Writing

In a letter to his daughter of 15 after her enrolment in high school, the great F.Scott Fitzgerald heralded some poignant advice to writers;

“Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one. If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter—as indissolubly as if they were conceived together.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

He argues that brilliant writing is original in both form and theme.

It’s not enough to have a story worth telling, nor is it enough to have mastered the technicalities of the craft.

The best storytellers find a way to execute both.

It’s not easy. But as Fitzgerald himself said later on in the same letter to his daughter,

“Nothing any good isn’t hard”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

When the quantity of work required to achieve a planned outcome increases disproportionately to the resources you have available to achieve said outcomes, you have scope creep.

Scope creep is entirely common and can be absolutely paralysing, but is totally avoidable.

Scope Creep is often a product of poor planning.

Before commencing any project, you should have a clear list of specific tasks which need to be completed in order to achieve the outcome you’re working towards.

The specificity and tangibility of these tasks is directly related to how difficult it will be for scope to creep.

Vague goals generate vague tasks which lead to not much getting done.

Vagueness is the enemy of progress. Which is why we all have a friend who is still writing that ‘thing’ they have been working on and adapting for years. I have been that friend. In many ways, I still am that friend. But I’m working on it.

More specifically, I’m working on setting goals which are strategic, time sensitive, achievable and meaningful.

In the process of making anything, you need to make a number of choices. These choices shape and define the work we do.

Making these choices is hard. When we’re try to decide who our work is for, we wrestle with a conflict at the core of all creative work;

If our work is going to resonate with some, it will likely upset others.

“It’s impossible to create work that both matters and pleases everyone.”

Seth Godin

The more we cater our work towards a demographic, the more specific we tailor it, the less relevant it becomes to the masses.

In times gone, too much specificity implied imminent irrelevancy. If you couldn’t get it in front of enough eyes who cared, what was the point?

Today, you can go to resinobsession.com and network with a whole community of people bound by their love of resin dice.

(Dispel Dice on kickstarter)

The internet is connecting people who would never have been able to find each other two decades ago.

Our work can now do the same.

There isn’t value in sacrificing specificity for relevancy any more.

Storytelling is how we learn right from wrong, and how we explain everything else in between.

It’s through the stories we tell to one another that we learn to relate; to care, love and understand.

Telling stories about ourselves is how we plan for our futures, while the stories told about us create legacies which sometimes transcend our deaths.

Without story, we’re just monkeys fussing idly in a concrete jungle.

To craft story is to be human.

I was discussing the architecture of my book project with a dear friend today, and he offered me a brilliant piece of advice;

You should write your own foreword.

Write it in the voice of whoever you’d most want to write it, then take a look and see which bits are you.

What’s qualifying you?

And what’s competing with other people who have written about the same thing?

Before I could give him too much credit, he pointed out that this is what Amazon does with their products before they design them (he’s not the type to glorify the likes of Bezoz, but this practice is clever).

Image result for kindle

The press release for an Amazon product is written for internal staff, and is rigorously workshopped until they’re confident that the product promises to do something which will excite customers.

If people aren’t excited by the press release, the product doesn’t get designed.

It’s easy to get lost in the details of our work, but we must remain mindful of the people we do it for in the first place.

“Become the best in the world at what you do. Keep redefining what you do until this is true.”

Naval Ravikant

In both art and business, we are usually defined by those we can be likened to.

We’re lumped into genres or styles, niches and roles.

When competing for success, we are often assigned a category.

Maybe you were proactive enough to assign yourself the category which best defines you.

This is great news, on one condition;

That you’re the best in class.

If you’re going to allow yourself to be defined by a category, ensure that you’re the best fish in the pond.

When in doubt, dig your own pond.

Don’t be a slightly-above-average animal photographer when you can be the world’s best Quokka photographer.

(Photo: Natalie Su)

Never call yourself a ‘pretty good’ sales assistant when you could be the best speckled beanie salesperson in the state.

Why would you be a writer with a blog when you could be the only young West Australian writer with a BJJ blue belt who publishes original work daily?

(If there’s another one, someone let me know, I’d love to meet them.)

You do you.

I only ask that you do us all a favour and do it brilliantly.

“How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable.”

Seth Godin

Today marks 100 days of putting my thoughts on the line.

Three months feels like a blink. But in such a short time, this already feels like one of the most meaningful commitments I’ve ever managed to uphold.

In honour of that, it seems like as arbitrary a time as any to look back, reflect and take a moment to thank those of you who’ve been the fertiliser to my grass-roots.

The growth I’ve experienced over the past few months has been overwhelming. I’ve written some crap, and I’ve written some work that I’m intensely proud of.

Having a tangible accumulation of ever-improving work is something I still can’t wrap my head around; some posts I was proud of two months now embarrass me to revise.

I can see the weeks where I allowed myself to be tired or overworked.

I can pick out the posts I published in a rush at 11:58pm instead of getting writing done in the morning.

The clear disparity in the quality of that work motivates me to take care of myself properly.

Beyond all that, I’ve benefited hugely from cataloguing a d categorising my thoughts.

By organising thoughts into the ‘clusters’ in the menu bar, I’ve been able to refer back to information quickly when I’ve needed it.

When I started out, I didn’t think I’d go back re-consider content nearly as much as I do. I revisit the ruckus cluster often, usually when I need a boost.

In terms of readership, the views and visitors to the site have been on a slow but steady incline.

These metrics aren’t what I measure the success of the blog by, but the fact that there is an upwards trend means that more people are hearing about the blog.

Because I don’t pay to advertise the blog anywhere, this means that a significant portion of this extra traffic will be from word-of-mouth.

If you’ve been a part of that, thank you.

Seriously. Some of the most delightful conversations I’ve had in the past few months have sprouted from;

“Hey! I read that thing you posted about…”

Conversations like that mean everything to me. And if you’re someone who regularly likes, comments on, shares or talks about my content, you’re responsible for a portion of that joy.

Thanks also to those of you who have followed the blog on WordPress, or via email.

There’s more than 50 of you now, and while I’m sure that at least a couple of you are Russian bots, I know that there’s a chunk of you who are lovely, real, genuine people.

It means a great deal that you’re willing to get notified every time I put something out there (not just when it’s good enough for me to share it on a social platform).

Launching this site has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing, but it’s also fundamentally changed the way I think.

It’s hard to express how valuable forcing myself to constantly seek out stimulating information to distill has been. Every day brings with it a looming pressure to notice things, and I’ve never felt more engaged with the world.

So far I’ve had the opportunity to share 2374 views with 1408 visitors, through 37,212 words.

All it took was finding an idea worth persisting with, a little grit and an unrelenting desire to make ruckus.

Thank you for being here to celebrate 100 posts with me.

I’ll check back in on the 13th July 2020, after 365.

Laws exist to protect the privacy and reputation of individuals and companies from the negative effects of the media machine.

In practice, some of these laws include some disturbing grey area.

For example, in a public place it is completely legal to photograph or video any person, with or without their permission, as long as you aren’t using the images or video for commercial use.

(Note: Public spaces do not include privately owned land such as shopping centres.)

You are also allowed to photograph or film privately owned places, as long as you are on public land while you do so – even if you’re operating a drone.

As is often the case, what’s legal and what’s ethical varies greatly in many aspects of media operations.

Imagine you’re lying on the beach, minding your own business and soaking up some sun, when out of a bush pops Kyle Sandilands. Imagine that he then pulls out a camera with a zoom lens and starts taking close up shots of your crotch. There is absolutely nothing you could do about this unless he decided to publish any of the shots.

However, if you went home and posted an angry message like this to twitter, Kyle would have grounds to sue you for defamation.

Oops.

Because twitter is a public forum, those eight words are technically considered ‘published’. If Kyle can prove that my tweet has caused, or is currently causing him repetitional damage, I am liable for the cost of those damages.

That is, unless I can prove that my statement is true.

(Which in this case – who knows?)

The moral of the story is to be mindful of what you say online, especially about other people. If you’re going to say something that someone else isn’t going to like, make sure you verify your facts first.

Martin McDonagh’s debut film, In Bruges (2008) remains one of my all time favourites.

Image result for in bruges

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched it. But every time I do, I discover another brilliant spec of writing that I hadn’t noticed before – there isn’t a wasted line, and every moment has relevance outside of the scene it takes place in.

If you think you found something inconsequential… Watch it again. The film is that tight.

Some of the jokes haven’t aged well, there’s a lot of swearing (in typical Irish fashion) and the plot is dark, but McDonagh’s uncanny ability to generate and string together tension results in the kind of sharp, dark, hysterical character driven drama which has become a staple of his work.

He’s also responsible for Seven Psychopaths (2012), and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) which received four golden globes and is nothing short of exceptional.

The thing I didn’t know until today (which has brought McDonagh back to the forefront of my mind) is that the Irish writer is also responsible for one of my favourite plays; The Lieutenant Of Inishmore (2001).

Learning this was a penny-drop moment for me. Finally, I think I understand why these films resonate with me so deeply; I fell in love with with the stories McDonagh tells for the same reason that I fell in love with theatre.

I adore stories where complex characters navigate tragic circumstances in the imperfect ways that humans do.

Dramatic theatre has an easier time with this, because its nature implies a restraint that modern cinema simply doesn’t have to worry about.

There aren’t any Michael Bay explosion sequences at the theatre.

Instead, playwrights rely on their characters to generate tension, set stakes scenes and drive plot.

McDonagh is an expert at crafting morally ambiguous characters and smashing them together to create tragedy, and it pleases me to no end that he’s able to translate this skill to the screen – the resulting chaos is so much fun to watch.

All of the works listed tackle horridly dark subject matter in a way which doesn’t shy away or undermine the severity of the tragedies, but still finds the humour in them.

Black comedy is at its best when it allows us to consider the most challenging aspects of the human condition in the most human way we know how, seamlessly blending tragedy and comedy to incite catharsis.

He knows exactly when to let the audience sit in a tragic moment, and when to loose the tension in a scene through a well written joke. Funny moments aren’t tacked on to scenes for cheap release, they are embedded deeply within those scenes.

When our lives become too much, we generally respond by laughing or crying.

Masters of ‘tragi-comedy’ make us do both.

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

Epictetus

It seems a general truth that those more attuned to listening are those with the most insightful things to say.

As someone who speaks a lot, this means I need to work hard to do enough listening.

Information has never been more accessible.

Seek out the information which incites you, and listen hard.

If can’t think of anything worth listening to, start here;