Mentals

What we feel when we feel fear

January 13, 2015 | 10 Comments

Late last week, I had something of an epiphany. Epiphanies for me are quite small. They are things like, “the supermarket is just like an indoors version of the outside, but with biscuits, which you love” and “you are probably not going to fly off the world and into space unless something drastic happens with poles and space-time”.

My recent epiphany was just that I could probably drive to my kids’ other house without freaking out. I haven’t been there for months, due to craziness and unwillingness. And look, mostly unwillingness. But my ex-husband has broken his collarbone and can’t drive, so my options are to go and get the children from his house, or listen to him complaining ad infinitum and not see the children at all, which is a nice idea because it’s like a holiday, but also surprisingly lonely after a time.

It sounds silly, when written in sentences. He lives about four kilometres from my house. I have to drive up one road, turn right into another road, then do a short veer to the left. But in 2013, when I had a nervous breakdown and my eyes fell out of my face and into a large pond, the place where he lives became a big problem for me. I could go all around it, past it, under it, over it, but not through it. I know ‘trigger’ is a bit of a fun HBO anxiety buzzword, but the reality is that his entire suburb became a trigger for me. A heart-stopping, throat-crushing, confidence-smashing trigger.

Read the rest of this story on Medium, which is a thing I’m trying out.

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Storytelling

Commodores

January 12, 2015 | 3 Comments

The only time I’ve been to Sunshine, I nearly bought a 1983 pea-green Commodore. I didn’t even have my license, which is actually probably the best time to buy a pea-green Commodore, before you know what driving a car is supposed to feel like. My boyfriend (later, my husband; still later, my ex-husband) wanted me to buy it, so we would be matching. He had a maroon-and-silver-two-tone Commodore with red velour seats and a red velour ceiling. One day I poked holes through it with the end of my cigarette. If anything, that made it more like the set of a porn film.

We drove out west in his Commodore, to a car yard with flags around the fence that thundered in the wind. The salesman was the way you would expect someone to be, if they were selling you a pea-green Commodore, with hair slicked back and six gold rings clanging together on his knuckles. He had plenty of cars on the lot: black ones and white ones and red ones; Holdens and Fords and Mitsubishis; sedans and coupes and 4WDs. A few cars over, an old man and his old wife opened and closed the doors of a silver Fairlane, and she said, ‘It’s like a limo!’

The pea-green Commodore was four thousand, he told me. Non-negotiable. Any fool would be lucky to have it, with its five-litre-V8-engine and its factory-standard-interior (mint velour with a mint velour ceiling, shuttered blinds on the back window). I could take it or leave it. I didn’t have four thousand. I didn’t have one thousand. But the boyfriend who became my husband and later my ex-husband wanted me to have it so badly that he was prepared to front up the money. ‘I can buy it for you,’ he said, within earshot of the slicked-back hair.

I sat on the mint velour and pushed my finger through the moth-holes in the ceiling. Four thousand dollars. The flags flapped and whipped. The man peered through the windscreen at me and his hair didn’t move but his face cracked into rows of teeth. Sharks have multiple rows of teeth, did you know? I wound down the window. My boyfriend-husband-ex-husband poked his head through.

‘Well?’ he said.

We drove back along the freeway, past other car yards that probably had blue Commodores and gold Commodores but not pea-green Commodores. At Todd Road we stopped for KFC and sat in the car park and talked to people who were on their way home from the airport, and I thought about all the places we could go with four thousand dollars.

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In the news, Life, Ranting

Are creative people self-centred?

January 8, 2015 | 12 Comments

Someone sent me this question on ask.fm:

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 10.44.52 am

It’s interesting that Amanda Palmer is the kind of person of whom people ask this question. There’s a certain loadedness to it: you wouldn’t say “what do you think about Nelson Mandela?” or “what do you think about people who distribute food to the homeless?” Amanda Palmer demands the question because the way she behaves divides people.

I won’t leave you hanging: I think a lot of what Palmer puts out there is pretty self-centred. She speaks widely about the importance of making connections, of being philanthropic with art and of being an art community and everything that is good and fair. This is a nice idea. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all spend our time making art that we shared for free, and the people who consumed it gave us what they thought it was worth, and we lived on a farm and rode chickens and to our tree-bound studios and … oh right, communism. If no one is paying for the art, there’s no art. It’s easy to make these suggestions if you’re Amanda Palmer or Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails. It’s easy to be the person who promotes “the art of asking” when you’re the one who is always answered. Do you know what happens if I go on Twitter and say “I need a guitar pickup, a balloon shaped like the Andromeda galaxy, four pygmy sheep and a place to live for three months”? Exactly. Nothing. I live on the street and write my art on the back of my shoe.

(I also have an issue with being willing to accept the charity of others when you don’t need it instead of contributing to an economy and supporting the people who do need it, but maybe this is because I am a consumerist whore.)

So, fine. I am not in the same spectrum of art as Amanda “Fucking” Palmer. I am a suburban artist who wears sandals and drives an SUV. These are thoughts based entirely on her public persona, and having no idea whatsoever of the kind of person she is when she’s at home talking to Neil Gaiman about dark woods and time, which is something I think I would frankly enjoy very much. (I don’t “not like her” because I don’t know her and that is an absurd thing to say.)

But this isn’t a post about Amanda Palmer. I shared the question on Twitter: what do I think about Amanda Palmer? I shared that I think she comes across as being self-centred. I shared that the reviews I’ve read of her book reinforce the things I tend to think already. And here’s a tweet I got in reply:

@annaspargoryan I think all creative people are self-centred to an extent, including you and I! :)

(emphasis mine)

If I can channel Carrie Bradshaw for a moment, I got to thinking: are all creative people self-centred?

Writing is, for the most part, a pretty self-centric activity. For me, it’s something I do alone, preferably in a dark room or a library with headphones in, or maybe even in a cave in a mountain and even then, still with headphones in.

It requires, of course, a degree of self-focus in that some of the ideas come from the self. A writer is required to think deeply (or not deeply, but at least think) about the way they perceive the world and the people in it and the things that happen in it and what the truths about those things might be. But solitary is not the same as self-centred. Neither is taking your art seriously the same as self-centred.

Some creative people are self-centred, of course. I mean, Twitter is packed with them. People who are self-serving, who promote their own agenda, product, book, website without giving back to their wider creative community. That’s not because they’re creative. Being creative is the reason they have the product in the first place, not the cause of their poor self-awareness. They are a subset of a wider community wherein some people are self-centred and some people are not.

Most days, I go out (or stay in) and earn money so that I can buy art. Because I’m a writer and I like writing, I buy a lot of books to support Australian publishing. I promote writing so that other people will hopefully also buy it, and maybe when I have some to sell, there might be some money left in the kitty for me. Not because I’m better than you, because you are excellent and this is a blog and not a competition, but because creativity begets other creativity. Being a self-centred creative person is — unless you are Papa and can write whatever and someone will always suck your dick — akin to taking your own books and putting them in the $2 bin.

“Being creative” is not a special club for assholes. There is nothing I like less than people who use creativity (and the tortured artist) as an excuse for their poor behaviour. I’m a creative person, and I’m depressed, and I can be a bit of a dick. These are not co-morbidities. Creative people often act in contrast to self-centricity: creating work for expression, for social reform, for change. We need only look at the atrocity that is happening today in Paris to realise that for many people, being creative is actually their way of giving back to their community and to society at large, and that if anything, they have the ability to do so in a way that’s meaningful and unique and therefore visible. And so maybe the self-centred creative people are actually at odds with creativity.

That’s what I think about Amanda Palmer.

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Mentals

Happy New Year. Oh, sorry.

December 29, 2014 | 8 Comments
new-year

Every year at about this time, I have this conversation with at least one person.

ANNA:
Happy New Year!

PERSON:
Oh, happy New Year! [pause] Oh no, I shouldn’t have said that to you. I meant to say, try to have a happy year.

ANNA:
What?

PERSON:
You know, I hope it’s not too bad. I hope your year has happy moments in it.

And then I buy another box of shortbread or whatever, and the other person in the conversation goes away and presumably thinks about how insensitive they were before managing to rectify it without being caught.

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Uncategorized

5 books by Australian women that I loved in 2014

December 19, 2014 | 1 Comment

I read a bunch of books in 2014, most of them written by Australian women. Big ups to me. A lot of them were excellent. Most of them, probably. However, choosing five favourites from my pile was not difficult. There were clear standouts. Remarkable books that have burrowed into me and stayed there.

I love Australian fiction because so much of it tells ordinary stories through magic. There’s been a lot of debate this year about the acclaim-worthiness of the work we produce in this country – that maybe it’s a dull, cynical circle-jerk. But in many of these books, the potency of our varied and diverse society lifts right out of the book.

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