Making and letting go.


I want to tell you a story about when I was 13 and I wrote my first song. Things weren’t great, at the time. I was a budding artist, and spent hours drawing and sketching away, working on my own little comic book. It meant the world to me, the story I was telling and the characters I had clumsily assembled. My inspirations were Todd Mcfarlane and Jack Kirby, weavers of dreams that were far beyond my abilities.

Unfortunately, drawing art like that came with an occupational hazard; my Dad. Dad didn’t like comic art. He thought I was wasting my time and my life by not learning to paint landscapes and freehand portraits. I guess he wanted me to go to art school and become a professional artist.

We used to clash about a lot of things, in a relationship that would only get worse as the years went by. But when I was thirteen, that was when I gave up on trying with him. Because every time he found the art that I put my heart and soul into, he’d tear up each piece of paper and throw out the remains. Without fail.

I used to go to my room and cry, wishing he could understand, wishing I could understand why he was like that.

It was in the middle of all this, in a hot Australian summer, that I discovered punk rock through bands like Black Flag and the Ramones. My older brothers gave me CDs to listen to, and for the first time the guilt that I had felt for disappointing my Dad began turning into anger.

I wrote my first song at the end of that summer. I wrote it holed up in my room, on the bunk bed that I shared with my younger sibling, and for the first time I expressed the way my Dad made me feel. When I finished writing the lyrics, I read back over them and I was calm.

I had clarity. I had made something new, something that he could never understand. I had made something that I believed in. The more I wrote songs, the more I made things that let my anger and frustration and depression out, the better I felt. I started my first bands, one after the other, and explored what I intended to be a career in music.

It was something my Dad didn’t understand, which appealed to me.

When I first started seeing a therapist, a little while ago, she told me that I needed to clear my mind and let go of the things that bothered me. She said I should envision myself placing each thought onto a water lily and watching it float away. When she said that, I realised something. For me, that’s what making things was like. I would put every fear and every emotion or memory that bothered me into whatever I was working on, and when it was finished, try to let it go.

Understanding this about my own creative process was a big step, and it wasn’t an easy one. The more I think about it, and the more aware I am of how I work, the better my relationship with myself has become.

My Dad and me? We haven’t spoken in years. And I like it that way. He was an angry man, and a man who made his family afraid of him. For me, knowing him is a lose-lose situation. So I don’t lose sleep over how or what he’s doing.

I still make things every day. They aren’t songs, anymore. Truth to be told, I think I said all the things that I wanted to say with music. These days, I write a lot more and I draw a lot more. I try to apply my creativity to business as well, which has helped me to found Reach and start planning an online magazine.

I’m a lot happier now than I ever used to be.
We are who we are, and we make what we make, because of some people. We are who we are, and we make what we make, in spite of others.

That’s it from me. Have a kick-ass week.

Collaborative calm.

Creating, Culture, Dreams, Lifestyle, Online, Writing

The startup I have been involved with has slowly geared up and launched. This is a very exciting time for us! If you’ve ever been involved with a creative project, you know that even having an idea for something and then taking the courage to set it free can be so draining.

So far, Tuteable hasn’t kicked off any panic attacks for me. Yet.
I do find though, that projects on which I am working with a collaborator tend to be a great deal calmer than projects that I tackle solo.

I’m not saying they get finished more often. But at least trying doesn’t feel quite as pointless or problematic when I have someone with whom I can share the dream.

In realising lately that this means I’m not necessarily the completely independent person I always wanted to be, I have begun to wonder if some of my other projects and ideas might have actually been successful had I tried to collaborate instead of doing everything myself.

If I had to go back and redo some things, these are just a couple of things I think I’d do differently now.

1. Share the dream.

That can be hard. But it’s also worth it. This would have helped me find people who wanted to get involved with my work, contribute to it in a meaningful way. I believe when I was younger I was trying to somehow protect my work from the world. No. Wrong. Don’t do it. Spread the word. When people ask what you do, the first thing that comes out of your mouth should be your dream.

2. Respect other contributions.

In the past, I have been very good at finding ways to denigrate the work of others. Not for any good reason. Not for the sake of constructive criticism. More just as another way of protecting my own work. This isn’t a healthy habit. It makes you blind to the flaws in your own projects, and it means you miss out on the amazing things that other people could do for you and with you. Try to show their efforts the respect you want shown to yours. And I don’t just mean publicly. I mean in private too.

In the final analysis.


“The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself he becomes wise.”

- Alden Nowlan 

In the final analysis, what matters?

I was considering this question just the other day. You know, the old saying, you can’t take it with you. That applies to almost everything. You can’t take your possessions, your accomplishments, your friends or your family. But I think there is something you can take. I think wherever you go, wherever you end up, you take your choices with you.

Your choices are the only thing that can ever truly be yours.
Every time you choose to hurt or help someone, to treat someone like they matter or like they’re not worth a damn thing, only you can make that choice. 

That, I find, is something so hopeful and positive. Because as long as you can own your choices, you own some wonderful and incredible things. The trick is to make sure you actually DO own your choices. I think a lot of the time, our choices can be made not necessarily by us but by the contexts that surround us.

For many people, some of the biggest, hardest, best and worst decisions are made by their own reflections of their parents. Or their siblings. Their best friend, their bad experience. And this isn’t always a bad thing. It is just something that you have to be aware of. You have to be aware of who or what is making your decisions. 

I think, honestly, that it is better to make a bad decision yourself than to make a dozen good decisions for someone else. If you can step back and examine the times you messed up, and equally, the times you did the right thing, and then acknowledge that those choices were yours…well, you’ve picked up some things that will mean a lot more than anything money can buy.

The quote above, from Alden Nolan, is something that has meant a great deal to me over the last few years of my life. I think its meaning only grows more and more as we become older. It brings to mind the hardest step, which is of course to learn to forgive ourselves, after we take our choices on board.

Have I started to accept my choices and decisions? Yes.
Have I started to take ownership of them? Finally, yes.
But have I begun to forgive myself for them?

I would have to say, that remains on my bucketlist.


Ups and downs.

Art, Creating, Culture, Dreams, Lifestyle, Writing

I have learned that life is full of ups and downs. That’s something that people tell you all the time, I guess I’m telling you now. But you never really understand it until the realisation hits you on your own.

I always had this idea, when I was a younger and far more arrogant Jon, that things were only going to be “down” until I reached a point where I had “made it”.

Somehow, I think I had convinced myself that life couldn’t possibly be happy and cheery and fulfilling until my band was successful or my art was popular and so on. There was some event on the horizon that would, in my mindset back then, wash away all the bad and leave only the good.

I’m tempted to believe that I was right. That the only reason things just didn’t just go up and stay up is because I never made it to those distant goals and dreams. But that just isn’t true.

I think I missed noticing a great many good things because they weren’t the good things I was waiting for. I think I let myself believe that nothing was going my way because things weren’t going exactly the way I planned. I was blind to some things that made me lucky.

What I’ve come to understand, the hard way, is that life will just be whatever it is. No matter where you are or what you are doing, there will be moments where you ride a high that feels like you’re on top of the world. And you know what, then there are going to be moments when it all comes crashing down and you feel like you could never fall so far and so hard again.

And that’s just the way it is. You can’t change it.

So how does that all relate to art? I want to say this. Your art has to be made for all of the up moments and all of the down moments. It can’t be made because you think it will solve all your problems and make everything better. Your art, whatever it is, can’t be made because you think it will get you a lucky, life changing break.

Life is never really going to change. You could have everything you wanted and still fall down.

The only thing that will change is how you interpret life. Of course, you won’t fully “get” this from my ramblings. You just won’t. Not until you reach the point where you start to understand everything on your own terms, through your own experiences.

I’ll tell you though when that starts to happen, it’s bloody amazing!

Merchandise: we don’t have to buy it.

Art, Creating, Culture, Dreams, Lifestyle, Music, Seriously Dude??, Writing

It came to me that I have lived a life that operates through accumulating and then forgetting objects. This is a human behaviour, and it is something we all do. However, in my case, it has been more specific in that the nature of the items I have gathered is the same. I own branded items in their thousands. Keychains? I got ‘em. T-shirts? I got ‘em. Sneakers, sippy cups, collectors items, action figures, hats, albums, DVDs, video tapes, books and pamphlets. Even my notebook that I have been using lately is branded by Disney.

So what does this mean? Well firstly, it means that if all the items in my life that are emblazoned with logos were ever to reach sentience and rise up against me, I wouldn’t have a fighting chance. I would go down within moments of the coup. There would be no warning shot. My Star Wars straw holders would strike first, positioned as they are near my bed. I fear it would not be a bloodless victory. Strength through sheer numbers would win out.

Secondly, and somehow even more scarily, it means that my life has been, to some extent, a long attempt to define myself through the acquisition of items. Items that have a cultural or artistic significance that in my mind will give me an identity that I can wear.

I have always struggled with identity. I have struggled to recognise, in my mind, exactly who and what I am. This has manifested itself in many ways. I have, in the past, had great difficulty committing to many of my artistic endeavours. I chop and change so quickly and so constantly that many of my closest friends have likened my creativity to a character in a certain song by Katy Perry.

But I think the clearest way my struggles with identity have appeared is through my buying habits. I buy or have bought so many items that just do not add value to my life, simply because I thought they would make me into a certain kind of person.

I see you there, looking sheepish. You’ve done the same thing at least once or twice.
And we often are just a little manipulated by the things we see around us. We are bombarded by public relations and advertising professionals. And I should know, I didn’t study three long years of public relations at college for nothing.

There is good news though. There is something I have, very slowly, become aware of.

I think Fugazi said it best. “We don’t have to buy it”.

And we don’t have to buy into it. We can, if we are conscious of it, take over the ownership of our buying and our impulses. This isn’t a long rant about how we should never spend money etc etc. I’m just saying there are better ways to spend it than on merchandise branded by Nike, Adidas, McDonalds, Formula 1, a football team, whatever. There are artists bands poets writers performers and more out there who are struggling to create the culturally important work that could some day have the power to pick you up and drag you kicking and screaming from the darkest moments of your life. The $160 sneakers you (and I) are mulling over could go a long way towards funding their work. Think about it. Think about the value of a night watching a group of people who believe firmly and thoroughly in the music they are making versus the value of a mass produced pair of shoes that you saw a blogger wearing at fashion week.

We. Don’t. Have. To. Buy. It.


All or nothing?

Art, Creating, Culture, Dreams, Music, Online

There is a popular idea that when you create art of any kind, you need to approach it with an all or nothing attitude. There’s a perception that you have to be 100% percent dedicated to whatever work you are doing in order for it to be as complete and realised as it ought to be. There are some good reasons and examples that guide this. When I was younger, I looked at Black Flag and read Get in the Van and was pretty certain that dedicating myself to my craft to that extent was the only way to go.

As I’ve grown older though, I have started to believe that no matter how many people tell you “this is the only way to go”, you are the single person who can determine your path. If you read anything written by Henry Rollins or listen to anything Greg Ginn ever said, you’ll recognise that sentiment. When it comes to creating your art, whatever that art may be, you can’t sit down with a guidebook and check off a series of tasks one by one. You have to write your own guidebook. Figure yourself out.

The Minutemen jammed econo. Black Flag got in the van, time and time again. Hemingway sat down at his typewriter and bled. But they all did their own thing, and they all worked their own way. They embraced their individual freedoms and they pushed their individual boundaries.

Bear in mind, I have not got anything figured out at this point. Dear God no. I am in the process of jamming in the garage of my own brain. But I’ll tell you, I am having the time of my life doing it. For me, being all or nothing when it comes to the things I create is a state of mind more than a state of life. Whatever I do during my day, be it working to earn some honest money to actually live and pay the bills or writing till my fingers are stained with ink, the reason I am doing it is always to further my creativity and my art. Such as it is.

The best things I have ever done.

Creating, Culture, Dreams, film, Music, Uncategorized, Writing

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It has enabled me to pick out the thread of my life from what felt like total chaos while I was so busy living it. I have started to look backwards now in a way I never used to. I have started looking back without the ache and the pain that a lot of memories can conjure, and in doing so I can begrudgingly say that a few things did turn out for the best, though at the time I thought they were the absolute end of the world.

I’ve also been able to see where I really did go wrong, and where that affected the course of my life. And I’ve been able to identify the times I did the right thing and made the right decision. I think it can be hard to pick the things that changed your life without focusing on the negative. Overall, - and this is by no means conclusive because everything is still being written - I have decided that I really do think these are the best things I have ever done…so far!

1. Go to drama classes

I was a very very shy teenager, and struggled to express myself. Having a speech problem that required regular visits with a speech therapist to overcome really didn’t help. I was often nervous and unable to hold a conversation with people. I found that people never understood me and every time someone asked me to repeat myself I died a little inside. One of the best things that I have ever done (if not THE best thing) is attend drama classes with the Helen O’Grady drama school program. It brought me out of myself in an amazing way, and taught me a confidence I didn’t think I had in me. My ability to interact with people and project something more than stifling nervousness was directly shaped by those drama classes.

2. Start a band

When I was in my first year of a liberal arts degree, I founded an electronic music duo called The Bright Young Things. This was a big step for me, and it was certainly something very new, as my music up until that point had been largely focused on punk rock and hardcore. Creating an entirely different kind of music pushed me to think very differently about songwriting and performance. And it also pushed me to collaborate in a way that I hadn’t really before. The guy I started the band with, AJ Dyce ended up becoming one of my best friends, and I’m now one of the Groomsmen in his upcoming wedding. That connection is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. Some pretty cool stuff happened because of that band too. We did end up being signed to an independent record label, which enabled us to put out some music we really believed in, and we were played on national TV and on the radio. The other day, in a book shop, I even heard one of our singles played and it was such a great feeling. I learned a lot from being in that band. I learned how to deal with failure as well, when things sometimes just didn’t quite go right. No regrets there at all.

3. Leave my band

In the end, for a number of reasons, I did end up leaving the Bright Young Things. We parted on great terms though, and those guys still mean a lot to me. I believe in their music and I believe in the ability of their music to really touch some lives and get people moving. In the end, I guess my creativity led me in some very different directions. And having the courage to say you know what, that is just okay was really good for me. I was able to take a lot of the things I had learned from BYT and put them into new projects with a sense of enthusiasm and excitement. My work this year, while definitely not life changing for anyone is certainly stuff that I am happy doing. Stuff that inspires me.

4. Study my masters

I ended up going back to Uni at the encouragement of both my Mum and my girlfriend Emily. I took up studying a masters in media at Sydney’s University of Technology. Suddenly, I had a reason to get off my butt and get out of the house every single day, work on new things that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise and be pretty far out of my comfort zone. Suddenly, I was surrounded by other creative people that I collaborate with and bounce ideas off. I made some great friends as a result of which I am now working on a comic book a bunch of short films and a web series. I have edited scripts for some super talented writers and directors (I’ll share a bit more about one of those projects soon) and been able to really thrive.

5. Fall in and out of love.

I know. This one sounds pretty emo. But you know what? When I was young, I was a total emo kid. So I’ll own that. One of the best things I did was fall in and out of love for the first time. Because the fact is that when it happened it wasn’t that person’s fault any more than it was mine. I learned a lot of empathy through that, I learned how my actions and words can hurt other people, and I learned that I am not always the most important person in the world. I am not really proud of the way I was in that first long term relationship, but I am proud of who I have become in the years following it. It really showed me some things about myself that I think at the time I wasn’t really happy to see, about the way I interacted with people and the way I communicated. In showing me those things though, that experience taught me what I needed to change the most. Plus I think at least to some extent it introduced me to the importance of particular memories and moments.


Those are just the things I’ve thought of right now. I’m hopeful that this list will grow a lot over the next few years. I’ve written it down in a notebook and I’ve put that notebook on my shelf. I’ll read over it again maybe in a year’s time. And I shall write some new thoughts on it. I think life can be really tough. It can be heartbreaking. It can be full of some really difficult lessons and realizations. But I don’t think I’d have it any other way. No matter what I say during my Tom Waits listening sessions!