Writing is my passion. I’ve been an avid reader since I was young; and while I may have taken the long way to becoming a writer, now that I’m here there’s nowhere else I can see myself. It’s been a complicated journey, but I still remember that rush from my first acceptance – where I was, when, and who I was with. In that moment, being a writer became possible. I’m even later to writing poetry; once again, I took a wild and unpaved road to get there, but once I arrived I fell completely in love with it. Now, here I am, publishing stunning poetry chapbooks with the most incredible small press, Animal Heart Press, under the guiding hand of my fierce EIC Elisabeth Horan. What started as a submission developed into a mentorship and then exploded into blossom-covered tree of friendship. Working with Elisabeth at Animal Heart has opened my eyes to what’s possible, and I am a stronger writer in every facet of my work because of it.
Recent talks with colleagues have returned time and time again to the way creatives value their time, and how we can protect it from a world that places increasing demands on us. For me, writing and editing is catharsis and I can’t imagine a day going by where I didn’t do something with words. Even if everything goes awry and I only manage a few minutes, the effect is instant; I’m calmer, more focused, my breathing slows. The world presses in, of course, but I fight hard to safeguard that precious time that lets me draw the strength I need to get through everything else.
There are probably as many writing routines as there are hours in the day, and different writers swear by different ones; whether it’s rising at a certain time every day, doing things at a particular time in a particular order, or hitting a certain number of words. I find this approach impossible – an inordinate number of spanners get thrown in my works – but a loose framework for my day might look a bit like this…
I’m hauled out of bed by hungry creatures (children, dogs, or cats) between 7:30 and 8 every morning. I’m usually awake before then, and communicating with my wonderful partners in press – we talk about our press projects, what we need to get done to drive them, other things we’re working on. It’s tricky being on opposite sides of the world, but we make it work beautifully. I manage the task of getting the MiniMcs fed and out the door on time, something which makes me eternally grateful for being a strong organiser. Once everyone is where they need to be, I breathe and start my own day.
I’m an active person and will either hit a CrossFit class or take my dogs on a long walk. I’m fortunate to live near some wonderful outdoor spaces and I like to enjoy them as much as I can. After an hour or two of moving, I head home for coffee and a block of time in my creating room.
No, it’s not an office, or a study. It’s my creative space and I treat it as such – it’s a room where I can write, read, paint, sculpt, draw, daydream. I often like to work in silence, but will occasionally pop on a nature soundtrack – nothing intrusive, just a little background noise. I cannot write to music – I find it too distracting. I also have an odd tendency to write down the lyrics without realising! When I settle in to creativity, I’ve got dogs or cats or sometimes both gathered around me, dozing. It’s a delightful sensation.
I sit, immersed in my task, for a few hours, breaking for lunch and perhaps a hot drink. An alarm is set so I don’t forget my afternoon duties, and from 3pm onward my time is consumed with pick ups, drop offs, homework, dinner, stories and hugs. Once the MiniMcs are off to bed, I tend to the necessary tasks that make tomorrow possible and then settle down to reading, writing, chatting with my husband, or very occasionally a movie. Then I head off to bed, where I try and sleep (I struggle with insomnia). Little quirks in the weather always draw me in. I mean, what writer can resist watching the fog swirl under the streetlights at two in the morning?
Amanda McLeod is an Australian author and artist, living in the Australian Capital Territory with her husband, children, and a menagerie of dogs and cats. Her writing has appeared in Ellipsis, Fevers of the Mind, Tiny Molecules, and elsewhere. She is the managing editor of Animal Heart Press, and loves the quiet. Connect with her on Twitter @AmandaMWrites or through her website amandamcleodwrites.com