Change the way you do it

Michael Matthews is an Australian cyclist. As a designated sprinter in his professional team his chances of winning often come down to the final metres of a 250km race. The final stroke of the pedals, the pushing of the bars and the lunge to the line. Any deviation in course, any momentary distraction or slowing rider means the difference between winning and losing, achieving his goal. Not all races suit the sprinters. They need flat stages, fast paced. They do not fair well with mountains and time trials. They need the peloton or ‘pack’ to remain intact without any breakaways. They need a strong team for the ‘lead out train’ which often involves 5 or 6 ‘domestiques’ who are simply there to deliver the sprinter, or team leader on other stages to the line. In most professional races however, there will be 20 teams. Twenty teams with 20 sprinters, each trying to get their own sprint train at the front of the arrowhead. Each teammate peeling off after ‘pulling a turn’ of what might only be a few hundred metres at 65kmph. One after another until the designated sprinter has one or two wheels to drag him the final few metres before sling-shotting to the line at 70kmph. Welcome to the life a sprinter.

What if you could change the way you raced? What if you gave yourself a greater chance, better odds, more opportunities to succeed? Michael Matthews did just that. He saw that the opportunities were limited, and that as he matured from the style that won him the Junior Men World Road Race Championship in a sprint, he needed to find another way. He trained more on the hills, tackling high mountains with the climbers on his team. He time trialled against the clock, learning to ride more consistently and with a steadier cadence on his own, rather than the furious explosions of a sprint. This renewed lease on life made him an allrounder, a puncheur, a rolleur an opportunist and still a sprinter. He could get over the mountains without losing touch, he could make repeated attacks and make breakaways. He could stay away on his own or manage to outfox others in small groups without the reliance on a freight train delivery system. Instead of having a 1 in 200 chance group sprint, his odds would narrow with each splintering of the peloton. 50 riders, twenty, 14 and so on.

And so it was on the 14th stage of this year’s Tour de France where he gradually broke down the opposition, piece by piece. Consistently high paced riding, attacks, and counter attacks until he alone in front…with a substantial climb still ahead in the dying kilometres. After shedding two other riders before the climb to the Mendes Aerodrome, he was joined by the Italian Bettiol, a credentialed climber. In pure grit and determination Matthews held on to his wheel, going with him as he attacked. His newfound confidence, not only in his skills and strength, but his new processes, allowed him to launch a counterattack. He broke Bettiol, pulled away with his diesel like engine ticking all the way to the final few hundred metres where he had such a gap that he coasted to the line, arms aloft.

Writing is the no different.  In High School we learn the art of essays. This form of academic writing often comes easy to mechanical brains, and we formulate our structure with PEEL, TEEL, and any other forms that provide guidance. Creative and Crafted writing seems to lag. Perhaps there is a lack of creative writers in the field of English. Most likely it was that they were never taught. After all, to finish a four-year degree at University involves hundreds of…essays! That is our bread and butter, therefore much easier to apply and reinforce. I have found that with lack of repetition, fun and engaging lessons to boost our creative skills, most students fall into the same style they adopted at 5 years of age. This is also the age that many students stop reading for fun. Schools often adopt a ‘pebble, rock, boulder’ approach, a ‘hamburger’ menu or the even the well credentialled 7 Steps programme. Stage 4 study the Hero’s Journey, Stage 5 and 6 will examine Shakespearean 5 Act Structures…all of which provide limited success in the HSC. Why? It is NOT the same race.

The HSC is Michael Matthews’ Stage 14 mountain to his flat stage sprint win 5 years ago. He had to change. Students must change. The Craft of Writing is about producing, creating, reproducing, reflecting, and analysing their own work in just 40 minutes. It is NOT a novel. It is not a 3-hour play. Crime Story: HSC Craft of Writing Solved uses an interactive crime scene analysis to teach the requisite skills for success in the HSC. It is fun and communicates with students on a level never experienced before. Working with cognitive interviewing techniques they develop authentic dialogue. Undertaking forensic investigations develops deeper descriptions, and the criminal investigations inspires open ended questions that promote more intriguing responses. In a four-step process Crime Story will improve your HSC response immediately. It is never too late or too early to polish and refine your craft of writing. It worked for Michael Matthews, it will work for you.

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