July 26, 2017

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On family car trips it was usually Dad who chose the music. While young me preferred it more than talk back radio or listening to the footy, often I would want to listen to the music I liked; which is what I did once walkmans came on the scene. As I’ve grown older though my musical tastes have bent closer and closer to my Dad’s, so much so that most of the artists I like quote the same musicians Dad liked as their inspiration. One of the songs Dad listened to (on repeat) was Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. One of my favourite musicians is Passenger, who’s recently released an album of cover songs – including Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. It is, of course, today’s blog song.

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Current chain of writing days: 10

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The man moved through the crisp morning air, two voices speaking in his head. The first was his own, delivering the usual commentary of thoughts and observations, cataloging and sorting all input into the relevant folders and sub-folders within his mind; connecting dots, finding patterns. The second was not due to any sort of split brain insanity, but was simply an audio book. This second voice, that of an author reading his own work, emitted inside his skull next to his own. Or, perhaps it was emitting from the metal, plastic, and glass rectangle in his pocket. Or was it from the tangle of wire finishing in tiny speakers that led from the rectangle to his ears? The man wasn’t really sure, now that he thought about it. Like most of the technology he used he had no idea how it worked, and so the actual source of the sound was a mystery to him. The headphones seemed like the likely culprit, but they were just soundless cords without the rectangle, and even combined those two would be a metaphorical tree falling in a forest without the addition of the fleshy protuberances sticking out the side of his head. He didn’t know. All he knew was that the words were first spoken on the other side of the planet, months or possibly years ago, and yet somehow, amazingly, were now rolling through his head, causing thoughts of sounds and their origins to flow along behind them.

It was then that he realised he hadn’t taken in a single word the second voice had said for the past five minutes or so. He admonished himself and tuned the first voice to concentrated harder on the second. Other sounds came from around him, but he told himself to ignore them. Traffic, the movement of the wind, dogs barking and people talking, the sound of his own breath as his legs turned in place while simultaneously moving forward. Another device he didn’t truly understand. There he was balanced on two wheels, his feet orbiting endlessly around the epicenter that was the frame of his bike, the two maintaining the same trajectory to one another and yet at the same time both propelling ever onwards; a miniaturised example of the earth’s relationship to the sun. It was so easy to forget sometimes that the whole solar system was racing through space much the same way he and his bike were flying through the air. That right now he wasn’t just moving across the earth, as his perception told him, but charging forward through space itself. That if you took away the bike and the planet he rode on to leave just the man and the vastness of space, you would see him hurtling forward, rotating wildly as he went, like a dysfunctional superman.

He had stopped listening to the audio book again, he realised. Focus, the first voice told itself. You really want to hear this book, you’ve been wanting to consume it for a while. Stop letting your thoughts distract you. You can write them down or something once you get to your destination. Maybe share them on your blog. But for right now you need to listen. He turned his mind back towards the book, letting the words take over his thoughts and paint pictures in his head. Another phenomenon he didn’t completely understand. Brains and their ability to take words on a page (or a screen), or spoken into one’s head, and create images that can then be recalled as if seen for real; so much so that at some point the words fall away and what you’re really doing is watching a movie in your mind. How does that happen? How is it that the tiny alien looking dendrites that make up his brain can pass each other sodium ions to create an electrical charge, and somehow result in him seeing an image that does not exist. How do computers do it for that matter? How does-

He slowed his bike and paused the rectangle with a sigh of frustration; leaving just the single voice in his head. I’ll have to restart the audio book from the beginning, he thought.

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Remember, normal is only a matter of perspective.

Talk soon

Damian

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July 22, 2017

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I shared a tune a while ago by Canadian folkists, The East Pointers, and I’m going to share another one today. I highly recommend checking them out, especially if you’re into instrumental folk music, as they always brighten my day whenever I listen to them. This one is called Cold, which it certainly is in Melbourne today.

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Current chain of writing days: 5

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My chain of writing days is once more in single digits.

This has happened for a number of reasons. The first is that last weekend I was exceptionally busy. From getting up last Saturday to going to sleep I was nonstop and while I could have set my alarm an hour earlier to write before it all kicked off, my heart wasn’t in it (it wanted sleep instead). Sunday was much the same, and when I finally did make it home my head was too dry and exhausted to try and squeeze any juice out of it.

The second reason is that I’ve hit a bit of a wall in the story I’m currently working on. It’s the one I revamped a few weeks ago and for the most part it was going along really well, but now I’m not so sure. Mostly, I think I’m overthinking it. This one is a horror novella that will be paired with three other novellas written by my podcasting pals, Sean, Gabe, and Tom, with the plan for us to put them all together as an anthology novel which we’ll then sell to any interested parties. Like I said I’m fairly confident my brain was doing me a disservice by second guessing itself at every given opportunity, and I even think I know the cause. This work already has an audience. Granted, the audience is (for now) just my mates, but even still, that’s new. In the past when I’ve written it’s just been for me and if it turned out to be the kind of garbage-writing even actual garbage wouldn’t be friends with, well, I didn’t have to show it to anybody. So, this series of facts  has caused me to slow down as well.

The final reason is that I just got into a mental lull. A day or two off had been building over the last few weeks as my brain had been making it hard to give up the goods whenever I sat down to write. I was still getting words down, and some of them were nice, but it was becoming more of a challenge, and I found myself dreading trying to pull sentences from my mind. So, that’s what I thought I would talk about today, the idea of someone who wants to be a writer temporarily not wanting to write.

From all the writerly blogs I follow and articles I read I am assured that this often happens, even to some of the most respected writers, but I still find it a hard thing to accept. Not only is it frustrating, there’s also an attached guilt for not having reached my daily word limit. I think part of the issue is that I’m so new to the practice. This makes it tougher to know if I’m going through a lull, or if I’m just being lazy, or if I don’t have what it takes. Without the decades of practice behind me it’s harder to say, ‘Oh, it’s a lull, I just need to wait it out.’ Ultimately though, that’s what I think it is.

It happens, we’re in a constant flow of ups and downs, cycles and spirals, which means there are days where I just need to give myself a break (this goes for all things, not just writing). The challenge is to recognise that I’m riding a downward slope and then put things on pause until I start riding back up again. Wait until my internal chemistry reconfigures so that I once more feel up to the task.

Of course, the question then becomes what to do why you’re waiting. This I don’t have a good answer for. Twiddling my thumbs while I wait for my mojo to come back is just as frustrating as not having the mojo in the first place, especially if there’s a time limit on the project. Like I said I don’t have a great answer but what I have been doing is writing through the problem, by which I mean writing down my train of thought as though I’m talking to myself. I put down on the page a literal conversation where I address all the issues I’m currently having with the story, give them form and, if possible, answers. Sometimes it can lead to real breakthroughs, other times it can shine a light on where the problem lays – in this case, my overthinking. By writing down all my concerns I could see that most of them could be solved with the simple adage, fix it in the second draft.

So, that’s where I am. I’m not completely through the lull but it’s rising (putting out this blog is some proof of that) and I hope it will continue rising, at least until the next lull, because that’s the important thing to remember; there will always be a next one, and that’s okay.

In the meantime I have a new personal best in the day’s-written-in-a-row category, which is sixty. It’s my new number to beat. Might as well start now.

Talk soon

Damian

July 4, 2017

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Today’s song is by Lewis Watson, who you might remember me posting one of his tracks after Holly and I got engaged. This one’s called Hello Hello and is incessantly lovely.

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Current chain of writing days: 46

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This last week for me has been an odd one. Winter seems to have brought with it the remembrance of mortality.

Yesterday, I rode home to see police tape encircling the park across from our house. A couple of police cars remained, but little to suggest the need for so much blue and white checkered tape; which was damp and disheveled after the days wet and windy weather. I walked into the house to find a calling card had been left by a detective from the homicide squad asking us to phone if we had any information. ‘Homicide’ stood out from the card, bullying the other words out of the way. I now knew what the crime was. I walked into the lounge room to ask the Lady Holly if she knew anything about it. She didn’t. She’d been around all day but had missed the police and, it being her first day of holidays, had barely left the house. I googled ‘Brunswick West News’ and found an article that had been put up only twelve minutes before. A man had been killed, stabbed during the night, seemingly after he’d sprung someone breaking into the sports center located in the park. He’d left a trail of blood from the building to a spot under a tree, where a local resident had found him at 8:30am.

I’d walked through that park in the dark that morning, cooling down after an early run. I’d likely walked past his body, but as it was before the sun rose, saw nothing. The revelation upset me, shook me up. I don’t know who the man was, or the unfortunate person who found him, but the whole thing was much too close to home, and has left a bad taste at the back of my mouth, made worse by the uncertain knowledge of if I could have done anything. Possibly not, and it’s all moot now.

After that I did some chores around the house as I mulled it over and then open my laptop and clicked on facebook to see a friend had lost her mother to her battle with MS.

To add to these two tragedies my Grandpa had a stroke last week, leaving him currently in hospital, as well as in the thoughts of all his vast tribe. My Dad is one of nine, all of whom have sired between one to five kids, so it quickly adds up. This ultimately means my Grandpa is currently surrounded by a lot of love. His wonderful kids have a roster going, with one of them by his side in the hospital ensuring he is cared for, and the other with my Grandma, making sure she has the same. This fact is beautiful, it swells my heart, and makes me proud of my Dad and Mum, my Aunties and Uncles, and of course, my Grandparents. Proud to be a member of that tribe. Proud to be a Robb.

It’s still sad, though. It’s sad because he’s in a hospital room in pain when he’d rather be home with his wife. Sad, because at ninety three the awareness of mortality is hard to avoid. Sad, because there’s so little any of us can do.

Humans are oddly cursed. We have awareness of our own mortality but also the ability to, not forget, but, ignore this fact most of the time. This can be a double edged sword. If you think too much about death it would become impossible to function, and belie the greatness of living. Think too little and its sudden appearance becomes unimaginable and gut wrenching. A middle ground is hard to find, and it’s still never easy. My Mum, amongst the many updates about my Grandpa in our family messengers, said it best: Mortality sucks.

And it does, but it’s important to remember that living doesn’t. That living, and life, and having lived, is a gem of a thing never to be wasted and never to be taken for granted. A life lived is never lost, even if we lose the person.

So, for now, let’s all live.

Talk soon

Damian