September 23, 2016

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Yesterday I managed to write a lot. I had to bin all of it. There are a number of competitions hitting my inbox at the moment (why they’re all coming through now I’m not sure – I haven’t seen a good one in months), so many in fact that I had to set up a proper schedule to make sure I had something for each of them. There’s five main ones I want to enter, all of which are due across October. The first is due on the 1st and the last is due on the 31st, with the rest scattered somewhere in between. Four are for screen, one for prose. I plugged when each one was due into my calendar then made a spreadsheet for when they’re due, what the competition is, what it entails, and what project I’m planning on entering for each competition.

Luckily, for a few of them, I already have some stuff written than I can throw their way, making entering a matter of filling out forms and maybe writing up a treatment or two. For the others they’re more specific in the theme of the competition and so I’ll have to write something new to match it, which is fun but puts me on a timeline; hence the spreadsheeting. The one that’s due on the 1st is in the latter category and so naturally I started with that one. I had two ideas for it that I spent most of yesterday outlining, first one, then the other. This was the writing that got binned. I can’t necessarily say why but neither idea fit the bill, and neither were exciting me much beyond the original spark, meaning they were unlikely to excite anyone else. So, I binned them. When I say binned them I mean left them in the digital folder they were born in, as well as the mental folder in my mind, where hopefully they’ll get better with age and I can maybe come back to in the future.

Funnily, when it got to the end of the day and I reviewed how I felt about this I found I wasn’t overly upset. This was because I realised I had achieved what I set out to do; sit down for a few hours and try to outline those ideas. Yes, the writing I did in that time turned out not to be my best, but that wasn’t my goal. It’s taken me awhile to learn this, and I think past ventures in other creative fields have helped, but my goal is only ever to attempt the thing I’m trying to do. Not master it, just try. For writing that means my goal isn’t to write the best thing that’s ever been written, or even write the best thing I’ll ever write, my goal is only ever to write. Simply that. To be disciplined enough to sit down, put my hand on the keyboards, and do my best to get some ideas down onto the screen. In other words do something, not nothing; that’s a victory. If I can do that the rest will come with time. Perhaps not me writing the best thing ever written but definitely me writing the best thing I’ve ever written. I’m a big believer in the idea that you’ve got to write the equivalent of ten crappy novels before you can write one good one. That’s just part of the process. Which means that no words written are ever wasted, they’re just the crappy words you’re getting out of the way before you get to the good ones.

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Now for some internet bits that I’ve come across this week.

First up is a novella called The Night Cyclist by Stephen Graham Jones that was published on Tor.com. It’s a horror story involving chefs and cycling that I found wonderfully written and engrossing.

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Next is another video from Futurism about how drones are being used to fight deforestation. That’s got to be one of the best uses for drones I’ve heard so far.

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Finally, this quick video from TED-ed which uses a number of examples to give an easy to understand visual of what one part in a million means.

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I’ll leave you with a thought of the week: We are made up of squishy bits so complex that our main squishy bit can’t understand them.

Talk soon

Damian

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September 14, 2016

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I sometimes wish I was more obsessed. Obsessed over writing. So obsessed that I wouldn’t be able to help but write page after page, day after day, until I had so much content I could spread it around like the plague. I’m definitely motivated, but not obsessive.

It’s a ridiculous wish, of course. Being obsessive is no good trait. The dictionary definition of obsession is ‘a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling’. Any definition that includes the words ‘disturbing’ and ‘unreasonable’ is clearly not a state of mind to desire. Yet part of me still does mostly because I want to be great at writing, and worry that unless I become obsessed I’ll never reach that level of greatness.

Part of the problem is that popular culture has taken that word and given it new, more positive, meaning. I had a university lecturer of mine once tell me he was “obsessed with story structure”. Did that mean he was persistently preoccupied with the concept to the point of it being disturbing? No, it meant he found it interesting. Very interesting, perhaps, but not obsessive. Likewise I’ve heard people tell me that they’re obsessed with a particular TV show, or obsessed over a food product, or obsessed with their pet. Unless these people haven’t left their homes in the last month because they’re constantly re-watching Breaking Bad, or non-stop eating avocados, or can’t bear to be apart from their pet goldfish Sushi, then I don’t think they’re obsessed.

Let’s go back to me for a minute (this is my blog after all) and ask why – if I want this goal so badly – am I not obsessed? Ultimately, the only answer I can think of is that I don’t actually want it that badly.

I have this memory of being a teenager and hearing my Dad lament the fact that he was good at a lot of things but great at nothing. I’ve thought about that conversation a number of times in the intervening decade between then and now, and, while it was likely just a passing thought Dad happened to have that day and chances are he might not remember saying it, it’s forced me to ask myself if I can’t be great at something is it worth doing? Answer: Fuck yes it is. I would much rather be good at a lot of things than great at one. I have a lot of interests and like it that way. There is so much pleasure to be had learning to be good at a variety of things. The world is too huge and amazing a place for me to become obsessed with one thing, even if it’s something I’m really passionate about. Coincidentally, it was my Dad that made me realise this. He too is a man of many interests (hence the reason he’s good at a lot of things) and he too seems to enjoy his varied interests. Because of this it always confused teenage, and then adult, me that he would want to be great at one thing at the cost of all the others. Furthermore, I looked at the obsessively great-at-one-thing version of himself he wistfully dreamed of, compared it to the man he is, and found the former wanting. That version of my father would be boring and absent. Unable to experience all the world has to offer and unable to connect with other people because of it. Much like the writing obsessed version of myself I wistfully dream of would be.

I still want to become great at writing, but if I never do because I’m too distracted and interested by all the world has to offer, then I’m okay with that.

Talk soon

Damian

(P.S. Dad, do you realise what an achievement it is to actually be good at a lot of things? You idiot)

September 9, 2016

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I finished a short story late last week and have been waiting to edit it. It’s a first draft so I have no doubt that it’ll need a fair bit of correcting and rewriting. I’m keen to do so. This one was a bit of a bear in that it took me rewriting the first few pages a number of times until it started to come out the way I wanted. It finally did – I basically needed to force myself to compress the writing, I was having too much fun and overwriting the heck out it to the point where I was drifting away from the plot line – and once done I happily progressed. That is until I got to that point in the writing, somewhere just past half way, where I start to doubt every aspect of the story.

This seems to happen to me no matter what medium I’m working with. On almost every grey lead drawing I’ve done I’ll come to a point where I’m sure it looks terrible. When I’ve done comics I’ll be three panels deep and convince myself the joke isn’t funny, or that it isn’t coming out the way I think it should. Even learning new songs on the guitar usually involves a time where I think I’ll never get the timing right. Inevitably, though, I do. Persistence is the key. Often helped along with some stern words from myself to convince me that I’m not completely terrible. Mostly persistence though. If I can maintain my persistence eventually the song starts to sound right, I finish the comic and find that I like it again, the drawing gets completed and I keep looking at it to tell myself what a great job I did, and, in this case, the story gets finished.

Luckily I know I’m not alone in this habit. Fantasy author, wearer of black, and all around nice guy Neil Gaiman wrote a blog a while ago about how he experiences the same thing. He detailed he would get to a certain point in his writing where he’d ring his publisher to tell her he’s terrible, the story is terrible, and everything is the worst. To which she responded with ‘you know you do this every time you write a book?’ Unfortunately I can’t find the link to that blog, but that’s the general gist of it. The point being that even the pros still have to go through this as part of their practice.

I got through it and came out the other end looking at the finish line. For me endings are the easiest and most enjoyable part to write. All the setting up’s been done, the challenging second act is complete, and now I get to just bring it home. Like I said though, editing will need to be done, and then a second draft. I’ve waited the week to do so because I think it’s a good idea to get some space between finishing and editing in order to see it with new eyes. Realistically I should probably wait more than a week but am too excited to go over it, then send it to my readers: The Lady holly and Brother Jonathan. Even just waiting a week was hard. I managed to get through it by working on some web series scripts I’ve been planning to do for a while. They were a fun change of pace and only required about a half day period of doubt. That might be a new PB.

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Time for some internet things.

First up is this article from the AV Club about an app that lets you purchase leftover meals from restaurants at a lower price. The app, called Too Good To Go, was designed to try and decrease the amount of food waste happening across the world, and so far seems to be working. It started in Denmark last year and has already saved thousands of meals from being thrown away as well as prevented over 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Basically you make the purchase using the app and then organise a time to pick up the food from the restaurant. While not available in Australia yet I hope it comes soon as restaurant quality meals at half the price sound like a pretty good deal to me.

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Next up is a short story The High Lonesome Frontier written by Rebecca Campbell and published on Tor.com. It details the life of a song over one hundred and fifty years. Very enjoyable, and superbly written.

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Brother Jonathan has a new blog up on his site detailing his most recent travels home to Australia. A quality read, as his often are.

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Finally some sweet music by one of my favourite, if not favourite, artist; a man by the name of Passenger (aka Mike Rosenberg). He has a new album coming out at the end of this month, this time featuring a backing band. If this first track Young As The Morning Old As The Sea is anything to go by it’s sure to be another great one.

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Until next time remember that the best way to get through a rough patch is to keep going.

Talk soon

Damian