Tag Archives: creativity

Word for the Year 2022

Welcome to The Drum and Page.

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.

Flash Fiction – The Tennis Court

There’s always a tennis court around the corner, the white lines faded and cracked. The net hangs in a lopsided grin as you walk past. The dog at your heels moves to your other side, putting you between it and the tennis court. You’ve never seen anyone play on it.

As you walk beyond the base line you think you hear the sound of a ball struck. You turn and there’s no one there on court. A tennis ball rolls out of the shadows and into the back corner of the court, resting against the cyclone fencing wire.

What Do You Do When You Get to the End of the Toilet Roll?

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.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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.

What Am I Pleased With This Year?

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.

Bridging the Gap

Ira Glass discusses the gap between where we are with our creativity, and where we’d like to be.

And this is where I am at.

I have a vision of the type of writer I want to be and I am trying to make it a reality.

Above my desk are a series of Post It notes, categorised under different headings. There are Post It notes for published pieces, Works in Progress, Ideas and Rough Concepts, Writing Competitions and Opportunities, and then a random miscellany of captured moments.

I am trying to bridge the gap. I am taking off Post It notes when I have abandoned a Work in Progress, trimming the hedge, so to speak, because I want to focus on the work I have at hand. I do not want to be distracted by too many ideas, or to spend time pursuing an opportunity that will not benefit me. I am being deliberately picky. I want to focus on writing well in order to bridge that gap.

It feels presumptuous, and arrogant, to say that I have a goal as a writer: I want to be on the Miles Franklin short list. The Miles Franklin award is prestigious writing award in Australia, and it is one I aspire to. Even to be on the long list would be an achievement. To win it would be the culmination of years of hard work.

I’ve set myself a bar on the other side of the creative gap. Time to get to work; to write the words that will build the bridge across that gap so I can leap over that bar.

The Fallow Season

The Fallow Season

Due to the nature of my job as a high school English teacher there are certain times of the year when the time to create is very limited.

This is one of those times.

July to September is very busy, and time to focus on large projects or develop new ideas is very limited. Therefore I call this my fallow season.

I leave projects and ideas on hold, waiting for the next break to pick them up again. I can do little things like drawing but writing projects wait.

It is frustrating for a number of reasons. If I have built momentum on a project I have to let it slow down. If I want to spend time developing a new project it can only be done in small parcels of time if I have the mental strength to do so. It is frustrating because I am not where I want to be as a writer. There are other factors in the background that also hinder progress, and each time I think I have found a new pattern or way of creating, the parameters shift and I have to restart.

So this is me, waiting out the season but watching over the fields.

Things To Do While Sitting With Grief

Things To Do While Sitting With Grief

tie your shoelaces with the perfect tightness you like. send a text to your best friend asking how he’s doing at the moment because you haven’t spoken in a while. and send one to your sister for the same reason.

write out a shopping list of what you will need for the week and include a treat for yourself. count the drops of rain falling and see if you can make it to one thousand.

read a book; the one you said you always would but never get around to.

respond to your best friend’s text and invite him over for dinner and ask him what his favourite food is and plan to make it. add the ingredients to the shopping list you started earlier.

turn your phone off. listen at the window. make a mental note of what you see in the colour of the sky and shape of the clouds. remember your first kiss and why it stays in your memory and not the last kiss you gave or received. wait for the echo.

paint your fingernails and toenails even if no one will see them. later, put on your favourite socks, the comfy ones you wear around the house with slippers.

measure the distance the shadow travels as it pushes in like the rising tide. tomorrow, time how long it takes.

draw the flowers in the vase and capture their fragility; a daguerreotype of death. next week, draw them when they have wilted. preserve it.

listen to the sound of your breathing, through your mouth, through your nose. clench your fists breathing in. release them breathing out.

The Cartographer’s Journal

Hello there,

It has been a little while since I’ve dropped in here to announce anything but in the background things have been happening.

During June I was participating in the #JARWriteathon where I set out to write a zine combining vignettes and poetry with continuous line drawing.

It is now finished and very soon it will be available for sale.

Here is the blurb:

The Cartographer’s Journal is the fragmented exploration of a man’s life following the death of his grandfather and is the catalyst for examining his life and the moments he remembers. He plots his experiences as way points and erects milestones to understand how memory, distorted and fragmented as it is, constructs an identity although it is not fixed until secured in retrospect.

These random moments of memory are catalogued in our heads, a sequence of unconnected and disconnected events that serve as marker points of who we are. To explore the past is to chart the periphery of maturation as “Here Be Dragons.”

We make our way forward in life by walking backwards.

You can see a preview HERE.

Mount Pleasant – Prologue

As you will now no doubt be reminded that Solkyri’s new album, Mount Pleasant, launches on March 6, 2020, and I am in the process of writing a piece of flash fiction for each track. Grab it, have a listen.

You can read Holding Pattern, and Pendock and Progress, the first two pieces.

The band is hosting an album launch on March 28, 2020 (if you’re in Sydney, Australia).

I am launching one more piece, a prologue to the album. After this I am setting out to write six more pieces for the other tracks and will launch the collection as a chapbook later in the year, probably before June (to allow for typesetting, set up, ordering copies and the like – stay tuned).

The prologue sets the scene for the thematic focus of the album: deception, decait and false facades. The stories are based on the inspiration behind each track, and interpreted in my own way, and my response to the music.

Mount Pleasant

Prologue

Four boys pulled up on their BMX bikes at the sign declaring the name of their suburb, dismounted and dropped their bikes just off the footpath in the unmown grass and collected rocks from the broken edging of the bitumen where it crumbled and exposed the road base.

The white reflective background of the sign mimicked a rainbow from the right angle as the boys took aim at the black and faded capital letters. This invisible line of demarcation creating a boundary of narrowed expectations as thin and carcinogenic as a cigarette. Scratched and pockmarked with its own acne.

The boys threw their rocks with no other intention than to score a hit, celebrating the ping as each rock struck. One of them drifted away, found a length of stick and started swinging through the heads of grass and weeds. He flung the stick towards his mates, skittering it along the footpath as it twisted and jumped, hitting one of them in the back of the legs. It was thrown back with greater force, catching him across the shins.

“Shithead.”

“Arsehole.” A smirk at having drawn spots of blood.

The honk of a horn and the rattle of ute pulling over onto the crumbled verge, tyres coughing through the gravel, passing the boys and pulling up just beyond the sign. Two council workers hopped out and began setting up tools at the base of the sign. The boys watched, ignored by the council workers. One of them pulled a packet of Burger Rings from under his t-shirt, filched from the servo where they’d pumped up their bike tyres. Another one passed around a packet of chewie.

A piece of gravel taken from the footpath and chucked it at the sign. It pinged and the council workers flinched and retorted, “Piss off!”

“What ya doing? Having smoko?”

“Changing the sign; what does it bloody look like?”

“Why?”

“Suburb’s getting a name change.”

“What for?”

“Because of hooligans like you, that’s what’s for.”

The four stood around as the council workers set up two step ladders behind the sign, climbed up and began loosening nuts. The spanner slipped from the hand of one of the workers and clattered in the gravel and dirt. The boys raised a mocking chorus of approval. They watched the name of their suburb come down, thrown into the back of the ute tray before the new sign was pulled from a cardboard sheath.

Within a few minutes the new sign was in place instantly changing the name of the suburb. The new sign gleamed pristine and fresh.

“Dad reckons changing the name of the suburb is like wearing a suit to the pub.”

“Yeah but your dad’s full of shit, too.”

Beyond the sign the suburb looked exactly the same, unaware of the name change and probably wouldn’t have cared for it anyway.

One of boys picked up another piece of gravel and chucked it at the sign, the ping ricocheting into the traffic noise.

“Different name. Same shithole.”

They spat their chewing gum at the sign, picked up their bikes, rode under the sign and headed home.

Momentum and Progress

For the first time in a long time I am feeling like I am riding the crest of a new creative wave; one of momentum and propulsion.
For the past few years, due to specific personal circumstances, my creativity has felt compressed and it was more of a release valve for me, by writing brief snippets of prose on paper, or writing poems on Post It Notes, and starting continuous line drawing.
None of it allowed me to build momentum and movement to pursue a project the way I wanted it to.
However I felt that if I stopped creating it would cease to be a significant part of my life in the way I believe it to be. Small pieces were a way of creating an equilibrium, allowing me to breathe above water.
This new year has opened up, and there is a great sense of peace and joy. I feel I am able to write freely again like I haven’t for quite some time.
Here’s to this year to bring dormant seeds to life.

Pendock and Progress – A Short Story

“Pendock and Progress” is the second track released from Solkyri’s forthcoming album, Mount Pleasant.

Pendock and Progress (Track 3)

Circling Pendock Close with a bloodied nose. Dripping on to his t-shirt and caking above his lip. Pedalling hard to take the sting out of the pain. Up to the end of the street to the intersection and hanging a left. Barrelling down the footpath to the next intersection, turning around, and coming back. Looping through the cul-de-sac and up the other side, hanging a right and repeating the pattern.

He wiped his nose tentatively with the back of his hand and it came away with claret. Still. Caught stealing ciggies from his dad to give to older mates at school in exchange for pieces of silver and gold. Canteen money for a packet of Twisties. His dad clipped him with a backhander. Shouted how hard he had worked for something he enjoyed and the little bastard was depriving him of that pleasure.

He cleaned his hand on the back of his shorts. Kept riding laps of the cul-de-sac. The bike was a pick-up from the local hard rubbish clean up. Driving home after the nightshift his dad spotted it and lobbed it into the back of the car after giving it the once over and deciding he could get it up and running. Dad lapped the neighbourhood looking for other bikes for the parts he needed. It was one thing he was proud of. A labourer’s hands that fixed something. Made something good. Most of the time it was fabricating houses for posh fucks to inhabit. Other times it was demolishing houses for posh fucks to build another, larger house.

“Here you go, have a ride.” That’s all he said. It was mismatched, given a once over with spray paint to cover the rusted parts but fully functional and solid. His dad had made it. Respect born out of initiative.

But initiative that didn’t know how to move beyond the curvature of the street. The boy understood when a labourer’s hands became idle from a lack of work, they became hands of construction and deconstruction of the family and its relationships. Casual labour and seasonal work, packing shelves or running registers. An array of King Gee, flannies and singlets on the washing line in each neighbouring yard. A system that violently protected itself by keeping people on minimum wage. Keeping the idea of education at the forefront of their minds but at the back end of budgeting.

The blast of a car horn and a wave from an old man at the wheel turning into the cul-de-sac. The boy waved back and watched as the car pulled into his driveway. He rode down the street and pulled up as Grandad stepped out. A firm and static handshake exchanged. Grandad was a bastard of a brute. Nanna had died when he was little. Probably to escape Grandad. Nanna was orange cordial and Scotch Finger biscuits. Grandad was Reader’s Digest condensed books and talkback radio.

“Where’s your dad?”

“Inside.”

“Your mum home?”

“At work.”

“Your nose,” he pointed.

The boy shamefully wiped at the dried blood.

“My dad gave it to me worse.” A declarative comparison indicating the softening of generations.

The car door closed, and Grandad’s shadow lengthened towards the house.

Even though Grandad no longer struck his father, the boy could see how the generations measured up. Toughness was measured in how close you could get to the line of confrontation, prodding, goading, pricking, without copping a smack in the mouth from a backhanded swing. But that line was movable. He could stand his ground. Fight for what he wanted, even if it was only to piss the old man off. But always knowing who had the upper hand.

A genealogy of violence so circuitous and labyrinthine the boy wondered if he was the Minotaur at its centre, or simply the progeny of what was monstrous lusting after flesh and attacking people the way his Grandad had attacked his father, who attacked him and his mum and siblings. The fact a penis swung between your legs meant power and authority through the erect salute made between the pages of Penthouse magazine, and the flaccid outcome of making a mess in your own hands and wiping it away with wads of toilet paper.

The boy kneeled down at the front tap next to the letterbox and turned it on, letting the water run through his hand until it became cool. Splashing his face to clean the blood off, watching the red stain fade through his fingers. Slurping at the water cupped at his chin and feeling it run off the end of his nose, like blood. His hand shot up to check. Finding it clean he wiped his hand across his face. He looked down and began rubbing the spots of blood between his fingers. His mum would be angry he had stained his clothes but if he kept out of her way, he thought he could avoid the sideways glances. On his bike he could avoid the sideways glances of his dad and grandad.

The boy picked up his bike from the footpath and took off up the street. Each house he passed was a photocopied mimicry of an original that once had purpose. Untamed lawn edges or attempted front yard gardens of roses or murraya hedges. Kids’ plastic trikes next to Ford Lasers and Mitsubishi Colts. Fibro walls were good for fuck-all. Fabrication of pretence and a façade of neighbourliness as dog shit was tossed over the nearest backyard fence.

On his next lap around the cul-de-sac his younger brother came out the front door, probably told to piss off outside, and sat on the concrete verandah with a fistful of Hot Wheels cars. Lined them up along the top step and took turns pushing them off, one by one, down the three steps. The clatter of metal on concrete.

The boy felt the distance between himself and his brother, between himself and his father. Absence and ignorance stung like a father’s fist and blossomed into plum-coloured bruises. When they were visible, he learned to use mum’s concealer to hide them. Like she does.

He remembered lining up with his classmates, dressed in the category of ‘normal’ in their uniforms. On the surface it looked the same: blue shirt, grey shorts, white socks and sneakers. Or leather shoes if they could be afforded. But it was the idiosyncratic differences of how someone wore their shirt tucked out, longer socks or all the buttons done up to the very top he noticed as normal, too. Normal was having the shit kicked out of you at regular intervals by your father and turning up to school in the same uniform as everyone else thinking they too had the shit kicked out of them by their fathers on a regular basis. It was never said but always understood, as if bruises had their own telepathy to communicate with other bruises and share the pain as a salve of solidarity as the colours faded like the clouds of a summer storm.

He felt an underlying prickliness in his stomach when he looked at someone and they knew, too. Pendock Close had many faces, poverty being the most obvious. Yet poverty of affection, poverty of acknowledgement, poverty of awareness meant the boy let the prickliness tumble through his stomach, pass some of it out like runny shit to alleviate the stabbing for a brief time. But it was always there.

The desire to be seen, and noticed, not as a meat bag, a human sausage to be pricked and tossed; the fragile skin casing threatening to burst at the impact of a pellet spray of words shot from an arse.

And the boy continued on for another lap of Pendock Close.

* * * * *

The song is based on systematic violence and cycles of poverty named after two streets where the band grew up. I took inspiration from the accompanying artwork to develop the concept of the cul-de-sac, a closed road, a dead end, a place of going nowhere as a sustained metaphor throughout the piece. 

The plan is to have a collection of flash pieces written, one for each track on the album, by the middle of the year after the album is released in March as a download. Stay tuned for details.

You can read the first story, “Holding Pattern.”