Late last year I set myself the task of reading through my old journals. They're in boxes, numerous exercise and writing books stacked away under my desk. There's quite a few of them, and here's a picture of some. They begin when I was 18, and continue on to the present day.
Tucked in amongst the pages are mementos that I saved: old theatre programmes, newspaper clippings, a McDonald's menu (from the first one opened in New Zealand) and a bus ticket from Auckland to Marton, issued by the New Zealand Government Tourist Bureau for a Railways Road Services bus, costing $12.20 which was actually quite a bit back in 1976.
One thing I've noticed, re-reading these old journals, is how your mind confuses things later on. I could have sworn that I had never been to Marton, but here is the proof that I actually had.
I am sometimes asked by friends who know I keep a journal, to go back through the years and check on things. One good mate recently asked if we had, in our youthful high school days, actually gone with her parents up north for a holiday. 'Or did I dream that up?' I checked, indeed we had, and it was jolly fine fun, according to my journal.
When you're getting ready to write your memoirs, you just can't beat your journals as a source of information, facts and figures, and perhaps most valuable of all, that reflection of the person you were at the time. This is something I cover in my writing workshops: how to get started with journaling, and using this as a resource for life writing.
I can track the expansion of my world, from the cloistered walls of our single-sex high school, into the 'big city' and university life.
I read my entries from my first year at Auckland University and I think, 'What a self-centred, opinionated know-it-all I was, and what an insufferable bore I must've been to be around.' I suspect that when we're that age, we think we know everything.
My second year, I marvel at how much I did - I had a huge study load, was doing amateur theatre across the road in Symonds St and performing in university productions, was always out at all hours of the day and night, and then wondering why, every now and then, I'd have a major collapse, feeling so tired. Duh.
I'm starting to read about my third and final year at university, pondering my options of continuing to do an MA at Auckland, go to an overseas university to study further, or just get a job.
Things could not have turned out differently. Little did I know.
So what did I do, in the end? Well, you'll just have to wait for my memoir to come out. Suffice to say, it set me upon a totally different path than the one I'd envisaged for myself.
But then that's how life can be.
I've long been interested in the 'transmigration of souls' concept, where it is thought that the soul can pass from one body to another - either human, animal, or perhaps to an inanimate object.
I think my cat Little Boy, who passed away some weeks back, has transmigrated into one of these bloody blackbirds that have plagued me all summer so far.
I wrote about these winged friends in an earlier blog. They had a particularly productive spring, reproducing themselves at an impressive rate, so now there are several hopping and skittering about in my yard, pooping all over the deck, trying to get into the house ...
There is one in particular that makes me believe in this migration of souls business.
It's uncanny, because she behaves very similarly to Little Boy.
One of the things LB used to do was to welcome me home after I'd been out. No matter what time of day, he'd hear me coming up the stairs, meow a greeting, and appear on the deck to say hello.
This little blackbird doesn't meow, but as soon as I get home (within the hours of daylight), it bounces up from the grass and sits on the doormat outside the door. If the door is open, it comes in and sits on the mat, looking at me. Fortunately it comes no further.
Of course I always assume they want to be my friend simply for food, but last evening, I placed some pieces of bread out there to see if this was correct. The bird looked at the bread, ignored it, and hopped towards me to stand about two feet away, just looking up at me.
Every morning when I appear at the door, the blackbird is out there, on the mat, waiting. At this time of day, it's all about food, but as the day unfolds, she is often around, and will hop up onto the deck if I'm sitting there, and we hang out. Just like the cat used to do.
We can see the character of our loved ones who have passed on in other living things: birds, animals, clouds, trees. A friend of mine is positive that her Auntie Ivy resides in one of her cats and maybe Little Boy has migrated into the blackbird.
I reckon it's all connected, in one big universal, collective, soulful, organic and heavenly mix that surrounds us every day.
One interprets that as one pleases.
How are you getting on with your writing resolutions for the New Year?
Maybe this is the year you'll start work on The Great Novel you've been pondering for ages. Or you'll finish the one you began three years ago.
Perhaps you're wanting to make a start with your writing - give it a go. I can help with that. I have two March writing workshops focussing on journal writing and life writing. Would love to see you. I'll have more during the year.
As you sit out in the sunshine, you might be thinking of starting a journal, writing about your summer adventures - and you never know where that type of writing may lead you.
Whatever you decide, it's time to get started. The first week of the new year just feels like a great time to begin!
So what have I resolved to do with my writing in 2017?
I plan to write. That's it.
Last year I just didn't get much writing done, and by that I mean journaling, short story, life story, and my work on the book I'm writing about my Mom.
I haven't picked a specific project to work on, although the book about Mom is probably as specific as it gets.
I want to make more time to write and to make sure I do it every day. When that times rolls around each day, I want to actually sit down and do it.
You'll probably thinking, gosh that sounds a bit boring for a writing resolution but it's actually the key to the whole shooting match. If I don't sit down to write, nothing gets done.
Making the time, and sticking to a schedule, is integral to our writing work. It's the discipline that gets books written, journals done every day, and novels completed.
So whatever your writing resolutions are for the year, get stuck in, stay with it, and congratulate yourself often for hanging in there. Celebrate your writing accomplishments.
It's gonna be a great year.