Tag Archives: writing

So What’s Normal Anyway?

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Thank you, my bloggy friends.

Thank you for your astute observations – blogging, it seems, is fraught with dangers for the ex-adulation-junky (read: athlete). Thank you for your advice – taking a step back, it seems, does not have to be the end of a good thing. Thank you for your warmth – my whining, it seems, does not grate on others as much as it does on me!

I have done a good deal of soul searching this past week and I have had epiphany after epiphany (I love that word, don’t you?). These epiphanies are nothing new, mind you. Then again, are they ever? I’m sure I am destined to learn the same damned lessons over and over and over until I die, but, with each new context I believe I’m growing.

This past week I have learned that, whatever form it takes, writing is part of who I am, and no matter what form it takes, somebody will resonate with my thoughts and feelings. What better reason to write than to express who I am and to connect with other human beings.

I have learned that I still have work to do on my need for approval, my need to be seen and heard for validation. This is a work in progress, but with a little help from a brilliant woman, I have moved light years ahead on the path to self-acceptance.

I have learned that changing direction is not ‘quitting’. Everything evolves and a stagnant pool can never harbour the life that a bubbling stream can.

So, this week I am embracing the changes that are bubbling away in me without a thought of what others may or may not think of me. A good place to be.

I intend to get back to what this blog was orginally about – So What’s Normal Anyway? I intend to write what moves me when it moves me (hopefully I will continue to feel moved on a Wednesday, but I can’t guarantee it!). I will begin working on my larger projects in bits and pieces. I am listening to my children rather than telling them how the week will go down. I am relaxing – nothing matters so much that I should be miserable or stressed. I will cook more and clean less. I will laugh more and sigh less. I will create more and craft less. I will be more and try less.

I will love more and judge less.

I hope to see you on the way.

This post is brought to you by:
“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.” – Joe Ancis
Have a great week.
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Crossroads

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I’ve been having a bit of a bloggy crisis of late. Actually, I’ve been working my way through one of those “Damn, I’m not the person I thought I was, so who the hell am I and where the hell do I go from here” episodes and the resultant tsunami has triggered concurrent crises of varying magnitudes in a range of domains. I suspect the bloggy crisis is part of this shock-wave. Whatever.

Fact is I’m at a crossroads:

To blog or not to blog, this is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous self-criticism

Or to take arms against a sea of dissatisfaction

And by quitting, end them. To write to vent –

No more – and by a vent to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That the mother’s brain is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Unlikely to be met. To quit, to sleep –

To sleep – perchance to dream: ay there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of the quitter what dreams may come

When there is no place for all the ideas to go,

Must give us pause. And the difference

Between blogging and writing makes calamity of a need to write…

Yeah, yeah, the Hamlet thing was getting lame, but you get the idea, yes?

I started this blog nearly a year ago for a couple of reasons – 1. To write; 2. To have a space to vent; 3. To get myself ‘out there’, you know, have my stuff read, adored, develop a cult following, become Mrs Woog or the NDM or someone equally magnificent, get book contracts thrown at me, publishers falling at my feet, my career as a world-by-storm writer secured… Ugh… whatever.

But I feel like my blog is amounting to nothing more than a big fat winge about my life, motherhood and the little poo machines I have given birth to. And I don’t like it. It’s not satisfying my need to write because it only ever feels like piece-meal. I want to get onto some of the big projects that have been burning at me for a REALLY. BLOODY. LONG. TIME… not to mention the thousand other projects on my absurd To Do list.

My argument for blogging was that it was something I could do in an hour here and there (I find big stuff almost impossible to write in this manner), so it would satisfy my creative urges without taking up my life. I like I need long stretches of silence and endless glasses of wine cups of tea to lose myself in the world of my creation so that the characters may take hold of their own destinies. And that’s fucking impossible a rare occurrence with Little Lions and Blossoms in da house, as we all know.

But blogging, as it has turned out, is taking considerably longer than an hour here or there and my creative urges are screaming louder than they were before I gave them a taste of freedom. Sure, the draft of a post is smashed out lickety-split, but then you edit it once or twice, you send it out through the universe, you wonder if anyone’s read it, you check your comments eighteen times a day, you log onto every other blog known to man to read (which I LOVE doing, mind you – what better excuse for some down time and damned good reading under the guise of ‘blogging’),you comment, you kiss the metaphoric babies and you press the cyber palms in the hope that someone will hop over to your place to have a read, they will love you and share you with all their friends… hmm, that went in an unexpected direction. Oops.

Anyway, before you know it, you could have written a Mills & Boon in the time you’ve spent belly aching about your latest public rant, your most recent airing of your dirty laundry, your up-to-the-hour personal expose.

I know blogging is writing (and any writing is better than no writing, of this I am sure) but I don’t know if it’s the kind of writing I want to be doing, at least not exclusively. And I don’t know how to fix it, this stupid, dissatisfied nagging in my gut. It’s killing me!

So, what to do? Do I quit the blogosphere and dedicate my thoughts to those big projects bashing in my brain? Do I redefine my blog and make it something more, um, I don’t know, meaningful? Do I go half way and only post once a fortnight/month and spend the rest of my time learning how to write big stuff in little bits? Do I just get over the belly aching and cyber-loving and get disciplined – 1 hour writing (no editing), 1 hour reading/commenting (for fun) and actually pay some attention to my other projects kids for a change? I don’t know…

And am I the only one? Has anyone else had bloggy burnout – a blog that takes over their world without giving a real sense of satisfaction? And what did you do?

Shamelessly Floggin’ Friday

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This is a sponsored post, Q&A style. It is sponsored by me, for me, to flog my wares for my ginormous multi-national network that turns over roughly 4.75 cents per year (GFCs and years of maternity leave not withstanding). So if you don’t want to know, go elsewhere on Lori’s Flog Yo Blog Friday list at the RRSAHM. If you’re intrigued, read on. You never know, you too could stand to earn 4.75 cents every year for your efforts…

Q: What are you flogging?

A: Books, books, and books; speeches, workshops and clinics (of the inspirational, motivational, revelational kind) and me, as a package of creativity and wow.

Q: Why are you flogging?

A: For a few reasons:

1. CHARITY – With Christmas around the corner and that list of people who are just impossible to buy for because the either have everything, know everything or are excited by nothing only growing, you cannot go wrong with a gift that gives twice. Order a copy of Wobbles – An Olympic Story and $10 will go to your choice of either MS Australia, ME/CFS Support Association QLDThe Inspire Network/Reach Out, or The Developing Foundation – Team Ashton. It’s a gift that they will not have (I can almost guarantee it), they will not know the story (I can almost guarantee it) and it will surprise them (I guarantee this one). And if worst comes to worst and they happen to end up thinking the book is crap (because they are just wired to hate everything regardless of how great it really is), you can rest in the knowledge that it was not a complete waste of money and effort. Someone will benefit.

2. TRANSITION TRAUMA – Toddlers have a hard enough time with the day-to-day challenges of asserting their independence, being misunderstood, having boundaries placed on their deepest heart’s desires to eat cat poo, climb roof tops, empty knife drawers and paint on walls, let alone coping with the major upheavals that often come their way – new siblings that steal mummy away, being abandoned at daycare, suddenly having to control when they poo and wee, being given an ocean of bed with the freedom to get out at will, but being expected to lie down and just look at all the freedom! It can all get a bit much, really.

So I have devised a series of personalised books to help toddlers prepare for  these transitions to “big-kid-hood” before the shock hits them. The books use your photos, so your toddler can recognise all the players, they emphasise the positive changes that your brave hero toddler makes, they map out the what, where, how and why these changes have to be made and they reinforce the love you have for your big little one at these exiting junctures… all in simple, rhythmic stories that toddlers love.

Find out more and order your Toddler Transitions Story here.

3. RESONANCE AND CONNECTIVITY – Sometimes all it takes is one sentence from a stranger to turn on a lightbulb. Sometimes it’s just hearing somebody else put heart and soul out there to make you feel less alone. Sometimes one person’s example is the rocket up the backside you’ve been waiting for. And for that reason, I speak, I write, I run workshops for high schools, I give swim clinics, I put myself and my journey out there in any way that I can so that maybe, just maybe, somebody will breathe easier, feel more hopeful, leave inspired and energised. So, if you know an organisation, a high school, a swimming club that you think could do with a little shot in the arm, a different perspective, a new story, let me know and check out my creds here – I rule!

Q: Are you done flogging already? I’m over reading…

A: Yeah, yeah. For now, anyway.

Q: PS – do you like flogging like this?

A: No, but someone’s gotta do it.

Q: PPS – Get yourself a publicist.

A: You know one that doesn’t charge more than 4.75 cents per year?

I wanna be like Mr D

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Last night Mr D wanted to write.

“Yeah, and?” you say, “Don’t we all?” you say, “Get a blog,” you say, “and join the club…”

Well, he’s got a way with words, this is true. In fact, those who know him frequently comment on how much he has to say (which drives him to distraction), but it’s only since The Blossom entered our lives that he has mentioned an actual desire to write. Up until last night he has considered the desire too confronting and has successfully buried whatever was driving the need to pour his heart onto a page under ‘other things to do’.

It’s the man in him, you see. He’s a sensitive flower under that fluorescent tradesman’s uniform (a stereotype he loathes) – he cries during One Born Every Minute, he weeps at any story involving the death of a family man and he has a morbid, empathetic fascination with war stories – but he doesn’t want to be a soppy sap. So he’s resisted the urge to gush about his family on paper… until last night.

We lay in bed and he said the magic words. I pointed to the notebook I had put on his bedside table for just such a moment, and said, “Do it. Now. Get up.” I know, it doesn’t sound like encouragement, but warm fuzzy you shoulds have had no effect so far. I had to get tough. 

He was, as usual, reluctant.

“Well give me a pen, then.” This was more a challenge than a request. He fully expected me to throw my hands up in defeat and let him off the hook. Well, he didn’t think that one through very well, did he? A wanna-be-writer without a pen? Dreaming. So I wordlessly handed him one. Checkmate. He went away and, half an hour later, tossed his notebook on the bed.

What lay in those pages was the essence what I admire most about Mr D – his capacity to appreciate. Everything.

He marvels at Little Lion digging in the dirt – his little shoulders bent to the task, his little legs sticking out of this little boots, his dusty face in deep concentration – and he feels blessed. I see the Little Lion creating more washing.

He wishes The Blossom would take a bottle of expressed milk so he could sit quietly in the big armchair in her room, lights dimmed, to feed her through the night. So do I.

He loves how Little Lion’s ‘help’ makes him slow down, how The Lion’s presence makes him more considered, more measured, more forcibly relaxed. I get frustrated that everything takes twice as long.

He paces around his yard, relishing the ‘potential’ of the place. I see what tasks we should have done last weekend.

He revels in the fact that I cook dinner every night. I steam a few veggies and burn a couple of snags and feel like a failure.

He ends each day with a sigh and smile and a deep appreciation for the life he has. I think about what will be better tomorrow.

He says, “Life is good.”

I think he is good.

I want to be like Mr D.

This post is a Flog Yo Blog special. Visit Lori’s list at rrsahm.

Amnesia

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I occasionally forget that I am a mum with a toddler and a baby on boob (and boob alone thank you very much! There will be none of this fake, plastic, wanna-be-nipple thing going on in my mouth. No way! No day! Uh-uh, no!)

It is at these times that the amnesia gets me into all kinds of trouble. Like the fix I am currently in: Big program to prepare, no time to prepare it, deadline rapidly approaching, cough getting worse, children not cooperating…

It’s a fantastic program, if I do say so myself, for high school students. All about getting to know themselves and their behaviour patters, how to break through the negative patterns, how to get through to the people around them, how to find their way to a happy, healthy, fun and inspiring path that they want – all the feel-good stuff that is so often waffled about and so seldom practically taught. I have been stinging to do it for ages, so when the oportunity arose, amnesia struck!

So this post will be short, full of typos and devoid of wit. Apologies, but since managing to sort out the logistical nightmare of getting someone to look after The Lion from 5.30am (no, I couldn’t manage to get the program in a local school, could I?) until around 6pm AND finding someone willing to lurk around a high school all day with The Blossom, ever ready to crash the workshop to demand that the presenter present her bosom for the starving child, I no longer have the energy to be creative. What little brain power and time remains shall be poured selflessly into the materials for Monday.

Ironically, the program is all about getting (and staying) in a healthy zone of behaviour, one that allows for peaks and troughs, but does not send the peaks so high and the troughs so low that the person finds themselves on a manic cycle that spins them out of control. I fear my first example of an unbalanced approach to life will be this episode of amnesia – talk about not looking after yourself; putting everyone and everything else first! At least it is something I want so much to do and at least it is for a finite period… very finite… oh dear, is that the time?

When all is done and my children have their mother back, when I can breathe once more and remember what my priorities are, I’ll tell you all about it.

In the meantime, speak to me, oh muse! SPEAK!

I’m even cleverer

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Here they are: the two articles that amount to the most outrageous coup in unknown-author-flogging-own-book-and-trying-to-raise-profile history!

Enjoy!

“Welcome to Life in the Harsh Lane”

“Why a Good Fit with Coach is Crucial”

I’m so clever

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Lauren Daniels interviewed Nadine Neumann about her memoir Wobbles.
From IP eNews


LD:
 According to several sports icons, including John Konrads and Duncan Armstrong, and the IP Picks judges, Wobbles is no ordinary sporting memoir. This narrative spans the growth of an athlete from a young girl into a fierce, Olympic competitor; but it also brings something else to the reader. How would you describe the additional elements that make this book more holistic and appealing for a wide audience?
NadineN
NN:
 WhenI began writing Wobbles I knew that I wanted to write a story, not just an account of my trials and triumphs in the pool. I wanted to capture the voice of the little girl with a dream, the angry teenager facing obstacles, the maturing young woman on a mission and the lost soul at the end of her career. I wanted these voices to speak directly to the audience so they could learn and grow and experience the journey along with Nadine. So I employed all the literary skills I had learned through my love of literature and my English teaching to try to bring this story to life. It is honest; the language reflects the character ateach stage of development and the structure takes the reader into the world of the competitor in a way that I believe is quite unique for a sports memoir. My swimming journey was not one that ended in the glorious victories that so often characterise such memoirs and I believe that this very fact enables the reader to connect with the story in an intimate way, a way that I hope will shed some light on their own situations.

LD:
An Australian breaststroke swimmer in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, you are now a successful educator and motivational speaker. Wobbles reflects a desire to encourage not only the next generation of athletes and their families, but anyone with a dream. Tell us about the memoir’s themes of setting goals and pursuing dreams against the backdrop of harsher realities.

NN:
My ‘little girl dream’ of going to the Olympic Games was innocent of the trials ahead and I am so grateful that my parents, no matter how amused they were by my ideas at the time, never dampened my enthusiasm. If I had said that I wanted to be an astronaut or a dancer or a collector of bugs they would have supported me and I think this is the most important ingredient in making a dream come true – someone to believe in you when you forget how to believe in yourself. I faced some enormous obstacles and I sometimes doubted that pursuing my Wobblesdream was really worthwhile, but with the help of my family I was able to reassess my goals, adjust them, break them into manageable ‘baby steps’ and get back on track. And in the end, despite perhaps not achieving my ultimate dream, I was able to realise that the strength, discipline, self-confidence and courage that I had developed as a result of all those years of striving was reward enough. I guess that’s why I’m now pursuing a new dream – the journey is always worth the effort in the end.

LD:
One of the most substantial themes of this book wrestles with contemporary definitions of success. At a time when achievement can be associated with material, fleeting or superficial qualities, what are some of the deeper messages you would like readers to consider?

NN:
So often the people we look up to as role models are the superstars that achieve things beyond many of our wildest dreams and when mere mortals fall short of those lofty ambitions, we can be left feeling cheated, or worse still, like a failure. It took me a long time to learn that success is about striving and growing and fearlessly looking challenges in the face regardless of the outcome. It is this message that I hope readers will take from my story: the idea that striving for a beautiful, exciting goal, no matter what it may be, is worthwhile for its own sake. Whatever riches, accolades or fame may come is icing on the cake, but just being there and giving it a shot is what really makes you a success. It can be hard to remember this when the media only reports on the ‘winners’, when ‘losers’ are chastised and threatened with being dropped from their teams, when the big sponsorships go to the record-breakers and when the only pictures in glossy magazines are of the ‘golden’ girls and boys. But I believe the people who are always there, doing their best, working on improving themselves, are the true heroes. They are the people I cheer for.

LD:
You mentioned that Wobbles is the product of ten years of writing and editing. What has drafting and revising been like for you? How have you managed to get through the endurance trials of creating a good, solid story? 

NN:
Drafting and re-drafting has been an amazing experience. Initially my writing was a purging process, an opportunity to vent all my frustrations, past hurts and demons. What emerged was extremely cathartic, but completely unreadable! I put this first draft aside for almost two years before I braved a second shot at it and I was amazed to find how much my view of events had changed with a little distance. Over the next eight years I found that each time I revisited the book, I learned something new about myself. I was able to heal deep wounds and find a sense of peace and satisfaction with my achievements. It has almost been as though refining my self-indulgent, sentimental drivel into a solid, entertaining read has allowed me to shape a clearer perspective on my personal history. The last phases of editing with the help of some amazing critical readers has taught me an enormous amount about writing and I’ve realised how much I still don’t know about the art! Overall, it has been challenging and at times overwhelming, but like every great dream, it has been worth every minute.

LD:
As a wife and mother living in Maitland in New South Wales, what were some of the writing resources which supported you through this process? Have you got any tips for writers?

NN:
I’ve received an enormous amount of help from the New South Wales Writers Centre through their mentorship program, short courses and newsletters. I’d recommend every writer connect with their local writers’ centres. I have also drawn great inspiration from writers who have shared their approaches to the craft. Books like Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, On Writing by Stephen King and Finding the Secret River by Kate Grenville have reminded me that even the masters get blocked, feel unsure, face rejection and self criticise to the point of despair. I’m also often pressed for time with a busy one year-old to keep entertained, so I do most of my writing in my mind on car trips, during feeding time, while preparing dinner or folding nappies. And when silence finally descends upon the house and I find myself paralysed by the inner critic, I try to remember that the important thing is to get something down, anything down, because you can always fix it later… either before or after your critical readers have told you that it needs ‘a bit’ of work!

LD:
Writing a memoir often alters the way we perceive ourselves. How has writing Wobbles changed the way you see yourself, your journey and the people around you?

NN:
Wobbles has changed everything. I have been forced to recognise and change destructive thought and behaviour patterns. I have been challenged to see my life from an outsider’s perspective. I’ve learned to appreciate the gifts and the trials in equal measure and I feel that my life is so much richer for it. I have realised that there is no hurt that cannot be healed with the right help and that gazing at one’s navel long enough does indeed reveal profound truths, metaphorically speaking! I have found my new passion, a path I can envisage treading for the rest of my days, and I have been given the chance to pursue my writing with the unwavering support of family and friends. But best of all, my publisher proved that miracles do happen – when the world told me that a book about an unknown swimmer would never find a place on the shelves, IP came along and said ‘Yes’.