a timely story.

This is probably quite a well-known little story, but it struck a chord with me when I read it earlier this week so I thought I’d share it. ‘Busy’ is my default answer whenever anyone asks me how I’m going, and while it’s true, it’s also a little misguided. ‘Happy’ should be the goal, not busy.


The Mexican Fisherman

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you.  You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat.  With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.  Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery.  You would control the product, processing, and distribution.  You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”


same old story.

My move of jobs from Melbourne to Brisbane saw a move in industries from sport to film & television. In my new workplace I am extremely lucky to have daily conversations with some amazingly creative and wise minds and a discussion I had yesterday really resonated with me. A comment was made about the many synopses that land on desks that sound exactly like the plot outlines of movies already made.

As an example, you may be familiar with the Fern Gully / Pocahontas / Avatar Internet theory?

fern gully 92.

Pocahontas 95.

Avatar 09.

I was only 11 at the time, but I recall the amazement at the surprise ending of The Sixth Sense when it came out in 1999. While I believe the storylines of Fern Gully & Co. could be re-written a hundred times and still captivate audiences with their message and beauty, it seems there have been films since The Sixth Sense using a similar twist that simply didn’t have as big of an impact because we’ve all seen it before.

As someone who wants to write a book… and hopefully a good one… I started to question my own ideas. Are they original or am I an accidental copycat? Even more time to mull over this musing then caused me to wonder if any of us are original anymore?

Maybe storytelling is all about who tells the story best and how they tell it, not who thought of the idea first. Popular opinion is that Avatar revolutionised 3D cinema, which is where its originality came from. Shakespeare, in my own opinion, is the best storyteller the world has ever known, but if he told his stories in his language and style in the 21st century he probably wouldn’t get very far. Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 reinvigoration of Shakespeare’s classic Romeo & Juliet was a re-telling that earned Luhrmann critical acclaim and proved that originality was not in the story but in how it was presented.

Some of the best storytellers in the world do not make a living from it. They are our parents. The mummys and daddys that read “just one more chapter” when it’s way past bedtime and “do the voices” of all  the characters, engaging the incredible imaginations of their tiny audiences.

The stories yet to be told are the ones we are living, so I think I will start there. Besides, if they turn out to be rubbish in the end, I might have a child of my own one day and then at least someone will find me entertaining.

listen carefully.

And if you tell me the same story twice, I won’t tell you I will be nice.
Of all the stories I have heard, yours are the best that I have learned…

The Little Stevies.

More than telling my own stories, I love hearing those of others and in particular, those of my Grandparents. Maybe it’s because I’m a wannabe-novelist always searching for new inspiration, maybe it’s because I’m a proud family girl or maybe it’s just because of the girl part and my desire to remember the stories attached to all the last names that may disappear along the way to starting my own little family. I am forever grateful that my love of stories led me to listen intently to the things my mum’s parents said from a young age.

When I was really young, I would roll my eyes when Pa demanded my attention for another of his stories. Then I realised that he’s hilarious and what an interesting and intelligent man he is. Soon I started to take note of the little stories my Nan would tell as well. She doesn’t chastise me and tell me that I should respect my elders and listen, she just gets this captivating twinkle in her eye and talks and I consider myself lucky that I get to listen. I’ve soaked in their history and hold close the advice they have imparted after years of living. I would have regretted reaching 24 and not knowing the things I know from them.

I now also cherish the occasional moments that my parents reminisce with me about growing up and the broken hearts they experienced or at times may have caused, how my Mum thought my Dad’s name was Mark when they first met and how my Dad never doubted that his children would grow to be anything but the best of friends because my loving mother would raise us that way. I am extremely proud to be their daughter. They aren’t perfect humans, no one is, but they really are perfect parents.

Two of my all-time favourite movies centre around storytelling. One shows a young girl learning about love and the consequences of our decisions from a group of older ladies who tell her the stories of their greatest or most memorable loves. The other is about a Father who tells the most magical stories of his youth, making him the life of every party. He is loved by all but completely misunderstood by his realist son who longs for his dad to come back down to Earth. They are How To Make An American Quilt (1995) and Big Fish (2003).

One of those movies that will make you laugh and cry, How To Make An American Quilt reminds us that you are never too old for love, that love is never simple but can be beautiful in its complexities and that you can never truly understand someone until you know their story and the events that have made them who they are. Anyone who loves a good story and is a romantic, should see this movie.

In previous posts, I have referenced both my love for Tim Burton (director) and the fact that I possess an Ewan-McGregor-as-Christian-in-Moulin-Rouge type belief in love. Combine Burton’s amazing storytelling abilities and McGregor in the lead role as the wide-eyed dreamer Ed Bloom and how could I not fall in love with Big Fish? I adore its quirkiness and Burton’s ability to make his audience believe in magic. My favourite scene is the story of the first time Bloom meets his character’s future wife Sandra Templeton. He is working at the circus and she is a patron that he spies from across the room. He says…

They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops, and that’s true. – Ed Bloom.

The commotion of the chaotic circus suddenly stops and time freezes, with Ed Bloom the only thing moving across the room towards Sandra. Now of course this is an exaggerated story, something that Bloom’s son Will finds hard to handle. However, true or not, I would love the story of the first time my life’s great love saw me to be told so poetically. My recommendation is to see every Burton film that has ever been made. However, if you aren’t that way inclined but do enjoy an excellent, mythical tale of adventure, then make sure you see Big Fish.

Happy Birthday to my mother today as well! I love you Mum. I think one of the first stories I’ll tell my kids is that their Nan, born on Halloween, is actually a witch! I wonder if they’ll humour me or say ‘get real Mum!’…

A man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him, and in that way he becomes immortal. – Big Fish.