What I learned in my holidays

1. Betty’s Bay is good for the soul. This is the loft where I sit with my laptop and read blog-posts when I’m not gazing out at the view instead.

2. The sunsets aren’t bad either. This is just from my phone, so you can imagine how much better it is in reality.

3. You shouldn’t trim your bushy eyebrows with nail-clippers unless you’re trying for that slightly moth-eaten look.

4. Old cars need to be serviced once a year. Writing a reminder in November that I should “check for last service and schedule new one” didn’t help me in February when the car konked in.

5. Small-town mechanics can basically name their price. The expression “having you over a barrel” springs to mind.

6. If I want to get some writing done, I should be stricter about blocking off time and not getting distracted. I started working some old journal material into a story and then ran out of steam. I petered out.

7. Whoever came up with the expression “petered out” has some explaining to do. I’m sure I’m not the only Peter who objects to that phrase.

8. Being single on Valentine’s Day needn’t be so bad. I’m thinking of it as a celebration of love. Pet love, family love, friend love, book love. Romantic love can wait.

9. I should read more Alice Munro. Picked up her collection “Runaway” and was blown away. Not immediately but she has this way of working into your heart and then you wonder how you lived without her. Ok, perhaps not that dramatically. But she writes so simply and evocatively. Her short story “Runaway” has what Karen Russell (commenting on Carson McCuller’s story The Jockey on a New Yorker podcast) calls “unexploded bombs”. I would just say: read this story.

10. I tend to over-analyse things. Perhaps it’s part of my training. And I am a big fan of insight, which I now regard as necessary but insufficient for meaningful change. One of my supervisors used to say, “Just stay with the feeling”. You could probably say the same about writing. Don’t think your story too much. Feel it. Easier said than done though, right?

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16 Responses to What I learned in my holidays

  1. litlove says:

    Much easier said than done – staying with feeling is hard for us analytical types. But then, you have to look around you at all those feeling-first types who absolutely loathe to analyse. There has to be a happy medium somewhere, right? And your photos are stunning – that really does look like an inspirational place to be.

    • Pete says:

      Litlove – Very difficult. But it gets easier with practise I’m hoping. And you’re so right about the happy medium between thought and feeling. The photos remind me we’re heading into late summer here so i guess spring can’t be that far off up where you are.

  2. Just a Gal says:

    Howzit! Im an XsouthAfrican (from JHB-Gauteng) now living oversease

    I love following your blog

    J G

  3. Sarah says:

    I agree that Alice Munro works her way into your heart- I read her first book, Dance of the happy shades, a few years back and since then have read another eight! Her new collection was particulary good I thought.

    • Pete says:

      Sarah – I remember you reviewed Alice Munro recently so I I’ve just been to re-read your review. My edition also has that Jonathan Franzen intro which does an excellent job of marketing Alice’s writing. And thanks for the pointer to her latest collection. Dance of the Happy Shades now added to the list.

  4. natalian says:

    That loft looks like a perfect place to read, write and reflect! I miss sunsets like that!

  5. Harriet says:

    Beautiful photos, wow I would love to be in a place like that right now. All I can see for miles around is dirty slushy snow!

    Regarding the eyebrows, as my 17 year old daughter would say – DUH! If you ever have any grooming questions please ask me first, I’m a stickler for good beauty habits.

  6. Wonderful photos. I just picked up Runaway, too, but haven’t had a chance yet to read it. I’m a big Munro fan.

  7. doctordi says:

    Gorgeous photos, Pete. I’ll have to get hold of some Alice Munro now on the strength of this, that’s quite a rap. I’m not sure about that balancing act either. At a certain point, all the spontaneous feeling in the world won’t address the more technical challenges of writing a good short story – more and more I think some dispassionate, analytical thinking is necessary.

  8. Courtney says:

    I’ve been meaning to read some Alice Munro for a while now – am ashamed to say I haven’t read any of her work yet. I do think this year in reading will be defined by finally getting around to all the books and authors I meant to read previously…

  9. Emily Barton says:

    I think I could get used to sitting in that loft and never moving. Sounds like you had a productive and lovely vacation (even if the car broke down, and you didn’t finish that story).

  10. Pete says:

    Natalian – I know. Just wish I could be there more often. The week and a bit I spent there was just not enough.

    Harriet – Well your snow pics were quite dramatic but I wouldn’t want that every day. And I think I learned my lesson with the nail clippers!

    Lilian – Will be interested to hear your thoughts on Munro. I loved reading about the Canada she depicts. A bit bleak, but engaging and poetic.

    DoctorDi – Yes, now that you put it that way I can see the benefit of some thorough analytical thinking if the writing is to work. But as LL says, a healthy balance is good.

    Courtney – Well you do have a lot on your plate with a full-time job and writing etc. But I hope you get round to some of the reading you’ve been saving up.

    Emily – Yes, a lovely holiday (even with the car drama). Was a little despondent over the lack of progress with the writing but I think the trick is to keep going.

  11. Grad says:

    Oh I hear you on all of these. I am also very analytical – I have to plan, and pay attention to the details. You write so well, Pete, that I wouldn’t change much of what you are already doing which seems to come naturally to you. Oh, and the photos are rapture! What a view!

  12. I am so with you on the insight = necessary but not sufficient idea. Excellent way to phrase it.

    I remember asking a jungian-analyst supervisor years ago during my training, “Ok, so the patient gets this powerful insight. Now what?” I was being serious, not flip. She didn’t like me too much after that.

  13. RE: Munro — highly, highly recommend “The Beggar Maid” — her best vintage work, which she has not, IMO, surpassed.

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