Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Gift Of Greatness

I have this idea for a story that I don’t want to write.

A man lies in bed, tossing and turning, his mind in a state of great agitation, because he knows that life is passing him by and that he has nothing to show for it. His life will end, and no one will remember him.

Then, as if by magic, an angel appears before him, casting its heavenly light upon him, and it offers a gift, which is this:

“You may be any great person from history: Jesus or Beethoven, Mother Mary or Aristotle. Whoever you chose you will be, and when anyone speaks of that person, it will be you whom they are referring to.

I offer you this great gift, this gift of greatness in return of the last days of your meaningless life.”

The man thinks upon this and makes a decision.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


There are things hidden within the English language that those of us unskilled in its nuances overlook. Take this little revelation from Grammar Girl, How to Pronounce "The", for example.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Endless Revision

I was caught in that labyrinthine trap, endless revision, until these tips in the Huffington Post helped me find an exit.

31 Most Invaluable Pieces Of Writing Advice From Famous Authors

Earnest Hemingway's thoughts were particularly germane.

Monday, April 29, 2013

7 Tips For Aspiring Writers

If you've ever wondered if upping your alcohol intake would improve your writing, this article in The Huffington Post may be of interest.

If the article doesn't get your creative juices flowing, then perhaps Mason Currey's book about the daily rituals of creative people - Daily Rituals: How Artists Work - will give you some inspiration. I haven't read this book, but the Slate Culture Gabfest team was spruiking it pretty hard this week.

Friday, February 8, 2013

May the Shorts be with You

Isaiah Sheffer’s death upset me. I knew Sheffer through ‘Selected Shorts’, a weekly short-story podcast that, right up until his death, Sheffer presented and directed. I say I knew Sheffer, and I feel that I did. He would climb into my car through my iPod, and he would tell me a little about the short-stories I was about to hear. He was a warm and good humoured companion, and I miss him.

Selected Shorts is still being produced, and it still contains many of the qualities that Isaiah Sheffer instilled in it. This week’s podcast includes stories read by Stephen Colbert and Leonard Nimoy. If you like short-stories, if you like being read to, then Selected Shorts is a real treat, and I recommend you subscribe to it.

You can find out more about Selected Shorts here:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Wall

On his first day back after holidaying in Germany, a work colleague walked across to my desk and handed me a small piece of Perspex encased concrete. It was a fragment of the Berlin Wall.

As I looked down at that small artefact, that thumb-sized chunk of history, my head began to spin. Here was the world shrunk to Lilliputian dimensions. This trinket gave me a physical connection to a great event, a hopeful and world-changing event, an event that had taken place many miles from my small city in the South Pacific. This object folded space, made the world, for a moment at least, dimensionless.

Ours is a history defined by wars and walls, barriers and brutality. These things may not define us, but they have shaped us for thousands of years. If we have learned nothing from history they will continue to shape us until we do.

Perhaps my colleague’s small gift is not unlike the gift a writer offers his reader. A story draws us close to things that are far away; it reminds us of our interconnectedness; it reminds us of the value and beauty of freedom, and of peace.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Write Something

There is Something looming in the dark, can you feel it? It’s a big footed Something. It’s a pointy toothed Something.

The Something is getting closer - you can hear it breathing now – and, as you sit down to write, you can feel it leaning over your shoulder. You feel its fetid breath upon your cheek as it whispers in your ear.

“What are you going to write?”

“I was…,” you reply. But you find that the foggy breath of the Something has permeated your mind.

“I was…,” you repeat feebly. For suddenly it strikes you that the very thought of writing is ridiculous. The idea that you might have an idea worth sharing is laughable.

The Something is grinning.

You recap your pen. You close your notebook’s cover. You think the pointless thoughts of a writer who sat down to work but who has just recapped their pen and closed their notebook.

You do not turn to the Something and slap it across its furry chops. You do not turn to the Something and give it a big hug. You sit in the silence, and you do not move.

The Something sneaks quietly from the room. You did not confront him. You did not embrace him. But you feel better - for now, anyway.

Writing is nothing but controlling anxiety, says Janet Fitch, author of the best seller White Oleander.

I agree.