6am. Wake up. In our household there is no need for alarms, for we have three of them: Ruby (eight), Sasha (six) and Lucy (four). Before attending to them, I spend 15 minutes free-writing, recording my incredibly vivid dreams, and the insightful thoughts that come courtesy of my fertile subconscious. My children sit patiently in silence, watching. Appreciating the writer at work.
Ha! Who am I kidding? Basically, it’s up and out of bed for my husband and I, and within two minutes we’re up to our armpits in weetbix, banana and yogurt.
I do have a journal (I have lots, actually, all pink) but mostly I record stuff about the kids, and when I’m desperate to keep them quiet, let them scribble in it.
7am. Kids lunches are packed and I get 45 minutes to walk/jog (think the Cliff Young shuffle and you’ve got the picture) around the glorious Centennial Park while my husband performs dressing and hair-doing duties on the girls. On a good day, I’ll see some cygnets and incredible bolts of creativity will jolt my brain. On a bad day, a cyclist will hurl abuse to a passing driver (or vice versa) and I’ll spend the walk making a shopping list. Mostly, the days are of the good kind. The park is an amazing source of inspiration and, more importantly, provides the mental space that is so critical for a writer. My other ‘creative space’ is the shower, which has lead me to conclude that the more impossible it is for me to write anything down, the more creative I become. Imagine the masterpieces I could write if I was stuck on a deserted island!
By 8:30am, the kids are out the door, and if I’m doing my day job as a casual English teacher, then I leave too. But, for the purposes of this blog post, this is a writing day.
The house is quiet. Like, after-a-gun-shot quiet. The recipe books come out. If I ever publish a book, I will be sure to thank Donna Hay in the acknowledgements for literally saving my neck.
I write at our dining table in the kitchen, the warmest, best lit room in the house. The session begins with twenty minutes of faffing about on email and social media, before I get into proper writing. Sometimes it’s short stories, and sometimes freelance articles, which is my other day job.
In relation to fiction writing, I’d love to say that the words pour out of me, that I am just a vessel for the muse. But I’d be lying. Each sentence, sometimes each word, is hard fought. For me, writing is like walking round a maze – there are twists and turns and plenty of dead ends, but sometimes you reach the middle, which is where truth lies. My job is to get to the heart of existence. Discover what makes people tick. I try to write one true and beautiful sentence, then another, and another, until I have something that looks like a story. When it’s going well, I become my characters. I see their world in my head like a movie, see them talking, acting and reacting. The real world falls away.
I look up, and it’s 2pm, time to drag myself out of the imaginary world and back into the real one of homework, sport and emptying school bags. This isn’t as easy as it sounds and sometimes I wonder if my epitaph will read. A good, but distracted, mother.
Whatever. We do what we can, right?
7:30pm. My husband and I breathe out. Eat dinner. Spend 40 minutes trying to find something decent on Netflix. I love TV and it has become so good that I figure it’s almost as good as reading, in terms of quality story-telling. At least, that’s how I justify it.
9:30pm. Now I’m in bed, and I am reading. This is non-negotiable. I cannot sleep without having read first. I read in paperback and digital. I know Amazon is considered the anti-christ but I love my kindle. Shopping for books from your own bed cannot be beaten.
If I could sum up my reading year with a headline, it would be 2017- Year of the Australian Short Story Collection. I’ve read terrific ones from MRP authors Melanie_Cheng (Australia Day), and Claire Aman (Bird Country), and stand-outs from Jennifer Down (Pulse Points) and Tony Birch (Common People). Of course the anthology Joiner Bay was another beautiful collection from MRP.
10pm. Asleep. Eight hours from now, it begins again.
Cassie Hamer is a Sydney-based writer who has had short fiction published by Mascara Literary Review, Margaret River Press and Writer’s Edit. She was the 2017 winner of the Shoalhaven Literary Award and has been placed or shortlisted in a number of other writing prizes. To find out more, go to cassiehamer.com.