Writing on, and about, an island

Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

First Impressions

In Tasmania on December 12, 2011 at 3:30 am

I was at a Tasmanian shopping centre, giving styling lessons as part of a fashion promotion… One woman told me she was worried about the first impression she makes. She thought her personality was getting lost in translation, but didn’t know how to dress her shopfront, so to speak. She wanted me to say: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” But I don’t – because it’s not true.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

That woman got me thinking about Tasmanian businesses, and why they need a lesson on first impressions.

When I got my first journo job, working on one of Australia’s most influential lifestyle magazines, I silently pledged – Girl Guide-like – to be the champion for getting Tassie back into the pages. Nothing had peed me off more than my home being left of the map.

Fast-forward 12 years and, after battling to get this State seen, I can tell you exactly how Tasmania appears to people who don’t live there.

It doesn’t.

Because Tasmania ignores the internet.

I gave it my best shot. I researched everything. But apart from the usual suspects, Tasmanian businesses barely registered when I Googled.

Yes, there are some good Tasmanian sites. The rest are embarrassingly mediocre. Last time I looked, a certain official Tasmanian tourism media site (which shall remain nameless – but should know better) couldn’t even get renowned local painter Geoff Dyer’s name correct…

Many businesses don’t even bother. And when you’re pressed for time, you need info – fast. If it can’t be found, it goes in the too-hard basket.

Then, when I decided to move back to Tasmania, I did what everyone I know does: I looked online for my new doctor, childcare centre, hairdresser – fruitlessly, because none of those services had thought it important to invest in a website. Yet you want me to trust your business? Please believe me: your first impression is everything. And you have none.

When I did move here, I asked locals why Tasmania was 10 years behind the world. Those locals replied: “We all know each other, so why would we need a website?” Well, that’s lovely that you all know each other. But what about the rest of us? If you want to register with the rest of the computer literate world, then a website isn’t just desirable. It’s a virtual reality. (Mr Roy Morgan backs me up: 2010 figures shows our love for doing business on the web has skyrocketed. Whether this is good or bad for society is not my point; I’m simply stating a fact.)

My suggestion. Government should offer local SMEs a grant to build a good website. It’s obvious most people aren’t doing it for themselves.

The alternative?

The sound of one hand tapping delete.

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Mystery

In Tasmania on December 12, 2011 at 3:27 am

Tasmania is the new Twin Peaks.

For those who’ve had the pleasure, this needs no explanation. For everyone else: Twin Peaks was an immensely successful TV series by acclaimed US director David Lynch. It was a long and winding journey into a cast of weird and wonderful characters with every social quirk possible, shot through with undercurrents of creepy strangeness and set against a backdrop of outrageous natural beauty.

As I said: Tasmania.

Twin Peaks has celebrated 20 years since the first episode aired. Imagine if, rather than thinking Bear Grylls or Oprah, we courted the cast of this show to film a one-off (this has just happened elsewhere). A one-off campaign aimed at the Gen X and Ys of this world, who don’t want to condescended to with prescriptive travel campaigns.

All this talk of staying ‘on-brand’ can remove what’s most important to many people who may be thinking of travelling – or moving – to Tasmania: the mystery and the magic. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good brand. But Tasmania seriously needs to get its sexy back. New Zealand is sexy; the New Zealand brand is sexy.

We should be celebrating not just what’s overt about Tasmania – but what’s lurking beneath the surface.

Bring back the magic and mystery.

Mediocrity

In Tasmania on December 12, 2011 at 3:14 am

I don’t do mediocre. Or conventional.

And the reason I left Tasmania when I was 21 was because I had recognised from a very young age that mediocrity and conventional was celebrated here. It was expected. Anyone not striving for those things was singled out, laughed at… there were pockets of the opposite, but it was hard to find.

Of course, the striving for the lowest common denominator is to be found in plenty of places. What matters, though, is the tipping point. Take somewhere like Sydney – I’m sure there’s mediocrity and convention all over the show there. But there’s also a HUGE amount of exactly the opposite – so the tipping point into mediocrity never really seems to happen.

Tasmania, however… What is it about this place?

The small population, the relative dispersal of people, the convict heritage, the physical divide from the ‘mainland’, the lack of fresh ideas flowing in, the droves of young people leaving each year… All these things could be contributing to tipping the general consensus over into mediocre.

And the really sad thing is, nothing seems to have changed much since I left Tasmania in 1997. I come back here 12 years later, and in all the important spheres of society, the mediocre is triumphed. I’m talking about politics, art, the environment, education, transparency of information et al… It is one part truly horrifying, one part frankly bemusing.

And it’s why I stay.

I believe that if there are enough people sticking it out here, making an effort to rail against mediocrity and the conventional – however small that effort – and making that effort known, then something’s got to change eventually.

I believe in this.

Writing

In Tasmania, Writing on December 9, 2011 at 6:03 am

It’s hard to know what matters most to you.

In fact, it’s one of the reasons I left busy Sydney to move back to Tasmania. To work out what mattered to me. The busyness of the world you live in (and mine was busy) creates so much distraction and noise that you forget what it ever was that excited you as a little person – or what excited you when you were heading out into the fresh world as a 21-year-old.

I’d certainly forgotten. I used to LOVE writing, and painting. And reading. And pretending I was TinTin…

But life gets in the way, as it always does. And you have to work hard to remember what mattered.

I admit that I HATED writing for a long time. It had been my first love as a child. And then I was lucky enough to make writing and reading my job. And I should have been grateful, grateful, grateful (specially because lots of girls would’ve done my job for free, right, CLEO?)… H

But hang on a minute. Because I was writing 10 hours a day about things that didn’t matter to me, I got writing burn-out. I’ve never had writer’s block, but hell, have I had writer’s burn-out!

Anyway, my dream is to learn to love writing again. Because it’s one of the oldest things around – and I love old things. Because each word and sentence is like colours and shapes – yes, I have synaesthesia. Because being good at words gives me the freedom to cross across locations and careers – and I like changing location and careers often!

And there’s that word: freedom. That’s what writing is really about.

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