love in the time of the goat pig after life

The best life advice from my BFF, sister and cousin, Melissa

‘Ree, just remember that Aunty Antoinette was once a goat that was rescued by farmer Uncle Tony, rofl. I don’t know how that’s meant to help, besides providing comic relief, but just don’t give up on finding the merciful human to your rescued former pig life. If you were a pig in a past life, he probably fed you, treated you well, made sure you got lots of sun and good food, and then lovingly led you to the slaughter. Stuff that! None of us know who is in our future.’

(some background: our uncle was telling us recently how a Buddhist monk told him how his wife was a goat in another life that was rescued by this uncle, a human, because she was meant to be cooked, and now she is married to him because of that debt. Oh how we laughed!)

modern dating

I recorded my friends while they were on Tinder. I can honestly say this is the greatest accidental podcast.

Highlights from the first 20 minutes:

‘Good arms…has a puppy…IS A FIREMAN?!?!?!’

‘He has a short face…as though he’s probably short. I don’t know how I can tell he’s short from looking at his face, but I just can’

‘Okay Andrew, which one are you out of this Motley crew?’

‘Mentioning that you don’t have tiger photos is the new tiger photo’

*

‘I’d swipe right on your brother’

‘HEY!’

*

‘This is a step up from the tiger – has a falcon…and a bandana….and a PIRATE SHIP!’

‘Open mouth! That’s a good sign!’

‘Too green!’

‘Oh archery, that’s different, I haven’t seen much archery’

‘Blendr, what even IS a Blendr?!’

‘IN WHAT ALTERNATE UNIVERSE WOULD THAT EVER BE DEEMED ATTRACTIVE?’ *disgruntled groans of pain*

‘Did they recently do a loser outreach program or is it normally this bad?’

*

‘It’s like panning for gold…there’s a tiny speck…oh no, it’s just a bit of glitter’

Everyone yells at once: ‘FOOL’S GOLD!’

*

‘Oh this one works for this cool company, maybe you could get a job out of him’ –

‘Yeah if I could get a job out of it that would be cool’

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU TWO?!’

*

‘Knock on the sky and listen to the sound!’ (reading someone’s bio)

‘Hold onto the potential dream’ – ‘No, he’s wearing a waistcoat’

‘and you know how they all put up a shirtless photo and sometimes you’re like maybe you shouldn’t?’

‘Is that a girl?’

‘It looks like his head has been cut out and put on his body’

(and some rare success)

‘YES, YES, YES!’ … *sing song voice* ‘It’s a Match!’

Tiny’s Handy Guide to Always Loving Someone

Life is tough, you guys.

There’s so much to deal with – other people, animals, food, things to do, people to love, people to lose, food eating, stuffing the face with as much food as possible.

Look it’s mostly just about eating, I’ll be honest with you. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is deluded.

But sometimes people confuse eating feelings for loving romantic feelings. It happens. Don’t be ashamed.

Now, if you have never loved a person before, this is apparently less ideal than the alternative, which is to have:

a)    Loved

And/or

b) Lost

A person (and NOT…just a chicken wing).

That sounds like crazy talk to me. So let me get this straight – it is apparently BETTER to have poured your soul into another person and watch on helplessly as they walk away, never to look back again, leaving you floundering like an abandoned puffer fish.

this is you

this is you

Or so the saying goes…

I’d like to dispense some worldly advice on how to proceed should you find yourself still loving someone uncontrollably.

1. Firstly, accept it. Accept the whole god dam lot of it. Whatever you’re feeling. Just go for it. Pick it up, hold it out in your hands and coo at it like a tiny little bird. That little bird is your broken heart. Hold it tightly.

2. Now throw that bird into the air and WATCH IT FLY!

3. If the bird is not flying, please contact local animal services immediately. I won’t have this bird’s death on my hands.

4. There is no bird.

5. METAPHORS.

6. You should look back on the past when you loved that person and think about everything that happened. Wasn’t it a rare, happy, unforgettable and beautiful time in your life? Think of all those crazy moments.. All the memories? Yep, grab those too. Gather them all. Don’t become embittered through the battle and forget all of a sudden. Don’t let them flutter away like the torn up pages of a love letter or the ashes of the photos you most definitely did not burn because they’re on your hard drive, duh.

Please stop burning your hard drive.

Put. the hard drive. down.

Why do any of this? Because all of this was worth something to you once and it will always be worth something to you. You can’t deny it. You can’t put off any suffering like it’s some kind of ‘lay buy’ item that you can’t afford right now, and will deal with later. You have to deal with it at some point. It will catch up to you. And Suffering has a lay buy policy of 28 days, quite possibly.

And as one very wise housemate recently said: ‘think of everything in your life that was the most worthwhile thing you’ve ever experienced. I guarantee there was some element of suffering involved in getting to that point’.

So feel ALL THE EMOTIONS. Also, try to live with a meditation guru, like me, they’re good value.

cake

7. Don’t feel like taking the one way ticket downtown to memory lane? No worries, I’ll go first and make some memories for you. It’s 3am and you’re sitting in your bathtub, drunk off your face, fully clothed and trying to brush your teeth. He’s also drunk and trying to climb in to the bathtub to brush his teeth. It makes no sense, this is not a place for hygiene-related manoeuvring, please stop that immediately.

You both start laughing hysterically.

‘We’re so crazy in this bathtub!’

Someone mentions the word pizza and you think, shit, we need pizza right now! But you’ll never make it out of that bathtub. You’ll pass out there, intertwined with them because they are all you need in that moment, only you won’t know that until it’s too late.

That’s a memory you’ll keep for future reference.

That’s a feeling you’ll learn to recognise in time when the right person comes along.

Cherish it because when they leave – and they always will – you’ll want to remember every little thing. This will be the first sign of when you come alive once more.

8. Look, I don’t mind if you borrow some of my memories: he’s bleeding from his arm and waving his hands around. ‘You’re bleeding!’ you shout, but he’s not listening. This is the drunkest he’s ever been. He stares at you, his eyes widening. ‘oh my god, oh my god, oh my god’.

‘What, what is it?’, you say, distressed after having to wake him up from off the pavement and then again in the taxi.

‘OH GOD. OH GOD. You’re the most beautiful girl in the entire universe! WOW, I can’t believe it what is this life?!’ he cries out, completely distressed. He passes out, bleeding. He has no recollection of it the next day. You remind him he cut his elbow. He laughs, pulls his shirt up and looks amazed by the bandage there.

You ask him if he remembers flipping out in the elevator over you but he doesn’t remember.

No matter – you will always remember.

How fucking wonderful is that?

(goodbye to 9)

10. ‘It can be like our honeymoon’, you say, sitting in the park for an impromptu picnic after you pretend to fake marry each other in order to placate his mother’s fears of living in sin.

11. You’re reminded that you’re not really married to each other. Mostly at the airport before he goes back to Germany and says he is afraid of settling down too young. You brush this off while eating a chicken wrap and tell him to story worrying. You ignore everything, especially the chasms of doubt in his voice. You only hear the vibrating echoes of loneliness that characterise the next three weeks of his absence, only to be replaced by the calming feeling that comes from his return and how the vintage gold love heart that dangles from your neck seems to remove all traces of doubt.

That love heart is not a real heart. You still have yours in your chest cavity. Let that dangle from inside of you, let that push down any doubt that might surface. Don’t remember how his sister would whatsapp you late at night from Berlin, broken words flashing across your screen cruelly,

but he told he will come with you to Germany

and that he want Marry you

we bought the heart

and he searched for a Marry ring

– did he?

Yes. He asked the man. And we looked.

12. You’ll be sitting in a circle on the rocks, huddled around a bonfire, the crashing ocean to your left, looming cliffs to the right, passing whiskey around and telling ghost stories. He takes your hand and you think, how can this ever come to an end?

And it never does, because here it is, immortalised in words.

12. When you find yourself going over the same things over and over again – the way they walked away, the way they came back, the way you walked out of that diner despite a whole plate of fried chicken and sweet potato fries sitting before you (seriously, why is this the part you can’t get past?!)

Or the way you made coffee for him when he was trying to come back to you. You spilt the coffee in a rush to bring it to him and in return he rushed towards you, grabbing your hands, looking in your eyes. That was how you knew he still loved you and maybe always would; when you knew that people could still do that, even though they’re not with you anymore.

Think about the time they got trapped in your fire escape and you left them there for a little bit too long for a bit of revenge, the way your eyes would travel to that stupid art thing about love that you bought on a whim – how you had your names engraved on it –  okay that was too far why did you do that. Definitely tear that thing down.

But all of that is part of the process of healing. Meditate on it for a little while then cast it aside. Free up some space, make some room in your brain. And for God’s sake, sort out that fire escape issue – your building is a hazard to all people!

13. Give yourself enough distance from them, but once you’re in a better place, rekindle the friendship. Don’t lose people you truly love. Maybe they’ll still be awesome at the end of it.

14. When you do rekindle the friendship and meet up for burgers, and you find yourself starting to well up with tears with every chip you eat, knowing the meal will soon be over and the sweet, sweet burgers will be gone, but also how they too will be gone, don’t hold back. Cry if you want. Cry all the time. I’m all about crying.

Just know that one day you will stop crying.

Or at least, that’s what you’ll tell yourself and it might not be true. But that’s okay too. It’s okay to want to cry for the rest of your life.

Own it.

15. Try not to fall apart completely when your eyes give you away. Yes you still care. Yes they can still tell. Don’t even try to hide it. Instead, start singing, ‘I saw the sign and it OPENED UP MY EYES’, then do a little dance shuffle number. They’ll bloody love it!

16. Lie in the park with them. Go to hold their hand automatically then withdraw it almost immediately, hoping they won’t notice (they will). Definitely hold down the tears when they talk about that new girl they have a crush on, even though they hesitate so much before telling you. Don’t think about being in parks and having picnics and honeymoons.

It was a fake honeymoon.

Be happy for them.

17. Take everything they wrote to you, every single word. Read them all and smile, knowing it was real, it lived and you felt it in every part of you. Take it all in, knowing how it was unique and powerful and that no one on earth will ever truly experience what you did with that person. It was yours, it always will be.

It’s marked down in your soul, don’t you see?

Oh look, you’ve stopped crying.

Walk home now.

Go back to yourself.

Be you again.

Feel better yet?

Moments from a Monkey Mind

I  interviewed Jack Heath in 2008 for a creative non-fiction biography project. Jack wrote to me after reading the finished product remarking that he had done a lot of interviews before but was not sure anyone had quite got it as close to the mark as I had. It’s one of my favourite things to read over because it reminds me of how ridiculously astounding it was to hear and recount his jaw-dropping life story…

***

‘Warm Heart, Cool Head, Open Ears’ – Jack Heath

‘Are those jeans skinny leg jeans?’

‘I don’t think so. They look more like straight leg to me.’

‘They’re pretty trendy though.’

‘Oh I’d say they are definitely trendy.’

‘Let’s take a look inside.’

In Balmain, the social and political hub of Sydney’s Inner-West, Jack Heath leads me into a trendy clothing store. The side trip isn’t planned for and yet, like a child in a candy store, Jack is amused and excited to come across jeans in a shop window that he is certain are the same jeans he wore for a photo shoot that day.

It’s Jack’s sporadic nature that leads him from one thought to the next, segueing from one moment where we are perusing the streets of Balmain, to finding ourselves sifting through a clothing store. I fall into step behind Jack and follow with excitement wherever his train of thought leads him.

The first time I saw Jack, the creator of the Inspire foundation, all those years ago, he openly revealed his life story to a group of strangers. We drank in his words then; it was impossible to do anything but. He was placid in his delivery and yet as powerful as though he had slammed a truck into the room, followed briefly by stunned silence, as he recounted horrific and inspiring life events in a tone as diplomatic and as natural as one would adopt when discussing the weather forecast.

Coming to meet Jack one on one, I was a little apprehensive, knowing that on some days, Jack will reveal very little, and on others, it was getting him to stop that proved to be difficult. Jack is stumped when asked, before anything else, to describe himself in one sentence. A hard task for anyone put on the spot, but particularly for someone as modest and altruistic as Jack. Talking about himself exclusively is not something this man is inclined to do. Before he answers, I notice he sits with his shoulders slightly slumped, looking down every so often as if lost in thought. His left hand is adorned with a simple, wooden beaded bracelet, resembling rosary beads.

    ‘I guess someone trying to make a difference in the world while being a good father and husband.’

I want to get to the core of what Jack Heath is about, but have difficulty unveiling the man behind the mission. With each attempt to uncover a layer, Jack diverts the attention to a topic praising others, divulging information on the work Inspire has achieved, and rallying off his hopes for the future. But who is Jack? The question persists and yet he continues to evade talking about himself exclusively.

I imagine myself knocking on a door that leads to his brain.

Hello is Jack in?

No sorry, he’s away, but would you like to meet his extended family and all the people he loves, admires and wishes to be more like?

***

Jack was born in Melbourne and raised on a farm just out of Mooroopna in North Eastern Victoria, attending a Catholic boarding school in his formative years. The first of a series of shocking life events occurred in 1992 when his 21-year-old cousin tried unsuccessfully to blow his face off with a gun, before finally ending his life on the tracks of an oncoming train. To escape the trauma this had on his family, Jack threw himself into his career. It was at university that Jack cultivated a passion for politics and wanted to work for the PM. So he ended up working for Paul Keating.

‘Just like that?’

Just like that.

Perhaps it was sheer luck that upon walking into the job on the first day, Geoff Walsh announced that Don Watson, the main speech writer, was unable to work due to family issues and that Jack would be taking his place. So he spent the first week travelling with Keating, despite being warned that he might not get to spend much time with him. ‘You look at politics today, and in some ways a lot of it seems so banal, but we really felt that we were doing noble work and it was exciting times’.

One thing he is particularly proud of is working on the Creative Nation statement in 1994. It was here that he learnt that things could be changed with a strong vision. There was a line they created for Keating in 1994 that was almost prophetic in its delivery – Everyone can become a journalist – referring to great technological advancements, back when the net was still something you used when you went fishing.  Jack was enraptured by the internet and what it had to offer. Images of a younger Jack looking at a giant internet screen in a shop window with the same excitement procured by the skinny leg jeans, flash somewhat instantaneously before my eyes.

‘I was adamant that if Christ was alive at the time, he would have had his own web page’.

Jack’s inclination for technology and strong desire to use these innovative tools would later characterise the creation of the Inspire Foundation and the process of reaching out to help young people through the internet medium. He admits that his cousin’s suicide was a turning point in his life and he began to look for ways to address issues of mental illness in Australia. It was around this time in 1995 that he developed his brain child, the Inspire Foundation.

Today Inspire strives to promote international awareness of mental illness and improve the well being of young people through technology and youth involvement. ‘The idea is to attract young people to use and engage with content that improves their mental health and promote their well being’, according to recently appointed CEO Kerry Graham. Reach Out, Inspire’s main branch, has achieved outstanding success in raising awareness of mental illness and depression among young people in Australia with Jack citing cases where young people write to him saying that Reach Out stopped them from committing suicide. The slogan ‘Life sucks now has a website’ adorns billboards and radio slots everywhere. Jack’s achievement with Inspire saw him win the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2007.

In contrast to the hip surroundings of Balmain, Jack was raised a farm boy. He recounts those days with an almost reverent respect for the land. You can see how the daily ritualistic slaughter of animals and the constant connection to the land has affected Jack. He is halfway through describing the current state of their farm property being compulsory acquired, when he suddenly falls into an almost trancelike state, describing the way it used to be. He recounts the smell of clover, being around animals, and the constant smell of raking hay. Being so close to the earth meant Jack felt quite grounded about, as he puts it in colloquial terms, ‘stuff’. He saw the transition of the seasons and experienced firsthand the cruelty of long periods of drought.

A powerful memory for him is that of a sick calf or lamb that was brought home and put in the shearing shed. ‘They’d be lying there almost dead and you’d have to try and put a tube down their throats to feed them. And you know sometimes they’d survive which is wonderful and sometimes they wouldn’t.’

Following this sombre tone, the monkey mind kicks in and Jack remembers how he used to love climbing trees, where he would climb as far as he could.  I can’t help but wonder if his restless mind is his way of staying on the positive side of life.

When talking to Jack, it’s easy to get the sense that you’re speaking with a big kid, someone who never really grew up. But the reality is that Jack was forced to grow up too quickly. He mentions briefly how he was sexually abused by a priest for six months at boarding school. It comes out rather quickly, almost unexpected, but still in the same tone of voice Jack has adopted throughout. He appears unaffected by this revelation despite the fact that it took almost 30 years before he could speak out about this traumatic part of his life. Jack later admits in another interview that he considers taking action and becoming a survivor rather than a victim of sexual abuse by a priest, as one of his greatest achievements.

Jack has always been religious but in different ways. When he was five or six he wanted to be the Pope, but he didn’t know how to pronounce it: ‘I wanted to be the Poke at the age of 5.’ Jack has come a long way since those early Catholic days and part of me wonders if the previous revelation had any impact on this departure from institutionalised religion to a more spiritual and meditative path. His strong affinity with Buddhism is evident in his mannerisms, his patience and his calm demeanor – but also from the continuous reference to past actions and previous lives.  It’s hard to imagine that he was once battling to control his anger. I ask him about the beads on his wrist. The Buddhist version of rosary beads, the mala has just 21 beads on it. You say mantras and repeat them 21 times.

‘So it also helps you focus the mind as well. There are times you can’t do without it.’

Even in his answers, I can tell that Jack is thinking about something else or is keen to take the conversation to a different level. When a Tibetan Buddhist teacher warned him against running away and becoming a monk in a cave on the premise that he had a monkey mind, it raised all sorts of questions about what a monkey mind actually is.

‘A monkey mind is just a mind that jumps around all the time from one thing to the other.’ In meditation you have to train the mind to be still and focused, just on one thing. ‘Whereas my mind is jumping around, so my teacher was basically saying, look it doesn’t really matter what your external circumstances are, if you haven’t trained your mind, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a cave or somewhere else.’

Can there be other states of mind?

‘There’s the Rainy Elephant who goes in full steam wherever, and the third one is the Sloth mind, it just sits there and doesn’t do anything.’

In between deciding if I have a Rainy Elephant or a Sloth Mind, Jack orders lunch.

‘Do you think you still have a monkey mind?’

‘Yeah yeah. Oh yeah. You know it’s interesting, when you start off with Tibetan Buddhism, you feel like you’re making lots of progress. Then after a while it’s sort of, I don’t know whether or not it’s the novelty that wears off or you just realise your mind is not anywhere near as controlled as you wanted or thought or whatever…  Hi, can I get the risotto? Are you sure you don’t want a cup of tea or something?’

‘I’m fine thanks really.’

‘Please I insist.’

‘Maybe a juice?’

‘Yeah.’

‘And can I get a piece of lemon or something like that? Or a grapefruit juice? Can I get a ginger beer? I like that. Actually what I’d like is lemon grass tea, that’d be better. Thanks a lot. Where were we? Oh right. Monkey mind’

Does Jack want to completely erase the monkey mind through meditation?

‘I think you can in time, if you practice hard enough, and that’s the goal. Part of it is to be able to train the mind so then you can have a bigger impact on the world. So it doesn’t mean you actually stop doing the work, you just train the mind to focus better, and then you’ll have a bigger impact.’

With this revelation I am peeling off the layers with my own hands and making real progress in getting to the bottom of the Jack Heath Monkey Mind Mystery.

One thing that I can pinpoint about Jack and Jack alone is his special affinity with celebrities and people in the public profile. He’s hung out with Cathy Freeman, made business deals with Rupert Murdoch, chatted with the Dalai Lama, drank gin and tonics with the first chief Justice of Burma, bonded with Paul Keating, and yet any special attention he receives from these people has no apparent effect on him. He even describes Murdoch as ‘warm and generous’ and Keating as a ‘nice, friendly, down to earth guy’.

It’s clear from the outset that Jack has a special friendship with Cathy Freeman, a friendship that is not befitted with mere words, but he gives it a go anyway. ‘We have a lot of laughs together which is really important. You know, I think she’s quite an extraordinary person. We took a road trip when she first became a Patron of Inspire, and just had conversations about life, the universe, love. I think there was just a really nice clicking together, a really strong and easy bond.’

With Jack’s Buddhist background, he can’t help but wonder what would have happened in previous lives, if he and Cathy were somehow connected. Jack often speaks about previous lives and karma with certainty, as though he is aware of something that the rest of us are oblivious to.

Jack’s friendships mean the world to him and so the loss of a dear friend in Thailand marked another turning point in his life. Although he describes the rape and murder of Ewa Czajor with the same calm tone of voice that he has adopted throughout, I notice the water in his eyes has shifted slightly at the mention of her. All prior discussion of karma and previous lives leads to an eerie realisation that Ewa was murdered in January 1988, the same year and month of my birth. Something in the air changes and there’s a brief silence before Jack attempts to recount these horrific events.

‘She was a good friend of ours, she was supposed to stay with us in Thailand, but two days before she arrived they told me her body had been found in Northern Thailand’. It happened in a cave and Jack believes she was murdered by monks, a shocking theory that he refrains from elaborating on but mumbles something about not wearing shoes before entering the cave.

Jack wanted to be there during the crisis so he flew up and before he knew what he was doing, he raised his hand and volunteered to view the body. At the time he believed he could handle it, having seen dead animals on the farm. He soon learnt that a human body, much less the body of someone close to him, was an entirely different story altogether. In Thailand it didn’t make the news. Back home it was all over Sixty Minutes.

After Ewa’s death, Jack began to drink a lot, party a lot. He was quite manic at times: ‘a wild, crazy guy’, he says as he calmly pours the boiling water over his lemon grass tea. ‘Until you find your path, you kinda just want to push up against things really hard’. Dancing was a way of ‘getting back into the ground’. Years later, Jack went back to the site where Ewa was murdered, where he found himself at a crossroads. Something inside his head told him to go back, to not continue down this one particular path, and that’s when he knew it was the place where she was murdered. When Jack tried to meditate after going back there, he always heard a women wailing somewhere in the distance.

Jack has an intensity about him when he speaks, but every so often he might laugh and his blue eyes follow suit with a trace of incandescence. It’s this laughter that reassures you of all the clichés about beating the odds and rising above the ashes. He truly is a source of hope and I realise that although Jack’s life has been characterised by as many lows as there were highs, I can’t help but smile in the end.

I click on Reach Out and discover Jack’s life motto to young people everywhere.

‘Walk, don’t run. Attain enlightenment for the benefit of others. Have a good shit at least once a day.’

The picture I seem to have painted in my head of this man is almost complete. Almost.
We have almost come full circle but I’m tempted to ask:

Who do you think you were in a past life? The man before me smiles coyly and I suspect that this little part of Jack Heath will remain a secret.

Ira Glass on Creativity

At first, the idea behind starting an anonymous blog came about in order to learn and grow as a writer. For me I’ve always known that this blog was meant to be more than that. It has political undertones and ‘revolution’ in the name. Naturally I wanted to build it up to be something more, but always knew that this would take time and patience. I know of the importance to first  establish yourself as a writer, developing your own unique style and voice. You need to be okay with making mistakes. You need to stay in the habit of writing as often as possible. You know intrinsically that what you’re doing isn’t perfect but that’s the beauty of it. It’s raw and on the edge, tumbling and convalescing down rocky mountains, hoping to get better as you go along.

Recently I found myself experiencing a bit of drama when somebody I highly respected in the creative industry thought it would be a fun little side project to make jokes about my blog in front of our friends. The running joke was about how I simply ‘live blogged everything that happened to me’, rather than writing the best personal essays I could possibly write in the small half hour windows available to me, the full time employee. Often these are not ‘live’ at all but rather nostalgic and reflective.

What I’ve learned is how important it is to be taken seriously by your peers and mentors, something I was clearly struggling with. It doesn’t help when people reduce you to cliches and stereotypes, simply because they’re too antiquated to understand blogging and social media and how these are differentiated. I found it even more insulting when, upon being asked if this person read my blog, they replied that they had not, despite having commented on an article already and feeling confident enough make a running joke out of it. I was interrogated about my motives for the blog and what I expected to gain from it, all under the slightly patronising tone that it would probably not lead to anything anyway. I would imagine most people struggle to discuss their most passionate and personal endeavours with anyone, let alone at a wild and rowdy group dinner, but here we were, putting it all out on the table (literally) and leaving a mark on my already vulnerable writing self esteem.

I shouldn’t have taken those words to heart but I did. I shouldn’t have read into the subtle insinuations or even cared what other people thought. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me (or that I wasn’t dealing with other personal issues that were also being brought up). I let it beat me down a little and didn’t feel like writing anything.

Then I read this article about learning to make something and taking years to be good at it and stumbled upon this awesome quote from Ira Glass. I think people underestimate how sensitive professional writers can be around their writing. This isn’t just something we do. It’s an expression of who we are. To take a cheap stab at it is to essentially take a cheap stab at the writer too.

I think it’s important to have positive, useful and encouraging mentors in your life, there to tell you all the things most accomplished creatives couldn’t be bothered passing on, now that they’ve already tasted the bitterness of their own success. Stay away from the bitter ones. Rush head first towards the light of positivity and empowerment. Be imperfect. And write, write, write until you get good.

Some lovely words of advice from This American Life’s Ira Glass:

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Thank you for reading this blog and for supporting me in my tiny endeavours. I cannot truly articulate my gratitude with mere words (I know, the irony!)

rebuild and fortify

words of healing from a dear friend, not so long ago:

‘…whereas I know you’re in the ‘rebuild and fortify’ stage, battening down the hatches, regrouping and planting some motherfucking roses and re-writing what the next few years are going to look like and every time he gets in touch, it’s like he’s knocking a wall down’.

Tiny Answers (part 2)

@Omar asks:

If you could live inside the head of any living person for an hour, and only an hour, which person would you choose, at what hour, and why?

Jesus, this is a hard one. My first thought was my brain’s hero Noam Chomsky but my own brain would be so overwhelmed by the Chomsk brain, I’d probably have brain failure for the both of us (HEAVENS FORBID).

My second thought was Terrence Malick, because I’d really like to know if there are dinosaurs up there and whether it’s just one giant wheat field. I then thought I would choose to enter Obama’s brain at the hour when he went to George Bush’s opening of his museum thing and gave that speech about this being an admirable man. Hahaha. Nice joke Obama, but what are you REALLY thinking here?

While we could almost easily imagine what was going on inside George W Bush’s head (tumbleweed, fat midget on a swing, dancing monkeys), we have absolutely no fucking idea what’s going on inside Obama’s head and that is pretty scary. Not even Daniel Day Lewis can work this guy out, although I’m sure he’ll try.

Obama is a charming enigma. I’d like to go inside his head and see if he feels remorse for his drone program, which routinely kills ‘terror suspects’ and innocent civilians. Does he feel bad about that whole escalating the war in Afghanistan? What’s his next move? Is he really going to ‘intervene’ (read: invade) Syria? Probs, why not, it’s been a while since the US publicly declared war on a nation.

WAIT. This just reminded me. Can I go inside George W Bush’s head as well? To that exact moment when he’s reading to the little kids and someone whispers in is head about the Twin Towers being hit by planes?

Spoiler alert: more tumbleweed. Not a whole happening up there on planet Bush brain.

Thanks for the (surprisingly difficult) question Omar! We’ll be back next week for more of ‘Ask Tiny’.