Category: Writing

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Vegas Cool: Mark Anthony and the magic of Elvis

Mark Anthony as Elvis

They say the heart wants what the heart wants, and it does. Mine wants music. Craves it, digs it, loves it, adores it, must must have it because it dips down into the very soul of who and how and what I am. Yes music, but most of all? Elvis Presley music. It’s my air. I need it to survive. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing like that feeling of sitting in the very front row, waiting for the show to start -waiting for Elvis Presley’s music to once again give wings to your soul – the creak and luxury of the leather seats, the smell of theatre and the dim heavy dark red velvet stage curtains, majestic,  just a few feet from the stage in front of you. Heartbeat, heartbeat, you can feel the anticipation of the audience, it’s in your chest – and it’s the energy of Elvis Presley in the air. Ahhh there’s nothing like it. And me? I travelled, by plane, all the way to Adelaide to be there. From Melbourne. Yes that’s right, this crazy goose travelled further south in the middle of a cold winter. Am I nuts or what. Yeah well it’s these crazy out of freaking nowhere adventures, that keep me sane.

Do you know what I love about Mark Anthony? I love that when he walks onstage, you become part of it. From the first moment, it’s like a shift in reality and suddenly it’s The International Hotel, Vegas, 1969 and from the first fade of lights and the first screams of ecstasy; from the first realisation that the music is about to hit, he draws you in and you are part of it. There is something completely Elvis-esque about Mark Anthony. He captures the very essence of the man, and then teases us with it, all lithe and mean – that sneer, that half giggle – it’s Elvis Personified, oh Lordy, and tonight he’s in the stunning red and black three piece Cossack suit, pure Vegas ’69, bathed under stagelight and it’s perfect. And the band hits it and he starts singing and moving, and the backup girls are digging it and singing high-pitched harmony, and he’s got us, every freaking second, he’s got us – and every freaking second is pure heaven Elvis music bliss.

He gives us CC Rider, the way it was originally done, before the tradition of the 70’s had set in. It’s raw and new – not what most of the crowd expected – and oh what a delightful shock. This is the breakout Elvis, fresh from the Comeback Special, Elvis NOW before he was documented in That’s The Way It Is – this is Elvis re-discovering who he is and what he’s made of, and Mark Anthony is not just playing the role, he’s living it and he’s taking us along for the ride, and for an Elvis Presley fan, there is nothing better. The energy, the band, the light show, the music, THE MUSIC – it’s Rubberneckin’ groovy cool classy like only Elvis can – the Memphis Flash all grown up and how. I don’t know what it feels like or how many hundreds of hours it’s taken him to be up on that stage, doing what he does so freaking flawlessly, like it’s second nature, but I do know that from down here in the front row, he is the closest we’ll get to the real deal, and I love that he’s given this to us. I love that he loves the man so much – so obvious from the way he gives a billion percent to every note, every gesture, every move and nuance – I love that it’s a humble, genuine, respectful tribute; I love that he gets it technically right, vocally right, and that those moves of his not only replicate but resonate the real Elvis, to a standard I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. I love it! I love it so much.

For the second half of the show, it’s Elvis 70, the white jumpsuited svelte young superstar that the audience know and adore. Now it’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, Mystery Train, Polk Salad Annie and hands down the best version of Just Pretend I have ever heard. Ever. Perfectly captured and so beautifully sung, it’s the entire threatre as one – magic threads connecting us all. Mark Anthony is a master at what he does, but it’s not just about the performance. It’s about the little things: recognising the old man who’s dancing on his own in the corner, playfully grabbing his hat, making us laugh and making him feel special; it’s the way he wanders down to the back rows during Love Me Tender, reaching back into the crowd who reach out to him; it’s the humble acknowledgment of one of the best backing bands out there, the gratitude, the thankfulness, the genuineness about Mark Anthony that makes his time on stage so special.

Yes I love the performer and the performance, but most of all, I love the glimpses he gives us. We know he’s not Elvis (and he knows it too), but here and there, there are those brief moments when we swear to God, THIS is exactly how it would feel to be at an Elvis Presley show, THIS is what the magic of the International Hotel would have been like, THIS is what it would have felt like to be in the presence of The King onstage. He takes us there. What an incredible thing to be able to share with an audience. When the night finally ends and the red curtain falls (and we die a little inside), we take away something more than just the memory of a great performance. We take away a little bit of the magic of Elvis Presley himself.

The heart wants what the heart wants.

Mark Anthony – thank you for the music.

 

[Linda Memphis, July 2017]
© 2017 Linda Memphis

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How do I become a Writer?

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‘Writers write!’ is the famous quote that supposedly answers the question that all aspiring writers want answered: namely, ‘How Do I Become a Writer?’. Just write? That’s it? Well it may sound simple, but the act of putting words onto a page does not make you a writer – no matter how well you learn to do it, or how often you practice it. No, being a writer is about something far more intrinsic. After all, anyone can write – but that doesn’t mean we are all writers! So what is it that makes a writer? And how do you become one?

What Qualifications Do I Need?

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If you were to ask, ‘How Do I Become a Teacher?’ or ‘How Do I Become an Accountant?’, most people would tell you that you need to follow a very specific training path in order to gain a qualification in that particular field. And it’s true that you cannot be employed as a Teacher or Accountant without a qualification. Similarly, there are many pathways to writing qualifications for those wanting to ‘become’ writers, the only difference being, that a qualification is not essential in the majority of cases for someone to become a professional working writer. But my point here is one that’s very often overlooked. And that is, it’s not in the learning to be a writer (or teacher or accountant) or qualifiying for the job by completing a course, that makes you a teacher or accountant – or writer. The key to becoming anything isn’t in the qualification – it’s in the yearning or passion that you have for the job. That’s where teachers and accountants are made. And that too, is where writers are made.

Making It Happen

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Some years ago now, I did a postgraduate teaching qualification, thinking it would be an easy path to a ‘family friendly’ job. My daughter was very young at the time, and I wanted a job that would give me a good income and lots of time with my family. I very quickly realised that teaching was a job requiring huge sacrifices and long hours – and about as far from ‘family friendly’ as it gets. But what I also came to understand, was that teachers are born, not created. Always a great student and a hard worker, I powered through my classes and finished my first semester with High Distinctions, but no matter what my results said, I knew inside that I had no passion for the job of teaching. There was no yearning each day to head off to school or to get things done, and I didn’t think about anything teaching-related unless I had to (for my course). I certainly didn’t get the same enjoyment from it that my fellow classmates did, and while I hid it well from them, I am sure that the kids in my prac classroom could tell that my heart wasn’t in it. I finished the course (because I’m not a quitter), and I graduated with the qualification – HD’s no less. Officially, I was a teacher – but I never took up the profession. I had learnt how to become a teacher – but even with the qualification – I wasn’t one.

What’s In Your Heart?

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Teaching was always a chore for me. But writing? Now there was something that I was always doing, even when I didn’t have to! As a kid, I wrote poems and stories and made them into books. I wrote even when there was no-one to read what I’d written. I entered competitions and started making submissions to magazines when I was a teenager, and was thrilled when I was published over and over again. I loved crafting the words that seemed to just pour out of me. I loved creating something from nothing. Writing came very naturally to me. Don’t get me wrong, I still had to work at it to make it really good, and I eventually did a degree in Creative Writing to help hone my craft, but I didn’t have to become a writer – I already was one. It had been there all along.

If you are a writer, you’ll know. You’ll know because you will have to write, no matter what. Writing will be like breathing to you – it will be something that you have to do, that you want to do, that you crave doing. Just as a born teacher will find themselves drawn to education and to helping children, and just as a born accountant will find they have a flair for numbers, a writer will naturally love to write. It won’t be the idea of being a writer that you’ll be in love with – and I think that’s what a lot of people who ask ‘How Do I Become a Writer’ are infatuated with, the idea of writing – no, it will be the writing itself that you are in love with.

Being a writer is not about writing, it’s about being in love with writing. Every day.

One of my favourite pieces of writing about being a writer, is ‘So You Want To Be a Writer?’, by Charles Bukowski. I love Bukowski, because his words come directly from the heart and the gut, both. You feel what he is saying. His words are raw and beautiful and eloquent in their brevity. ‘So You Want To Be a Writer?’ he asks.

Well then…

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work
just thinking about doing it,

don’t do it.

if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out
of you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it
to your wife
or your girlfriend
or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed
with selflove.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

And that’s how writers are born.

 

Linda Memphis
May, 2017

© 2017 Linda Memphis

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How To Slow The $@#% Down: Four tips to help you savour the moment and create clarity in your life!

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Does it ever feel like your life is a movie stuck on fast-forward? Like no matter how hard you try, there are never enough hours in the day, or no matter what you do, there’s always more to be done? Does it feel like you always need to move faster, think harder and work smarter to get ‘there’?

It’s alarming that for so many of us, our lives are like one massive ‘To Do’ list. We clock up kids play dates, coffee dates and after work drinks like there’s no tomorrow; push for bigger, better, picture-perfect homes; strive to always stay on top of social media, the local gossip, the latest news; and cultivate hip and healthy homemade meals even when we walk in the door late – not because takeaway is bad for us but so that we can prove to ourselves and the world that we ‘have it all’. Work life – tick, family life – tick, social life – tick, sleep – wait, what’s that? At the end of any given day, we pile into bed, bodies aching and minds racing to power up for more of the same tomorrow – all the while wishing that we had just a few more hours in the day.

This is living?

Why is it that it’s obvious to us that it’s better to choose quality over quantity where material things are concerned, yet we throw away our time as though it counts for nothing?  How can we learn to see each moment as valuable and precious and treat it accordingly? Because it’s the little things – it’s in the moments – that we truly experience life, and make memories to cherish.

Well, savouring the moment and creating clarity in your life not as difficult as you might think!

The simple solution? Slow the $@#% down!!

  1. Prioritize: Understand What’s Urgent and Important
    One the greatest mistakes you can make is to label everything you’re doing as something that ‘has’ to be done, and done fully. If you are thinking this way, then you are, in effect, labeling everything as urgent and important – potentially wasting time and energy on things that don’t necessarily require your full attention. The end result? You’re left rushing around trying to make time for the things that actually are important. Something is only urgent if your survival depends on it. If your bill is overdue and your electricity is about to be cut off? Well yes, then paying that bill is pretty urgent. Getting a report in before deadline? Yes, that’s important too (you don’t want to lose your job). But responding to an associates every inbox or text message with a hundred word paragraph (because you have to spell everything out for them)?  Not urgent, and potentially not even that important. Keep your responses to a minimum and schedule in a phone call for the queries that do require a full or urgent response. It’s actually faster to talk than text, and you won’t be wasting time going back and forth with a dozen messages that most likely will keep interrupting your work flow. You can slow your life down significantly by making a list of all the things you normally do in a day, and weeding out or cutting down on the ones that aren’t urgent or important. Re-prioritise these, delegate them to someone else, or even take them off that ‘to do’ list altogether.
  2.  Ask Yourself Is It Important – To Me?
    After you’ve sorted out what’s truly urgent and important, it’s time to evaluate what’s important to you. Family, friends, hobbies – what makes you happy? What re-energises you and inspires you? Put aside time for these things, and give yourself permission to indulge in whatever it is that makes your life worth living. Embrace the things that are important to you and say no to the others. Cut out anything that doesn’t add significant value to your life. For example, all those extra curricular activities that you’re doing, not because you particularly want to, but because you think you should be doing them (for whatever reason). Same goes for all the extra curricular activities your kids are doing. Ask them what they want to do. Let them do just one or two after school activities that they really enjoy rather than dragging them to three or four (or five or six) because that’s what you’ve let yourself believe that kids ‘should’ be doing at their age. Choose quality over quantity! Cut ruthlessly and make an effort to thoroughly enjoy the things you’ve chosen.
  3. Make Private Time A Priority
    Now that you’ve narrowed down what’s urgent and important, and identified the people and things/activities that you have decided are most important to you, it’s time to take a look at putting aside some time for yourself. Yes, really! Just as sleep is essential for our bodies to rest so that we can get up again each morning and make the most of the day ahead, it’s also important for us to rest and relax our minds so that we can think with ease and clarity. Slow your life down by taking some time out for you. We need time alone to reflect and appreciate, to restore and centre our minds away from the rush and clutter of daily life. Even if it’s just ten minutes a day – go for a walk, read a book, or just sit in a garden somewhere with sunshine overhead and the breeze brushing against your face. ‘Me time’ is absolutely vital to our well being.
  4. Live In The Moment
    Very young children live in a timeless world. They aren’t focussed on yesterday or tomorrow, they live fully in the here and now, embracing everything in front of and around them. You can slow your life down significantly by taking every opportunity to you can to look at life through the eyes of a child. Give 100% to whatever task you have at hand, regardless of what it is. Appreciate the positives in every situation, and make a determined effort to embrace them.

When we are anxious and stressed, we breathe in short, shallow breaths and this doesn’t properly sustain us. While there may still be air going in and out of our lungs, we are out of whack. It’s not an enjoyable experience. In order to calm your body and mind so you can function at an optimum, you need to take the time to breathe slowly. Then and only then does everything else come into focus – allowing you to look around and smile. Re-prioritising and re-delegating tasks, understanding what’s important to you as a person, allowing yourself private time, and making an effort to live in the moment are all strategies which will help you truly breathe – and live at a pace that allows your life to truly come into focus.

Clarity of mind and quality of time cannot be rushed. Slow it down – and your life will thank you.

Cheers!
Linda Memphis

© 2017 Linda Memphis

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