April 24, 2017

24:04:2017

I think I’ve shared music by Tony Anderson before but it’s so good I thought I’d share some more. His is all instrumental, ambient, and heart swelling. I find it very good to write to. This one is called Dwell.

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Current chain of writing days: 24

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I had a very full weekend, just past. Very full. Fuller than I thought, and I wanted to write the details down because while it was a very full weekend it wasn’t necessarily a momentous one – one of those ones where something so big happens you know you’ll never forget it – and I believe this weekend deserved to be remembered. No doubt my brain will file and sort the details somewhere into the already extensive back catalogue of days and weeks that exist inside my memory bank, but the usual result of doing so is that, while it still exists in my head, I’m unlikely to think of it until sometime in the future when someone says “Remember that weekend where we…’, and I say, ‘Oh, yeah.’ So, to hold onto it a little bit longer I’ve decided to write it down.

Now, I didn’t want it to be a ‘I did this and then I did this’ kind of thing and so I thought I would just give snapshots, describe single moments in time that occurred throughout the weekend that when combined together give a pretty good synopsis of events. A kind of flash nonfiction.

That’s probably more than enough preamble, so let’s get into it.

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There’s a man on stage holding a book, and another one holding a guitar. Both are English. One of them, the one with the guitar, has shaggy blonde hair, an easy smile and a bit of a paunch that’s most likely been brought on from recent fatherhood. The other, the bookholder, is balding, bespectacled, and ready to fire witticisms with extreme emotion, comedic timing, and a vocabulary that would put any standard dictionary to shame. Around the room there is laughter. The man with the book is telling a story, the second of three, which is humorous and heart filled, and that, by the end of the night, will combine with the other two of it’s ilk in a way both complete and satisfying. Interrupting these stories at appropriate intervals are songs, likewise funny and well written, performed, unsurprisingly, by the man with the guitar. In front of the stage and looking up at the two English gents are some three hundred plus people, all sitting; who, in this environment, are known as an audience. In the fourth row from the front, directly in the middle, sits a woman, Holly, and a man, Damian. It’s roughly nine thirty at night on a Friday, and while these two heroes are starting to feel the fatigue of a long day at work combined with their evening outing they are undeniably having a wonderful time. This is because the show, while long – it’s been going for a two and a half hours at this point and still has one and a half hours to go – is excessively entertaining.

It’s two hours later and Holly and Damian are in their bedroom, both dressed in pyjamas. Damian is setting an alarm on his phone while Holly sits, hand posed over the switch of the lamp, ready to turn it off as soon as Damian’s job is complete. He sets down the phone, she turns off the lamp, and they both lie down to sleep. In just over four hours the alarm will go off.

Fire blares above their heads with a thunderous, and often conversation interrupting, roar. Holly and Damian stand squished into a small wicker basket. With them are their friends, Caitie and Stephen, as well as seven other strangers; one of whom, in this environment, is known as a pilot. The pilot is an older man, slightly weathered, with a ready smile, and even readier facts about their current mode of transport. He gives another turn of the handle, the fire roars again, and the hot air balloon moves further away from the ground. All in the basket look out over the rolling hills on the Yarra Valley below, or, at the seven other balloons gently floating through the air around them. Camera’s click and the scene is fixed into pixels of various colours and various amounts, to be shared, and commented on, and remembered.

A little over an hour later and the couple and their two friends now sit around a table. In front of each of them sits a glass of champagne, customary after a hot air balloon ride, or so they are told, inside the restaurant of a winery. Two and a half others join them at the table. They are Courtney and Josh, friends who were unable to partake in the balloon section of the morning’s activities due to the final ‘half’ member of the group. He is Rupert and he is two weeks old. Rupert sleeps soundly – too soundly, his parents are starting a sleep schedule and he’s meant to be awake at this moment – as he is passed around the gang to be squished, and tickled, and lovingly stared, a perfectly common yet miraculous miracle. The upcoming digestion of champagne, and talk, and food, and coffee, and laughter will do much to restore our sleep deprived protagonist’s energy levels.

The coffee table is laden with a wheel of brie, salami, hummus dip mixed with jalapenos, rice crackers, and four glasses of iced coffee; appropriately affording the table its name. Dominic, tall and lean with sandy red hair and an even redder beard, and Nikki, sporty with wide eyes and a wide smile, sit in the lounge room of Holly and Damian’s house, joined, of course, by the two themselves. On the walls around them are photos and canvas prints of people and places visited; some, ones of snow and puppies, include Dominic and Nikki. The four family/friends sit and eat and chat. They will plan futures that may or may not exist. They will talk of work, and home loans, and potential trips together; the inevitables photos of which could one day join those on the wall.

Damian lies asleep on the couch that hours earlier he had shared with Dominic. His phone, which had quietly been ticking away the last half hour, alarms, and he wakes. He doesn’t want to move out from under the blanket Holly has put on him. She sits, working, on the opposite couch, having had her half hour nap before him. He looks down at the floor to see Holly has also brought out their rabbit, Morrie, who is happily sniffing and exploring his way across the rug. Damian’s fingers tap the ground and Morrie rushes over to get his head scratched and his long ears stroked. Damian smiles, because in this moment he feels entirely complete.

Sue and Peter Robb sit in the booth across from Holly and Damian, who are now dressed in what they consider their ‘going out clothes’. Sue and Peter could well be an older version of our two leads, somehow crossing time and space to meet them here, in this restaurant; a situation Damian wouldn’t be disappointed with. They are also his parents. The four talk. Catching up on the news of each other’s lives as well as simply discussing whatever else their conversation leads them to. The restaurant/bar they sit in is located in a hipster laden suburb known as Fitzroy and while perhaps a little pretentious is cozy and comfortable. As they talk several members of the larger Robb clan pass through to give their hello’s to the table of four. To Sue and Peter they are their nephews – three in total, all brothers – and to Damian, his cousins. Their appearance is not happenstance. This is because the two couples have met for more than just dinner, drinks, and a catch up. They’re also there because one of the brothers three is performing tonight.

Forty minutes later with their bellies now containing food that was both well spiced and cheesy, Holly and Damian sit in a dark movie theatre. The theatre is small, with a roughly thirty seat capacity, but extra chairs have been brought in to fill any and all space available. Along with Holly, Damian, Sue, and Peter, are a crowd of mostly hipster twenty somethings. Their dress style is aggressively unfashionable; including worn boots, tight pants, and the kind of t-shirts only found in second hand clothes stores. For the most part they pull it off. In front of the crowd stands a man; skinny, and tall, with hair that runs past his shoulders. He is Tim, he is Damian’s cousin, and the crowd are applauding his arrival. In a moment he will begin to pluck at the guitar in his arms because tonight the theatre is not a theatre, but a live music venue. As Tim sings Damian’s hand will find Holly’s, and he will listen to the music, and he will think about the man on the stage. About a time when they were both just boys, sitting on a veranda, each with a dog in their laps, talking into the dark of the night.

It’s the next morning. Holly is in the back room, working hard. It may be a Sunday but teachers rarely get a day off. Damian, meanwhile, is lying on the ground of their lounge room – the same lounge room that yesterday housed both a cheese and meat filled catch up and two quality nap – while a woman pushes and prods his muscles. She is Angela, she is his sister, she is practicing Thai yoga massage, and she is quite skilled at it. Music fills the room, the kind of music you would expect to play during a massage, soft, calming, with a woman’s voice singing in a language Damian suspects in Indian. As his muscles stretch then relax under Angela’s practised hands he wonders what she is singing about.

Raging suns burn light years away. So far, in fact, that from the current distance they are mere specks of light, only visible when the side of the planet sits in shadow. The shadow is called night, and the specks are called stars. An infinitely smaller blaze currently burns inside the fire pit located in Holly and Damian’s backyard. They sit in front of it, each with a glass of wine in hand, breathing in the woodsmoke and listening to the crackle of the flames. In a moment Damian will open the book in his lap and start reading its contents aloud to Holly and himself, but for now he’s thinking about the rush of events of the weekend just past. He’s thinking about his hand on Holly’s knee as a comedian tells them stories. About a baby called Rupert who didn’t wake up even when Damian squished their noses together. About momentarily entering a cloud while attached to a balloon so that all around them in every direction was white. About the way his cousin’s fingers pulled music out of metal strings. About seeing the people he loves and the conversations he had with them. About a massage given as a gift, and the question his sister asked him during it.

Is the pressure okay?

It was.

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Talk soon

Damian

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April 19, 2017

19:04:2017

Today’s beats come to us from Canadian folk group The East Pointers. I use their music to write to as they do a lot of great instrumental tracks, however this one, Work That Way, does have lyrics as well.

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Current chain of writing days: 19

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I’ve been working on quite a few things recently. My WriEvDaFoAM (write every day for a month – I know, an acronym that you have to explain might not be doing its job) is progressing along well and because of that I’m getting things done. I’ve recently finished a short story that ended up turning itself into a novelette. Stories can be interesting like that. However, I haven’t edited it yet and so in the thinning down process it could well transform itself back into the short story I originally thought it would be. I’ve also started a few new projects. In addition to writing a minimum of 600 words everyday I’ve also decided to spread that 600+ words over multiple projects. This decision came after attending a screenwriters talk and having a chat with a few fellow writers afterwards. We got onto the topic of how each of us write. Some spoke about how they have to work on a multiple of things at once, some preferred having two projects they were working on at a time, and some, like me, focused solely on a single project; taking it completely from start to finish until moving on to the next thing. Interestingly this was a pretty even divide, proving once again that there’s no one way to do a thing. This got me thinking about my method and caused me to question if it’s the best way for me to do things.

Working on a single project at a time does have some pros. It usually means that individual project is completed faster as forcing yourself to keep writing the same piece every time you sit down naturally means it’s getting more hours of the day dedicated towards it. Maths. Likewise, having only the one project to work on means I’m more likely to obsess over it a bit, forcing my brain to work through idea after idea for it until it becomes the best it it can be. However, it also means that when I hit a wall with that story nothing’s getting done, no new words are being written. Ultimately, that’s why I decided to mix things up a bit. Hitting a wall with a story is, from my short experience, unavoidable. You never know the exact shape of a story – even if you’ve planned it all out things have a way of changing once you start writing – and so part of the process is wading into the mud of your mind and trying to sculpt something tangible and solid to continue the story (note: this is just a metaphor, mud is a terrible medium to sculpt with). Meaning that there will be times where you simply don’t know what comes next. You might know the bit that happens after whatever will come next, but you still need to get there, and you want to get there in the way that best serves the story. So, you hit a wall. I think this is a good thing, it just means you now have something to mull over. But here’s the thing. Turns out this ‘ol brain of mine is capable of doing two things at once, sometimes even three! I know! Amazing. So, while in the past I would focus hard on that mulling – mull away like a champion – now I’m minimize that word doc and opening another where, still amazingly, the mulling doesn’t get in the way of other writing. Arguably it even helps as my consciousness is focused on a new problem leaving my subconscious to work out the old one.

This learning how to write thing is a continual process, but that’s also the fun of it. It will take a lifetime to master – if not longer – which means I’ll always have something to do. I find that very comforting for some reason.

Alright, well I best get on with it. Lots to do.

Talk soon

Damian

April 12, 2017

12:04:2017

Today’s tune is from the former drummer of Razorlight, Andy Burrows. He’s been doing solo stuff for a few years now but I’ve only come across it recently. This song is entitled Shanking the Colour and is from his album Company.

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Current chain of writing days: 12

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Over the weekend I competed in a writing challenge. I haven’t done many of these, usually I take the time to write whatever I want with the intention of maybe submitting it to magazines and the like. The challenge was Sci-Fi London 48hr flash fiction challenge and required the writer to write a story of 2000 words or less within 48 hours, with each writer being given a title for their story, a line of dialogue to include, and an optional scientific idea to base their story around. I haven’t written a lot of flash fiction but from the stuff I’ve read it’s a whole different kind of writing. You’ve got such a small amount of space to fit a whole story in that you need to be really selective with your words. To be honest, it’s not too dissimilar from screenwriting where you have to get straight to the point but still try to make it sound natural. With more standard prose though you have a bit more time and room to play with your words.

Seeing as how I’m an Australian and this was an English competition my title and dialogue arrived at around 9 pm Saturday night, London’s Saturday morning. I hadn’t planned to start writing that night, figuring I would just use my whole Sunday to write the piece, and I had already done a large chunk of writing during the day to finish off another short story I’ve been working on. However, as soon as I read my clues ideas started to swarm and I knew if I didn’t write them down I wouldn’t be able to sleep. So, that’s what I did. I got about half the story written before I finally called it a night. The first thing I did when I woke up Sunday morning was to pull my laptop over to me and continue. By around 11am, I was done.

I think the reason this story came out as quickly and organically as it did was because of the limitations set upon me. While sometimes this can be a crux, in this instance it provided direction. Given the title, inclusion of the dialogue, and the scientific idea, there was, to me, only one story that could be written. So, I simply wrote it. Obviously, there could actually be a multitude of stories written given a certain set of clues but that’s also where the last limitation, time, came in. Because I didn’t have the time to overthink, I didn’t. I wrote my story, asked the Lady Holly and Brother Jonathan to quickly give it a read and an edit, and then submitted it. Best of all though, I actually really liked what I wrote. It was fast and sharp and reminded me just how much you can say with a smaller amount of words. Hopefully it’ll be selected but even if it doesn’t it was definitely an exercise well worth completing, and I’ll be sure to have my eye out for similar ones. I also found out after submitting that one of the judges was Mike Carey, the author of the novel The Girl With All The Gifts as well as the writer of one of my favourite graphic novels, Lucifer. The fact that a writer I look up to will be forced to read my words is already a win.

If it does get selected it will be published in New Scientist magazine, as well as come with some prize money, and if it doesn’t I’ll be sure to publish the story here.

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Remember; sometimes we’re the tree, sometimes we’re it’s shadow, and sometimes we’re the sun.

Talk soon

Damian

April 4, 2017

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Blog song today is Blind by Aussie duo Georgia Fair, released off their first album All Through Winter in 2011. It’s an incredibly solid album and one I can’t help but keep coming back to.

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Current chain of writing days: 4

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During my lunch break I often read books off my phone. This is done with the kindle app, helped by my phone’s large screen, and provides a necessary escape during my work day. I usually want to leave the collection of laboratories and offices that make up my place of work for the allotted time I get for lunch and so traverse down the four flights of stairs and through the rabbit warren of corridors that make up every hospital, until I get to the cafeteria.

I rarely buy food from the hospital cafeteria. It’s overpriced and bulk-made in a way that gives a superficiality to it that detracts from it’s appeal. Not that I never do, just rarely and usually with a tinge of regret afterwards. Typically I bring in food from home, which varies depending on the season but usually runs as soup in the colder months and salad in the warmer.

If you’ve never visited a hospital cafeteria they’re not the most appealing of places. There’s a bleakness to them, I’ve found. The pall of hospital dreariness leaks out from the wards and hangs over the dining area just thick enough that you can’t ever forget you’re still in a hospital. But they’re a goldmine for people watching, which is part of the reason I go there. There’s a hub of interesting people. The elderly, the infirm and the unwell, then filled out with the visitors of these patients – usually healthier, but not always – and the army of people who keep a hospital running; some in scrubs, some in suits, some in uniforms, and some – like me – in a rotating t-shirt and jeans combo (I wear it very well).

The other part of the reason that I eat lunch here is that the hospital I work from is located on a fringe suburb of Melbourne, one that hasn’t had much in the way of aesthetic development, and so there is nothing but residential housing, suburban streets, and streams of highway in a roughly ten kilometer radius around the place. No parks, no creeks, no little areas to escape to and enjoy the sun and remind yourself that the outdoors exists. The cafeteria has a courtyard that, while lacking in plant life, does get a hefty dose of sun; so that is where I sit.

Like I said I usually read during this time, looking up occasionally to watch the other diners and wonder about their relationships, their personality, their motivations, and what it is that’s brought them here to this place on this day. At the moment I’m reading the complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, which as the name suggests is the collected novels and short stories Doyle wrote about his famous detective. I’m enjoying them immensely. The stories provide the perfect escape I’m searching for when I sit at the steel table and pull my phone from my pocket. The setting, adventure, and easily solvable problems (at least for Sherlock) are the ideal counter to my work day, which like most is repetitious and kind of boring.

I realised recently the weirdness of this fairly typical situation, and it was reading Sherlock Holmes that brought it to my attention. Here is why it is weird. I sit on the opposite side of the world from the man whose words I ingest, a person he never knew living centuries after he did in a location completely unfamiliar to him, reading what he wrote off a device he would have barely been able to comprehend. It’s odd, right? When you think of it like that. Books on their own are a wonderfully weird concept. That we can write stories down, have them shipped around the world, then enter the heads of many. That a single book can be read and shared and read again with the content never becoming diluted through the consumption; the stories spreading like a virus. Then add time and technology to the experience and the weirdness gets squared. Weirdness on weirdness. Because as unlikely as it may seem Doyle and I are linked in that moment. He in 18th century England, me in 21st century Australia sitting in the cafeteria of a hospital as he tells me a story across time and space of an extraordinary detective and his astounded sidekick.

My lunch ends like this. I get to the end of a chapter, look at the time with a sigh, place the miraculous device that can hold an entire library back into my pocket, and return to work wondering what will happen tomorrow from my seat in the hospital cafeteria.

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Talk soon

Damian