Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Personal Reflections - what's coming over 2012

My thanks to regular reader and commenter kvd for his kind donation to the keep belshaw writing fund. I really do appreciate it. It's not just the cash, valuable though that is, but the affirmation that there is some value in what I write.

While I am not making any major new year''s resolutions nor setting firm targets, I really am out-targeted, I thought that I would share with you some of the things that I expect to write about this year across outlets and interests. Most will not come as a surprise to regular readers.

Major Writing Projects

Like most writers, I have too many projects for my own good.

My main project remains my history of New England. For a number of reasons, this effectively stalled in the personal doldrums that marked the second half of 2011. I did write some material, but my heart wasn't in it.  Apart from the lack of motivation, I faced a difficulty in that I am at the point where I need to allocate large blocks of time.

I actually had the time, but found that I couldn't maintain the concentration required. This year I expect to do better!

There are two other book projects behind the major history. One isIMG_0298 editing for publication my biography of my grandfather, the New England politician David Drummond. The second is a history of the New England New State Movement. Both will have to wait until  I complete the major history.

Another longer term book project is the story of the Belshaws. I have a raft of material here including the work my father did on the Belshaws; this runs to the best part of 100,000 words. 

In case you haven't worked it out by now, we Belshaw's are a somewhat bookish academic, writing family.

This is a recent photo of cousin Cyril Belshaw with daughter Diana taken at Cyril's eightieth birthday party. Cyril has documented part of his life, while his brother Michael also published an autobiography.

All family stories are potentially interesting if well written. However, the story of the Belshaws is especially challenging because it spans not just time, but also space across four countries. It also deals with the history of ideas and of the varying roles of individuals.  

The next photo is a red carpet photo taken at this year's Canadian Dora awards.  Presented annually by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, these honour theatre, dance, and opera productions in Toronto, Canada. Diana Belshaw is on the right with partner Thomas Hauff. Both have been considerable figures in Canadian film and theatre.

There is a considerable gap between the grimy world of industrial England that I presented in Musings on photos past 5 - Leaving Lancashire and that Toronto red carpet!

For the moment, I am just posting background material, but I am conscious that time is passing and that I need to get some material while I can.   

As the year ended, I added two new book projects. You see, I cannot be trusted to stay focused!

For Christmas, eldest gave me a copy of the Lou the Movie DVD.

Set in New England's Northern Rivers, this is a simple tale, well told. The photo is one still from the movie.

Some time ago, I began a blog series called the Colours of New England. Here I tried to link art, poetry, novels, photography, film and geography to make the area that I love accessible to outsiders, to make them want to visit and to set a context for that visit.

Lou is a very area specific movie. As I watched it, I realised that Colours of New England was actually a book demanding to be written.

The second book project is more problematic. For the first time for a while, I suddenly found myself with a novel in my mind. Loosely based on events in my own life, it is the story of love lost and the confusions that result.

I said that it was more problematic. All writers mine their own life for material. I know that I do, although I try to conceal to a degree. In this case there is an issue in that those involved in the real world events may recognise the links between fiction and reality.

Sitting on the bus, I drafted a quick synopsis. I know that it's a good story. It really is. Women dominate the space that we are talking about. Everything is written from a female perspective. But we men no matter how inarticulate we may be when it comes to emotional issues also have a story to tell. I think that I might tell it.

International Economic Events and Domestic Impacts

Changing focus entirely, I know that I am going to be writing on economic developments this year. My new economics column in a national business magazine provides one focal point. However, I have two broader interests.

The first lies in my continuing need to understand just what has been happening, what might happen. A long time ago I pointed to issues associated with the Chinese and, to a lesser extent, the Indian economies. Economic activity in both countries has slowed.

I have also written about the thinning out of the Australian economy. Australia has become dependent on a very limited commodity base in a way not seen for many years. You can expect these things to continue to feature in my writing.

I have also tried to explain the linkages between international economic developments and specific domestic policies. My point has been that domestic policy at all levels cannot be seen in isolation from events elsewhere. Obviously, I am not the only person to have made this point. However, that does not detract from its importance.

Travel Writing

I enjoy travel writing. My main writing this year was the Greece series, although travel stories featured in many posts.  The Greek series suddenly stopped on 18 October 2011, leaving us stranded on Rhodes.  Five days after this post, on 23 October, events occurred that left me with no desire to continue. I do not expect to finish the series.

I do plan to do more travel writing, however. In February, I plan to enrol in a continuing education travel writers' course.

In the short musings that began with So you want to be a writer part 1, I said that there were some forms of writing that I did not want to do just to earn money. Travel writing is different: I enjoy it; I may be able to earn some money; and the tax deductibility for certain expenses is attractive. So expect more here.

Australian Politics and Public Policy

I do expect to continue my writing in this area, focusing both on systemic effectiveness and my traditional policy focus in areaUS Theatrical film posters like education.

There is a fair bit to say here, including the consolidation of some of my earlier material.

On Boxing Day we went to see The Iron Lady, a film based on the life of British PM Margaret Thatcher. It was a good film, if not quite what I expected.

I noticed two things about the audience at the showing we went too.

The first was the age of the audience, with the majority sixty or more. The second was that the young ones in our family group found the movie confusing because they lacked context. They knew nothing about Margaret Thatcher, nor the events that she was involved in.

You see something similar with the 1975 dismissal of the Australian Whitlam Government. Those Australians who have the events seared into their consciousness struggle when they meet younger Australians who do not know who Gough Whitlam is, let alone the details of the dismissal.

  I do attempt to provide some historical context to my political and public policy analysis. I want to do more of this this year.

Social and Cultural Change

With 247 page views,  Kate Bolick on the decline of marriage - and men (21 October 2011) has been one of my most read recent posts. This post is one of a number of posts that I have written centred on family structures, gender roles and the changing patterns of personal relationships in Australia.

I write on these matters because of my general interest in change patterns, but also because of my own interest in and sometimes personal confusions about the issues involved. Often, I sit and listen to discussions that seem to me to be shallow and stereotypical. I say nothing because there is no point.

I also get annoyed at a personal level because people assume that my age dictates my views. This actually involves the application of two very different stereotypes. One is ageism itself, the second the belief that there are sets of views that apply to particular generations.        

For my own interest, I want to consolidate some of my writing in these areas. I feel that Australian society is at something of a tip point, one in which excesses and confusions associated with past views and campaigns have led to reactions that, among other things, are actually making society more conservative.

New England Issues

My New England focus will continue. However, I will do a separate post here on the New England Australia blog.

Other Writing

With the aim of having more fun this years, I want to do two things.

The first is just spending more time reading and promoting my fellow bloggers. I do this to some extent now, but would like to do more. All we bloggers tend to be at least a little solipsistic. It goes with what we do, with the desire to write and publish our thoughts. Yet there is some interesting and sometimes very good stuff out there that we often ignore; we live in a time poor crowded world in which only the prominent gain attention.

I would also like to do more in my train reading series, consciously reading and writing in an almost random fashion to break out from current bounds.

Well, this has become a very long post and I am out of time. All for now.       


Neil said...

I found "The Iron Lady" a wonderful and quite poetic meditation on getting old.

I did remark to the woman sitting next to me -- cinema audiences in The Gong speak to one another -- that we were all that day of an age where we might have known Maggie personally!

Jim Belshaw said...

Neil, you did make me laugh. You are right, of course. Most of the audience was of that age. And even here in Randwick, people attending did speak to each other.

Anonymous said...

Well I'm quite disappointed you've decided to abandon the Greek travel series. You have a very good eye for detail, and the links provided hours of interest.

And then there's the thing about deciding this on my birthday, so of course - that makes it all about moi.

But I do envy your and Neil's access to moving pictures. I've only just had the pleasure of multiple viewings of The King's Speech, now it has hit paytv.


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi kvd. Happy birthday! Greece may come back since you are so interested. It's just hard to write now for personal reasons.

Legal Eagle said...

That's interesting that people didn't know about Maggie Thatcher. In fact, there's a case I teach in Trusts which depends upon knowing the detail of the great fight between Thatcher and the coal miners (Cowan v Scargill) and I always have to remind myself to outline the background to the class (who are mostly in their early 20s).

Jim Belshaw said...

That's a very good example, LE. Same with the Vietnam War and the Whitlam dismissal.