A few weeks ago, after one of those days when it was so hot that fruit bats were dropping from the sky with dehydration and I was forced into the air conditioning of the State Library to write, I packed up my laptop and, wilting, caught the train to a friend’s house in Nundah. There, sitting on their balcony in the cooling evening, with the breezes picking up, trains shunting past, some greenbottle to hand, and a plethora of other friends who were fresh from the pool, we listened, mesmerised, to Sam Buckingham sing.
Sam had packed up and was travelling around the country on her Homeward Bound tour, playing gigs in people’s homes, which to me was a novel and wonderful idea, for there was something so beautiful and intimate about being sung to on a breezy summer night. I couldn’t hear the words to the songs, but the tunes had a lovely dip and sway, and there was plenty to capture my imagination when she described a song about two aliens on separate planets who know they really shouldn’t fall for each other because it’s too impractical but oh! they just can’t help it. You can listen to some of her songs here, here and here.
This girl has ‘Patience’ written on her wrist. I noticed it early (it was writing, after all), and when I spoke to her about it afterwards, she said she’d got it done to help her to keep going. I understood immediately. This is what artists do: we work like dogs for next to nothing, we don’t go out for dinner because we have to pay the dentist instead (to do yet more work after Harry the Butcher, the name my siblings and I gave to our childhood dentist, left H & I needing root canals, and did such a violent job on my sister’s wisdom teeth that she vomited all over the couch and poor H had to clean it up), we are broke, broke, and broke again, yet we turn down more work from our CEO because we have to write our next novel, we’re kept awake at night for hours trying to think how we’ll find the time to write that nonfiction book, how our bank balances will be redressed, when we might get that grant, when our super will stop looking less shoddy, when we can buy a car and be an adult. And then, in the times that we aren’t staring at the electricity bill in dismay, we’re crafting new sentences and worlds and songs and that, frankly, is the reason why I’m on this earth.
So the trying to support yourself bit is a little screwed, but my writing comes first, above all else, and Sam reminded me of this. If it doesn’t work one way, she told me, think: how else can you make it work, how else can you make money from your art? I also mentioned that because I’ve had so many deadlines, I wasn’t sure if I could make it that night, and then I watched her YouTube videos, and decided, stuff the deadlines, the music was too good to miss.
‘You need to prove yourself,’ she said, ‘then people will start paying attention’. She’d had to prove herself to me to get me there, and I needed to do the same with my writing. It was invaluable advice, especially when I’d been panicking that I was doubting the path I was on at all.
Keep an eye on Sam. She’s going places, and she’ll make it there, because she’s dedicated and determined. And plays a sweet and charming tune.
Meanwhile another friend was glued to his iPhone because the Warrumbungles had combusted and, bitterly, the next day his house was wiped out. Please could everyone at least try Meatless Mondays to bring the temperature down a notch or two?