As part of this year's Digital Writers' Festival, I'm taking part in a project run by Madeleine Dore of Extraordinary Routines in which twelve writers share their daily routine on Instagram, one a day over the duration of the festival. It's a really lovely project to have been asked to take part in, and one that has kickstarted parts of my brain in which ideas around representation and the self, photography, secondary artistic pratices and microblogging have been swimming around sluggishly for some time now.
The hardest part of the project turned out to be sitting on my hands - sending eight or nine photographs to Madeleine and then doing nothing about it. Back when you could still smoke in bars, I used to joke about taking up knitting, which people did for a while, to be hip; I envied the smokers their occupation, the gestural qualities of their waiting time which, instead of being physically dead, was made vivid by the gusts and curls of smoke and the constant movement of hand to mouth.
It surprised me to find an analogue in the way I often jitterishly play with the sliding controls for Instagram's light, shadow, saturation; in the way I take and retake images, export to third-party apps, crop, bleach, correct and style. Even though these little gestures are swift, only every taking up a few moments of the day, they are often sometimes the most physically satisfying of the day.
It was also strange to construct - God forbid 'curate' - an 'average' day from a half-dozen glimpses. Preparing work for a platform as attuned to spontaneity as Instagram felt counterintuitive and strangely dishonest. The cumulation of little square tiles on my profile page tells the story of my day, my many days, better than something I've had to think about - no matter how banal the images or cliched, they tell something true to the moment.
In the end I got out my proper camera and shot things digitally. No filters, no twiddling - although inevitably I found myself moving ratty bits of paper out of the way, wiping surfaces, arranging flowers, making my surroundings a little nicer to conform to dominant aesthetic paradigm of dreaminess and ease. It's funny how tropes get under your skin. Anyway I think there's an essay stirring here somewhere; in the meantime, here's my day on a plate, as sent to Madeleine.
01 / WAKE
My son wakes me up somewhere between 5.30am and 6am. Depending on how I’ve slept, I either jump up and make him breakfast, or pull him into bed with me and stick an episode of Play School on iView – usually the latter. I use my waking-up time to check social media and skim any emails that have come in overnight.
02 / READ
The café across the road from O’s daycare has a good soy latte and a decent range of local and Scandinavian indie mags. Even though I haven’t worked in magazines for a few years, I still like to see what various editors are doing, and make note of any writers I might like to commission down the track. I have a little notebook in which I scrawl down essay ideas and notes, but contact details are too important for my handwriting – they go straight into the phone.
03 / WORK
I try to balance commercial work (feature articles, shorts, manuscript assessment, copy editing etc.) with my own writing, which at the moment is a series of linked essays about totemic objects. Nothing Instagrammable happens for the next 4-6 hours.
04 / WALK
Our apartment can only hold so many green things, so every day I try to go for a decent ramble, either to the local park or up to Rippon Lea or the St Kilda Botanical Gardens. I love the greenhouse at the Gardens – it’s a calm, steamy, meditative place to sit and slowly unfurl.
05 / PARENT
Okay, parenting is really interspersed throughout everything – on O’s non-daycare days, I often sneakily write emails on my phone or race through assignments while he sits in a cardboard box and pretends it’s a boat. Little intervals of time to work can be incredibly precious. But this time is good too – the post-daycare crazy whirl of overtired little boy. My husband is away at the moment, so after dinner and a romp and a bath, we snuggle in and I play him one of the videos we’ve made of Mike reading bedtime stories. I feel very blessed by technology sometimes – and O doesn’t question it. He thinks his LA grandparents live inside the iPad.
06 / EAT
Dinner for one is more or less always tofu and Chinese broccoli. Over dinner I comfort read. Tonight it’s Rumer Godden’s ‘A Candle for St Jude’, one of her perfect little ballet books.
07 / WEAVE
I took a weaving class as part of a story I wrote on the resurgence of craft tapestry, and I really enjoy it. Partly it’s the instant gratification; I can work for days on a non-commercial piece of writing and get absolutely nowhere, whereas tabby weave just appears beneath your fingers. You don’t always know what you’re getting, though. I wove this thinking of the soft dusty greens and silvers of the bush, but taking a step back, I think I have made camouflage.
08 / READ SOME MORE THEN SLEEP
If I’ve already finished my dinner book, I usually read a few verses of poetry before going to bed. A beloved teacher gave me ‘Four Quartets’ when I was thirteen, and in the time since, I have always found something new and beautiful within them. Tonight it’s East Coker: ‘Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires / old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth / which is already flesh, fur and faeces / bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.’ What more could you ever, ever want?