I read through Karen’s post as she responds to receiving the Leibster award for blogging, and reflects on the questions her nominator asks. I love her love affair with the Highlands and western islands of Scotland, and the superb prose and photos through which she shares it, and I enjoy this further insight into her history and personality, beautifully presented.
Imagine my surprise, when I find that she’s nominated 12monthsinwarsaw for the same award: I have to click on the link to make sure it’s me she means. Then I cry.
I’ve had fun answering Karen’s questions, the prerogative of the nominator. I’ve always been a sucker for questionnaires, and I relish the opportunity to be a bit narcissistic after posts focused on my descendents and a city. My response will be image-free, because the relevant photos are neatly (or otherwise) filed in Australia, mainly in non-digital format.
QUESTIONS KAREN ASKED ME
1. What inspired you to start blogging?
A few things came together. I’d been a participant in a blog where a group of artists painted on Sunday afternoons and posted the results for critique. I don’t paint, but I became the token writer. So I learnt a bit about what blogging is. Then I was inspired by my daughter. She managed to blog regularly for eighteen months while she was riding a pushbike from Tokyo to Warsaw with her husband. I thought “I wonder if I could do that?” – blog, not ride a bike for eighteen months – and my first blog was born.
I was also inspired by my desire to write in an incidental sort of way, nothing major, just wrestling words into shape to say roughly what I wanted them to say. Mostly my posts have companion photos which find their home there. My writing is patchy, but I have to say my photography has definitely improved since I began blogging.
When I began coming to Warsaw, I decided to start a new blog for each visit, for my convenience rather than that of my followers: that’s five separate Warsaw blogs.
If I had to summarise what I blog about pretty well every post is in some way in praise of place.
2. Tell me about a topic that you would like to blog about which you haven’t previously posted on.
My topics tend to be opportunistic, more or less whatever pops into my head or out of my experience: reviews, the odd poem, an account of what I encounter wherever I happen to be. I’ve got a few half-finished projects though: one about body parts – I’ve done feet and hands, and thought about breasts and teeth – and something based on my great-uncle’s WW1 letters. I’d also like to write my reading memoir; convert my travels in Egypt, Syria and Jordan into a postcard series; and write a parallel account of my mother’s visit to Tasmania and my own, when we were each 60. But at the moment I’m only writing Warsaw.
3. How do you go about writing a post?
I usually begin with an experience and photos. I often use the photos as a kind of story board to get me started. I sort them, sequence them, sometimes edit a bit with Snapseed, and collage them using Lipix. My rule of thumb is no more than 10-15 photos per post: using collages I can cheat! Usually I need to do a bit of research, which can be problematic in Warsaw, since I don’t read Polish. I make a rough draft on the WordPress app on my iPad and leave it around in a state of schedule for at least a few days, tinkering with it to find the exact word (I’m forever asking Google for synonyms), to get the tenses right, and to make sure all the crucial logic is in the post, not just in my head. Then I decide what links I want to include, and insert them. Sometimes the muse strikes and I feel excited, but mostly I feel as if both photos and writing are merely workmanlike.
4. What’s your favourite quote?
“If I had more time I’d write you a shorter letter.” I think the hardest thing I ever “wrote” was a 2 minute speech. It would’ve been much easier to burble on for an hour.
I also like my mother’s gloss on Karen’s favourite quote. Mum used to say “If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing”, and that got me over many attacks of defeatist perfectionism.
5. What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a blog?
Don’t, unless you’re in the market for an addiction!
Then I’d say build yourself a community, small and select, so you can converse via comments and develop friendships. I’ve met four blogging sisters in the last few years, and each meeting has been very special. I realised how powerful a blogosphere friendship can be when Christine, a blogging friend and a neighbour, died two years ago. She’d forged ties with so many people through her blog and theirs, and grief at her passing was palpable even though most people hadn’t “met” her.
Then I’d say ration blogging time a bit. I was horrified when I realised how many hours I spent in the blogosphere and how much I shaped my life around “that would make a good post.” And how eager I was to check out comments. If I spent as much time trying to learn Polish, I’d be able to say something comprehensible by now.
6. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given in life?
Say yes to everything! This opened many doors to me at a time when I was trying to sort out my identity separate from mother, daughter, wife, and shook me out of native timidity.
7. What’s the most special place you’ve ever visited?
How many am I allowed? There was a burnt out tree in the Flinders Ranges that I came across when I was walking by myself: it exuded power and gave me peace for a long time whenever I looked at a photo of it. There was a windy ridge in Quinkin country near Laura in north Queensland that suddenly became silent with presence. There’s another ridge in the Great Divide near home which is rocky and rich with rock orchids and clear mountain air. And a sad special place, a memorial walk to commemorate Aboriginal people killed in the Myall Creek massacre, one of many shameful massacres of our first people. And Broken Hill, where I lived for six years, became a heart place very quickly: I loved flying into it over the red soil plains, or feeling a sense of homecoming when I drove past the first leopard tree.
Overseas? The Alps (any alp!) and Wadi Rum.
I suspect I’m a bit promiscuous when it comes to love of place.
8. What does happiness mean to you?
I’m happy when I’ve walked and my day has been special in some some way. I’m happy when I’m with friends who enlarge my world. I’m happy when all’s well with all those I care about. I’m happy when I can wear short sleeves and feel sun and breeze on my arms. I’m happy when my grandkids snuggle up to me.
9. What would you do if you had one day left to live?
I’d summon all my family and special friends and have a feast close to the beach, and special time with each of them – always supposing I had warning!
10. Tell me three things that are on your Bucket List.
The western islands of Scotland (thank you Karen). Health into deep old age. Recovery from the blogging addiction.
11. What’s the best adventure you’ve ever had?
I’m greedy. I want two. A six-day hike in the Nadgee Wilderness on the border between NSW and Victoria, not a huge distance but we carried everything and saw pretty well nobody, if you discount a couple of snakes and a lot of wombats. And two weeks on an archaeological dig at Pella in Jordan as a volunteer with Sydney University, bookended by a week in Syria backpacking on my own and a week in Jordan doing the same thing. These were both when I was in my mid fifties. I would have to add suddenly finding a second home in Warsaw in my late 60s.
11 RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ME
- I’m a conscripted semi-vegan, at least for this year
- I go to bed very early and I like being up and about early too
- I get on well with my four children
- I read indiscriminately and unreflectively
- I relish living, travelling and walking alone
- I once became obsessed with calligraphy
- I hate walking on soft sand
- I gasp aloud and mutter appreciation when I see something I really like: a flower, a bit of bush, a painting
- I enjoy public transport: I don’t even mind long flights.
- I rarely do housework and I’m very bad at it when I do
- I love spending time with my four energetic and delightful grandkids and admiring in them all the things that aren’t in me: things like linguistic confidence and agility.
I’m nominating, absolutely without obligation, and in no particular order, less than 11 bloggers, because a number of those I follow have suddenly decided to take leave from the blogosphere. All of you have given me immense pleasure since I began following you, with the diversity of your posts and the lively conversations via comment. Thank you.
If you accept the nomination this is what you need to do.
A GENTLE INQUISITION
Here are my questions for you, a gentle inquisition. I hope you have as much fun with them as I did with Karen’s questions.
- What was your greatest blogging moment?
- Which post of yours is your favourite? What’s the story behind it? And please link to it.
- What draws you to someone else’s blog?
- What do you like to do when you’re not blogging?
- What’s the best thing about where you live?
- Which of the five senses would you sacrifice if you had to?
- Share an anecdote about your favourite form of transport, please.
- Tell me about an occasion when a meal, company and venue came together in perfection. Please.
- What are five of your favourite words?
- Who is your favourite writer – at this moment? Or your favourite piece of music?
- What’s your greatest regret, or your greatest challenge?
Thank you so much, Karen, for valuing 12monthsinwarsaw.