Tag Archives: just because of thoughtfulness

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.

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.

August Round Up Part 2

Now that August has officially ended, and Spring has knocked politely on the front door I can wrap up the last of this month’s pieces.

And now, as adults, at a family gathering around a meal of spaghetti bolognaise, abbreviated as ‘spagbol’ – one word, not two – we each cut our children’s spaghetti; fragmenting sentences into phrases, clauses and syllables caught between the tines of forks and uttered between lengthy pauses while conversation pools in puddles of sauce.

The temporality of whiteboards and their content, known to me as a teacher, also makes a great canvas or notepad. I can write on it, amend, and take a photo to preserve it then erase it as if it never existed.

I rub the scar tissue on my knee, the geography of brothers
a reminder of when I had pieces of gravel scrubbed from my flesh
after you had pushed me onto the bitumen
the playful violence having given way to silence in later years
because we never found the words to replace our actions

I’ve had this used drum head for a while and I loved the texture that happens when a coated drum head deteriorates and I wanted the texture to reflect the tone and content of the poem.
I finally got around to finding the right words. I’m not happy with the penmanship; maybe I should have used a different handwriting style. However, I like the content.

1 Object/2 Poems

tongues of flame above our heads
descending to our mouths, our lips
duplicating another tongue withthe anticipation of consuming
tongue-twisted ecstacies of abandonment
unto one another
burning twice, existing briefly

 

tongues of flame
the revolution of the insolent
indolent
insouciant
ashes in the wind

fragmentary colour/blooms quickly then disappears/a father’s anger

Three Words for the New Year

In the light of celebrating the changing of the Gregorian calendar into 2018, let’s acknowledge Greg’s dating nomenclature: Happy Greg’s Day!

But, another three words to define this changing of the calendar on the wall, the diary on the desk, the scraps of paper used as notes and the back of my hand useful for the writing of lists, is to refocus the directions, habits and purposes of what you wish to achieve.

These are my three words for 2018: Patience, Fortitude, Tenacity

They are defined by my theological outlook and perspective, and have connections to events and situations that have impacted, are impacting, and will impact me. The changing of a calendar date doesn’t mean that all the craptacular events that happened last year haven’t continued on this year; I still have to deal with them. They impact myself, my family, my creativity. 

To be honest, 2017 was a year of continuation of years of crapness that feels like someone having handed me a never-ending roll of toilet paper. It helps clean up the mess but the mess keeps on coming. I didn’t, and haven’t, dealt with some of it well and the effect compounds into multiple areas but especially my creativity. 

No new stories written. Nothing published. Ideas planted, germinated, rising about the soil and scorched by the sun. It’s been a barren few years in terms of creative output. 

So how do these words help me refocus for the coming year? It’s about forming positive habits and achievable steps, looking at the long term destination rather than short term gains or (potential) rewards. 

Patience – like that of a saint. The ability to weather the storms and circumstances, and to travel when the conditions are good. To me, it’s having a longer perspective, a focus on the horizon and not simply the step immediately in front of me.
It’s a cultivated habit, a fruit of character and personality. To keep doing the work, not seeing the reward, while others around you are blessed and keep on going with nary a care in the world. I will have my reward in this life, or the next. Not to be distracted by the success of others (applaud them, support them, champion them) because they have done the work that is required. 

Fortitude – defined as courage in pain or adversity. Basically, above all, to stand.
So much has sucked away the creative impetus and momentum over the last few years and it has taken up a significant amount of emotional and mental energy. Often it’s painful and demoralising. Especially when it’s not happening to me specifically but to close family members who you take care of. It’s hard to see someone you love in pain and there is not much you can do except hold a space for them, and yourself.
Sometimes I feel like an anchor point for those around me but I’m afraid I’ll lose my grounding. But, digging in and digging deeper. 

Tenacity – keeping on when all you want to do is give up. And I’ve been feeling like giving up a lot lately. Had a rough gig on the weekend; it wasn’t a train wreck in terms of my drumming but for whatever reason it felt awkward and crap and at the end of the gig I wanted to break my drumsticks, sell my gear and quit playing drums. 
But that is one gig. I will have other bad gigs, I am sure. I’ve also had great gigs. Each day is a chance to refocus, start afresh and be thankful for mercy and grace. I’ll be looking at the next gig this weekend not through the lens of the past gig but at the possibility of what awesomeness it could be. Back to the practice pad.

Im summary, three words are meaningless without a plan to make them a habit so I’ll keep making notes, keep reading, keep writing. 

What would your three words for the year be?

Handwritten Pages #16

 

Autumn of Cheeseburgers

I walk through the autumn of cheeseburger wrappers drifting on the updraft of car exhaust with only enough change in my pocket to buy you and me an ice cream cone.

I Am… a poem

I am…
husband
father
brother

I am…
teacher
writer
drummer

I am…
pen
paper

tabula rasa

I am…
a mirror
a window
a picture frame

I am…
a magpie
an orchid
the creek

I am…
afraid of dying,
spiders
failure as a definition

I am…
teaching
learning
enquiring

I am…
lost
searching
finding

I am…
hoping
hopeful
hopeless

I am…
random notes
an unfinished manuscript
a story untold

I am…
a dog-eared page
a folded corner
a bookmark

I am…
a comma
a semi-colon
a question mark

I am…
The Joshua Tree
Vivid
Dogman

I am…
Genesis
The Psalms
Lamentations

I am…
a believer with doubt
doubt disguised as faith
faith seeking understanding

 

I was tagged by a friend to explore this statement, “I am…” and to compose a poem based on it.
It reminds me of YHWH’s declaration to Moses, “I am.” It’s a name, and with a name comes a declarative  statement of intention, purpose, identity.
And this poem explores aspects of my own identity, how I see myself, or how I want to see myself. I think I could have go on for quite some time with triplets of statements but I stopped myself.

Try it for yourself and see what you come up with. There is no form you have to follow; I choose triplets but you could use couplets or quatrains. Nor do you have to start each section with “I am…”. I chose to separate the individual triplets as independent images/ideas/thoughts. You may want to simply compile a single list. It’s up to you.

New Year, New What Exactly?

It is the year 2017, according to the Gregorian Calendar. It may as well be Year 42AMB (After My Birth). Or Year Zero with the way the leadership of the world is going.

Reflection: 2016 was meant to be the Year of Getting Stuff Done.

Stuff didn’t get done. 

Because reasons.

Some within my control. Others outside my control.

And it was the most frustrating year regarding my creative output. I realised it’s been two years since I’ve written a complete short story. The most output I had was the rough draft of a verse novel (still incomplete) and part of a novella. I had done little pieces of writing but there was a host of reasons that kept me from putting in the work and making it happen. 

It’s not trying to make excuses, although I can do that with the death of two significant people during the year. It’s an acknowledgement of what I did not do. I can use the word ‘failure’ without it becoming a label to wear.
I failed to complete projects.
I failed to write.
I failed to make time to work out what I wanted to do.
I failed to plan.
I failed to pursue my creative desires.

I did do things that kept me thinking about writing and creativity, like my zentangle poetry. More importantly, I gave myself permission to put it aside for the sake of significant priorities. And that’s ok. 

But with the end of the year, taking a break over January, I needed to move beyond the sloth and slump and take on a new perspective. In speaking with some close writing friends, we try and find a single word to help guide and focus our creative work. It took me a few days to sort it out but my key word is “Intentionality.” 

If I am to pursue the creative goals I have set for myself I need to be intentional about the work I have planned and the work I plan to do. Which leads me to how I want to approach the new year.

DO THE WORK.

If I am to be intentional in my creative work, I therefore need to DO THE WORK. That work might involve planning a new short story, creating a new zentangle poem, writing a new piece or editing a current story.

It needs to be planned, deliberate, month-to-month goals and outcomes. One month it might simply be planning and note making for a project. Another month it might be actually writing a short story or pushing towards the completion of the verse novel or novella. At the moment, this month is given over to completing a vignette collection.

It’s a new year and a need for a new perceptive. Therefore, I will be intentional and do the work.

How about you?