Truth is the cornerstone of good writing

Reading an article from an Allen & Unwin newsletter I subscribe to, I came upon the title of this blog post. It struck me as particularly relevant to my writing. I struggle with the truth. Not necessarily with telling it, that’s easy; but telling it to someone, anyone, who reads my writing, that’s difficult. Actually, I’ll rephrase that: it’s frightening to think that my truth may not be that of others.

When I was in year 11, age 16 or 17, I started an English class with a new teacher. Let’s call him Mr P, for the sake of anonymity. This guy was awesome. He was the first teacher that gave me hope that my writing may be worth something, that I actually could write, that it was interesting and worth reading. It’s the most depressing thing in the world to be compelled to write but to think your writing is no good! I don’t know why, but I remember writing a short piece, I can’t even call it a story, about my grandparents and their ‘nicotine-stained hallway’. That phrase sticks out to me, as it was one that Mr P highlighted saying he thought it really worked to paint a vivid picture. To me, it was just fact: my grandparents were chain smokers their whole lives, and not only were their walls stained dirty yellow with the smoke of their constantly-fuming cigarettes, all the spines of their books, photo albums, and even pictures hanging on the wall were discoloured. I was just writing what I knew; and it was perfect.

I didn’t show that piece of writing to my grandparents. In fact, I don’t think I showed it to anyone. How would they feel about my description? And that was only the tip of the iceberg. I began to write about the time we went to the leagues club and my dad and granddad let my grandmother have too much to drink and she couldn’t stand up properly and had to be bundled into the car as she sang some old Beatles song. I was furious with her. I can’t remember what I said exactly, something about her being a disgrace (I must have been about 14 at the time) and I can remember her sitting in the back seat next to me giggling and slurring, “oh, am I drunk?”  That seems something of an amusing anecdote to an outsider, but to anyone in the family, it is fairly confronting because we know that she was an alcoholic. I probably shouldn’t even be admitting that on this blog, but oh well, she’s been dead over ten years now and I don’t have a lot to do with the members of that side of my family who’d be offended, so what the hell, right? Sorry to anyone reading this that is offended; but you know it’s the truth. And you know what an extraordinary woman she was, regardless of her emotional problems. So it’s not worth getting upset about.

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to get at here is, when is truth okay? When is it okay to strip back the layers for the sake of expression? Is it okay to be raw when it’s cathartic? And where should one draw the line when it comes to revealing others’ painful truths? For me, admitting to my grandmother’s illness is something of a release. I feel as if I’m doing good by being honest; because she found that hard, and that’s understandable, she was ashamed. There’s something about writing about this sort of ‘real’ stuff that infuses the writing with more power. It becomes interesting somehow. Mr P noticed that, and it was he who first explained it to me. I was kind of annoyed when he first told me to write about what I know because prior to that I’d always written fantasy type stuff and that was the antithesis of what I knew. I was like, hang on, how can just writing stuff you know be the answer to writing well? How can it be that easy? I had been told by a previous English teacher that my writing was cliched and I took offence to that. But it was true. Good writing is characterised by its meaningfulness to the writer.

Recently, someone close to me read a post on this blog. She knew it existed but I’d never actually sent her a link. I was proud of the post I’d written, having had some lovely feedback from friends, and I thought she might enjoy it or at least give me some feedback in the same vein. Instead, the opposite happened. She mentioned it had some factual inaccuracies firstly, and secondly she thought I was leaving myself exposed. Apparently ‘people’ are always out to get you, and they use any means by which to bring you down. So you shouldn’t reveal too much of your ‘real’ self publicly. I felt deflated and sad. Once I’d moved past these feelings, I realised I simply didn’t agree. And that was okay.

I read a lot of amazing blogs. Soulemama, Edenland, RRSAHM, Wanderlust, Flux Capacitor, Stand and Deliver, The Girl Who, The Byron Life, The Bloggess and a wonderful one of a woman I know that I just discovered yesterday – Kirrilee Heartman. This is just a small list – there are more that I read and enjoy. And you know what they all have in common? They are about the truth! A truth. My dad never agreed with me when I used to argue that everyone has their own truth, that there aren’t many things that are equally true for all; he thought I was fence-sitting I guess. But I still believe this, and I think that’s why blogs and life writing are eternally fascinating. People are interesting. And fiction is fabulous, but someone telling the truth (even if it is ‘their’ truth, and a total lie for others) is the most inspiring thing in the world for me. Keeping it real, that’s where it’s at. So even if I piss a few people off unintentionally and what I say isn’t true for everyone, I’m going to keep on telling it like it is, right here to begin with.

 

I’m no longer curious

The new name has been chosen and changed. I don’t know if it makes any sense but I’m sticking with it! I’ve changed the name of this blog so many times, it’s ridiculous! So this was the last time.

I felt like Kat is curious was just too boring or something, I don’t know, and I decided it would be better to use my whole first name, as it’s fairly distinctive.

This blog is my time. My time to think, plan, idealise; my time for me. It’s a special way if travelling through time, something I’ve always been fascinated with, as I can go back and read about where I was at in any moment. My time to be who I am. My time to write.

I am trying to be a little more specific or deliberate about my theme or identity through this blog but, as luck would have it, I seem to be experiencing a serious case of writer’s block. I sat and stared at my WordPress dashboard for a whole minute today, then clicked over to Pinterest but even that wasn’t inspiring. I changed a few things, tried and failed to sort out my Facebook page, then just gother frustrated.

So instead I sent a long email to my friend KK. What a chick! A goddess really, that’s how I’d describe KK. And I’m not just saying that because she might read this; I know it to be true. The woman is the perfect combination of class and guts. Thin as a bloody rake without losing femininity, bronzed, angular, sparkly-eyed, KK is like some sort of Audrey Hepburn – Mae West amalgam with a 21st century attitude. She seriously knows how to put an outfit together from high street fashion mixed with vintage and she’s the only person I know who can make a velvet jumpsuit from 1977 look smoking hot. She once ordered a life-size Elvis cardboard cutout online but then had a massive freak out when she realised she’d ordered it to be delivered to our place of work (at the time we worked together for a UK government agency in a secure office building in Westminster). “How the hell are they going to deliver Elvis to me at work?” she lamented. She was even more concerned at the prospect of getting him home on the Tube. Luckily Elvis arrived folded in half, although I’m still not sure how she got him home.

At the moment I’m missing London big time. I miss the weather, the culture, the accents, the buildings, the pubs, even the public transport! I know I’ll never live as I once did there but I can’t help but think I belong in Europe and that one day I will end up living there again. Mr Chewbacca feels the same way. The difference is that I don’t complain about how backward Australia is all the time. Anyway that’s for another post. If you want to read some of his rants, check him out at Whodyanickabollockov. He might be a whinging pom but he’s a funny mofo.

Bloggity blog blog blog

So this is hell late, but I really wanted to share my favourite bloggers, as requested by Eden and her Fresh Horses thingy.  I’ve had no time to blog recently, and there’s no reason in particular, I have just been doing a lot of stuff with the Dude, getting new routines in place, going to appointments and mothers’ groups, bla bla bla…

Anyway, so yet again Eden speaks my language; shit, my shit is on the shitting internet, shit! It’s forever, it’s the internet, shit! And so on. Meh, sometimes I don’t care, sometimes I wonder if it will come back to bite me.  But I keep doing it.  Why? Good freaking question.  It’s about writing for me, my writing.  I guess at some level, every writer wants an audience, even if it’s totally self-indulgent (like this blog malarky).  It’s this odd contradiction.  On the one hand I feel like I have a heap of stuff to say about, well, stuff, you know, myself mainly, let’s face it, and I HAVE to get it out.  And my husband doesn’t want to hear every little stupid idea or rant I have.  I kind of feel like the internet cares, just a bit.  And of course I’m under no illusions that most of the internet doesn’t give two shits.  But yeah, there’s something cathartic about throwing all your stuff out to the world and letting it settle wherever and however.  I like that, it’s so random and yet I don’t believe in random, so it’s so serendipitous.  If that makes sense.  I write because I’ve been compelled to write my whole life.  I used to sit at the table with my mum before I could read or write, before I went to school, and copy out the newspaper headlines in crayon on my big sheets of old computer paper (remember that stuff, with the holes down the sides and perforation so you could tear them off?).  I have piles of these things with sometimes confusing but often interesting headlines scratched out in green and blue.  For some reason it’s usually something about the Raiders… which means I was probably copying the sports section.  Hmm.

Anyway, I always wrote stories, and more importantly I always wrote diaries; to the point of obsession.  I have this fascination with documenting everything, so even my to-do lists are dated, and sometimes even have the time written at the top.  Pointless?  Yeah, perhaps, but there’s something oh so cool and time-travel-ish about finding a random little scrap of paper with a list of ‘what I have to get done next week’ from ten years ago.  A little snapshot of my own life, a moment in time captured, however mundane.  I used to make myself time capsules ‘to be opened no earlier than 5 October 1999 when you are 21’, envelopes sticky taped up with wax seals and warnings of ‘do not open yet’ scrawled across the back.  I recorded tapes of myself talking about my life, where I was at, what I hoped and dreamed, who I liked, what I was struggling with, where I expected to be when the tape was listened to again in however many years.  Sometimes they were only short periods of time.  I once went through a phase of doing monthly time capsule notes to myself on the first of every month, then at the end of a year I read back through them.

I can still remember my very first official diary entry: ‘Dear Diary, I got you as a Christmas present from my mum…’  In fact I can tell you the exact date that entry was made: 25 December 1988, age ten.  At the time I thought starting a diary at ten made sense, seemed like the next phase.  My second entry was a lamentation about being made to give away one of my Christmas presents to ‘the poor children’.  I’m still angry that I never owned Cluedo but for those five minutes after opening it under the tree, only to be told I had to choose which present to give away.  No idea what moral lesson my mum and her asshole boyfriend at the time were trying to teach but all it did was make me bitter about not getting to play Cluedo.

I discovered blogs ages ago, but didn’t actually start blogging myself until probably four or five years ago. I didn’t really know what my blog would be about, in fact I still have no idea and have changed the name more times than I can count.  I used to have two blogs, one about baby/parenting/birth stuff and this one, which was more about writing and general crapping on about me, but then I decided it was better to just lump everything in together, so I actually moved all the posts from my other blog to this one, changing to dates to when I originally posted them (yeah, again with the date thing).  I have this weird thought that people might try and stalk me or whatever, like I wonder how other, more prominent bloggers do it, talk about their personal home life, where they live, and use their full names and those of their kids.  I don’t know.  I’ve written about this before anyway.

My favourite blog of all time has to be Soulemama.  Gawd she is awesome!  I so want to go live in Maine (I think that’s where she lives) and have snow and knit things.  That is almost my ideal life.  I save up her posts and then read eight or nine at a time, so I can get lost in the awesomeness of it all.

Recently I’ve been enjoying the hilarity of The Bloggess, and although I don’t get to read it as often as I’d like I think it’s pure comedy gold and I’m still laughing about her tweeting celebrities to ask them for pictures of themselves holding twine. Twine! See the comedy?

And I’m not sucking up or anything but I have to say my number three (in no particular order) favourite blog is Edenland.  Truly!  I just like the way she writes, I like the stuff she talks about, and so many of her musings really resonate with me.  Her stuff inspires me and makes me think and want to write more on my blog.  She doesn’t mince words, she doesn’t talk shit or be pretentious and she is funny and insightful and intelligent.  And she rarely lets spelling and grammar mistakes get in the way, which makes her writing even more pleasurable to read.  Thanks dude, you rock!  And by the way, a cache is the memory of your computer.  So if you went to a page, it caches it, remembers it, so if you’re offline and you go back it’ll show it, whatever it’s remembered.  But I actually prefer Eden’s definition: the collective noun for blog posts. eg. ‘Today I read a cache of posts.’  It works.

Here’s a button thingy that lets you see what other people said about this if you click on it.  Or you could just go to Edenland and read.  Yeah, I know, I don’t get it either, but here it is anyway.

Edenland's Fresh Horses Brigade

For Christ’s sake, learn to spell!

I’ve been more than a little put off recently by all the spelling mistakes and typos in blog posts I read. Okay, I admit it, I’m a Nazi when it comes to spelling and grammar, it’s in the blood! And being an editor it’s just what I do.

I’m the first to admit my writing has plenty of mistakes scattered through it too, don’t get me wrong. But I hate text speak when it’s not in a text message, and I hate made up words. Yes, alright, I can hear the counter argument already: aren’t all words made up? Of course. I studied linguistics, I understand how languages evolved, and I’m fully aware that English is the most made up, random, inconsistent language of all. So I’ll narrow down my gripe a bit. What really shits me are words that sound like they could be words but really aren’t. “Agreeance” is a prime example. Dude, the word is “agreement”, there’s no such word as “agreeance”! It’s like saying something is “beautive” instead of beautiful, or that you felt “confusement” instead of confusion.

I guess I’m also kind of annoyed at bloggers who don’t proof read before hitting publish. Not to say that I expect no mistakes or typos – it’s a blog post, it is spontaneous by its very nature and you can’t expect some expertly-honed piece of literary genius. But I notice a significant variation between posts, to the extent that I enjoy some authors’ work less because it’s full of typos and mistakes. What really annoys me is when those bloggers are being paid to blog! I just think it’s sloppy and dodgy.

I’ll leave you with some new and wonderful words courtesy of Gertrude Perkins, aka Mr E Blackadder.

I always get myself into trouble

Reading Lori’s post about her thoughts on blogging and how much one should reveal got me thinking. Again. I struggle with how much to divulge and how to do it. Yeah so no one reads my blog. Or at least no one I know that might be offended by what I’ve written. But let’s face it, that’s because I don’t tell people about it. If I facebooked all my posts I’m sure I’d get a few more people skimming and maybe a comment or two. But I don’t publicise it because I’m scared I’ll say something or there has been something I’ve already posted which would really offend them. I’ve written about friends and family, always using pseudonyms of course, but what if that isn’t good enough? What if I’ve said something to upset them? Or maybe they don’t like being mentioned on a blog, even if it’s not by name… That freaks me the hell out. And here’s why.

I’ve gotten myself in trouble with my big mouth so many times! I’m terrible! My family are really easily offended and even though I don’t have anything to do with most of them, I am terrified of pissing off the ones I do stay in touch with. I’m so judgmental at times, so cold and cutting, I don’t give people the benefit of the doubt, I just harshly cut them down. I don’t mean to. I just tend to be trying so hard to see everything objectively I guess and I have high and confusing standards. I also say too much. A lot. I can’t keep a secret.

Here’s an example: I had a friend at uni who was very bubbly and sociable and somewhat vacuous, or at least I had labelled her that way. She wasn’t unintelligent, but she was a social butterfly who liked sparkly things and would go out of her way to request extra froth on her hot chocolate. And would justify this by explaining to the waitress that she liked froth. I viewed her as someone who had friends just for the hell of it; if someone sat next to her in a lecture and said hi, that was her friend. I didn’t think she really had close friends, they were all acquaintances. Because how deep a conversation can you have about glitter and cupcakes, right?

Anyway, this friend, let’s call her Froth Chick, would organise social get togethers constantly. She’d send out emails to the world about parties or dinners or trips or other events. My small circle of uni friends were on her list and we’d often have a joke about the latest thing she was planning and whether we could be bothered going and potentially having to deal with her boring airhead conversations and giggling and odd science nerd friends. One day, Froth Chick sent out one such invitation. I think it may have been to her birthday. There were literally a few hundred people on that email list, it was insane! Remember the old days when you’d have to scroll down past the block of email addresses of other recipients? This email required about 10 seconds of scrolling just to get to the message! So I made a rude comment about how she’s invited anyone and everyone she’s ever met and most of them probably have no idea who she is nor she them. I didn’t think much about it and hit reply all, carefully deleting her and the few hundred randoms, but leaving my little group of friends. Including her boyfriend. I knew they were about to break up and in fact I’d been in conversations with the group where he’d inferred he had the same opinions of her, so I didn’t think to delete him. I should have. Next thing I knew I had an email from her, showing that the boyfriend had forwarded on my reply. She was understandably upset, saying thanks very much and how offended she was and yes she actually does know everyone on the list and just has a big group of friends etc. I was momentarily in shock. But what did I do? Yes I apologised for upsetting her, but I actually gave her what I considered to be some home truths. I told her she’s too obsessive and clingy with friends and has to stop being so superficial and needy. I can’t remember exactly what I said but would you believe she actually agreed with me and took it all on board, despite how harsh it was, and from that moment on she was significantly more sincere and down to earth. To the extent that I’m actually still in touch with her 13 years later. And I also once joked, right in front of her, about how you don’t need a law degree to do conveyancing and any idiot can do it, having just listened to her go on about how great and challenging her new conveyancing job was. And yes she has a law degree.

The point of that story, though, was not to demonstrate how good I am at mediating and confronting and helping people develop personally (I think I was just lucky and really deserved a slap for being nasty!). The point was, I can’t keep anything to myself, I speak before I think, and I’m really judgmental to the point of unfairness at times. So how can I ever blog and be me without getting myself in a huge pile of shit? Am I overreacting? How will I stick to the rules? I’m pretty sure I’ve already written stuff on this blog that would offend and upset friends or family. I don’t much care if I upset people I no longer have anything to do with and I don’t think I care so much about offending randoms across the interwebs, that’s just how being online is. But that excuse doesn’t fly with my nearest and dearest…

Who am I?

This is something that always plagues me whenever I blog. In fact I hesitated about starting a blog for ages simply because of this. I really don’t want to reveal my identity on my blog, yet I have this (perhaps self-indulgent) urge to spill my guts.  I guess it’s kind of like any social media, we want to tell the world what we’re doing, who we are, and the world is interested because people are interesting; voyeurism is interesting.

What I’ve really struggled with, though, is the fact that I don’t have much to do with my family, on both sides, and I don’t really want them reading anything I write. That’s not to say they can’t, but I just want nothing to do with them, so thinking they might read my blog is kind of concerning.  Let’s get this straight: these are not normal people.  I tend not to hold grudges, it’s not just about that; these are people who have serious psychological issues, people who have been really nasty to me for no good reason, people who I can never forgive, people whose presence in my life offers nothing but stress and unhappiness.  These are the people I would move to the other side of the world to avoid.  And these people generally have no lives and like to gossip.  Not that I could give a crap whether they talk about me or what they say, but it’s more that it makes me really angry that they dare to try and invade my space even though they know I want nothing to do with them and they are the cause of that.

All that aside, I’m still not entirely comfortable with telling the interwebs about the details of my life; not because I am closeted or secretive, far from it, but because what if some psycho dickhead reads it and does some research and finds out where I live and comes to kill me or something?  I read some fabulous blogs of lovely people who identify themselves by name and with photos.  You can easily work out roughly where they live and I reckon if you were a real weirdo you could hang out at the local shops and follow them home… and I dunno, murder them or something.  But thinking about it, what good does knowing someone’s name and what they look like do you?  If you’re going to stalk and murder someone, couldn’t you just do that, without having to stalk them online first?  So what am I so worried about?

Anyway, the whole point of this post is to say that I like talking about myself a lot but I will mainly avoid identifying myself via this blog, at least for the moment.  Maybe when I get more into the swing of regularly posting and feeling like I know what my blog is about, and maybe if I get a following (yeah right) then I will reconsider.  But for the moment, I am Curiosikat, I am mother of the Dude, wife to husband.  My husband and I text in Yoda speak (spaghetti for dinner, I will make), the Dude won’t sleep for more than half an hour by himself, I don’t have enough money, we live somewhere I hate, but we manage.

What does it mean to be a woman? A response

These days I don’t read my ‘baby’ blogs anywhere near as much as when I did while pregnant, as writing and reading has become my escape from all things ‘baby’, but today I decided to read about what Rixa has been up to on her fantastic blog, Stand and Deliver.  She’s written a short essay to inspire her students for their first writing assignment, and I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d write something in response.

Once I got past puberty, whenever I heard the word ‘woman’, I’d squirm.  Woman.  There was something old, frumpy, big, mother hen-like about women; and I didn’t want to be that.  Don’t get me wrong, I was always happy being female.  But being a woman irked me.  In fact I never thought of myself as womanly, and if someone ever described me as curvy or voluptuous I’d really hate it.  I think this has to do with my weight issues, but also the fact that I’ve never been particularly maternal.

So for me to answer a question like what it means to be a woman is really a bizarre thing.  I remember my midwife referring to me as a ‘woman’ during my prenatal visits and I had to voice my feelings about that.  It was good to get it out.  I was never surprised that my body worked perfectly, that all the aspects of being female where, in me, efficient and effective and exactly as they should be.  I knew I was fertile, and I knew I was strong.  I knew I could get through labour, whatever it was, and that being a fantastic example of femininity would stand me in good stead.

Because I chose to have a baby at home instead of hospital, I began to read.  And inevitably stumbled upon all the hippy/crunchy stuff out there.  All the so-called ‘feminists’.  I’m all for empowerment, but of human beings in general, not just women.  I get the whole suffragette thing, I really do, but I really can’t stand women who go on about being ‘equal’ to men.  What’s the point when men and women are so incredibly different?  Why do we have to compete?  So women earn less that men, on average; so what?  Women are more likely to be at home with children.  This isn’t a burden; this is what women are great at.  Men can’t breastfeed or grow a baby or give birth.  Men don’t have bodies that secrete such delicate and perfect amounts of so many different hormones, that create life in such a complex and mysterious way.  We don’t have to prove ourselves or try to become ‘equal’; it’s an illusion.  We already are great.  Money is not a measurement of greatness, nor does the amount you earn have any bearing on your greatness as a human being.  The relationship between remuneration and gender is arbitrary.

I struggled with all these ‘women’ who wrote ‘womyn’ instead and expressed anger about men in general.  Apparently because we live in a patriarchal society, all hospitals are run by men who try to bring women down and violate them; so all men are evil.  Being a woman means fighting for your rights, fighting men.  This doesn’t sit right with me.

I have done the things that only women can do.  I’ve conceived a baby; I’ve carried that baby until he was ready to come into the world; and I’ve given birth to him, which was beyond the hardest thing I could ever have imagined doing.  Although I’ve never been maternal or interested in children, I give all that I have to this baby, my baby, my boy.  I do this not because I am a woman specifically but because I am a mother.  So being a woman is not just about motherhood, which I don’t even know well yet.  Being a woman is about knowing true power and being satisfied with that.  It’s about feeling so in tune with nature and the universe, and being thankful for the gift that is knowing the secret of creation.

Unlike some really crunchy hippies out there, I don’t catch my menstrual blood or participate in women’s workshops.  In fact I hardly notice my period coming and going most of the time.  But I do notice how wonderfully efficient my body is and how amazing it is that I can do what I’ve done.  Beyond having babies, being a woman is being a creator, whether you feel creative or not.  Being a woman is powerful; knowing womanhood is empowering!