G’day from Camperdown,

I just arrived here a few hours ago and it’s absolutely beautiful. The caravan park is set on a hill between two lakes. Me and Ruben went for a walk down the hill into town, but it’s been raining so we haven’t been able to explore properly. Looking forward to doing that tomorrow.

After realising that I was trying to do too much (write too much, visit too many places), I really slowed down this week and the results were tremendous. Three weeks on the road and I think I’m finally finding the right balance.

I spent the whole week at Lake Burrumbeet, first at a caravan park, then at a free campground across the water. Both were excellent spots. The lake was absolutely gorgeous, especially around sunrise and sunset. I think visiting a maximum of two places each week (three nights in one spot, four in another) is going to be key going forward. Less time packing up and moving and setting up, and more time really soaking in one place. Settling long enough to get a good routine going, where I’m doing enough writing and also exploring the place thoroughly.

Camperdown, Victoria

Camperdown, Victoria

Another thing that’s helping is yoga and meditation. I’m trying to do it every day, or at least every second day. I actually tore the table out of my caravan so I could roll out my yoga mat inside. There is now a hole in the floor, but oh well… In case you’re interested, I use the Down Dog app for yoga and the Waking Up app for meditation.

Walking, too, has been really therapeutic, and also a good workout since I started wearing my old weight vest to get the heart rate up. It’s helping to clear my head before and after writing. It’s also handy in tuckering Ruben out so I can actually do some writing without him giving me the judgemental “walk me” eyes.

Originally, I wasn’t even going to visit Burrumbeet, but my younger brother and collaborator, Toby, had a basketball tournament in Ballarat, so I detoured north to visit him and mum. It was really great seeing them. It’s only been three weeks, but simultaneously feels a lot longer and a lot shorter. Now that I’m no longer around, I find myself calling and messaging members of my family, and actually learning more about what’s going on with their lives than I did before, which is incredible. It’s not the same as being there, but I don’t feel as lonely or out of the loop as I thought I might.

Ruben and I left Lake Burrumbeet this morning and headed south, stopping off at a few places along the way, like this old timber bridge on the Ballarat-Skipton rail trail (which I remember cycling a few years ago)…

Lake Burrumbeet, Victoria

Nimmons Bridge, Victoria

What I’m working on: Sword & Sandal currently stands at 27,080 words. This week has been absolutely phenomenal, not even in terms of output (18,759 words), but just in terms of a renewed commitment to the work. I’ve been sitting down every day and getting my words in. Some days it’s easier than others. As I adapt to caravan life, I’m realising that it’s taking me longer to get into the groove. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; once I get into the zone, the words just start flowing, but it’s a matter of getting there. I could blame it on the added mental real estate that nomadic life is taking up (ie. constantly having to think about mundane things like showering, going to the bathroom, washing clothes, charging my battery, food preparation… all of which take more time or are more difficult now), but the truth is that I’ve always had a problem with procrastination.

I like this quote, variously attributed to Raymond Chandler, William Faulkner, Somerset Maugham and others:

“I only write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”

The key is forcing myself to sit down and perform the action of writing. I’ve found that motivation often follows action, rather than the other way around. Start writing, and eventually I’ll feel like writing. Wait around to feel like writing, and I may never start.

I’m really enjoying this free-wheeling approach to history that I’m taking with Sword & Sandal. As I’ve said before, it’s no textbook I’m writing. If you want to learn about Ancient Rome, there are many books on the subject. Might I suggest Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Western Roman Empire (the audiobook is around 126 hours long, if that’s your thing). Also, it’s looking like this will be a shorter novel than the ones I usually write, so it might be here sooner than you think…

In other news, I passed 150,000 words written since November 13 of last year. That’s when I really buckled down and made a commitment to doing this full time. That’s an average of 1,200 words a day, and I haven’t written every day (not even close). This past week, I’ve been averaging somewhere between 2,200 and 2,600 words a day. I aim for a minimum of 2,000, which I can comfortably achieve in 3-4 hours. Usually. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth.

What I’m reading: Page/passage-a-day from The Daily Stoic, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Tolstoy, Allie Esiri’s poetry and Shakespeare books, the King James Bible (almost finished 2 Kings). I’m telling you, the Old Testament has got some pretty awesome stories. The showdown between Elijah and the priests of Baal is particularly epic. I’ve already got a few adaptations and alternate versions percolating…

What I’m watching: I revisited a movie from my childhood, Animal Treasure Planet. It was made in 1971 and I guess at some point my mum must have taped it on VHS, because I remember watching it over and over again. I can’t really recommend it, but it definitely brought back some memories. I then went on to watch 2002’s Treasure Planet, which I hadn’t seen since it came out, and definitely can recommend that. The main song (from the lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls) is still stuck in my head. I discovered, to my delight, that Bob’s Burgers is streaming on Disney+. I’ve been wanting to watch this show for ages, but it’s only been available for purchase. I’m three episodes in and loving it. The show is hilarious. H. Jon Benjamin has one of the most distinctive voices in the business; it gets me every time. I know him from Archer, but he’s just as good here. Very different character too.

What I’m listening to: It’s been a lot of podcasts this week. Catching up with a lot of Blank Check, the Empire Podcast, and We’ll See You In Hell (all film review podcasts). I’ve also really been enjoying Glenn Loury and John McWhorter’s conversations on The Glenn Show, as well as McWhorter’s newsletter, It Bears Mentioning, hosted right here on Substack. They have frank discussions about race and politics in America which I find incredibly refreshing (both are black professors; Loury of Economics, McWhorter of Linguistics). Both have received considerable pushback for what are considered conservative views, but I find them both very articulate, intelligent and insightful. The fact that they don’t tow the party line, in a manner of speaking, and that they risk their reputations by voicing their beliefs, makes me put a lot more stock in what they have to say than commentators who essentially risk nothing by going along with the mainstream consensus. I grew up in a fairly conservative environment, then swung hard to the left in my early-mid twenties. Now, approaching thirty, I find myself coming back towards the centre, and learning to form my own opinions based on individual issues, rather than treating politics like sports (where my team is righteous no matter what and the other team is the devil incarnate). I find myself seeking out more centrist thinkers, or listening to both liberal and conservative arguments, then synthesising what I hope is a fair and balanced opinion based on that.

That’s all from me this week. If you didn’t get the email with the links to all my books, just hit reply to this email and I’ll send them right through. If you’ve made a start on any of them, I’d love to hear your thoughts (good and bad). Remember, I’m trying to improve my writing here. I also don’t mind gushing praise.

Until next week…