This month is my birthday month. It’s a milestone birthday. Which means…. Milestone surprises. And I’m already being spoilt…
This beautiful early birthday gift arrived. I have desperately needed to upgrade my 10-year old Mac Pro and at the top of my wish list was this sexy rose gold MacBook (2017). I’ve been dreaming about this gorgeous machine since the first model came out in 2015.
Surprise, Surprise!! My family decided to spoil me this year with this sleek and sexy ultra-portable powerhouse. I just have to say I want all the things in Rose Gold.
So I’d like to introduce Rizzoli. Named after my favourite fictional female detective.
I absolutely love this MacBook. Apple I’ve got to say you’ve outdone yourself this time.
To be honest it was a little daunting to switch to a new laptop after 10 years on my trusty Mac. But thanks to the brilliant migration assistant on my Apple time capsule, the backup and transfer of the last 10 years went smoothly. Nothing was lost. Thankfully.
I’ve had it for about 2 weeks now. And it is an absolute delight to write with. The butterfly keyboard is so responsive and really comfortable to type on. The battery life is phenomenal. I can use it on battery charge for a full day without needing to be charged. I also love that I can recharge it with the same power-bank I use for my iPad mini in case I’m not near a power point. But the biggest difference is just how portable this tiny MacBook is. Packs all the power and punch of my old MacBook and so much more but in an ultra-light minimalist design. Truly this machine is just pure delight to work on. I’ve got to say I personally think this is the perfect writers’ laptop.
Now the next thing I need to do is upgrade to Scrivener 3. Scrivener 2 is my power-weapon in all things writing but after watching the introduction to what’s new and improved in Scrivener 3 from the brilliant Scrivener Coach, Joseph Michael, I think Scrivener 3 is definitely going to hit all my sweet spots.
I also decided to treat myself to some early birthday treats…
Of course it was stationery related….You can never have enough paper and pen things.
The one on the left is going to be a series catch-all bible for my current WIP Tattooist- Blood & Ink series.
The one on the right is for my shiny new secret WIP series: Nightborn.
Shiny new MacBook ✔
Shiny new Notebooks ✔
Shiny Writer in procrastination…Progress through Procaffeination ✔👩🏻💻☕😂
The last two weeks were difficult for me and for those I love. Two deaths to commemorate. And another loss for someone I love. My soul felt clogged up by the mud of grief. I needed a reprieve, a solace, a nourishing…
So I went to an art exhibit that has currently been showing in Auckland.
The Body Laid Bare| Masterpieces from Tate [On view March 18 through July 16, 2017]
Encounter the human form—in all its complexity—in “The Body Laid Bare: Masterpieces from Tate,” Auckland Art Gallery’s major exhibition for 2017. Beautiful, sensual and at times provocative, more than 100 artworks from Tate, London, tell the story of the nude and trace artists’s captivation with the human body over the last two centuries. Journeying through time, from the classical, biblical and literary subjects of the 1800s to the body politics of contemporary art, “The Body Laid Bare” brings together masterpieces by renowned artists including JMW Turner, Auguste Rodin, Pierre Bonnard, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman, Sarah Lucas and many more. At the heart of the show is Auguste Rodin’s marble sculpture The Kiss which—although celebrated worldwide—is travelling beyond Europe for the first time. Other renowned works include Picasso’s Nude woman in a red chair (1932) and Bonnard’s The bath (1925).
This was both an exquisite and confronting exhibit. There were pieces that were raw and erotic, pieces that were heart-breakingly beautiful, pieces that were confronting and pieces that simply awed me. But each piece had its own place in this one of a kind exhibit. I went for Rodin’s “The Kiss” but I was transported on a visual journey that filled the hollow parts of me. The exhibit was everything and nothing that I anticipated.
So let me share with you the three pieces that absolutely entranced me and for a moment filled the dark hollow spaces with a hopeful light.
The Kiss | Auguste Rodin (1901-4)
The Kiss | Close-up
The Kiss | Auguste Rodin (1901-4)
The Kiss is awe-inspiring, simply exquisite. I have seen many images of this sculpture but the privilege of seeing this in its stone flesh is breath-taking. Truly a memory that I will treasure.
The Lament For Icarus | Herbert James Draper 
Words failed me at this exquisite piece of work. I had not heard of Herbert James Draper prior to this exhibit. But this is one of those pieces of art that touched my soul. The image here does not do the true work justice. Suffice to say, this is a piece that will inspire me for the rest of my life.
Arched Figure | Louise Bourgeois [1993 (2010 cast)]
Arched Figure | Louise Bourgeois [1993 (cast 2010)]
Louise Bourgeois’s Arched Figure is both confronting and exquisite. What stood out to me though was that the sculptor was 82 when she sculpted this truly magnificent Figure. I was awed to imagine her rough-hewned, wrinkled, strong hands manipulating the clay into muscles, ribs and limbs, finally giving life to this Arched Figure; perhaps raging against the age of her years but yet still revelling in her ability and her art.
Tell me where you go, what you do for light in darker times?
I have been dreaming of wolves for the last year or so. My dreams are always vivid. I also have many lucid dreams; dreams where I can control the dream and even where I can re-enter a dream days after having it. All of my stories have come from dreams. Vivid dreams that wake me up at 4am in the morning scrambling for pen and paper to write down what I see in my dream world. But lately there have been two dreams that I keep on having…
One is a dream of wolves and the other is a stirring in my imagination, new scenes in a new story in a new series…
The wolf dream is a favourite and one that I love to return to. I have always believed that if I have a spirit animal, as the native Americans talk about, it is the Wolf. There is something about wolves that call to my soul. So it does not surprise me that for the last year I have been dreaming of wolves. I have been at the crossroads of death and life, grief and joy these last 400 days. Dreaming of the wolves symbolises change, a wandering and roaming both literally and figuratively, a need for freedom and a longing for my pack. I am searching. I am hunting. I am roaming. But I am roaming in the spirit of the Wolf. I am feeling more certain than I have been in a very long time of where I want to be, who I want to be, what I want to write.
“When the Wolf appears, either physically, through meditation or through a dream, it’s often a way of telling you that you’re either using your intelligence and instincts well to solve a challenging life situation, or that you’re not using them at all…
“The Wolf represents the pathfinder. He is a guide that helps you to discover when you are being misguided, or led correctly, when using your instincts…
“When the Wolf shows up in your life, look closely and listen carefully to what your intuition or instincts are telling you…
“Wolves are wild animals, they are beautiful creatures of mystery that cannot be domesticated. If a Wolf appears to you in a certain period of your life when you’re in doubt of the changes that are happening, it can be reassuring you that the path you’re taking is the right one, and that you’re being loyal to your instincts. Equally, if the Wolf presents itself in a moment in life where you feel stuck, it might be reminding you that you’re a free wild creature, that you can deviate from whatever path you are currently on and become a ‘lone Wolf’ if necessary in order to pursue your dreams…” | Wolf Spirit Animal
For so much of the last couple of years I have felt like I was ensnared in a world of smoke and fog, at the mercy of circumstances and situations, in a state of reaction rather than action and choices. This last year the smoke and fog turned to a smouldering fire that almost consumed me, leaving me a husk holding ashes in my mouth. Even my dreams abandoned me. There was just an opaque greyness in my dream world that stole the rich vividness I was used to.
But around Autumn, late March in the Southern Hemisphere, I dreamed of my wolves again. Those dreams started cracking the husk of me open again to find small seeds of new dreams. The ashes in my mouth were still there but now they were softly glowing with forgotten embers of warmth and new sparks of energy. As the world around was turning into russet oranges and rich reds and sun-kissed golds, the embers started waking up.
Now in Winter, with the tree branches stripped bare of all the colours, naked and open to the crisp clean winter air, the embers in my mouth and my soul are glowing brightly and warmly, embracing me in a cocoon of heat, energy and inspiration… Inspiration that is both lighting my current writing path but has also opened a new path in the forests and mountains of my imagination… But more on that in my next post. [Aside: Get used to reading more frequent posts from me here…as the embers start burning away the ashes to make room for new words again…]
So yes I am paying close attention. I’m open, listening with an open heart, and actively looking for new paths from my Pathfinder Wolf…
Tell me, What have you been dreaming about lately? Do you believe in spirit animals and what would your animal be? Tell me, What is sparking your inspiration?
One of my favourite writing friends, Julie Christine Johnson, just published an evocative post “Atmospheric River” on her blog. (Aside* Do yourself a favour and visit Julie’s blog. It will lift your spirits and inspire you.) I had never heard of the term “Atmospheric River” before but it just zings with me now. Julie speaks of awakening from a winter of the soul, one which I know well and so much of what she shares in this post echoes what I am feeling right now.
A couple of days ago I celebrated a birthday. In many ways it was a difficult Birthday because it was my first without one of my oldest friends, someone who is a part of my soul. But also because of A and how much she treasured life, even as it slipped out of her fingers like the broken silken threads of spiderwebs, I also was determined to truly appreciate the day. It ended up being both a terrible and beautiful day, much like life itself. Terrible in that someone, in a six degrees of separation way, was buried on my birthday morning. Beautiful in that a precious new human, the first longed-for son of one of my soul-friends, was born on the evening of my birthday. A burial in the morning and a birth in the evening on my birthday. An ending in the morning and a beginning in the evening of my birthday. This paradox of tragedy/beauty and death/birth made me think of the life of a star.
The past and all its little deaths of finished moments births our present…
There is nothing more magnificent than looking up at a night sky and trying to count all the stars one sees. But the stunning paradox is that many of those bright stars that we see in our galaxy are reflections of their past. Many of those stars that look so bright with life are stars that have died but because of their immense distance from us, we are actually seeing their past in our present. Isn’t that how it is with our memories and our own lives? We see the past in our present, hope for the unknown future but all we do know is the past. The past and all its little deaths of finished moments births our present. The past beauty of stars gives us our present vision of the night sky.
The above article was published a couple of days ago. Ironically it was published on my birthday.
“A team of astrophysicists has discovered that supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies aren’t just destroyers of stars, but can also be their creators…”
This article filled me with thrills of excitement and it zinged with the epiphany I’ve had this week. I’ve been in my own black hole both creatively and emotionally. For the longest time I haven’t only not been inspired but I didn’t care that I didn’t want to create when life felt so destructive and chaotic. This black hole kept sucking me further and deeper into its vacuous depths. But very slowly a tiny, minuscule creative spark was being birthed in all this destruction.
This personal supermassive black hole had destroyed the stars of my creativity and ripped asunder the fabric of my night skies, forever changing the galaxy of my life, pulling it all into this consuming black nothingness that is grief. But where there is death there has to be life. This black hole I have found myself in has birthed beautiful, vibrant, sparking creative energy. The immense blackness has birthed exquisite light.
This black hole has birthed stars. Out of chaos, beauty.
I am birthing stars again. The synapses of my imagination are sparking with a fiery energy as they are born out of the very thing that was their destroyer. For the first time in the longest time, ideas are flying through me and streaming out my fingers into the ink on a page. Old words are reawakening. New words are taking their first breath. Finally I am creating again. This act of creativity/creation is awakening my very soul and stitching the broken pieces of my grieving heart together again into something stronger and beautiful. The ideas are flying so fast and so abundantly that it is all I can do to capture them in the net of my page.
How do you net stars?
I can’t net all the stars and some of these words, some of these ideas, like the stars in the night sky will die even as their trailing light births new words, new ideas and new stars of creativity. But I don’t need to net all the stars flying past me at light-year speed. It is enough that there are stars being birthed and that even as some will die, more will be born. My galaxy looks different now, forever changed. Life is chaotic and messy, tragic and broken. But life is also beautiful and precious, hopeful and whole. The seasons of a life are many and constantly in flux, changing even as they change us. The seasons of Creativity are also constantly in flux, ebbing and flowing, dimming and brightening. Life and creativity is a paradox of opposites, of winters and summers, of rusting leaves and fragile blossoms, and that is a beautiful reality.
I will net enough stars out of this black hole, enough stars to remind myself that I am breathing, that I have this time, this present moment. This present moment is all that we have but what lies in our control is what we choose to do with it. For me, right now, I am birthing stars.
Stationery (Especially the delicious lure of NEW stationery)
In this post I get to combine all three of some of my favourite things.
Writing Essentials: iPad mini/Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard + Macbook + Scrivener/iOS + Paper Notebooks (Nanami Seven Seas Crossgrid + Moleskine + Hobonichi) + Bag full of Pens/Pencils + Coffee + Water + Private Writing Space + Spacious Desk + Ergonomically comfortable chair #onmydesk #onmydesktoday #inkslaying #drafting #writersdesk
Scrivener iOS + iPad Mini
This month I finally downloaded the Scrivener iOS app on my iPad Mini. I adore my Macbook but my iPad mini is never far from my side. I have had the “MacGyver of Writing Tools” Scrivener on my MacBook for 6 years now and it is hands down my favourite writing software. But it had one drawback, it did not have an iOS app. Until now. So until now, and because my iPad mini goes everywhere with me, I wrote on the Write for iPad app and then copied and pasted from the Dropbox sync folder into my Desktop Scrivener. Until now. Until this month. At the beginning of this month I finally downloaded the magical Scrivener iOS app. WOW! I’m not sure what I was really expecting but I had thought the iOS version would be a bared-down-minimal version of the desktop version. I was right and wrong.
Yes. In that it is a minimalistic, distraction-free and beautiful digital writing space.
No. In that this is the Full Monty of Mobile apps. This is not a “mobile” version in that it lacks from the desktop. It is a “mobile” version purely because it is 100% Scrivener on a smaller screen.
Finally I can write on the go, anywhere and it is synced through to my MacBook Scrivener. No more copying and pasting. All my research/drafting/edits/notes at my fingertips whether on my MacBook at my desk, or on my iPad on the go.
As much as I love Scrivener and love my digital technology, I can never say no to the delicious lure of new stationery. For me paper and pens are my essential favourite things. I am especially obsessed with the magic of Tomoe River Paper. Since getting into the world of fountain pens I realised the many different qualities of paper. My first experience with Tomoe River Paper was through my favourite planner: Hobonichi. Tomoe River Paper has three amazing features: It is all Ink/Watercolour friendly, it is very thin, smooth Paper and it shows off sheeting fountain pen inks.
Then I heard about Nanami Paper. An online maker/supplier of notebooks and stationery, most importantly they made big notebooks full of Tomoe River Paper. The only issues were the limited quantities available. These notebooks are so amazing that the minute there is availability they are sold out by the second minute. So I have waited patiently until there was stock available. Finally I was able to snag one of these elusive notebooks for myself: The Crossfield.
Nanami Seven Seas: The Crossfield
There are three different types of Seven Seas notebooks. The Standard, the Writer and the new Crossfield. The Standard is blank Tomoe River Paper. The Writer is lined Tomoe River Paper. Both of these options are an ivory coloured paper. The newest Seven Seas notebook is the Crossfield. This is an open-cross-grid Tomoe River Paper and the colour of this paper is white. I tend to choose either blank or grid paper and prefer white paper over any other colour so the Crossfield was the perfect option for me. Another fantastic feature of this notebook is that it is a 480 page notebook but the magic of the Tomoe River Paper is that it is exceptionally thin paper so the notebook itself is not much thicker than one of my hard-backed moleskine notebooks. The Crossfield comes in the A5 size which is my favourite drafting notebook size.
For the last 5 months of 2016 I was on the road, in the air, on planes, trains, underground trains, cars and mostly living out of a lightweight suitcase + a backpack + a crossbody travel bag. So I had to minimise my favourite things into portable Every Day Carry (EDC) options; those which would take the least amount of room, be highly functional, be minimalistic but still give me pleasure. When travelling, especially long-term, the key-words are Minamalism + Functional. I would add my personal motto of Yo-No-Bi: Simplicity, Function, Beauty.
This principle is known as yo-no-bi. Common among the older generation of craftsmen in Japan, yo-no-bi consists of two kanji, yo (用) which means use or application, and bi (美) which means beauty. Together they aim to balance the aesthetic and the functional – not only must a technique/item be functional, but it must be pleasing to the eye.
So here I’ve summed up my Favourite On-The-Go EDC things, all true to the principle of Yo-No-Bi, that I ended up carrying with me all over Australia/Hong Kong/UK/Greece for the last half of 2016.
Hobonichi is hands down my favourite planner. I have waxed lyrical about my love for Hobonichi before. Hobonichi come in 3 sizes: Original Techo/Planner -A6; Cousin – A5; Weeks – Chequebook/Wallet size. I have all 3 sizes and use all three for different uses. But my favourite that is always with me is the Hobonichi Weeks. This is the Hobonichi I chose to carry with me while travelling overseas.
I adore my collection of traveller’s notebooks [Current count = 7] but in 2016, while travelling for 4 months, my constant companions were my hardy Chic Sparrow Maverick Pocket TN + my rustic Zenkraft Appalachian Trail Trifold logbook. These were the two I chose to carry with me. My little Maverick (Water-Buffalo leather) went everywhere with me as my notebook-on-the-go. My gorgeous Zenkraft Appalachian Trail- this leather is stunningly soft and pliable – embraced my journal.
My favourite on-the-go fountain pen is designed with an ink shut off valve for easy carry and no mess on airplanes. Although it is a mini fountain pen, because it is a vac filler it holds a large amount of ink so it is both functional and portable. Along with the handy Visconti traveling inkwell, I can travel with these with ease and still have the pleasure of writing with fountain pen.
This laptop has been my faithful companion for 8 years and is still going strong. But I can no longer update the OS so this year it will be a time for an upgrade. I have decided, after lugging around this MacBook in my backpack through airports, that I need a more portable laptop. So this year I will be downsizing my MacBook 13″ and getting the new 12″ ultra-light MacBook. These (1) + (2) articles had me lusting over the 12″ MacBook. But it was when I went into my local electronics store and tested one out for myself that I was 100% convinced this will be my 2017 laptop. And Yes, I can’t resist that gorgeous rose-gold option.
Apple iPad Mini
Hands down my favourite on-the-go EDC device. I can write on it, I can communicate on it, I can be entertained AND it is extremely portable.
Apple iPhone 5c
My favourite mobile phone is actually my Blackberry Storm 9900. But although I took it with me on my travels, it was not playing nice with the different overseas networks. Thankfully I had my backup iPhone which ended up being my main phone.
These ear-phones were a godsend on my ultra-longhaul flights + numerous underground/overground train trips. Excellent audio quality and excellent external noise-cancelling qualities but allow in just enough external ambience noise so that you’re aware of what is happening in your surroundings – vital for travelling.
Although I have travelled a lot in the past, the longest those trips were, were 1 month. In 2016 my travels were for 5 months. On top of that I travelled from the…
Southern Hemisphere Winter: New Zealand (Home) – to Australia
Northern Hemisphere Summer + Winter: Hong Kong – U.K. – Greece
Southern Hemisphere Summer: New Zealand (Home)
So not only was I crossing hemispheres but I was travelling to countries with vastly different climates to New Zealand’s. So I had to plan both my luggage + wardrobe options very carefully and precisely as well as take into account that I would be changing seasons while on my travels as well. I was also travelling by myself which meant I had to carry everything. If nothing else, this journey made me an even better traveller. With all this in mind, I did my pre-travel research – we writers love any excuse for research – very thoroughly, both on what to pack and what to pack everything in for long term travel. Here is what I ended up with…
An all-direction-rotating-4-wheeler lightweight with extendable pull trolley handle suitcase (The smaller, lighter, more durable the better.)
Convertible Travel pillow
These PACSAFE bags were two of the best purchases I have ever made. Extremely durable, all-weather-proof, brilliant anti-theft features and the clincher for me, both were extremely comfortable to carry.
Favourite Clothing Items (for longer-term travelling across seasons)
…And today I felt like I was drowning in this ocean wave of grief and pain and lostness. I felt overwhelmed and raw with too many emotions trying to come out all at once…Then I knew I needed to quiet the ocean of noise in my brain. The only way I know how to do this is to Write! So here I have been writing in this journal on and off all afternoon/night. I don’t think the noise in my brain has died down yet. But it feels cathartic to see my thoughts and feelings in black permanent ink on a white page…-I need my poems to truly expel all this grey emotion. I’ve been purposely staying away from working on my poetry because I don’t want to actually face all these emotions. But I know I’m drowning beneath all my emotions/thoughts…the only way I know to come up and out from under all of this is through my poetry. It is my own life-raft. I need to get back in my life-raft… | excerpted from my journal ~ Greece, September 2016
1.(of a boat) be overturned in the water.
“the craft capsized in heavy seas”
“gale force winds capsized their small craft”
cause (a boat) to overturn.
“gale-force gusts capsized the dinghies”
late 18th century: perhaps based on Spanish capuzar ‘sink (a ship) by the head’, from cabo ‘head’ + chapuzar ‘to dive or duck’.
I am a traveller in a new country called Grief. For much of last year I was lost in a place-less Fugue. I went through the motions automatically relying on muscle memory rather than being present in the moment. There was no need to be present in the moment, this Fugue state carried me through this isolated country of Grief. I couldn’t concentrate or focus on much else than normal daily surviving requirements. Fiction, my own and others, was no longer an escape or a refuge. For the first month and a half after losing A, I just barely existed. But slowly as I got acclimated to this Grief, I started looking for ways to communicate; to express myself more clearly and to process this emotion that remained nameless in its immensity. Music and Poetry were the two life-rafts that rescued me from this storm-ravaged place.
A New Project
Newton’s law of motion states that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”. Grief capsized me completely but through the twin life-rafts of Music and Poetry I was slowly Emerging: Emerging into a new direction, an altered me. When you sink, the equal and opposite reaction is to finally rise and emerge. I have found a way to breathe again. I have a way to stop drowning in this Grief.
The only way I was going to emerge from this Fugue state was to truly give in to the terrible emotion. To let it embrace me without fighting it. The only way a drowning swimmer can be rescued is if they don’t fight or struggle but simply relax and let themselves be rescued. In much the same way, I needed to just let this Grief encompass me in her watery depths before I could be rescued. Slowly I started rising up from these depths and as I began to rise, words started rising with me. At first I could not grasp the words so I just let them rise around me. But slowly the words became clearer to me as I immersed myself in others Poetry; poetry by Dylan Thomas, Pablo Neruda, Leonard Cohen and Rupi Kaur, and let Music be the soundtrack to drown out the cacophony that was the silence of this Grief. Slowly I could grasp enough words to form a line then enough words to form a verse then enough words to form a stanza. As I journaled I realised that these were my emotions becoming words becoming poems. Poems that expressed what I could not, did not want to verbalise in conversation.
What was emerging from my immersion into Poetry, Music, Art and through my journaling was a collection of emotions in words: a collection of poems. Suddenly I could focus again creatively. I had stopped struggling and in my surrender to this emotional drowning I had found a way to rise up and to begin emerging again. So this is what I have been working on for the last few months and will continue to work on for the next few months. A new project. An anthology of poems that could finally name all these unnameable emotions that Grief drowns one in. An anthology that I am calling…
Every year for the last five years I have chosen One Word to theme and propel my New Year. Last year my word was ironically RISE. But although most of last year felt like the opposite of Rising, felt closer to drowning, it was the gift of words in the form of Poetry that did have me eventually Rising.
2016 has forever changed me. I’m carrying a box of loss that is forming a new version of who I am. So for 2017 I have chosen a new theme, a theme of hope. A new word for a different me. A me that is navigating an altered topography of where I am going, who I am now and who I want to be. I am ready for a new dawn.
So this year my Word of The Year is:
verb: emerge; 3rd person present: emerges; past tense: emerged; past participle: emerged; gerund or present participle: emerging
1. move out of or away from something and become visible.
“black ravens emerged from the fog”
synonyms: come out, appear, come into view, become visible, make an appearance; turn up, spring up, come up, surface, crop up, pop up; materialize, manifest oneself, arise, proceed, issue, come forth, emanate
2. become apparent or prominent.
synonyms: become known, become apparent, become evident, be revealed, come to light, come out, transpire, come to the fore, enter the picture, unfold, turn out, prove to be the case;
3. recover from or survive a difficult situation.
late 16th century (in the sense ‘become known, come to light’): from Latin emergere, from e- (variant of ex- ) ‘out, forth’ + mergere ‘to dip’.
[**PostScript: The image of “From the Sea” by the Serbian visual artist, Bojan Jevtić, helped inspire my theme for my new W.I.P poetry anthology: Capsize. I found that this particular image was able to vividly portray how this loss, this Grief makes me feel. It was the picture that has inspired my new words.]