MUSIC MONDAY

Well, it’s Monday, and the whole world is in need of motivation on a Monday. With that need in mind, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to music. Hence the overtly clever title: Music Monday.

How does music fit in with a blog on the topic of writing? Let me introduce you to one of my favourite musicians: Passenger.

Passenger, aka Mike Rosenberg, is a British singer/songwriter; writer being the important verb in that sentence. While his musical talents are superb, for me it’s his abilities to sculpt stories and piece together poems within his chosen medium that make him outstanding. Mike tells stories from his own life, but infuses them with a greater depth and meaning that make them accessible to any listener.

Example 1:

Not only can he weave accurate observations and experiences into his songwriting, Mike is also a genuinely great performer. I’ve been lucky enough to see his live show twice and was charmed both times. With humour, talent, and sincere appreciation for his fans, Passenger’s shows leave you uplifted, awed, and developing a little bit of a crush for the man.

Example 2:

I have to hold back from listing a multitude of Passenger’s songs that demonstrate his plethora of gifts, instead check out his website here. Buy his music, and make your Monday better.

The second part of today’s post is a video demonstrating the restorative power of music. It also links conveniently with the nursing half of my persona. The people at the Music and Memory project have been doing incredible work bringing music to people with dementia. The results are outstanding. My words can’t possibly detail it. Watch and be moved:

The Music and Memory project’s website can be found here.

Hopefully you’ve lived through your Monday, been motivated by music, and, at some point in your day, read a good book.

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A SHORT PIECE

Given my latest post discussing the influence of nursing on my writing, I thought it appropriate to give an example.

I’ve uploaded a short story titled I’ll Look After You. To read, just wander across to the Writing tab. Or just click here.

As a nurse I’ve been told by at least ten different patients, “Don’t get old.” This story attempts to encapsulate that moment when a father and son’s relationship shifts. To show the scene when aged and debilitation becomes too big of a hurdle for someone to tackle alone.

DAY JOB

At this point in my bloggy relationship I should probably mention that I work as a nurse. It turns out an aspiring writer needs money for annoying necessities such as food, accommodation and hot running water. And toothpaste.

I originally started my tertiary education with a writing course, during which I vividly remember a visiting lecturer who told us the secret to great writing. Not good writing, but great. He quickly dismissed punctuation, form, plot, characterisation and dialogue. These he said come with practice, and anyone can practice. His secret to great writing was experience.

He outlined the multitude of various jobs he had worked, the things he had done, and the situations he had found himself in. One of which was finding himself diving off a transport ship into freezing waters in the middle of the night to catch a fish. Did I mention he was drunk? That’s probably relevant.

He assured us alcohol was not a necessary ingredient to great writing.

He did all this without ever picking up a pen. But, when at the age of forty-two, he did turn to writing, man, did he have something to write about. I remember sitting in the lecture hall listening to his growing list of experiences and reflecting that I had done nothing. The tale of an white-boy who completed year twelve and enrolled in a writing course is an isolated one. I had no insight into the greater world and therefore couldn’t accurately create it in my writing.

So when I decided I wanted a “real” job, I thought through the professions that expose you. Work that leave you open to experiences, people, good things, and horrible things. A job that gave you stories. Nursing seemed to be an avenue to people of various social status, a job that let you peek behind the curtain into the extremes of people’s’ lives. It was also a job I could be proud of. I applied, was accepted, and approached it feeling I would soon have my own bag of experiences.

I had no idea what I was entering.

Nursing ticked every imaginary box I had in my head, but I was unprepared for the tidal wave of reality, of nerve-scratching, gut-turning reality. Through nursing I have seen bodies in beds, frail stick-like limbs pocked with bedsores. I have seen husbands sit silently, looking empty without their wife by their side. I have seen people approach pain, exposure, and dependency with dignity and good humour. I’ve seen a man with blood leaking from his body, gritting his teeth in pain, attempt to comfort his family around him. I’ve had people swear at me, bite me, cry on me, and thank me. In short, I got experience.

When I think of the naivety in my approach to nursing I feel like laughing, slapping my hand on past-me’s shoulder, and saying, “You don’t know what you’re doing!” And I didn’t. But what I got was bigger than anything I expected. It was real. It was life.

So whilst the journey to gather my experiences was a rough one, I am thankful every day to that lecturer and his advice. I have met people who have amazed me, shocked me, and burnt me out.

I have been terrified but appeared confident because that’s what my patients needed.

I have seen the beautiful and the grotesque.

I have things to write about.

SAMPLING

I figured the blog of an aspiring writer is rather hollow if said blog fails to include any actual writing. In the spirit of filling out this blog until it struggles to button up its pants, I’ve uploaded a taster of my work.

Please feel free to sashay over to the writing page where you can sample the prologue of my novel-in-progress. Or, just click here. Hopefully it inflames your literary taste buds and leaves you figuratively drooling for more.

Not literally. That wouldn’t be good for your keyboard.

BEING PUBLISHED

As an aspiring writer who has yet to be published, nothing is more enticing, more gut-twisting, more giddy-inducing than the idea of being published. Seeing your own words in print, and more importantly the knowledge that someone else is seeing your words in print, is some sort of golden nirvana, a place where Gods such as Robert Jordan, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Steven Erikson, and a multitude of other deities lounge, spouting great words which are immediately converted into print.

In other words, it’s a big deal.

One of the reasons I finally cracked my knuckles and got around to creating this blog is because I am getting published. I still grin when I say that out loud. The Gods in their infinite wisdom, in this case the editors at Aurealis magazine, are publishing one of my short stories.

When I read the acceptance email I didn’t stop smiling for two hours. I was home alone and grinning like a madman. It’s how I imagine a man feels when a woman accepts his proposal. Only bigger. I rapidly replied agreeing to the contract, trying to hold back the multitude of thanks my fingers were itching to include.

Let me try to explain why being published is such a big deal. Being a writer is a solitary job. You sit like a Neanderthal, bent over a laptop, and disappear into a world that exists in your head. You spend hours and hours agonising over word choice, dialogue and similes. You perfect your world late into the night until you collapse exhausted into bed. When you finish you crane your neck up from the glowing screen and look around for someone to share the victory with. Invariably you’re alone. So you show your story to someone. Usually a family member or a partner or some unfortunate who once said they’d like to read your writing. You get compliments and a flush of warm satisfaction. If you’re lucky the sentiments are sincere. But here’s the catch; they’re your family. They’re polite.

For me being published is someone who doesn’t need to be nice to me saying they like my work. It is a professional in the industry saying all those lonely hours were worthwhile. It is confirmation that I can actually write, than I’m not just a kid whose mum puts his drawings on the fridge despite the complete lack of technique and form.

And, biggest of all, it is a spark of hope that the dream of being a writer might actually exist. A spark, but one that burns hot and bright.

My story, Remembering the Mimi, will be published in the May edition of Aurealis.

I’m still grinning like a madman

STARTING POINT

This is the first entry in jonathanrobb.com

Are you as excited as I am?

Thank you for making the time to wander across to my blog, whether by intent or accident, I’ll take the attention either way.

This is a blog primarily designed to display my writings, discuss my writings, and update anyone who’s interested on the progress of my writings. Outside that egocentric little sphere, this blog will be a platform for anything I think is particularly brilliant and in need of shoving in people’s faces screaming, “Look at it! I love it!”.

So please feel free to look around, poke in the nooks and crannies, blow away the dust from the older entries, and relax.