Tuesday, January 20, 2015

the pursuit of perfection



Two years ago I bought the most delicious fabric. A shiny burgundy with a gold and white paisley design swirling across it. Delicious. My plans for it involved a simple bomber jacket, something easy and casual wrought in the most detailed and intricate fabric I could find - it felt like the perfect reflection of my sartorial leanings. Last weekend I finally cut that fabric. I pinned the deftly trimmed pattern to it and carefully snipped out the pieces for the jacket it had always been intended for. As I cut, first the pattern pieces and then the fabric, it occurred to me how similar my sewing is to my writing. 

In a conversation with a writer friend recently we mused on the pursuit of perfection, the fear that filled us both that our words could not fall perfectly from our pens. And how this fear stopped us from writing. We were filled with ideas, with ways we wanted to tell our stories and yet this pursuit of some idealised version of perfection acted like a obstacle we lacked the skills to pass. If it cannot be perfect, it cannot be written. Madness, folly; and yet, surely we are not alone?

Sewing, like writing, is an art. The only difference is that the pieces that must come together, the ones that must be joined by careful stitch after careful stitch, are clearly identified. Unlike writing, sewing provides instructions, pictures, clearly outlined courses of action; pin this to here, stitch that to this, trim here and press that. But, still, this pursuit of perfection permeates my sewing, too.

My sewing, like my writing, is constantly second guessed. I question my own skills, my ability to sew through a problem, to fix a mistake, my comprehension of a pattern and its instructions. I wonder every time I reach for my pins and my scissors and my sewing machine if it is all a pointless exercise in nothingness; if the time spent head bent over a machine, pins held in my mouth with pursed lips, eyes focussed intently on the task at hand, is time wasted because surely I will never be able to create anything like the picture in my head. Surely I will never be able to create something perfect. 

And yet, I still sew. I still write (as evidenced by this space). Aristotle said that taking pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work. So perhaps the point is to want to sew, to want to write, more than that to thoroughly enjoy the process. To take pleasure in a nicely stitched and pressed seam or a handful of words that smoothly push against one another.

Perhaps the how in overcoming the fear is simply doing. With every stitch, with every word, with every project that nears its end, we realise that the mistakes we so desperately do not want to make, are only visible to ourselves. And not just that, but that it is these very mistakes that makes our work uniquely ours.

Perhaps it's both? 

I've decided that the jacket I imagined two years ago in that delicious burgundy paisley fabric must come overseas with me. I've decided that despite my doubts, despite the hopeless pursuit of perfection, this jacket will get on the plane with me in April. I'm sure there will be mistakes, stitches in the wrong place, problems masked with the adeptness of a sewer accustomed to doing so; but, like the sentences I write, they will be noticeable only to me and they will be exactly what makes it unique to me.

kb xx

Thursday, January 08, 2015

89 days

3.17 months
12.71 weeks
89 days

The closer I get to leaving, the further I feel from ready. What is that about? The abstract is most certainly a landscape now. The details become clearer every day, the reality more potent.

I wondered about cold feet. And turned to the internet. And Italian proverb? American writer Stephen Crane's 1896 Maggie: A Girl of the Streets? Change is daunting, not least because routine is comforting, but it's also really ridiculously exciting, too. Well, at least when it's planned. 

2136 hours
128,160 minutes
Too many seconds

Time seems like such an arbitrary measurement sometimes. Because it feels so strange sometimes, it doesn't make sense: too quick, too slow, too much, not enough. 

There is so much I have to do before I go. And yet I want to really enjoy these last few weeks. I want to soak up the warm Australian sun as summer rolls on. I want to imprint the sound of the cockies as they settle in for the night in the pine trees the border the boundary of my backyard. I want to lay in my bed and watch the sky change colour as the sun rises. I want to create new memories with the people that matter, ones that will stick. 

And yet it's not like I'm going away forever; like I'm catching that one-way flight to Mars and will never return. It's a strange contradiction of thought and feelings that are running through my mind. 

89 days. It's nothing and everything. 

kb xx

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

goals, not resolutions



I've never been one to make new years resolutions. They've always felt arbitrary and pointless - their timing probably contributes to most of that. Why do we wait for this one specific day to make change? Or, at least, to resolve to make change. 

Goals, however, I like. 

Especially ones that are in some way measurable, ones that are specific enough that they don't allow any wiggle room. Next year is going to be a significant year for me. I'll be finalising my dual citizenship and not long after that taking my shiny new EU passport overseas. I'll be moving halfway across the world, thousands of miles away from everything that is familiar and comfortable and easy. I'll be stepping far outside my comfort zone, a concept that is simultaneously terrifying and thrilling. Seems as good a time as any to set myself some goals that also push me outside that comfort zone. 

As any good goal-setter knows, writing yourself a list and tacking it to your wall is one thing. Publicly announcing said goals is a whole other kettle of fish. Hence, I wasn't sure I wanted to actually publish this. I mean, what if I fail miserably and achieve nothing next year? What if all my abstract non-concrete plans disintegrate around me and I find myself slinking home with my theoretical tail between me legs?

Sylvia Plath said the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt, so I guess it's all fodder for the work, right?

In that, somewhat, optimistic spirit, on this the last day in 2014, I'm going to list a couple of my writerly goals for 2015.

- Finish my tbr pile before I leave for London: there are probably about twenty physical books to be read before I hop that plane for Europe. Maybe it's about tying up loose ends, I'm not sure but this feels like a really important thing to do. It's doable - I'm sure.

- Work on some strategies for organising my work: that is organising my completed work, in progress work and random snippets of thoughts and ideas into a system that at least looks tidy from the outside. (Open to ideas and suggestions from far more organised folk than me!)

- Experiment more with form: lyrical essays, the merging of creative narrative and journalism, poetry, micro and flash fiction. If you're going to push yourself, push yourself as far as you can, right? There are so many styles and genres that I feel I've yet to fully explore. And considering my impending adventure, it feels like exactly the right time to do it.

- Submit my work to journals/magazines/sites: if a writer writes and no-one sees their words, are they still a writer? Maybe. For me, part of the joy of writing is sharing it with others and to do that I need to put my work into the world. I need to open my work, and myself, up to critique and questioning and criticism. And that is a scary proposition. Rejection is a real, and sometimes horrible, thing. But rejection is countered by just one person, just one, telling you they liked or loved or understood or appreciated what you wrote.

I published my first piece outside of this blog only a few short weeks ago (this on the idea of two literary families in light of my soon-to-be dual citizenship for Writers Bloc, in case you were wondering) and there is no doubt there is some connection between that moment and my growing feeling that I'm ready to be more open with my work. In an email to a good friend a few weeks ago I wrote about how the publication of that piece felt like a thumbs up from the universe; like fate giving me a not-so-subtle shove towards my future. 

As real as rejection is, doubt is much more tangible (in that way something completely intangible can be tangible) for me. But the only way to counter that doubt is by pushing my work into the world. I guess I'm starting that not only with the Writers Bloc piece but also with pushing these goals into the world.  

I have more writerly goals than those listed above, but I'm going to keep those to myself. Sometimes it's good to keep a little something under wraps, close to your skin and secret from the big, bad world.

So here's to a new year, to reading that tbr pile, getting organised, experimenting and pushing back against the self-doubt. Here's to 2015. 

kb xx