[45/250] Top of the Wozza
How are you feeling?
‘Have you heard the phrase, Top of the Wozza?’ The old fella interrupted his own story to ask, not taking my knowledge of Australian English for granted.
‘Yes,’ I replied.
‘Do you know where it comes from?’ he prodded.
I grinned. ‘No, I couldn’t tell you that.’
‘Would you like to know?’
Fancy asking a writer such a question. ‘Of course!’ I replied.
His voice carried a grin with it as it curled out of the phone.
‘Well,’ he began. ‘In the first World War, when the blokes were going off to be slaughtered in Europe, they went from Sydney to Egypt, and they had a lay-over in Cairo, as their last bit of fun. And in Cairo was a building called the Wozza.
‘This was like the headquarters for the troops. And it was quite a big building, about three storeys,’ the old bloke explained. ‘Now, the ground floor was for the troops, the soldiers, the rabble. The second floor was for the officers. And do you know what was on the third floor?’
I was deep in this story; I could have guessed, but I wanted him to tell me.
‘Tell me,’ I instructed.
‘It was for the girls,’ he chuckled.
‘So if you were feeling top of the wozza, you were having a pretty good time,’ he chuckled, as we both gurgled with glee.
He paused, then said happily: ‘Well, at least you’re not a prude.’
This week I spent an hour on the phone with an 80-year-old man in Sydney who may become my first serious ghostwriting client. He wants someone to write his story. That someone looks like it will be me.
It began as a corruption story, which - if you know me, or have any inkling of the personal projects that I work on - rings nearly all of my bells as an author and an artist.
But so, too, does historical work.
You see, darling reader, I completed an entire graduate degree writing about the ethics of editing historical documents, while also editing for publication a Prisoner of War diary. That diary was for Leonard Arthur Ranson Evans, of the Sixth Division Ammunition Subpark. He was captured in Singapore and held prisoner for the duration. My supervisor’s father - like this man’s father - went to, and survived, the Great War. Also like this man, I grew up reading volume after volume about the last major war; only in my case it was WWII; in his WWI.
But: Biographical ghostwriting?
It is a far cry from writing blogs about polyethylene pipe, you’ll agree. Or from advising other businesses on publishing strategy.
And yet, it is the most enticing, entrancing prospect of a job I think I’ve ever had. In fact, you can count up all of the reputation points of working with major brands and cool businesses, and they don’t even come close to the personal joy of something like this.
So of course, in true startup style, I’ve talked about it to everybody I’ve seen this week, to get feedback and gauge interest in the story.
This is how I had three people in one day tell me the same thing:
This is your thing, they all said.
My (new) innovation advisor said to me: ‘It’s not like you haven’t put in the work. You have! Years and years and years of doing all kinds of work, in all kinds of amazing areas. This could be the doorway into doing what you really love.’
A friend said to me over lunch: ‘This is the greatest story, and I don’t even care about the subject and I want to read it. You should do more of this.’
Another friend, one who’s known me, my skills, and my business since its first year, said to me: ‘This is what you should be doing. Seriously think about selling it.’
Of course, it’s not like doing this work is easy. Interviewing people who have early onset dementia requires being able to bring them back to the topic, and bucketloads of patience. It requires the courage to travel to their locations and sit in their homes, trusting that they’re genuine.
And then bringing it together? That’s where the art is.
My friend-over-lunch got excited, and then when he started to unpack what it would take to craft the output, gradually moved away from me and looked alarmed. The complexity of the work horrified him.
As he explained his feelings about it, and how he was approaching that thinking, he became kind of helpless.
‘How will you even make sure you’ve got everything?’
I smiled through my burger. ‘A timeline,’ I replied. ‘Timeline, analysis, luck.’
It might seem odd to you that, at six years into a business-to-business venture, I’d even consider taking on something so far out into left field. Fair enough; I’d wonder the same thing, especially if that founder had been talking for years about growth and scale in a creative agency.
The truth is, I’ve just decided to say yes to things and do whatever I can to stay in the flow.
It’s paying off.
About six months ago almost to the day (it was a new moon then, it’s a new moon tomorrow), I wrote down a goal. That goal was to grow Brutal Pixie’s revenue to $16k per month, while growing my personal writing revenue to $16k a month. When the two are in parallel (those were my exact words), I told the universe that I’d make a decision about which one I pursue.
This single job is work and personal precisely in parallel, to almost precisely this figure.
The magick of life is that you get exactly what you ask for, which is why your language and intention is so important. I’d thought that I would have one on one hand and one on the other; but here they are smooshed together perfectly.
Wondering whether I’ve made my decision?
I have. But you won’t hear about that for a while. In the meantime, you are simply going to have to wait and find out what comes next.