Journalling challenge 

This week I’m participating in a journaling challenge set by the people at Asian Efficiency.

There’s a journal prompt, which is “what did I learn today?” and each day there is a challenge to help you to incorporate journaling into your daily routine.   (oh hi bad grammar)

Day 3’s challenge is to write down why journaling is important to you. This was going to be a short entry, but it somehow turned into a blog post.

Why?I’ve kept a journal on and off since I was 9 or 10 years old. I don’t know why I started. Maybe I was inspired by Anne Frank’s diary. I can remember how she called her diary Kitty, and so my first journals had a name too (which I’m not going to reveal here because that would be embarrassing.)

There have been times I’ve done it more or less every day. There have been times where there have been gaps of several months. But I’ve always come back to it.

Up until July 2005 I kept a paper journal and I’d stick stuff in it. Ticket stubs, brochures, little bits and pieces that I gathered. I have a box full of those dating back to the 1980s.

In July 2005 I started my first digital journal, documenting what was supposed to be my journey to weight loss and health. Somewhat unexpectedly, six months in it became a pregnancy journal, and I wanted to record everything about my experience because this wasn’t something I ever planned to repeat.

The pregnancy journal morphed into a day to day account of my life as a new mother, my struggles with breastfeeding, my attempts to process a birth experience that had left me angry, upset and unfulfilled.
And I just kept going. Everything he said, everything he did I recorded because I never wanted to forget anything. Children change and grow so quickly. Before you know it your baby is walking, talking, at school, reading, writing, and learning swear words. Where does that time go?

I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to record as much as I can about both my life and his. In recent years my Twitter feed has become part of it. My daily ramblings about the little things that are my life right now.

One reason for doing this is that I take a lot of photos and my journal records the stories behind a lot of them so that when I come to do a scrapbook page or Project Life spread I (theoretically) know what the photo is about and what to write.

So the two are linked. Two forms of memory keeping. (I can add in a third, movies, which is another level altogether.)

And it comes back to why? Why do I take excessive quantities of photos? Why do I keep a huge journal? Why do I scrapbook? What’s the point?

This question has come at an interesting time, because it’s at least the third time this week I’ve read something that has stressed the importance of finding your “why?”. You are, so the story goes, more likely to achieve your goals if you know why you want to achieve them. You’re more likely to stick to your desired habits if you know why you want to behave like that.

So I journal, take photos, scrapbook so I can have a record of my life. But why? Why do I want a record? Will it matter in 10 years time that I drank coffee after lunch yesterday and got really jittery? Will I care that Juniordwarf wrecked the box of cards he just bought?

In the big picture no, but if I ever want to look back and know what my life was like on a daily basis in 2015, know what the little things were that were a big deal at the time, I’ll be able to do that. A photo of a building that I see every day before it’s demolished and the streetscape changes forever. A tweet about something Juniordwarf said that made me laugh. An entry about how much I enjoyed a dinner or a concert. Little moments that make up my life.

It’s a record for me to look back on, to remember what Juniordwarf was like, things that were once important to me, things I did, places I went, what my life used to be like.

Perhaps I’ll never read it again. Maybe some day Juniordwarf will read it and it will help him to understand me, and even himself, better. His world might be very different to how it is now, so he’ll be able to get a feel for what his life was like in the 2010s. I wish I had a more complete record of life in the 1970s. If nothing else, I’d have evidence to call bullshit on those Facebook posts that say how much better life was in the 70s because our mothers smoked when they were pregnant, no one wore bike helmets and we all played in the traffic until dinner time.

Maybe he’ll never read it either. But it will be there.

My journal also acknowledges the hard times, and can help me to see how far I’ve come (or that I haven’t moved on). Sometimes it just helps to write out how I’m feeling about something to process it and work out what to do next.

Taking it further I think a journal could help me to identify patterns that keep me stuck and to record my progress in making changes I want to make. Maybe even to help keep me accountable to myself.
So the why is twofold. To keep a record, basically for the sake of having those memories preserved for myself (and my family if they want them). And as an outlet for learning, reflecting, taking stock, processing, exploring, creating, expressing gratitude.

And because I just love to write.

12 of 12 November 2014

12 of 12 November 2014

I missed the last couple of months of 12 of 12, but I’m back now. I have the September photos, I just haven’t done anything with them. As for October, I completely forgot. I also forgot to do 13 of 13 amd 14 of 14, so I gave up.

12 November was a Wednesday and I went to work. It was one of those days where nothing unusal happened. So this is it.

1 of 12 – I dyed my hair red a month ago so I could attend the radio station trivia night as Molly Ringwald. It was supposed to last 8 washes. I didn’t read the bit that said on blonde hair it might take longer to wash out and/or stain your hair.

20141112-01 Hair is still red edit

2 of 12 – Today is Stingie’s first birthday. He’s a teddy Juniordwarf got from one of the pub teddy machines. He’s Danielle’s last baby before she died. Stingie isn’t here to celebrate his birthday as he’s away in Oz with Juniordwarf.

20141112-02 Stingie's birthday edit3 of 12 – My sourdough starter survived 3 weeks of neglect. Just. I need to use it to make something. Probably bread.

20141112-03 Sourdough starter edit4 of 12 – Juniordwarf has started having showers in the morning, and today he wanted to use the hairdryer.

20141112-04B Hairdryer edit5 of 12 – Work is progressing on the Parliament Square site and activity has increased over the past few weeks.

20141112-05 Ground Level edit6 of 12 – This is the new Brooke Street Pier that was floated up the river into position on Sunday. I would have loved to have seen that.

20141112-06B Brooke Street Pier edit7 of 12 – Someone at work looked at this and asked if it was a joke. It’s not a joke. If you’re familiar with David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” program it will make sense to you. I’ve put parts of the system in place at work and am gradually refining it so it works for me. Once I have it up and running at work it will be time to fix up the half-arsed attempt I’ve made at home.

20141112-07 Getting things done edit8 of 12 – The ongoing dispute between the government and the public sector unions over job cuts and wage freezes. This isn’t the place to write about it, but it is not primarily about wages. It’s about the way the government chose to go about this.

20141112-08 Strike edit9 of 12 – This is an old swimming pool complex in Hobart, which has been derelict for many years. It is apparently now going to be redeveloped.

20141112-09A Aquatic House edit10 of 12 – Juniordwarf and I went out for coffee after school.

20141112-10 Coffee at Pop edit11 of 12 – I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The challenge is to write a 50,000 words novel in the month of November. This equate to 1,667 words a day. I tried it once before, I think it was in 2001, where I got to about 20,000 words and had to stop because I was getting RSI. I’ve struggled the past few days because I have no idea where the novel is going.

20141112-11 NaNoWriMo edit12 of 12 – I’ve started carrying round one of these Rhodia No. 13 notepads with my Midori Travelers Notebook to act as a ‘scratch pad’ to write down things as they occur to me during the day so I can rip them off and put them where I need them, rather than have to rip pages out of my notebook.

20141112-12 Rhodia edit

P365 – Day 244 – 1/2 way in, I mean 2/3!

I was going to do this post as my ‘half-way through the 365 photos’ post, but other things got in the way, and I never quite made it. So here we are, it’s my ‘2/3 way through the year’ post.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog lately. Why I’m doing it, whether I’m writing it for any particular audience and whether there’s any point to it.
When I started I had a vague idea about what I wanted to do, and that was for it to be a place where I could put my 365 ‘photo a day’ project. And if you’ve read my ‘to not blog . . . or to blog?’ page, you’ll know that I wanted it be a place to help me remember the past, live in the present and design my future.
Well that’s a lot to expect from a blog.
I think it does a pretty good job of serving as a reminder of what I’ve done every day this year – the present becomes the past. As well as that, I’ve done some trips down memory lane, and I’ve started to create a future for myself through my Happiness Project commitments – although over the last couple of months that’s fallen by the wayside for a variety of reasons.
But the main focus of my blog is the photos. On most days, the writing follows from them. Some days the writing is a description of something I’ve done that day, and other days it might just be a sentence or two explaining the photo. Some days the photos lend themselves to a more detailed examination about some part of me – perhaps being introverted and shy, or some of my long-lost dreams, or my struggles with decluttering my house or setting up my garden, or dealing with my demons . . .
All of that involves sharing myself and my family to some degree or another. Sometimes I simply want to show family members something that Juniordwarf has done, or keep them up to date with our life. Occasionally I have a particular person or people in mind when I’m writing about things we might have discussed previously, and some days I want to let off a bit of steam. It all depends, for the most part, on the photo – although there are times I’ve wanted to write about something in particular, so I’ve taken a photo to suit that topic.
Not everyone will ‘get’ every post, and that’s fine.
When I began blogging, I didn’t know much about blogs, so my understanding about what a blog *should* be came from reading other people’s blogs. I read some wonderful blogs, some by people I know fairly well, but mostly by people I’ve never – or only briefly – met but have gotten to know through the Internet.
There is such a huge range of blogs out there, and different people share different things. Some are totally up-front about who they and their families are, and others use noms-de-plume for themselves and aliases for their family members (speaking of which, I have the most wonderful pen-name under which my novels shall be published . . .).
Some people blog about particular aspects of their life – scrapbooking, gardening, iphoneography – and others are much more of a mixture. Some use their blogs as outlets to let off steam and to share the ups and down of their daily life and the particular challenges they face. Some people blog about ‘hot topics’ at the moment. Some just share photos. Some post whatever they want to post at the time. Most are a combination of many things.
Some of the topics I’ve written about I might not have if I hadn’t seen other people already writing about the same or similar issues. So reading other people’s blogs has helped me to feel more relaxed about sharing some things.
At the same time there’s a couple of my posts that I cringe thinking about how I commented on an issue because other people commented on it, but it really had little relevance to my photo of the day. It wasn’t really in keeping with what I saw my blog as being about, but I let myself be influenced by other people, who write different types of blogs.
But I don’t care, because I like to think that this whole blogging year has been a learning experience for me. I started out being influenced by what I was reading – because I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing – but I think I’ve started to develop my own online personality now. I’m figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t; what I feel comfortable with and what I don’t.
It’s a lot of work – to take a photo every single day and write something about it – and is fairly time-consuming. It’s been a fun project and I’ve really enjoyed doing it. There have only been a couple of days where I’ve thought it was too hard and I didn’t want to do it. There have been a few days where I haven’t had a clue what to take a photo of, but for the most part, there’s been at least one thing that’s stood out for the day.
I’m leaning towards thinking I might not continue the Project 365 approach next year, but I’m not sure. I still have a third of a year to decide.
In the mean time, I’m pretty comfortable doing what I’m doing with this blog. I don’t like to categorise it as any particular type of blog. It’s just my blog and my Project 365.
Now I’ve written the post, what on earth am I going to take a photo of to illustrate it?
Well, that was pretty obvious, wasn’t it!

P365 – Day 209 – pen amnesty

A few weeks ago, the wonderful people at NoteMaker  announced a Pen Amnesty, where you could trade in your ugliest, dodgiest pen for a shiny new one from their online store.
All you had to do is upload a picture of your offensive pen, and then you would get a redemption code either for a free pen Delfonics ballpoint pen or a 25 per cent cash rebate off any pen purchase, plus a free Rhodia notepad.
I have no shortage of dodgy, shabby pens lying around, so it wasn’t hard to find one that fitted the bill, and I dutifully entered the promotion.
This is one of my work pens. Note the snapped off clip and ink stains that rub off on my fingers.
Last week I redeemed my prize, and today my package of goodies from NoteMaker arrived. Here is my lovely new yellow pen, which goes beautifully with my stripy journal and is an absolute pleasure to write with, and my very flash notepad, complete with slip case.
So thank you NoteMaker. I do enjoy playing your games, and I’m looking forward to seeing what challenge you’ll come up with next time.

P365 – Day 88 thinking offline

Way back in January, I was looking for the perfect notebook to use as a journal/planner for this year. I’d seen a couple of things I liked, but that weren’t quite right, so I put a call out on twitter to see if anyone had any suggestions.
The lovely Amy pointed me in the direction of Notemaker which has a divine range of notebooks, journals, pens, pencils and much much more. 
If you like that sort of thing go and have a look. I’ll wait . . .
. . . 
Well, as I wrote back then, after spending several hours admiring all the beautiful books online, I ended up using the cute stripy notebook that Lil Sis and Mr Tall got me for my birthday as my new notebook.
Fast forward a couple of months and I found out about Notemaker’s ‘Think Offline’ competition.
The idea is quite simple – turn off the computer, get out a pen and some paper and ‘scratch scribble, doodle, draw . . . a letter, a word, a picture’. Show them how you ‘think offline’.
So an entry could be anything from a word on a scrap of paper to a full blown drawing.
You might be aware that I find it incredibly difficult to ‘create’ something, and making a mark on a lovely piece of paper, or the first page of a new book is something that I’m very reluctant to do in case I make a mistake (more on this little issue coming up). But the fact that all this competition required was a letter or a word on a scrap of paper was not intimidating at all. It was something even I could do!
In the end I came up with a concept a bit grander than a single letter or a word, sketched the initial design in pencil (can’t go stuffing it up now, can I?) and then went to town with my beautiful brown pen
The third version is the one I was happy with, so this is my entry that I finished off this morning and mailed (you have to snail mail your entries – in the spirit of being offline) this afternoon.
My idea was pretty simple: a single letter, filled with symbols that start with that letter and then surrounded by words that start with that letter.
I quite like it.

And yes, I quite appreciate the irony of posting my offline project online 😉

P365 – Day 83 feeling kinda arty* (aka ‘on art & writing’ part 2) 24/03/2011

Part 1.

Writing is a major part of my work, and has been in pretty much all of the positions that I’ve held during public service jobs in various departments, both federal and state government.
But it’s not the type of writing I enjoyed as a child, so even though I get job satisfaction from finishing a report or discussion paper, writing for work doesn’t fulfil my desire to create.
I often joke that [ahem, cough] years in the public service has completely stifled my creativity and my ability to write anything other than bureaucratese. It also seems to have changed me from someone who prefers spontaneity to someone who kind of prefers routine. (If you are a Myers-Briggs aficionado, what I mean is I’ve moved along the Perception-Judgment spectrum from a strong P preference to a much weaker P preference, or even a weak J preference.) Although maybe that’s just something that would have happened anyway as I got older and gained more responsibility. It’s more fun to blame work though. People blame the government for everything else, so why not that?
So in a roundabout way, I am making my living from writing, just as I imagined I’d do when I was a child. An open plan office in a CBD office block is not the environment I’d imagined and certainly not the environment I prefer.
(Speaking of the environment I’d prefer, there is a tiny town in country NSW called Majors Creek.  When we lived in NSW, we used to love calling in to the pub any time we were in the area.
Every time we went there I imagined that it would be the perfect place to set up a creative writing hideaway. I imagined a small cottage, with polished wooden floors, floor to ceiling bookshelves to house my library, a window seat with a lift-up lid for reading in the sun (inside the window seat would be the entrance to a secret passageway, a la the Famous Five), a big cosy chair to curl up in when it got cold, a big old desk, a rather impressive computer with a mega screen so I could edit my photos. 
Outside would be the garden of my dreams (where oxalis never grows and snails are atomised as soon as they hit the border of my property), with a random interplanting of vegetables and flowers and a magnificent herb garden.)
But I digress . . .
Sitting in an open plan office at a grey formica desk up against a garish red partition that clashes stunningly with the orange speckled carpet, snippets of overheard conversations and phone calls . . . it’s definitely not my preferred environment.
I once heard someone say ‘a grey formica desk inspires grey formica ideas’. That quote always comes into my mind whenever I’m confronted with a grey formica desk (which, let’s face it, when you work for the government is pretty often).
So where does that leave me?
On the one hand I could say that I’m stuck in an uninspiring environment doing uninspiring work, wishing I was in my little dream cottage.
The problem with that is that I need a day job. The ‘starving artist’ stereotype might seem romantic and initially quite attractive, but if I really think about it, I quite like my lifestyle and there’s not much I’m really prepared to give up to pursue a vague dream of working (doing I know not what) in my little cottage.
(And to be fair to work, I have done some interesting things, been involved in some great projects and am always appreciative of them letting me design my own work hours to suit my family responsibilities. A lot of people don’t get to do that, so this is not a complaint about my work.)
But sleepydwarf, I hear you say, surely you have spare time? You don’t work 24/7. You seem to have enough time to write your blog. You take photos, you scrapbook. If you wanted to write or draw or something like that without giving up your day job, what’s stopping you?
If you really wanted to do this, you’d find a way. So why don’t you stop moaning about how much you wish you could do this stuff and go out and do it? Seriously! Get over yourself!
Um, yes. And you, my glorious inner voice, have just reminded me of yet another quote I picked up from somewhere – maybe a movie – where one character laments that he can’t play the piano (or whatever it was that the other character did brilliantly), and says to the character who can, ‘I wish I could do that’. To which the artist replies, ‘no you don’t. If you wanted to do it, you’d be doing it.’
Simple words, but so powerful. ‘If you really wanted to, you would.’
So does the fact that I don’t draw mean I don’t want to draw? Because I don’t sit down and write a story, does this mean I don’t really want to write? Is kidding myself that I have a creative block just another way of saying I really don’t want to do this?
I look at sketches that other people do, or paintings, or even doodles or beautiful handwriting, and I wish I could be as artistic as them.
‘I wish I could draw’. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that. Yet I never pick up a pen or a pencil.
So the other way of interpreting that quote is if I really want to draw (or write), I should just do it. Here and now. Who cares what it looks like? The very act of making marks on a piece of paper is drawing (or writing, if that’s what I want to do). Sure, I might not like the result. It might be terrible. In fact, I’m pretty sure it will be. But I don’t have to show it to anyone. It might be full of ‘mistakes’, but that’s how you learn – by doing it, making mistakes and learning from them.
But then if I don’t want to draw (or write) – if I’m only saying I want to because I think I should want to, or I wanted to a long time ago but I don’t any more – then I need to give myself permission to let go of the idea that I want to draw (or write, or both). If I don’t want to, I don’t want to – simple. And then I can stop wanting to.**
(You may need to read that paragraph again. I know I did.)
So with that in mind, I’ve been wondering which way I’ll go.
Well today I did draw something. (No I’m not going to put it on here.)
I was at my mother’s place and she has a rather large collection of pencils that belonged to my father, who, we have already established, did have some pretty good artistic skills. She also has – and I never knew this until today – an old wooden drawing board that belonged to her mother. She dates it at 1915 or thereabouts. When Juniordwarf wants to draw at my mum’s place he uses the drawing board.
It’s a thing of great beauty and history with pen marks and ink stains as testament to my grandmother’s work.
So I couldn’t help but line up a few old pencils on the board and take a photo, to remind me that there is talent in my family, and that yes, maybe I can do this.
* with apologies to Dave Graney.
** Gretchen Rubin came to a similar conclusion in The Happiness Project. Somewhere.