James O’Loghlin believes that perspiration always trumps inspiration.
It will come as no surprise that the lawyer/stand-up comic/ host of eight series of The New Inventors/ writer/ broadcaster/ emcee/ panel facilitator/ children’s book author/ innovation champion and parent believes in being busy.
‘I have been all of them, and still am most of them. If you are working in the media, it’s always a challenge to make sure you get enough to do. The more versatile you can be, the more likely your career is going to be sustainable,’ he told Media Super member John Dickson.
And it’s this kind of application that James deploys when writing his children’s books.
Write, and it will come
‘You’ve got to treat it like a job and be disciplined. I’ve always thought that the idea of inspiration is overrated and that if you can sit at your desk and keep filling those blank pages, then something worthwhile will form,’ he said.
His first novel, The Adventures of Sir Roderick the Not Very Brave, published last year, filled quite a number of those pages. It taught James how to tell a complex adventure story and keep children engaged. Mind you, he is in the fortunate position of having three children of his own [12, 10 and 7], all of whom are readers, providing an instant test audience.
‘When I’ve finished a second or third draft, I read it to them and you can tell when they are no longer hooked. What more could a writer want than to know than when his book is getting boring? That’s the most valuable bit of early feedback you can get.’
James is also mindful of the shelves full of books that his children read and how he might stack up against those writers. So far, so good.
This year, he has unleashed his second novel, Daisy Malone and the Blue Glowing Stone. While he might have been light on the jokes with Sir Roderick, this new science fiction/adventure mash-up is end-to-end hilarity.
‘Once Sir Roderick taught me how to construct a compelling narrative, I was free to put as many jokes into Daisy Malone as I could. So I did,’ James said.
Throughout, an unseen commentator continuously interrupts the plot with dad-joke-like chatter when things start to get a bit tense, or when an opportunity to madly pun presents itself. Hero character Daisy takes every opportunity to hone her wit, but perhaps the author’s greatest triumph is Daisy’s knowing dog, Ben, who can talk.
James admits he is not quite ready to let go of the possibility that there just might be a talking dog out there somewhere.
‘The aim was to get kids to turn pages in anticipation of another laugh on the next one,’ James said. It seems to have worked.
Asked if he might one day consider writing a novel for grown-ups, James admitted he thought that when he started writing for kids that it might be a practice run for that eventuality.
‘But I’ve since discovered that writing for children can be so rich and interesting. Also, you’re not obliged to make things simple – kids will follow quite complex plots.
‘Of course, there is also a lot of freedom in writing for children – all that silly stuff with a god-like narrator, for example. But what I like most is that it is all story – and the challenge is to keep that story intriguing and interesting,’ he said.
James gets annoyed at books that don’t do that, that are a bit too self-aware. So, should he ever tackle The Great Australian Novel, stand by for a book that will be all plot.
Innovation: ideas into invoices
Hosting eight series and nearly 400 episodes of The New Inventors television series was the wellspring for James’s other (current) passion – to encourage Australians to pay attention to innovation.
James says that every organisation starts out innovative, but when they get to a certain size, bureaucracy, systems and processes that have been added along the way, tend to stifle new ideas.
‘We spend our days not really seeing the processes and systems that we are part of. It’s amazing what can happen if you take a step back, pull it all apart, and ask ourselves if there’s a better way of doing it.
‘Part of everyone’s KPIs should be about coming up with innovative ways to make the business better. Then allow people to share those ideas in a low-pressure way, distill the good ones and work out how to implement them without busting your budget,’ James said.
Next year, along with yet another children’s book, James will publish a how-to guide full of helpful, practical ways to allow innovation to flourish.
In the meantime, he will continue to be busy as an emcee and facilitator, fed by becoming fleetingly expert across disciplines as prosaic as accountancy and as eccentric as the Australian nut industry, and helping out on ABC Radio as and when required.
Learn more about James at jamesologhlin.com
Photo supplied by James.