Friday, June 18, 2010

Don't give up your day job

When young people ask me what they should do to become a writer, one of the things I say is, Make sure you find a day job you like.  Their eyes invariably glaze over, as mine did when I received the same advice at the same age.  They no doubt have the idea that publishing a book will mean that all of their problems - artistic and otherwise - will magically disappear.  That's what I thought too.  But for most writers, including some of our most celebrated Australian authors, day jobs are necessary.  You need to choose one that doesn't draw on the same pool of energy you need for writing, that's all: it was because of this I gave up teaching - at the end of the week, nothing was left over.

For the past three years, my day job has been at the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia with the wonderfully archaic title of Sergeant-at-Arms.  I only mention this now as I am leaving it to return to public-sector-land.  It has been a wonderful job - I've been the only civilian in the state with the power of arrest, apparently - and I've particularly enjoyed wielding my big gold stick (aka the mace) to announce the Speaker at the commencement of each sitting.  The hours on sitting weeks have been less lovely, and there's been a lot of pressure associated with the job from time to time, but on the whole, it has been an experience I've been grateful to have.  The bond between my colleagues, forged through the extremities of parliamentary work, is remarkable.  I will miss Parliament, and them. 

So, if you can find a day job you like, you're lucky.  To have a day job you love is something to be treasured - even as you leave it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Proust Questionnaire

Good to have something to think about when one is awake at a ridiculously early hour on a Sunday.  Here are my answers to the questionnaire, via the fabulous Ms Howell at insideadog, who invites you to post your own.**

What is your most marked characteristic?
Insomnia (yes, I know that's not really a characteristic, but it feels like one at the moment).  Other than that, watchfulness.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Intelligence and humour.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Intelligence, warmth and humour.

What do you most value in your friends?

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What is your favorite occupation?
Writing.  Novels, preferably, but anything will do. 

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Dog beach.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Cruelty to others.

In which country would you like to live?
(Southern, rural) Germany.

Who are your favorite writers?
Changes by the day.  Timeless favourites: Margaret Atwood, Doris Lessing, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy.
Who are your favorite poets?
Auden, John Forbes, Dorothy Porter, Philip Larkin, Emily Dickinson, Blake, ee cummings, too many living Australian poets to mention.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Hmmn.  I'll get back to you on that.

Who is your favorite heroine of fiction?
Laura Ingalls (and yes, she is fiction.  Read The Ghost in the Little House if you don't know what I mean.)

Who are your favorite composers?
Bach for relaxation, Leo Brouwer for weirdness, Ulvaeus and Andersson for joy.

Who are your favorite painters?
 Brett Whitely, Sidney Nolan.

What are your favorite names?

What is it that you most dislike?

Which talent would you most like to have?
To be able to really sing.

How would you like to die?
Painlessly, of course.  Torn between sudden and lingering as preferred, but then, who has a say in these things?

What is your current state of mind?
Generally optimistic but slightly anxious.

What is your motto?
It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.

** And here is Lili's, and here is Penni's.