Tailor-Made Targets: How To Actually Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! We’re now five days into 2014, and I bet you thought you’d seen the last of the ‘Here’s what I’m going to take up/give up/change/accomplish in the New Year’ posts. If you’re tired of reading about the same old resolutions everybody makes every year, though, read on – I’m about to consider why it’s important not to simply keep making those run-of-the-mill throwaway resolutions (especially if you want any chance of actually keeping them).

Resolutions are hard to keep. The first week of the year is always the best: you’re being a real, resolution-keeping grown-up, doing all sorts of responsible shit (and making sure to tell everyone what a responsible, resolution-keeping grown-up you are). Soon, though, things inevitably start to get in the way of your new goals, and it becomes much too easy to let everything slide. Often, this can also be due to the generalised nature of your resolutions; if you set yourself sweeping, commonplace goals without keeping focus on your individual reasoning for wanting to achieve them, there’s little to no chance that you’re going to maintain the motivation necessary to succeed.

So, this year, I’ve decided that I am going to set myself some pretty general, cliché-sounding resolutions – BUT: I’m going to make sure I tailor them specifically to my own lifestyle and motivational factors.

1. I will be super organised, using all the cute stationery and handy gadgets I have at my disposal.

This year, I’ll be working two part-time jobs while also completing a Graduate Certificate in Editing and Publishing. This is going to require a fair bit of organisation and some pretty good time management. Luckily, a few of my Christmas presents will really help me out: the super pretty 2014 Frankie diary and my new Galaxy Note tab!

 IMG_0193  IMG_0195

I’m so excited to start my postgrad study – firstly, because I genuinely love studying, and secondly, because it will bring me that next step closer to fulfilling my career goals. It’s going to be a challenge balancing study with enough hours at work to pay my way, so I’m going to try my best to up my productivity, kick all forms of procrastination to the curb, and work as hard as I can – and the only way I’ll be able to do it is by becoming my own little personal assistant!

2. I will actually, deliberately exercise.

I’m fortunate enough to be naturally quite slim – I must have a fast metabolism, because I can (and do) eat A LOT and exercise very little without stacking on the kilos. This year, though, I think it’s about time I paid attention to that old adage quoted by wise mums everywhere: ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’. Now, I am never going to be a gym junkie – actually, to be honest, I am probably never even going to set foot in a gym. (I’m far too awkward and uncoordinated for all that.) All I want to do is make sure I try to do some form of exercise every day, no matter how small. I’m really keen to look into things like yoga and pilates soon, but to start with, my exercise staple will be walking.

IMG_0188Bar Beach, NSW: my daily walk.

I’ll try to go for a solid walk every day, whether it be the few kilometres to and from the beach, the ten-minute walk to the shops for a few groceries, or simply the hike up and down the steep hill that lies between my bookshop and what seems to be the only free parking in town. (As a sidenote: thankyou, money-hungry city of Newcastle, for making parking in town both difficult and expensive; you’ve inspired [read: forced] me to keep this particular resolution every time I go to work.)

3. I will expand my very average cooking skills, little by little.

I am not a chef. It’s mainly a confidence thing: I don’t trust myself enough to try new things, and I worry that I’ll mess up even the most absurdly simple of dishes. Luckily, Nathan is excellent at cooking, so when he has a night off work he makes us delicious food (interspersed by a few simple pasta dishes from me, which are basically the only things I can make without fretting myself into a coma). But this year, I’ve decided that hey! I’m a grown-ass woman; I want to branch out from spag bol and become an (extremely) amateur chef of my own! I’ve started nice and simple: delicious Mediterranean stuffed capsicums, for which I found a great BBC Good Food recipe.

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The dish was, admittedly, pretty hard to mess up, but it turned out wonderfully and I was so pleased! I think the trick for me is going to be to start small, relish each little new achievement, and gradually work my way up in terms of complexity and range. Here’s to new culinary courage and plenty of lovely meals to try out and master!

4. I will read as many books as I can, and keep track of them all.

I have read a lot of books. I always daydream about there being some hidden counter in your brain that records every book you’ve ever read, showing you the final figure just before you’re about to check out of the big old Life Hotel. I like to think I’ve already racked up a pretty impressive count! But as an interesting way to actively keep track of my reading, tally up my total, and reflect on what I’ve read at the end of the year, I’m going to start keeping a list of all the books I read (as well as the books I want to read – working at a bookshop means that is a virtually never-ending list). 

IMG_0196My 2014 ‘To Read’ list so far.

5. I will think about getting back into creative writing.

During my Christmas shopping, I was on the hunt for books for Nathan’s 13-year-old sister. What an exciting age: the bigger, bolder world of youth fiction is just opening up to you, and you have literally thousands of new books to explore. Researching and recalling some of the titles I enjoyed in my primary and early high school years was such a lovely, nostalgic thing to do – I remembered so many that were such a joy to read and that helped to further my love of books at such an important time in my youth. Fantasy books were especially important to me; Harry Potter, of course, is pretty much the greatest love of my entire childhood, but there were also other fantasy series that really kindled my penchant for the genre. One in particular that I had completely forgotten about is the Deltora Quest series, written by Australian author Emily Rodda. Coincidentally, right after I rediscovered Deltora Quest and the myriad other fantasy books I loved as a kid, I stumbled across this Reddit post about a woman independently releasing her own children’s fantasy series. It inspired me even more and got me thinking that maybe, one day, I’d like to try my hand at writing some children’s fantasy of my own.

File:Forests of Silence Cover Version 1.png So badass.

Now, I’m not locking myself into anything concrete with this one. My resolution isn’t ‘I will write a book in 2014’. It’s very likely that I will have neither the time nor the necessary spark of inspiration to do anything more than simply think about the possibility of doing some creative writing. But I would like to make sure that I do at least think about it. I haven’t written any stories at all since I finished uni, and I really do miss writing them.

2014 Inspiration - Recyclart Image courtesy of Recyclart.

Looking back on my five main resolutions and the strong motivation behind them, I’m pretty confident that I will be able to keep all of them, and that each will help me live the hell out of the coming year! I hope everyone reading this has an amazing year ahead of them, full of dreams and lovely people.

2014, you are looking pretty gorgeous :)

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Surviving The Dark World Of Job Hunting

At the start of this year, my boy and I moved into a cute little apartment in the beautiful suburb of Merewether, Newcastle. It’s all been so exciting: leaving home for the first time (for me), being actual proper grown-ups (kind of), starting our own little life together. Nathan got a job at a pub that’s a thirty-second walk around the corner; we made a new friend who lives just a few streets away; we took the ten-minute walk to the beach nearly every day; we had people over for housewarming celebrations. It began, very quickly, to feel like home.

Except for one thing. It’s only a little thing, and it probably won’t seem like much to you. But for me, it put a ten-month damper on my otherwise wonderful new life. It’s the fact that I was stuck in my job: a retail position (which I’d held since I started working at age 15) at a large chain store in Maitland – 45 minutes away from Merewether. Now, this job was not really a bad job. I was paid a fair hourly rate, I didn’t have absurd working hours (most of the time), and I worked with a lot of people I really love.

But.

I’d been there for seven straight years – my whole working life. My job often involved tasks that got boring or irritating after seven minutes; after seven YEARS, you can understand how mind-meltingly menial and eternally frustrating everything became. On top of that, I was stuck in the car for a total of an hour and a half every time I had to work, often driving all that way for a measly three-hour shift. I felt like I was living half my life back in Maitland – like I couldn’t truly call my new place home – and I hated it.

Now, I’m aware that the degree I completed (a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and Writing) is far from a one-way ticket to Job Land. I won’t get into the ridiculous stigma attached to humanities degrees here, though – that’s for another time and another blog post. All I’ll say about my choice of Bachelor’s degree is that it was a necessary stepping stone to the career in publishing I am pursuing, and that I enjoyed every minute of it. What I want to make especially clear is that I didn’t expect to find a relevant job floating around and flashing my name in neon as soon as I finished my degree; all I wanted was a different job – one that was actually in my new hometown, one that I could take up while pursuing other relevant jobs and further study, and one that I might actually enjoy.

Putting this out there is pretty uncomfortable for me, because obviously the first reaction most people will have is ‘well, why couldn’t you get another job? Are you such a bad worker/so stupid/that much of a failure as a human being in general that NOBODY would hire you?’ The answer to these is actually ‘no’. I am a good worker, and I’m good at my job; I’m not stupid – I graduated from uni with an overall Distinction grade; and, apart from my weakness for Doritos and my total lack of physical grace and coordination, I am not a complete fiasco of a person. My failure to escape my old job wasn’t for lack of trying, either; I’d completed dozens of cold-call resume drops, applied for countless advertised positions, and made it through to interviews, all to no avail.

But.

Just when I thought things were never going to change and that I was going to be stuck wrapping laybys and listening to the words ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ for the rest of my miserable days, I’ve managed to land myself not one, but two new jobs – and they are actually relevant to my career path and interests! One is at a cute little bookshop in Newcastle, and the other is a writing position, in which I create monthly newsletters and business documentation content for a Lake Macquarie company.

Can you believe it?! After all this time, I have finally escaped my chain-store prison and can now work with the two things I love most – books and words – while I complete postgraduate study in those very same areas! I consider it the final step in the establishment of my new little life. While before I loved everything about my life except my job, I feel like work is now going to be one of the things in my life I enjoy the most.

To sum up what has become a very long post, I simply want to extol the virtues of patience and fortitude when it comes to getting out of a job you hate. If you’re desperately applying for jobs you don’t even want and sinking into a depression when you don’t get them, know that you’re not alone. If you find yourself crying into your locker or eating fifteen cookies on your lunch break to get you through the day – don’t worry; others have been there. I’ve done it; thousands of other people have also done it; and guess what? We got through it. There is always something on the horizon, a bright little gold spot hidden among the shitty dishwater-grey – and, as living proof, I promise you: one day soon, the little gold spot will finally catch your eye.

What every day has the potential to look like in my sunny home suburb of Merewether. :)

Me as a happy little 2012 graduate. Bring on the rest of my study!
(P.S. Yes, that is a ridiculous photobombing boyfriend you see in the background…sigh.)

Farewell To An Old Friend.

Over the weekend, I had to say goodbye to a dear old companion of mine: my beloved piano, which I’ve had for fifteen years. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: ‘so what? It’s literally just a big hunk of wood and strings and hammers, you can get a new one.’ But hear me out – as I recently realised, even a big hunk of wood and strings and hammers can have more personal and emotional significance than you might think.

I’ve been playing piano since the age of four. I bashed away for the first few years on a little keyboard until, when I was seven, my parents bought me the most wonderful surprise: a gorgeous upright Yamaha. I still remember coming home from school and not quite believing my eyes when I saw this big, beautiful piano crammed into my little bedroom. It was the best gift I’d ever gotten (and remains so to this day)!

Now, I’m not particularly good at very many things. I’ve always been a complete sporting failure, I am neither artsy nor craftsy, and I’m a decidedly average chef. But I am good at playing piano. I had the most excellent teacher for over ten years and I am extremely lucky in that I have absolute pitch (or relative pitch…the difference between them confuses me a bit. Whichever one involves being able to grab a C out of mid-air and learn songs by ear quite easily is the one I have. MAGIC!). I completed up to Seventh Grade in the AMEB examinations and became obsessed with songwriting in my senior years of high school. (My friends still like to sing my own songs back to me on occasion, much to my eternal horror.)

For a long time, I thought that music was the thing I would base my future around. I even auditioned successfully for the Conservatorium of Music when I finished school, but eventually decided to pursue my other big love: books and words and writing. I don’t regret my decision at all – I absolutely love where I am and where I’m going, and I don’t think I would have been anywhere near as happy pursuing music as a career. Nevertheless, music has been, and always will be, a huge part of my life and a huge part of the person I am.

After I first moved out of home at the start of this year, Mum and Dad floated the idea of selling my piano. They had good reason: I didn’t live there anymore, so it didn’t get played – it just sat there, gathering dust and going out of tune. I did play it occasionally when I visited, but that really wasn’t often enough; I knew that, and I could see my parents’ point, but I just couldn’t bear to let it go. I remember one extra tearful phone call to Mum, begging her not to sell it – not yet, anyway; I wasn’t ready. When the time came for it to really be sold, I was calm upon hearing the news, but surprised myself by crying like an absolute girl as soon as I thought about going to Mum and Dad’s to play it for the last time.

I suppose I had never really thought about how big a part of my life that piano had been. It was always just there – there for me to learn and spend hundreds of hours practising on; there for me to palm-mash furiously when I couldn’t get a piece right; there for me to write and create music with. As usual with the good things in life, I pretty much took it for granted. I never once considered the fact that I might one day have to see it go, or the fact that I would only then realise what it meant to me.

My parents are in the process of selling their house at the moment, which is why the time has come to farewell my beautiful piano. It’s going to a couple who plan to give it to their daughter as a surprise wedding present when she comes home from her honeymoon, which I think is really lovely. I will miss it a whole lot, but I’m really happy it’s going somewhere it will be appreciated.

Now, don’t worry, I’m finished discussing my deep emotional attachment to an inanimate object (and hopefully this is the last bit of blatant sentimentality you’ll find here for a while). The last thing I’ll say is that I hope things might one day go full circle: that eventually I might come home from my honeymoon, to my house, to find a lovely old piano there waiting for me. I think it’d be then that I would truly know the meaning of having a home of my own.

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Goodbye my old friend. ❤️🎹

A post shared by Claire 📚 (@claire_amelia_) on


Playing one of my favourite pieces on the weekend
(in a very rusty fashion, hence the 15-second Instagram clip and not the full video).

How A Famous Author’s Procrastination Helped Me Overcome Mine

Today, I discovered that George R. R. Martin has a blog, which he updates on a regular, almost daily basis. This revelation led me to realise two things:

  1. People still use Livejournal? (Check it out. It has ‘current mood’ updates and everything. It’s so 2005 and I love it.)
  2. If George R. R. Martin can run a blog (while also writing probably the most highly anticipated 1500-page fantasy novel ever), then so, most certainly, can I.

Since I finished my English and Writing degree at the end of last year, I have been trapped in the following vicious cycle:

  • lament loss of creative outlet/talent;
  • become struck with sudden (usually post-midnight) inspiration for a piece of writing;
  • decide, in morning light, said piece of writing is unusable drivel;
  • repeat.

You’d think I would have long since reached the logical conclusion that, to free myself from this cycle and regain my writing confidence, I should work on a regular blog. My reason – or excuse, depending on how you look at it – for not doing so has always been that I have nothing worthwhile to write about. There are hundreds of millions of blogs on the Internet; many of them are excellent, and many are terrible. Whenever I sat staring at a blank Word document or reading the vague ‘IDEAS FOR THINGS’ note saved to my phone at 12:53am, I’d ask myself questions like: how do you make sure you don’t fall into the ‘terrible’ category by rambling about nothing for the sake of writing something? How do you measure up to all the wonderful examples of online word-wizardry out there?

I’ve since realised that the answer to both of these questions is that you don’t. Who cares if you write a few long-winded rants about stuff that literally only four other people care about? Who cares if you generate no more than six page views per month, and three of these are from you Googling yourself? Based on my newfound understanding, the most important feature of a personal blog should be that the writer enjoys and gains something from creating it.

And so, thoroughly inspired by Mr Martin’s blogging habits (even though I would rather read The Winds of Winter than his thoughts on the latest NFL game … come on, George, you can watch football after you tell me who dies next), I have taken to WordPress to revive the blog I apparently started on July 31, 2012. I’ve left my long-forgotten first post up because I like its main idea: the importance of focusing on the lovely little things in life. I’ll be using that way of thinking as a loose theme for my future posts, in which I plan to celebrate the things I love and the things that make life so awesome.

So, to anybody actually reading this, know that sometimes – maybe even most of the time – I won’t have anything to offer you directly. That said, I’ll try not to be completely useless! I’ll review/post my thoughts on various books, movies and music; I’ll write about some random tips and tricks that I find helpful for day-to-day living; and I’ll try to maintain an overarching theme of appreciation for all the good things life in general has to offer. But sometimes, I will just write for the sake of writing: for the joy of describing an amazing day; for the relief of verbally venting frustration; for something to do, and to feel that I’m doing something.

I hope that you, dear and possibly imaginary reader, are ok with that. :)

Frustration, I win this round.

Frustration is a tiresome emotion, and it’s always been one I don’t handle well. Things that frustrated me today included:
– not being able to stay in Sydney to take care of my boyfriend, Nathan, who has come down with a virus. This was because I had to travel 3.5 hours home to my menial retail job (for a shift that was half an hour shorter than my train travel);
– leaving half the contents of my wallet in the car while at a shopping centre this morning, so not using my staff discount on all the crap I picked up for Nate at Kmart, and having to get him to pay for it;
– realising later, as I folded shirts out of boredom during said retail shift, that my discount card had been RIGHT THERE IN MY BAG THE WHOLE TIME. (It would only have saved me $4, but hey, that $4 could have paid for something excellent, like a milkshake.)

I know those aren’t really things to give the world sass over. But maybe some other frustrating things are: one example, which has been riling me up to no end, is the unfathomably high number of copies the Fifty Shades of Shameless Lady Porn series is selling at the moment. To an extent, I understand that everybody is buying them because they ‘want to see what all the fuss is about’. What I do not understand is why seemingly nobody then realises that all the fuss is about A TERRIBLY WRITTEN, GLORIFIED MILLS & BOON NOVEL that can only be separated from its origins in Twilight fanfiction by its gratuitous overuse of sex scenes!

And there I go, getting worked up over the fact that people get worked up (in a different way, heh) over that abominable series.

Therein lies the power of frustration: things of a grandly trivial nature may be magnified tenfold by the sheer fist-clenching annoyance of that emotion. The only thing to do is to transform gritted teeth into a grin by concentrating on the awesomeness that life dishes up alongside irritation. I may have had to work a boring shift today, but last night I had the loveliest date evening in the form of dinner and a show (bruschetta, ravioli, tiramisu and a bottle of pinot noir, followed by the bright Swedish pop of Miike Snow, in case you were wondering). My train ride might have been long and Fifty Shades of Grey might suck, but I got to read A Clockwork Orange in its entirety during the trip, and that is a really good book. And I may not have been able to stay and look after my lovely boyfriend, but the main thing is, I have a lovely boyfriend. And to be lucky enough to have that beautiful boy and wonderful books and live music and Italian food, I am irrepressibly happy. :)

The only shades of grey anybody should be reading about. Murakami’s ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’

Miike Snow. Image courtesy of themusic.com.au

Nathan. :)