Sleep and Leftovers

Dreams remember they don’t mean much.

Snippets, memories, old desires and such.

Memories of memories become loops. Internal errors.

A Treasure hunter is on the beach tonight. Metal detector sweeps the sand while the waves crash hard.

Take the good and leave the bad.

Programmable robot.

Reboot your glitch.


His doubts started with his changing values. Take a look at the things he holds most dear. The opinions, the causes, the risks and the opportunities. He noticed they were not as permanent or as important as he once thought. He found out they are interchangeable. Take out one strongly held belief and swap it, like a battery or a computer chip, for the complete opposite belief. Life goes on.

In fact he is becoming convinced that he is a programmable robot, more than an organic, free, human being. He looks down at his own arms. Is there blood under this skin? Is there a mechanical, robot-arm like Arnie in the Terminator movies? And blood doesn’t count as proof of life. What is “blood” anyways? Liquid full of little micro-robots delivering chemical loads and hormones around his body to keep the robot system in balance.

What would a robot do?

Second Guess

Eventually you are going to second guess yourself. This may happen in the dreaming phase, the creative phase, the editing phase. But it will happen in the course of a project. The question is what will you do?

One interpretation of this second guessing is that it is the dreaded “creative block” or “writer’s block” at play. If so, why not copy Trenton Doyle Hancock and double down on your risk taking and move on?

There’s also a lot of comfort in the idea that the uncertain, fractured self is the true self. Let it be and have confidence that whatever decision you make will be the right one, so long as you make one!

Also important in my life is the idea that home is a comfort. When you are lost and unsure, home is often the place to look. Where do you come from? To work against this is to work against your nature.


Why do you write?

There’s a really interesting interview with an author called Tao Lin in the latest “Creative Independent” newsletter. (See link) In it, Mr Lin describes his motivation for keeping disciplined and motivated:

“A long-term strategy I have for staying disciplined and motivated is to keep learning about the ways in which my mind and body have been damaged from trillions of dollars of advertisements, thousands of synthetic compounds, multigenerational malnourishment, an unnatural microbiome, and other things new to the human species, and to continue increasing my understanding of what I can do to heal myself gradually years and decades. Focusing on this long-term strategy, I can rationally remain optimistic in a painful, confusing world. “

Hectic! But also kind of cool. This is his own personal higher cause for his projects. Much like I mentioned in a previous post, I think to keep motivation requires a cause, a community or a goal that is beyond self-gratification and vanity. Lin’s motivation is pushed by an environmental narrative, and an anti-imperialist/anti-capitalist narrative which is pushing him to write down “400,000+ words of notes on my life and other things since 2013”.

It’s not that I agree with everything he says, it is that I see the results of his strategy and I want some of that mojo 🙂


Vanity, confidence, purpose, and writing

Polly Stenham tells us that the collaborative nature of theater kills a lot of vanity in her work as a playwright. On the other hand, a quick Google search shows us that lack of confidence is a huge issue with the writing process. Somewhere in between excessive vanity and the Google search results is the right mix of confidence and humility that leads to great work and great writing (and Polly Stenham).

Maybe the secret is to do the work for something other than yourself. Work for a cause, work for a tribe. Of course, this in itself requires a story to tell others and to tell yourself to motivate the work, and to motivate others to follow your work. It also diverts attention away from the self, and towards the group you are working for. Less vanity, more confidence and purpose.

Personally, I suffer from a lack of confidence. I worry about what others think and I don’t get enough of my own work done. However, when I do create something I find myself staring at it over and over – spellbound like it is some kind of jewel or reflection in a mirror – vanity overcomes me in other words. If I am honest, I am still looking for a group to write for, and a tribe to be part of when it comes to my writing. I think it would take the pressure off of the writing process.


J. M. Coetzee and Moving to Cape Town

Like pulling a massive tree out of the soil, a move of country and city is especially hard once you are older and grown up. The roots are longer, the trunk less flexible. The uncertainty is greater and the relocation more scarring.

One thing I was worried about when I moved to Cape Town was leaving the culture, the art, the vibrancy of our lives in Sydney, Australia. Living in Africa can feel like living in the past and in the outback at times, with outdated technology and infrastructure. Less trendy, less options.

At least, that’s what I thought.

The truth is, South Africa is as vibrant a place you could hope for – its present and its history are full of stories. The Silicon Cape initiative is thriving.

What makes me especially happy is that great authors have written stories set just down the road from me. I love relating to art on many levels, and one of the best relationships to have with a book is an intimate understanding of the geography. Much of “Disgrace” is set in Cape Town and in areas of South Africa I have seen with my own eyes. I am a quarter of the way through and loving it so far. So far the protagonist is an unlikable man, but his predicament is fascinating.

I think I will stay in Cape Town a while longer. At least to finish this book!

Setting a scene

I have just finished reading “The Knowledge” by Steven Pressfield. It’s a great book, from one of Seth Godin’s recommendations.

In the UK, “The Knowledge” is a test all taxi drivers need to pass. Drivers are tested on London’s maze of tiny streets in minute detail. It’s the basis for getting customers there in the quickest time possible. A map in your head, laid out and ready to go as soon as you pull out into the streets. No SatNav, no google – good to go immediately.

True to the title, Pressfield’s novel is chock full of street level detail and scenery – mainly of New York City – mapped out as background for the events to unfold. The streets, restaurants, subways, parks and buildings are support for the work he is doing. I never thought of writing in this way – leaning on the scenery so much – but it works incredibly well. In fact when I think about it, Frank Herbert does the same in Dune.

As a writer, I am learning from these books that building up a sense of place and a scene in detail creates trust with the reader. The reader is convinced that the writer knows what they are talking about and then is willing to believe the rest of the story.

Interesting tactic and worth a try.

Dune final thoughts

So I finally finished Dune – the sci-fi classic which has clearly influenced the likes of Game Of Thrones and most other popular sci-fi stories since. I had two final thoughts on why it is so impressive and resilient to this day as a gripping sci-fi story.

First – The characters are super, but the world in which they inhabit is the real star of the show. A character on its own merit, Arrakis dominates any event in the book. Just as ‘winter is coming’ in GOT, the extreme weather and awesome beauty of the desert planet is what the main characters have to come to terms with to fulfill their destiny. Though it is a completely different sort of novel, I am seeing a similar strong focus on setting and location in the book i am currently reading: “The Knowledge” By Steven Pressfield.

The impressive depth of the cultures, languages and religions created by the author in Dune are second to only Lord of The Rings in my experience. I marvel at the time this and dedication this must have taken from Frank Herbert. It gives the story authenticity and reflects back to the reader our own clan like behaviour and superstitions here on earth.

Dune is magnificent. Well worth the read and the reputation it has gathered.

A great reading list

In case you missed it – check out this excellent website dedicated to all of Seth Godin’s book recommendations over the last decade (hint – he makes great recommendations!)

As a Godin junkie, this is incredible. I am just getting used to my re-found Kindle too, so this is perfect timing!

I enjoy particularly the filtering options. So useful and makes the whole site more manageable.

Dune update

Following on from my previous posts, Dune is becoming more than a pleasant read for me, it is so good that I am treating it as a sort of Sci-Fi guru and teacher. A reference book to refer to when creating futuristic worlds.

Its scale and scope started out very large and wide – moving between two planets, explaining complex political relationships, alien life forms, technologies, religions and histories. However, passing the half way mark the author has chosen to zoom in on a few characters, killing off a big presence Ned Stark style, and focusing on subtlety and detail in the characters and their particular situations. It’s very absorbing!

This ‘zooming in’ technique (for want of a better word) has been a revelation to me and I plan to try and use it in the future.