#BorderFarce. Shooting the messenger 101

#BorderFarce. Shooting the messenger 101

Inept. Unfathomable. Hopeless. I’m not sure my thesaurus has enough words to describe the complete and utter shemozzle that was last week’s Border Force debacle, aka #BorderFarce, in Melbourne. The coals of this event-that-wasn’t have been well scraped over by now but there is one aspect of the story that deserves a little more fanning.

It has to do with writing or, more specifically, writers writing on behalf of other people.

The fuel of this issue was a media release issued by the Australian Border Force on the morning of Friday, August 28. Australian Border Force is the new militaristic name of what used to be Customs and Immigration – the people who work in airports and ports making sure that people entering Australia have permission to do so via their passport and/or visa and don’t carry potential nasties in their luggage. Presumably the name change is designed to make visitors to this country that little bit more wary of trying to enter without having their paperwork in order, lest they incur the wrath of the Force.

But I digress.

Posted by

There may be no new ideas, but there are always new perspectives

There may be no new ideas, but there are always new perspectives

Recently we took an international guest to Sydney for the weekend. Melbourne is a great place with heaps to do and eat, but I always feel a visit to Australia isn’t complete until it has included the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Seeing them is as essential as seeing Big Ben in England or the Eiffel Tower in France.

In any case, I just love any excuse to go to Sydney myself. And when I’m there, what do I love doing most? Seeing the harbour bridge and, especially, the Sydney Opera House. I simply cannot spend long enough looking at that wonderful building. Or photographing it.

I must have taken thousands of pictures of the Opera House over the years. Me and millions of others. But that doesn’t stop be taking more. The thing is, the building is so spectacular and in such a great location that there is always another way of seeing it.

The point is that even one of the most iconic, over-photographed buildings in the world can always be looked at, and photographed, in a different way.

Posted by

How to avoid writing words that won't be read

How to avoid writing words that won't be read

How much do you read? I don’t mean look at, flick through or scan – I mean actually read. From start to finish, one word at a time, absorbing every sentence and even pausing once in a while to check your understanding or to ponder what you’ve just read. My guess is: not much. And almost certainly less than you used to.

We don’t hear the term ‘information overload’ as much as we used to, but that’s not because the problem has gone away. It’s because it is now a way of life. We’ve just become conditioned to it. Between email, blogs, news websites, print media and social media, there is simply not enough time to drink everything that is coming at us from the never-ending all-you-can-eat buffet of today’s information sources.

As a result, to avoid indigestion, most of us have become picky. When faced with a new document (either paper or electronic), we make a quick assessment of its worth. Some are tossed without a second glance. Some are scanned … and then tossed. Some are scanned and kept … and then tossed. And a small amount is lucky enough to be read.

Posted by

Increase impact by making eye contact in your writing

Increase impact by making eye contact in your writing

On a recent episode of television news-comedy The Weekly, contributor Kitty Flanagan put together a funny but telling story about road rage. She asked the question: Why is it that we are so ready to lose our cool in the car, while we almost never do so as pedestrians?

I’ve thought about this before and I believe a major contributor to road rage is a lack of eye contact. When someone cuts in front of us on the road, we don’t see another person. We see a hunk of metal with an invisible driver. There is no emotional connection between us and the other driver. That connection exists on the footpath and guess what? Little or no ‘path rage’. 

Our eyes are an incredibly powerful tool for making emotional connections. But what does that have to do with writing, where clearly eye contact is not possible?

Posted by

The four stages of editing

The four stages of editing

My colleague Ann Bolch, one of our editors, recently wrote a post on her own blog about a common misunderstanding of what ‘editing’ means. Unless you’ve suffered under the point of an editor’s red pen, you may not realise that editing ain’t editing – that there are various stages of editing between a draft and its final form. Ann is here to explain in this very lightly edited version of her original.

Many people come to me asking to have their work edited.

Fair enough. I’m an editor. But the first question, ‘What sort of editing are you after?’ often stumps them.

Simple requests like, ‘Can you edit my 82,000-word novel?’ or ‘I have a website that needs updating – is this something you would do?’ soon become complicated because, actually, there are four stages of editing. And we need to know which stage the project is at before we can write a proposal outlining timeframe, costs and approach.

Posted by

I've stopped reading the news and feel better for it. Which is not good.

I've stopped reading the news and feel better for it. Which is not good.

I’ve always been a politics junkie. As a teenager I avidly read the papers and watched the news, providing a running commentary on the politics of the day to whoever would listen (even if that was just the dog). I can’t imagine not subscribing to a daily newspaper. For someone like me the greatest godsend of the internet has been the gift of access to more online news than I could ever read. 

At least that was the case. Not any more. 

A couple of weeks ago I declared that I will no longer read about politics, listen to political interviews or watch the television news. I’m unsubscribing from Crikey, turning off Q&A and listening to more music.

Why? Because it has got to the point that tuning into politics makes me physically tense. At times it makes me so angry I feel like … like … Damn it!

Today’s political leaders are treating their audience – we voters – with complete contempt. Being true to your values no longer matters. Nor does saying what you really think. Don’t be authentic – it’s too risky.

Posted by

Can you still make a buck out of a book?

Can you still make a buck out of a book?

The recent launch of Apple Music, overnight a gorilla-sized player in the streaming music industry, has again raised debate about, essentially, reward for effort when it comes to creativity. I came across an excellent blog post by Hugh Hancock on this topic the other day that does a great job of pulling apart what is happening in the creative world. 

All this, and other recent discussions, has got me rethinking the value of the non-fiction business book to its author.

Production is getting easier

Hancock’s article is a fairly deep analysis of what is happening in film and television making, computer game production and various other formats. The gist of his conclusion is this: in all these areas, production has become vastly cheaper and easier than it used to be. In film making, for instance, it is now entirely possible to make a high-quality production with handheld cameras and a crew of two, including the director. Needless to say that’s a lot less people than you’ll see on the credits of the average Hollywood flick.

The same can be said of music, where home studios are now commonplace and results of very high standard can be produced on relatively inexpensive equipment. The ‘barrier to entry’ for a new and completely unknown musician is lower than ever. 

Writing, of course, became ‘easy’...

Posted by

How Pixar's 'Inside Out' delivers an important lesson for writers

How Pixar's 'Inside Out' delivers an important lesson for writers

I’m a huge fan of Pixar, the animated film wizards who have given us, amongst others, the Toy Story series, Monsters Inc. and one of my top 10 favourite movies, Finding Nemo. Any filmmakers who can consistently make a grown man tear up in a cartoon must be masters of the emotions, and Toy Story 3 is probably the most heartstring-pulling film I have ever seen.

Pixar’s latest film, Inside Out, takes things in a new direction by taking us inside the head of an 11-year-old girl where we get to meet her feelings and explore her memory. Once again they’ve managed to put together a completely engaging story for both adults and kids, only this time they’ve combined their story with some pretty serious science.

Posted by

The single biggest way to get more focused and productive

The single biggest way to get more focused and productive

As I prepared my breakfast this morning it dawned on me that technology’s obsession with notifications isn’t restricted to devices like the Apple Watch. These days everything needs to tell you when it’s done. Our toaster beeps when it has finished its cycle. So does the dishwasher. And the washing machine. Even my electric toothbrush alerts me to the fact that I’ve been brushing for the optimum amount of time.

It’s only a matter of time before all these notifications get rerouted to Silicon Valley and back to my phone or (if I had one) watch.

It was this realisation that caused me to revisit the notifications on my phone.

Posted by

5 rules for writers when working with fonts

5 rules for writers when working with fonts

I was a bit misty eyed during the week after reading of the death of Hermann Zapf. Zapf was a typographer and font designer. He gave us the widely used Palatino typeface, Optima (one of my favourite fonts) and the Zapf Dingbats (you’ve probably used some of them), amongst others.

To be honest I hadn’t heard of Zapf before. What made me go all nostalgic was the thought of what this 96-year-old had seen over his life and that he will continue to make his mark, via his fonts, for many years to come.

I’ve always loved a good font. However, as a writer I’m also aware of the potential dangers of being a ‘fontoholic’. Believe me, there are a lot of fonts out there if you go looking for them.

Here are the five strategies I use in order to manage this condition.

Posted by