Sunday, June 1, 2014

So what's it like...the residency?

So I'm over half way through on my residency. This puppy wraps up August 21st although I have a few bits and bobs tacked on to the end so I won't be home proper till the end of that month.

So, what's it like - this residency thing - I hear you ask? I spend a lot of time on my own and it's okay, although I've discovered I can be a bit annoying at times. Time alone is an interesting concept and everyone should do it at some stage, even if only to observe that you don't really like it. I don't mind it but miss the people I love and care about. I am thinking that in future a lovely little annual sabbatical will be mandatory, whether to write like the clappers or to just wallow in. Just me. And then the rest of the year will be happily spent wallowing in the best and most beloved company of others.

I have discovered that jokes work best with more than one person and I require other people to provide the musical backdrop to my day to day existence (and secretly I am grateful that they do). I have music here with me but I just don't put it on. It is weird - more silence than I am used to. It is amazing what your mind fills it up with.

The Robert Lord Writers Cottage is an excellent place. Idiosyncratic, which is a good thing, I think, for writers. The kitchen and I don't really get on though. I like more space and equipment and someone else to do the dishes. And cooking for one is much less straight forward than it sounds. But there is a TV and washer and drier and clothes line and the location is good - far enough to afford me some exercise and close enough that my days aren't too much arranged around the time it takes me to get anywhere. The wind in Union Street East is a beggar though.

I really like the University. Lots of venerable old stone buildings with personality. It has good old bones. And there are lots of lovely people, especially in the College of Education. I do wonder if anyone in the Science faculty is studying how some students can wear one layer on single digit temperature days though. Or is there a training facility for this somewhere on campus? On my first day in Dunedin I was advised to go for layers (thank you Philip Roxborogh) and this is the key to surviving the fluctuating temperatures and conditions here. I have only been caught out once or twice. I am finally getting the chance to indulge my passion for woolly hats (although I am yet to find a fix for hat hair). Still yet to wear socks over my shoes when it's icy - I keep telling myself I am up to it if the need arises.

I think my residency would be a very different beast if my year hadn't quite exploded like it did, with invitations to speak and workshop and participate in festivals, with shortlistings and touring. But it probably wouldn't have exploded like it did without my gaining the residency - proximity is definitely a factor. Hard to see what the one would have been like without the other. Anyways it is my year of travelling and I am becoming familiar with the different types of plane and the best seats to sit in on each type and little tips like always checking the departure gates for connecting flights on arrival because they are not always what is printed on your boarding pass. And that swimsuit issue themed safety message IS annoying. And I now know where the loos are in the main airports which you might think would be obvious but some airports in NZ currently seem on a mission to discourage this sort of activity.

At times life has been a bit of a whirlwind from which it takes me a while to unwind. Public speaking events are simultaneously fun and scary. If I didn't enjoy doing them I wouldn't say yes, but I find them challenging as well. Still, challenges are good and my skill set has grown. When I first embarked on this career around fifteen years ago I don't think I would have recognised the me I've become. I'm mostly a chicken on the inside now.

And the writing? It isn't just about having the time to write. There are other requirements like coffee, and chocolate and. And plenty of people write masterpieces in random minutes snatched from their busy days so time isn't the essential factor missing for most writers. They just think it is. It is also about 'being' a writer. About sitting down to the task and having belief at your back. Doubt is the middle name of many writers. We often feel like imposters. To say, this is what I do, this is who I am, is the best gift of all.



1 comment:

Talia Hunter said...

Nice post Melinda!