Sort by category: On Writing
There is a magnetism passing between writers and books, once you determine yourself to be a ‘writer’.
Each passing year, this magnetism draws millions of our brethren to publisher’s craggy shores, where we proceed to beach ourselves, time and time again, with the same intense mystery of the whales attraction to land, not for health, not for wealth, and most certainly not for happiness.
Well, after a year off from tapping keys, with much ruminating (if bouts of laziness could bear such description), and spectating the year that print bit its last pillow, I have discovered something unholy: I am not a writer after all.
A brief flashback: I can remember the day I became a ‘writer’. Fifteen years ago I started work as a copywriter for a local newspaper. It was monkey work really, ‘writing’ in the same way turning screws is ‘carpentry’, but the day I started my boss took me in front of our department and introduced me: “this is the new writer”.
Proud as peach I was and soon after I joined the club, which I presumed to have many members, though scant few of these I would actually meet in the flesh over the next … Read more
If you are as keen on writing/reading soundtracks as I am, then you will love these three mix tapes curated by the clever ones at Oh Pioneer!
50 curated songs over three themed albums, encompassing winter, roadtrips into the wilderness and, my personal favourite, a mixtape devoted to that heavenly beacon of humanity, campfire:
This playlist has been personally tested to be suitable for fireside chats in the woods, falling asleep in a tent, quiet nights reading, driving through the mountains, fly fishing, and whatever adventures you can get yourself into.
The perfect accompaniment to a quiet room, a glass of hard liquor and some creative kindling.
A recent 99 percent article examined the relationship between achievement and a quality of self control called ‘grit’.
The article highlights a number of studies looking at the divide between talent (or intelligence) and the qualities that assist us in unlocking and delivering talent. So, looking at a large number of people, from Einstein to Darwin, right through to West Point graduates, musicians and finance bankers, and exploring what enabled those at the top of their field to unlock their talent, and in some cases, to succeed even where talent isn’t immediately obvious (apparently Darwin never considered himself an intelligence powerhouse).
One of the researches, psychologist Angela Duckworth, isolated those qualities that might serve as a predictor of outstanding talent:
- The tendency not to abandon tasks from mere changeability. Not seeking something because of novelty. Not “looking for a change.”
- The tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles. Perseverance, tenacity, doggedness.
Which Duckworth boils down to the quality of ‘grit’.
People who accomplished great things, [Duckworth] noticed, often combined a passion for a single mission with an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission, whatever the obstacles and however long it might take.
Seems some of us have grit … Read more
The title sequence (shown above) is a kind of sober up ‘slap in the face’ before the visually torturous (at times) 161 minute journey through neon soaked Tokyo begins.
The story is told/seen through the disembodied spirit of a deceased drug dealer who watches over his grieving sister, and the unique perspective allows Noe to frequent all sorts of places where cinema rarely dares go, including the inside of an abortion operating room, horrific car accidents and plenty of other traumatic landscapes.
The vision Noe has presented is completely deranged, occasionally awe inspiring, and almost impossible to watch. The frequent use of strobing neon light combined with thumping beats lulls you into an almost hallucinatory viewing experience. Or at least that’s what’s intended; more often than not I had my hand in front of the screen to shield my eyes from the painful blinking lights. If you’re at all susceptible to flickering lights, do not watch this film.
Although an incredibly difficult and confronting film to watch, its construction reminded me a lot of the short fiction format.
Enter the … Read more
I’m constantly drawn to writer’s talking about writing. I think it’s got something to do with the elusive ‘art-making’ process and that innate desire humans seem to have for finding the methodology of things (no matter how inapplicable it might be).
If there is some fibonacci sequence for writing, some part of it would likely be found gleaming in each drop of perspiration from great writers like Haruki Murakami. The 99 Percent recently highlighted Murakami’s thoughts on the subject of endurance and focus:
If you concentrate on writing three or four hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, you’re not going to be able to write a long work. What’s needed of the writer of fiction—at least one who hopes to write a novel—is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, or two years.
Murakami, the author of no less than 12 novels, wrote in his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running on the links between learning to run long distance and the rigour required to write a novel:
Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons. How
Make no mistake, William Faulkner and I were never 'good friends'.
In fact, by the time I caught wind of Faulkner’s most celebrated work, The Sound and the Fury, the man had been dead almost 50 years.
You could say we didn’t have a lot in common; Faulkner liked horse riding, binge drinking and extra marital affairs. I’ve never even been on a horse, not married, and drinking has never been my strong point. Considering the age gap (82 years), the odds of us ever kindling a bromance were stacked high from the outset.
But had we met, I’d like to think we would have seen eye-to-eye on the subject of memory.
To me, Faulkner was (is?) a writer able to recognise that the past and present aren’t as clearly separated as we’re taught to believe. In The Sound and the Fury (TSTF), Faulkner collapses the boundary between what’s happening in the present and memories of the past, two concepts of chronology that, via techniques such as flashback and genres like memoir, we’ve come to rely upon being clearly separated.
In TSTF it’s not always evident what’s happening now and what’s a returning memory, which makes for a disorientating journey. And while Faulkner and I might sit across the room from … Read more
The process of finishing off is my least favourite part of writing.
First drafts are a chore, yes, but mostly balanced by the buzz of creation. Revision too can be enjoyable, particularly the point at which sentences come together and characters start behaving somewhat realistically.
But there comes a point in every story where the feedback received is something along the lines of “almost there”. At this point, 90% of the story is solid, and it becomes a balancing act to tweak the remaining 10%. Unfortunately (and unfairly), this last 10% is likely to be the difference between a good and an amazing story.
Finishing off feels risky to me. At the point of ‘finishing off’ I am the closest I have been to submitting, the prospect of diving back in and following some vague promise of amazement is not an easy decision to make.
Going back and finishing off means ‘darlings’ are about to die. Sentences, once fragile and beautiful, will be hammered out and ingloriously dismembered. A complex surgery soon follows, in which pieces of the whole must somehow be stitched back together.
Many darlings will not survive, and though I know it necessary, the decision to sacrifice a great line for some distant hope of an even greater paragraph, … Read more
Like many authors caught in the rapture of procrastination, the landscape of my writing desk often yields plenty of welcome distractions.
I thought I would be self indulgent for a moment and go through what’s been on my desk this April.
Clockwise from the middle top:
- Latest editions of The New Yorker, Kill Your Darlings (highlight: The Architect by Sonja Dechian) and Collect (a new $5 mini-mag from Adelaide – very clever, just needs some short fiction to seal the deal).
- Uppercase Magazine (partner currently doing the Shillington Design Masterclass so lots of inspiring design being left around the house).
- Kindle – full review still pending (but getting very close)
- Said partner’s awesome new business card.
- Searching for some bookish inspiration – Solaris by Stanislaw Lem (did anyone else find this tedious?), The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury (some of his finest tales), Rabbit at Rest by John Updike (not his best, but I seem to be writing a lot of Updike-esque stuff of late)
- Map of the world – was using it to map out the likely geosynchronous orbit of a satellite I was basing a story on (my tolerance for research is much higher than my tolerance for drafting).
- Moleskin Soft Cover Ruled Notebook – currently re-writing a draft by hand and finding it a lot less distracting
Everybody else seems to be doing the ‘year in review’ thing, so who am I to buck the trend? Rather than focus on what I read, I thought I might look at what my goals were for this year (writing wise), whether I achieved them, and if I didn’t what I could have done differently.
I am not a huge believer in new year resolutions. Generally I believe that if you plan to do something, then you should start doing it straight away – there’s no real advantage to “starting in the new year”. At any other time, that kind of statement would be considered procrastination.
I do however like to set deadlines, as I find they help to prioritise effort towards a particular activity. A year is a pretty broad deadline I’ll admit, but some goals are supposed to take time.
My goal for 2010 was simple: four pieces (fiction or non-fiction) published.
Result: I managed to get three pieces published, falling just short of the goal.
So what happened?
I had only a vague notion that my goal was achievable, so four was an arbitrary figure (one per quarter). That said, I think the goal was entirely achievable. … Read more