Running to stand still*

Much as I loath it when anyone answers ‘How are you?’ with ‘Busy’, I have to confess that for the past few weeks, I’ve been overcommitted.

I don’t make a habit of it. Not only am I a recovered workaholic, thanks to being post-Catholic I’m also largely post-guilt and usually pretty good at saying no. But sometimes great opportunities all come at once and you can’t say no any more than you can tell an ebullient six-year-old to cease reading aloud.

First I had an end-October deadline for the structural edits on the new Jayne Keeney novel, The Dying Beach.

At the same time, I thought I might finesse what I’d written about literary walks on my brief trip to Europe in August as a travel piece; this appeared last weekend in several News Ltd publications as On the Wilde side of town.

I also said yes to a guest speaking gig at the Thornbury Women’s Neighbourhood House annual women’s dinner. My day job is in the Neighbourhood House sector and I normally avoid mixing the two. But this was an irresistible opportunity to talk about work-life balance with a group of women who tend to be very bad at it — as I once was — and to encourage them to nurture their creative impulses. As I’d done a fun gig at Glen Eira Libraries only a couple of weeks earlier for their Reading Circle on Crime Fiction, I figured I might as well stay on a roll…

Meanwhile, building on my recent research into Agatha Christie, I agreed to write an article on the connection between archaeology and crime fiction for the NSW Writers Centre’s magazine Newswrite. This gave me the opportunity to interview crime writing colleagues about the relationship between their lives and skills and the experience and attributes they give to their fictional detective characters — a rich seam of ideas I may well mine in a future series of posts.

In the midst of all this, the line-up for the Crime and Justice Festival was announced. I’m delighted to be appearing as both a session chair and panellist.

Because of all the above, I told Radio National I wouldn’t be available to do any book reviews until late-November. But they offered me the new JK Rowling novel A Casual Vacancy, to review on air Friday 9 November. And how could I say no the author who The Guardian Weekly calls ‘Her Literary Majesty’ — even if it was more than 500 pages long?

Now I’ve finished the novel, the two articles, the speaking engagements, the preparation for the Crime and Justice Festival and the JK Rowling book. Post the panic about deadlines, I find myself with a few days to spare. Part of me questions the quality of the work I’ve done– i.e. surely it can’t be any good if I’m no longer stressed? A more sane part thinks maybe all the time I spent thinking, reflecting and preparing might’ve paid off.

For now I’m going to attribute meeting my commitments to adrenaline, denial and making time for idle thoughts. A recipe that worked for me.

What recipe works for you?

*Borrowing from Margot Kinberg, this blog post shares its title with a U2 song.

About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. She won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, and the Scarlet Stiletto Award short story award. Her latest novel is, Mother of Pearl, published by Transit Lounge. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing, is former CEO of Writers Victoria, and currently works as CEO of Public Libraries Victoria.
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5 Responses to Running to stand still*

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Angela – Wow! I’m getting tired just reading about all that you’ve done lately. I think there’s nothing wrong at all with saying ‘no’ when you’ve been pushing yourself too hard. We all have only so much energy and time after all. That said though, I’d’ve had a hard time declining Radio National’s invite, myself… As to what recipe works for me? Coffee. Black, no sugar.


    • angelasavage says:

      I agree with you about the value of saying no, Margot. I was in my 30s before I acquired the skill, and still require regular practice to perfect it 😉 As for coffee, I try to limit my intake to one or two a day, although in the past week, I did have a three-cup day…


  2. kathy d. says:

    Yes, I, too, am exhausted contemplating this schedule, plus a day job and family. I liked the Oscar Wilde piece. I can relate to his hansom cab habit, as I am a taxicab fan.
    My tried-and-true method of instant energy is tea — English or Irish breakfast– and chocolate.
    Another food I found works late at night is fruit — oranges, tangerines, apples.
    I’ll take an hour, read some pages from a mystery, and come back refreshed to the task at hand.
    J.K. Rowling, couldn’t turn down reviewing her new book.
    Good luck on all of it.


  3. Pingback: Review: The Casual Vacancy | Angela Savage

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