As an Author, Sometimes You Have to Write Crap. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Monday, October 23, 2017

 

writer's block

 

Please excuse the language, but it seemed the best way to get the point across.

Lots of folks want to write a book, but still relatively few do. They wait for the inspiration to flow effortlessly from their sub-conscious and onto the page and they are crippled when it doesn’t happen. Undoubtedly, there are days when writing does seem to rise from a hidden force within and those days are magical. Athletes describe it as being “in the zone” and for a writer it is a golden day.

However, there are also days when the blank page stares back with nothing more than a blinking cursor. These are the days when the writers step up and the weak walk away. They will blame writer’s block – a lack of creative juices. Personally, I believe writer’s block is at best an excuse and at worst a myth. How many professions can afford to suffer from a “block”?

Aside from authoring books, I have written hundreds of feature articles for many and varied editors around the globe. What they all have in common are unforgiving deadlines. They need a pre-determined amount of words by a given date and it’s non-negotiable. Those words come together through perspiration and not inspiration. The piece can only be written through spending hours in the seat and pounding the keyboard, even when the muse is nowhere to be seen.

As a consequence, sometimes the words don’t flow, they are forced out like a painful bowel movement. And to extend the metaphor, they are crap. But that’s okay! Now you have something to work with, something to craft and refine. If you walk away from writing whenever you feel uninspired, I can guarantee you will never write very much. You can’t edit a blank page.

The most awkward sentences and a few relevant dot points are far better than procrastinating. It is a starting point that not only begins the process on the page, but starts to stir the creativity within that you ultimately seek. The sub-conscious will not switch off when the computer shuts down and by the next time that you begin to write, it will be far easier.

We are all in this together and striving to be better writers. The key is to persevere. Whether it is physical exercise or an academic endeavour, there will be an undesirable threshold that must be pushed through on the way to the goal and giving up achieves absolutely nothing. The first draft may be horrific in your eyes, but they are only your eyes that are reading the words. You don’t have to share it or publish it in that first instance, it is merely the raw clay waiting to be sculptured. Revisit, refine and then rejoice. The effort will be worthwhile.

Set yourself deadlines, persevere and be prepared to not have the most magnificent prose at the first attempt. Engaging writing is as much about effort as it is about art – it is a discipline. Please excuse the language, but as an author, sometimes you just have to write crap.

 

5 Steps to Fighting Back at Forty…When Life Kicks You Out of Your Comfort Zone. By Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

 

 

“You are highly skilled and totally unemployable.” Those words don’t just resonate with me today, they are a desk plaque.

The counsellor at the unemployment office seemed almost as frustrated as me - almost.

I was an airline pilot with just about every flying qualification and twenty years of log books filled with neatly inked details of every single time that I had taken an airplane aloft. And now it all meant nothing. “…totally unemployable.”

I had dedicated my life to aviation, but now that my airline had gone bankrupt I was about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle. I was married and planning to start a family and now everything had come to a screeching halt. The only solace was to be found in my wife who simply said, “We’ll get through this”. And we did.

Today, we have four beautiful children and while I resurrected a career as a pilot, it is far from my sole focus. My life is far richer and far less vulnerable than I could ever have imagined that day in the unemployment office. I have travelled the world, authored books, raised funds for charities and seen sights that still amaze me. And should I find myself unemployed again, my writing is so much more than a safety net. It is not only my passion, but it generates a genuine income.

They say that the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire and I still believe that the steps I took to fight back in the immediate aftermath are the same steps that continue to deliver me the life that I am blessed with today.

 

1.    Get Mad - Then Get Over It.

Unless stone cold blood runs in your veins there will be waves of anger and why-me-moments. It’s natural, so vent the pressure as soon as possible and move on. I have seen time and again that those who move on the quickest tend to have the better outcomes. I’m also convinced that if bitterness is allowed to fester, it cannot simply be concealed at subsequent job interviews, relationships or social gatherings. All of which can allow the situation to disintegrate into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

2.    Get a Little Bit Selfish.

The safety video on an airliner always tells you to fit your own oxygen mask before helping others and so it is when life throws you a curve ball. Unless you stay healthy and spend time healing your wounds, you cannot move forward. Eat well, exercise and invest in yourself. Unless you are happy and healthy, you will be a liability for those that are closest to you. The next chapter of your life will undoubtedly be uphill initially, so you will need fuel in the tank and self-belief to conquer that incline.

3.    Find Your Passion.

Days after my wife reassured me that we would get through this, she asked me what would I do if I could do anything in the world. We sat down and made a list that ranged from being an astronaut to owning a tropical resort. Absolutely nothing was out of bounds or left of the list. We then released our inner realist and narrowed our focus. My long-lost love of writing that had been submerged in a career of technical manuals and flight checks rose to the surface and I had not felt so excited for decades.

4.    Education.

In order to follow your passion, there will undoubtedly be a need for education in the new field of endeavour. That may be a formal course, or simply moving in the circles of like-minded individuals who have already walked the path. Immerse yourself in the subject wherever you can find it. As you grow in knowledge, you grow in confidence and that leap into the unknown will not seem as much a leap as a series of attainable steps.

5.    Execute.

For all of the talk of passion and the preparation, the key that remains is to execute a plan. Just as we had previously made a list of every possible future vocation, my wife and I now drew up a series of goals to work towards. It was a long-term plan with each realistic goal followed by another that in turn was built upon. Nothing ever goes quite to plan and there were disappointments along the way, but with a vision that reached well into the future and knowing where we’d come from, we always moved forward.

 

I still revisit these five steps many years on from that dark day where my future was questionable. They not only set me on my path initially but continue to guide me as I move forward.

At forty years of age, I thought that my best years were behind me and that it was too late to change direction. I was so very, very wrong. In fact, personally, I am thankful that the airline collapsed as it kicked me out of my comfort zone and forced me to refocus rather than accept the treadmill that I was unwittingly walking on. What seemed like a setback at the time was indeed a career disadvantage to a degree, however without a word of a lie, it undoubtedly transpired into the greatest life advantage I could ever have wished for.

 

But more of that next time…

A Change in Direction.

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

 

 

Hi All,

Over the years, the visitors to this website have grown in numbers and changed in character...and so have their questions.

The hundreds of emails have shifted in emphasis from aviation to queries such as, "How did you get published?", "Where do you find time to write with a job and a family?", "Is writing a worthwhile job on the side?". 

As a consequence, in future this blog will seek to address these ever-present questions about being an author. Logically enough, I shall continue to post my aviation content at my other website, The Pilot's Blog.

Hopefully this will make things clearer for everybody and allow me to answer all of your questions and share content in the most appropriate forum. 

As always, thanks to everyone for your continuing support. It is YOU that allows me to follow my passion and keep on writing.

Cheers,

Owen

Solo Flight. Chapter 4. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Monday, October 16, 2017

 Owen Zupp. Jabiru J230D

 

Chapter 4. Growing Wings.

 

 

Armed with a clear vision I took a deep breath and sent off proposals to various aircraft manufacturers and distributors, humbly requesting the use of one of their aeroplanes. Some replied very quickly, others never replied at all. In the end there were three contenders, but one seemed to perfectly fit the flight’s ‘mission statement’ of an affordable Australian-based venture. The Bundaberg-based Jabiru.

 

I had visited the Jabiru factory in Queensland some months before when I wrote a story on their J230D aircraft. Physically capable of carrying up to four people, it would be an ideal choice for the solo flight. With only me on board, an amazing amount of equipment could be uplifted while still filling the tanks to their filler caps. It would cruise at my desired two miles per minute and give me a range of close to 600 miles with ‘reserves’. Furthermore, the aeroplane was Australian-designed and built and had a purchase price about the same as a four-wheel drive motor vehicle.

 

Sue Woods is the daughter of the Jabiru founder, Rod Stiff, and was amongst the first to reply to my request for the provision of an aeroplane for ‘There and Back’. From day one the relationship with Jabiru seemed right. Their enthusiasm and vision was identical to mine. They obviously had a passion for aviation in this wide brown land and together we had the opportunity to spread the message to the greater public, not merely the niche of aviation enthusiasts.

 

Owen Zupp. Jabiru J230D

The logo of ‘Jabiru Aircraft and Engines’.

 

I could hardly contain my excitement knowing that the last major component of the foundation had been established and now the job was to build upon this. With Jabiru’s commitment made public, very quickly other companies came on board; Hawker Pacific and David Clark, ‘Spidertracks’, Champagne PC Flight Planning, Australian Aviation and Global Aviator magazines. Through the supply of critical equipment and increasing media coverage, There and Back’s pulse became a pounding heart-beat.

 

As Rob Brus brought the new website to life, Hayley Dean from ‘Me Marketing’ began to liaise with media outlets. Radio stations, TV networks and newspapers were all interested in the fact that this was an all-Australian affair marking an Australian centenary. However, for the moment, the general response was “Fantastic!.....please contact us closer to the date”. I only hoped that there would be time “closer to the date”.

 

Owen Zupp. Jabiru J230D

A Jabiru J230D off the coast of Bundaberg. (Photo: Jabiru)

 

I now had solid performance data on a real aeroplane to work with. I sat down with my charts to one side and the new computer flight-planning software to the other. I confess to being a Luddite in some ways and carefully drew my pencil lines with their 10 mile markers across forty maps. Once I had done this in long-hand, I then entered the flight route into the computer as a second line of defence. Fortunately, everything matched.

 

There were so many places on my ‘to-see’ list. Longreach, the home of QANTAS. Tindal, Australia’s northern fighter base. Darwin, where the pioneer aviators first touched down on their flights from England. My old stomping ground of Kununurra in the beautiful Kimberleys. The pioneer aviators’ graves at Murchison Station. Woomera and its space heritage. Point Cook, the spiritual home of the Royal Australian Air Force. Toowoomba, my family’s original hometown and my father’s final resting place. The list went on and on. 8,000 nautical miles and a continent full of wonder.

 

I continued to draw more circles and rub out lines as either fuel availability was an issue, or there was no accommodation left in town. In the end a circumnavigation of sorts was etched out, as much defined by history as geography. Unfortunately, there were people and places that would be bypassed, including my own sister in Cairns. Nevertheless, the route that emerged filled me with anticipation as I finally stepped back from the charts and looked at the miles that I was destined to fly. I couldn’t wait for the next six months to pass.

 

Owen Zupp. Jabiru J230D

The Original Route of ‘There and Back’.

Of all the wonderful equipment provided by the sponsors of the flight, one particular piece took my interest. It was provided by Rob Brus in his role with a company called ‘Spidertracks’. This inconspicuous black box was not much larger than a television remote control and plugged into the aircraft’s “cigarette lighter” outlet. Sitting on the dashboard, this aerial used satellite technology to beam my position back to a nominated web-address, allowing people to track my flight on their computers. Even better, Rob had designed a ‘phone app’ for portable tracking.

 

Owen Zupp. Jabiru J230D

A Spidertracks display as followers would see the flight on the internet.

 

Every six minutes my position, ground speed and altitude would be beamed across the internet. Additionally, in the case of an emergency, I could hit a button for more rapid updating of my whereabouts and an ‘alert’ would be sent immediately to nominated phone numbers. The Spidertracks system was a great device to have on board for both safety and connecting with the public. It also reminded me that although I was flying ‘solo’, I had the internet on the seat beside me. So don’t mess up!

 

As I busily went about my planning and emailing, the Jabiru team had decided to build a new J230 especially for the flight. It was exciting news and the thought of flying a brand new aeroplane around Australia gave the entire project a very shiny new edge. However, with Christmas looming, I wondered if there would be sufficient time to build and entire aircraft by the departure date in May. And not just build the aeroplane, but equip it and have it flown enough to ‘bed’ the engine in.

 

I needn’t have worried as an email arrived from Sue Woods showing the aircraft laid out on the factory floor. Like a massive Airfix model, the bare white components were arranged in an orderly manner, eagerly awaiting assembly. Over the coming weeks these pieces would morph into a sleek looking aircraft, resplendent in the markings of ‘There and Back’.

 

Owen Zupp. Jabiru J230D

The Jabiru J230D. Ready to take shape.

 

For now the aircraft, like the entire project, was a maze of components needing to be put together in the right order. And just like the Jabiru, if it was to be completed in a timely fashion, more than one set of hands was needed. I was fortunate to have a team behind me attending to the details as I made the broad brushstrokes and focused on the flying. There was no doubt that this was a significant exercise in logistics, but the romance of the flight was never far away either. Furthermore, an unforeseen mystery and disappointment was lurking just around the corner.


 

 Read the full story of 'Solo Flight' here.

 

 

Solo Flight. Chapter 3. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Monday, October 09, 2017

 

 

Now I had a rough idea of the route to fly and what was required of the aircraft. What was becoming increasingly apparent was that the project consisted of two main components; the actual flight as distinct from the maze of associated activities. As pilots are prone to do, often to the ridicule of their nearest and dearest, I made a checklist.

  1. Execute a safe solo flight around Australia.
  2. Select a suitable aircraft for the journey.
  3. Define the route, considering points 1 and 2.
  4. Support a charity.
  5. Source an aircraft.
  6. Establish a website.
  7. Name the project.
  8. Promote awareness of the upcoming flight.

The list was not definitive, but it was a start and gave me some direction.

From the outset, I knew that the flight needed to stand for more than just a pilot wending his way around Australia. I wanted to raise awareness of the work done by one particular Australian institution, the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Established in 1928, the RFDS is quintessentially Australian and had served outback communities for more than eighty years. In keeping with the Australian centenary of flight theme, the Flying Doctor seemed a logical choice, so I contacted them to gain approval to raise funds on their behalf and beneath their banner.

 

A Royal Flying Doctor Service ‘Super King Air’.

 

I was very clear with the Royal Flying Doctor Service that I wanted to be one step removed from the fund-raising. All donations were to go directly into an online charity website, so that every dollar raised went to the RFDS. I would fund the flight out of my own pocket and if I was lucky enough to secure sponsors, then that was great. However, under no circumstances would funds raised for the RFDS go towards my operational costs. The Flying Doctors agreed entirely and without hesitation approved their association with the flight. Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting even signed a shirt to auction online. Another box was ticked.

Now I returned to the pressing issue of finding a suitable aircraft. I had been very fortunate to fly a variety of aeroplanes in my duties as an aviation journalist and any number of them would have undoubtedly performed admirably. In fact, the availability of a large twin-engine turbo-prop machine loomed, but it really didn’t conform to the profile that I had decided upon.

So I drew yet another list. This time the list was of potential aircraft suppliers who I would approach about using one of their aeroplanes. I was somewhat shy and reluctant at first, although with enough media coverage this flight would undoubtedly provide a good dose of advertising for the chosen machine. Even so, I felt a little embarrassed about asking for something, for seemingly nothing.

As I hesitated in posing my request, I received a major boost in support from out of the blue. It came in the form of Robert Brus, a former Australian sailor and paratrooper with a creative entrepreneurial streak. Rob had seen service from the Middle East to Timor and was also an aviation enthusiast. He was keen to assist in any way possible and that’s exactly what he did. He set about drafting a proposal to send to aircraft suppliers while creating a brand new website for the journey. He insisted that a web-presence was needed as soon as possible and both the website and the flight needed a name.

A few names had come to mind. Ewan Macgregor’s motorcycle journey was called the ‘Long Way Round’, but as I was cutting inland and Ewan’s copyright lawyers would undoubtedly be very proficient, I searched for another title. It came to me straight away, short and simple; ‘There and Back’. Rob loved it too, so we registered the domain name and I asked the wonderful Juanita Franzi of ‘Aero Illustrations’ create a logo.

In my brief, I requested an Australian theme centred on the boomerang, which also flew there and back. I wanted the colours of both the blue Australian sky and the tones of rusty ochre to represent the outback. Juanita provided a number of options, but one stood out from the pack and it promptly became the registered trademark of the ‘There and Back’ around Australia flight. 

 

 

The ‘There and Back’ Logo.

 

The adoption of a logo and a name had a profound effect. It provided an all-encompassing identity for what had been the varied strands of a concept. Now when I spoke to aircraft suppliers, media outlets or potential sponsors, I wasn’t Owen Zupp. I was ‘There and Back’. This undertaking was always destined to be far more than any individual could represent. It was a project for all to share, near and far. I was merely at the steering wheel and giving the flight a human face.

My wife Kirrily had been integral to the flight from the outset. She was on the phone calling motels and drawing up tabulated forms where only my hurried notes had previously existed. However, this was a substantial undertaking and more than two of us would be needed if we were committed to getting this absolutely right.

Rob’s impact had been immediate and it taught me very quickly to trust and delegate beyond the family resources. Shortly afterwards, Peter Buscall and Hayley Dean would join the team to provide flight support and media and marketing savvy respectively. ‘There and Back’ was now beyond the point of no return, its momentum was too great to halt and my magazine editors were equally excited by the concept. The low mumble began to form words and those words began to spread. Our new website was being hit constantly and the emails and phone calls started to flow in. The level of interest was overwhelming.

Just a moment....I still needed an aeroplane.


 

 Read the full story of 'Solo Flight' here.

 

 

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