Category Archives: rant

creative thinking

this post is not about writing.

You know when someone throws a spanner in a plan, and it looks like whatever you were going to do is now undoable? And as annoying as that is, there’s that tiny part of you that’s relieved, because whatever effort you were going to have to put in is now unputinable?

The kind of creative thinking I’m talking about is when you reach that kind of dead end and instead of listening to the relief and thinking “That’s that, then,” you think the problem all over again, but this time as though you just need a new solution to it. It isn’t a dead end at all – it is solvable.

This may seem obvious. It’s something that’s taken me years to learn.

Example: a very good friend of mine, who’s very pregnant, has been missing her globe-trotting husband terribly, so I invited her around to dinner. I just got back from shopping at the South Melbourne Market for all sorts of yum things, when I got a message from her. Her back has made her immobile, and her dog bit into a battery.

So there’s the disappointment, and there’s the relief. Another quiet night at home.

And then I thought – well why don’t we just go up to her? Cook the dinner at her place? The part of me that felt the relief thinks it’s an excessive thing to do. The other part of me thinks, Huzzah! With just a tiny bit of creative thinking, an evening I’d given up on as a dead end has turned into an excursion into the burbs, the company of one of my best mates, and a nice dinner for her.

It’s a good model for living, I think.

before you move house, ask yourself this:

are you ever planning to emigrate to another country?

We’re just going through the paperwork for special k’s permanent residency, and one of the forms asks him to list every address he’s lived at for the last 10 years. We’re six years back, and 11 addresses in. Then it starts to get a bit blurry.

Since I left home at 18, I’ve lived at 19 different addresses. And that’s only counting places I a) lived at for longer than 3 months or b) moved all my stuff into.

The future prospect of filling out this kind of form never entered into the decision, but it really should have. Still, good news! We’re about to cross the one year mark at our flat, with no plans for moving on. A record!

Are you a stayer or a mover?

who framed Doctor Who?

I did!

Our most recent class assignment for Desktop Publishing was to create a 4-page magazine of our favourite tv show. It may not entirely surprise you that I chose Doctor Who. The text didn’t have to be original, so most of it’s just ripped off the BBC website, and a Guardian article (I bastardised the interviewer’s name for the sake of space…Sorry Mr Hattenstone!). So the text doesn’t make much contextual sense. I’m pretty pleased with the pictures and layout, though! I love doing this stuff:

the little Daleks by the page numbers came from this font

and I got the headings and footer font here. There are a few versions of this font floating around, but I recommend the one I’ve linked to, as it’s got numerals and some symbols as well.

she’s not quite dead…

it’s been pretty quiet round here, which is due to the viruses that sneak in during the night when the seasons are changing.

In short, I am sick and miserable.

I’ve been watching far too much Doctor Who, listening to Popcorn Dialogue archives, and eating the vege soup that special k made me. It’s so wholesome and good it makes me want to weep for joy.

history and language

As you know, I’ve been workshopping my first chapter in class. There’s been quite a lot of debate over whether it’s appropriate for my characters to say fuck or not (given that it’s set in the Regency – England in the early 1800s).

My reasoning is this:

The first, most important thing to me, is that people living “back then” would have felt just as modern as we do – they were living into a future that was moving beyond them, in a world that progressed without cease. They were human beings whose self-expression defined them (to the extent that men would weep in parliament just to make a point, people).

I cannot possibly reconstruct what natural conversation sounded like back then – as it moved unrehearsed between people.

If I try to sound “ye olde”, or use the kind of language that seems of the time, all it will convey to modern audiences is a stiff self-consciousness in the characters that they are of a bygone era.

So what I do is use language more flexibly, so that the characters feel modern and expressed to a modern audience. This feeling is more important to me – and seems to express more truly the actual nature of the characters – than trying to be strictly correct when I will never be able to be word-perfect anyway.

Here’s where I need to mention that writers I admire manage to do both, i.e. use historically-accurate/appropriate vernacular and also create a right-now sense of character.

One is the inimitable Dorothy Dunnett, of course, that master of historical fiction. The device she uses most often to make her characters of their time, is to have them quoting obscure literary works. This evokes the world vividly, and the character as a thinking being interacting with the world. It also makes a character look highly intelligent, if they can use snippets out of context to convey their own meaning, with subtext woven out of a whole literary tradition.

Unfortunately, this method takes more research and knowledge than I will ever have patience for in my lifetime.

The other writer who I think does admirably is Catherine Jinks. Her Pagan series, set in the Middle East and Europe at the turn of the 12th century, is amazing for so many reasons. However, I will restrain myself and just talk about this particular aspect.

She uses a modern, expressive, punchy structure, but though her character’s voice sounds vibrant and loose, the word-choices are all period-appropriate. Pagan’s favourite curse is “Christ in a cream cheese sauce”. (Er, so I guess I don’t mean period-appropriate in that it was necessarily actually used, but that all the references/words/images are of their time.)

Both these methods are to be studied and aspired to.

Still, there’s one more angle to consider. The word fuck can be seen in writing from as early as the 16th century, but was considered unfit for print for hundreds of years. It has a history of being an expressive and naughty word.

So often when people say “that doesn’t seem historically accurate”, what they mean is,  “that’s not how they speak in BBC costume dramas”.

while the husband sleeps…

it’s one of those magical times – an expanding moment of independence within marriage. He gets the rest he needs, I get the time to follow my solitary pursuits and look at naughty comics online.

I’ve just finished reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. Two things are lingering:

1. She and her finace had performed their own private vows to each other, which for them sufficed. I definitely stand on the same side of this line as her friend, who said in frustration, “Marriage is not prayer”.

To her, their private vows sufficed, and it was coming to terms with what society demanded that she found so hard.

To me, her very reluctance to get married makes it clear that speaking your own vows to each other and speaking them legally, with witnesses, are very different things. They had already vowed fidelity to each other, to love each other always, to be kind and true. But something about making those vows legal and official absolutely terrified her.

(I don’t blame her. It is terrifying.)

It’s different for everyone, of course, but I know a lot of people who have experienced the same as me – that getting engaged/married (for me it was really the engagement) changes everything. People tell themselves all the time, “We’re practically married anyway, it’ll just be like a big party to celebrate that”.

But having someone with the authority to do so declare your union official is something else altogether. And there’s something about that particular cultural ceremony that allows vows to really happen. That’s what’s so moving about weddings, right? In that moment, they really are going to love each other forever.

2. It was a long time and a lot of panic before she came across the idea that marriage can be subversive – that it’s a cultural reaction to the human insistence on intimacy, in the face of anything.

This is what romance novels say. It’s what people so often miss about them.

don’t meet your heroes

One very hot evening in 2007, special k and I went to a free concert on the banks of the Hudson River, just up from Ground Zero.

We saw some people play who were not too shabby, and then Martha Wainwright played a solo set, just she and her guitar. It was magical.

Then I decided to go up to the stage and join the smallish crowd waiting to meet her.

Bad move.

She wasn’t very nice, or communicative – and in her defence, she had just flown direct from a particularly muddy Glastonbury festival. I don’t even care that she wasn’t nice, it really has nothing to do with me.

I just took this from it, as I had three years earlier when i met Sime Nugent: Don’t Meet Your Heroes!!!

I recently had the opportunity to see Terry Pratchett speak. I have read almost every book he’s ever written, and I think he’s absolutely phenomenal; there is so much to learn from reading him, about writing. But this is how I thought it through:

It’s his books I love, not him. I can keep loving them, and getting everything I get, without ever coming into contact with him. Ditto Martha. It’s her music I love, and who she is doesn’t enter into that.

The desire to know everything about these people is insidious though. (Er, yes. See the entire tabloid industry.) As I said yesterday, I’ve fallen in love with Matt Smith’s Doctor Who.

Not to be confused with falling in love with Matt Smith.

Because as soon as I see photos of him, the man, the actor, it diminishes who he is on screen. It adds another layer to it, that has nothing to do with it. He isn’t written, in real life.

So next time you feel that need to know more, which is so easily fed by google and the like, just pause for a moment to consider what you really love.

is 25 too young to get married?

Elizabeth Gilbert writes:

I had already made this mistake – entering into marriage without understanding anything whatsoever about the institution – once before in my life. In fact, I had jumped into my first marriage, at the totally unfinished age of twenty-five, much the same way that a Labrador jumps into a swimming pool – with exactly that much preparation and foresight. Back when I was twenty-five, I was so irresponsible that I probably should not have been allowed to choose my own toothpaste, much less my own future, and so this carelessness, as you can imagine, came at a dear cost.

Me and special k got married when we were 26 (he’s only eleven days older than me – the story goes that I pushed him off the cloud, which is how we ended up on opposite sides of the planet).

My vows started like this:

You’ve taught me how to actually love another person, because you’re worth facing myself when it seems impossible. I adore you.

I know, and Elizabeth Gilbert knows, that everyone is different. For me, love launched me into the transformation of my late twenties; it gave me the courage and motivation to face myself. (It still does.) She grew out of it.

What is a good age for marriage?


I’ve just launched into Elizabeth Gilbert’s book about marriage, Committed. I didn’t get very far with Eat, Pray, Love, because her experience didn’t speak to me, so the shabby use of tense annoyed me.

This book is more interesting to me so far, for obvious reasons. I will most likely have a lot to say about marriage in the next couple of days.

For tonight, after an argument with special k (which between us tends to be a tense, rational conversation full of ominous silences), there’s this: Marriage isn’t conducted to some cosmic scale of weights and balances. “Unfair” is simply irrelevant. You try and figure out what’s important and you do whatever it takes.

True Grit

given who I am, and what I write, it may not surprise you that what I took from the Coen brothers’ remake of the Western True Grit was that it’s a love story between a fourteen-year-old girl and a fifty-something-year-old man.

Go figure.

I guess Mr Le Boeuf (played by Matt Damon) had some part of the emotional configuration, but for me Cogburn was, without a doubt, the romantic hero.

Oh dear. I wonder if I sound a little, er, crazy.

I was forming a theory that artists are given license, in portraying less pc times, to be less pc. See the line where Maddy’s naming her horse Little Blackie and the little black boy helping her out says “Good name!” See any number of sexist overtures and gratuitous drinking in Mad Men.

In a way, as a viewer, it’s kind of relaxing. There’s some allowance, because it’s not you thinking or enjoying those things, it’s just a true expression of the times.

Then I thought of Leon, the film about a French assassin who is saddled with and finally falls in love with a young girl. It is (or at least, was) a contemporary film.

I found then, and True Grit has confirmed me in this opinion, that it’s a deeply moving, deeply interesting romance to explore when all the elements are put together right. In both cases – though more so in True Grit, I would say – there is no possibility of romantic expression. He is far too old, she is far too young.

But all the things that belong to love, they have.

It’s a construction much more often found where sexual deviancy is also found. Maybe people who are already thinking outside the square are open to exploring what transverses a fine and dangerous line.

It just proves to me that those lines are worth travelling, and exploring, even if we terrify ourselves a little in the process.