October 26, 2017

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Today’s track comes from fellow Australian, Kim Churchill. He has an impressive six albums, but I’ve only stumbled across his music recently with his latest, Weight Falls. The album features a bunch of great bluesy rock tracks, but the one that’s currently stuck in my head is Secondhand Car.

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Current chain of writing days: 8

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Writing is an ordinary super power.

A drawing teacher who’s blog I follow wrote that recently, and it resonated with me as a nice distillation of my my own thoughts on the matter.

Writing, like any form of communication, is simply trying to cram the mess of thoughts and ideas and stories that are in our heads into someone else’s. A type of telepathy that requires an interpreter in the form of paper and pen, or pencil, or crayon, or the blood of your enemies…or, I suppose, a laptop would work too. Professor X is basically just a guy who skips the middle ground, and imessages right into your skull.

I think the difference with writing as a form of communication, as opposed to speaking, or film, or music, or art, is that it requires more from the receiver. With writing — while story, content, and word choice all comes from the writer — the world the reader ends up envisioning comes mostly from their own imagination. I would argue at least fifty percent (if not more) of the world comes from the reader. It has to. Unless a writer describes every element within a scenario, every movement through every moment of time, then the reader has to fill in a hell of a lot of blanks. And a good writer will take advantage of this fact.

For example, take this set up to a scene:

She passed through the wire door into the kitchen that had been such an integral part of her childhood. The room not only looked smaller than she remembered, but duller too. Without the bustle of her mother creating meals and singing songs, bringing life into the space, it seemed like a taxidermied animal; whole in all appearances, but whose glass eyes gave away the lie.

What did the kitchen look like to you? Because, all I really told you was that it’s small and has a wire door. But, unless you just pictured a small white space with a wire door, chances are you filled in all the rest. What was the colour of the walls? What was the layout of the benches? What side of the room was the wire door on? Each of us pictured our own kitchen, each one different, and the one in my head different again. You probably had at least a basic idea of how the character looked as well, even though all you knew was that she was an adult woman. Does it matter? Of course not. How the kitchen looks isn’t important, what’s important is the character’s feelings towards the room and how it influences her actions within the story; that’s the one element we all share, and the element I put more time in communicating.

As a form of communication writing is undeniably flawed. No matter how much I wrote, an exact copy of what’s in my head will never enter yours. It will always be muddled in the translation, influenced by the reader’s imagination, experiences, and subconscious; but I think that just adds to the magic. As a reader I love getting lost in other people’s worlds and I think part of that is because, while I’m experiencing something new, there’s also always something familiar there as well; whatever I’m adding to fill in the blanks. We want a window into a different world but a mirror into our own one as well.

It takes two to communicate a written story, and so I think that earlier statement needs an amendment, and that’s that reading is an ordinary super power too.

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I saw this quote somewhere on the internet that gets across the absurd magic of reading perfectly:

‘Reading is just staring at marked slices of wood for hours while hallucinating vividly’

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Also, I did a Q and A with my good friend Sean Carney for Movie Maintenance Presents about my short story The Fox’s Beard. You can check it out here.

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Talk soon

Damian

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October 10, 2017

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I’ve loaded up on new music recently and one I’ve really been enjoying is Newton Faulkner’s latest album, Hit The Ground Running. His albums can be a bit hit and miss, but this one is a real winner. The first couple of tracks are upbeat and fun, and then it dips into some almost funk and blues songs that really work for me. This is one of the upbeat ones, entitled: Smoked Ice Cream.

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Current chain of writing days: 2

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For the past two weeks the Lady Holly have been making our way across Malaysian Borneo. It is a hot and humid place thanks to it’s proximity to the equator, full of jungle, quick and heavy tropical rain, noodles, and unfortunately quite a lot of palm plantations.

Borneo, for any who don’t know, is a large island surrounded on four sides by Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the lower half of Vietnam — and is made up of three countries; Malaysia Borneo, Indonesian Borneo, and the very small nation of Brunei.

My first introduction to Borneo came when during a flight to Europe last year we stopped over in Brunei and I had no idea where we were. Some quick research dispelled my ignorance, I learnt some basic facts about Borneo (those listed above), and then forgot all about it as we were already on one adventure and weren’t needing to plan our next one just yet.

That was until months later, when attending a friends book launch, the Lady Holly picked up a lonely planet on Borneo. She flicked through, showing me one amazing photo after another, and by the time she had made it to the back cover we were in agreeance that, yeah, we were going to go there.

Holly did a bunch of research and put together an itinerary of one amazing activity after another. I did nothing, maybe I cooked, either way, she rocks and planned us a killer trip. We booked it all in and then had to trudge through a half year wait until we could finally get on that plane and dive into the photos that had won us over all those months ago.

Now, I could go through out whole trip and tell you each incredible thing we did one after another, but I have the feeling that that would be more fun for me than for you, so, in short: We visited humid rainforests dripping with wildlife, peeled leeches from our ankles while trying not to freak out, floated down kinabatangan river spotting monkeys and birds, drank beer while watching the jungle soak itself with rain, scuba dived and snorkeled through island reefs brimming with fish and sea turtles, and ate, and bused, and sweated, and watched movies, and waited in airports, and read books, and discovered something new every day. It was magic.

Because that’s what travelling does, it exposes you to the new, and when that happens you can’t help but learn things.

So, I thought I’d finish by jotting down the… 

Things I Learned in Borneo:

  1. I’m fairly terrible at keeping up my writing while on holiday. I started out strong, but then got quite sick, then had activity filled days, and in the end I decided to just lean into it. I don’t think it’s the worse thing. While I like having a big number for my consecutive days of writing, some time off can be beneficial, and has left me extra keen to jump back in.
  2. Something will always go wrong. This is my mantra for any time I travel. If you’re expecting to travel and have everything go perfectly then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. There’s too many factors involved, too many ways something can and will go wrong. By acknowledging this fact it means that when it does you can simply say, ‘I knew this would happen,’ and get on with it, rather than get disappointed. Works for life in general too, but that’s another blog. For this trip, I got sick. I actually had gastro the day before we left, then contracted a flu two days in. It was a bad one, I can’t remember the last time I felt so rotten. I could barely get out of bed, was sweating and delusional, and I couldn’t even hold onto a thought during the worst of it. When it was clear I wasn’t getting better, I took some antibiotics and quickly started improving. It’s the first time to my knowledge that I’ve taken antibiotics and wow, they’re awesome. I got out of bed and back on track. Not to say it wasn’t upsetting but in the long run it was a small setback to a great trip.
  3. Fortune may favour the bold but it also favours the prepared. E.g. the antibiotics I took we had on hand because we’d seen a travel doctor before going. While things will go wrong, being prepared minimises the effect. 
  4. Noodles are literally good for any meal. Yes, even breakfast.
  5. Plan a holiday around seeing wildlife and you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time. That’s a more personal one. Nature and wildlife may not be for everyone, but for me it meant I always had something beautiful and interesting to look at and photograph, as well as providing us with that recharge that only nature can provide and that I miss by living in a city. It’s also cost effective.
  6. No matter how hard I try I am destined to always break a pair of sunglasses while on holiday. Always. Sometimes multiple times.
  7. I should read more. While I didn’t write as much as I thought I would I did read a bunch. How much? Five and a half novels in two weeks, my friends. It was bliss. By allowing myself permission to disconnect from my phone, as well as having plenty of down time, it meant I could commit to reading as much as I usually want to, and was so much more beneficial than scrolling through apps on my phone like I usually would. One of the books was Stephen King’s On Writing, in which he says aspiring writers need to do two things; write a lot and read a lot. He’s not wrong, and I’m hoping to bring back this renewed passion into my usual routine.
  8. My beard is quite good at protecting my face from sunburn; my thinning hairline, not so much. You can read that one any way you like, but I choose to see it as; things always even out.
  9. You should go visit Borneo. Honestly, there was so much to see and do, the people were friendly and relaxed, never pushy, and getting around wasn’t a problem. It’s a wonderful part of the world and one we’re hoping to get back to one day.
  10. Holly’s the best. You should get yourself a Holly.

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It’s good to be back.

Talk soon

Damian