How do you go with the ebb and flow of activity in your life? If you were to consult Dr. Pinterest on the subject of a life well lived, you’ll seem to be given two forms of inspirational advice about life: one would be that you are best to float like a leaf upon the river of life, accepting whatever comes and being blissy about it. The other would be that you are the master of your own destiny and that all it takes to be a Kardashian, find a husband or make a gazillion dollars is apply yourself, goddamit. Not a Kardashian yet? Try harder, slacker!

In truth, neither of these all-or-nothing paths seem that useful to me. Sometimes I have huge energy and capacity to order and create the world around me: I can attend four events in one week and still have time to go shopping and cook a fancy dinner and garden properly and send thankyou notes. I can go for three runs in one week, prospect for new business and orchestrate a new blog collaboration out of thin air. Oh yeah baby, I’m winning. Other weeks I feel like every email ping is a rude intrusion on my full plate. I can’t stand the idea of driving into the city, find making small-talk difficult and can quickly feel overwhelmed. I just want to be at home, quietly working away and being left alone by the world.
As I get older I am better at being kinder to myself about these changes in my state: I know they’re not unique to me. So when I’m able to do everything with wild abandon and sparkling eyes (which is, happily, most of the time), I do it. When I can’t and I need to take a raincheck, I do that too. Last week was a week with lots of exciting things happening, and I am glad to say that I had the energy to do it all!
I’ve been following the delicate, dreamy and surreal work of Gracia & Louise since I discovered these Melbourne artists on Instagram. They create works that are both physical collages (above and below, their work Salvaged Relatives) and digital collages – pairing images from different times seamlessly together to make new pieces which are almost from another place in time altogether.
Whimsical, humorous and magical, their small showing of Salvaged Relatives (a series of three commission pieces purchased by national institutions) at Milly Sleeping in Carlton pairs found images of Victorians with lush costumes from operas. They remind me very much of a series of adult graphic novels called Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock, which also featured collageworks which were simultaneously charming and unsettling. I’ll soon be going to visit Gracia & Louise in their studio, and look forward to sharing their story with you.

This week past, Pause Fest came to town – a kind of mega roadshow of events and talks exploring the intersection of creativity, technology and entrepreneurship. The highlight of the week-long event was the appearance of This American Life’s producers Miki Meek and Brian Reed. This American Life has become increasingly popular in Australia courtesy of the explosion of fabulous podcast series Serial – if you haven’t downloaded this yet, get ready for seriously addictive longform true crime journalism! Subsequent to listening to Serial, I began listening to This American Life, which shares its longform exploration of social issues in new ways, from new perspectives.
Miki and Brian gave an overview of their creative process. Here are some of the main takeaways from their keynote:

  • Stakes Make A Story

Giving context and stakes to a story makes the audience more invested in the tale. If you think about any story you really are engrossed in (whether it is My Kitchen Rules or the Wolf Hall), there’s something at stake. A win, a loss, justice, fame, love. Stakes need to be apparent from the beginning.

  • Edit With Ferocity

This American Life kill a third of the ideas they come up with – but similarly, good ideas can come from pitches which are only half-formed. Sometimes good characters are identified during a story pitch, other times the story itself is the focus and they need to find individuals who will illustrate the story they wish to tell. This is a self-fulfilling quality check: if there are no individuals who can prove the story, it’s not a good one and not a true one, either.

  • On Interviews

If you’ve listened to This American Life or Serial, you’ll know that the natural, easy delivery of the interview subject is addictive to hear. Miki and Brian note that achieving that intimacy with a subject takes time, and what is used for their radio show is the ‘best of the best’ – there’s lots of drudgery involved.
They say that every interview should be like a party for the subject – you need to be well-prepared, interested and have a strategy for what you’d like to achieve in that interview. The best interviews have two elements: a plan and strategy and moments of genuine surprise and revelation. Surprise (and its very sound) is obviously something best suited to documentary or radio, but can also be delivered in written form. Naturally, asking people how they feel about something is going to elicit a more interesting response than asking for facts or a timeline.

During Brian and Miki’s keynote, an artist interpreted the talk before the audience. She wore long tails which were splotched at the bottom with paint, and although the whole thing was interesting and kind of a fun novelty (the final work was a tree that became a retro microphone) – it was a bit too self-aware and hip for me. But whatever, judgey wudgey was a bear. There was time for Q&A afterwards, and the audience variously asked about the ethics of making money from interviews with people who are unpaid, and discussed why advertisers are still so certain that young people are only interested in short media to match short attention spans.
The popularity of This American Life’s keynote resoundingly shows how longform story and slow plot development can attract huge audiences and fandom – both a beacon of hope for documentarians, and humble digital writers like myself.

Wearing: Cameo The Label top, Country Road bonded skirt