Saturday, February 13, 2016


A thought bubble on the edge of a pin, refusing to break.

The tiny beginning of a headache that wants to branch out into mental armageddon, something you can actually medicate, but instead taunts you from a distance. Like being beaten into submission with a spoon.

Writer's block.

You squeeze, and bribe, cajole beyond wit and reason, but your mind just won't give you what you demand of it.

The blank paper stares back at you. Smirking. Your self-worth, the reptilian voice in the dark recesses of your mind, begins to hiss insults at you.



"No talent"

Panic strikes. Beads of sweat become bullets.

"If I keep pushing" you think, "I'll break through."

Nervous heat spreads through your ears. Stiff shoulders choke at your neck. Tension...tension...

The clock beats at your will power. How could forty-five minutes have passed?

The cursor blinks: well?

"Well, I'm going to check Facebook. And Twitter. And Google+. Oh, and there's that thing I haven't done in two years, but it's suddenly REALLY important that I do it now. And...blah...blah..."

By the time you return to your desk, three hours have passed.

You don't even have a title.

And you've never felt so alone.

Where, in all of this cold indifferent universe, can you turn for inspiration?

Not as far as you would think.

Take the true story of a foiled $32 million heist from Melbourne's Crown Casino. A New Zealand high roller was invited to the casino to try his luck against the house. Apparently, he was quite lucky.

Too lucky.

' fact, after an eight hand-long winning streak at the card tables, he was up by $32 million. Given that the house always wins, because they pretty much design it that way, this streak caught the attention of security...Further investigation, they say, uncovered the fact that security cameras had been "breached", and that the VIP services manager was in on the scam, and had arranged to send covert "signals" to the gambler at the table.'

But here's the best part. The busted high roller was also set to take part in a PR stunt for the casino, the next day. A high-profile Guiness World Record attempt, where he would purchase 'The World's Most Expensive Cocktail' for $12,500.

When he couldn't participate, the casino asked another high roller to make the purchase; with a promise of a reimbursement behind closed doors. Needless to say, this double-dealing by the casino has now put their world record in jeopardy.

I wish I had made that up.

Or, if you don't like heist stories, 'The Watcher' could be for you.

This tale is about a newly purchased dream home, by an idyllic American family. The husband and wife purchased the sprawling, six-bedroom New Jersey home, tucked into a quiet tree-lined street, for $US1.3 million dollars. This palatial home was to be where their children would grow up, and where they would grow old together.

But then, the letters started to arrive.

'My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time, I have been put in charge of watching and waiting for its second coming.'

'Who I am?...I am the Watcher.'

Chilling stuff.

But it got worse. More letters came.

'Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested? Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them out to me.'

'Have they found out what is in the walls yet? In time they will.'

'I am pleased to know your names now and the name of the young blood you have brought to me. Will the young bloods play in the basement?'

'Who has the bedrooms facing the street? I'll know as soon as you move in. … It will help me to know who is in which bedroom then I can plan better.'

The family, understandably, fled the home.

But the most surprising plot turn was to come. One of the letters revealed that 'The Watcher' had written to the previous owners of the home as well. Needless to say, the lawyers were drawn in soon after.

Perhaps that's a story too intense for your palette. Maybe a comedy instead.

How about the story of a young gay couple, in the 70's, who tried to start a commune in rural New Jersey?

The twist: no-one showed up.

'Their ideals were lofty but simple: They would live off the land, farming with Colonial-era tools, along with a band of like-minded men dressed in homespun robes wielding scythes and pickaxes. They would sleep in atmospheric log cabins and other 18th-century structures that they had rescued from the area and that they began to reconstruct, painstakingly, brick by crumbling brick and log by log. But what if you built a commune, and no one came?

They toyed with creating a gay Scottish clan (Johannes is from Texas and Zephram from Maine, and both have Scottish forebears) or starting their own version of the Radical Faeries, a vaguely pagan, spiritually based queer counterculture movement from the mid-1970s.

“Neither one of us is very charismatic. That was a problem.”

“People would look at us and say, ‘Oh, so you’re gay Amish?’ ”

They did get a few takers: a man who was interested in the culture of the early German settlers, but preferred to observe its customs rather than pitch in; a guy they called “the Primitive man,” who set up a lean-to on the property and wore loincloths in the summer (he stayed the longest but turned out to be mentally ill).'

Comedy. Gold.

Or, finally, my personal favourite. The mystery of the international secret society known only as Cicada 3301.

No-one really knows who they are. Nor do we know their purpose.

What we know, is that they are a secret group of highly intelligent puzzle-makers, recruiting other brilliant individuals, globally. Cicada 3301's recruitment method is an incredibly complex, linked trail of puzzles, hidden on the internet and in physical locations around the world.

And it all began with a simple message, on an internet forum.

'Hello, we are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck.


Innocuous enough. What was to be revealed, however, was one of the most individually remarkable mysteries of modern times.

' of the internet's most enduring puzzles; a scavenger hunt that has led thousands of competitors across the web, down telephone lines, out to several physical locations around the globe, and into unchartered areas of the "darknet". So far, the hunt has required a knowledge of number theory, philosophy and classical music. An interest in both cyberpunk literature and the Victorian occult has also come in handy as has an understanding of Mayan numerology.

It has also featured a poem, a tuneless guitar ditty, a femme fatale called "Wind" who may, or may not, exist in real life, and a clue on a lamp post in Hawaii. Only one thing is certain: as it stands, no one is entirely sure what the challenge - known as Cicada 3301 - is all about or who is behind it. Depending on who you listen to, it's either a mysterious secret society, a statement by a new political think tank, or an arcane recruitment drive by some quasi-military body. Which means, of course, everyone thinks it's the CIA.'

Which would seem like a fantastic conspiracy theory, beyond reasonable analysis.


Significantly deep into the challenge, successful pursuers came upon a website, with the Cicada symbol and an ominous countdown timer.

'Once the countdown reached zero, at 5pm GMT on January 9, it showed 14 GPS coordinates around the world: locations in Warsaw, Paris, Seattle, Seoul, Arizona, California, New Orleans, Miami, Hawaii and Sydney.'

This was more than just some bearded weirdo, fascinating and testing people from his mother's basement. Whoever was launching these puzzles had reach. Reach means organisation. Organisation means resources.

When the map coordinates were visited, by the legion of would-be recruits who had made it this far in the chase, they found an innocent looking poster with the Cicada 3301 symbol. A regular person would simply walk past it, having no idea what effort it had taken to find it, nor where such a clue could lead.

At the bottom of the poster was a QR code, which took the finder into the next stage of the pursuit. Into the depths of the dark web. The refuge of illicit trade and communications on the net.

And, finally, to the last crumb in the trail.

A Cicada 3301 web address on the dark web, with a counter of the number of visitors. When a certain number of visitors arrived, the site shut down, showing only this message:

"We want the best, not the followers."

Allegedly, the chosen few were then contacted separately, to finalise their recruitment in private.

To what end they are being recruited, and by who, we don't know.

Except for this.

A single anonymous post on an internet forum, allegedly by an ex Cicada member.

'(Cicada) was a Left-Hand Path religion disguised as a progressive scientific organisation...(comprising of) military officers, diplomats, and academics who were dissatisfied with the direction of the world.'

'This is a dangerous organisation....their ways are nefarious.'

Could this sound any more like the plot of a Bond film?

But this is real life!

By now, with the passage of a little time and immersion into these peculiar but compelling real-life stories, the anxiety of writer's block should have passed you by. If you're fortunate, your mind is now electrified with story possibilities.

At the very least, I hope that you would have discovered some clarity about the creative process. Something that is both anecdotal, and supported by research in the area.

Inspiration, while seeming like the miraculous hand of divine fate, bestowing guidance on you (Muses anyone?), is in fact the slow stewing of ideas, personality and information by that complex grey blob you call your brain.

Slow inspiration.

An assimilation of pieces of information over time, that suddenly gestate into an exciting idea for a story.

Not a lightning bolt. Not even close.

So, be patient with yourself creatively. Understand that being well read, being interested in the world, and having personal experiences may seem like a distraction, but will actually be the fuel for your creative output.

Because no great art was created in a isolationist bubble. You actually have to burst it, in good time.

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