the D word

It’s Friday night, half past ten. You may have detected from the tardy, irregular updates, that I’ve been having a bit of a hard time knuckling down this week.

Not that it’s been “unproductive”. Sure, I’ve been meeting people. There’s been no shortage of good feedback about the project, and exciting new adventures are lining themselves up for next week. Best of all, some of the friendships I formed early on are really starting to firm up.

For example, who could believe that only a week has passed since I first met Tully (and he’s already buggin me with curly questions)? Or that things could be quite solid with Lucy, after only two cups of tea? Or that I lived in Petersham for nearly two years before starting a conversation with Carmela and her daughters from Charlie’s Deli? And who would have known that Chris (“eyes on the street”) could turn out to be such a strong local ally?

Bit by bit, the connections are spreading and blossoming. Gaps are slowly filling in. After four weeks of confinement, the suburb is beginning to feel familiar. I’m receiving a constant flow of visitors from the outside. Locally, the events are piling up: there’s the big music gig happening tomorrow in “Darren’s Backyard”; a BBQ invite from Rachelle and Rob (Wolfie’s parents) on Sunday; a visit to the local historian on Tuesday; yet another BBQ at Tully’s locked in for Wednesday; and a tentative arrangement to step back in time, to the ‘sham circa 1976, with Vanessa on Thursday. I’m waiting for the mayor to get back to me about our collaborative bike ride, and, if you can believe it, I’ve even booked in for a “trial session” at the local gym(!).

So what’s the problem?

I think “the problem” lies with the activity of writing. I’m trying to use text as a documentary tool. My eyes and ears are a camera, my mind the film stock, my keyboard an editing suite, the blog is the cinema where you watch it all played back again (and the comments are the seats from which you heckle).

My “mission” has been to write, each day, about the people I meet, and the things we talk about. What we see, and what we do. Piecemeal writing. Writing without knowing how it will end – just getting it down before the next wave of experience washes over me. As Barbara wrote in an email on Monday:

I think there’s something happening there that you won’t be able to see until it’s over. You’re just seeing the trees at the moment, but we, your readers, can see the woods. And it’s a beautiful ecosystem you’re describing for us Lucas, it really is.

Could my own ignorance be my best asset? I don’t know where The Story of Petersham is headed. How could I possibly know? But what I do sense is this: that if I leave too much time between “the having” of an experience, and getting to the computer to hammer it out – even just one or two days – the events fade a little in my memory. They fade – not a huge amount, but just enough, so that their craggy, variegated surfaces smooth over and become, instead, a generalised flowing narrative. They lose the detail they need. Irrelevent episodes are discarded. Banal observations drop away. The documentation of particular, minute occurrances becomes obselete.

And then, worst of all, the joy ebbs out of the writing. That’s when it becomes a chore, and instead of a wandering, blissfully ignorant beginner with a wicked turn of phrase and a keen eye for grammar, I become an indentured journalist with a day job. Ugh.

So what’s the solution? I hate to admit it, but I think it might be … discipline.

Yep. Almost a month has passed. A terrific start has been made. But I can hear Estelle’s voice in my head right now: “Come on now. No excuses! You’ve got everything going for you, Lucas. No rest for the wicked!”

The solution? I think it’s this: to wake up earlier and write first thing every morning, without fail. To not compromise on this one appointment. Could it be that simple?

4 thoughts on “the D word

  1. Your sister

    Hey Luco,
    Do you know why is Petersham called Petersham? I tried to find out via your wik. link but no joy.

  2. shortleftleg Post author

    Good question my sister. According to the marrickville council website:

    PETERSHAM was named by Lieutenant-Governor, Major Francis Grose after his native village on the Thames, near Richmond, England. Petersham was one of the earliest settlements in the colony. Facing a severe food shortage Grose in October 1793 ordered a timber yard 200 feet square formed, nine huts for labouring convicts built and 60 acres of government ground cleared of timber, twenty of which was sown with Indian corn.

    We have a sister ‘sham in Massachussets, USA (as well as the original in Richmond, in England…)

    I’ll have more to say after my visit to the archives on Tuesday…

  3. another margie

    Forgetting is important too.
    The details you leave out can be as useful to the craft of storytelling as those you leave in.

    (On a practical note, always carry a pena and a Notebooks :))

  4. nobody

    # Tully Says:
    April 28th, 2006 at 11:05 pm

    The boundary walk was nothing if not educational, and I know I’m starting trouble, but I have to ask – is this art?

    so, hi all, you lu, master peppeteer n all of you other ppl out there by now addicted like me to this virtual ‘Big Brother’.
    It IS art, why? the answer lies in what you reader define as art:
    if you define art as something which looks good on the mantelpiece or above the sofa and posiibly matches the colour theme in the room then this blog is not, but if you reader expect from art a delivery of ideas/comments/suggestions and above all criticism, then this blog is art.
    I see artists as cultural/social critics, who use their skills and creative output to define what we are and where we stand as a society and community, sparking debate and hopefully enlighting viewers, opening up issues which would otherwise be forgotten or, worse, missed.
    With this blog lucas is turning the whole of the ‘sham into a big brother-style voyeristic bonanza.
    I envy u guys living in the sham now, and i’m sure there’s plenty of non-‘sham residents out there which feels the same way.
    I envy you because you have the chance to be recorded as the colours of this beautiful and hiper-realistic picture lu is painting of you all.
    Yes i was fortunate enough to be mentioned a couple of times in the blog as i was present in a couple of events, n lucas got ideas about pulling me in to cum n have a look at the weeds in your backyards (u’ll get this when times cum) but still i’m n outsider, a redfern resident, not one living in ramsay st, therefore not one you may have the chance to re-encounter over n over while the puppet master slowly unfold the script of the next episode…
    And yet lu, you where right when commenting in your post-mortem of, that keller social reality was self contained and therefore finite, while petersham lies between stanmore, marro, leichhardt n more, directly linked to a much wider audience/cross-pollinating social reality…
    uhmmm who m i writing this for?


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