Williamstown, Victoria, autumn 2017
My neighbour pulls up as I’m standing in my front yard looking, again, at all the weeds, wondering where on earth to start. Near the letter-box, the water meter? Amongst the straggly shrubs and stunted bushes? Along the home-made dry creek bed, fashioned out of leftover stones?
“What’s the plan?” my neighbour says cheerily, closing his car door.
“Oh there’s no plan,” I say, “There’s never been a plan.”
We chat for a few minutes, until there’s a pause in the repartee and then my neighbour heads home and I crouch down amongst the weeds.
No, there’s never been a plan, I say to myself. There was never any plan, for example, to be a telegram boy or a surveyor’s assistant or a lollipop man or a Census collector or a data processor or an usher. Or a teacher aide. Or, for a year or so, a Centrelink recipient. On the dole. I only ever wanted to write.
“What’s the plan?” was pretty much what my English teacher was asking when he wrote in my school report: “Do you want to be a writer, a good journalist – or just a hack?” As a short-sighted student, I didn’t sense his disappointment. Or pick up on his perceptiveness.
“What’s the plan?” my mother asked when I declared at the end of high school that I didn’t want to study and I didn’t want to work. Just write. And play backyard cricket. A gap year. Forever.
“But,” and I can still remember my mother saying this all those years ago – count them…40…as we stood under the clothesline, “What will you have to write about? You’ve got to do some living if you want to do some writing.”
Again, I didn’t see the disappointment, the perceptiveness. Six months later I got a job as a telegram boy and three years later I started uni.
“What’s the plan?” the accountant asks each year, come tax time. He shuffles my papers, taps at his calculator. Breathes out. “Well, let’s drain the swamp and see what we can find.” He always finds enough to keep the wolves at bay. We’re doing okay – solid roof over our head, plenty of food on the table, no debts. Can’t ask for more than that, really. Especially without a plan.
There have been writing jobs over the years, in the dry corporate sector, and there have been per