Dear Almanac: Thanks for the gift that’s kept on giving

I’d like to say that all I ever wanted to do was write, or that I have wanted to be a writer all my life, but that wouldn’t be strictly true.

My earliest memories of what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’ was an ambliance driver (pronounced that way) as I thought it would be great to see the first on the scene of an accident and save a life.

I probably dabbled with other career choices through my early teens, at some stage assuming it would include playing full forward for the Tigers of course.

But the first thing I can remember really settling on because I loved it, and because I thought a career in it would be wonderful, was writing. Specifically, I wanted to be a journalist, as I thought that was the writing I wanted to do. Regular writing, every day, and although I probably hadn’t distinguished between commentary and opinion, and reporting and facts, to me it was all writing.

Ideally, and most likely as there were few alternatives then, I wanted to be with a newspaper. I hadn’t really considered books or being a novelist, although writing humour was definitely something that I enjoyed. But being part of a newspaper, and seeing my by-line, and being paid to write, was my heart’s desire as I approached finishing school.

For reasons that still haunt me, I didn’t follow my passion, the one thing I think I was actually pretty good at (although recent observers of my Almanac rantings and musings may question this). When I finished HSC, instead of applying to do journalism at RMIT, I went the safe route, and after missing out on some wildly speculative University applications for courses, did Economics at Monash.

In short, my enjoyment of University life was in inverse proportion to my academic performance and application, so switching to Arts was a reasonably easy call by both me and the University at the start of year 2.

There followed a number of other career desires, mostly based on little facts and information but wide eyed enthusiasm. I think I still have a manila folder somewhere from my Uni days marked “Entrepreneurs” (this was the mid-1980s and the idea of running a night club, being the next John Elliott or being rich and famous appealed to my ego and naivety.) I’d cut out articles from the BRW or the Bulletin and these became my heroes. The fact that I really didn’t know what they did, or how they did it, but more what they were able to do with their time and financial reward, was the appeal.

So as my Arts degree progressed, my taxing 16 contact hours a week covering English Lit, Histories, Politics and Visual Arts, writing became a chore or means to an end for exams and assignments, rather than for pleasure. Despite being fascinated by US History and educated by Australian History and Politics, writing was not for entertainment.

It was only a few years post Uni, whilst working, of dabbling in corporate comedy, doing impersonations and MC work across many functions for a while (a poor man’s Campbell McComas for those who recall him) that writing returned to my life. Speeches, gags, hosting duties, making people laugh became my goal, and as a hobby, I was OK at it.

But the spark of being a writer or journo had died. I was too conservative to chuck in Uni and follow my dream, not ballsy enough to be a copy boy at the Herald or Sun learning the craft over years, instead seeing respectability and meeting suburban expectations by private school, University degree then job pathway. Doing Arts, I didn’t really have a clue about what the job would be, but my youthful ignorance meant that I assumed that armed with a University qualification, offers and opportunities would follow.

About twenty years later, I had a blinding flash of a brilliant idea for a children’s book, and started manically writing it. I think I lifted my head a few weeks later to find that, much like someone on speed or too much Red Bull, I’d written a book for young kids that was long winded and high on description and short on dialogue. In reading it to my kids, who were then at the age that I thought would be my target demographic, they sat waiting for the characters to speak, instead they got long narratives setting up the story.

(I still think the idea of the book was great, if I could only get the tone and balance just right, as there’s nothing like this book and the characters in it on the market, and if I could get one to work, there’s an awesome series based on similar characters just bursting to get out.)

But that was as far as writing went, until one night driving home from a meeting in the city listening to Mark Fine on SEN. He was interviewing Paul Daffey, and having read his stuff in The Age, I liked listening to what he had to say about a venture of his he was aligned to called The Footy Almanac. The drive home was long enough to hear that they encouraged amateur contributions and a  submission of a piece could see you published if they liked the cut of your jib.

A day later I recounted in print an unfortunate interview experience I had for a corporate position, bemoaned the lack of passion and life in organisations and despite missing the reasonably obvious sporting connection that the title of the site and publication should have made clear, JT Harms was good enough to put it up.

What’s followed has been a really fun three years of ramblings and rantings, musings, foot stamping, comedy, reflection and factual and imaginary prose that has seen me see my name in lights (well, on screen) more often than I thought possible since those heady days of journalistic ambition about 30 years ago.

When I joined the community, and I do consider it a community, all I wanted to do was write a match report, a throw back to my days of wanting to be a reporting journo. As time went on towards the footy season, I enjoyed more just writing about stuff, nothing too serious at first, then developing into some sort of pompous wind bag at times, or descending into a level of comedy just above poo and wee jokes.

I’m not a journo nor will I sadly ever achieve that ambition. I’m not a writer, although who knows. But I write, and I get read. And that’s enough. And without a spark from Paul, faith from John and  feedback from readers, I’d still be wallowing in the sad self-reflection of not being ballsy enough to grab an opportunity and follow my passion,  and always look to the past with regret.

Thanks Almanac. Merry Christmas.

About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.

Comments

  1. G’day Sean,

    I enjoyed reading your great writing and to be honest I had similar experience. I did not follow my passion.

    In my childhood, I had some dream jobs that were a train/bus driver (because I like public transport) and a news presenter (because I had interested in news). At primary school, I was a boy presenter of the school lunch break radio.

    However the reality of Japanese youth life was people tended to go through the safe path to enrol university – we have tough competition being required to pass very hard exams. Then as mathematics was my strong subject but Japanese was my weakest subject, I was not capable to undertake a math uni course. Instead I chose an engineer course where Japanese was not considered to pass the ‘competition’.

    Then after graduation, I started a fulltime job as a railway signal electrician. Even I had interests in railway, it was a tough job. I have bad motor skills in using tools so have been thrown words describing I had no physical skills. Theory is too unique that I didn’t learn at uni. Personal life was not great as it was hard to make new friends to hang out even if I was young. Everything was miserable in my 20s.

    Meanwhile I started studying English again at the age of 26 and it went well. I travelled to Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and Canada. I had reverse culture shocks even if after a few-week travels. So I left the railway job to move to New Zealand.

    I enjoyed the Kiwi life and doing hotel guest service jobs, but I was not talented with describing about food so was laid off at work and visa was expired. I had no choice other than coming back to Japan.

    Here, many local employers seem only to see my leaving from the big railway signal electrician job rather than seeing New Zealand work experience or future. I feel I am nowhere. I want to get a job where my talents are fully used, but English skills are less likely to regarded in Japanese job market. I don’t know what Japanese people who have never been to overseas think….

    But we are lucky that we are a part of great footy family where we can show passion of the sport and other stuffs. I hope you enjoy writing.

    Being a Footy Almanac family is thanks to Yvette. Indeed Mark Finey and Paul Daffey are doing fantastic job.

    Cheers.

    Yoshi

  2. I was a journalist for 36 years (just retired) but really a reporter for only the first 11 and primarily an editor since. It was one heck of a rewarding career, and I wouldn’t trade it for another. But I also had the good fortune to discover the Almanac community (and vice versa) in 2011. I found an outlet for my writing, many new friends (including a couple of close ones) and so many like-minded, passionate footy (and cricket and racing) supporters. I plan to be part of all of you for quite some time to come, and much more active in the coming year as I continue to bounce back from my difficult summer.
    We are all fortunate to be a part of such a community, that postulates and debates and argues with such passion yet remains civil and welcoming to all. I’d bet, Sean, your story is fairly typical of the folks who’ve taken up residence here and made this such a fun place. Much, much appreciated. And happy holidays to all.

  3. Andrew Weiss says

    Sean,
    Lovely article. I am much like yourself. A person who wanted to go down the sports journalist track (there is part of me that would still like to) but ended up else where. The Almanac has enabled me to be fulfill that dream and put down my thoughts and opinions to a community that is very supportive (unlike what sport journalism is probably like in the real world).
    Thank you to the Almanac.

  4. Peter Schumacher says

    Given the writing skills that one sees on this site it is really an honour to be published.It is just great to be in this company, just wish that I could attend some of the activities to become more part of the community. I have in fact attended one and Gigs was very generous with his time.

  5. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks for describing your journey from uni to the Almanac. I commented recently on the sort of books I prefer when we were talking about holiday reading on the Almanac and my list was full of bios. Your personal story which doesn’t follow the usual path from school to career is a good example of why I like bios.
    My path to the Almanac was even more diverse. Leaving school early for a number of reasons with no idea about a career and then spending many years in mundane office work. But I always loved writing. I even kept a diary as I traveled around Australia. Or should I say, bummed around Australia.
    After a gap-year which lasted about seven years, I did go to uni and did Arts which involved subjects I liked and not what other people told me I should be studying.
    I was still making a living as a pen-pusher but now as a part-time student I was able to counterbalance the tedium by writing essays on history, sociology and politics.
    I only graduated from Monash a few years before you did. A few years later still not believing I could write anything other than non-fiction, I had a go at writing a one-act play and received third place in the National Playwright Competition. It was a satirical play about aging called ‘Grumpy Old Moths’.
    Just over two years ago I met John Harms on his grand tour of the western district, selling his books and snake-oil to those who would listen, about footy- fans writing for the Almanac.
    Still not believing I could write I had a go submitting my first article combining my two great interests being the Western Bulldogs and satirical comedy.
    The power of the Almanac is when people acknowledge your efforts and say so in the comments section, hopefully favorably, then you start to believe you are a writer.

  6. G’day Sean,
    That’s a mighty reflection.
    Always worth a wee trip outside of oneself.
    As PB said in his Almanac B&F piece, I reckon it’s all about the contributors contributing.
    Go well, Sean. Keep having a crack.
    (I like the cut of your jib).

  7. Beautifully put Sean. Your story mirrors mine, and so many others in the Almanac community it seems.
    I can hear the massed chorus of Knackers singing XTC’s “The Disappointed”.
    On the up side we are on the side of history. The Internet has guaranteed that paid journalism has the career prospects of button-up boot makers.

  8. I went back to uni at 32 to do a journalism degree. I was fortunate, no kids or wife. I rented my house and moved in with my brother, who also wasn’t married and had no kids.
    Three years later, I was working for the ABC.
    Writing is powerful. It can make you chuck in a crap job to follow your dream.
    Best decision I ever made.
    And one afternoon, I heard John Harms interviewed by Kelly Higgins Divine on ABC radio. I thought, hang on, that’s the bloke who did a guest lecture at university.
    My partner Kristine was listening too and said, hey, check out the footy almanac site.
    And here we all are…
    Writing. Following the dream.

  9. Love it Sean.

    It is funny, from an early age , early school years to late secondary and even tertiary, we spend so much time doing the “English” subject, which encourages thought, imagination and creative writing. I can’t tell you how many foolscap pages of rough copies I made in my last few years at school, how many lines were crossed out, written over, paragraphs changed…all to get it right.

    However , once we settle into our ‘real jobs’ as whatever plumber, nurse doctor lawyer, it doesn’t matter… writing, creatively, almost completely disappears from our lives. Which is a bit of a shame. We leave it to the James Patterson’s and the television script writers of the world.

    In many ways, I think, the internet has reopened this opportunity for people, without the need to be assessed or published….It can be done easily, at not cost (well depending on what’s [email protected]) and for the pleasure it can deliver, both to writer and audience. We no longer have long lost ancestors that we have left behind on the Irish potato fields, and so the art or letter writing has gone. In many ways the internet has replaced this void.

    My goal for the holidays is to encourage my youngest x 2 to write something each day, anything, just write.

    There are many benefits.

  10. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’m forever grateful that this site welcomes all comers, even those of South Australian descent.

    Get around Stereo Stories too.

  11. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Sean. What a wonderful community it is. Keep entertaining us, you do a great job on here.

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Sean , it is a great pleasure to be part of the almanac community , Kate’s comment above is spot on, I wish I was better at grammar ( yes every one does )
    I like to how we support our clubs re footy but in general it is not 1 eyed stupidity which is written , biased yes but not idiotic . I have also met some great people and made life long friendships thru the knackery which I will always be extremely grateful for .

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