January 11, 2016

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The blog tune this time is The Gun Song by The Lumineers, it come from their album Cleopatra which may well have been my favourite of 2016.

Crossing off days on my calendar has commenced and just like that the year is already a little shorter.

My plan for this year is to try and write everyday (beside’s New Year’s Day where I spectacularly failed to meet my resolution immediately) . To ensure I achieve this I have acquired the tools of a yearly wall calendar, a marker, and a big tin of just-do-it-you-lazy-idiot which I’ll use to paint over any I-can’t-be-bothered feelings that crop up. To be fair, I’ve made it pretty easy for myself to succeed by setting the bar low in terms of what constitutes ‘daily writing’. I have an unofficial daily word limit of 600 words, which can go towards whatever I’m working on; a short story, a script, an outline, or even this blog (157 words so far). However, I’ve also decided that as long as I open one of these documents and really try to write something, even if all I get out is one line because my brain, or motivations, or writing juice is all tapped out, then I still award myself the coveted cross on the calendar. For the moment it’s more about ensuring the mindset and practice is in place.

So far this plan is already paying dividends in the form of a completed short story, which I stamped the final period into yesterday. After getting home from work (and not having been able to sneak some writing in during work hours) I was sitting at zero for my daily word limit and so made a coffee, force fed myself way too much leftover Christmas chocolate, and got to work. I added around 740 words to the story and was ready to call it a day and made my mark on the calendar. After dinner however, with both my food and sitcom watching tanks full, I found myself opening up the story and thinking about what should come next. My fingers continued their typing and a very enjoyable 900 or so words later I was done and so was the story. It still needs a polish but is a testament to what can be achieved by plugging away everyday.

I currently have nine crosses and I want to keep that train going. As the year goes on hopefully I’ll increase my daily word limit and have less instances of shortages in writing juice. We’ll see.

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In things not about me, here are some bits from the internet that I stumbled upon recently and enjoyed.

First up is this TED-ed talk by Jia Jiang who purposely completed a challenge in which he sought to get rejected for a hundred days in a row in order to help him get past his fear of rejection. He did this by approaching strangers everyday with some absurd request they were likely to give a definite no to. The results were funny and entertaining but also informative because once he did get past this fear he found he could actually turn some of these no’s into yes’.

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Next we have an animated version of Dan Harmon’s universal theory of storytelling. This comes from other similar story synopsis’ like The Hero’s Journey or the 5 Act Structure but simplifies it in a way that I found easy to understand and easy to use, and it’s animated so you don’t even have to read.

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To keep the animation train going I’ll finish with this animated short about a dog doctor who’s wondering if she should have instead been a stay-at-home dog. Beautifully drawn and a lovely exploration of choosing a dream career over more “normal” goals all done in the space of two and a half minutes! A very enjoyable watch.

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I’ll leave it at that for today. In the meantime give a conspiratorial wink to a stranger, make a new animal friend, and hug your loved ones until they feel uncomfortable.

Talk soon

Damian

January 2, 2017

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I thought to mix things up this year I’ll add a song that I’m currently enjoying to the start of every blog that you can listen to as you read, if you’re so inclined.

First up we have a Melbourne band called Woodlock whose music is all so excellent I had trouble choosing a single song, nevertheless I did because I’m a warrior.

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I feel conflicted over new years, the idea of resolutions in particular. I’m a firm believer that if you want to change something about your life you can do so on any day, any hour, any minute – not specifically at the end of December 31st – and that delaying until the end of the year is just that, a delay and an unnecessary one. However, I also believe that it’s easy to forget about making changes. It can be very easy to continue life without evaluation and therefore never even think about any changes you might want to make, let alone start doing anything about them. It’s for this reason that I like new years and it’s resolutions because it provides us all that opportunity.

For myself my hopes for the new year are much the same as they have been in recent years; write more, stay healthy, and be good to the ones I love. This blog is a way to ensure I keep up the first, not only because to publish it I need to write but also because I know there are readers who will continue to expect new posts and badger me if they aren’t forthcoming; these people are my parents – bless them. I also have a second system though to ensure I keep writing. It comes from some advice I saw floating around the internet earlier this year that originated from Jerry Seinfeld. You can read the original article here but the setup of it is that when a young comic was learning the ropes he had an opportunity to talk to Seinfeld and asked him if he had any advice. Here’s what he said, and I’ll simply quote the article here:

“He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself—even when you don’t feel like it. He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here’s how it works. He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.” “Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.”

You can guess what I’ve done. One of the benefits to working in lab is that you use a lot of equipment. This equipment needs to come from somewhere and so you then get salesmen and women coming to the lab to buy you coffee and talk about their products. These salesmen and women will also bring knick knacks and doodads with their company’s logo and products printed on them. At this time of the year those doodads include giant wall calendars like the one detailed above. So, I have placed said calendar on a wall in my study and I plan to start crossing days off one by one, starting today. Admittedly, I was going to start yesterday but after a lazy morning at our friends house and then driving a very hungover Lady Holly and I the two hours back home only to realise I hadn’t come off as easy as I thought from the night before I decided to leave it until today. Starting a new year’s resolution on the first is cliche anyway, although I guess breaking a resolution on the first is equally as cliche…either way I now know breaking a resolution straight way certainly takes a lot of pressure off of it.

That’s my plan for the year, I don’t expect that I won’t break the chain at some point but I do expect to get some mighty good runs in.

Remember: The trick is to get a little better everyday.

Talk soon

Damian

December 24, 2016

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This morning I went for a run. I had pre-planned it. The inevitable Christmas gorging is something I’m a big fan of partaking in and thought I should preemptively offset at least a bit of it, so that when my belly’s full from too much consumption and the twin demons of guilt and regret are making their way towards me I can say ‘Well, at least I went for a run.’

I got up at around 6:30am and by seven I was dressed in my running gear and closing the door of my house behind me. The sun was low, but bright and beaming. It reached somewhere towards thirty five degrees celsius in Melbourne yesterday so even with some of that heat dissipating overnight the morning was still warm. I started my watch to record the kilometers as I ran them and my feet began rhythmically hitting the pavement. I decided that I would run ten kilometers and by the time I reached the five kilometer turnaround point I was covered in sweat. The warmth of my body felt good, and cleansing.

On the way back it started to rain. Nothing too hard, just a light sun shower after the heat of the night before. Usually, I don’t enjoy running in the rain mostly because I find it frustrating when it gets into my eyes, but this morning, with my sunglasses negating that problem, the rain was clean and refreshing. I finished the run in good spirits, my muscles sore but my body hot and alert. As I usually do after a run I decided to do a cool down walk around the park next to my house. The rain, that until this point had remained in the shower category, turned into a thunderstorm as I did so. It was gorgeous. Even with the thunder and lightning dancing above me and the thick drops soaking my already wet running gear the storm still wasn’t enough to dampen our strong Australian sun. Instead I had a stunning view of green grass under a small patch of grey sky encircled, to the horizon, by blue and sunshine. A summer storm. The heavy rain was welcome and I finally started cooling as I made my way around the deserted park. I stopped briefly under a tree to simply watch the storm as the pattern of lightning followed by thunder continued above. The rain was torrential now but the dark mass it poured out of was still ringed by the stalwart light of the sun. I stood there, hot but getting colder, red faced and wearing black, and near laughed at the beauty of it. A middle aged coupled came towards me from around the corner of the path and they too were soaked, although seemed to share the energy a thunderstorm can bring. They approached and the man made a joke about the fickleness of Melbourne weather, we shared a smile, and they stood beside me under the boughs of the tree, all of us silently watching the rain.

Tomorrow is Christmas and with that comes a certain kind of magic. On the other side of the world that magic is personified by blankets of snow, rugging up against the cold, and sharing warm fires. Here, nothing seems more appropriate that standing with strangers and watching a summer storm.

I hope you all have a magical day tomorrow.

Talk soon

Damian

December 17, 2016

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This week was an oddly busy week at work. I say oddly because, as a big part of me had already happily embraced the forthcoming juggernaut that is Christmas, my expectations for the workplace this week were that they would be more festive and relaxed rather than business as usual. I forgot I worked in science. Researchers, as a whole, seem not to welcome and become mellowed by any given holiday, but panicked by it. It’s merely a barrier for their ever continuing research, an annoyance to get through, and as their support staff (myself included) will be away for the Christmas/New Year break they usually double down on the workload prior so that our selfish instance to take time off during public holidays won’t hinder them to greatly. Part of me in impressed by their commitment to their work but another, much larger, part of me is just ready to get his damn Christmas on.

Work stuff aside I’m really looking forward to Christmas this year. I have a good line up that will allow me to spend time with friends and family and hopefully won’t tip into the whole ‘I’m feel like I’ve eaten an entire ham, don’t want to move, and yet we still have five more groups of people to visit,’ phase. A number get knocked off this weekend, which should keep me merry enough to get through the week of work that follows it. Then Christmas Eve day will be spent with the Lady Holly’s family and the Christmas Eve night spent with just the Lady Holly (and probably Moriarty – our rabbit) eating chocolate and reading books. Last year, prior going to Scandinavia, Holly found out it was the Icelandic tradition to give each other books and eat chocolate on Christmas Eve and, as this will be the second year we’ve partaken, I think I can say it’s now our tradition too. There’s something very charming and relaxing to quietly eating chocolate and reading books the night before the rushed chaos of Christmas. Plus, I’ll take any excuse to read books and eat chocolate. Christmas day itself will be spent with my family in the house I grew up in and haven’t been back to for some time (we already have a Christmas themed audiobook loaded up for the drive down there), before spending boxing day with my gang to close out the festivities. Like I said, it should be quite a time.

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I’ve mentioned previously how I occasionally take part in a podcast called Movie Maintenance. It’s a fun listen where one of us takes a movie, explains where we think it could be improved, and then fixes the problems of the film; if not re-pitch a whole new story for it altogether. I’ve done a number of them throughout the year and they’ve always been a quality time, 1) because I get to spend time with some clever and witty champions, and 2) because it’s a good way to improve my writing. This second part is due to the critiquing aspect of the endeavour, which helps me to analyse my own work, as well as the pitching side of it, which forces me to tell a story quickly but in a way that still hits all the necessary elements and is hopefully entertaining. It’s good stuff. So good in fact that last week we did a live show. We filled fifty seats in a upstairs theatre in North Melbourne and to be honest it went really well. The place was packed, the audience were responsive, and there was just an overall good feel in the room of people who love talking movies. We signed a few autographs after the show and then even got to have some good chats with a few of the fans who happily joined us at the pub. A good night and one we’re likely to repeat in the new year.

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In writing news things have been going pretty well. After the whirlwind of words that was NaNoWriMo I’ve slowed things down a bit for the end of the year. Not slowed down completely, NaNoWriMo taught me to much to allow that to happen, but enough to take a deep breath before I kick off 2017, which I’m planning to be a big year writing wise. In the meantime I’m currently working on a new short story that is so far coming along really well and that I’ll hopefully get done over the Christmas break, and I also have an idea for a TV show that I think could have some legs and so will get stuck into that soon too. So, plenty to keep me busy. Yay, writing!

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That’s it from me for now and, as the work week is now done, we’re only six more sleeps away from Christmas. Bring it on.

Remember: worrying if you’re happy, definitely doesn’t make you happy.

Talk soon,

Damian

October 24, 2016

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There’s been a few new little things happening writing wise that I want to tell you all about but I also realised it’s been awhile since I’ve shared some bits from the internet. I know this because my Facebook saves and chrome bookmarks, the two places I usually store the interesting things the internet throws at me for future sharing, are starting to pile up. Because of that I thought this blog could just be a run down on all those cool things and I’ll save writing update for later in the week.

So, without further preamble…

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BITS FROM THE INTERNET!

I’m going to start off with a few short stories I’ve read lately. As I’ve been attempting to write my own short stories recently I’ve been on the hunt to read as many as I can in order to evaluate what makes a good one good, and a bad one bad. Luckily, the internet provides us with a huge amount of options in this regard; from newbie writers like myself offering up their work for free to writing magazines and publisher websites occasionally giving us a piece of work from the cream of the crop in order to suck is into buying more. Which it does. For myself I’ve mostly been reading ones from the publisher Tor, as they they print sci-fi and fantasy (my favourite), they offer a new short story for free every week in their newsletter, and because I’m subscribed to said newsletter. Convenience.

This is where this first one comes from. It’s entitled The Three Lives if Sonata James and is written by Lettie PrellIt’s a sci-fi story about a young woman called Sonata who lives in a world where you can automatically update your persona to the cloud. This means if your body dies you can just upload your persona into a new android body; one that’s capable of doing so much more than your current weak squishy bod. This theoretically means you could live forever, continually jumping from body to body whenever an old one breaks down. The story discusses the ramifications to this re: overpopulation and a resistance to the technology. It also goes into the idea of life as art and the beauty in the limitations to both. It’s a truly gripping story that will have your mind ablaze with questions and possibilities by the end of it.

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Next is a short story called The Egg by Andy Weir. The Lady Holly and I rewatched The Martian on the weekend, based off the book of the same name written by Weir, and it got me curious to see what else he had written. The story of how The Martian got published is infamous and, to me, fairly inspirational. Weir initially self published the novel off his website in a serial format, one chapter at a time. At the request of some of his fans he then made it available on Amazon Kindle, setting the price at 99 cents; the minimum he could set it. It quickly climbed to the top of the list of Amazon’s most downloaded sci-fi where it then garnered the attention of some publishers who bought it, published it, made a lot of money off it, and the rest is history. For any of you out there who haven’t read it it’s a terrific novel and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Back to my research though. From Weir’s site I found a bunch of short stories and webcomics he had written that he happily lets people consume for free. The one that is probably the most famous is The Egg – the story I’m sharing here – and for good reason. It’s an incredibly short read, perhaps two pages at best, but it contains a huge idea that chances are you’ll be mulling over for a while. I won’t tell you more than that for fear of ruining it but as examples of good short stories go this one is pretty high up on the list.

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We’ll stick with cool writing bits for the minute with this animated video of advice from screenwriter, Michael Arndt. Arndt has written for a number of Pixar movies, as well as the screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine, and more recently Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Clearly with a resume that good the guy knows what he’s doing.

In this video he talks specifically about his time with Pixar and what he learnt there about writing a good beginning to a story.

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Let’s now move into the science and design side of things with another video that shows basically the most bad ass coffee table anyone has ever owed. I won’t bother describing this one because the video speaks for itself (that’s pretty much what videos do) but if anyone wants to buy me one I won’t say no.

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It must be time for a TED talk right? Right. I’m currently planning out a story that incorporates virtual reality (again, more about that in my next post) and so when this TED talk about how VR can be used as an art form popped up on my Facebook feed I had to watch it. It’s fascinating and shows how, much like the birth of movies back in the day, the rise of VR will give audiences a whole new medium for art and storytelling. A truly fun, engaging, and moving talk.

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One more video for us to finish things off. A beautiful and thought provoking animated short film about a dog doctor who wonders if she’ll be happier as a stay-at-home pet. It’s only a couple of minutes long and covers the topic of the difficulty in making life choices really well. And it has adorable dogs wearing human clothes, so it’s a double win.

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That’s it for today. I have a bunch more internet bits I could happily share but probably best not to over do it. In the meantime have a mental chew on those and hopefully you enjoy them as much as I did.

Talk soon

Damian

February 9, 2016

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You probably haven’t heard of Mike Winklemann, I hadn’t until yesterday when I came upon his work while walking my day’s digital path. Apart from having the kind of surname you expect from a character in a children’s fantasy story Mike is also an artist, the kind of artist who does it all; one of those real talented bastards. Paintings to drawings to digital photography to vector illustration to 3D animation. It would seem that if you give Mr. Winklemann a canvas of any variety he’s good to go.

While being a master of that many mediums certainly is impressive, amazingly I didn’t even find that the most impressive thing about Mike. No, what inspires me about Mike is that he does it everyday. Literally, and in every sense of the word. Mike will start and finish a piece of art everyday and post it to his website under the aptly named category ‘Everydays’. Mike’s been doing an everyday for over nine years.

I told you it was impressive.

As the tally on his website states, he’s been making an everyday for 3206 consecutive days and I have a very strong suspicion that tomorrow that tally would read 3207. What’s even more impressive is that these everydays aren’t mere scribbles or flashes of paint, they are complex, sometimes stunning, pieces of art – some of which I’ll be sure to share at the bottom of this post.

As Mike states on his site:

“The purpose of this project is to help me get better at different things. By posting the results online, I’m “less” likely to throw down a big pile of ass-shit even though most of the time I still do because I suck ass.”

While I would disagree with the self deprecating last part of his statement I resoundly approve of his conception to improve his work by both doing it everyday and sharing it. That’s what I’m attempting to do with this blog.

I’ve done other one-a-day challenges before. I completed a one-a-day photo challenge for a year over at blipfoto, I’ve done one-a-day exercise programs (although more recently it’s been eat junk food and drink beer every day and while I have got results from that unplanned program they’re not the kind of results you really want), in fact this website you’re currently reading from started as a way for me to write a scene once a day. Like I said I resoundly approve this concept, and this is because the well known fact of the matter is if you want to get good at something you need to practice, practice, practice. One-a-day challenges are simply one of the best ways to motivate yourself to do this, and if you’re sharing them, even more so.

To me the important thing to remember is that these one-a-day whatever’s that you’re doing don’t, and won’t, be the best work you ever produced, in fact they could be “big piles of ass-shit”, but they will lead to your best work.

But back to Mike, the guys not only gifted artistically, he clearly has a superhuman level of persistence. Over nine years! Part of that comes from the fact that every years he chooses a new set of skills to focus on and try and improve, clearly though the guy’s a freak. An inspirational freak.

I heard about Mike’s work from an article on iO9 that you can read here, which I highly suggest you do. Not only is Mike’s work inspiring but also his thoughts on what inspires him and keeps him motivated. There’s also another article about him from the atlantic you can see here, and you can check out Mike’s website here; where you can also buy prints of some of his 3206 pieces, and, as Mike says, “cover yer walls in bullshit”.

I think I might do just that. That way I’ll not only have some great art but whenever I look at them I can remind myself I have a lot of catching up to do.

Talk soon.

Damian
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(And he completed each of these in a day!)