It’s not me for whom I’m scared. It’s my boys. I must believe there’s more good than bad in this world, but sometimes, jeez, it’s hard. Beautiful Alison was murdered by her husband: the media thinks it’s okay to splash his sordid past all over the papers and television so that Alison’s daughters cannot hide from the kind of man their father was. Lock him up. Forget about him. His daughters won’t. They’ll be scarred for life. Let them come to terms with what happened without having to hear it from their peers at school – inevitable now that the media have dragged out every last detail.
A terrorist thinks it’s okay to shoot down a civilian plane full of innocent men, women and children. Lunatics strap bombs to themselves and governments on all sides call blowing up children ‘collateral damage’. Economists are slowly coming to the conclusion that the widening gap between rich and poor is causing increasing instability spurred on by over-population, and climatologists have come to a consensus that climate change is a serious issue. No one listens. Not enough, anyway.
I know there’s beauty in the world. I hear it in a child’s laugh; I see it in their shining faces. Is it unrealistic to believe we can deliver them a safer world than this one? Are we big enough, are we strong enough? Simply put, are we good enough?
Jonathan K Benton
I was watching a documentary about Queen and realised that parallels can be drawn between a super group and a great book. Each member of Queen brought their own unique elements to the mix, that when combined, clicked to make extraordinary music.
A great book is a successful combination of elements too: Plot, Theme, Structure , Voice and Character. Think of these things as members of a super group. If you can successfully meld them into a novel, you’ll make ‘A Kind of Magic’ too.
Jonathan K Benton
Roger Federer inspires me. I admire Nadal’s snarling ferocity and Djokovic’s quirky athleticism and sense of humour. Both these players are great ambassadors of the game. But Roger Federer transcends tennis with his magnificent behaviour on and off the court. Give him a light sabre instead of a racket and he’d make the perfect Jedi. It might be because I love the arts. I remember watching the Paris Opera Ballet perform Swan Lake in Sydney – the principal dancer playing Princess Odette pirouetted onto stage and took my breath away. I’d only seen one other person in possession of that kind of balance and perfect poise. Roger Federer. At his exquisite best, he’s unstoppable. Approaching 33 years old – an age when many players have retired – he is still one of the best players in the world. That’s how good he is. I love those slow-motion shots showing Federer’s eyes never leaving the spot where his racket hits the ball. His face is serenely still: there’s no snarl or grimace – regular features on other players’ faces. He’s the only player whom regularly conjures this much emotion from the grandstands. Win or lose tomorrow, thank you Roger.
I believe authors write because they have to. They cannot stop that fountain of words bubbling up inside them. Some writers might dream of fortune and glory, but these fantasies play second fiddle to a passionate desire to express themselves using the written word. Authors cannot not write.
Writing is a craft and authors need to grow their abilities. I’m a better author now than I was last year and I’ll be even stronger next year. I’m published, and my first book received great reviews in some big papers, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. There is. I’ve found a wonderful mentor and I’ll continue developing the craft.
My point is: practise undoubtedly makes perfect, no matter what stage of your writing career this blog finds you at.
This is by far the most important of the three P’s. Without it, your manuscript will likely never make it out of the dreaded slush pile. Perseverance isn’t just about repeating the same thing. Remember: it’s often your third or fourth manuscript that snags that illusive publishing contract. Persevere with practising – find a writers’ group and share ideas. Persevere with writing – try to finish the manuscript even if it feels like it’s going nowhere. Writing begets writing. Immerse yourself in your stories and never give up. It can take years – it can take a lifetime.
There are many levels to this one: Scheduling times to write throughout the week; planning what to write about during these times; fleshing out characters to make them real enough to drive the plot forward. I’ve said this before – I think it’s extremely useful to bounce ideas off another writer throughout the drafting process. I regret not having done it with my first book. I’ve found a new mentor and she’s brought a whole other dimension to my writing. Planning is all this, and so much more.
Don’t submit your novel until it’s ready. Don’t take shortcuts. Unpack those lazy sentences. Get the manuscript reviewed by an expert before you shop it around. Put it in a drawer for a month. Then read it again. You’ll be surprised how many improvements you’ll find. Patience will save you time in the long run.
Which brings us full circle. Passion. If you truly love creating stories: that in itself should fill most of the gap. Writers tend to be idealists. I am.
Jonathan K Benton
Rage – I experienced it yesterday morning before work. I logged onto the Internet to skim through the news. A judge sentenced a thug to nine years in jail for viciously assaulting a refugee who had arrived in Australia seeking a better life. The assault had been caught on CCTV, which had been linked into the article. I watched a soulless thug savagely mug an innocent person. Extremely confronting. The thug’s accomplice loitered at the end of the alley making sure there were no witnesses. My heart goes out to the victim – I hope his future is filled with happiness, peace and love.
I want to believe life is beautiful. It can be, but for a lot of people it’s not. This was just another example of the empty scumbags with whom we share the planet. I make no apologies for believing that if someone is capable of such a ruthless crime, then they are undeserving and in most cases incapable, of rehabilitation. Murder, assault and sexual offences stay with the victim forever, lest we forget.
The CCTV footage served notice to me. Pink Floyd summed it up perfectly in this song … Don’t turn away. The more we support the victims of these crimes, and the more bullies, thugs and sexual predators we remove from society, the better off we will be.
Jonathan K Benton
Balancing the budget is important. I’m not an economist but it makes sense. On a micro level, if my own household cannot balance its books it would sink. Here’s the problem, though. The median income in Australia is around 58k (the average income is skewed to approximately 75k because of the hefty salaries earned by Australia’s wealthiest citizens). The population is growing – it’s incorrect to think that if the economy (under its current model) grows the whole country benefits. The reality is that the median wage is not rising anywhere near as fast as the cost of living, as prices are increased to grow profit.
For example: the cost to use the trains in Brisbane has risen by at least 22.5 per cent in the last 2 years. Power has risen by over 20 percent too. Petrol will likely rise more than it normally would in light of the new federal budget, and do not dismiss the effect $7.00 per person per visit to the doctors will have on a family budget that is already squeezed tight.
I’ve seen no evidence from either of Australia’s two major political parties to suggest they can solve the real problem, which I have already outlined on an emotional level in a previous blog.
There’s a lot to be grateful for in Australia. It’s a beautiful democratic country alive with culture and brimming with talent. Pure socialism works in a kibbutz, but not at a national level where large administrations sick with self-preservation and greed suck up money and resources that should be for the people. Nobody wants to experience communism. Some bright spark – someone a lot smarter than me – needs to create a new sustainable evolutionary economic model that encourages entrepreneurial talent and yet does not forget the median, or the needy. I believe we need to change our perception of ‘reward’ and truly transform (at an emotional level) how we perceive ‘status’, while not losing some of the core values, like freedom of choice, that underpin our society.
Jonathan K Benton
Writing isn’t easy, and when it gets really tough, I sometimes need to remind myself why I stick at it. Here are the top five reasons I persevere:
5) Books saved me:
Books changed me, as I wrote in this article in the Sydney Morning Herald. They saved me, too. I went through some tough times – I’m not asking, and nor do I expect, anyone to break out the violins. It’s not a sob story. It might be inspirational if I peppered the prose of my life with flowery images! But I know that books helped me through some harrowing times. Winston Churchill once said: ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’. I say: ‘If you’re going through hell, keep reading!’.
We have our own universes inside our heads. Buzz Lightyear summed it up perfectly: ‘To infinity … and beyond!’.
3) Trying to understand this crazy old world:
Whether murder-mystery or Mills and Boon, books cut a slice from the chaos that we call life and bake it into something mouthwateringly comprehensible. It’s fun, sometimes terrifying, innately revealing, and frequently difficult.
2) To make a difference:
To inspire. I like the thought of someone finishing a novel that I have produced and feeling uplifted. Books do that for me and I want to do it for others.
1) Because I have to:
Yep. I have to write. It’s not a choice. If I don’t, I wilt. It took me a long time to realise this. I wish I’d known earlier – I probably did deep down. I’m glad I know now.
Jonathan K Benton
The world is full of remarkable talents – being a good person is the single most inspiring thing anyone can be. Occasionally I stumble across someone or something that makes me leap out of my chair and punch the air with excitement. This happened the other night during The Voice Australia. Several elements combined to give me that fuel-injected moment of elation – that ‘life rocks’ feeling. Harry Healy sang one of my favourite songs of all time and he sang it well. He chose Romeo and Juliet because it was his wedding song. True love – it gets me every time.
But it was not Harry’s performance – as brilliant and polished as it was – that made me leap out of my chair. It was his proud family standing in the green room watching him transfix a nation. It was their moment too. Love, in its many forms, is truly inspirational.
Jonathan K Benton
I have faith in many things. I believe laughter is the best medicine and there’s nothing wrong with a good ol’ cry. I’m certain that life is worth fighting for and that if we all loved our neighbours there’d be a lot less wrong with the world. I believe it’s my paternal duty to try to leave Earth in a better shape for my boys than it is now. I also know that I can positively affect the big picture by concentrating on the small one. Each interaction we have in life, ripples.
I’ve got no idea if the Bible is fact or fiction – some aspects of it I find confusing and contradictory. Other aspects, like the fruitages of the spirit, are truly beautiful. Some theologians suggest the Bible is open to interpretation. Perhaps they’re right – it would be arrogant to think us mere mortals could understand God and all of his infinite wisdom. ‘God is love’. That is what the Bible says and perhaps that’s all we need to know. It makes it easier for me to believe in him anyway.
Someone who understood life a lot better than me and who seemed to have a much deeper understanding of faith than most wrote the following:
“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe’ —a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Einstein’s words are a blueprint to happiness. Cut and paste them into your own life and see what happens.
Jonathan K Benton.
It’s hard to blog deep every week. I have to mix it up because most of my creative energy is spent on my new manuscript. Sometimes an idea germinates and I’m driven into a flurry of blogging activity, like what happened here.
I’m sitting in front of the television after a day on the computer. It’s late Saturday night and I’m trying to scrape together something interesting to blog about. I can relate to Oscar Wilde when he said: ‘I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again’.
Then the news came on. It’s the 21st Century and there are wars popping up everywhere. Governments (not countries) are still behaving like playground bullies. Good people are suffering because we cannot sort out our shit. It makes me physically sick. Our children deserve to inherit a safer world. I’ve decided to leave you with three questions. If there are a whole lot more good people than bad in this world (and I believe there are), why does it sometimes feel like there are not? Is it just a case of a few power-drunk bad apples spoiling the bunch? How do we stop them?
My heart goes out to the good citizens of Ukraine and everyone else forced to live in fear.
Jonathan K Benton