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i swear, i'm not making this up
evidence that creative struggles end with a dead dwarf
by jack bradley

Okay, I admit it. I took the easy way out. I decided that instead of spending half of my time agonizing over a subject matter and half over verb tense (I did miserably in Language Arts, as it was called when I was a tike) that I would simply find a place on this planet to offered me a subject matter for free.

The verb tense I let my word processor take care of for me.

What I’m getting at is this: I’m a fraud. I frequently get two comments about my writing. The first is from people who know me personally, and they say things like “Wow…you write just like you talk! I could hear your voice when I read that article.” I’m flattered (I think), but the second comment affects me more. People ask me “Where do you get your ideas?”

Hah. If only they knew.

Now, I used to do the same thing every aspiring writer did. I wracked my brains for funny ideas, for interesting ideas, or for original ideas. I soon came to the conclusion that I was doing something wrong, because I was not coming up with anything any wittier than my brother-in-law does after he’s had a few beers. (For those of you not from a rural Southern state in the Union, that translates to fart jokes and anecdotes about your kids.) So I decided that I’d try a new approach. Guess what happened?

Yep, you got it. BINGO! All I had to do was change my perspective. I highly recommend it if you are a creative writer who is suffering from career stagnation or writer’s block. A move to a foreign country is my personal choice, although your mileage may vary. Some of you may be wondering at this point “What in the heck is he talking about?” Well, let me give you an example.

Many times, I’ll sit at my computer trying to fabricate some new, arcane relationship between an object or two in an attempt to find an angle that will appeal to my audience. I’ll look at new technology (it’s been done), family relationships (it’s been done twice), or maybe the service I received at a local restaurant (it’s been done by every hack since Soupy Sales. Twice.) I finally have to face facts and realize that it will just have to “come to me,” a phrase that every writer has used at some point or another. Sometimes it’s a cop out that buys you the afternoon off from work, and sometimes it’s the truth. Mostly the former.

However, I have found the one place on this planet where it’s simply the easiest way to write. Things “come to me,” literally, almost every day. Additionally, being a writer who favors wit, humor and the slightly surreal, I get my ideas served to me on a silver platter, three times a day (or more) without even asking. My secret is the city I live in…Sydney, Australia, arguably the most surreal place on the face of the planet.

Example: Wednesday before last, I crawled out of bed and decided to make myself a cup of joe before facing the day. Seeing as how the Sydney Morning Herald is a good way to familiarize myself with the local culture, I picked it up and scanned the front page. One of the articles described in detail how the commissioner of football had lost his wife (and I am not making this up) to an ice skating dwarf, after she had met him (the dwarf) while performing in an on ice production of Snow White. Not only had she left her husband, but she proceeded to become so distraught over their indiscretion that they swore to a suicide pact and swallowed pills to end their lives. Not surprisingly, the amount of pills taken was insufficient to kill the lady, but more than enough to end the dwarf’s life. Claiming "Divine Intervention," the football commissioner and his wife were reunited, and all was well. All was well, that is, except for the dead ice skating dwarf.

After reading this, I decided that the newspaper was a bit too much to handle before breakfast, and decided to take my now cooling coffee out onto the balcony to enjoy the warm fall day. As I admired the bluegum tree blooming at the back of my yard, my eye was drawn upward by movement in the sky. I also realized that I’d been hearing a faint hum, and soon put two and two together. Above my head, framed beautifully in the dazzling blue sky, the following words were forming in the clouds (I am still not making this up):

“Surrender Dorothy.”

I stood there, mute, for a full two minutes. Having never seen skywriting except in movies. I was fascinated. Having watched The Wizard of Oz over a hundred times in my life, I was mesmerized. Living in a country that is locally referred to as “Oz” suddenly felt like ‘too much.’ I waited for the tail on the “y” to be executed, and retired to the den, shaking my head. “Okay,” I thought, “That’s enough for one day.” It only briefly occurred to me to wonder why anyone would be re-enacting scenes from “The Wizard of Oz” at 9am. Deciding not to think about it, I turned on the television in hopes of something a bit more mundane.

There on the screen (and at this point I don’t expect you to believe it, but I’m still not making this up), in vivid, digitally enhanced color, was a two ton elephant seal sitting on the hood of a Chevy pickup truck. Actually, "sitting" isn’t the correct term, since his head alone was larger than the passenger compartment. The correct term is probably “lying across the crushed remains of” the Chevy. First of all, I had no idea that elephant seals grew bigger than utility vehicles. Secondly, I was used to seeing them in the company of other elephant seals, and sand, and rocks, and the occasional shore bird. Not smothering the remains of an unfortunate vehicle in the parking lot of the only Krispy Kreme Donut shop in the Southern Hemisphere. Third, it was not even 10am yet. I don’t know why that mattered, but having all of these events unfold before lunch just made things that much stranger.

I turned the television off, and went back to bed.

So, as I was saying before, I’m cheating. I’m a fraud. I sent my imagination packing, and I’m going to just call ’em like I see ’em. Who needs to make things up when they live in a place like this? You can hardly call this a creative struggle, now can you?

Jack Bradley
Sydney, Australia
May 4, 2000


Born the son of a circus monkey, Jack had to overcome the stigma of having an address south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Struggling against all odds, he finally got his HS diploma from some guy on the corner, and proceeded to attend NC State University, where his records are now the "running joke" in the admissions office. In February of 2000, he moved to Sydney, Australia, to pursue a writing career full-time. Jack currently has a husband but no wife, no children, and a dog with great fashion sense.

more about jack bradley


vindaloo before bedtime
the utter jungle of imagination
by jack bradley
topic: writing
published: 11.20.00

is that a lolly in your bum bag...
...or are you just chuffed to see me?
by jack bradley
topic: writing
published: 9.17.00


roger striffler
5.31.00 @ 4:07p

If this is real -and I believe you, honest, I do - then maybe we need regular updates. I like the way you tell an already twisted story...maybe a monthly/bi-monthly column is in order. The only problem is, where do you go from a dead ice-skating dwarf???

lila snow
7.11.00 @ 8:15a

Which dwarf was it? Because if it was Sleepy, then MAYBE he is just faking everybody out.

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