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You vs. the blank page

I’ve been writing for a long time. I started when I was a child (I have a bunch of very terrible novels that I wrote as a kid and a teenager that should never see the light of day), I went on to study creative writing at Uni, and I’ve gone on to write short stories, comic anthologies, articles, blog posts and even workshops. And yet even after all this work and all these words, I still find facing the blank page scary.

It’s terrifying for even the most seasoned writers—writers who have written and published many books, writers who have multiple awards gracing their bookshelves, and writers who actually turn up and do this every day because they need to make a living.

I’m sure you know this too. When you sit down to write that article/essay/assignment/newsletter or whatever it is, suddenly everything else becomes so much more interesting. Instead of working on the actual writing, you find yourself tidying your desk, doing laundry, clearing out the spare room or doing things you’ve already put off for six months. Or you fall down the social media wormhole and find yourself mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Twitter. Anything else instantly becomes more attractive than facing that blank page.

Unfortunately that means that the blank page wins, and the blank page winning means that you still have that thing you need to do hanging over you—making you feel bad and making you feel guilty for doing all those other things. You may have put off the task for another day (classic procrastination!), but then the war begins anew. The important thing is not to let the blank page win, and the only way to beat the blank page is to fill it.

So here are nine strategies you can use to beat—and fill—the blank page. Now, you won’t necessarily be filling it with gold; unfortunately it’s a rare occurrence that good writing just flows from the tip of your pen (or
your typing fingers) like milk and honey. But you will fill it with something, and something—no matter how crappy or half-formed—is better than nothing, because something, at least, gives you something to work with.

1. Morning pages

In The Artists Way (which I have not read all the way through), Julia Cameron advocates starting your writing session with “morning pages”: fill three pieces of paper longhand (not digitally) and write anything you like—nonsense, drivel, a stream of consciousness. The idea is to empty your brain of all the things you’re currently thinking about or stressing over so that you can clear them out of the way and focus on the work you have to do. They’re also a way of bypassing your inner critic—that voice that tells you that what you’re doing doesn’t matter and will never amount to anything, that you’re a waste of space, that you’re wasting your time. Fill three pages and then stop. Don’t show them to anyone. They’re just for you. Then move onto the thing you’re supposed to be working on.

2. Brain dump

A brain dump is similar to morning pages because what you’re doing is just downloading everything you think about a topic and vomiting it onto the page. I like using this technique for articles as it’s a good way of getting it all out there, even if you don’t use it all later. It could be a stream of consciousness. It could be loose associations. It could be a mind map. Whatever it is, it’s the raw materials with which you craft and refine your writing later.

3. Set a timer

Often people moan about having no time to write. They long for whole days—weeks—months—they can dedicate and spend on a particular project. The truth is, endless amounts of time can actually be unhelpful to creative work. Instead, if you put fences around your time, you can actually be a lot more productive. One way to create an artificial fence is to set a timer—say 30 minutes. Sit and write until the timer goes off. Once those 30 minutes are up, stop and do something else. Continue if you want to (and especially if you’re on a roll). But don’t feel like you have to. You’ve done your time. You’ve put in the work. If it’s just not happening, try again later.

Timers are a very good way of making the war between you and blank page less painful: do your 30 minutes (or whatever it is) and then stop. You’re only “in prison” for that short amount of time, and then you get “released”.

Timers are also great for productivity because enforcing regular breaks actually makes you produce more. Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project, often talks about the human body’s ultradian rhythms—those 90-minute cycles where we move from being high and energy in motivation to fatigue and sluggishness. Align your timers to your ultradian cycle and you’re likely to write more and make better use of your time.

4. Use your incidental time

Instead of setting a timer and imposing an artificial fence on your time, make use of your existing fences. Existing fences are determined by external factors—the time you spend waiting at the bus stop, the length of your trip on public transport, even the duration of your lunch break. Even if you only have 10 minutes, you can still get quite a bit done. Use that time to brainstorm or scribble. A little can go a long way.

5. Show up at the same time every day

Showing up at the same time every day is nearly impossible for me because none of my days are the same. But it may work for those of you who thrive on routine. It’s a way of tricking your brain into creative mode because you’re training it in the habit. Show up at the same time every day and make yourself write for the same amount of time. Just as with exercise, the people who do it says that it gets easier the more you do it.

6. Make rules to trick yourself into it

Another technique in the “trick your brain” vein is to make rules for yourself to force yourself into it. Neil Gaiman (one of my favourite writers) has a rule that when he’s sitting at his desk, he can either look out the window or he can write. He can’t read. He can’t check the internet or read social media. He can’t tidy or clean. He can stare out the window or he can write. Soon enough, staring out the window becomes boring, so he turns to writing instead.

7. Use placeholders

This is a trick I learned at GenreCon last year: in order to keep yourself writing, write things like “Insert cool thing here” or “Look up that reference later” or “{Character name}”. For me, it’s easy to get distracted by things that detract from the writing—for example, naming new characters or chasing down that obscure reference or quote I read years ago, but can’t find because Google Brain doesn’t exist yet (though perhaps that should never happen). It’s better to leave those things for later and keep going.

8. Aim to meet a specific word count

This doesn’t work for me, but it might for you. At GenreCon last year, I met a romance writer who had said on this panel I attended that she knows that she can write the first draft of a novel (i.e. 80,000 words) in eight weeks. (She also has a two-year-old and a job in copywriting. I am in awe of her.) This is how she does it: she works out how many writing days she’s likely to have in eight weeks, and realistically, it’s Monday to Friday as writing doesn’t normally happen on the weekends. So five days a week for eight weeks is 40 days, and 40 days into 80,000 words is 2,000 words a day, which seems quite doable when you think about it. So she aims for 2,000 words a day. Sometimes she does more, sometimes she does less. She keeps a spreadsheet to track her progress, and at the end of those eight weeks, she’ll have that first draft. It might be a crappy first draft, but it’s still a first draft.

9. Leave things half-finished at the end of your writing session

Final strategy: at the end of your writing session, leave things half-finished. This goes completely against my nature because I’m a completionist and I can’t stand leaving things half-finished. But it’s actually a helpful trick to get you back into what you’re working on at your next writing session. It’s called the Zeigarnik effect, which is named after Bluma Zeigarnik, a Russian psychologist who studied memory in the 1920s. She found that incomplete tasks are easier to remember than successful ones, because your brain keeps it active in your working memory in the background until you get back to it.

So there’s nine strategies to use to win the war against the blank page. The important thing is to write something. Produce that crappy first draft, because once you have it, you can do something with it—even if you throw it out and start over. Nothing is ever wasted; you’re always building on what you’ve done before.

That said, expect that first draft to be crappy. Expect it not to work. Expect it to be hard. The crappiness of that first draft is no reflection on you. As organisational psychologist Adam Grant says, “Instead of saying, ‘I’m crap,’ you say, ‘The first few drafts are always crap, and I’m just not there yet.’”

Happy writing!

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Hiveminded Episode 010

We made it to episode 10! Hurrah! For this ep, each member of the Hivemind talks about what they would bring if we were stranded on a desert island. Have a listen to find out what kind of island it would be!

Bec

Homogenic (Björk).

Pitchfork review.

Björk digital at Carriageworks for Vivid Sydney 2016.

My thoughts after seeing Björk in Belfast in 2008. (Sorry all the image links are broken—the legacy of a blog move I never got round to fixing.)

Song exploder.

Karen

The Blue Sword (Robin McKinley). Robin’s blog and Twitter. Wikipedia page.

The Hero and the Crown.

Beauty.

Rose Daughter.

Sunshine.

Guan mentioned that he started reading The Hero and the Crown because of this thread. (Real talk: eavesdropping on writers’ Twitter timelines about what they’re reading is the best book recommendation service.)

Guan

Little, Big (John Crowley).

Game of Kings: Lymond Chronicles #1 (Dorothy Dunnett).

I didn’t mention it explicitly, but I had Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic podcast interview with Brené Brown swimming in my head when I wrote my bit.

Similarly, Nobody Wants to Ready Your S**t (Steven Pressfield).

Upcoming

Goulburn Comic Con: Saturday 18 March, 2017 11am-5pm, Veolia Arena. Book/register for workshops (including Karen’s on comic scriptwriting).

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Hiveminded Episode 009

We welcome Kathleen Jennings back to the podcast while Guan takes a break. Kathleen talks about the YA book that all the booksellers are raving about: Cath Crowley’s Words in Deep Blue; Bec reminisces and raves about the music of Ani diFranco; Karen finds lots to like about Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance; and the takehome point is that everyone should go to Genrecon.

Kathleen

Words in Deep Blue (Cath Crowley).

84 Charing Cross Road (Helene Hanff).

Looking for Alibrandi (Melina Marchetta).

Tam Lin (Pamela Dean).

Riverdale on Netflix. Wikipedia page.

Archie Comics.

Black Books. Here’s a taste of Bernard Black’s customer service:

Birchalls.

Avid Reader Bookshop in Brisbane.

Pulp Fiction Books in Brisbane.

Kinkouniya in Sydney.

Gleebooks in Sydney.

Bec

Ani diFranco’s website.

Live at Paste: Since the US election results, I keep thinking of her song “Your Next Bold Move”, which she wrote during the George W Bush era. She plays it beautifully here.

I erroneously said in the podcast that it was Canon (2007) I listened to when I was in Malaysia, but it was actually her iTunes Originals Session (2008), which was so great because she also gave little intros to most of the songs.

Ani has such a huge back catalogue, it’s hard to know where to start. Here are a few of my favourites (but it’s by no means a comprehensive list; so much depends on my mood, and Ani seems to have a song for every mood …):

  • Dilate (1996)

    This whole album is just an epoch of my life—an impossible mix of quiet, dark, bombastic, angry, raw, beautiful, sweary and amazing. Probably one that would best represent the subculture of Ani fans in the 90s.

  • “Providence” from To The Teeth (1999), featuring Prince.

    Mood: antsy.

    Favourite quote:

    It’s a narrow margin, just room enough for regret
    In the inch-and-a-half between “hey how ya been?” and “can I kiss you yet?”

  • “Up up up up up up” from Up up up up up up (1999)

    Mood: quietly optimistic.

    Favourite quote:

    Half of learning how to play is learning what not to play and
    she’s learning the spaces she leaves have their own things to say

  • Revelling/Reckoning (2001)

    Probably my favourite of her albums.

    Mood: fun, cheeky, wistful, melancholy—there’s a whole sweep of moods on this double album (probably why I like it so much)

  • “Evolve” from Evolve (2003)

    Mood: scrappy.

    Favourite quote:

    It took me too long to realize that I don’t take good pictures
    ’cause I have the kind of beauty that moves

  • “Present/Infant” from Red Letter Year (2008)

    Mood: joyous.

    I love this whole song for its positive vibe and the love with which it was obviously written, as she works through body image stuff so she can be a good mother to her daughter.

The Decemberists.

Belle and Sebastian.

Little Plastic Castles.

Red Letter Year and “Atom” (5:26 min).

Jason Webley.

CSE Cooney.

Karen

Modern Romance: An Investigation (Aziz Ansari). (Audible link.)

Master of None on Netflix. Wikipedia page. Trailer (2:03 min):

(Be warned: the show contains adult content and swearing.)

Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden on Netflix.

Tinder.

Bone Swans: Stories (CSE Cooney) (Kindle edition)

Norse Mythology (Neil Gaiman).

Bridget Jones’s Baby.

What we’re working on

Kathleen’s Patreon.

Frogkisser (Garth Nix).

Light Grey Art Lab.

TOBEYOU exhibition.

World Faery Society: The Westbury Faery.

GoThereFor.com.

Joy Lankshear Design.

The Growth Group Notebook.

“The Swedish Method”: Peter Blowes explains how this method of Bible study works.

Facebook Live chat with Tara about The Growth Group Notebook.

GenreCon: 10-12 November 2017, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane.

Mary Robinette Kowal.

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Hiveminded Episode 008

We really do have something for everyone on this podcast. Guan brings a very convincing case for why everyone should see Magic Mike XXL, Bec fangirls about Margaret Atwood, and Karen reflects on Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes.

Guan

Magic Mike XXL.

Film Crit Hulk on Magic Mike XXL.

Channing Tatum dancing to “Pony”.

Step Up.

Magic Mike.

The Joe Manganiello “I Want it That Way” scene at the petrol station.

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 1 and 2.

The Goonies.

Stand By Me.

Bring it On.

Film Crit Hulk on Bring It On.

Bring It On: The musical—“It’s all happening” performance at the 2013 Tony Awards.

“Can’t Stop This Feeling” (Justin Timberlake).

“Happy” (Pharrell Williams).

Phonogram (Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie/Matt Wilson/Clayton Cowles). (Phonogram is one of Karen’s all-time favourite comics.)

The Great Wall.

Emotion (Carly Rae Jepsen).

“Friday” (Rebecca Black).

Bec

Margaret Atwood’s official website. Atwood on Twitter.

The Handmaid’s Tale—Hulu trailer:

“A freaky prediction about pigs in a popular sci-fi trilogy is starting to come true”.

“Sales of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale have soared since Trump’s win”.

“In Trump’s America, The Handmaid’s Tale matters more than ever”.

“Haunted by The Handmaid’s Tale”: Atwood reflects on the book’s longevity and her writing process.

Alias Grace.

The Robber Bride.

Karen got it wrong: it was Lady Oracle, not Surfacing.

Karen

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person (Shonda Rhimes).

Grey’s Anatomy.

Private Practice.

Scandal.

How to Get Away with Murder.

TED: “My year of saying yes to everything” (18:44 min). (I really like the idea of giving yourself 15 minutes of play.)

Dartmouth College graduation speech (24:01 min).

Excerpt:

You and I are close friends now, reader, so you know how I feel about writing. Writing is the hum. Writing is laying track. Writing is the high. Now imagine that hum—that high—that track to be laid is behind a door, and that door is five miles away. Those five miles are just writing crap and doodling and trying to have an idea and surfing the internet and hoping like hell not to get so distracted that you give up. Worse, those five miles are lined with brownies and cupcakes and episodes of Game of Thrones, and Idris Elba waiting to talk to only you, and really good novels to read. Every time I sit down to write, I have to mentally run those five miles past all of that to get to that door. It’s a long, hard five-mile run. Sometimes, I am almost dead by the time I reach the door. That’s why I have to keep doing it. The more often I run the five miles, the fitter I become, and the fitter I become, the easier the run begins to feel, and the less fresh and exciting all that stuff on the side of the road seems. I mean, how long has it been there? More important, as I get fitter, I can run faster, and the faster I can run, the faster I can get to that door. The faster you can too, writers out there. When you sit down to write every day, it becomes easier and easier to tap into that creative space in your mind. The faster I can get to that door, the quicker I can get to the good stuff. Behind the door is the good stuff. So when I reach the door and open it, that’s when my creativity clicks in and that special spot in my brain starts working, and I go from exertion to exultation, and suddenly I can write forever and ever and ever and ever. And then suddenly someone opens the door and asks if I want coffee or water. And I’m five miles away all over again. I grit my teeth and try to smile and say, “No thank you. See, I have coffee and water both already right here!” And then I start running that five miles all over. (Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes, chapter 14.)

The Book of Ecclesiastes (ESV).

Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott).

What we’re working on

World Faery Society: The Westbury Faery.

Goulburn Comic Con (Saturday 18 March). I’m running a workshop on comic scriptwriting for beginners. Come!

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Interlude: Scrappy Little Nobody

Circumstances conspired to keep the Hive Mind from recording this week: Bec was overseas and in transit Monday and Tuesday, and it was Chinese New Year over the weekend (meaning we all had family dinners to attend). So this time, we’re doing something a little different: one Hive Minder (Karen) is going to rabbit on about something she’s enjoyed recently in prose. Enjoy!

Karen

I’ve been listening to Anna Kendrick read her memoir, Scrappy Little Nobody via Audible. As Bec mentioned in an earlier episode of our podcast, “[Audible is] the best way to read when you’re doing other things”, and I totally concur: I really love that I can “read” while doing such mundane things as cooking, vacuuming, ironing, stuffing envelopes and even walking to school at pick-up time. Audible even makes me look forward to doing housework because I can dive into the book I’m currently reading.

Back to Anna Kendrick. If you don’t know who Anna Kendrick is (and part of me cannot believe you wouldn’t know who she is), she is an American actress and singer best known for her work in Up in the Air (for which she earned herself an Oscar nomination), Pitch Perfect 1 and 2 (and 3! ACA-AWESOME!), Into the Woods and, of course, the Twilight movies. (She was the best thing about the Twilight movies, IMHO. Don’t believe me? Watch her wedding speech in Breaking Dawn:

Told you.)

I don’t normally read celebrity biographies—even for celebrities I love—but I had to make an exception for Anna Kendrick. She is one of the only actors I follow on Twitter—mostly because other actors are boring and she is far from boring; she’s witty and interesting and also extremely funny. When I heard about her book, I knew I had to read it, but when I found out that she reads the audiobook, I knew I definitely had to have her read it to me.

(If you want to know what she sounds like, you can listen to an excerpt here:

Or visit the publisher’s site and scroll down to “Hear an excerpt”.)

(Incidentally, a decent chunk of the book was read while driving back from the Blue Mountains with some friends, who enjoyed hearing Kendrick read the book to them as much as I did. One of them even decided to track it down later when she had to leave my car.)

Scrappy Little Nobody is a “collection of humorous autobiographical essays” by Kendrick that recount the story of her life from her beginnings as a child actor to her first ever Broadway appearance (for which she earned a Tony award nomination) to her move to Los Angeles to try and break into the film industry to her present career (well sort of). I found it interesting not just because origin stories for creative people always fascinate me (and I find it amazing that Kendrick knew what she wanted to do with her life so young and gave it all she had, succeeding despite the odds [with much family support, of course, though I must admit that the thought of one of my daughters moving to a strange city at the age of 17 to try and make a career in acting, knowing no one and not going into a standard job, totally freaks me out]). But I also found the book interesting because Kendrick’s wonderfully quirky personality shines through on every page. For example,

There was a small window in my early childhood when I wanted to be a doctor. This was inspired by my pediatrician, a relatively young man whom I called Dr. Handsome. I had assumed this was because his name was Dr. Hasen or Dr. Branson, but I recently found out his name was Dr. Ritger, so I guess I should have just died at age four when I decided to call my physician Dr. Handsome without so much as a pun to justify it.

(I’d be interested to know whether people who read the book in print still hear her voice in their heads as they read.)

One of my favourite chapters in the book is the one where she talks about her first ever serious boyfriend, Landon, and her eagerness to be “normal” and have a “normal” relationship:

After a satisfactory couple of months, I felt more committed to this “dating” experiment and started subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) making a bizarre coming-of-age checklist. Had I learned nothing from my beads and lipstick penpal episode? It was mostly stuff I’d seen in movies, and I knew it was stupid, but every milestone gave me a sense that I was approaching normalcy. Nothing in my life was going especially well at that point, but if the guy I was seeing burned a CD for me (check!), it felt like I was becoming a standard American adult.

She then goes on to outline some of the other items on her checklist right down to the stereotypical relationship break-up.

The book is also peppered with interesting stories and anecdotes from the different things Kendrick has done throughout the course of her career—for example, what it’s like to work with George Clooney, the miserable conditions during the filming of the Bella and Edward wedding scene in Twilight: Breaking Dawn, what award shows are actually like behind the scenes (and the truth behind what it’s like to walk the red carpet), and that time Zac Efron threw up on her during the filming of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. I liked learning more about her body of work as I was only familiar with a fraction of it, and reading the book made me go off and research some of the more obscure parts she has played—for example, Camp, where she sings Stephen Sondheim’s “The Ladies Who Lunch” from Company as Fritzi and completely kills it:

(I so want to see Kendrick sing more Sondheim.) And her bit with Neil Patrick Harris and Jack Black at the 2015 Academy Awards (which I unfortunately missed that year—boo):

(It starts about 3:08 minutes in.)

There is also a very tongue-in-cheek bonus reading group guide at the end for those who like to talk about the books they read with other people. And the audiobook comes with a downloadable PDF containing photos contained in the print book—like Anna as a toddler or the time that Warner Bros hired a private plane to fly her and Ben Affleck back from the Oscars to set for the filming of The Accountant.

Overall, I really really enjoyed the book (and Kendrick’s reading of it; there is nothing like having Anna Kendrick yell in your ear!) I loved learning more about Kendrick and getting to know her better as a person. I loved that she wasn’t afraid to be quirky and weird, but had come to accept herself just as she was, without feeling the need to tailor herself for other people.

But I did feel that the last quarter of the book ran out of steam a little—perhaps because Kendrick didn’t have the freedom be more open and honest about things that have happened in the recent past as she is still young, working and living her life (and still needs to be able to get on with and work with other people in the film industry). The chapter titled “Fake parties I have planned with the detail of a real party” was amusing, but probably could have been cut as it dragged the narrative down somewhat. But I hope that means that there will be more books from Kendrick in the future, regaling us with more wonderful stories of her life and career the way that Carrie Fisher did.

Let me finish by showing you a clip of Kendrick as a 13-year-old, singing “Life upon the wicked stage” with a troupe of underwear-clad chorus girls:

She is just amazing.

Bonus: what I’m working on

In our last episode, I mentioned the storytelling workshop I ran for the Sydney Comics Guild camp. That was a couple of weekends ago and I think it went well; at least three people came up to me afterwards and told me it was good.

The camp itself was great: everything was quite laidback, there was a lot of time to get creative stuff done (so I actually managed to do a big slab of writing, working on one of the short stories I keep talking about), I did a critique session with a comics creator who seemed to find my feedback and advice helpful, and I attended a workshop on professional business coaching for creatives, which was quite fascinating (though a lot of it focussed on visual arts and art licensing, which I knew nothing about). (Incidentally, this article on how Beatrix Potter invented character merchandising is a fascinating look at a time when art licensing was not a thing and Potter pretty much made it into a thing.)

These next couple of weeks are going to be a bit insane as there are a lot of things happening and not a lot of time for creative work, but I hope I can keep at it in the cracks. Wish me luck!

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Hiveminded Episode 007

Episode 7! Guan talks about Rebecca Stead’s YA novel When you reach me, Bec talks about the movie Lion and Karen talks about Alain de Botton’s The Course of Love. Relationships, inspiration and the power of story: just a few of the things we cover this episode!

Guan

When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead).

Newbery Medal.

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle).

Clueless (IMDB).

Easy A (IMDB).

10 Things I Hate About You (IMDB).

The Magicians (Lev Grossman).

Sad Kermit (and the story behind Sad Kermit).

Austenland (IMDB). This is the scene Bec talks about:

Terry Pratchett.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Jennifer Senior) quote:

Young children may be gruelling, young children may be vexing, and young children may bust and redraw the contours of their parents’ professional and marital lives. But they bring joy too. Everyone knows this (hence: “bundles of joy”). But it’s worth considering some of the reasons why. It’s not just because they’re soft and sweet and smell like perfection. They also create wormholes in time, transporting their mothers and fathers back to feelings and sensations they haven’t had since they themselves were young. The dirty secret about adulthood is the sameness of it, its tireless adherence to routines and customs and norms. Small children may intensify this sense of repetition and rigidity by virtue of the new routines they establish. But they liberate their parents from their ruts too.

All of us crave liberation from those ruts. More to the point, all of us crave liberation from our adult selves, at least from time to time. I’m not just talking about the selves with public roles to play and daily obligations to meet. (We can find relief from those people simply by going on vacation, or for that matter, by pouring ourselves a stiff drink.) I’m talking about the selves who live too much in their heads rather than their bodies; who are burdened with too much knowledge about how the world works rather than excited by how it could work or should; who are afraid of being judged and not being loved. Most adults do not lie in a world of forgiveness and unconditional love. Unless, that is, they have small children.

The most shameful part of adult life is how blinkered it makes us, how brittle and ungenerous in our judgments. It often takes a much bigger project to make adults look outward, to make them “boundless and unwearied in giving,” as the novelist and philosopher C.S. Lewis writes in The Four Loves. Young children can go a long way toward yanking grown-ups out of their silly preoccupations and cramped little mazes of self-interest—not just relieving their parents of their egos, but helping them aspire to something better.

(Jennifer Senior, All Joy and No Fun, HarperCollins, 2014, pp. 98-99.)

“When I Grow Up” from the musical of Matilda by Tim Minchin (6:17 min).

Bec

Lion. Trailer:

A Long Way Home (Saroo Brierley).

Adopt Change.

On Dev Patel’s Australian accent.

Ladies in Black (musical). Trailer:

Women in Black (book) (Madeleine St John).

84 Charing Cross Road and Q’s Legacy (Helene Hanff).

Wishful Drinking (Carrie Fisher).

Karen

The Course of Love (Alain de Botton).

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.

The School of Life (YouTube channel).

“Because a story involves both data and emotions, it’s more engaging—and therefore more memorable—than simply telling someone, ‘Those berries are poisonous.’” (Source).

Alain de Botton’s lecture “On love” Opera House lecture as part of their Ideas series (1 hr 13 min).

The Good Marriage (Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee): terrific book on marriage that asks the question, “What makes marriages last?” and following on from Wallerstein’s lengthy and indepth research into divorce and the effect of divorce on American families.

The Art of Belonging (Hugh Mackay).

Robert McKee.

Aaron Sorkin’s Masterclass.

Donald Miller’s Storyline and Storybrand.

Story Genius (Lisa Cron).

What we’re working on

Guan on Twitter (follow him to hear more about the Gathered podcast).

Mad for Markers’ character-a-week challenge (join in!)

Neil Gaiman on how stories last (1 hour 43 minutes). Quotes and highlights on Brainpickings.

Scott Myers from GoIntoTheStory interviews Mary Coleman, a senior development executive at Pixar:

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Hiveminded Episode 006

Guan is in the wilds of Malaysia with his family, so filling his shoes this week is none other than Kathleen Jennings. Unfortunately because I (Bec) forgot to properly brief Kathleen on recording things, there is occasionally a bit of an echo, the sound quality goes up and down throughout, and some of Kathleen’s comments are lost to history because I couldn’t tidy up the audio enough. Apologies, dear listener!

This is a bumper episode—over an hour long!—during which we discuss the animated movie Sing, Australian history and the irreverent book Girt, and aviation history and why Kathleen is passionate about it. We also talk about the Importance of Supporting Artists (one of Oscar Wilde’s lesser-known works), Patreon, crowdfunding and many, many other things. Enjoy!

Karen

1:57: Sing: official website/IMDB.

3:10: The song our Happy Meal toy was singing was “Set It All Free”, sung by Scarlett Johansson (Spotify link).

(Incidentally, one of the best bits of the film is where Johansson does Carly Rae Jepsen🙂

3:44: Garth Jennings on IMDB. (Official website.)

Background to Sing (Sydney Morning Herald feature piece).

5:37: Taron Egerton on IMDB.

5:43: Kingsman: The Secret Service: based on the Secret Service comics by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons (which I have not read), but a lot of things were changed in the adaptation. Being a Mark Millar project, however, it is super violent and unnecessarily gratuitous in places (like the final scene, which is apparently a reference to the James Bond film Moonraker). But the best thing about it is Colin Firth being superhero-ish—for example, this clip (2:21 min):

(The later scene where he completely tears up an American church under the influence of the supervillain’s frequency is very hard to watch though.)

(Also, for a very interesting but extremely long [i.e. about 16,000 words long] take on Kingsman, I recommend this article by Film Critic Hulk.)

6:03: Tori Kelly (official site).

8:33: Zootopia.

10:45: Peppa Pig.

11:29: The Little Mermaid.

12:06: Robin Hood (the 1973 Disney version).

12:39: My Neighbour Tororo (one of my favourite Studio Ghibli films).

13:04: Whisper of the Heart (my FAVOURITE Studio Ghibli film).

13:30: Diana Wynne Jones.

14:18: Ponyo (Studio Ghibli goodness for very little kids).

14:46: The Ponyo theme song:

The My Neighbour Totoro theme song:

Bec

15:11: Girt: the Unauthorised History of Australia (David Hunt).

15:22: Audible.

17:22: True Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia Volume 2 (David Hunt).

17:50: Woolmers Estate.

20:37: Great British Tales of Terror: Gothic Stories of Horror and Romance, 1765-1840 (Peter Haining)

22:15: Frances Burney’s account of her 1812 mastectomy.

25:42: Ancestry.

Kathleen

30:40: Kathleen’s Patreon. Also, we never really explained what Patreon is: it’s a site where fans can sign up to financially support creators they like, becoming, in effect, patrons of that creator. Creators offer their patrons exclusive bits and pieces depending on the amount of money the patron pledges.

31:38: Empire of the Clouds (James Hamilton-Paterson).

Marked for Death: The First War in the Air (James Hamilton-Paterson).

32:42: My God, It’s A Woman (Nancy Bird).

34:14: Flying Nurse (Robin Miller).

34:57: Early Birds (H.C. Miller).

36:46: The Wind Rises: Studio Ghibli feature biopic about Jiro Horikoshi, who designed fighter planes for World War II.

38:48: Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein).

40:28: Harriette Wilson’s Memoirs (with introduction by Lesley Blanch).

42:20: The Letters of Private Wheeler (ed. B.H. Liddell Hart).

43:26: The Lie Tree (Frances Hardinge).

43:42: Cuckoo Song (Frances Hardinge).

What we’re working on

46:19: Elastagirl from The Incredibles.

46:26: Helen Mirren in Red 2:

48:15: Kathleen’s masquerade ball drawings (January calendar).

51:42: Tremontaine.

56:10: Cranky Ladies of History (ed. Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely).

57:49: Ryan K. Lindsay.

1:01:41: Rory Shiner’s article on church scheduling, in which he talks about time, energy and money. Here are the relevant parts:

People have basically four things they can give—time, energy, gifts and resources—but the mix can vary enormously. Generally speaking, university students have copious amounts of time, significant supplies of energy, limited though fast-emerging gifts, and very limited resources. University-based ministries intuitively recognise this. It’s not uncommon (and in many ways not unreasonable) for a student to be involved in a couple of small groups on campus plus an evening small group at church, to be active in the church’s youth or children’s ministry, and to attend two or three conferences a year. Time and energy are the principle commodities students have to give, and they often given them generously …

Now consider the circumstances of the average family in a local church. Families have those same four resources—time, energy, gifts and resources—but the deck is dealt very differently. A family with young children; with one or two people working; with school and associated commitments; with life-administration; who also want to have meaningful relationships within their community… People in this stage of life have extremely limited time resources, and very limited energy. Their gifts have by now emerged and been developed, and there is often now a stable income with a base for sustainable giving. But time is very precious, and every draw on that resource is a zero-sum game. It’s the same with energy. A late-night, poorly-chaired elders meeting can take literally two or three nights to recover from in terms of the sleep-debt. The weekend lie-in is a long way off. At certain stages of family life, it does not exist. Time and energy are finite resources.

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Hiveminded Episode 005

It’s the end of the year and we are each sharing three of our favourite things from 2016. There’s lots of good stuff, including the delightful NZ flick Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the body positivity doco Embrace, the pop perfection of Taylor Swift and lots more!

Guan

2:02: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (trailer).

5:09: “The Paradox of Kanye West: Review of The Life of Pablo”.

5:27: A Seat at the Table (Solange).

7:39: The Game of Kings (Dorothy Dunnett).

Bec

11:14: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver).

14:10: Cooked. Trailer:

16:36: The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollan)

17:11: Embrace

Trailer:

Get it on iTunes and have a bunch of friends over to watch it and talk about it. Seriously.

Karen

20:21: Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert).

21:33: “Magic Lessons” podcast.

23:34: 1989 (Taylor Swift).

“Blank Space”

“Shake It Off”

“Clean”

24:39: Red

24:44: Fearless

“Love Story”

“We are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

“Fifteen”

“All Too Well”

25:45: Raina Telgemeier

Smile

Sisters

Ghosts

Drama

28:48: Fabled Kingdom (Queenie Chan)

29:58: Scott McCloud on closure in Understanding Comics

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Hiveminded Episode 004

Oh we rambled here, we rambled there, we rambled pretty much everywhere in this episode! Bec starts us off with thoughts about Gilmore Girls and the reaction of loyal fanbases to reboots. Karen shares thoughts that sprang from conversations with Kathleen Jennings about creativity, the creative process and how different creative people work. Guan pivots from that into talking more about Lisa Cron’s Story Genius and the hacks we sometimes need to use in order to create. We also talk colour theory and gardening, new story ideas and lots more!

Bec

1:15: Gilmore Girls.

Gilmore Girls: A year in the life.

2:40: My box set (I mean, did the designer even watch the show?!)

4:32: Gilmore Girls‘ Amy Sherman-Palladino: The Revival Post Mortem Interview You’ve Been Waiting For.

5:05: Gilmore Girls’ final words change everything we believe about Rory and Stars Hollow.

10:18: Sandman Overture.

10:42: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Other things:

AV Club on the new opening sequence.

Lauren Graham Talks Return to Gilmore and Her “Fall” Monologue.

My favourite recaps so far because they don’t shy away from the problems with the reboot, but they don’t hate on it either: AV Club.

More of my own musings on the responses to the reboot.

Karen

14:22: Comic Street.

14:54: Kathleen Jennings’s blog (she is the patron saint of our podcast!)

Magic Lessons podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

17:19: Art and Motherhood: The Divided Heart by Rachel Power.

One of the interviews with Rachel Power (and others) where people seem to imply that mothers shouldn’t be engaging in creative work (goes for about 54 minutes).

17:55: My messy desk: it’s a sea of encroaching piles!

18:31: Bullet Journal.

21:58: Plotters vs. pantsers: an exploration by Cindi Myers.

24:31: The source for the Ann Patchett quote:

Over lunch she tells me that she read a Charles Bukowski poem that morning that ends “those who/ succeed/ know/ this secret:/ there isn’t/ one.” It’s stayed with her, perhaps because writing, more than any other art form, is susceptible to “rules”, chief among them being to write every day.

“Don’t you think men are the ones that always say that?” she says. “I’m not sure I’ve heard a woman say you have to write every day. They’re too busy making dinner.”

Guan

Film Crit Hulk agrees with Guan that the Force Awakens is a terrible movie.

30:36: The Creative Habit (Twyla Tharp).

31:18: The Artist’s Way (Julia Cameron).

32:13: Story Genius (Lisa Cron).

36:49: The Feel of Steel (Helen Garner).

37:46: Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott).

41:58: Rising Strong (Brené Brown).

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Hiveminded Episode 003

Hiveminded Episode 003

It’s episode 3—in which we learn that Guan seems to be reading the “best book ever” every week, Bec seems to be only consuming things that are about historical events, and although Karen is a wordsmith, she’s not really a lyrics person.

Guan

1:23: Tam Lin by Pamela Dean.

Retrospective on Tam Lin on Tor (some spoilers).

3:43: Class (Doctor Who spinoff).

10:12: Fairy Tale series edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow.

10:40: The Book of Ballads by Charles Vess.

Bec

13:43: The Crown.

I’m enjoying the Fug Girls’ recaps: it’s kind of the commentary I imagine I would have if I was watching the show with a friend.

15:25: Victoria: The woman who made the modern world by Julia Baird.

15:33: Queen Elizabeth: A Portrait of the Queen Mother by Penelope Mortimer.

16:06: The Young Victoria.

16:33: The Queen.

17:06: The King’s Speech.

17:21: A Royal Night Out.

17:29: I’m Not There

18:39: I didn’t really “just remember”, I looked it up 😛 (see link above).

Karen

19:13: Sia’s website.

21:15: “Breathe Me”, which was used for the finale of Six Feet Under.

24:24: Pitch Perfect 2.

Jessie J: “Flashlight” (3:52 min).

25:28: Music video to “Chandelier” with Maddie Ziegler (3:51 min).

26:14: Sia performs “Chandelier” on The Ellen Show with Maddie Ziegler dancing (4:35 min).

Carpool Karaoke with James Corden and Sia (10:58 min).

27:56: Spotify playlist of Karen’s favourite Sia songs (err… there are 38 and they’re in rough chronological order).

What we’re working on

28:55: Story Genius by Lisa Cron.

29:27: Gathered podcast, companion to our.gathered.space

32:05: The Everyday Gratitude Diary.

34:51: Comic Street: Saturday 3 December, 12-6pm, Queen Street Mall stage, Brisbane CBD.

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