History in the making

Prompt: What event in history do you wish you could have witnessed, and why?

There are so many moments in history that people live through, and it is only on reflection that we realise how significant and important they were. I saw the 9/11 terror attack unfold on my television screen, and although the events were shocking and dramatic and, yes, I wrote about them in my blog at the time, I could never have guessed that the date would become synonymous with that event forever after. There was the Global Financial Crisis, but that didn’t feel like an historical event, it just… It was something we lived through, and it lasted a while, and it trailed off, there was no sudden end, but… I lived through the Global Financial Crisis. It has a name and everything.

For me personally, one moment that screamed historical significance at the time was when New Zealand gave gay couples the right to marry.

Others we realise at the time. For me personally, one moment that screamed historical significance at the time was when New Zealand gave gay couples the right to marry. I was cheering from the sidelines and so pleased to witness that moment in history. When Barrack Obama was voted in as President of the United States, I knew that was an historical moment.

Many historical events in history are negative things. Wars. Tragedies of all kinds. Very few monumental moments in history are positive.

The prompt is worded in an interesting way. I was alive when Prince William and Kate Middleton married, but I sure as hell didn’t ‘witness’ the occasion. Unless you mean I saw it on TV. Does that even count?

When I first read this prompt, one event came to mind. Then I went and Googled historical events and waffled back and forth, but ultimately I ended up back where I started. I did consider personal events, like meeting my older brother who passed away before I was born, meeting my maternal grandmother who passed away before I was born, and so on and so forth. But I figured that’s not really the idea behind the prompt. So here goes…

On 19th September 1893, 87 years before I was born, New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant ALL women the right to vote, irrespective of race, class or wealth.

On 19th September 1893, 87 years before I was born, New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant ALL women the right to vote, irrespective of race, class or wealth. That was a pretty epic moment in history right there, and what’s more, it was MY country that did it. I think witnessing that moment would be seriously cool. While I was on Wikipedia, I also found this fun fact: From March 2005 to August 2006, the Head of State (the Queen), the Prime Minister, the Governor General, the Chief Justice and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of New Zealand were ALL women. That fucking rocks. Right? The five highest positions in the country all held by women at the same time.

So yeah, that’s my answer to the question. Witnessing the actual moment with my own eyes, or just being a citizen of this country when this historic moment occurred. Either way, that was pretty cool, and I’m pretty damn proud of my country.

Smashbooking or scrapbooking?

So, Elycia on Writing.com introduced me to something called smashbooking.

Although smashbooking is a new term, it’s hardly a new concept. It basically describes the journals I kept in 1999-2000.

Although there doesn’t appear to be a definitive definition online, smashbooking is pretty much informal scrapbooking. It’s taking a journal and not just writing in it, but also pasting bits of pieces of paper and memorabilia in it. Whereas scrapbooks tend to be organised and neat, with a focus on the layout and craftmanship, smashbooks glory in randomness.

I started with boring journals. Just pages of text. I have a tendency towards perfection that I struggle with in my journals. You can see in my early journals that I tried to always write the date the same way, I would never go off the lines or doodle. Very uniform and neat. And boring.

I basically mimicked Chelsea’s style until I developed one of my own. Sound familiar? Yeah, it’s the same thing I did with poetry. Then I went flatting with Chelsea, and her journals were a riot of colour and craziness that I envied. I mean seriously envied. It was clear to me that my neat, boring journals and her colourful, creative journals were metaphors for our lives and personalities. I was the boring one. She was the fun one.


Pages from my journal, circa 1999

My creative journalling style is not quite the same as Chelsea’s. I don’t think anyway, it’s been years since I saw any of her journals. I can never quite let go of my perfectionism, so it’s more like carefully considered randomness.

Blogging has been more convenient for me since I had kids, but I could never bring myself to throw out all the little scraps of memorabilia that I would previously have journalled. Birthday and Christmas cards, letters and postcards, tickets to events, etc. I kept them all.

I tried scrapbooking, and loved it. It suited my perfectionist tendencies, and allowed me to combine writing, memorabilia and photos. Pretty much my ideal medium. Except… Yeah, except it is expensive, and takes way too much time and space.

I truly believe that to do scrapbooking successfully, you need a craft room. That way you’re not constantly having to pack everything away again every time. I spent more time setting up and packing up than I actually did scrapbooking. And it IS expensive. I loved it, but it just wasn’t practical for me.

Digital scrapbooking is much cheaper (there are so many freebies on the net) and takes up no space, makes no mess. So that’s awesome.

But I still ended up with all these scraps of paper I couldn’t bring myself to throw out.

So I’ve gone back to smashbooking. Except, of course, I’ve always called it journalling.

A page from my 2017 journal (aka smashbook)

I’m in the process of sorting out all those scraps of paper I’ve saved over the years. First step is to sort them into years. Literally, I have bits and pieces dating from 2001-2017. It’s very clear when I stopped journalling and the bits of papers starting piling up. Ha ha!

Because I have kept a blog, which has my own journalling, my poetry, my stories (although my stories are too long to go in a journal) and even quotes and things, I have the writing side of things to go with the memorabilia. So I’ve bought some more blank journals and I’m going to backdate my journals. I know, that’s a fucking mammoth project. Trust me, I know. I’m already behind on 2017, how the fuck am I going to catch up with sixteen years of journalling?! It makes me want to cry just thinking about it! It’s not like I needed yet another mammoth project. Seriously, for someone with so little time, I have so many projects on the go. It’s ridiculous. The one thing I don’t really have is many photos. My old journals never contained many photos, but my scrapbook pages centered around them. Hmm, maybe one day I’ll find the balance.

I did think about creating digital books, and somehow incorporating the memorabilia into them. That idea appeals to me. Partly because there’s not screeds of handwriting for me to do. Ha ha! But I just can’t figure out how to make it work.

Caitie saw some of my early journals when we were sorting my memorabilia, and she decided to keep her own journal too. Like me, she is seriously struggling with letting go of perfectionist tendencies. It’s hard for her to accept that the page doesn’t have to be perfect, that it’s okay to make mistakes. I think it’s good for her, but I have a lot of empathy for her, because it’s something I’ve dealt with numerous times. Journalling, poetry, etc. It’s hard to accept that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes it takes looking back at it to appreciate the beauty of the imperfections.

Write like you think

Prompt: “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” Isaac Asimov

Two things today made this prompt quite relevant. The first was when my admin assistant was laughing over an email she got. After sending out a politely worded follow up to a client, she got back an email that said “Um, well…” She couldn’t quite wrap her head around the idea that someone had actually written an um, as if they were talking instead of writing.

And my friend Ann from Writing.com responded to the letters I sent her, saying that my babbling letters reminded her of the long, newsy ones she used to get from her older relatives when they were alive.

For me, writing is like thinking through my fingers. I think that’s such an awesome quote. I know that we have the ability to edit what we write, especially when using computers instead of pen and paper, but other than correcting typos, I often don’t edit my writing. I’m not talking about poems and stories, which obviously need editing and revising, but rather blog entries, emails, letters, forum posts, etc. I also write like I think. This is particularly true when I’m writing snail mail letters, as I have a tendency to just babble as if they were on the other end of the phone line or similar. I have definitely been known to write ‘um’, ‘hmm’ and other ‘vocalised pauses’.

When I was in high school (and even in years since), people used to moan about minimum word lengths for written assignments. I’ve never in my life had a problem meeting a minimum word length. Ha ha! I have definitely had the reverse problem though, trying to trim my words and make them more concise to fit a word limit. But babbling? Even on a technical subject? That’s easy.

There’s definitely a time and a place for it. I know that I shouldn’t use ‘um’ in a formal work email, or a uni assignment. But I also know that it makes my blog entries more conversational and my letters more personal. I suppose that ultimately it’s part of what gives my writing a personal voice. Right? People are always saying you should find your own voice when it comes to your writing. Writing like I’m thinking, or how I talk, is part of my writing voice.

It’s not true!

Earlier this year I made the decision to make a lot of my writing public. For a long time I kept the majority of my writing visible to Writing.com members only, not the general public, and I decided that it was time for me to make that leap.

Most publishers will not accept submissions that are freely available on the internet, but will accept ones that are restricted-access, such as those only visible to Writing.com members or only to Livejournal members. I decided that publication was not my goal, so why was I maintaining this restriction? Time to go public!

The first thing I noticed was the assumptions. About half of my poetry is autobiographical, which means that I wrote it about experiences and emotions that I personally experienced. The other half are based on observations of other people’s lives, prompts and just plain imagination. Most of my darkest poetry is fictional.

I recently wrote The fight is over which is written from the perspective of someone whose marriage has failed. And I find it incredibly awkward that people assume it is autobiographical. My husband and I are very happily married, and yet family and friends (and random strangers!) assume that we are having serious relationship issues because I write poetry about fictional situations. I always remind myself that it is a compliment that someone thinks I have expressed a fictional situation so well that it rings true. And trust me, I’m honored that they think so, but at the same time, it’s not an assumption I’m comfortable with. Similarly, I wrote a couple of poems from the perspective of someone who had experienced domestic abuse, and found myself having to give disclaimers every time someone read them. I think people are really starting to worry what sort of man I’m married to! Poor Steve.

I have had a number of reviews of my poetry where the reviewer has made a comment regarding the situation described in the poem, with the most common being sympathy. It is totally fine to make a comment on how a poem makes you feel, what it makes you think of or reminds you of, or why it spoke to you in particular (maybe you’ve been in a similar situation), but be very careful about assuming that the poet has written from personal experience. When I encounter these poems and wish to make a personal comment of sympathy or similar to the poet, I always note it with a disclaimer. ‘I don’t know if this poem is autobiographical or not, but if it is….’ This leaves the door open for the poet to respond without making it awkward.

So, the next time you’re reading a poem, please take a moment to pause and think. Yes, it may be a personal expression of the poet’s thoughts, experience, and emotions. But on the other hand, it might be observational or entirely fictional. And trust me, you can’t always tell just by reading it.