Does overall busyness interfere with your creativity? Whilst enjoying RWAus19, Kali Anthony wondered whether taking a pair of secateurs to your life might be necessary...
As I write this, it’s coming up on Spring in the southern hemisphere. This time of the year a few things happen. The first, is I really need to prune my roses. The second, is the Romance Writer’s of Australia (RWAus) conference comes around for another year. Where is the synergy between these two things? Well you may ask...and I shall tell you.
The lead up to RWAus was, in couple of words, CRAZY BUSY. It’s always a wrench taking time away from the family, and incredibly stress inducing. Is the shopping done? Is there enough food for the pets and family? Did I set the sprinkler timers? How am I going to get around a new city to see everyone I know? What had I forgotten? (my toothbrush - I forgot my toothbrush).
Also, I hadn’t finished pruning my roses before I left, and this year, I was late with said pruning. That was stressing me too, because the Pierre de Ronsard was a disaster of deadwood… But I digress.
This year for RWAus, I was going away interstate for five days. FIVE. DAYS. That ain’t easy to do when you work and have a family and pets and are plagued by mother’s guilt, let me tell you. It was all rather – read, extremely - anxiety inducing. So much so, that on the plane where I was stuck gazillions of feet above the ground and unable to escape, I had a panic attack. It was all too much, being away from work and home with all the stuff I had to do. Rather than enjoying the anticipation of five free days away, visiting friends, catching up with writer people I love and learning about craft, I was in a tin can in the sky with heart palpitations, worrying about my transport options around the city and wanting to throw up.
Cue the need for an epiphany.
Once I realized what was going on, breathed through it all, and worked out I wasn’t dying of a heart condition but that my anxiety had yet again caught up with me and come to roost at an inopportune moment, I got thinking. Things needed to change.
And this is when I began contemplating my pruning of the roses...
I adore my roses. They’re temperamental beasties in the subtropics where I live, plagued by black spot and fungus if you don’t get their care just right. Still, it’s worth all the hard work for me, to get my weekly bunches of flowers around the house. But one thing every rose grower knows, is pruning at the end of winter is what makes the rose grow strong. Turning a bleak, bare bush into something covered in healthy leaves and buds, waiting to bloom.
You take a ratty plant, cut it down to prickly, lifeless stick, and wait for the magic to happen.
Life is a bit like that. I’ve spoken in the past about mental load, and how women in particular don’t have access to the mental space to allow them to create. There’s a great article from the Guardian about that, which says it more eloquently than I can in the short word count I have here. Essentially, the message is that a woman's greatest enemy is a lack of time to herself. As I contemplated my stress, I recognized you have to prune away the dead wood and cut out the unhealthy parts of your life to give yourself time, so what grows back in its place is stronger and more prolific.
So, I arrived at conference, and caught up with my friends who I often only speak to online. I made a few new friends. Joined a writer’s group in my city. Spent time listening to the great Nalini Singh talk about writing series. Amy Andrews giving the most hilarious keynote speech which had us laughing till we cried. We learned how to fight like a girl (apparently there were swords and a gun – really sad I missed this one), how not to write an alpha-hole, and heard all about herbs and medicines from a real-life apothecary. We could question first responders in a panel about what being a police officer, paramedic or fire fighter was really like. All the while, we talked and talked about craft and celebrated each other’s achievements. Instead of being filled with anxiety, my creative well brimmed to overflowing.
Of course, my epiphany was this is the important stuff, to me at least. I decided a few things when away on my own. More like an affirmation to ditch the stress and the belief I was selfish for leaving the family for a bit, and recognizing I was a better and happier person for it. Writing is vital to me. It’s not a choice, but a necessity. Okay, an insane and maddening necessity but a necessity, nonetheless.
As for the pruning, whilst winging back home I realized there were things which took time away from what I wanted and needed to do. Things I liked and even loved, but were more work than pleasure in the end (sorry difficult to grow pot plants and Siamese fighting fish – I’m not getting any more for a while). We’ll see how it goes and whether the small but significant changes make any difference to available time for myself, and my ability to write. But who knows?
Hopefully by pruning away my life, everything will come up smelling like roses.
Kali Anthony is an aspiring author and senior editor for The Pink Heart Society. You can follow Kali on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Have you got too much going on? Are there any things you’d like to prune out of your life? Let us know here or on social media using #PruningPower. We’d love to hear from you.