A year of words

Other people’s words about … other people’s words

I’ve been thinking about reading again recently — what it means to me, what it gives to me, why, even though it’s a solitary activity, it makes me feel connected to the world. I like Sarah Clarkson’s use of the word journey, in the passage below, to describe the act of reading. Reading, like life, is a journey. You never know where it might take you.

Reading, rather, is a journey. Reading is the road you walk to discover yourself and your world, to see with renewed vision as you encounter the vision of another … Reading is a way to live.

From ‘Book Girl
by Sarah Clarkson

Reading is a journey

PS It’s good to be back in the blogging world. I’m changing the format of my posts slightly this year, but it’s still all about celebrating other people’s words. So … here’s to another year! xo

No time like now

Other people’s words about … cages

At not yet thirty, she can feel her life shrinking into the gentle sameness of her days and she knows she is pacing back and forth in a comfortable cage of her own construction. She needs someone to bump against, to disrupt things. she can’t go on like this, she knows. She must resolve the tension between longing and fear.

From ‘The Fragments
by Toni Jordan

I’m back! I’ve missed blogging. I’ve missed you all, too.

And I’ve gone on collecting other people’s words, gone on taking photographs of the world around me, gone on wanting to have a place to keep the words I’ve collected and the pictures I’ve taken. So I’ve decided, rather than ending this blog completely, as I first planned to do, to pop in every now and then with a quote I love or a photograph I’ve taken. I’d like to keep the practice up, and I hope that some of you will continue to enjoy reading the words I’ve found, or seeing the photographs I’ve taken, as you might have done in the past.

Last year, as some of you may remember, I lost my job. In the end, instead of looking for a new job straight away, I decided I would take a few weeks or months off first. And so that’s what I’ve been doing in the weeks since I last wrote: living on my savings and trying out, meantime, new habits, new practices. I’m trying to disrupt some of my old ways, like Caddie in the passage I’ve quoted above; I’m trying to stop pacing back and forth in a comfortable cage of [my] own construction; I’m trying to let my life expand, rather than to shrink. There’s no time like now!

Because there is always a way through … always

Thank you for accompanying me so far on my blogging journey. Thank you, too, to the readers who wrote to me and encouraged me to keep posting, if only sporadically: who told me I was missed. I hope you all find pleasure in the posts that are still to come.

Rebecca xo

This day, and the next, and the next

Other people’s words about … the vastness of the ocean

For every day went ahead like a ferry on its cables, from one shore to the other, passing on its route those same red buoys tasked with breaking up the water’s monopoly on vastness, making it measurable, and in so doing giving a false impression of control.

From ‘Flights
by Olga Tokarczuk
(translated by Jennifer Croft)

A false impression of control:
breakwater in the foreground and a line of buoys on the horizon …

What I see now

Other people’s words about … tears

I can’t help it, the valve between my thoughts and tears is so worn down that I don’t think I have any control over them anymore. Fat tears drop onto my cheeks. I feel them before I even know what’s happening and I just let them fall. I pull my hand [away from Gideon’s, and he] rolls over to face me.

from ‘Beautiful Mess
by Claire Christian

When I first started reading young adult novels I was already in my mid-twenties, several years older than their teenage target audience. That was partly because when I myself was a teenager, young adult novels had only just begun to become a ‘thing’, especially Australian young adult novels. And it was partly because something drew me to those novels in my mid-twenties, despite my age: something about their coming-of-age themes — and then, too, something about the way they handled those coming-of-age themes. Most of all, I liked the raw, direct voice in which many of their narratives were written, a voice that was both bleak and hopeful.

After I’d written my own two young adult novels, my love for the genre started to fade. This was partly, in turn, because I had in the meantime grown older again: my life now had nothing in common with either the novels’ protagonists or the novels’ intended readers. But it was also partly because it seemed to me that there were, suddenly, too many young adult novels being published every year. That raw, direct, bleak/hopeful voice seemed to me suddenly overused. Over-familiar. Hackneyed, even.

I don’t know what made me pick up Claire Christian’s young adult novel Beautiful Mess the other day. At any rate, it is the first young adult novel I have read in a long, long time, and I read it on our latest trip in the caravan to Yorke Peninsula. The reading of it felt like one, long, jagged, indrawn breath that I couldn’t release until I had got to the end. There it was again, that raw, direct, bleak/hopeful voice — familiar, yes, but not overused this time. Not hackneyed. It was a poignant voice. Intimate.

The view through the caravan while I was reading

That’s what I love most about good novels, whatever genre they happen to fall into. Their protagonists, and the writer behind them, reach out and speak to you: they say things you know you’ll never forget, things you yourself have been wanting to say, but haven’t figured out how to. I see now that this is something I haven’t managed to do in my own writing for quite some time, though I didn’t realise it until I stopped. Perhaps that’s why I stopped: though the decision felt instinctual and unplanned, perhaps my instinctual knowledge simply kicked in before my conscious knowledge did.

In the meantime, even though I’m not writing fiction, I know I’ll find more good books to read (whatever their genre), and more narrative voices to hear, and more tears to shed. There’s nothing bleak about that prospect: in fact, the view ahead of me seems filled with hope.

Downpour

Other people’s words about … having sad thoughts

Understand, for instance, that having a sad thought, even having a continual succession of sad thoughts, is not the same as being a sad person. You can walk through a storm and feel the wind but you know you are not the wind.

That is how we must be with our minds. We must allow ourselves to feel their gales and downpours, but all the time knowing this is just necessary weather.

From ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’
by Matt Haig

It was Toni Bernhard who first introduced me, in her book How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness, to the idea that moods are like the weather: impermanent, changeable. She writes elsewhere:

In ‘How to be Sick’, I call it Weather Practice. I like to think of emotions and moods as being as changeable and unpredictable as the weather. They blow in; they blow out. Working with this weather metaphor allows me to hold emotions and moods more lightly, knowing that, like the weather pattern of the moment, they’ll be changing soon. One moment, life looks grey and foreboding; the next moment, a bit of brightness — maybe even a rainbow — begins to break through.

Both Bernhard and Haig are covering the same theme here, a theme that is one of the basic tenets of any kind of mindfulness practice. But while I like Bernhard’s clear, practical prose, there is something about Haig’s phrasing (despite his erratic sense of grammar) that particularly speaks to me.


Necessary weather. Those two words, paired together, feel to me immensely comforting, and true. I murmur them to myself on days when my mind and my mood feel clouded and grey like the clouds pictured in today’s post.

Call these words a mantra, if you like. They bear repeating.

From my world to yours … and beyond

Other people’s words about … the blogosphere

I don’t know if I’ll make it to eight years of blogging. Probably not, to be honest. And that’s OK. Because the time I’ve spent in this corner of the internet has changed my life in the most unexpected and powerful way. That has nothing to do with me and everything to do with you, so THANK YOU.

From ‘ Reflections on 7 years of blogging
by Ali Feller of
Ali on the Run blog

It’s becoming quite a trend, isn’t it? Quitting blog writing. Decrying the blogosphere and what it has become. I’m saddened to find that some of my favourite bloggers, quoted in the passages dotted throughout this post, are pulling the plug on their blogging.

But I’m not about to do the same.

But it’s time friends. It’s time to pull the plug on my blog. I’ve been putting off this decision and this post for a very long time.

From ‘ So long, farewell
by Christine of
Love Life Surf blog

I’ve talked before about why I love blogging and the blogosphere. Many of the bloggers now leaving the blogosphere complain about how disingenuous bloggers are becoming: how curated so many blogs are; how inauthentic the bloggers’ voices have become; how blogs now function, simply, as the latest tool for a person who wants to build a portfolio in order to make a living through social media.

Honestly? In some ways, I agree. I wince when I realise I am wading through yet another post on a cooking blog filled with not one, not two, not five, but ten (or more) shots of the same dish, artfully presented amongst scrunched-up tea towels, autumnal leaves and battered enamel saucepans. And I wince even more when I find myself reading yet another post by a blogger announcing breathily, Guess what? Exciting news! I got a publishing contract!

I’m almost nostalgic for the early days of blogging (except I don’t really do nostalgia). It was enormous fun, but also an enormous consumer of time. I loved it at the beginning but foresaw early on many of the problems now associated with the internet, and now I’m happier doing it all in private. I always had faith that the appeal of printed books, face-to-face conversations, trips to the cinema, walking, swimming and camera-less experiences would never fade for me and now I am back where I was before I started blogging in 2005 … I’m writing a new book. I’ve moved on from writing about domesticity. I just live and breathe it, like I always did.

From ‘ As I live and breathe
by Jane Brocket of
yarnstorm press blog

But there’s still room in the blogosphere for sincerity. For vitality. For authenticity. There is. You just have to look a little harder to find it.

Some bloggers find joy in the blogging community; recently, for example, I read a lovely post by children’s author and fellow blogger Cynthia Reyes about bloggers helping bloggers. Her post would make any blogger think twice about stopping blogging.

Me? I blog for many reasons. I see blogging as a way of improving my writing: of learning to express myself better, learning to reach out to people, somehow, with my words. I see blogging as a form of connection to the rest of the world — if I show you my world, perhaps you will show me yours. I see it as a substitute for journal writing: a substitute that is better than the original because, due to the public nature of the domain in which my blog appears, there is discipline involved in the writing of each post, and discretion. And I see blogging, as I’ve said before, as a way of reaching towards beauty, wherever I can find it.

All of those are selfish reasons for blogging, I guess. But the corollary of writing a blog is spending time reading other people’s blogs: listening to what other bloggers have to say, seeing what they see, understanding what they believe (even if I don’t agree with them). Reading of any kind, no matter how enjoyable an activity it is, is inherently an unselfish act. It forces you to listen to other people. It can, if you let it, open your mind.

I think blogging offers a richer, more thoughtful, more all-compassing vehicle for expression than other forms of social media like, for example, Twitter (where pithiness is valued over thoughtfulness) and Instagram (where aesthetics are valued over normality). And for that reason alone, I will continue to participate in, and love, the blogosphere.

What about you? What do you think about the state of blogging today?