And whence to from here?

Posted on August 17, 2008


Firstly, big congratulations to Australian writer, Ian McHugh, for winning the writing award in the latest Writers and Illustrators of the Future contest. This is probably the biggest science fiction contest in the world and has produced some major talents. Ian has been honing his craft for a long time and has been rewarded for his efforts.

While pleased for Ian, this win did prompt me to think some more about my future. Come October 31st, I should have handed in the last of my university assignments and barring something disastrous happening, will be finished with my Graduate Diploma of Professional Writing. So what next?

My health has improved to the point that I am no longer quite the gibbering wreck that I was although I am still a long way from being fit enough to re-enter the workplace, not that too many workplaces will be terribly keen to hire someone who was forced out of the public service on mental health grounds (never mind that this situation only occurred because of a years-long pattern of lies, neglect and negligence with parties so far having escaped being called to account).

A couple of possibilities present themselves. First, I could stay here in Canberra and pursue my writing here. The positives of this are that Canberra provides a number of benefits to anyone with as wide a range of potential writing interests as I do: National Library, National Archives, War Memorial, ACT Writers Centre, good contacts at the University of Canberra and writing friends primarily through the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. The downside – as basically an invalid pensioner, I cannot afford to live anywhere here but the dungheap community housing facility I was condemned to some time back. My whole life has to be contained within a single bedroom. My writing space is virtually nil.

The other option is to pack up and move back down to Victoria. My base there would be my old home town of Bendigo. Well it was good enough for Sara Douglas when she was on the staff of the local campus of La Trobe Uni, although several years back Sara shot through down to Tasmania. On the positive side, the cost of living is slightly less. I would initially have to move back in with Mum and Dad while I try to find a small, affordable place to rent. Having a place of my own has frankly become a simply impractical dream unless I am eventually able to rehabilitate myself back into the workplace. Even then, having lost everything a while back, starting all over again at 45 makes home buying an unlikely prospect at best. That or I become incredibly successful as a
writer. Come to think of it, I do things like write in coffee shops, as JK Rowling did, so surely my success is now assured? 🙂 Being back in the old stomping ground also gives me a support network with the family (of sorts). The downsides of that move. The facilities there are nowhere as promising as here in Canberra. I know hardly anyone back down there any more. What remained of my old friends have since moved on. The prospect frankly leaves me a bit uncomfortable.

The one thing that I do know is that from October 31st onwards, it is all up to me. I have no excuses not to write.

What to do? What to do?

The quandry isn’t being helped by uni proving to be more than a tad difficult at present. My scriptwriting partner for a semester-long assignment has just bailed out. Students are flatly forbidden from working on this as a solo effort. Five weeks into the thing and I have been left stranded. My poetry lecturer refuses to make his lecture notes available, insisting that as lectures are recorded there is no need to make his notes available as everyone else in the faculty does. The fact that I am partly deaf and struggle to follow him at times and find the recordings next to useless, hasn’t cut much ice. I also have to memorise a poem as part of the assessment, although this little gem of information was not made available to me prior to signing up. The combination of my mental condition and medication have caused my previously bloody good memory to become bloody hopeless. I worked my bum off trying to memorise a simple 12 lines but have failed dismally to be able to memorise any more than the first eight or so. I requested permission to use a discrete prompt card with just a few key words on it as a recitation aid. That was refused. The most he would do was agree to postpone my presentation for a while. But time is not going to change something that simply isn’t going to happen at all.

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