October 17, 2016

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It’s been a funny week for me. I’ve been sick. Not terribly unwell but it’s been enough to throw me off my axis. Illness will always do that I’ve found. It takes just enough from me that even if I do manage to complete my usual tasks they become a struggle. There’s a part of (healthy) me that romanticises being sick, that builds it up as a perfect excuse to do nothing and just luxuriate in a state of laziness. What healthy me really wants is a day off work. Unfortunately being sick is work, at least for your immune system, with the added bonus of feeling crap. The romance I build up while healthy quickly evaporates when I start tasting sour mucus at the back of my throat and become weighed down with a lethargy that makes my head feel like it’s full of cotton wool and my body want to lie down on everything. It took a full week but I’m now starting to feel normal again. The cotton wool has dissipated and now I only want to lie down on a few, more specific, things; and for that I am grateful.

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With my health on the improve I once more rode to work this morning. My ride is mostly a nice one, full of greenery and solitude. As I leave quite early in the morning I usually get to see the birds doing their early morning thing of getting worms and singing songs, as well as snails who slowly cross my path leaving a slimy trail behind them, and rabbits who bound away from my spinning wheels while I call out good morning to them (as I have a pet rabbit at home I feel they warrant a greeting).

Towards the end of my twenty kilometer ride I head through a school district and so am often joined on my path by parents walking their kids to school. When people are on the path ahead of me I always feel a slight sense of trepidation. This is caused by the fact that I know with an almost certainty that I’m about to cause these people a shock. With surprising regularity pedestrians are either walking side by side, in the middle of the path, or weaving back and forth across the path thanks to the presence of their phone in their hands. So, I ring my bell. Just once. A loud confident ‘DING!’. This is where the shock comes in. It’s not that I try to sneak up on them but usually the people in front of me are unaware of my increasingly encroaching presence and so when they suddenly hear a ‘DING!’ come from a looming figure on a bike behind them they instinctively startle.

I don’t love that my presence routinely startles people but what I do love is the reaction from the parents. When they hear that ‘DING!’ the first thing they do is put an arm around their child. Every time. I could confidently place bets on it, and I’m not a betting man. That unconscious act makes me smile. Granted they’re trying to protect their child from me, but the fact that their first instinct is to protect their kid is so sweet that I don’t even mind. I always cry out a thank you to them as I cycle past, both for moving out of my way and for making me think maybe people aren’t so bad after all.

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Sadder news from my world is that on Sunday morning I found my budgie (pictured above) dead on the bottom of his cage. He was around six years old and hadn’t shown any signs of sickness so it’s a bit of mystery what caused it, other than perhaps simply natural causes. His name was Sherlock, a name which was well suited to him as his temperament was not precisely friendly, but he will be missed. We are a house in mourning.

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The last thing I’ll share with you all is a poem my Dad wrote. He shared this poem (from his home in Traralgon) with me (in Melbourne) and Brother Jonathan (in London) through the magic of our individual smart phones, internet connections, and viber apps; because that’s something you can do when you live in the future. Quite appropriately the poem is on writing.

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words
written words
slowly surfacing
giving form and clarity to
thoughts/ideas/feelings
forged/trapped deep inside
hoping for the banks to burst
to be free
to be

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And now they are.

Talk soon

Damian

October 12, 2016

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I believe that the term ‘write what you know’ is about including small details of yourself and your experiences into your writing in order to imbue it with authenticity, rather than only write about topics where you are academically knowledgeable. Because of that when I have a small memory from some part of my life that seems to stick around I like to write it down as I figure it must have some import for me not to forget it, with the added hope that one day I’ll be able to use it when it’s appropriate to a story. On that note, here is one of those memories.

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It was 2011 and I was shaving my head in the bathroom. I find the experience of going to the hairdressers uncomfortable. This is mostly because I never really know the answer to ‘What are we doing with your hair today?’, but also because the forced conversation or uncomfortable silence option is one I’ve never managed to master. As a result of this I prefer to chop my hair off myself. That was true back in 2011 and it’s true now.

The only problem with shaving my head is that I can’t cut a nice straight hairline at the back by myself. I’ve tried and it’s never ended well. Luckily for me I’ve always lived with someone who can help me out. At the time I was living with my older sister, Angela, and the Lady Holly; who I think had either recently moved in or was around enough that she may as well have. As it seemed a more girlfriend than sister type duty I asked Holly to do the back of my head for me.

Quick diversion. When I was a kid Angela and my older brother Matt would sometimes pick on me because, you know, they’re older siblings, and that’s what older siblings do. In those moments I would always try really hard to contain my anger. Even back then I was someone who preferred to remain calm and reasonable. Unfortunately I was also five so rather than contain my anger I instead bottled it until my icy calm would explode into a burning rage; basically a tantrum. I always regretted when my anger would explode, one, because I didn’t like feeling out of control, and two, because it had little effect on my older siblings anyway. Now I am no longer five, and I haven’t had or even come close to an outburst like that since I was.

Back to the head shaving. Holly was going to cut a neat hairline at the back of my head. To assist with this I had removed the attached comb from the clippers, which controlled the length of the cut, leaving just the blades. Unfortunately there was a miscommunication and so Holly thought she was shaving the whole back of my head rather than just a line at the base of it. She turned the clippers on, zipped them across my scalp, and I had a bald patch. Holly, sweetheart that she is, became upset by what she had accidentally done. I was a little bit upset too, not at her of course, just at the situation in general, which is what I told her as I tried to comfort her and stop the flow of tears that had started. I told her it was okay, it would grow back, and that she shouldn’t worry about it. As I started to clean up my fallen locks Holly went to the bedroom to compose herself.

Angela, having heard some of what had happened, went to Holly and told her something along the lines of “He’s always had a temper” in an attempt to comfort her. Holly, shocked by a statement I’m happy to report she saw as the complete opposite of both the situation and a misrepresentation of me as a person, struggled to give a response.

Holly told me later what Angela had said and I could only sigh and explain to her how five year old me would occasionally get picked on to the point of explosion by the very person who now, fifteen years later, saw me as someone with anger problems.

It saddens me that this is included in my older sister’s opinion of me. 1) because I don’t like the idea that anyone would see me in that light and 2) because despite all the evidence to the contrary I’m still victim to a first impression my sister made when she was nine.

Mostly though it taught me that you never really know how people see you nor do you have any control over it.

Turns out that’s what I know.

Talk soon

Damian

August 28, 2016

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Yesterday I made a decision. After getting to a point in a short story where I couldn’t figure out what to write next – I know point B and point D, but point C was eluding me – I decided I needed some proper brainstorm time. I recently heard some advice about how the best time to brainstorm is when you’re brain is focused on an activity but said activity is just boring enough that your thoughts are likely to drift. The key is to hit that sweet spot between where you’re focused enough that you aren’t just zoning out, but not so focused that it’s taking up all your attention. Examples include showering (the obvious one), driving with/without music (depends on how much the music grabs your attention), or even perhaps going to the toilet. My problem felt like it needed more than a single trip to the toilet and, as I cycle to work, decided that my morning ride would be the perfect time to nut this problem out. Usually I listen to audiobooks or podcasts as I’m riding the twenty kilometers to or from work; which well and truly takes up my attention in a very enjoyable way. Obviously, that wouldn’t work for my objective and so I kept my headphones in my bag and rode with only the sounds of the animals and the traffic (arguably still animal noises) to listen to.

It worked a treat. I did have to somewhat forcibly keep the problem in my thoughts but by doing so my brain resigned itself to it’s given duty and started to work on various parts of the story. It was interesting how my brain hopped from one part of the story to the next, working away at each section like a rabbit who can’t decided which leaf of kale to eat first so ends up chewing on all of them. While the subconscious part of brain was chewing the metaphorical kale the conscious part was simply trying to keep up and catalogue all the ideas that were coming through to it; keeping the good and discarding the bad. It was great. By the time I was halfway through my ride I already had a number of little ideas for various parts of the story that was sure to keep me writing for the next few days. I couldn’t have been happier – and then I crashed my bike.

Let me back track just a moment and tell you one more detail about this ride. I got rained on. For about ten minutes or so the heavens opened and down came the rain and washed poor Damian out. It wasn’t a big deal, I’ve ridden to work for about four years now and so this has happened countless times, and I was so jazzed about the success of my brainstorm that it didn’t even dampen my mood. What it did dampen however was the inside of my handle bar cover.

I was about ten minutes from work and was riding up a small hill in a fairly secluded section of the bike path. As I was going uphill I lifted myself up out of my seat to pedal harder, putting my weight forward on to the handlebars. As my left leg came down my weight was redistributed to my left arm and the handle bar cover it was holding slipped right off. The handle bar cover hit the ground and I crashed down hard beside it. Unfortunately for my hand, knee, and shoulder the gravel on this section of the bike path was particularly gravelly (see photo above), meaning I fell onto a carpet of rough stones that tore through my skin like it was crate paper. I was ultimately fine, obviously, I’m not writing this from a hospital room or anything like that, but I was banged, bruised and bleeding. My bike was completely fine, so that at least was a small blessing. I rightened both myself and my bike, tenderly climbed back on, and, holding my torn left hand away from the handlebars, rode the rest of the way to work.

I was mostly aware of the graze on my hand but by the time I got to work it was my knee that was leaking blood everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I have some pretty grotesque photos (because that’s the smart thing to do before treating an injury) but won’t share them here for fear of upsetting anyone (available upon request). Luckily, I work at a hospital so it wasn’t to hard to get some bandages and bandaids. Unluckily my wounds were bleeding so much it took quite a while for them to stop so that I could actually apply the bandages and bandaids without them immediately getting soaked through.

What did I do while I waited for the tears in my skin to stop bleeding? I wrote the ideas I gained from my ride down. The number one rule for whenever you get a good idea for your story is WRITE IT DOWN. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of the night, if you’re still wet from just getting out of the shower, if you need to pull over while driving, or if you’re bleeding from multiple points in your body after taking a tumble off your bike. You Write. It. Down.

So, while you could say my brainstorming bike ride had some ups and down (no pun intended…I think), I mark it ultimately as a success, one I intend to repeat (not the falling off my bike part obviously, come on guys). My plan is to forgo the pleasure of an audiobook on the way to work when my brain is awake and alert, but partake of the entertainment on the way home when my brain has clocked off.

Like it has today.

Talk soon

Damian

August 21, 2016

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I was going to share some songs that I’ve been enjoying lately at the end of this blog but instead decided to move them to the start so you can listen to them while you read.

I’m all about the multitasking.

First is a song from an English band called Amber Run. I’ve been really enjoying their sound lately which has elicited more than one steering wheel drumming session while I’ve been driving.

Second is an Australian singer songwriter by the name of Dustin Tebbutt who’s been on my radar for a few years now but who has just recently released his first LP.

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The cherry blossoms around my neighbourhood have started to bloom which means that not only will they look gorgeous for the next few weeks opposed to the barren and bare look they exhibit for most of the year, but also that spring is coming; and it’s about damn time. The other side of the globe has had their turn at sunshine and warmth and days that last a full twelve hours, and it’s just about our turn again. I’m very happy about this. It’s about a week and a half off from the calendar version of spring but I feel like it’s already upon us. The last few weeks have provided some sun as well as slight increases in the warmth and duration of that sun and because of this I feel like my motivation and energy levels are beginning to thaw from their winter chill. I’m excited and enthused about being more productive and filling my non-work hours with greater activity – opposed to my more recent endeavours to maintain warmth, eat a lot, and move as little as possible.

The cornerstone of this burgeoning hyperactivity is to write more. I did okay at maintaining a not terrible level of this interest over the winter months (even if this was somewhat interrupted by outside forces as described in my last post) but now want to take it up another notch. I read an interview with the fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss recently and he had a line about how all the time other people spent watching tv, he spent writing. That’s my new goal, to spend as much non-work time as possible writing. To really cut back on my other entertainments and put that time into embedding letters into a digital page.

Part of my plan to achieve this is to start working on multiple projects concurrently. As I’m still very much a novice this is something I haven’t attempted before, only ever working on one project at a time. Pretty much any expert in the field will tell you that to get the most from yourself it’s a good idea to have multiple projects on the go so that when you become stalled with one you can work on the next one, rather than wait around until inspiration hits. So that’s what I’m going to do. When I hit a wall with one project I’ll start on the next one, tasking my subconscious with the job of solving the problem with the first one while I do so. I’m also going to try and vary the type (prose, scripts, blogs, and even some plays) and tone (drama, comedy, children’s etc) of these multiple projects so that when I move from one to another it feels actually feels like I’m doing something different.

The second part of this plan is to continue to educate myself in all things writing. Firstly because when I’m too brain dead at the end of the day I can still move forward with my writing experience by watching a video or listening to a podcast on the topic rather than actually by writing. Secondly because it’s just a great habit to keep. It can seem obvious a thing to do but often I’m so into the practice that I can forget about the theory, and it’s my opinion that you’re never really ever done with the theory. It’s especially a foolhardy thing to neglect when we’re living in the information age, and you can learn just about anything thanks to wonderful people who are willing to share their expertise on the internet. Just last week a Kenyan man won a gold medal at the Olympics in javelin and learned how to throw by watching youtube videos. If that doesn’t inspire you that you can learn real skills through the internet and self educating I don’t know what will.

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Finally for a bit of entertainment and amazement a quick video from the people of futurism about roll out solar panels that can be used in disaster areas, and realistically also a number of other situations.

Talk soon

Damian