Reader, writer, artist

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Drawing by the author

An introvert is someone who hates self-promotion — they wish their work would speak for themselves. For that reason, I’ve always cringed at self-introductions and writing bios. However, writing is a form of communication and that communication is enriched when the reader and writer know each other. So on that note, let me tell you a bit about myself.

I grew up in Perth, Western Australia, and was an avid reader, writer and artist as a child. I read everything and anything that I could get my hands on, wrote fanciful stories about fairies and wizards, and filled sketchbooks with drawings. …


First book review for the year

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

The Rich Man’s House, Andrew McGahan, 2019: Allen and Unwin

My first book review for this year is a novel, rather than a non-fiction book, as I am still in Christmas and summer holiday mode. Andrew McGahan is also one of my favourite Australian authors and this novel, his last, is a magnum opus.

McGahan was born in 1967 in Dalby, Queensland. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer as he was working on the draft for The Rich Man’s House. His publisher was keen to get the book ready for publication before he passed away. The novel was revised and edited quickly (there is a tongue in cheek note at the beginning, where McGahan begs the reader for leniency for any mistakes in the book) and then published posthumously. …


December book review: Bronze Seeks Silver

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Image courtesy of Mat Zucker

Bronze Seeks Silver: Lessons from a creative career in marketing, Mat Zucker, 2020: Cidiot

A book that combines memoir with an analysis of one’s resume? Let me double-click into that. The latter phrase is something I learnt when reading Mat Zucker’s book, Bronze Seeks Silver: Lessons from a creative career in marketing. This was a humorous read, detailing Zucker’s three-decades-long career in advertising and marketing.

So, let me double-click into it, which is management consultant speak for ‘let me talk in more depth about it’. Zucker started out with a portfolio presentation to a recruiter at the famous Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising in New York. Unfortunately, there was a misled metaphor regarding cleanliness and Dial soap that scuppered the presentation. However, Zucker was able to use it as a learning experience and, undeterred, pursued his goal of working in advertising, always focussing on success. He has worked at OgilvyOne New York, Razorfish, R/GA, and Agency.com, …


It’s hard to disconnect from the constant news cycle that is overwhelmingly doom-laden. If you have a smartphone, it’s even worse. The endless scrolling on my smartphone is a habit…


Reflection on the past nine months

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Photo by United Nations COVID-19 Response on Unsplash

Like many writers, I am an introvert. Spending lots of time at home, away from crowds, is not a problem for me. When the situation is forced upon you, however, it becomes a different matter.

In March of this year, Australia started hearing increasing news of the terrible pandemic that had gripped China, then Italy, Spain, the UK. There was doubt and confusion among the public here, as well as our political leaders, about how serious it really was. We reasoned that Australia’s low population density and geographical isolation would protect us. To some extent, it has, though I heard doctor friends agonise over Perth’s low supply of PPE and ICU beds. …


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Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

When I was at university, one of my lecturers casually mentioned that Helvetica was his favourite font. The first thing I did when I got home that day was to change the font on my latest assignment from Times New Roman to Helvetica. After talking with some of my friends, I surmised that everyone else had done the same.

Reading the first two chapters of Bronze Seeks Silver: Lessons from a creative career in marketing by Mat Zucker, reminded me of my need, twenty years ago, to impress the all-powerful art history professor. Zucker’s book is a memoir of his career in marketing, but of course, he didn’t start out as an advertising executive and he writes with wry wit about how he began his career. Spoiler: there is a discussion of fonts.

Thanks to the author for sending me your book! I’ll be reviewing it for my next column.


December book review

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The Creativity Leap: Unleash Curiosity, Improvisation, and Intuition at Work, Natalie Nixon, 2020: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc

Consider this scenario. A kindergarten class is asked who would like to be an artist and most of the children put their hands up. A high school class is asked the same question and maybe ten per cent of the class put their hands up.

Consider another scenario. You are discussing creativity with a group of people. The consensus is that creativity is a good thing. Do you say, self-deprecatingly, something like “I wish I was creative. …


How it went, what I learnt and where I’m heading from here

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

It’s December now which means the 2020 NaNoWriMo challenge has concluded. If the term NaNoWriMo means nothing to you, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, an online challenge held in November of every year. Participants aim to write 50000 words of a novel draft over the month.

I attempted it properly for the first time this year. Did I “win” the challenge? Well, I didn’t get to 50000 words so I don’t get the NaNoWriMo helmet badge on my NaNo webpage. At the end of the third week, I had about 37000 words in my draft then I hit a bit of a wall. I kept persisting but my daily word count was a lot less than what I had been completing in the first half of the month. My draft is now at just under 39000 words so about three-quarters of the 50000-word target. In that last week, I started feeling some anxiety about not being able to complete the challenge, coupled with anxiety about what I was writing. …


A gumshoe spoof

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Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

Phillip Chandler would get the Blue Star of Siam tonight. Didn’t pay to go in all guns blazing, though, frightening the suspect. Peering through the gloomy hotel nightclub, he spotted the suspect ordering a drink at the end of the bar. Chandler turned to the barman and did the same.

“Bourbon on the rocks, and give us a light too, son,” he said, cigar clenched between his teeth.

The bourbon procured and cigar lit, Chandler observed the nightclub. A blonde was up on stage, crooning away with the pianist, hips swaying to the rhythm of the song. He gave her a wink. …

About

M Ainsley Blackman

Writer and artist from Perth, Western Australia. I write about art, books, identity and more.

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