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Andrew McMillen
181 followers -
Freelance journalist and author
Freelance journalist and author

181 followers
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I wrote a Medium post about the last eight years of my writing career.

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Never Rattled, Never Frantic

Staying motivated during eight years in freelance journalism

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"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 cliché. 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."

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Read online: https://medium.com/@andrewmcmillen/never-rattled-never-frantic-5952877c5e32 #longreads
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I have a story in The Weekend Australian Magazine about the special relationship between a young man and his guide dog.

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Lockstep With Lockie

This black labrador spends every waking moment by his owner’s side. He’s not just a faithful companion, but Santiago Velasquez’s eyes on the world.

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"Their day begins soon after 6am with a series of movements so familiar they’re like clockwork. After rising from their beds, positioned side-by-side, Santiago Velasquez and his companion greet each other with affection and a leash is clipped to a collar. It’s a couple of dozen steps from their bedroom to the front door of the apartment, then down three floors in the lift to a small garden so that one of them can water the grass. “Quick quicks, Lockie,” says the young man, using the voice command for toileting. “Quick quicks.”

After breakfast, Velasquez — known to all as “Santi” — leads Lockie to the balcony where he brushes the dog in the morning light, black wisps of fur falling to the floor. The guide dog stands docile, wagging his tail and panting happily. “It’s a good bonding exercise,” says Santi, a handsome 21-year-old with a swimmer’s strong build, a crown of black hair and sporty-looking glasses. In the ­distance is an extraordinary view of the ­Brisbane city skyline and surrounding hills but Santi cannot see it. Since birth, he has been blind in one eye with only three per cent vision in the other.

It is a Wednesday in mid-October and they have a big day ahead. In an unpredictable, fast-paced world, Santi and Lockie rely on familiarity and routine as much as possible. Theirs is an intimacy of constant contact. “He’s very, very attached — that’s a massive understatement — because we spend pretty much every moment of our lives together,” says Santi, who takes almost an hour to groom his black labrador and then painstakingly shave his own facial hair by feel with an electric razor. “He takes a long time for everything,” says Santi’s mother Maria, laughing and rolling her eyes in mock exasperation. In truth, she and her husband Cesar are nothing less than patient, having taught their blind son that his only problem is that he cannot see, and that his blindness is no excuse for not doing the same household chores as his sighted brother, 18-year-old Camilo.

Downstairs at 9am, Santi reattaches the leash and repeats his voice command, while Lockie walks in circles and sniffs the lawn. “Quick quicks, buddy,” he says, and he means it: they have a bus to catch. Santi slips a fluorescent yellow harness over the dog’s head. With this action, Lockie has been trained to recognise that he is now in work mode, and his focus narrows to the singular task of guiding Santi from home to university — and, much later, back again. The dog is now six years old but has been in training since he was a puppy to fulfil this role. Santi never knew him as a puppy: Lockie was three when they first met on a rainy day at the Guide Dogs Queensland head office. Since January 9, 2015 — a date seared into Santi’s memory — they have scarcely spent an hour apart."

Read online: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/weekend-australian-magazine/lockstep-with-lockie/news-story/e332bd7154f595e7d276cff6153b6946 #longreads
Lock-step with Lockie
Lock-step with Lockie
theaustralian.com.au
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Some news: I have been appointed as national music writer at +The Australian. After 8+ years of freelancing, it's my first salaried journalism job.

I'm honoured and thrilled by the opportunity, and I hope I can do justice to the wonderful work of Iain Shedden, who excelled in this role for nearly 20 years. I start in January.
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My brother Stuart's newest web comic is a ripper. He compares the scarce, costly home internet connection of our childhood to today's always-on world of smartphones.

Stuart has bucked this trend by choosing to own a 'dumbphone', and this short comic illustrates how he has chosen to structure his life in such a way that he tends to stay offline during work hours.

I also make a cameo appearance in this comic with my childhood rat's tail, which was the style at the time.
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I wrote the cover story in the current issue of Men's Health, featuring Aquaman / Justice League star Jason Momoa.

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Glad for a few hours off from shooting Aquaman, Jason Momoa is shirtless and polishing off a bowl of chicken and peanut butter. A superhero physique requires that he ration his carbs to even enjoy Guinness. But as he’s quick to tell you, being Aquaman has its perks too.

The meal over, the Hawaii-born actor, 38, stands beneath a custom-built indoor rock climbing wall that plays an integral role in his workout routine. In short order, he’s excitedly leading a tour of a man cave that has become an important refuge during his six months of filming here on Australia’s Gold Coast. Between filming commitments, this cavernous space offers the extensive gym and weight training machines Momoa needs in order to maintain his muscular, 230-odd-pound frame.

Of even greater interest to Momoa than lifting heavy objects, though, are the musical instruments set up in a far corner of the space. “Look at this thing, man!” he says, strapping on a Fender bass. “This thing is so fuckin’ badass!” He plugs in, flicks on an amplifier, and gives a groovy demonstration of his new creative outlet. Using his thumb and fingers against four strings, Momoa plays in a pop-and-slap style that’d sound at home on a vintage Red Hot Chili Peppers record. “There’s a bunch of stuff I want to learn. Instead of waiting around on set all day, I’d rather be learning something cool.”

The photographer approaches for a few candid shots, and Momoa rolls his eyes. “We’ll do it later,” Momoa says to him. “Let me get a shirt on.” To me, he says, “That’s all they want—me with my shirt off!” He laughs, plays a few more notes, gets lost in the music, and then reconsiders. “Ah, fuck it. You can take one. Momoa continues with the funky technique and then switches to a more intricate piece. “I just started learning this,” he says, eyes on the fretboard. “I just can’t sit still, man. There’s too much shit I want to do.”

Read online: https://www.menshealth.com/guy-wisdom/how-jason-momoa-got-ripped-enough-to-play-aquaman
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I have a story in The Weekend Australian Magazine today about Queensland Rail train drivers.

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Mind The Gap

It took a "rail fail" to realise the network needed more train drivers. So what does it take to be one?

The passenger train slows as it approaches Grovely Station, 11 stops north of Brisbane Central, on a lovely winter’s Friday. At precisely 10.10am it comes to a stop and a bloke alights, pulls out a can of bourbon and cola and takes a swig as he passes the train driver’s cabin, occupied by tutor Chris Haag and his trainee, Matau Hohaia. They pay no heed. Hohaia pauses for a few moments and then presses a button on the console, triggering an automated announcement that’s heard throughout the carriages behind his ­comfortable seat. “Doors closing,” says a calm male voice. “Please stand clear.”

At the end of the platform a few metres from the driver’s seat is a silver pole topped by a single yellow light. “Restricted signal,” says Hohaia, thinking aloud in a coded shorthand for the ­benefit of his tutor. “So our red will be the red starter at Keperra. We’re going to be taking the 60 for the 80 straight track sign, then 20 over the magnet, stopping at the six-car stop.”

Hohaia reaches a top speed of 60km/h and slows to ease into Keperra Station, bringing the front cabin to a stop beside a mark on the platform that’s no bigger than a dinner plate. This black ­circle inside a yellow square denotes the proper finishing point for a six-car carriage, part of the Queensland Rail Citytrain service. “Beautiful. It’s surprising just how difficult that is — it takes a lot of practice,” says Haag. “Why thank you,” replies Hohaia with a grin. “I’ve been working on that!”

“And I owe you a jelly bean,” says Haag, referring to the unofficial reward system for trainees who stick the landing at each platform. “You’ll make me a poor man from all those jelly beans!” At 29, Haag is eight years Hohaia’s junior, but the older apprentice has a great respect for the keen eyes and observations of the younger master, who is helping him to finish his training and become one of Queensland’s most precious resources: a qualified train driver.

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Read online: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/weekend-australian-magazine/mind-the-gap/news-story/da2330dcd3dcbe1c423a89d115237c73 #longreads
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I’m in Lisbon for a cryptocurrency conference called Steemfest. Yesterday I interviewed Steemit CEO Ned Scott on stage to close the second day. Footage and summary of my questions as follows.

In short: I’m trying very hard to understand.
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Episode 42 of my podcast +Penmanship features my conversation with +Katharine Murphy, political editor of +Guardian Australia.
Episode 42: +Katharine Murphy, political editor of Guardian Australia, live from the Canberra Writers Festival.

Having spent more than two decades as a member of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery, Katharine has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s sharpest political analysts. While based in Canberra, she has worked as a reporter for The Australian Financial Review, The Australian and The Age, and more recently, she has been a part of +Guardian Australia‘s team since the website launched in 2013. In addition to her daily reporting and editorial duties, Katharine also writes occasional longform essays for the Melbourne-based literary journal Meanjin.

In late August, I spoke with Katharine before a live audience at the +Canberra Writers Festival, whose theme in 2017 was “power, politics and passion”. Our conversation at the festival touches on Katharine’s approach to political reporting, which requires constant scepticism while avoiding cynicism as much as possible; how her mother’s fiery passion for a Sydney Morning Herald columnist rubbed off on her at a young age; what she has observed about the cultural differences of working for three different media organisations in Fairfax, News Corp and The Guardian; what she has learned about the mechanics and logistics of live blogging political news with little time for coffee or bathroom breaks, and how she came to write an intimate and moving essay about the joys and sorrows of raising her daughter.

Show notes and audio: http://penmanshippodcast.com/episode-42-katharine-murphy-live/
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My latest story for +Backchannel is about a social network named +Steemit, which pays users in cryptocurrency for participating.

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The Social Network Doling Out Millions in Ephemeral Money

Steemit is a social network with the radical idea of paying users for their contributions. But in the crypto gold rush, it's unclear who stands to profit.

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"Every time you log onto Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to share a photo or post an article, you give up a piece of yourself in exchange for entertainment. This is the way of the modern world: Smart companies build apps and websites that keep our eyeballs engaged, and we reward them with our data and attention, which benefit their bottom line.

Steemit, a nascent social media platform, is trying to change all that by rewarding its users with cold, hard cash in the form of a cryptocurrency. Everything that you do on Steemit—every post, every comment, and every like—translates to a fraction of a digital currency called Steem. Over time, as Steem accumulates, it can be cashed out for normal currency. (Or held, if you think Steem is headed for a bright future.)

The idea for Steemit began with a white paper, which quietly spread among a small community of techies when it was released in March 2016. The exhaustive 44-page overview wasn’t intended for a general audience, but the document contained a powerful message. User-generated content, the authors argued, had created billions of dollars of value for the shareholders of social media companies. Yet while moguls like Mark Zuckerberg got rich, the content creators who fueled networks like Facebook got nothing. Steemit’s creators outlined their intention to challenge that power imbalance by putting a value on contributions: “Steem is the first cryptocurrency that attempts to accurately and transparently reward…[the] individuals who make subjective contributions to its community.”

A minuscule but dedicated audience rallied around Steemit, posting stories and experimenting with the form to discover what posts attracted the most votes and comments. When Steemit released its first payouts that July, three months after launch, things got serious.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are only worth whatever value people ascribe to them, so there was no guarantee that the tokens dropping into Steemit accounts would ever be worth anything. Yet the Steem that rolled out to users translated to more than $1.2 million in American dollars. Overnight, the little-known currency spiked to a $350 million market capitalization—momentarily rocketing it into the rare company of Bitcoin and Ethereum, the world’s highest-valued cryptocurrencies.

Today, Steem’s market capitalization has settled in the vicinity of $294 million. One Steem is worth slightly more than one United States Dollar, and the currency remains a regular presence at the edge of the top 20 most traded digital currencies. It’s a precipitous rise for a company that just 18 months ago existed only as an idea in the minds of its founders."

Read the full story on Backchannel: https://www.wired.com/story/the-social-network-doling-out-millions-in-ephemeral-money/
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My latest story in Good Weekend: 'How a bad LSD trip taught one Sydney teenager to think twice about experimenting with drugs'.

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"Tom* closes his eyes, settles back on his bed, breathes in the aromatherapy oil he's burning and listens to psychedelic trance while waiting for the onset of the trip from the LSD he's just swallowed. It's 8pm on a Friday night this year, he's home alone in the sanctuary of his bedroom and he tells himself that this is his reward for finishing his exams (except for business studies, which he doesn't care about). Within moments, the 17-year-old's heart rate goes up, butterflies flutter in his stomach and waves of colour dance across his field of vision, regardless of whether he closes or opens his eyes. This is the fifth time he's taken the hallucinogen, the first four with no unpleasant side effects, so he's trying a double dose to see whether the sensations become more intense."

Read online: http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/how-experimenting-with-lsd-nearly-shattered-a-sydney-teenagers-life-20170928-gyqe21.html #longreads
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