The Weekly: Time

 In 2017 Blog Archive

The Weekly – 13th February 2017

I’ve been obsessed with time these past two weeks. Things that are happening in the present are reminding me of the past, and the ghosts lurking behind me are clamoring for my attention.

Two of my good friends, Shane Rangi and Grant Roa, are in Wanaka this week. I met Grant and Shane shortly after I moved to New Zealand. I was living in Karaka Bay (Wellington, pictured above), my first New Zealand home, working for Weta Digital on King Kong, my first New Zealand job. Shane was, too; that’s how we met. He later introduced me to Grant.

I had never worked in film before, which was its own peculiar head-spin. I had never lived overseas, and here I was moving to a country where I didn’t know a single person. I had never lived by the ocean, and now I was living across the road from the sea. I could hear the waves at night.

Of all the friends I made that first year, the three I keep in touch with are Lance, a Californian solar physicist-turned-film-geek, and Shane and Grant, two big Maori boys who love winding me up. We’ve kept in touch, and cross paths in airports, but being able to sit down for a pair of five-hour dinners, properly catching up, dipping my toe back into that crazy film world they work in… there’s nothing quite like the feeling of spending time with old friends who just get you.

The weekend before, Waitangi weekend, another pair of old friends – Clare and Jes – visited from Christchurch. We went water-skiing (my first time on water skis in 20 years), performed poorly at a local quiz night, and simply spent time – same feeling. Even being back on water skis brought it back.

I also got news that one of my favourite editors at National Geographic retired. I’ve been writing for her for 19 years, my entire professional career. Jayne Wise is an old-school editor, a storytelling champion, someone who was able to coax, cajole, push, and pull her writers into doing their very best. I still hear her voice in my head sometimes while I’m writing.

Hearing about Jayne’s retirement brought back memories from my early days at the Geographic. It was my first job out of university, and – as a 22-year-old cub reporter – I was naively ready to set the world on fire with my pen. I used to keep a sleeping bag in the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet, sleeping in my office at least once a week so I could cram in extra hours.

Author Malcolm Gladwell’s research led him to believe that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of dedicated, precise practice to achieve mastery in a field. I haven’t counted the hours, and I can absolutely discount the mastery, but I know that it’s taken me 19 years to create and make the most of opportunities, and I’m still learning all the time. It’s a two-part process: you have to have the tools in your tool-box so that when an opportunity comes around to use them, you know how and when.

I tried to explain that to an American journalism student who interviewed me earlier this week. She asked what advice I have for journalism students who want to do what I do. (A bizarre and very unfamiliar position for me, by the bye, being on the flip side of an interview.) The only advice I had to offer seemed to dishearten her. I said you have to work hard. It’s the only thing you can do and the one thing you can control.

I once read an interview with author Philip Pullman who stated (and I’m paraphrasing here) that success requires three things: hard work, luck, and talent. You have to have all three, you can’t get by on two for very long, and the only thing you can control is how hard you work.

Two weeks walking Memory Lane. It’s not an easy road to walk, that one, but most of the ghosts are friendly, and it’s fun to turn around and see how far you’ve come.

‘Till next week.