What to leave out: The key to creativity

Posted on September 24th, 2015

I highly recommend long reading. Not least because of the lovely knowledge that unfurls from it. I also think that committing to a long read narrows, focuses, hones and gets you still. It’s the antidote to the frazzle of short-form toggling.

Image by Steve McCurry

Image by Steve McCurry

It’s a Sunday afternoon thing for me, to read all the lengthy prose I’ve collated during the week from the The New Yorker, Atlantic, The New York Times, The Monthly and The Quarterly Essay. I “flag for follow up” or email links and tweets to myself during the week. And then open them all at once and dive in. (Out of interest, how do you go about it, if indeed you do?)

All of which is a funny preamble to today’s good quote share that I pulled from The New Yorker long writer John McPhee’s essay on omission which, ironically goes on…and on (worth a long read!). It’s an Ernest Hemingway quote:

“If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.

The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”

If you’re a writer, take note of this trick – cutting out stuff that you can gamble your reader will get, or will Read more

Start with a big fat lump in your throat and run with it

Posted on May 27th, 2015

As an angsty teen I read Robert Frost’s The Path Not Taken and would feel all kinds of profoundnesses. I would also read the bible, looking for the same depth.


I’ve liked to think I’ve moved on from such binary thinking. But I recently came across a reference to Frost’s approach to poem creation:

“It begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” 

Illustrator Debbie Mailman then references this in her book, Self-Portrait As Your Traitor. She pivots her creative process from this notion: Starting with the big fat lump and then running with it. “Start now, not twenty years from now, not two weeks from now. Now,” she writes.

I totally know the fat lump in the throat, and the ill-at-easeness that Frost refers to. It means fear. It means dread. It means things are bigger than anything our little beings have previously encountered. And we cry out, “This is not right!”. Read more

Why I like my unsettled life and have no hope of finding balance

Posted on May 6th, 2015

We keep seeking balance. But it’s a false goal. We have it wrong. For one thing, it’s just not possible. I’ve written about this before – how life balance is elusive.


Image by Katia Bellomo

But more than this, balance or settledness, doesn’t see us grow. We grow and become better, and have a better life, from the very act of tending to our imbalance and unsettledness.

Get this bit of quote into you:

“People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ll also quote poet David Whyte, who I’ve referred to a bit lately (catch up here and here). As a fun aside, David is in Australia next weekend and I was invited as a guest…so I managed to wrangle a few double passes for you guys here on this blog. Head to my Facebook page for details. Anyway. The erudite Whyte points out that Read more