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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