Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Public Notice

To whom it may concern (and particularly those parties with an officially sanctioned role in this matter):

You will get nothing further from me until you have made good on your promises to me. And that includes making right everything that needs to be made right as a result of your prior actions against me or omissions of actions against me, irrespective of when they occurred. 

Quite frankly, I have had enough of your shit. 

Declared this 24th day of February in the year 2021.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Empty page

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the page remains empty before you. Either empty, or, more likely, filled with innumerable starts and scratchings out. When faced with such an empty page, or any other failure to progress, you probably have a few things you do, habitually, any of which may vary in their usefulness, but which you return to repeatedly whenever you are confronted by these challenges. 


I too have a range of strategies that I default to in difficult times. (No prizes for guessing that opining philosophically in a blog post is one of them). These vary in their utility, so I won’t pretend that I have the authoritative list of ways to refocus, recommit and restart. But I can offer this advice, which I have found to be effective, both for myself and for others who I have witnessed in the same struggle: 


Do something different. 


Or even, do something differently. Identify in yourself the response you default to, and switch it up. Introduce some element of novelty to your situation, whether by taking a different action, seeking a different creative stimulus, or even just by physically moving in an unfamiliar way. It fires up the unhabituated parts of your brain, and allows you – even briefly – to think in new ways, using your whole brain. This is where the inspiration occurs. 


You will likely return to your default patterns soon enough, but your return to your usual productive habits will be fuelled by the momentary insights that your thought-sojourn gave you. With a more integrated way of thinking, the page will fill quickly, and well. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

The trick to writing a story

The trick, I sometimes think, to writing a story is not necessarily just to get it written down. Stories can pour forth in voluminous quantities, especially when they find their source in deep places. The sheer onslaught becomes a torrent, unstoppable in its force, and prone to setting its own course.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

“At some point, my writer's brain started to whisper a mantra...”

Make it a simple story about hope.

Make it a story about human resilience.

Make it a story where people still laugh, brush their teeth, still fall in love, a story where people redeem one another by small gestures, a story where people have no choice but to keep going in the face of huge tragedy and unspeakable loss.

From 'Author's Note' by Gae Polisner, in The Memory of Things 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


'Blank? My dearest Abel, nothing could be further than the truth. You burst with stories. If your lives were painted they would fill every gallery in every city and still men would have to build more to fit you in.'

'Yet I have forgotten.'

'Forgetting you have done something is not the same as not having done it.'

The Palace of Curiosities by Rosie Garland, 2013 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

On building bridges (... and getting over them)

It is too easy to allow time to pass.

It is too easy to let all the other could, should, woulds get in the way of what it is you really want.

But if the fire of a story burns within you, you will have no rest until it’s written, or spoken, or somehow shared.

This week, I had the good fortune to hear the very talented Markus Zusak speak. Markus is back on Aussie soil after touring the US with his new book, Bridge of Clay, and he spoke to an enthralled full house in the theatrette at the National Library of Australia. Being an ardent admirer of Markus’ earlier works which include The Book Thief and The Messenger, I queued up with everyone else to have a copy of his latest novel signed, but mostly to thank him for speaking so authentically about the struggle he had writing it. Particularly because it’s been thirteen years since his previous novel was published, and he’s been working on Clay for most of that time.

Markus has spoken about using failure as fuel before, as in his 2014 TED talk, The failurist:

Here’s the thing with writers. Everyone thinks that to be a writer you’ve got to have a great imagination. You don’t. You just have to have a lot of problems. Clearly. And it’s getting around those problems that gives you the power to imagine. You’ve got to imagine your way around them.

This book looks as if it will be just as deliciously chewy as his others. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Therefore, farewell

The reason that I have to love thee
Doth much excuse the appertaining rage
To such a greeting. Villain am I none.
Therefore, farewell. I see thou know’st me not.

~ William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Word of the week

incandescent:  / ɪnkanˈdɛs(ə)nt /  (adjective) 

1. Glowing with a brilliant white light; emitting an intense light, especially as a result of being heated to a white-hot state.

2. Intensely bright, luminous.

3. Seared by strong emotion, passionate.

4. Extremely angry, incensed.

[From Latin incandescere, ‘grow hot, glow’, from candescere, ‘become white’]

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A long time gone

He talked to her of the great waste of years between then and now. A long time gone. And it was pointless, he said, to think how those years could have been put to better use, for he could hardly have put them to worse. There was no recovering them now. You could grieve endlessly for the loss of time and for the damage done therein. For the dead, and for your own lost self. But what the wisdom of the ages says is that we do well not to grieve on and on. And those old ones knew a thing or two and had some truth to tell, Inman said, for you can grieve your heart out and in the end you are still where you were. All your grief hasn't changed a thing. What you have lost will not be returned to you. It will always be lost. You're left only with your scars to mark the void. All you can choose is to go on or not. But if you go on, it's knowing you carry your scars with you. 

~ Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Answer

All the world's a stage, 
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts, 
His acts being seven ages.

William Shakespeare, As You Like It.

I find myself having the very good fortune to be in  Europe, where the myths and stories of the ages are painted, carved and writ large on the buildings and in the very streets in which I am walking. Story is every where here, and the same stories repeat themselves, over and over, through the centuries. The stories of many, repeating again and again through the seven ages of humankind, spun as if by the hands of the Fates themselves.

They are stories of victory and of loss, of love and loneliness, of joy and anguish. From the triumphant splendour of Parisian monuments, to the unspent anguish that bathes the daisy-spotted countryside where the bones of the war-dead lie eloquent in their massed silence, these stories weave and breathe everywhere, a constant reminder of the turning of the wheel of fortune in the life of every man.

And the wheel turns, always, and for all. When confronted with difficult times, the well-meaning are wont to soothe with platitudes such as 'we are never given more than we can bear'. This is not true. Life, in all its brilliance of colour and tone, hands many people more than can be borne. The weight of these things can break a person, or crush them completely. This is never a reflection on that person, their strength or worthiness, only a reminder that all humans, by virtue of the fraility of our own flesh, are vulnerable to the tide of fortune that washes around us, constant, inexorable, infinite.

When faced with what is difficult, do what you need to. Adjust what needs to be adjusted, even if it's the very direction of the course of your life. What matters is you, your wholeness and wellbeing. Live as honestly and as well as you can, hold yourself to your own standards, and forgive yourself your failings when they arise despite your best efforts. Never apologise when life hands you a heavy load. Be a good human being to other human beings. Be kind. Honour the light in yourself, and the light you find in other people. Know yourself, know your story, and tell your story. Weave it through your life, in the words that you speak and the actions you take, and in your art and your writing, so that it becomes the strong fabric that holds the stars in your own night sky, a map made of light to lead you in your own darkest hour, or even a beacon of hope for someone else who has become lost along their own dimmed path.

This is what the very best of our protagonists, characters and personae dramatis do. They live once, in their actions, and again in their moment of realisation, the finding of their own strength, wisdom or genius. By finding the answer to their deepest question within their own story, they become awakened, whole, real. The story becomes alive. It breathes, stretches, steps off the page and into the streets and towns and the very lives of humanity.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

And then she woke up. (The End).

How do you place altered states of consciousness in your stories?

This is a very interesting question to me. Without giving too much away, altered states of consciousness and/or reality are the hinge on

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Shaking words

The best word shakers were those who understood the true power of words. They were always able to climb the highest. One such word shaker was a small, skinny girl. She was renowned as the best of her region because she knew how powerless a person could be WITHOUT words. She had desire. She was hungry for them. 

~ from 'The Word Shaker', in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak