All posts tagged Motivation

  • Announcing my appointment as national music writer at The Australian, from January 2018

    I have been appointed as national music writer at The Australian, as announced in the newspaper on Saturday 25 November 2017:

    Andrew McMillen announced as The Australian's national music writer, starting January 2018

    Before I start my next chapter at The Australian in January 2018, I wrote a Medium post to summarise my eight years in freelance journalism. Excerpt below.

    Never Rattled, Never Frantic

    Staying motivated during eight years in freelance journalism

    'Never Rattled, Never Frantic: Staying motivated during eight years in freelance journalism' by Andrew McMillen, December 2017

    Underneath my computer monitor are three handwritten post-it notes that have been stuck in place for several years. They each contain a few words that mean a lot to me.

    From left to right, they read as follows:

    1. “Alive time or dead time?”

    2. “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practised every day, while failure is simply a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.”

    3. “Never rattled. Never frantic. Always hustling and acting with creativity. Never anything but deliberate.”

    Since I began working as a freelance journalist in 2009, aged 21, I have worked from eight locations: two bedrooms, two home offices, three living rooms, and one co-working space.

    At each of these locations, I took to writing or printing quotes that I found motivational or inspirational. Most of them I have either absorbed by osmosis or outright forgotten, but there’s one I found around 2011 that retains a special resonance. I printed it in a large font, and stuck it to my wall:

    “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is practically a cliche. Education will not: the world is full of educated fools. Persistence and determination alone are all-powerful.”

    That long quote was torn down and tossed during a move, but the message was internalised. If I had to narrow my success down to a single attribute, it’s persistence. I could have quit on plenty of occasions, after any one of a number of setbacks. But I didn’t.

    In these motivational quotes, you may be sensing some themes.

    I would be lying if I told you that the act of writing and affixing these quotes helped me on a daily, or even a weekly basis. I didn’t repeat them out loud, like affirmations. Most of the time, they were as easy to ignore as wallpaper.

    But often enough in recent years, during down moments, or in times of stress or upheaval, I’d shift my gaze from the words–or the bright, blank page–on the computer monitor, and find that these few handwritten notes would help to centre my thoughts.

    Let me tell you why.

    To read the full story of how I kept myself motivated during eight years in freelance journalism, including significant help from my mentors Nick Crocker and Richard Guilliatt, visit Medium.

    And keep an eye on The Australian from January 2018 to see where I take the newspaper’s music coverage in my new role. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

  • National Young Writers’ Month 2011: ‘Why I Write’ entry

    I’m the Queensland ambassador for the first National Young Writers’ Month (NYWM), which runs June 1-30 2011. You can read all about what that entails here.

    Below is an entry originally posted on the NYWM blog. It’s a response to the question, “Why do you write?”

    Why I Write: Andrew McMillen

    As National Young Writers’ Month approaches, guest writers will be joining us to share their perspectives on why they write.  Today Andrew McMillen, our Queensland ambassador, talks us through his motivations.

    As a journalist, I write because I want to be engaged with society. I want to contribute. I want to tap new veins of research. I want to speak with people who matter about the issues that concern them, and tell their stories to the widest audience possible. I want to be involved; to ask questions, to challenge preconceptions, to dig beneath the surface veneer. I am still quite new to this, as I can probably count on two hands the number of my published stories that have achieved these goals. But these are the goals, nonetheless.

    That’s my stance on ‘why I write’ as of May 2011. It wasn’t always this way.

    The first time I was ever published, in any sense of the word, was in 2002. I was an eager member of an online video game community, to put it lightly. I spent hours each day contributing to discussions about all manner of topics with people across the world. I started writing news for the site; a process which, essentially, involved rewriting press releases and summarising new information garnered from other websites. Totally unglamorous – and actually, kind of dirty now that I look back on it – but at the time, I loved it. I felt engaged. Empowered. People were reading my articles, and coming out the other end knowing things that they did not know before! It was a breakthrough. I was 14.

    I didn’t uphold this (clearly unpaid) role for long, but I never forgot that first experience of being published. Of having people read my words, and react. Occasionally, throughout my teens, I’d find momentary inspiration in something. I’d sit down and put my mind to writing something outside of my high school assignments. A spirited defence of a friend’s band on a local message board. Over-earnest attempts at aping Tucker Max‘s style by recounting some drunken nights spent with friends. A live review of my favourite band, and how much it blew my mind. These stories never made it far, but it was the writing equivalent of flexing my muscles every once in a while. As with bodybuilding, if you don’t use the muscle, you’ll eventually lose it.

    I moved to Brisbane from Bundaberg in 2006. I began studying Communication. I didn’t have a good reason for doing this. It essentially came down to my parents pressuring me to study something; anything. Communication seemed like the course that would suck the least. Ultimately, I was wrong in this assumption – though since I’ve never studied anything else, I can’t really compare their suckiness – but I finished my course and got the certificate.

    That first year of university, I went to a few dozen live music shows. I liked music a lot, but I’d never really considered writing about it. Especially not for money. The concept seemed faintly ridiculous. Initially, it was something of an ethical dilemma: why should people get paid for writing about something that they love? (Sidenote: boy, has this view changed.) That year, I began avidly reading Brisbane’s street press – free newspapers, delivered weekly to record stores and venues across the city – as well as the handful of online music media sites that existed at the time. Eventually, I made the connection that the people reviewing shows in those pages, and on those websites, were doing so for free. They weren’t paying for tickets. And some of them weren’t great writers: their sentences were awkward, and their facts were wrong.

    After reading one too many poor reviews of a show I’d paid to attend, I decided to throw my hat into the ring by writing my own review. And sending it to a couple of editors: one street press, one online. Both liked what I wrote, and assigned me more reviews. It was June 2007. Over the months, what began mostly as a cost-saving venture as a university student eventually became something about which I’m more passionate than ever: comprehensive, unique live music reviews.

    Nowadays, I still review shows, but my attention has shifted toward meatier targets: namely, feature stories. Big, long, heavily-researched articles which require dozens of interviews in order to condense a wide range of viewpoints into a coherent narrative. This is way, way harder than going to watch a couple of bands and filing 300 words on how they performed – which was essentially the extent of the copy that I filed as a journalist (in the loosest sense of the word) between mid 2007 and early 2009.

    Clearly, the goal has shifted from gaining free entry into concerts. It’s now about telling stories, starting dialogues. Challenging. Provoking. All that stuff I mentioned in the first paragraph. But without those experiences along the way – first, thanklessly rewriting press releases about new Nintendo games, then the equally thankless task of reviewing live music in Brisbane – I wouldn’t be where I am now. While both why and how I write have changed immensely in the last few years, my belief in – and dedication to – the craft of writing only strengthens with each passing day.

    Andrew McMillen (@NiteShok) is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist for Rolling Stone, The Weekend Australian, The Courier-Mail and triple j mag, among others. He is also the Queensland ambassador for National Young Writers’ Month 2011. For more on Andrew, click here.

    For more information about National Young Writers’ Month, visit the NYWM website. If you’re a young writer, register on the website, set a goal, and join the conversation. It’ll be fun.

    If you’d like to contact me for an interview or to arrange media coverage of any of the above events, email me here.

  • Neil Strauss, Addendum

    How I put myself in the position to spend 45 minutes with one of my favourite writers:

    1. Read The Game by Neil Strauss in 2007. Love it; re-read it several times. Buy a used copy from eBay and a new copy from a bookstore to lend to friends.
    2. Through Neil’s mailing list, receive information that Emergency, his new book, was due in March 2009.
    3. Email several people to find the Australian publisher of Emergency. (Answer: Text Publishing)
    4. Request a review copy of Emergency for FourThousand.
    5. Inadvertently receive two copies of Emergency from different publishers. (I’m still not sure how this happened.)
    6. Review Emergency for FourThousand.
    7. Send review link to Text Publishing to solidify that relationship.
    8. Through his mailing list, receive information of Neil’s forthcoming Australian book tour in June 2009.
    9. Contact Text Publishing to request an interview Neil on behalf of FourThousand. (This request was a near-certainty, given my relationship with the publisher.)
    10. Discover that Neil’s book tour omits Brisbane. Sadly, resign the interview to a 20 minute phone call.
    11. Meet with Nick Crocker on Sunday, June 21 2009. He suggests the unforeseen possibility of flying to Sydney to interview Neil in person. (Nick: “Since he’s such a massive influence, why don’t you spend a couple hundred dollars to fly down to make a better impression?” Andrew: “…” [stunned silence, having not considered this option at all])
    12. Later that night, book flights to Sydney to interview Neil in person.
    13. Fly to Sydney on Tuesday, June 23 2009.
    14. Meet Neil. Complete my biggest interview yet by having a conversation, instead of referring to questions point-by-point.
    15. Begin transcribing the conversation at Sydney Airport.
    16. Fly back to Brisbane, head full of inspiration.
    17. Per Neil’s advice, outsource the rest of the interview transcription; in this case, to Israel, to an excellent transcriptionist named Tamara Bentzur. (I found her by Googling “outsource transcriptions”.)
    18. Spend the next two-plus months pitching the interview feature to various magazines in an attempt to recoup the $300 airfares.
    19. Get rejected.
    20. Eventually post the entire interview – 8,000 words-plus – online, free.

    Regrets? None.

  • On Productivity And Procrastination

    If you spend a lot of time on Twitter each day, you start to feel a sense of vicarious productivity.

    Discussing links, chatting with several people at once, managing followers: none of it really matters, and yet it’s easy to lose sight of this when you’re immersed in it. 

    You think you’re achieving things by commenting on and distributing content produced by others. But unless you’re being paid to manage your Twitter account, you’re really just engaged in a highly interactive distraction.

    We’re only going to become more familiar with the presence of constant distractions. I have not a goddamn shred of research to back up this suggestion, so bear with me.

    Regular internet users readily switch between dozens of social applications, interfaces and conversations every hour: email, instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, et al.

    Compare this constant multi-tasking to what our parents were familiar with: that is, concentrating on the task at hand – using the skills that you’ve chosen to build your career upon – before dealing with what’s ahead.

    I might suck at explaining it, but the skills that a savvy internet user possesses are radically different from the previous generation. And I’m not one to give much thought to generational difference, but unless I’m much mistaken, we’re learning to think in a totally different way.

    I’m aware that I’m extrapolating my own experience onto a wider demographic.

    But I’ve found that instead of regularly focussing on one single task, my attention is divided across several mediums. It’s rare that I can concentrate on one task from start to finish.

    Logically, this means that the quality of my creative output – be it a university assignment, a paid article, or an email to my family – is reduced, as I’m thin-slicing my thought contributions across hours or days.

    That’s the rational explanation: reduced concentration on a singular pursuit results in a diminished outcome.  But I’m not certain.

    I’m still adjusting to this relatively new method of online productivity. But I’ve no doubt that individuals who can successfully navigate a web of procrastination pitfalls will end up miles ahead of their peers.

    It’s like Tait Ischia said in my interview: “If all the kids these days spent the same amount of time writing blogs that they did on Facebook, then [the advertising] industry would be a hell of a lot more competitive.

    He’s talking specifically about writing, sure. Because he’s a writer. But apply his concept to your ideal pursuit: breakdancing, animation, video production; I don’t know, interior fucking design.

    The reality is that if you don’t work at your passion, you don’t get any closer to realising it. It continues to sit out of reach. That passionate carrot that you just can’t be fucked working toward. It’s the difference between putting the majority of your energy into becoming a widely-read writer and just telling everyone you meet that you want to be a widely-read writer.

    In this way, nothing about productivity has changed since humans started realising that they required more than just food, shelter and sex to live a satisfying life.

    So I suppose that the internet,  in the hands of the unmotivated, might just be a platform that has the potential to be a dense distraction. It’s the marbles, the skateboard, the comic books, the pool halls of previous generations, condensed into a single interface.

    Except it’s inside, and you’re probably going to learn fewer skills when traversing the internet for extended periods. But even that statement is wrong; you’ll learn skills, but they’ll be completely different to what you’d learn in a pool hall or a skate bowl.

    Historically, the people who are motivated toward an end have achieved things. They’re remembered. They won. And those who stood in the shadow of their achievements weren’t remembered. They didn’t win.

    Simpler: the people who get things done win.

    This post is a departure from the norm, because I clearly haven’t thought this through. But I’m okay with that. Stepping outside my comfort zone of pretending that I have the answers.

    How do you spend your time online, and how do you deal with distraction? Do you think we’re learning to interact smarter?

  • Fear

    You know, my biggest fear is mediocrity.

    Waking up one day and realising that I embody all the traits that I dislike in other people.

    Whether in mind – watching television, not reading, conducting conversations that revolve around inane interpersonal relationship bullshit.

    Or in body – eating crap, binge drinking, not exercising.

    Fear is healthy. Fear is a huge motivator.

    It’d be easy to construct this as some huge deal, a struggle, a rage against mediocrity. But it’s not. Instead, it’s kind of easy.

    One simple question, asked over and over: who do you want to be?

  • Condoleezza Rice: It’s your power, use it

    Noel linked me to an inspiring speech recently given to students of Perth’s Mercedes College by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It’s well worth the read. I’ve picked out some key quotes below – bolding is mine.

    I’d only have one suggestion, (to young people) which is when you go to college, don’t try to determine what job you’re going to have when you get out. Try to determine what your passion is. Try to figure out what it is you really love to do.

    Finding your passion is the most important thing that you can do. My passion turned out to be the study of the Soviet Union. The first time I heard the Russian language, it was like falling in love.

    Don’t worry if it’s something that seems a little odd because there is no reason that a black woman from Birmingham, Alabama, should have been interested in the Soviet Union. I just was. Don’t let anybody define for you what you should be interested in. Your horizons should be limitless at this point. You have to find that special combination of what you’re good at doing and what you love to do. And when you find that combination life is going to work out.

    Just don’t let anybody put limits on it because you’re a woman or because you are from some particular ethnic group or because you’re Aboriginal or whatever you are. What you want to be and who you’re going to be is really up to you.

    Most often people will underestimate your capabilities. The best way to deal with that is, be tough, be prepared to take on whatever questions come at you. And you’ll find that sooner or later, it won’t matter that much.