The truth about statistics

I was having lunch with a group of friends the other day, and after we got through the usual banter of work complaints and theories on what previous lives we might have lived, we got onto the topic of statistics.

The fact is 80% of quoted statistics are completely bogus, including that one.

The funny thing was that we could all quote specific stats with absolute confidence, but in reality have no idea if they were based on fact. Half of which were about things that no-one in their right mind would ever fund the research into (such as 60% of Jack Russel dogs being called Jack or Russell).

So where does that leave the writer when it comes to quoting statistics? Do we need to back up all statistics with sources, or does it only matter when you are writing non-fiction?

People tend to place a lot of faith in the written word, so in many ways all writers have an obligation to try to only perpetuate that which they know to be true, but actually providing the reference is probably taking it a little too far.

I think I’ll go with the 55% of people who think that it is just easier to avoid such strict numbers, and opt instead for more general ‘many’, ‘generally’ or even ‘very few’. That should keep most  people happy…


One of my favourite stories (that I have written) was started at 8:30pm on the night it was due. I submitted it at 11:48pm. The competition administrator made a point of telling me that mine was the last submission received before cut-off. I did not win, but the point is I wrote an entire short story from start to finish in one sitting. Why? Well there was the deadline, but also the competition had firm boundaries about what needed to be included.

I was reminded of that again last night when the little Miss slept over. ‘Tell me a story’ she requested in yet another attempt to put off going to bed. My mind instantly went blank; the usual response, I’m sure, for any writer. ‘Make it about a fairy, and Harry Potter and an octopus’ –of course, what a natural combination!

Funnily it was enough boundaries to hem me in enough to pull a story together, even more amazing it was one she really enjoyed. Now given the whole world of topics to choose from I would not have put Harry, a fairy and an octopus together, but when my brain could pick anything, it picked nothing.

I think this month I’m going to put some random words in a hat and pull them out to make story ideas. I think that’s how Duran Duran wrote half their songs, so there must be some merit in it! I’ll let you know how I get on.

Happy writing,


So many talented people

Recently, I was lucky enough to watch the 2010 NSW School Spectacular. And it really was spectacular! This is a performance put on each year by public high school students from NSW (including regional schools) which involves lots of amazing singing and dancing. It is thoroughly entertaining and something of which the students can be proud for the rest of their lives.

What struck me was the overwhelming talent on stage. To give you an idea, the winner of last year’s Australia’s Got Talent TV Show, Jack Vidgen was in the 2010 spectacular, and more notably he did not stand out! There were literally dozens of kids with outstanding voices, and it made me wonder what happens when they leave school? After all, we are now in 2012, so why haven’t I seen these 2010 performers somewhere? Why was the top 20 of Idol or X-factor not filled with these kids? Do they go on to become lawyers and business analysts instead, only dusting off their talent for the office Christmas karaoke party or the over-the-phone rendition of happy birthday? 

My heart goes out to these kids. I can’t imagine having so much talent and having such a hard slog and so little time to have it recognised. Writers are a bit like male actors in Hollywood; the older and greyer they get, the more wisdom and appeal they are perceived to have. So any ticking time we feel slipping through our fingers is a perception of our own creation and in reality we can keep slogging away until the day we die, ever-hopeful of having our dreams realised. 

The same cannot be said for these singers and dancers who, in our youth obsessed society, need to break out before they hit 30. Unfortunately the DVDs of these schools performances are prohibitably expensive, so unless you share DNA with one of the performers you are unlikely to buy one. But if you ever get a chance to watch any of the spectaculars, you will be glad that you did! Here is just a sample;

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Noisy Old Friends

What is it about a confession that tends to lead to a change? I had been struggling with my lack of writing for a while now, but only opened up about it last week. I thought that confessing would be like giving me permission to give up, that’s why I resisted for so long.

Little did I know what I actually was setting in motion.

My characters are coming and talking to me. All the time. When I vague out on the bus, when I’m in the shower, cooking dinner or digging in the distracting garden. Time that used to be spent worrying about solutions to work problems has been filled with the chatter of my characters. They want me to write them. They are getting a bit grumpy with me.

I won’t pretend there has been some miraculous change, I’m still not writing, but I’m plotting like a woman possessed. In the past this has led to writing.

Let’s see what the next week brings. I must admit, I’m a little excited.

Creativity Lull

I have a confession to make. I’m not really doing any creative writing at the moment, and haven’t done any for a few months. Worse yet, I don’t really care. I’m trying to care, and for a long time now I’ve been pretending to care, but the truth is I don’t. It’s a bit scary.

I’ve been trying to diagnose the problem, sure that there must be a cure for it, or that it will just clear up if I apply enough Lucas’s Pawpaw cream, but it hasn’t. Today I think I might finally have found the answer; it’s all about creativity.

Boxed up in my little flat in Melbourne there were limits on my creative outlets in the home, so writing was always going to be the winner (I assure you, one look at my sketches or knitting would convince you of this fact). Our back yard was about twice the size of my desk and always in shade, and our front yard was the communal driveway.

In the Adelaide hills I have this massive garden screaming out for my creative expression. It is a blank canvas begging for veggie patches and fruit trees, it demands mowing and clipping and brings all manner of birds down to amaze and hypnotise me. I get into it every weekend and love every muscle straining moment of it.

I know a garden cannot enchant me forever, at least I hope not, and in the words of the Starks ‘Winter is Coming’ –so maybe my novels will just have to wait a little bit longer, for the magic to wear off or the rains to arrive. Whichever comes first…