Thursday, May 27, 2010

How do you do it?

OK, now I don’t want to compete with Reservoir Dad’s Most Mentally Sexy Dad comp (woops, I almost wrote “Most Sexually Mental then” — an entirely different contest, I should think…) but I have a little, non-competitive request for my wonderfully inspired and resourceful readers.

When I set out to write The Divided Heart, I was trying to be the next best thing to a fly on the wall. I wanted to know how other people “do it”, meaning maintain a creative life and raise a family (I really do mean to stay out of the bedroom with this post!).

People always ask me what I learned from meeting and talking to the artists in the book. And my usual answer is that, above all (and many of you will have heard me say this before):

YOU need to give yourself permission to be an artist (or creative worker of any kind). No one else is going to give you that permission — especially if you haven’t already staked a claim for it in your own heart and mind.

For mothers, this means being very strict with ourselves, which can be half the battle. It means carving out time, against all odds, to devote to our creative practice — because it’s the thing that connects us to ourselves.

For me, I only feel half alive if I’m not writing. When I’m not writing, I become horribly distracted, preoccupied and downright cranky — not very fun for anyone who has to live with me.

Unfortunately, that means I am all too regularly in this pent-up state, gazing longingly at my writing desk from what feels like a gaping, frustrating expanse. Most of the time I can't even see my laptop, it's so covered in a growing piles of bills, notes and press releases all vying for my attention...

It seems I am still failing that most basic domestic obstacle course. How to dodge the washing basket, unmade beds, grocery shopping, unread school notes, paid work, volunteering, exercise, waxing of a leg (or two)… and make a beeline for that desk, sit down and start wrestling with the blank page.


In the interests of sharing, I’d really love to hear from you about how/when/where you work. What has to be in order for you to get down to it? Or is it to hell with order — you just ignore the housework and get on with the creative stuff?

Do you involve the kids? Do you wake up at 4am (hopefully without the kids!)? Do you do most of your work in your head?

I really want to know what strategies other parents have for making time for their own creative work. Give me your best tips for keeping this little thing called art alive. In other words, HELP!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wolf at the Wheeler

As many of you would know, Melbourne's Wheeler Centre now has a fantastic website featuring lots of videos of their events and interviews.

A couple of weeks ago Naomi Wolf appeared at the Centre, and you can check out what she had to say here:

I liked her comment about how the mainstream media jumps on any chance to play women off against each other (i.e. her trumped-up dispute with Germaine Greer) -- that there is a “weird cultural erotics” attached to women fighting amongst themselves.

Must remember that one...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Women and friendship

The other day my friend Ms Treasure (and she is a treasure) sent me a story about a UCLA study which found that when women experience stress, their instinct is to gather up their children and seek out other women.

Before this, scientists believed the hormonally induced “flight or fight” response was a universal response to stress.

When women are stressed, more oxytocin is released, which produces a calming effect — what researchers have dubbed the “tend and befriend” response. Men’s testosterone levels reduce this effect of oxytocin.

Two female scientists stumbled across this idea talking one day in a UCLA lab.

“There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded,” says Dr Klein.

“When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something.”

Their discovery that women respond differently than men to stress turned five decades of stress research on its head.

Not only that, the researchers found that female friendship was good for women's health, and might explain why women live longer than men. Strong social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol.

Apparently the more good friends women have, the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life.

Ah, how lovely... Not that I needed proof that my women friends were special.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Can housework be sexy?

Perhaps it depends who's doing it!

I have a post about the link between sex and housework on the Most Mentally Sexy Dad Comp page today.

I know you all have plenty to say on this issue! Love to read your thoughts...

And while we're on the subject, I urge you all to read this great op ed piece by the ever-inspiring feminist poster-boy Damon Young.

It is also running on page 15 of today's Age newspaper.

His statement "I'm a feminist because I take my wife's selfhood seriously" is music to my ears. More than that, though, he translates that belief into action.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Yoghurt and strawberry

I hope someone in your household took Mothers Day seriously.

Mothers Day never quite lives up to my fantasies, i.e. a day when no-one lets me lift a finger and instead someone gives me a massage -- or maybe even leaves me alone for a few hours.

It doesn't help when junior footy starts at 9am. (And every Sunday at 9am for the rest of your life...)

The kids did wake me at 6.30 very excitedly with a lovely breakfast in bed -- a bowl of yoghurt and honey, sitting inside a baking dish full of lollies. Obviously their idea of the best breakfast you could ever hope for!

My yoghurt was topped with a single strawberry. I later found the rest of the punnet’s worth of strawberry leaves dumped in the sink... All pretty cute, really.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The quest to find Australia's Most Mentally Sexy Dad

I am honoured to be joining the team of illustrious judges for the (now international) Most Mentally Sex Dad Competition.

The comp was established by blogger Reservoir Dad as a bit of a local fun and has become bigger then Ben-Hur (probably not quite the right reference, sorry), even featuring on the Today Show last week!

It's based on the oft-repeated statement by mothers everywhere that the sexiest thing their partners could do is unstack the dishwasher.

As Reservoir Dad puts it:

Dads are beginning to realise that they have to take some responsibility for maintaining the passion in their relationship. The days of killing a beast and lolling around the campfire are over. Life is more complicated, busier and cluttered.

As Barbara Pocock, director of the Center for Work and Life at the University of South Australia, said, Australian working women found resentment over housework killed libido.

"If the resentment factor was high, that's when their sex life was not great. The best sex aid a man could use was a vacuum cleaner."

This quote inspired the Reservoir Dad team to coin the term Mentally Sexy to attribute to Dads who are the opposite of the men Barbara Pocock was talking about.

A Mentally Sexy Dad is more family orientated, more aware of his partner’s needs and simply a better husband and father.

Dads, this is your chance to have some fun, impress your partner (and your mates!) and win some great prizes. Are you Australia's Most Mentally Sexy Dad? Send your entry to Reservoir Dad and let's find out...

My partner (who is sexy in every way) has been looking a little nervous about my new role...