Friday, 27 January 2012

What happened to January?

Wow – this month has whizzed past- a blink and you've missed it experience.  I am really happy that the days are getting longer.  There are two events of note this month
Firstly  - the Chinese New Year! 

 This is meant to be very auspicious one as it is the year of the Dragon and I have read that  is expected that the population of China will dramatically increase as couples strive to give birth to a baby during this year - I hope they all have lots of have fun trying! I was born in the year of the horse and of course that is a wonderfully auspicious year as well!

Now not many of you may know that this week is it also Australia Day.  I have very mixed feelings about this day.  I grew up innocently celebrating it to mark the foundation of the modern state of Australia.  People are on their summer hols or coming back from them and preparing for the new school year starting in February.  No it is not weird! I find starting a school year in September weird!

It was only much later I discovered another very different view – a much darker side. Many in Australia now refer to January 26th  as Invasion Day – the day when persecution of the indigenous people really got under. As an Australian, I think it is as important to acknowledge this part of our history as it is to mark the Holocaust in Europe
That dreaded essay is finally grinding to completion.  My poor supervisor was subjected to my angst about it and she suggested that I think of it like a stained glass project – that I put all my ideas down on different bits of paper and lay them all out on the floor and move them around to form patterns of groups of similar ideas.  That quite appeals to me because I have all sorts of wonderful sentences and phrases in my head and I sit at the computer and they seem to just fly out the window, no matter how hard I shut it.  She suggested that I quickly get those ideas down somewhere else away from the computer so I capture them all.

Sometimes I really do despair though.  You would think that having got this far I would feel confident writing my coursework but every time I struggle, give myself a really hard time and end up feeling like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards.  Funnily though, I have never missed a deadline although as the deadline draws near I fear something will happen so that  I wont be able to pull out of the bag this time.  I think I need some serious therapy!

There is a brilliant book I have discovered called ‘The Worry Cure Stop Worrying and Start Living ’ by Robert L Leahy. After prescribing it to one of my clients on the advice of my supervisor, I decided I really should read it myself and I found it so useful and I have been working on distinguishing between productive and unproductive worry. 

In his introduction, the author says (p.35) the worst ways to handle worry are:
  1. Seeking reassurance
  2. Trying to stop your thoughts
  3. Collecting information
  4. Checking over and over
  5. Avoiding discomfort
  6. Numbing yourself with alcohol, drugs, and food
  7. Over preparing
  8. Using safety behaviours
  9. Always trying to make a good impression
  10. Ruminating- chewing it over and over
  11. Demanding certainty
  12. Refusing to accept the fact that you have crazy thoughts

So if you would like to know more – you’ll have to read the book. If you are a worrier it is well worth it.  Two of my clients said that before they read the book, they thought they were the only ones who thought so weirdly and it was very reassuring to find out that lots of people thought similar things and there was something they could do about it. So on that note:
  – back to the essay fuelled by my newly acquired productive worry techniques!

NB: No , I am not on commission to any book publishers!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

January writing blues and a lot of hooptedoodle!

Our course is rather unique in that we have our first major hand for the third year at the end of January. Although I have presented four times in the first term, I always struggle with the first piece of electronic hand in requiring full references, critiques and proper writing!
I was in full procrastination mode on the weekend. You know  all those really dodgy jobs that just seem extra important when you have a deadline looming? These include:
  •   Attacking the lime-scale behind the kitchen tap that is almost invisible to the naked eye
  •   Cleaning out the bathroom cupboards
  •   Colour coding the sock drawer
  •   Sorting out the plastic container drawer        
  •   Checking out the very latest You Tube crazy animal antics 
  •  Touching up the paintwork on the skirting boards that can only be seen if you lie flat and get out a magnifying glass
What is about writing that puts me in such a flat spin?  This list is attributed to Petruska Clarkson who wrote one of our core texts The Therapeutic Relationship - a really dense academic tome. During her amazing lifetime she wrote loads of stuff and distilled her experience into this tongue in cheek list.

Ten Secret Rules for Good Writing
1.       It will always take at least twice as long as you anticipated
2.       70% of your efforts and resources will be wasted
3.       Cultural and personal demons in your head will attack it
4.       As soon as you really get going you will be interrupted
5.       You will think it is the worst thing you ever did
6.       You will reach a stuck point where you feel despair
7.       You will feel misunderstood
8.       You will be judged and criticised
9.       There will always be people who do better and worse than you for no clear reason
10    If only for a moment you will think it the best thing you ever did

I’m still trying to decide just how applicable this is to me.  Maybe that’s another suitable procrastination task to keep me thoroughly busy! Then I found information on Amazon about a book called Elmore Leonard’s10 Rules of Writing. In the prologue, the author quotes from John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday where his character describes so well the horrors of text with over fancy embellishments

“ I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like.  I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks…figure out what the guy’s thinking about from what he says.  …Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle… Spin up some pretty works maybe or sing a little song with language.  That’s nice.  But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story”

When I work in the Enquiry Unit on Wednesdays, I sit next to Cherie, a fellow blogger ( .  She is doing a creative writing course and thinks nothing of knocking out 3000 words before brekkie.  When she gets going on the keyboard she types so fast I am surprised there is no smoke billowing out of it.  I asked her about her rules for writing and she replied “I have no rules – just write- anything – just write!!”

So there you are! It’s time for me to stop mucking around and just get stuck into it while enjoying using my new favourite word hooptedoodle in whatever context I can manage!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Happy New Year!

The decorations are all down, packed away, most of the pine needles and glitter hovered up ( that task will take at least 6 months to complete fully!) and the Christmas tree taken off to the recycling point in the local park. I hope that packing everything away before Twelfth Night doesn’t give us a year of bad luck!  I am now ready to settle down and get stuck into my neglected course work.  I had meant to do lots of reading and sorting out of my notes over the break but, instead, had a lovely social family time so I feel rested and refreshed as though I’ve been on holiday!  

...actually, I can hardly believe I just wrote that.  We had eight people and two dogs over for Christmas Day, 12 people with six overnight guests on the 28th, and cooked for friends on New Year’s Eve.  We did an awful lot of cooking, washing up, and cleaning but it was interspersed with catching up with friends and family, lovely wintry walks, long phone calls to my Oz rellies, and blobbing out with Christmas movies. When the house was full of people they all mucked in to help so we never felt overwhelmed and had lots of fun.  On Christmas night we got out the games and I introduced my English rellies to the joys of Squatter – the Australian Sheep station game first invented in 1961.  It has become rather a vintage classic now and after initially wondering what from planet I had descended, they all became thoroughly hooked.

According to it is an
Australian sheep farming game. Each player starts with a sheep station, consisting of 5 Natural Pasture paddocks, fully stocked with 3,000 sheep. The player must improve the Station, in order to stock more sheep, first by paying the cost of Improved Pasture, and then Irrigated Pasture. The first player to have 6,000 sheep on a completely irrigated farm is the winner. The money needed to improve the Station, to buy the extra sheep and cover other expenses occurred when moving round the board is earned mainly from shrewd buying and selling of sheep, and from the sale of wool from sheep owned by the player at the time he reaches the 'Wool Sale'.
There are dreadful catastrophes awaiting the poor unsuspecting payer who can be hit by natural drought, bushfires and flooding or lose sheep to such diseases as blow fly infestation, foot rot, and pulpy kidney.  Until she began to thrash us all, my sister in law was beginning to get horribly depressed with all the disasters affecting her poor sheep!
We then had to cheer ourselves up with a few rounds of dominoes, rumicub and backgammon – far less stressful!

You will notice up to now I have avoided the dreaded topic of New Year resolutions.  As  those regular readers will know I do not believe in setting these until the new year closer to early spring.   I believe that now is the worst time to start getting exhausted in the gym and starving oneself living on rabbit food. When the days are longer, the daffodils wake up, the Easter bunny visits and the sun starts to shine I will come out of hibernation!!  For now I am just going to hunker down, get on with my work, wrap up warm and get through the winter.