“Nobody Wants You” – my talk to undergrad creative writers

I spoke on a panel at my old university yesterday, which was officially titled ‘Life After Uni’ and unofficially ‘Negotiating the Black Hole’. It was to the current creative writing students. I was really excited about this, immediately intrigued to see whether I could collate all my writing experiences into one cohesive message. Would it be a message of hope, or perhaps a kind of blighted subterranean bell driving the townsfolk mad? We were asked to present a list of everything we’ve done and the challenges overcome and where we are now, with vaguely a five minute time limit. After that it would be opened to the audience to ask questions.

The more I thought about this, the more concerned I was that my writing had no message. I was too sporadic, being a playwright at one point, a literary editor, some short stories, poetry boyband member, that time I pitched a film about an octopus to Rian Johnson – what the hell did it all mean? So in typical me style, I completely over-prepared. I was adding notes on the train down. None of the other panellists even had notes.So what I ended up doing was speaking for way too long about the things I’d done – derailing my own conversation with funny anecdotes about hotels in Tasmania, which I cackled over, before I ran out of time and had to move on to the next speaker (which was entirely fair as I’d gone WAYYYY overtime). All the other panellists were funny and informative, but I’d felt there was no real cohesion to what I’d said, there was no lesson. It sounded just like I’d read my resume.

'AND NOW I WILL READ MY ENTIRE LINKEDIN PAGE, FOLLOWED BY SOME STORIES FROM MY CHILDHOOD. PS - IF YOU WRITE FOR A LIVING, YOU WILL DIE ALONE AND UNHAPPY. Peace out.

‘AND NOW I WILL READ MY ENTIRE LINKEDIN PAGE, FOLLOWED BY SOME STORIES FROM MY CHILDHOOD. PS – IF YOU WRITE FOR A LIVING, YOU WILL DIE ALONE AND UNHAPPY. Peace out.

I did have a message buried in there, which was that I didn’t feel qualified to give advice, because everything I’ve done has been like a particularly haphazard experiment. And at this stage I can point out certain things that definitely have worked, and some things that look like they might be working and some things that I hope do work. But I’m still in the middle of the experiment, so writing up my science report and handing it in would be premature. I suppose it doesn’t end until I’m dead. But, in writing terms, I suppose I can give some advice to young writers  on good places to start the grand writing experiment, which I didn’t really feel like I got to do.

When it came to questions, I only had the time/opportunity to give two bits of advice. The first was write for or edit the uni newspaper, because that always looks good for any writing position later on and will give you actual skills. Then I insulted that paper, talking about how when I was there it looked like a cross between a kidnappers ransom note and a Lenin retrospective. (I picked up a current copy and it looks really good now btw – not to mention there was some dudes excellent butt on the cover).

Then, as closing remarks, we were asked to give one piece of advice. I was torn between something generic like ‘don’t isolate yourself, get out there and make friends and contacts’ or something more philosophical.

What I went with was something along the lines of ‘Just remember – nobody wants you. You’re doing something that nobody in the world actually needs. It’s often useless and frivolous.’

This wasn’t meant to be a barrage of ill-placed ‘real talk’. I still remember my alcoholic lecturer coming in and telling us ‘nobody would be successful ever’. What I was trying to remove is the concept of entitlement. Far too many writers believe they are being hard done by, because it’s a very difficult craft and industry. But the industry owes you nothing – so you have to work hard to make your place. Think outside the box, be professional, be organised. If your plays aren’t being produced, produce them yourself, if you think there should be a walrus themed poetry night, organise it. You can’t rely on favours – but if you are out there making yourself known, opportunities might come up, things might happen.

It was meant to be an inspiring kick up the ass, and to move away from the chic helplessness a lot of failed writers cultivate. But as per usual, I fucked up my word hole.  So now I’m writing it. Because writing is awesome and is a much more efficient medium to impose information on others. And as for some kind of cohesive message from my writing practice? Nothing except for possibly ‘I enjoy doing it still’.

Taxis

Until teleportation, they’re still… holy shit, that’s it. Let’s just call this blog ‘Teleportation Ode’ and leave it at that. We can all go home, go back to our normal lives and forget about this mad dream of spontaneously reviewing things.

THE STARS:

I’ve had some perfectly lovely taxi trips in my time. Of course, the majority of successful taxi rides consist of being so non-eventful that they slip from your mind like an upside-down pear cake on the back of a greasy Bactrian camel. Mmm. Pear cake. It turns out that with taxis, we ignore the government propaganda pounded into our nubile brains during the HSC and forget the ‘journey’. Notable exceptions include the driver who gave us a bunch of chocolate bars for some reason, and the one who genuinely seemed to like my shoes.

LACK OF STARS:

If there was ever a metaphor that embodies the boring to the terrifying aspects of human experience, the taxi-cab is one that you can get into the back seat of and smell deeply. Now, I don’t want to simply complain about the funky human car-sauna stench, or the casual racism, or the GTA style driving – it’s all a little bit bad stand-up night in early 90s New York. What’s the deal with airplane food? I dunno, what’s the deal with how pointless your life is? You just can’t explain some things.

“What’s the deal with how much my leg is on fire?”

 But in the manner of experiences everywhere, sometimes your fare-paying experience in these maverick cars-for-hire are extraordinary. I could go on in depth about the terrifying Vietnam taxi which took us into a shanty-town and shook us down for more money, realised we didn’t have anymore, and then politely dropped us off at our destination. Or the driver who took me and my girlfriend from last years work Christmas party, roaringly drunk, to another Christmas party and decided to ask us riddles. Yes, riddles, like a poorly paid road sphinx. And furthermore, they were riddles where the answers were shallowly hidden morality tales with a patriarchal fundamentalist Christian message.

“While a fish is a good answer, it is not correct.
The answer is marry your girlfriend and stop living in sin, you heathen.”

But at this time of year I get quite a few taxis from work after 1am, due to Western Australia being firmly entrenched in the past. It’s a thing, and it would all be fixed by a quick secession. At that point in the evening after many hours of work, I find it difficult to enact even the most basic of human interactions. So, you can imagine my relief when I get into a taxi last night, to discover a scrupulously clean, new car scented taxi with a polite driver listening to gentle classical music. Classical is really not my thing, and usually just reminds me of Fantasia, but at this point in time I sat back and thought of dancing Pegasi and the like. Until, like a lot of classical music is fond of doing, it stopped being all light and frolicsome, and became dark and brooding like a storm or a cloud of deep voiced bees. And with the added depth, came increased volume. That’s when my driver started whistling along to the Wagner-esque tune. (OR IT COULD HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN WAGNER) And not even with any degree of proficiency – I’m talking the kind of tuneless, atonal drone of a serial killer washing his stabbing knives. As we drive past the Landsdowne Hotel, I look out the window to try and quell my rising panic, and briefly glimpse a couple in the alley. While I’m 97% sure the gentleman was just kissing this ladies neck, with the aural horror happening around me, it was clearly vampire/zombie/sex offender.
I decide to look ahead again, when I notice that we have significantly picked up speed, in relation to the increased pace of both the music and the toneless whistling of the driver. And that’s when we start running red lights. I mean sure, it’s very late at night and there’s about two other cars on the road. But isn’t that vaguely illegal?

As with most of my stories, there’s no real payoff. I didn’t get stabbed by the driver, and I didn’t come back from the dead to blog about it.

Or did I?

THE SCORE:

2/5 stars.

Wollongong

A small city on the south coast of NSW, Australia.

THE STARS:

Geography-

Existing in an uneasy alliance between towering mountains and frigid blue seas, there’s a small gap of time where the human brain can appreciate the raw beauty of the Illawarra region, before being utterly terrified by the steep mountain passes and ever present girdle of thick fog that makes driving, walking or singing a living nightmare.

Climate-

No matter how you’re dressed, IT’S ALWAYS WRONG.

History-

An essay in failure, Wollongong is populated entirely by the descendants of people who realised that their particular field of employment was wildly unsuitable for the region. Whether agriculture, aggressive dancing or digging up ‘blue steel’ from the ground, nothing has really stuck. Enjoying a brief renaissance from the popularity of ‘grunge’ music in the 90s’, Wollongong squats to the south of Sydney like that awkward childhood friend who decided to come to your 21st despite the fact you haven’t seen them in fifteen years. They’re wearing corduroy.

LACK OF STARS:

Demographics-

Figure 1a.

Transport-

One of the more convoluted mule systems on this side of the Pacific.

Media-

The Illawarra Mercury does an admirable job of keeping the populace up to date on people who have recently found their lost pets and dada-esque articles on the rampant and incessant corruption that occurs on all levels of local government.

BREAKING NEWS.

Arts and Entertainment-

In terms of nightlife, the undenied hot spot – like a Gonorrheic sore – is the well known nightclub ‘The Glasshouse’. The funky success of this club has led to the popular saying,
“People in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks at babies, you filthy skanks”.

Wollongong is also the cultural capital of a quaint custom known as ‘glassing other bitches’.

NIGHTLIFE.

Sport-

I believe they have all the prerequisite teams of rapists and exposers to be able to compete at a national level.

THE SCORE:

2/5 stars. That place is whack.

Stars

Giant gaseous explosions that live in the sky.

THE STARS

Sure, they’re hell pretty I guess. Plus they help me rate things.

LACK OF STARS

Stars get a lot of positive press, but you have to ask, what have they actually done for us? I believe a star may have led some shepherds to el baby Jesus, but I can’t remember why they needed to be there anyway. Probably, after following the cruel, interstellar peer pressure of the star, their sheep wandered off and they were ruined. Their children starved, the lamb market plummeted and a whole bunch of moneylenders jumped out of the temple windows in despair. But it was all ok, because they have briefly glimpsed their messiah drooling near some oxen.

C’mon, all the lifestock handlers are doing it.

I had my own personal pain with stars earlier in my life. For those that know me, the notion that I am in any way ‘scientific’ or ‘methodical’ would probably cause people to wheeze out their own clavicles with laughter.  However, I did have a very systematic approach to superstition and religion. Basically, I periodically went through every deity and custom, such as ‘Buddha’ or ‘Making a wish when blowing out your candles’, and asked for the same, simple thing. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking, that i’d ask for a giant cat made out of fire to ride and magic powers and the strength of a thousand warthogs.

I tell people I always wanted to be a writer,
but what you see above is how I envisioned my future,

No. I realised that maybe there are divine rules about that sort of thing, so I just asked for something simple, pedestrian, and obviously simple for the supernatural to bring about. A sword and a crown. That’s all I wanted in life. A sword and a crown.

Anyway, when I got to the ‘wishing upon a star’ thing, I was in the family car looking out the window, and concentrating really hard on it. And to my surprise, as I’m wishing the heck out of things, a big green meteor flashes past me. Clearly a sign.
Oh and that’s the other thing. I realised that maybe it would be a bit too much for the sword and crown to appear in my hands/on my head, respectively, so I asked that they would appear in my underpants drawer. Cause I was strange.

So I ran home and looked in amongst my unmentionables, and there was no sword OR crown.

And that’s when I realised there is no magic, wonder or purpose in life.

THE STARS

2/5 stars.

Jesus

Died so that I could be forgiven for vomiting all over that army base that one time.

THE STARS:

Jesus is a mighty wizard. The Bible is full of stories of him proving his magical might to crowds of stupefied onlookers, with special tricks like walking on water and turning water into wine. He may be some kind of water spirit? Anyway, he sounds cool and all, but I wonder how gobsmacked the world would have been if these guys were around. Magicians that would have totally beaten his ‘moneylenders out of the temple’ trick.
Rowr. A holy trinity I can finally get behind. Ahem.
Yeah, imagine a religion with a WHITE TIGER involved. Certainly beats the goddamn Holy Dove. Although I did hear that the Holy Dove is good friends with Super Horse.
I’m also pretty enamoured with Jesus for giving us Christmas. I like this holiday a lot, i’m currently enjoying putting copious amounts of wine and ham inside me. However, if instead of Christmas, it was actually Siegfried and Roy day, I think i’d be just as happy.
LACK OF STARS:

From all reports, Jesus was a nice guy. I’d probably be more interested in his religion if the Bible was called ‘That nice guy I met once’. However, more terrible, horrible things have been done in his name than any other poor sap. For the simple sake of the Crusades, holy wars and inequities around the world, I have to deduct millions of stars from old J.Dawg. Ironic, because wasn’t there a big old star that appeared at his birth? Whatever. When I think of stupid, close minded, bigoted people, I find that I’m usually thinking of Christians of one form or another. At the moment I can’t really think of anybody more involved with holding back social progression and evolution than fundamentalist Christians. So, thanks a lot Christians, your combined retard hat has turned Jesus into that unfashionable pariah on the theological runway.

THE STARS:

2/5 stars.