June 27, 2016

27:06:2016

It’s finished. It being the first draft of the novelette I’ve been working on for about the last month, still, and possibly forever as I haven’t been able to think up another name, entitled His Name was Henry. After failing to meet my self imposed deadline to finish the draft by last Friday I then gave myself another forty eight hours, aka the weekend, to get it done. It turned out I only needed twenty four. On Saturday morning after a highly enjoyable breakfast roll and coffee provided by the lady Holly I set up the laptop, turned the heater on high in order to battle this cold Melburnian winter, and got to work. It took around another six hours of writing, and another three thousand and sixty four words, but I got it done.

The rest of my weekend was then spent being as unproductive as I had been productive before that.

The final page count was 26, and word count 17,191; only 309 words away from being a novella according to the statistics I wrote about recently. I have to admit I’m more than happy with it being a novelette not only because I think it is a respectable amount for a first try but also because novelette is a more fun word to say, especially if you put an accent on it.

I was very happy to be finished. Pressing the final period onto the page brought on a feeling that can only be described as a writer’s high (it’s quite the rush, but not one you’re going to be able to get in a hurry, so if you’re looking for a quick fix maybe just stick with the cocaine. Or write a blog, whatever). While writing this novelette hasn’t been some herculean effort – quite the opposite as it was, you know, fun – putting it down, and in a form I’m happy with, is a relief. One that’s comparable to lowering yourself slowly into a hot tub as a satisfied sigh escapes your mouth which is fixed into insuppressible smile. In other words it felt good.

Having had the story bouncing around in my head for a while with a monologue about it running almost constantly in the back of my mind for the last month as I tried to place all the pieces, figure out dialogue, ensure that it all made sense, and confirm the tone remained constant throughout it means that now my head feels a little emptier. The idea apartment has become vacant, cleaned out, and ready for a new tenant to move in. Which one already has. Perhaps because the brain gets off on being creative (it definitely does, writer’s high is a real thing) but in the last week a new story idea has forcibly pushed itself into my head and is now unpacking some of it’s stuff. I couldn’t be happier about it, this new fellow seems like a lot of fun, and I’m already looking forward to sharing him with all of you.

In the meantime here’s what’s going to happen next with the Henry story. It’s going to first be read by The Lady Holly who’s patiently listened to me prattle on about it throughout the whole process. Once she’s read it, fixed up all the (many) spelling and grammatical errors, and (hopefully) assured me that it’s not the most terrible thing ever written, then I’ll handball it over to Brother Jonathan. He, with his experience gained through a professional writing and editing course as well as his own many years of writing prose, will then hopefully improve the work further and let me know all the things wrong with it so I can then make them not wrong. Following this I’m planning for it to get into one more set of hands. A friend of mine, Georgie, in a moment of serendipity told me not hours after I finished the last sentence that her Aunty is a professional editor, one who would be happy to read and ruthlessly critique it. While I am a little terrified of getting feedback from someone who doesn’t know and/or love me; I am ecstatic at the idea of an impartial reader having a look and hopefully helping me bring it up to a higher standard. Once all that is done I’ll use all that feedback to go over it myself and write the second draft. Finally, I’ll then release it here, on this website, in one form or another, where, for the few of you reading this, can enjoy it.

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While we’re on the topic of critics I came across this comic by the regularly hilarious Poorly Drawn Lines that pretty much sums up my want/fear of receiving said criticism.

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Grandma, if you’re reading this (and I know you might be), do you want to read my story?

Talk soon

Damian

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June 24, 2016

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It’s been a week since I last posted. In that post I mention that I had a self imposed deadline to finish the novelette I’m currently working on by THIS VERY DAY, and as of right now….I haven’t finished.

I’m so close though! It’s still disappointing however and, while I’m about to blame it on my day job, it’s completely my fault. Saying that, it’s my damn day job that’s the problem! (see what I did there?) Seriously though I did have a mammoth week at work, not one that was particularly horrible, just one where I had to do a lot of boss-type activities, running around, and attending meetings. Meetings by the way are totally weird. I’ve been in meetings before, usually as a lower-grade attendant, but, as I’m filling in for the boss while she’s on long service leave, this was a management meeting. It’s a completely different game, and I use the word game quite deliberately, as everyone attending seemed to be playing a part. They all had their “professional” mask on and used a very particular vernacular that is for the most part, unnatural. It’s one that comes across as very restrained and politically correct, and uses words like problematic, moving forward, foresee, action, and update. All of which are fine words, they just seem to get overused in this environment. The worst part of it all is that I totally assimilated to this weird game. I also found myself talking in this stilted, overly thought out way. I too put on the professional mask and nodded when others suggested we “table this business and add it to the next meeting’s agenda”. For a guy that stubbornly wears t-shirt and jeans to almost any occasion this was a hard thing to learn about myself (I was however wearing a t-shirt and jeans in the meeting and was the only one in the room to do so, so at least I was able to oppose social norms in that regard and by so doing convince myself that at least internally I was still a creative). It gave me the idea for a short film where a bunch of people are in a room, attending a meeting, talking in this way, and not actually saying anything; which is what it seems like half the time.

Back to my novelette though. I didn’t finish but I have plans to do so by the end of the weekend. It’s entirely doable it will just require a number of hours of work to do so. Luckily it’s currently winter in Australia and so the idea of setting myself up in front of the heater or in the warmth of the library and getting some good writing done is a fairly desirable one. Let’s see how I go.

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The writing behemoth with the softly spoken voice that is Neil Gaiman shared a very useful bit of advice on his blog during the week that I thought I would pass along. A fan of his had sent in a question asking about getting themselves back into writing after five years of having trouble doing so.

Mr Gaiman’s advice was as follows:

“Set aside time to write that’s only writing time. Put away your phone. Turn off or disable your wifi. Write in longhand if you wish. Put up a do not disturb sign. And make your writing time sacred and inviolable.

And in that time, this is the deal. You can write, or you can not do anything. Not doing anything is allowed. (What not doing anything includes: staring at walls, staring out of windows, thinking broodily, staring at your hands. What not doing anything does not include: alphabetising the spice rack, checking Tumblr, taking your pen apart, playing solitaire or running a clean up program on your computer.)

You get to pick how long a day your writing time is. An hour? Two? Three? Your call.

Doing nothing gets pretty dull. So you might as well write. (And if you write 300 words, one page, every day, you’ll have a 90,000 word novel in a year.)”

It’s pretty hard to argue with that wisdom.

Talk soon

Damian

June 17, 2016

17:06:2016

I had a delightful experience yesterday when I managed to have some breakthroughs for the short story I’m currently writing. Breakthroughs probably isn’t the right word as I already knew where the story was going, maybe additions, either way I managed to write one passage that brought in an element I didn’t know the story needed, but that it definitely needed. This then lead to a series of ideas in how to improve the final few scenes which I madly added to the messy, mind vomit, google doc that I have going for the short story.

Although I’ve recently learned short story is no longer the correct definition. A short story is defined as a story under 7,500 words, and, as my tale is currently sitting at 10,800 words, it has officially blossomed into a novelette. I still have more words to write before I’ll be done so if it powers past the 17,500 word count it will evolve into it’s second to final form, a novella. The final form is of course a novel, which is a work of over 40,000 words. All these figures are based off of definitions from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and if it’s good enough for them then it’s good enough for me. I don’t know about you but I think the short story to novelette to novella to novel evolution is just crying out for a pokemon representation of some kind.

Either way, this series of fresh ideas coupled with my self enforced daily word count (which I wrote about in my last post) are sure to get me to the finish line of the, also self enforced, deadline I have for this time next week. I expect the story to stay within the novelette form as I don’t really seeing it breaking the 17,500 word limit, a space I am more than happy with given this is my first effort at writing any kind of prose. Either way, expect the story to be coming your way from this website soon.

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While we’re on the topic of short stories I also read an excellent one online yesterday, entitled The Perfect Match, by the writer Ken Liu. I first became aware of his writing a while ago when his first novel, The Grace of Kings, was released. I have to admit I haven’t actually yet read it, and in fact the short story I’ve just linked you to is the first of his work my eyes have tasted. I plan to undo this indiscretion in short order. While he only has the single novel so far he does has a slew of short stories to feast on; including his The Paper Menagerie which can also be read online and won the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. The guy knows how to write.

What’s also impressed me about Mr Liu was that writing isn’t his first vocation. After graduating from Harvard, Ken worked in the technology field, then decided to go back to Harvard, or more specifically Harvard Law School, where he achieved his J.D and got into tax law. While all this obviously proves his impressive smarts it’s that he worked (what I’m going to incorrectly call) a “real job” while also working on his writing skills, and he did so for years before he managed to break through into the writing world. To my knowledge he still works in law to this day.

Hard work and persistence will always impress me, let alone the inspiration I draw seeing someone do what I aspire to. Be sure to have a read of those short stories and if they do it for you they way they did it for me then do the smart thing and buy his book.

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As we’re now onto the topic of smart people let me make another introduction, Andrew Pelling. The Lady Holly and I watched this video recently (see below) of a TED talk he gave earlier this year in Vancouver. What grabbed me and made me click play on this video rather than any of the other numerous options of things that entertain the internet provides was the description of Andrew as a ‘Biohacker’. I was glad I did as I found the talk enlightening, inspiring, and entertaining. Not bad for a seven minute clip. A lot of this was thanks to Andrew himself who is not only stupidly smart but infectiously curious and positive, not to mention more than a little adorable. I won’t actually bother to tell you what the talks about but suffice it to say I suggest you watch it.

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Talk soon

Damian

June 14, 2016

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Deadlines and word counts. These things make me think mostly of horrible, dreaded, university essays or scientific reports (thanks to my sordid past involving a science degree). Blessedly they’re not a part of my everyday life anymore but I’m thinking of changing that. Not the university essays and scientific report part; having finished previously mentioned degree I swore never to return to university, then after finishing a Master’s degree seven years later I swore the same thing again. No, I’m thinking of reintroducing deadlines and word counts into my everyday life, more specifically into my writing.

Being fairly new to this writing game, so far I’ve been enforcing writing on myself in time increments, x amount of hours per day kind of thing. I think so far it’s been a success. I’ve gotten used to writing just about every day, and now when I have “free time” I occasionally use it to do something productive, like more writing, rather than just watching more TV. The only problem with this system is that the amount of work in the set upon time period can vary widely from day to day, and consequently I’m not finishing projects as quickly as I’d like. I think I’m now ready to kick it up to the next level, and, as I’m not currently working a writing job that demands a word count or deadline on my writing, I’ve decided to put it on myself. By applying deadlines and word counts on myself I’m hoping to 1) make better use of the time in which I’ve given myself to write and 2) force myself to write more in the day, even if it’s at twelve o’clock at night in order to reach my word count so that horrible Damian person can let me go to bed. Granted that won’t generate the best writing ever but ultimately I’m under the idea that creating something that needs work is better than not creating anything at all. You need clay to make a sculpture.

The first deadline will be for the short story I’ve mentioned a few times in previous posts, which I’m now about halfway through, and the deadline I’ve decided upon is in two weeks. That’s when the Lady Holly has her mid year break and so gives her plenty of free time to proofread the story, lucky thing. I haven’t landed hard and fast on a daily word count just yet. I do work a full time job, one that for the next two months comes with some added responsibility, so I want the word count I give myself to be realistic and achievable, otherwise I run the risk of becoming demoralised by failing to reach it everyday. It’ll be a bit of trial and error. I think I’ll start with an easy figure, like around 500, as I know I can reach that. Then once that’s habit I can begin to increase it. We’ll see, no doubt I’ll keep you updated on this thrilling experiment.

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The cool thing from the internet I want to share today does indeed come from the internet but was more specifically pointed out to me by Brother Jonathan (twin sibling, not a monk). It’s a video of artist Jim McKenzie creating a sculpture for an exhibition of his entitled ‘Lost Magic’. His sculpture is amazing, and of a style I really like (think the stop motion movie Coraline), but watching him create it is the real exceptional part. Even seeing the process the end result still leaves me thinking ‘How did he do that?’ Well worth a watch.

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Talk soon

Damian

June 10, 2016

10:06:2016

I have a problem with writing. Mostly, with my feelings towards it. I’ve found I love writing, it’s a challenge, it’s creative, it allows me to turn intangible thoughts and ideas into a form that is not only tangible but shareable and understandable by others; that’s magic. My problem comes from a uncontrollable and frustrating fear associated with it. This fear doesn’t often come on at the start of a project, when an idea hits me and I’m all jazzed about getting it down; it comes later, after that early passion, when the real work starts.

Let me try and explain it. I’ll be a certain percentage into a project, let’s say twenty percent, and mostly I’ve happy with what I’ve written so far and I’m enjoying writing it, when something shifts, and all of a sudden when I think about writing more of the project or I’m sitting at my laptop and have yet to begin, there’s a weird fear in my chest. A pressure.

Annoyingly it’s because I am happy with what I’ve written so far that this pressure exists, because I know exactly what the cause of that pressure is, and it’s me. The fear is one of failure. The failure to write the story as well as I know I can, or believe myself to be able to. It’s a weird combination of arrogance and self doubt. On one hand I have this arrogant belief that I have the talent to write this amazing story, that at my best I’m capable of blowing audiences away with my words, on the other I don’t believe I can live up to and achieve this level of talent that I have put on myself! I’m sure psychologists probably have a term for it, ego fighting your super-ego, or something like that, all I know is it’s confusing.

The worst part about this fear is that sometimes it’s powerful enough to stop me from writing. I distract myself with other things, or start a new project (which is really just a different form of procrastination), or write one of these blogs (as clearly that pressure doesn’t extend to smashing my thoughts down into a post), or just do nothing; all the while a small voice at the back of my head is saying just get over it and finish the project. If I’m lucky I’ll listen to that little voice, who will also remind me, in a calm and friendly tone, that ‘Writing is meant to be fun, so just have fun. Nobody is expecting a masterpiece from you, or really anything from you, so why be afraid?’ Unfortunately there’s also that other voice that speaks with a mean and gravelly tone and says ‘Nobody else may be expecting anything from you, but I am, so be better!’

Clearly I don’t have an answer to this problem, or to those voices, that’s why I wanted to write it down here, and I expect the problem will continue indefinitely, as putting pressure on myself is part of who I am. I also think it’s part of the reason why I can achieve some of the things I do; there’s always pros and cons. I’ll just have to manage it. Coffee helps. I think I’ve created a pavlovian conditioning in myself where now even the smell of coffee puts me in the mind to write. Maybe I’ll just drink more coffee.

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To share something more positive than my self doubts I thought I’ll show you this great little video that popped up in my news feed the other day from Futurism about a very cool and, unsurprisingly, futuristic device that allows you to type on any surface, with just your hand, and have it work as a keyboard.

Isn’t the future cool?

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Two steps forward and one step back means you’re still moving forward.

Talk soon

Damian

June 6, 2016

06:06:2016

Since I last posted we’ve entered winter (for us Australians), New York City has celebrated a modern record of going eleven days without a homicide (hopefully no one kills the streak), and I’m about a day away from being half way through a short story I’m getting increasingly excited to share. I’ve also managed to lose a kilo and a half thanks to my June Retune, which is nice. I did quite well for the first half of the week, sticking to the plan, feeling a bit tired, but mostly reaping the rewards that discipline brings. Then I had a beastial day at work and things dipped. I didn’t go too far off track but basically failed to tick some boxes on certain days. But that’s the way things go, shit happens and you have to be flexible. June continues and with it so shall my retune.

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The other day at work I needed to get a password off my coworker who was away for the day. I went into her office to look for her notebook, where I knew she had written it down for me. I found it easily enough, but finding the password was a little more difficult as the notebook was filled with, well, notes. Notes were written on every page, at every angle, in different colours, some messy, some neat, some underlined, some easily understandable, some incoherent, some well structured paragraphs, some single words. As I flipped through page after page of this, searching for the one note I needed out of the hundreds it contained, it occurred to me that this would be as good a physical representation of my coworkers brain as any. It should be noted that this coworker of mine is one of the most organised and efficient people I know. She has a lot of varying responsibilities, a lot of people to answer to, and she does it all while making it look easy. It’s her superpower. So, while her notebook, to me, looked messy and hard to understand, clearly that was not the case. It’s just the way her brain looked, and realistically, with all the things fighting for our attention in our heads, were you to put it all down on a page, I think that’s what most people’s brains would look like. I also think were she to need to find a note from that notebook she could pinpoint it easily. It is afterall her brain.

Either way, it gave me the idea of writing down how my brain looks. I used to be a big note taker, both with work and with my creative endeavours. I had a range of notebooks (too many) and whenever I had an idea or heard something I knew I would need to know later it would find it’s way into one of these notebooks. However with the change to the digital world so to did my brain become more cybernated. First it was folders of word documents, each with a different ideas or notes. Then I upgraded to the notes app on my macbook. Then, with our ever increasing amount of devices and the need to have our information available and updating between all of them in real time, it changed to Dropbox. Now my brain has been upgraded to a combination of Google Drive and Evernote.

For those of you who perhaps don’t know Google Drive is a cloud based storage application that allows you to access and edit all your documents online, and Evernote is a well tailored note taking application that works on, and updates between, most devices. Now when I have a note, or come across some bit of information I like it goes into one of the many notes in one of the many subfolders I have on my Evernote. I usually bash it into my phone and then study the note later on my laptop when I have more time. Likewise all development of ideas, writing, and documents find their way into the ever increasing amount of folders on my google drive. Easily the best thing about these digital format is the accessibility. I can always check my notes on my phone or laptop, or if I leave my devices at home, other people’s phone and laptops with the right internet connection. Where a physical notepad can only ever exist in one place in space at one point in time. However the argument can also be made that you don’t need an internet connection to read a notepad; in other words my brain isn’t accessible without an internet connection (is there some kind of symbolism there? Nah, probably not).

Anyway, that’s what my brain looks like, what does yours?

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I’ll finish with two cool things from the internet that crossed my path recently.

First is this photo…

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…which speaks for itself (or at least the text overlaid on it does).

Second is this painting, which was painted by Dutch wildlife artist Esther van Hulsen…

prehistoric-octopus-painting

….using the ink from a ninety five year old fossil of that exact prehistoric octopus. What a beautiful combination of natural history and art. You can read more about it here.

If your brain looks like the inked painting of a ninety five year old octopus then you may just be my favourite person.

Talk soon.

Damian