Greetings from the desk of The Drum and Page. At the beginning of each year, I choose a word to help give me focus to the coming year.
In 2021, it was Limitless/Breakthrough.
For a COVID year, there was little breakthrough and a lot of limitations, yet it was a year to keep thinking what it means to be a writer and an artist.
Last year, 2022, the word was Relentless.
For many reasons, 2022 was relentless, particularly on a personal front, yet my focus was on moving in a direction where my writing was developing. This resulted in three publications: The School Magazine for The Diving Tower (November), winning the WestWords Living Stories Prize in July for We Three Kings, and winning the Blacktown Mayoral Creative Writing Prize in December for Cutting Through.
I was also a member of the WestWords Academy which was a fantastic time to network and gain further understanding into the writing and publishing world.
What does this next year hold? In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9
I had this verse running through my head over the last few days and while I can plan and prepare, no one knows where the wind comes from or where it is going to so you make sure you adjust the beach towel wrapped around your neck, pretending it is a cape, and stand facing the wind so the cape billows out behind you, and you strike an appropriate superhero pose.
I know I want to maintain, and build on, the momentum I gained from last year. Therefore, my word/s for 2023 is:
To determine what this will look like for me, I have to examine my practices and my focus on where I want to expend my creative energy. Hence, for me, my words mean clearing the decks of older projects by either removing them from my work lists, or leaving them for another time. It also means dropping those things that look shiny and interesting but don’t advance where I want to go. For example, I’d been thinking for some time about a Red Bubble/Etsy store to sell my art, but that’s a whole business side of things that I don’t have time for. My art is personal expression and peace. If someone offers to buy a piece or wants a commission, that’s fantastic. My business focus is on writing and the craft of writing.
This year, a year of pursuing, and a year of pursuit, means finding the ‘thing’ – whether that is a story, art, reading, that fills me up and allows me to develop. I am hoping time spent with the projects that give me a sense of fullness will replenish me. There is always something to write, an idea to let compost, a paragraph to edit, a character to let loose in the lolly aisle at the supermarket with $100 to spend and see what they return with.
Long pieces of work have long gestation periods and long blocks of time for writing and editing. This may mean a less visible year, yet I will still be pursuing my writing goals and aims.
I have a couple of new desk buddies/guardians/motivators courtesy of Christmas to help me along the way.
Success is fleeting and unpredictable. Last year’s wins and publications were succour in a time of distress and stress. Success this year will look very different, and I am willing to change the criteria of ‘success’ to allow me to pursue my writing goals.
Think I need to invest a good pair of running shoes to make it through this year.
The theme for this year’s competition was “What now?” and I used the prompt to explore the distance of relationship between a father and his son as they navigate the changes in life as his son prepares to graduate high school and pursue the next phase of life. The setting of my story, Cutting Through, was a local barbershop where the father has to consider his own life through the lens of his son.
I believe excerpts will be published online and I will post them here as well.
I wasn’t able to attend the presentation last night, however, the mother of one of my writing students was present and snapped a photo of the announcement. My student forwarded me the picture last night.
It was a lovely surprise to round out the year. It has been a wonderfully successful creative year for me with my win for the WestWords Living Stories competition in July, publication in The School Magazine, and the 2022 Blacktown Mayoral Creative Writing Prize.
Next year will be a focus on longer form works so there will be less to visibly celebrate, but success will also be measured in the words written and the projects completed.
Earlier this year I sold a story to The School Magazine. The New South Wales Department of Education releases 10 issues a year to public school students, catering for all reading levels through different titles aimed at stages.
My story, The Diving Tower, was released in Touchdown. It is appropriate story as we come into the summer season in Australia as it is about a young boy, Zeke, who wants to conquer his fear of the diving tower at his local pool. I will say Zeke is a braver boy than I ever was.
It is beautifully illustrated by Australian artist, David Legge.
If you are a primary school teacher, there are a range of resources you can access to accompany the story created by The School Magazine. For specific activities to accompany The Diving Tower, click HERE.
A teacher friend of mine sent me a picture of the magazine at his school, and I was very chuffed to see kids still draw all over the cover of magazines.
A little bit of self-promotion. I do not like being in front of the camera. Being in front of the classroom is fine. Trying to sound like I know what I am talking about is difficult on a good day. Trying to sound knowledgeable in front of the camera to talk about what I do as a teacher is treacherous terrain. My school is highlighting the work of their teachers, and I was picked on for the creative writing class I am teaching this year, a new initiative, and the WestWords Living Stories win from earlier this year. But, yes, this is what I believe in as a creative person for my students.
In the piece I am wearing my “I Should Be Writing” badge, and a badge from one of my favourite bands, We Lost The Sea. It’s my intention to wear band merch whenever I can if doing writing stuff to promote my favourite bands.
My next aim is to become better at public speaking.
You can find the link HERE. Sorry, it goes to LinkedIn.
I am looking forward to reading all the entries, especially the younger writers who I hope will continue their pursuit of the craft because it will be awesome to see their writing journey into the future.
* GOOD NEWS KLAXON * That’s my name down there on the bottom of the picture telling me I have won the 18+ category of WestWords Living Stories competition. Last year I was also the winner for my local government area and backing it up with a win this year is amazing.
The next step is all the winners of each category are judged for the grand prize which will be announced in July. What is extra cool, and perhaps a little daunting, is other winners in my category are also part of the WestWords Academy I am participating in this year (all judging was blind so no one knew we were a part of the Academy or indeed if we had submitted). The chat was a flurry of messages yesterday when the announcements were made. I am hoping to meet them in real life at the book launch. I loved reading the stories in last year’s collection as there were amazing pieces written by people from all ages, and I am looking forward to reading the winners and highly commended stories and poetry this year.
I really loved what I had written, and was completely satisfied that if it didn’t place or anything, it was a piece I truly believed in and gave it everything I could. However, it did win, and it made for a lovely surprise (when you submit a piece for a competition, or any publication, you have all hope and no hope simultaneously) after what has been a brutally exhausting term at school.
The announcements were being released as I was teaching my writers’ class so I was able to share the good news with them when it happened (after I had messaged my wife and told her).
It was a word chosen to keep my focus on writing and submitting. On that scale, it has been successful. I have written, I have submitted, I have received rejections. I have had a story sold to appear later in the year in The School Magazine. I have been accepted to a local writers’ Academy where we meet monthly to discuss the business and practical aspects of writing. And the year is only half done.
In saying that, it has also been a year of relentlessness in other ways. The best way of describing it would be “Unexpected items in the bagging area.” It has taken its toll mentally and emotionally.
This afternoon, I took stock of where I was at with some old projects, added in potential new stories and lined them up in my notebook. I need lists; it keeps me accountable.
This is how I choose to define progress in the year of relentless: I am continuing to write and work on new projects, submitting when I can, and looking for new opportunities to get help, wisdom, knowledge and advice. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive.
I am curious to see what happens in the remainder of the year, and when I look back over 2022, what lessons will I have learned? And that is, perhaps, the more important part of this creative journey.
If my desk was named like an English pub, it would be The Drum and Page. My writing collaborator, Jodi, calls her place, The Dog And Book. Therefore I am renaming my work space like an English pub even though I live in Australia. It simply sounds better. What would your creative space be called?
I digress but this initial tangent leads me to my WORD OF THE YEAR.
Each year I choose a word to help guide and direct me. They are written on a Post It Note and stuck to the wall above my desk. Last year I had two words: “limitless” and “breakthrough.” I found success in these two words in the release of my chapbook, Mount Pleasant, in February, and winning a local writing competition about the middle of the year. I kept writing and drawing, sifting through the what was to see what would be.
This year, the word is RELENTLESS.
It will take a year to explore the nuances of this word and what it means for me. And that will be an awfully grand adventure.
It’s a word to apply to my creative life through writing and drawing, and will have application to the spiritual, emotional/mental, and physical aspects of my life. I don’t know what the final outcome will be at the end of 2022. I may have made no progress other than developing my creative practice. I may have opportunities to explore because I asked about a collaboration, or I put in an application for a writing mentorship, or I submitted work for publication and only received rejections. I don’t know. But I will be relentless in my pursuit of this creative life.
Grace and peace be upon you all from the desk of The Drum and Page.
What do you do when you get to the end of the toilet roll?
A year is a toilet roll, and as this calendar year comes to an end, we tend to reflect on success, failures, the times that fell through as easy as a loose stool; the events we bit down hard on and pushed; the thoughts we had amounting to nothing more than sound and fury, signifying nothing.
This laboured metaphor for the end of the year is fitting as this time of year is awash with Best Of lists, retrospective summaries, highlight reels and statistics. The interim period of December 1 until Christmas Eve is like looking at the roll of toilet paper on the holder and wondering how much is left and how long it will last, and if you’ll get through.
We mark our seasons and cycles in different ways. I am not one to successfully mark transitions and the ascension of seasons and new beginnings. I try to. I set out projects and works I’d like to complete but I am useless at developing plans and goals. Creating positive habits is hard.
I do know what I have, and have not, achieved this year. In the wash up of this year I can point to many reasons why I have not succeeded, some personal, some professional, some within my control and some out of my control. And all of these have had their impact in my growth as a writer and a creative.
These make me feel quite chuffed and are impetus for future growth next year. I have ideas, thoughts, hastily scribbled plans, fluid deadlines that need to be made fixed, unfinished projects to either abandon or complete.
And yet, there is fear.
Fear I can’t finish the projects I want to. Fear of what will happen outside of my control that can derail my progress. Fear of being average and beige and wasting my time. Fear is the largest obstacle I need to overcome.
Creativity is a discipline: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical. You train yourself like an athlete or musician to overcome fear. And when one cycle ends, you think about the incremental progress you have made, and how you have changed, developed, adapted, improved throughout the cycle.
So, what do you do when you get to the end of the toilet roll? You dispose of the waste, put a new roll on, and start anew.