In Defence of the Socialising on Social Media

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Did you know it is only four months until MasterChef Australia?  I know, because I have been counting it down.  Is it because I miss George, Gary and Matt? Sort of.  Or because my life is presently bereft of parfaits, journeys and food-dreams?  Maybe a little.  But the real reason that May can’t get here fast enough is because of a Facebook group.

Last year, two friends decided that out of respect for their Facebook friends, they would start a group to discuss Masterchef, so their friend’s feeds wouldn’t be clogged with in-jokes and fennel fronds.  The title of the group would be regularly changed over the season to reflect incidents in the show (at the end of the season we voted “I just Khanhn’t Even” as our favourite name). And so our little group was born.  My husband thought it was hilarious that I spent more time looking at my phone than at the television, but the banter was half the fun.  We fan-girled over Samira’s bread making skills, and joked about Ben’s ocka lines.  We laughed at the pretension, all the while being brought to tears as the contestants left the competition.  We had our own virtual mystery-box competition (turns out Snow-eggs aren’t that difficult, who knew?). In our Grand-final thread we easily surpassed one thousand comments.


My Strawberry Snow Eggs with tuille shell, strawberry granita, and ginger fool.

May and June of 2018 would not go down as the best two months of my life.  At it’s peak, I calculated I had 7 different appointments for my kids in the one week.  Sickness cycled round our family, finding it’s regular resting place on me.  A good friend had moved interstate, another was in the midst of new studies, while another planned a wedding.  It was a lonely time, but not a time where the loneliness could be fix by just going out and being social.  I didn’t have the health; mental or otherwise, to do much more than survive.  But my little Masterchef Crew and our Facebook group made that time bearable.

Social Media gets a bad rap.  With Instagram influencers, Twitter-trolls, cyber bullies and our information being sold to corporations, it is understandable.  And there is something beautiful about communicating away from a keyboard. One of the highlights of the year was a good interstate friend deciding it was time to resurrect the phone conversation.  We talked for over an hour and I could have talked for two more. And I know I need to get my head out of my phone and into the world more often than I do.

But Social Media connections can get a bad rap for being fake.  And yet I have some very real, very wonderful friendships that have grown over the internet.

Many years ago I met a friend through blogging, who introduced me to an online support group.  A group who all were going through the same struggles, and who needed a safe place to vent, cry, and enjoy our own macabre little jokes (#TeamShrubberyForever).  I wasn’t going to meet those women in person, they all lived half a world away.  But they were there for me, and my friendships with them are not fake or inferior because we are yet to met in person.

Fiction writing is a lonely pursuit for an extrovert.  Yet I have friends on almost every continent who I interact with daily, as we spur each other on through the writing game. I remember loving Uni, because it was moving from the small circles of high school, into a wider sphere where there were people who really got me.  I found my squad.  And the internet is an even bigger world to find your squad. If you look in the right places you are sure to find those who share your love of crocheting or anime.

Or who love yelling together at the television set “Just put it in the Blast-Chiller!”

The reality for some friends is that socialising face-to-face is a challenge all the time.  It could be because of chronic illness or social anxiety.  For them, social media is where the real friendship happens.  And it is rude to imply that because those friendships are connected by a keyboard, and not a coffee-table, that they are somehow not real.

2019 should (hopefully) be a very different year for me.  I am looking forward to a year where I can come up to breath.  Where I can go to things, and meet people, and hang out.

But I am also looking forward to May.  Because there is a new world of foodie-fun awaiting me, and I can’t wait to watch it with my friends.

New Years Writing Treats

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Resolutions get a bad wrap, for obvious reasons.  January seems like the time to reach for the skies, and when March comes you’ve fallen flat on your face.  But they can work, and I seem to be the kind of person who thrives with specific targets.  In light of that I have a few writing goals that I have set for the year, like finally polishing up my first novel, or entering some writing competitions.

But that is not what this post is about.  As I said, I tend to find resolutions suit me.  But there is one thing that I find a huge struggle.

Doing things for me.

It is probably a female thing, and definitely a mother thing.  I click on an interesting literature festival, or I see a book on writing that would be helpful to buy.  And then I think “I’ll get it another time.” or “It’s tricky to find someone to watch the kids on a Saturday.” or “It’s too much money.”  Constantly saying no to myself because I’m not quite sure I deserve it.

So, I declare 2019 as the year of giving myself some writing treats!

Here are my resolutions:

I will attend three face-to-face writing events.

Unlike 95% of the writing world, I am a big E extravert. I love meeting people, I love seeing people, and I love talking to people.  However, with a few (awesome!) exceptions, most of my writing friends are on-line.  I want to change that.  I want to start going to events and networking and getting to know people.

At the moment I am down to go to KidLit Victoria in May.  I am still not sure of the practicalities of the Writers Victoria YA day with a not yet weaned 14 month old. I am also looking at the AWC Story Doctor course in November in Melbourne. So that is three good possibilities without breaking a sweet.

I will have some sort of writing retreat.

Every year my husband and I talk about it.  Me going away for a few days to write.  He is happy for it, and I know I will love every minute. But it never happens.  I don’t plan it, because I feel guilty or unsure, and then we hit the end of the year and it is far too busy to fit it in.  Not this year.

This year I will go away for at least two nights to get some writing done.  I will plan ahead, booking in a couple of days so I can’t back-out due to Mother-Guilt.    I will write, my kids will survive, and I will be a better writer and mother for the time away.

I will Buy and Read more New Books

Okay, so I cheating a bit, because this one started last year.  I knew in theory that I should be reading more new books.  But it takes so much more time and concentration and bother than picking up a Harry Potter again and reading it for the hundredth time.  Time and concentration I could be spending on my family, or even on my writing.

But I realised something last year.  My best writing tended to follow on after I had just finished reading an excellent new book.  The quality of the book, the excitement of the story inspired me on and I was a better writer because of it.  So I started buying books. I am a naturally tight individual who isn’t great at spending money on myself. But a book cost less than a fancy meal out, and was much more satisfying.  And I was supporting other authors in the process.

And when my money-spending guilt was on overdrive, I went to the local library.  There are plenty of great books that I haven’t read, sitting on the shelf waiting for me to reserve them.  And when I reserve them, it barely takes a minute to go into the Library and find all the books I want already there, waiting for me to pick them up.  Win-Win

I will Keep Writing for Fun

My favourite aspect of writing is the first draft.  The heady excitement of new characters popping into being as my fingers tap. Plot twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. The fun of creating a budding relationship, building the tension and sprinkling in the romance as grows.

But the problem with loving first drafts is you end up with too many projects, with none of them ready. And many of my goals for the year involve getting some of those project polished up to be ready for submission.

But writing is allowed to be a hobby as well as a job.  So I will give myself permission to indulge in the occasional new, shinny project.  My five year old has been keen for me to write a space-based story for him, and the plot and characters for this children’s story have been bubbling away for months.  One of my treats for this year will be writing that story, something new and different and as much for my own amusement as for any future publishing merit.

So those are my New Years gifts to myself.

And I’d love to hear other writer’s fun plans for the year ahead.