back at my Oz hols, there were some photos of spiders I have not used.

    Have a great time.

    Reply
  13. Ann ODyne
    June 19, 2010 at 9:58 am (7 years ago)

    the spider sees that autumn leaf as a potential bedroom and is hoping it does not dislodge

    Reply
  14. Elisabeth
    June 19, 2010 at 11:54 am (7 years ago)

    Ennui all right, Titus, but having written this post and having spent the best part of the day on another project I feel better already.

    I've started work on a paper to do with multiple identities and I realise the distressed, over wrought one in the post represents one aspect of me. It rises up from time to time and then settles down again. Hopefully it'll be gone by the time I return.

    Reply
  15. Elisabeth
    June 19, 2010 at 11:56 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks Ralph, after a good dose of complaining, I can already feel the energy on its way back. In three weeks time I'll be in another space altogether, I hope.

    Reply
  16. Elisabeth
    June 19, 2010 at 12:18 pm (7 years ago)

    Kass, this is such an interesting question, the question you raise about memory and emotional reconciliation.

    When is any one of us ever let off our 'hanging perch'?

    I'm not sure how to tackle this one, Kass. People's amnesia for events of the past, events in which they may have behaved less than honourably is well known.

    One of my sisters-in-law tells the story of the years of abuse she endured on the end of her older sister's scorn. There was five years difference between them and the older sister resented my sister- in-law simply for existing. For years the older sister was cruel, sadistic and vitriolic in her attacks on her sister but today as a woman in her fifties, she cannot remember a thing.

    My sister-in-law has tried to tell her older sister about the awful things the older girl did, but the older sister has little or no recollection, and she does not suffer Alzheimer's. They are now however the best of friends. Perhaps my sister in law is more forgiving than most, though typicaly like many a younger sibling she adores her older sister and does not want anything to come between them.

    I think we all rearrange our memories of the past to suit our resent circumstances. The cruelty that might induce a jealous sibling or an enraged mother to lash out at the one more vulnerable than them cannot be accurately recorded.

    In the end all you can do is trust your own sense of how it felt to you and hope that unlike your mother you will not totally obliterate your less than honorable behavior, that you will remember.

    It must be hard for you now with your once once difficult mother, as docile as a lamb, but I don't imagine you can now get any recognition from her about her past shortcomings. You can only remember them yourself and try to understand how they came about.

    Think of Philip Larkin's verse: 'They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had And add some extra, just for you.'

    Thanks, Kass.

    Reply
  17. Elisabeth
    June 19, 2010 at 12:22 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks Robert, for your thoughts about creativity and the need to shift out of the habitual.

    I enjoyed your earlier post today about Ehrenreich's writing against the excess of postitive thinking. I think it's good to be able to complain once in a while about how awful things are or might seem, then we can move along.

    I'm sure I shall move along after my trip. Thanks again for your good wishes.

    Reply
  18. Elisabeth
    June 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks Dan. The idea that my writing is an elixir to you, a cyclist, is heartening.

    I agree about the need to vary our activities and our periods of rest and work. I'm not good at this. I'm not good at resting. I'm not good at not writing, reading or being productive in some other way and I'm not a cyclist, so I don't have that outlet.

    Funny my ancestors from Holland all rode bikes. My mother was still riding hers through the suburbs of Melbourne well into her late sixties, early seventies.

    Reply
  19. Elisabeth
    June 19, 2010 at 12:30 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Anthony.

    Now you seem to know something of what I'm talking about and you are a man who perseveres even against the tides of self criticism. You keep on going. I admire this so much.

    And when do you take your rest? I have not noticed from your endless paintings and poems. You seem to go on forever.

    Reply
  20. Elisabeth
    June 19, 2010 at 12:35 pm (7 years ago)

    A friend, a psychotherapist, once suggested to me something along the lines that you suggest, Ocean girl.

    If we felt perfectly contented, if we did not suffer any 'maladies of spirit' then it is unlikely we would have any need to try to be creative. We would have no urge or need. We would be settled.

    In this sense I'm glad for my restlessness I'd hate to miss out on the roller coaster of my life, however painful and difficult it might sometimes seem.

    Thanks, Ocean Girl.

    Reply
  21. Elisabeth
    June 19, 2010 at 12:41 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Marilynn. I hope new visions are on their way.

    This state of mind is not unfamiliar to me. I call it the monkey on my back. I often manage to write my way out of it.

    When you read back over what I have to say from that state of mind I'm sure it can sound as though I am depressed but it does not last long enough to my way of thinking to constitute a condition, rather it reflects a fluid state of mind that comes and goes. At least I hope it does.

    I'm sorry to hear that you suffer similarly from time to time, and yet it does not surprise me.

    It is as others have suggested elsewhere a necessary state to pass into and out of in order to allow for these new visions. Thanks again, Marilynn.

    Reply
  22. Elisabeth
    June 19, 2010 at 12:47 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks for your kind words Elisabelle. I hope my trip away manages to 'charge my batteries'.

    And thanks to you too, Alberto. I'm honoured to hear you think I am intelligent. I do not often feel this way. But maybe that is your point – the degree to which we doubt ourselves in our struggle to produce something meaningful, to create. You do this in your wonderful photography and art work, I see.

    Thank you for your thoughts and good wishes.

    Reply
  23. Elisabeth
    June 19, 2010 at 12:56 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Scoman for our good wishes. a change is as good as a holiday, as they say. The conference in England will offer the change and then a week in Ireland should do some of that recharging others talk about here. Thanks again.

    Australia is stacked with spiders, Ann, most of them harmless and positively helpful. I am determined to enjoy my time away and I shall return refreshed. Thanks for your good wishes.

    An interesting thought, AnnODyne, the leaf as a potential bedroom. It would be temporary though. We know this because I have just now checked the leaf out and it is still there. A good storm to dislodge it and spider would be forced to find accommodation elsewhere.

    Hopefully I will come back and find my home still standing. Thanks for the wonderful metaphor.

    Reply
  24. newjenny
    June 19, 2010 at 1:02 pm (7 years ago)

    I like this frank post.

    I like exploring what happens when I let the discipline and determination go, even the memories as well. That new free space is what I think of as a truer self.

    Disintegrating and joining the earth's surface is the fate of nearly all writing. If we all had the goal of leaving something substantial for future generations we would nearly all fail. I do wonder why I do write; the only good reason is that I feel drawn to doing so, regardless of lack of any other good reason.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  25. Caio Fernandes
    June 19, 2010 at 2:57 pm (7 years ago)

    so natural…. to read you is like listen my own thoughts sometimes…. so simple , calm and direct .

    Reply
  26. Jane Moxey
    June 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm (7 years ago)

    Safe and happy travels to England, Elisabeth! I admire your determination to be so disciplined, but sometimes it's just good to get unshackled from that self-imposed duty and fly free. Well, obviously "free" flying isn't what you'll be doing on the airplane ride, but you know what I mean. Probably "hang loose" is a more colloquial way to say it. Just let yourself coast and be for a few weeks. I hope you'll return refreshed and with renewed vigor. Surely you'll have some new insights and experiences to chew on! I don't envy you the conference-mingling part, but I do envy you a trip to England! I hope you'll be able to escape into the beautiful countryside a bit. You're sounding a bit like a hamster on a treadmill, so lucky you to be opening the door to your cage and getting out for a change of scenery!

    Reply
  27. Kass
    June 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm (7 years ago)

    Wow, thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I especially liked "resent" circumstances. Nice play on words with recent/past resentments.

    Perhaps there is no reconciliation. All of our attempts is what produces art.

    Reply
  28. Eryl Shields
    June 19, 2010 at 7:22 pm (7 years ago)

    I was reading something just the other day about how people who are really expert at their chosen subject, be it sculpture, physics or sky diving, tend to work according to their natural rhythms. That is they work in short, intense bursts and never try and push themselves when nothing good can come of it. To the rest of us they seem to practise relentlessly but they actually take frequent breaks of varying lengths. Your break in England will, no doubt, do you the world of good. You won't feel guilty about not writing because you won't be in a position to write.

    I always love reading your replies to comments after a post like this, because it seems the writing relieves you of the negative feelings. You always seem so cheery in these replies. I do think telling has purgative qualities. I used to tell all my friends when something bad happened and would then feel perfectly fine and able to deal with it. I now do that with writing, unless it's really bad when I tell all my friends and write about it!

    Reply
  29. Kirk Jusko
    June 19, 2010 at 8:35 pm (7 years ago)

    Elisabeth, if this is how you write when you're feeling listless, then when you're truly motivated, you must write like the last ten Nobel Prize winners in Literature combined.

    Seriously, though, I suspect you may have a very grand but very vague notion of what a particular piece of writing is going to be. It's trying to get past that particular vagueness that you find so daunting. I hope the trip to England helps.

    Reply
  30. Pam Morrison
    June 19, 2010 at 10:12 pm (7 years ago)

    Go well Elisabeth, and may your computer weary hands lead the way into a restful receptive place for as long as it takes. Wintering over – scary, but so vital to the season's rhythms – and to the harvest. (I say it blithely, but I'm still coaxing myself into surrender.) I learnt recently that Arvo Part was musically silent for ten years. When ready to 'speak' again out of that silence he had a new voice.

    Reply
  31. angryparsnip
    June 19, 2010 at 10:47 pm (7 years ago)

    Just a break from your everyday is just what is needed sometimes to clear away the malaise or the spiderwebs … Have a lovely trip and take photos !

    cheers, parsnip

    Reply
  32. SE'LAH...
    June 19, 2010 at 11:06 pm (7 years ago)

    You are such a talented writer and I really enjoy my visits here.

    Enjoy your moments of solace.

    one love.

    Reply
  33. Elisabeth
    June 20, 2010 at 9:06 am (7 years ago)

    The reasons we write are endless, Jenny. A mix of motives I suspect, but certainly for me writing feels to be an imperative.

    I feel anxious when I don't give over some part of my day to writing and it need not be high brow writing.

    It's enough for me to write emails and to blog to keep the words that form in my mind falling back onto the page or screen.

    For me writing offers the greatest sense of comfort and achievement, no matter how painful the process, and depending on the quality of the writing as well. But I'm not too fussed about the genre.

    Thanks, Jenny, for your wise thoughts.

    Reply
  34. Elisabeth
    June 20, 2010 at 10:35 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Caio. I'm honoured thatyou consider our thoughts run along similar lines.

    It's good to find a kindred spirit but I can hardly boast your talent. Your artist's mind is streets ahead of my writer's mind.

    Reply
  35. Elisabeth
    June 20, 2010 at 10:38 am (7 years ago)

    A hamster on a treadmill, Jane, that sounds pretty grim. You're right I'd better get off it quick smart. Thanks for your good wishes. I'm looking forward to seeing the English and the Irish countryside, and this time around I might even manage to take some photos. Stress free photos that is.

    Reply
  36. Elisabeth
    June 20, 2010 at 10:44 am (7 years ago)

    I've offered this quote elsewhere, Kass, so forgive me if you've heard it before but I take t seriously. Drusilla Modjesja, one of my most inspirational writers, quotes in her book, Stravinsky's Lunch, the words of the Australian artist, Grace Cossington Smith:

    "'A continual try,' she said. It’s true of painting, it’s true of writing, and it’s true of life. The process of staying with that continual try can produce long low loops and sudden illuminations, which we see in retrospect as springing open and banging closed. But in the tug and pull of time it is another day lived, another piece of board on the easel, another squeeze from the tube. Cadmium yellow, spectrum yellow, aurelion, Indian yellow, lemon.
    'The sun is God,' Turner said at the end of his life. If anyone knew about yellow, he did…"

    Thanks, Kass.

    Reply
  37. Elisabeth
    June 20, 2010 at 11:01 am (7 years ago)

    Eryl, as far as I'm concerned, you get it.

    You understand the degree to which my writing relieves me of the burdens I often times try to work through on the page.

    To me, it's not so much a 'purgative' process, an evacuation. That implies simply dumping unwanted stuff into others and that can't be particularly helpful.

    Evacuation is mindless. It's what we need to do to eliminate waste. There is writing that can be like this but most people wouldn't want to read it. Hopefully no one wamts to share it.

    No, this type of writing is more of a thinking out loud writing and in the process discovering things about yourself you never knew.

    It helps to have an audience but the audience only arrives after the event. During the process of writing I can scarcely hear myself I am so deeply ensconced in my thoughts.

    It's only later when I revisit the writing, when I revise and edit – I never post writing without some level of revision, though it's not often of a high order – that I become aware of trends and patterns, some of which I like to share.

    Afterward when people respond and a conversation of sorts starts up I generally feel cheerful because the angst I described in the first instance has shifted, if only temporarily.
    This to me is the joy of blog writing. Of course it's different for other genres.

    Thanks, Eryl. I look forward to reading your comments. You have such a wise ahead on your shoulders and you express yourself beautifully.

    Reply
  38. Elisabeth
    June 20, 2010 at 11:04 am (7 years ago)

    I agree with you Kirk, it is as if I have a vague notion of what I want to explore in my writing sometimes and it takes me ages to get to it.

    I hate this process but it seems I cannot avoid it. I'm sure the break will do me good, but in the mean time I'm sure I'll keep hammering away at it. I'm like a dog with a bone. Can't give the effort up unless the bone is taken from me.

    Thanks, Kirk.

    Reply
  39. Elisabeth
    June 20, 2010 at 11:08 am (7 years ago)

    I'm not sure I could endure ten years of silence, Pam, not without going stark raving mad, but that's just me. I like to converse in fact or on paper, I always have.

    That said there is something to be said for silence and I'm sure that the plane trips we take when we don't speak for hours on end, are helpful in that regard.

    I used to go on retreats as a schoolgirl. I did not mind the silence then either.

    Thanks for your good wishes, Pam. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

    Reply
  40. Elisabeth
    June 20, 2010 at 11:13 am (7 years ago)

    I'll try to take photos, Parsnip. I just had a conversation wih my husand about getting my camera battery charged, and buying a replacement battery and memory card to hold all the photos I might take.

    Mind you when I was at the camera shop earlier today, the man tried to talk me into buying a card that holds double the quantity – upsizing its called – especially before an overseas trip and I told him I'd be lucky to take one or two.

    I'm not that way disposed. But I shall try.

    Thanks, Parsnip.

    Reply
  41. Elisabeth
    June 20, 2010 at 11:16 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Se'Lah, for your good wishes and kindness. I shall try to enjoy my solace.

    It's such a lovely word, 'solace'. I feel comforted at the thought already.

    Reply
  42. persiflage
    June 20, 2010 at 12:35 pm (7 years ago)

    Perhaps with so many changes in store for you while you are away your mind will be able to rest, sort some things out, integrate new experiences with the old, and new creativity and truths will emerge. I hope so, and hope you have a wonderful and splendid time. I mind like your will always be questing and wondering.

    Reply
  43. Jim Murdoch
    June 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm (7 years ago)

    The gap between desire and ability can be a wide one indeed, Lis. Writing is so not like any other job I’ve ever done where you go into an office and just start because you have to. If you’re not in the right frame of mind then you can go through the motions of writing but that’s all it is. There are so many things that I want to do just now. I want to finish my novel but all I keep doing at the moment is scribbling down notes and the more notes I write the farther away from my initial concept the book goes. But that’s a lot to do with the nature of writing. If I was a carpenter and someone asked me to make them a desk and I turned up in the van with a table and chairs that I’d been ‘inspired’ to make for them I have no doubt that they’d be less than chuffed.

    The way I look at it is that I’ve written more than Philip Larkin and anything else is icing on the cake. He fully intended to write a third novel but never managed it and by the time he was my age the best of his poetry was mostly behind him. You can only do what you can only do.

    There are many things that I don’t finish or neglect. My daughter bought me an electronic picture frame for the Christmas before last I think and I’ve literally never opened the box yet. My wife bought me a heater for the goldfish bowl in my study (which has been empty ever since Fishy became too big for it and relocated into a proper tank in the living room) and it’s still lying there untouched. I too only do chores when they have to be done and never as often as they should be done. I’m in a rut.

    I suspect that you are too. Ruts can be fun but only for so long. What you need is to see what life is like without your rut so that you can learn to appreciate it again. I imagined I would have sickened myself of all this blog stuff by now but I’m just coming to the end of my third year and I’ve become comfortable. I’ve lost the desire to veer to left or right. I barely look to the left or the right. I’ve passed the stage where unfulfilled expectations drag me down. I’ve also lost my need for perfection which I think is a good thing. I put up a post every 3½ days and what you get is what can be done in 3½ days.

    We have been brought up with the old adage ringing in our ears that we should finish what we start. Like most adages it sounds good until you start to take a closer look at it. Like most of these neat sayings there’s always another one out there that says the very opposite and yet comes across as just as true. Enough is enough is one of them. Time is valuable and so once we have gleaned as much as we need from an experience what is the point in continuing to the bitter end?

    I’ve said this before and I’ll no doubt say it again but climbing to within ten feet of the top of Everest is an achievement and not a failure. There are plenty of instances in my life where I’ve done that, got to the where the finishing post is in sight, realised that I was perfectly capable of finishing and then gone off and done something else instead. What you need to be able to recognise is what things you can afford to do that with and what things ought to be finished, what things will do more harm unfinished. I suspect your thesis is one of those that you need to finish. You’ve just been at it too long so that the person who’ll be finishing it will not be the same person who started it.

    You need a break. You need distance. Going to the other side of the world is a bit on the extreme side but it will do just fine plus – wisely – not all the trip is business. Hopefully the time away will be just long enough for you to start missing your rut. Or perhaps you’ll come home with a shovel, fill in the old one and start digging a new one.

    Reply
  44. Kathryn Magendie
    June 20, 2010 at 2:17 pm (7 years ago)

    Well you are writing beautiful thoughtful insightful words even when you are "not writing them" —

    I've gone through these apathetic times … oh yes! I can't do that now, since i have deadlines – well, I can, but then my publishers would be very upset with me – still, some days I want to run into the woods and hide away 🙂

    Reply
  45. Bossy Betty
    June 20, 2010 at 3:34 pm (7 years ago)

    Your trip may be just what you need. I understand totally wanting to write and then being given the golden opportunity to do so and NOT being able too. So frustrating. Here's to seeing things through new eyes and to the renewal that can happen at any time!

    Reply
  46. angela simione
    June 20, 2010 at 9:00 pm (7 years ago)

    see… your blog is such a gift! i can't tell you how lucky i feel to have stumbled across you and have this space to roll around in, take comfort in, take heart in; and also the gems you drop over at my place. and so i feel compelled to give one of those gems back because it fits and is so full of acceptance, a hug like no other. that's what it felt like when you gave it to me:

    " She remembered from what now seemed the astonishing free and spacious days of her education the phenomenon of the first day's work on a task. One had to peel one's mind from its run of preoccupations: coffee to buy, am I in love, the yellow dress needs mending, Tim is unhappy, what is wrong with Marcus, how shall I live my life? It took time before the task in hand seemed possible, and more before it came to life, and more still before it became imperative and obsessive.

    There had to be a time before thought, a wool-gathering time when nothing happened, a time of yawning, of wandering eyes and feet, of reluctance to do what would finally become delightful and energetic. Threads of thought had to rise and be gathered and catch on other threads of old thought, from some unused memory store."

    you are in the wool-gathering time, maybe. and it is a form of writing too. 🙂

    Reply
  47. Kath Lockett
    June 21, 2010 at 1:14 am (7 years ago)

    A change of scene, location, sights, sounds, foods etc is just what the word doctor orders, methinks.

    Besides that, just writing about how you're struggling with your writing still reads like beautiful writing to a pleb like me!

    Reply
  48. covnitkepr1
    June 21, 2010 at 2:40 am (7 years ago)

    I’ve enjoyed looking over your blog. I came across it through another blog I follow, and I’m glad I did. I am now a follower of yours as well. Feel free to look over my blog and perhaps become a follower as well.

    Reply
  49. Alesa Warcan
    June 21, 2010 at 5:12 am (7 years ago)

    As is its wont, light waxes and wanes as you channel it through the multifaceted jewel that is your mind.
    Each facet splits the riotous stream into shattered rainbows whose many-hued dances you capture as the jewel slowly spins.
    Light is never still.

    Safe journeys Elisabeth.

    Reply
  50. KleinsteMotte
    June 21, 2010 at 5:20 am (7 years ago)

    Seasons change. So do moods. You didn't fix the sweater. Is it symbolic of the something? Hahaha.. Not liking the domestic chores? Holiday time! YUP. Go have some FUN!! And thanks for visiting my blog.

    Reply
  51. Elizabeth
    June 21, 2010 at 7:04 am (7 years ago)

    I imagine that your energy WILL come back (and perhaps I'm repeating what others have already said, but there are so many comments that I can't possibly read them all!). As I get older, I find more and more that everything changes and nothing stays the same —

    I do hope you have a lovely vacation and come back with a sense of renewal. I do love reading your words —

    Reply
  52. A Cuban In London
    June 21, 2010 at 9:09 am (7 years ago)

    Energy comes and goes. It's a fact of life. Reflecting on the whys and wherefores is good as long as it's not destructive. I wish a safe journey to my host country. 🙂

    Greetings from London.

    Reply
  53. Elisabeth
    June 21, 2010 at 9:22 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks for your good wishes, Persiflage. I'm not sure about a mind like mine, but I hope you're right about the new experiences I might encounter in England and Ireland, at work and at play.

    I doubt that I'll do much resting. Trips overseas are rarely restful for me, but I'll try to relax as much as I can especially after the conference.

    Reply
  54. Elisabeth
    June 21, 2010 at 9:42 am (7 years ago)

    You're right about the gap between desire and ability,Jim. It can be very wide indeed.

    I try to ignore my state of mind when I write and write through it regardless, hence the at times turgid posts you see before you here.

    At other times things move more smoothly but more often than not I do not experience great pleasure as I write, a least not in the context of what I write but in the process.

    I make myself stick with it. 'Bum glue' someone wrote is the essential ingredient for any writer.

    The ability to stay stuck to your seat regardless. Blogging gives one the right to put out bits of writing that might well otherwise not see the light of day.

    A lot of what I post has a lot to do with process or the odd incident that seems meaningful in some oftentimes inexplicable way.

    I put posts up in the hope of getting a response even as I do not know exactly what I have posted because it is only in the response to the writing that something else reveals itself to me and it may not be about the writing itself, maybe more about the process.

    I tend to finish things, Jim. I cannot bear to leave them incomplete, but I am a far cry from a perfectionist.

    I joke with my husband often. He is a perfectionist and will not let himself start on a task unless circumstances are ideal, nor will he let himself complete a task until it's just right.

    I, on the other hand am a student of the near-enough-is-good-enough school except sometimes when it comes to my writing, but I do not torture myself with getting things perfect only near enough to good enough. At least my version of that.

    Thanks, Jim. I love your comments. You offer so much to savour and mull over and reflect upon. Your words are such a treat.

    Reply
  55. Mim
    June 21, 2010 at 9:48 am (7 years ago)

    What is it the Buddhists say? The only reality is change. It sounds as though you need a rest!

    Be well!
    Mim

    Reply
  56. Elisabeth
    June 21, 2010 at 10:48 am (7 years ago)

    I'm no good at writing deadlines, Kathryn, which is why two years before my PhD is due for completion I verge on panic. I like to have things well organised in advance.

    As much as I'm happy with 'good enough', I prefer not to leave the good enough to the last minute.

    Thanks for your good wishes, Kathryn. These 'apathetic times' will no doubt pass.

    Reply
  57. Elisabeth
    June 21, 2010 at 10:52 am (7 years ago)

    I hope the trip is successful, Betty. It can't be as frustrating as those times when writing refuses to flow, or can it?

    I look forward to that possibility of renewal. Thanks, Betty.

    Reply
  58. Elisabeth
    June 21, 2010 at 10:56 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Angela. How generous of you to send back AS Byatt's quote to me. What a timely reminder. It's not that I had forgotten, but it helps to be reminded. So let's just say I'm wool gathering.

    You're hardly a pleb, Kath. I love your writing. It zings along with such energy and refuses to flag.

    But you're right, a change of scene and location might be just the thing.

    Thanks, Kath.

    Reply
  59. Elisabeth
    June 21, 2010 at 11:03 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks, for your comment covnitkepr1 – that's some blog name. I checked out your blog as you suggested. I hope you don't intend to try to convert me. I'm a lost cause. I'm into ideas, rather than beliefs, but thanks for visiting.

    Reply
  60. Elisabeth
    June 21, 2010 at 11:09 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Alesa of the beautiful, lyrical and poetic words. I'm honoured. Thanks for your good wishes on my journey.

    Thanks, too KleinsteMotte. Your blog title must be German? meaning small word? Perhaps. I should know. My son-in-law is German, he speaks all the time to our grandson in German, but here I am only guessing.

    I agree that moods change has mine has already. All these good wishes lighten my spirits. Thanks again.

    Reply
  61. Elisabeth
    June 21, 2010 at 11:16 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Elizabeth, for your good wishes. My energy is already on the way back.

    I've begun to pack and organise the basic necessities for the trip. Hopefully it will be a source of renewal.

    Thanks, to you too, Cuban. I look forward to landing in your host country but I'll be only a short while in London.

    We land at Heathrow then drive in the direction of Cambridge with the aim of visiting my husband's ancestors' graves in Shillington.

    It amazes me that here there is a place called Hanscombe End Road, near to the grave yard in which at least one of the gravestones bears my husband's name, William H.

    I've seen photographs and I'm delighted to be able to see the place where my husband's family ghosts are settled.

    Reply
  62. Elisabeth
    June 21, 2010 at 11:18 am (7 years ago)

    I agree with you and the Buddhists Mim – the only reality is change, and I also agree that I need a bit of it, not too much mind you because I think my life is sufficiently unsettled already.

    Thanks for your good wishes, Mim.

    Reply
  63. R.H.
    June 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm (7 years ago)

    I'm different to you all. I'll finish my magnum opus* then do nothing; in Rokewood, with Ann ODyne.

    -Robert.

    *It's disgraceful.

    Reply
  64. Lorenzo
    June 21, 2010 at 9:38 pm (7 years ago)

    Enjoy the trip to England, Elisabeth. And enjoy the journey of your writing life, i.e. the every day writing, not the final destination, that ever shifting and evasive sense of 'completion'. I can understand the frustration over not achieving a sense of 'completion', but perhaps that is an illusionary goal. As long as the days when those "sticky moorings" have you feeling trapped produce posts as well written and evocative to read as this one, I have to feel you are on the right track. Any closer to completion? Who knows? But definitely on the right track.

    Reply
  65. Elisabeth
    June 22, 2010 at 8:06 am (7 years ago)

    I'd like to read your magnum opus when it's finished, RH, and if you like you can read mine.

    Maybe then we can all – you me and AnnODyne and any other enthusiastic others can get together in Rokewood, but I doubt that I'd ever live there. I prefer city living. Thanks, R.H.

    Reply
  66. Elisabeth
    June 22, 2010 at 8:11 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Lorenzo. You are right, of course, this writing life is a journey,and one whose destination I shall hopefully never reach.

    Thank you for your good wishes. I hope I'm on that evasive 'right' track. From here it's too close to tell.

    Good luck with your artistic journey as well.

    Reply
  67. R.H.
    June 22, 2010 at 3:41 pm (7 years ago)

    I'm done with the city, I never loved it but now I don't even like it, it's run off from me.

    Reply
  68. Eryl Shields
    June 22, 2010 at 10:08 pm (7 years ago)

    You're right, 'purge' doesn't describe the process at all. In fact it's pretty much the opposite, it's more like digesting: the physical act of writing brings feelings from the gut to the mind in much the way digesting food brings nutrients from the gut to the blood. Revision is then the process of, and here my analogy starts to crumble, finding the best use for all the mental nutriments. As you can see I'm still working this one out!

    Reply
  69. Anonymous
    June 23, 2010 at 11:17 am (7 years ago)

    You wrote particularly beautifully about not writing. I agree whole heartedly about travel. I do not like it at all but benefit from it. I haven't been anywhere for 20 yrs and am probably the only Australian (apart from Murnane) who has not been to England. However, I am going to India in November.
    I am sure you will be inspired by your trip and you will survive the flight! Why the American "airplane" and "elevator". Perhaps you were already becoming international. We have aeroplanes and lifts here! We are hopeless at holding our own ways and words.
    God speed. Jane

    Reply
  70. Elisabeth
    June 23, 2010 at 11:41 am (7 years ago)

    I thought of you tonight R.H. We were discussing the media hype about the so-called gunman in Melbourne on Monday and the way in which the media – whoever they are – were desperate to get the wind up people.

    I don't want to underestimate the seriousness of these things but I'm weary with the stuff that goes on to reduce people who are struggling even further. You'd know about this, I suspect. No wonder you prefer the country. The city is full of self righteous sharks.

    Reply
  71. Elisabeth
    June 23, 2010 at 11:54 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks again, Eryl. I sometimes liken the digestive process to that of thinking. Like you, I think that what goes on in the mind has its parallels with what goes on in the stomach.

    The digestive process is selective. There's stuff we eliminate because it's unnecessary or not good for us, but equally there's stuff we keep inside most of which hopefully we need in the form of nutrition. There's also the stuff we don't need in the form of excess.

    The excess we wear off with exercise, the good stuff we metabolize.

    I agree, too that analogies can only take us so far. Thanks, Eryl.

    Reply
  72. Elisabeth
    June 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm (7 years ago)

    Jane, it's good to hear from you again.

    My husband takes me and our daughters to task if we use the expression 'train station' for 'railway station'. He, too, hates Americanisms.

    What's another word for elevator? Is it lift?

    Airplane should be aeroplane, I know but every time I write that word these days I think of Aeroplane jelly, and the jingle starts up in my head. Sorry for my carelessness.

    I hope you have a good time in India. To me this country is more interesting than England. Please let me know how you find it. Thanks.

    Reply
  73. R.H.
    June 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm (7 years ago)

    Australian cities are overpopulated. But thousands more migrants pouring in every week, just so Harvey Norman can sell more washing machines. And bosses can get cheap labour.
    Public transport crisis, chumps wailing they can't get a seat. Water crisis, trees dying, same chumps taking two showers a day. Housing crisis, thousands sleeping out, houses you'd mistake for backyard dunnies selling for $800,000. Booze dives, open all night. Drunks all over the streets. Broken glass attacks, knives.
    Melbourne, a pimp lord mayor and a pimp state premier: “We'll fix that problem,” they say, “Plastic cups and knife searches.” But golly, they won't slow the booze. This is your city, a whole nothing of clothes shops and cafes. And fear. Harassment. Noise, stink.

    The monkeys are overcrowded, need a bigger cage.

    Reply
  74. Anonymous
    June 24, 2010 at 2:47 am (7 years ago)

    The cages that move you up and down have always been called lifts. I do not know another word for elevator as it is not a word I use.

    Perhaps you could trick the jingle out of your mind by saying "I fly in a jelly" and just skip the aeroplane.

    Then we have a fly in the jelly as well as a leaf in a web.
    Please do not be careless with our language. I think it is this lack of care that has us become another state of America, in so many ways.
    Now, the poms will be rabbiting on at you about our female P.M. How tiresome. Might be time for you to put in the earplugs. Have a lovely time. Jane

    Reply
  75. R.H.
    June 24, 2010 at 3:39 am (7 years ago)

    She writes traveler too, instead of traveller. And the next hip calling me "guy" will cop a headlock. The only guy I respect is Guy Fawkes, he knew what he was doing.

    Reply
  76. Anonymous
    June 24, 2010 at 11:02 am (7 years ago)

    A kindred spirit. Sorry to hog your blog Elisabeth but you will be packing by now or getting your last bit of kip before the jet lag.
    But how great to find another soul who loathes being called a "guy." I have seen waiters go up to tables full of old women and call them "guys". For Pete's sake!
    I have been fighting this one for years. It drives me crazy but we have lost this battle – completely. If they claim it is a generic term, just ask them this: If you see a girl walking along – do you say "Oh, look at that guy walking along?" No, because it is not a friggin generic term. It is American slang for man. So it is also a feminist issue. Women have become men. Well, we won't get into that one, but you know what I mean, I am sure. Teachers call their little charges guys too. How sad for the little girls. Also sad for the little boys who must wonder who they are referring to. Guy Clarke is good too RH. My little boy loves playing his music. Perhaps we could fill the space with horror American invasion stories, while Elisabeth is away. Have a good visit to the home country Elisabeth.

    Reply
  77. Elisabeth
    June 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm (7 years ago)

    Well Jane and R.H., full apologies for my spelling mistakes. My computer is forever underlining certain words – anything that ends in 'ise' it wants to turn to 'ize'. I try to resist. Words like colour and honour, it also wants to abbreviate.

    I try hard to spell the way I was taught as a child at school but it's not always easy to maintain such standards. Bedsides I don't want to be too much of a word fascist.

    I'm clearly more optimistic about the world than you R.H, and maybe it's not warranted. I suppose it depends on where you stand.

    And yes, Jane, I have just now finished packing. It's late – my last sleep before tomorrow and our departure.

    I'll tell you all, or as much as I can, when I return.

    Thanks you two both, 'Anonymous' Jane and the elusive and unpredictable R.H.

    Reply
  78. Marylinn Kelly
    June 24, 2010 at 6:55 pm (7 years ago)

    Once again, somewhat daunted but undeterred by the volume of comments – and your generous responses. As you will not be posting before you leave, I hope this note finds you in time…all good wishes for your travels and discoveries. xoxo

    Reply
  79. jabblog
    June 24, 2010 at 9:12 pm (7 years ago)

    Too late – I meant to read and respond before now. Nonetheless, you need a break, Elisabeth, and you're surely going to get one. I hope it will refresh you and that you will feel less jaded on your return. Fresh experiences and a change – a substantial change – in routine will allow you the opportunity to recharge your batteries and recover your energy.
    Enjoy your break! I look forward to your return 🙂

    Reply
  80. Elisabeth
    June 24, 2010 at 10:59 pm (7 years ago)

    Last posting, I imagine before I leave today, Marilynn.

    Thanks for your kind words and good wishes. We leave at the end of today and I'm working today but there's nothing like a final blog farewell.

    Thanks to you, too Janice. As you suggest, I hope to be less jaded on my return.

    At the moment I'm in departure mode, all eyes directed towards that final closing of the suitcase.

    Reply
  81. R.H.
    June 25, 2010 at 12:09 am (7 years ago)

    'Traveler' is American spelling. It seems your computer is set for American English. You can change it. I use a dictionary in place of spellcheck, the underlinings are distracting. But I still make other mistakes (leaving words out for instance) even though I check my comments before posting them. That's very odd, I see it all differently once I've posted and can't grab it back to revise.

    I envy you going on this trip, I'd be enormously excited. The real true happy RH is on a plane to somewhere. Travel is the best way to spend money, I've always said that. And you are a good heart, a gentlewoman.

    Bon Voyage.

    Reply
  82. R.H.
    June 25, 2010 at 12:24 am (7 years ago)

    And thanks anonymous, but I don't consider Americanese an invasion. It's our fault.

    Reply
  83. Kit Courteney
    June 25, 2010 at 4:57 am (7 years ago)

    Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.

    I have to say that I am blown away by your blog! You write with such feeling that it's a genuine pleasure to take in every word.

    I do so hope you return from England (I'm not far from Sussex – it's rather nice here in the summer!) feeling full of zing.

    Very best wishes for your flight/s – may they be totally unbumpy :0)

    Reply
  84. Elisabeth
    June 25, 2010 at 6:56 am (7 years ago)

    I'm running out the door. I'll adjust my spell check on my return. Thanks again R.H.

    And thanks, Kit. It's good to see you here. I'll think of you Kit, as I travel through Essex, near Sussex near Brighton.

    And then, what of Wessex or is that the imaginary place made famous by Thomas Hardy?

    Bye for now.

    Reply
  85. Annotated Margins
    June 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm (7 years ago)

    I often wonder whether memory is nothing more than something we create when we sit and write, either on the computer or in our thoughts. There are days when I'd rather do something else, which really is nothing at all, particularly when there other things to think about.

    Reply

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