Bibelots

a place for the curious

Tag: storytelling (page 1 of 3)

Before too long

little girl stares out of a window

stories and words, she sees them everywhere

Okay, so it’s been a while. I don’t normally do blog-absence apology articles, so I won’t. I can’t. Because, damn it, I’m not sorry.

I’m sorry for the sorry state of the world. I’m sorry if you’ve been hanging on an article (but I can’t imagine you have). I’m sorry that this isn’t an eloquent moment to cure what ails us all. But sorry for not having been here? Most certainly not.

See, the thing is, I wrote a book.

It’s not my first foray into long form, but it’s the first time I’ve ever stood up and said, ‘this here? it’s a book’. Said it, felt it, meant.

As of right this second, what I now have is a complete unpublished manuscript. I’ve started pitching and all the hard slog that usually comes at this point. And I’m well into the next book. But, all of that aside, it’s done. My first book. Beginning, middle, end. First draft, second draft, final draft. Darlings killed, darlings slayed. Done.

So. Here I am, feeling exhausted and amazed. Ecstatic and somewhat bewildered. This writing thing is hard. Real hard. You don’t do it only for the potential thrill of getting published. You do it for love. Yes, you want to be heard. To have readers. To be read. What drives me though, what keeps me going, is the desire to tell the story. The love of writing. The love of words.

My writing journey continues. My joy for words is refueled and full of fire. It almost makes me feel guilty. Who knows. Before too long, transmissions might even return to some sort of normal.

The words will be spoken
I know all the action by heart
As the night-time follows day
I’m closing in
Every dog will have his day
Any dog can win

— from Paul Kelly’s “Before Too Long”

Recalling the yabby

beautiful black and white photo of a chef and a giant pot

What’s in the pot?
Stirring image by SMU Central Uni Libraries

The Macquarie’s Australian word for this week is yabby.

Seeing that word gave me an immediate tap into a distinct childhood memory. A good tale, because, like so many good yarns, it’s tinged with a faint hue of horror.

We used to go yabbying as kids. Though that’s not quite the honest truth. It’s more that I used to go running around in the creek or on the railway when my brothers left me behind as they went yabbying.

One day I convinced them to take me along and show me the ropes. I begged. I pleaded. I even promised to behave. And even though I was a little kid, I did behave. It was bewitching to watch. String, catch, net. Squirm. They were catching river bugs! Yabbies, they called them. Beautiful was what I thought.

On the way home I picked out the prettiest, bluest beautifulest one. I named him. Goodness knows what. I only recall that he was now mine. My new pet yabby.

I left him and his mates on the back verandah, swirling around in a sturdy bucket. I didn’t want to leave him, the shining little wonder, but I’d been called inside. Who knows what for. A bath, a tidy up, a telling off? Or something equally ridiculous and unimportant.

When I came back the bucket was empty. I left the backdoor swinging and went through yelling for my Mum. Where was my little mate?

You can guess, can’t you? I couldn’t. I can still remember it. The kitchen. The slow dreadful walk. The big lidded pot, boiling and roiling.

‘Mum? Where’s my yabby?’

She picked me up so I could get a proper look. What a good mum.

I can still hear my screams to this day.

On the act of writing

The pen is mighty, so is the keyboard

Typists, the old fashioned way

Typing: the grace, the beauty,
George Eastman House on Flickr’s The Commons

After spending my whole day surrounded by words working on writing,  editing writing, and plain old writing-writing I come home and write some more.

Sometimes, of course, I don’t. I might do something visual, make something real or do something physical. I might even allow myself to be enveloped in the hedonistic act of reading.

Often though, when I can’t imagine I can fit anything else in my day, when I thought there was nothing left but sleep, I write.

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want do this. As soon as I could read, I wanted to write. More to the point, I wanted to write stories. Like everyone, I’ve had my ups and downs with it. When I’m exhausted, what I want to tap is boxed up and unreachable. Before computers came along, my hands would often cramp and I’d be dispirited before I could even begin.

I occasionally hear people say ‘the youth of today have lost the art of handwriting’. I’m not that young. I know how to wield a pen. But, actually, I think that’s bollocks. They know how to write. They also know how to type, swipe and whatever the hell else you can throw at them.

So, yes, I know how to put pen to page. I can fight you, sword tip for pen nib. I love a good fountain pen; dipper and cartridge both. I have notebooks and pencils for capturing fleeting ideas. But for the outpouring of storytelling, it’s the gentle, loving stretch of fingers across a keyboard that calls to me.

Let me describe it to you.

Open the lid. Watch the keyboard glow. Allow yourself a few minutes to disperse busy thoughts. Get it out of your system and onto twitter, if you must. Open your manuscript. Or start a new document. Don’t stare at that blank screen, it’s only going to stare back. No. Run your fingers over the keys. Oh, let’s just call it what it is. Caress the keys. It’s a slow dance of creativity and love. Ready?

Now.

Close your eyes. Feel your breath. Empty your mind.

And go.

Hours or minutes later, you’ll find me still. Curled up in a tight embrace of my own making. If it’s going well, I won’t even notice you’ve arrived. I’ll be somewhere astonishing, wild and new.

Pens, notebooks or keyboards. Oral, digital, or physical. Honestly, none of that matters.

What matters is that a story is told. Told and allowed to unfold.

Listen up

People recording a radio play - black and white photo

Making a story,
The Netherlands Nationaal Archief

So, you’re going to make a podcast.

Great news. At least for me. You see, I’m a podcast addict. I walk. A lot. And everywhere I go I take a little audio show with me. If I’m on the train and there’s no  book to hand, there are a million podcasts awaiting my ears.

My question for you is: How are you going to capture my attention in this great flood of podcasts? Maybe you’ll ask me what I like and want to hear more about. Surely it’s all about what you’ve got to say, not how you say it.

Story before method, right?

Well, no. Not quite.

As any good (or struggling) writer will tell you, getting the story on the page is just part of the job. The rest will see you doing endless hours of editing and redrafting. It’s the same for everyone. Story creation is the hot rush of ideas and making stuff up. No-one makes anything flawless first time around. And we all know it. A poor edit can ruin a great idea.

Why then do so many podcasts consist of unedited talking heads? There are some great podcast topics out there. But they don’t make my adrenaline rush when I see them in my feed. I might still listen, but they are, sadly, filed under ‘quite nice’. Or worse, ’eminently skimmable’.

I organise my podcasts, not by topic, but by when and where I listen to them. One playlist is called ‘pay attention & listen’. It’s usually empty, because as soon as any of these guys land, I’m itching to listen in. I won’t do them the disservice of listening on a crowded street. I’ll find a quiet corner and make sure I don’t miss a single word. They demand it of me. Unedited talking heads do not.

If you want me to listen, give it some care and loving attention. Make it so I can’t not listen. Craft me something wonderful.

So, make it. But make it good. Right now could be the golden age of podcasts and you could be a part of it.

Yes, I love podcasts. Make it so I love yours.

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