April 5th, 2006

Loz Cola

They grind my gears...

At the age of 22, I still live with my parents and my 15 year old brother. I have a 32 year old brother who lives elsewhere. I'm a university student with no part time job, it was either this or live in a cardboard box.

Now, really, I love my family. We're pretty close. But you know when there are certain things family members do which just make you go 'huh?' and those other things which send you into a flying rage? This is one of those 'huh?' moments.

In the city of Adelaide, Australia, we're beginning to have a new waste disposal system put in place. Originally there was a yellow lidded bin, divided in two, one section for rubbish, the other for recycling. Well, they've started hauling out a little red lidded rubbish bin to everyone and saying the yellow lidded bin will be for recycling only. I agree with this initiative wholeheartedly - there's more onus on recycling which is more efficient and better for the environment. That's not the point of this post. The point is that my parents haven't been able to stop talking about this new system. Their daily discussions revolve around these bins, their different coloured lids, how fantastic this is, and how pleased they are that everyone's getting one.

There's another bin I haven't talked about. This bin has a green lid. It's for green waste; twigs, grass, etc. A couple of weeks ago, it went missing. It was presumably nicked. My Dad was furious. Unbelievably full of rage for days. For those just tuning in, Dad had a stroke in August 2004 which affected the speech area of his brain. It also means his temper is less temperate than one would like. He was no kitten before the stroke, so when he gets into a bad mood these days, it's sometimes intimidating and other times just plain annoying. His speech, by the way, is almost as good as it used to be, after speech pathology and sheer determination. My father is a brilliant man, he truly is. He's my personal dictionary, atlas, encyclopedia and know-how book, encased within a giant ego.

When I suggested he needed to calm down for his blood pressure, he became more irate. He exclaimed, with eyes ablazing, that he hated when people stole from him - hated it, ever since he was a seven year old child and some bullies came and grabbed his toys away from him. So no, he would not calm down, he would positively not put it into perspective, someone had stolen his green lidded bin and someone was going to pay. Let me tell you, it took all of my willpower not to laugh uproariously at this. I realise this makes me a terrible person, but it was funny, so very funny. The conclusion of his childhood story was that his sister had gone to those kids, beat them up, and brought him back his toys, but, you know, he wasn't going to go into great detail about that.

When Dad found out that you could get a green lidded bin delivered along with the red lidded bin he was ecstatic. Over the moon. Bins! Yay for bins! Bins for all! So, when the red lidded bin finally arrived, my mum came into my room. "Loz, come and have a look at our new possession!" (Yes, Mum occasionally calls me Loz, that's not artistic license.) I felt like I was welcoming a new life into the world. Our darling Binny. We should name him Binny, and he would be ours, and he would be our Binny. I go outside, and there it is, in all its binnish glory. "Huh," says I, "it's a red lidded bin."

This is what my parents find thrilling to discuss. This is what gets their blood a-pumping. They derive their excitement from different colour lidded bins, and want everyone else to do the same. I guess I wouldn't mind so much if they didn't keep attempting to drag me into their conversations about said contraptions. You know, I'm pretty sure they're sick of me discussing Paul Gross, so I can kind of understand, but still, is this me in 30 years time?

Oh. Hang on. No. Wait... it appears to be me now.
Loz Cola

A child's imagination is their strength and their weakness...

I often get into the ‘well, maybe I’m not a very good writer’ mindset. I think about pieces I’ve written, and ponder, ‘hmm. If I were to be the critical me, just what things would I say were wrong with this? What could be improved?’ More often than not, the answer is plot, or lack there-of. I think I have some skill in writing, in conveying an emotion or a scene through the use of text. We all have to have some confidence, and in this, my confidence is that I can string a sentence together. Occassionally that sentence is a sentence fragment. But, all in all, I can put words in a logical order to achieve an effect. What I’m not very good at is writing narrative. Can you be an author if you don’t write narrative? Very few people would take the risk to publish a book of vignettes. This is my grand failing.

When I sit down to write, I get character studies and dialogue. I get atmosphere and thought processes. What I don’t get is a whole world of cause and effect. I don’t get action, or movement, or progression. I get 500 words of character X and character Z in a little sketch which can exist by itself or as part of a wider creation. The wider creation is the object which never ends up seeing the light of day. There’s no plot. Character X does not say to character Z that they should be on their way and off they go. If that does happen, it’s the end of the piece. Oh the plot exists somewhere, in the outer realm of things. It lurks in the ether, I’m sure of it. I just don’t write it.

I find myself screaming ‘why, why, why? why can’t I come up with a plot, and follow through?’ I can analyse it, I do all the time. I pick up on signifiers in pretty much everything I watch, read and even listen to. I have a strong grounding in the basic concepts of narrative. Hey, I even took a whole course entitled ‘Narratives and Storytelling’. Lack of knowledge here is not a problem. It’s just that every time I sit down to write, I get character studies and dialogue. Atmosphere and thought processes. Nothing happens. I get vignettes! I don’t write stories, I write moments.

How do you string a series of moments together to create the semblance of action? I’m sure there’s a way. I always think that if you know what your problem is, you can improve. I know that my grand failing is plot or lack there-of, so next time, I might just take the plot from one thing and use my characters to tell the story in an attempt to practice these skills I lack. If you want to be a writer, and you know something about writing, hope is not lost, is it?

We can’t be successful all the time. All I’m really asking for is to be successful some of the time.
  • Current Mood
    calm exasperated
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