The Blank Slate, scarier than public speaking?

by Brian Hobby

IMG_0183Crop

The empty page, inviting the first words…….

I think I find it scarier and more difficult than public speaking.

We’ve all been there, “I’d like a report on……” that comes from your manager, in my role as an engineer “I need to design something that………” or in my spare time as a community theatre tech “We’ve found a really good play, bit technically challenging though, thought you might have some ideas……”

Where do you start?

I know where I usually go – is there some prior art I can steal shamelessly from, ah reuse appropriately with permission. Works well for reports in large companies, usually someone has done it before and it at least gives you an approach. There’s lots of report writing advice out there as well that you can benefit from. But something that no one has done before, a clean unblemished sheet of paper waiting for your thoughts and ideas to flow across it’s surface? That’s intimidating!

Engineers generally have standards to work to, but they are what I term “current best accepted practice” and they are continually updated (slowly and deliberately) as technology changes and new materials are created for us to fiddle with and understand – concrete and electricity were new fangled things once. Where do these ideas come from?

I think it is my theatre technical design that gives me the most insight into ideas and the generation of something new and unique.

For me it goes like this, I get handed a script, I read it – several times usually, with a notepad by my side to jot down what passages make me feel; if I get glimpses of what I think may work on stage, note those too. Then put it all aside, let the subconscious work on it. I’m a great believer in letting the subconscious do it’s work, it’s not for nothing that we say “let’s sleep on it”.

I then discuss with the director and creative team what they have in their head as a vision of what they would like to see on stage, and what glimpses and thoughts have fleetingly occurred to me; then I re-read the script and make copious notes about lighting and sound; all in pencil as they will change! I generally find at this point I have lots of ideas as my subconscious has been brewing on it for sometime.

The rest is as with many things the 99% perspiration that  goes into many of our endeavours, the sheer grunt work of making it happen.

I find a similar process works for me in the reports and engineering space, do the initial reading / research / background, ask your subconscious some questions and park it for a while. Sometimes that can be be over lunch while I get away from my desk (you do get away from your desk I hope?) and do something else; if time permits it may be a few days. I usually find when I come back to the blank sheet it is crying out for my thoughts and ideas.

So yes a blank sheet is a very scary proposition for me, partly because I often have no idea where to start; and partly because I have no idea what journey it may take me on…….

Your ads will be inserted here by

Easy Plugin for AdSense.

Please go to the plugin admin page to
Paste your ad code OR
Suppress this ad slot.

Climate Change, Politics, and 9 year olds……

by Brian Hobby

Driving home from burning sausages for the intermission nibbles at my community theatre of choice my son and I were chatting as you do – about the weather – and that led to the topic of climate change; followed closely by politics.

Warning; the lad is the progeny of an engineer and a chemist so he leans in the maths/science direction.

His immediate statements were “what do the scientists say?” followed closely by “What is the government doing to solve it, because science says it’s occurring so it’s the government’s job to act on what the scientists say ……” (very evidence based is my son and not big on religion either)

His view is that the evidence is in so we should all act on it, and as the government is charged with doing the correct thing for the people it governs it is their “job” to get on with it.

Sometimes I wish I could see things with the clarity of a 9 year old!

I had to disappoint him with the fact that the current government didn’t even have a minister for science, let alone have a decent plan to deal with climate change. His response was pretty much “WHAT!” Followed closely by so what do the government actually care about? That got me thinking, how to break the major parties down into chunks digestible by a 9 year old……..

So I went, the Liberal party tends to be about letting business get on with it and letting the market sort things out. Unfortunately this often means it’s about the money, and some people think that money is only important thing. He quickly said what about friends and the environment, if you don’t have them money isn’t much use!

Then I said, the usual opposition party is Labor, they came originally from the trades areas – you know builders and all the people that helped extend the house. They tend to be about a fair society, making sure there is medical care for everyone and that no one gets left out; oh and they did an ok job of starting on the climate change problem. Hmmm he went.

Ok I said, then we get to the smaller parties like the Greens, their main areas of interest tend to be looking after the environment, but they also want to look after all the people like Labor and encourage more cycling and thinking about how to do things smarter; oh they are also for making sure everyone gets a good education and acting on what science tells us.

The discussion ranged far and wide across what it all meant and what can we do about it, how does voting work and could 1 vote make a difference. In the current Senate election I said it has literally come to 1 vote deciding the outcome – WOW he responded.

As we closed on home and the impending bath and bedtime stories, he confided quietly to me “I think I like the Greens the best