I started writing a blog in early 2012, the original idea was it to be a sketch a day project but it turned into a writing project. I’d always been interested in becoming a writer, but I don’t understand a lot of the technicalities - I’ve never been great with spelling, so I figured it wasn’t for me. I was known as an artist anyway and never thought I could have both.
But you have to write when you’re blogging, so after some initial hesitation I just started writing and found that I had a lot to say. Communicating what was going on in my life became more important than fearing what ‘good writer’s’ and so called ‘grammar nazis’ would think of my writing, I became a little bit more brave. I had a story. I had observations. I had spell check. And I also think the discipline of writing almost everyday helped me become a better editor of my own work. Things like structure – how to create sentences that are easy on the eye, or what information could be simply left out are just as important as the details that are included. I recognised my overuse of commas and my tendency to repeat myself. I also learned that I didn’t need to swear so much!
Writing this blog became important for a number of reasons. I was living in Berlin at the time, with a small baby and I was isolated. I didn’t speak German and the huge responsibility of being a parent meant I couldn’t just go out to make friends or network easily, I couldn’t even find time to learn to learn the language! So when I started writing this blog I started a discussion not only with myself but with others, and I could do it in my own time (like at 3AM when I was up for a feed). While blogging in Berlin didn’t bring Berlin to me, it got me more connected with home. I connected with people and bloggers such as Rachel Power, Madeleine Hamilton and Bunny Banyai, Mandy Lee, Reservoir Dad, Miscellaneous Mum, Melbourne Mum, Edenland - and many more! Slowly I started to build an online community which helped with the isolation, even if just a little bit. I felt that distance also helped to investigate the Australian literary and art scenes.
I had left Melbourne very early in 2009 and at that time I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or what direction to take my work in. I felt that I spent a lot of my time being at events and trying to keep up rather than making work and finding my own strengths. Sometimes when you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to navigate at your own pace. Being overseas gave me a sense of anonymity that I had found impossible to achieve in Melbourne. Although I found that a little bit difficult, it was also, for me as an artist, a very good thing. I focused on my work in a way I never had previously, I became dedicated to it and I was finding my own voice. Also, being at such a distance allowed me to consume things a bit more objectively – I didn’t have the radio or the newspaper telling me about the latest artist or author, I just had the work to experience.
I got into the habit of emailing artists after I had listened to their music, seen their art, read their book or blog while I was in Berlin. I was consuming predominantly Australian stuff so I think it helped with my homesickness. Reading Australian fiction conjured up the heat, the expanse, the train tracks and characters that I used to know back in oz. Writing and creating art is a strange thing. People may consume it, be inspired by it, love it, hate it, but you don’t actually know until someone actively tells you. Since I was experiencing this with my blog and my artwork I decided to become proactive about making connections with other writers and artists. When I was a young girl I wrote to Elyne Mitchell (The Silver Brumby) and when I received her reply it was such a poignant moment for me; I remember quite vividly opening the letter and her beautiful handwriting in blue biro – the joy it made me feel. So writing to people who inspire me feels like the right thing to do, but when they write back to me I get a sense of that joy I felt all those years ago.
I feel that my blog has achieved more for me than I had considered possible. It sounds a little bit corny, but it’s true. I still remember struggling to give it a name while pushing the pram through snow covered Grafe Straße. I felt so small and voiceless, but it’s a year on and I’ve made some great friends and connections, I’ve been published in several publications, featured on websites and been told by many many people that ‘Yes, you are indeed a good writer, and never mind the spelling mistakes’. As far as a blog project goes, I think this was pretty successful on many levels and I have enjoyed it immensely.
Lily Mae Martin is an internationally exhibited artist. Her work has been published in Juxtapoz magazine, Empty, Curvy, Semi- Permanent, Going Down Swinging, The Lifted Brow, Kill Your Darlings, Azuria Journal and Cottonmouth. She explores the relationship between art and motherhood, the body, identity and the domestic. She also writes Berlin Domestic.
This post is made possible thanks to the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.