I have decided to put a license on my blog.

To be precise, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand licence.

This means that you can copy, reuse or even alter my works, providing that you give attribution and share yourself. (Sharing is good. Unless you have a cold.) You can even make money from them.

There are several reasons why I am doing this.

The first (at least chronologically) is that I have actually heard of CC licensing, thanks to the Caped Gooseberry.

Cape gooseberry

Many people haven’t, particularly writers. Most advice for writers on the subject of licences is how to protect yourself from having your ideas ripped off.

Except the advice I received as a student in writing for theatre: don’t bother trying to protect your writing: theatre does not make enough money to be worth pirating.

Clearly, times have changed since actors made a handy side-income in reciting the latest Shakespeare to a printer. (Fascinatingly, you can actually tell which role they were playing – those lines are perfect, the other lines in their scenes are pretty accurate, and the scenes where they are offstage are complete rubbish.)

Bad quarto, good quarto, first folio

The biggest reason is that a lot of what writers do these days is publicity – book signings, library visits, blog tours and what have you. And these are the writers with publishing houses behind them.

Frankly, that isn’t my cup of tea, as much as I love the sound of my own voice. I’d rather be holed up in a rather cozy garret somewhere, writing.

Carl Spitzweg - Der arme Poet (Germanisches Nationalmuseum)

A CC license allows me to allow others to spread my works far and wide (should they find it worth their while) while I stay curled up in afore-mentioned garret.

Ah, I hear you say, but what about the money?
There isn’t any.

Well, that’s not entirely true.
There are those who do quite well out of their writing – everyone knows about the fabulous wealth of J K Rowling, and as for no money in theatre, well, Yasmina Reza doesn’t do too badly.

But – and this is the point I would stress – there is not a lot of money in it either way. Unless you are JKR, you would, as one writer on writing I read said, be making a better living as a professional knitter.

Fair-Trade Knit Toys

Even if you can get a publishing contract – and they’re harder than ever to come by – there’s still a lot to be done for relatively little reward, considering the hours put in.

I remember meeting a bloke in a pub once who told of his best friend admitting how guilty he felt at not buying a copy of the bloke’s recently published book.
“That’s ok,” he said, “give me a dollar twenty and we’re even.”

Somewhat counter-intuitively, you can still make money by giving your work away. Exhibit A: Nina Paley.


But even if there isn’t any money in it, there’s still the joy of telling stories. And knowing that they won’t be restricted to those who can fork out forty bucks for a copy. Stories for everybody.

The world has changed. Reciting Shakespeare to a printer is no longer good money. Books don’t sell like they used to (although I would be the last to announce the death of the book).
As Curly says in Oklahoma, “Country a-changin’, got to change with it!”

Myself, I long for the old old days, when rich people would display their wealth and taste by having a writer on the payroll. Bed, board, mansion garret and possibly access to the library, in return for writing all day? Where do I apply?

So, if you see something you like, take it. Use it. Pass it on. Feel free.

The world is changing, and “the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.

Reading Deprivation

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this week I am trying to take Elle MacPherson’s advice on reading: “I don’t think you should read what you haven’t written.”

Elle Macpherson at Myer 17 Sept 2011

Julia Cameron often includes an exercise in the body of the chapter, in addition to the Tasks enumerated at the end. Usually they’re mildly interesting and you glide over them without too much time or effort required. Remembering your favourite things as a child, for example. That sort of thing.
This month: go a week without reading.

Er – what?


Admittedly, I am presently nearing 19 hours into the reading deprivation, which may account for the edge of hysteria in my tone, but really!

Those close to me may wish to verify this, but I don’t believe I’ve gone that long without reading since I was three. And couldn’t read.


In the years since, I have gone to quite some lengths to avoid running out of reading material.
I would read the encyclopedia, or failing that, the dictionary. (The telephone directory was one A4 sheet, so not worth the trouble.)
At the age of six and a half, I ran through all my books on a family holiday and embarked upon my mother’s Agatha Christie.

This is a little more complicated than just not reading, though.
There are nuances.

The idea is to minimise input – especially in the form of words – so as to hear what is actually going on in our inner silence. Or something like that. I was too busy panicking to take in the delicate details.

Cameron makes an exception for her own book (gotta do those exercises!), and I intend to make an exception for reading Scripture – a girl’s gotta eat, after all.

However, since the aim is to drain out the words rushing in, that means no being read to (one of my favourite pastimes), no movies, no television, no radio. Silence.
I make another exception for conversation, since a) I am not a Trappist, and b) I have to talk at the Dreaded Day Job and if I don’t get to talk at home as well I Will Go Mad. Ditto for emails.

Madeleine L’Engle says “It’s a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.”

The Ruined Castle

I think I am coming to realise just how much of a prop reading is to me.

When I’m stressed, I read. When I’m curious, I read. When I want to relax, I read. When I find a fascinating little morsel on the library catalogue, I READ IT!
Take away reading and being read to, and you have most of my week’s leisure time accounted for. Take away television as well, and you have the half hour that was left.

So what am I going to do this week?

Lots of sewing, knitting and mending – although I will miss being able to do this while listening to the Caped Gooseberry read. Say what you like, re-elasticising old jammie trousers is not sufficiently mentally taxing to hold the mind in thrall.

(Plus the CG has a really nice reading voice. He starts reading aloud, and catweasel #2 will appear out of nowhere to curl up on his lap and gaze at him adoringly. I find this annoying, possibly on the grounds that we despise most in others the weaknesses we see in ourselves.)

120301 Day 255 adoring

Sleeping – not much point staying up late to finish the book you aren’t reading. Ditto TV, although I don’t bother staying up late for that anyway.

And hopefully writing. These are the only words that are not only permitted, but encouraged. I shall write blog posts. I shall write journal entries. I shall write morning pages. I shall try to write as much as possible on my Work In Progress.

The clock stops at midnight next Sunday.
There are two possible scenarios at that point:
One, I am so thoroughly purged of the babbling detritus of modern existence that I glide serenely through life, possibly emitting a faint humming noise, and not even noticing that the reading ban is over, so enlightened am I.

holy glow

Two, I stay up late in order to feast my starved eyes on the fat deliciousness that is The Book. (Touch the book. Smell the book. Kiss the book. Read the book Read The Book READ THE BOOK!)
Brand me a pessimist if you must, but I believe the second scenario to be somewhat more likely.

Did I mention that due to the national commemoration of the war dead (i.e. ANZAC Day) I will have a whole extra day at home this week?

Did I mention how many books I have at home? (Hundreds. Over a thousand, I think. I haven’t had time to count them in the last few years. Possibly something else that can be done while Not Reading, if you’ve always wondered what it would be like to be Tantalus.)

Tantalus Gioacchino Assereto circa1640s

Did I mention that I bought an 878-page book online last week, and it arrived today?

My timing is impeccable.
All inquiries care of the Nut House.

Great Expectations

Not the book. Or even one of the dozen and a half films, TV movies and mini-series listed on IMDB under that title. (Why so popular, I wonder? Myself, I much prefer Nicholas Nickleby and A Tale of Two Cities. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Genius.)

No, I refer to the expectations we have of ourselves, as writers, and as doers generally. We will work so many hours per week. We will keep our houses in such a state of cleanliness. We will maintain so many relationships to such a degree. We will have hobbies. We will read. And we will write.

As previously mentioned, there are 168 hours in a week. One can only do so much, and if you pack each minute ’til its sides bulge like a spring-loaded suitcase, sooner or later you will wear down, and go splat.

13/365 - Splat!

So Sensible Expectations are key, if not so much of a runaway best-seller.

But how do you know what are sensible expectations to have of yourself? No two people are exactly alike, nor do they live the same lives, so you can’t really base your expectations of yourself on what someone else is able to achieve. They’re not you. You can’t compare.

Trial and error? That sounds sensible (if time-consuming) but we are in a constant state of change, are we not? What tired me yesterday when I did it for the first time may well be manageable today, and even easy tomorrow.

So do our expectations of ourselves need to be continually adapting to our changing circumstances and changing selves? And if so, how do you maintain them as an expectation?

If the standard can be flexed indefinitely, does it still constitute a standard? Does ‘getting out of bed at 6:30am’ count as a standard if it can be adapted to the circumstance of ‘being tired’ which results, in point of fact, in ‘not getting out of bed at 6:30am’?

Bed Time!

Do you see what I mean? And better yet, do you have any nuggets of relevant wisdom you have distilled over a long life? (Or a short life – the indigent mendicants not being noted for their selective abilities.)

This is an issue I have been mulling over a good deal lately, with regards to many aspects of my life, but the only definite conclusion I have come to concerns my Word Count.

I have decided to revise my target from 500 words a day, 6 days a week (a total of 3,000 words a week) to 400 words a day, 5 days a week (a total of 2,000 words a week) – effective 14th April.

To be sure, targets are set to be aimed at, but there is something rather depressing to the spirits about mostly missing, even if you expect to. If you don’t believe me, read an ‘aspirational’ women’s magazine (making sure to look at all the pictures), and see how you feel at the end.

Michelle Moore, America's Perfect Woman 2011

(Unless you happen to be of the male persuasion, in which case think of a situation in which you fork out your hard-earned to have someone point out how perfect you and your life aren’t, and suggest all the self-improvement (and purchasing) you ought to be doing, in order to be as much like the perfection you aren’t as possible. Then let me know what that situation is, I’ve always wondered.)

400 words a day. Five days a week. That’s my Sensible Expectation. For now.