Creative Accounting

Photo: Dr Kara McKechnie

Part of the Invisible Diaries series:

Week 4 / Day 4

Week 4 / Day 3

Week 4 / Day 2

Week 4 / Day 1


April is the cruellest month.

I have to do my tax for two different countries that are out of sync. That’s why I need the pink hat – to cheer me up. Plus, we’re moving. C’mon, you didn't think my room was normally that messy, did you?... Okay, I like creative chaos.

I wonder what TS Eliot would have thought of 🐈 Cats – the musical? Is the film as bad as they say? Or so bad it's good? Did it need a dramaturg? Would it have inspired Eliot to write The Wasteland - Part II? The Wastedland?

Q. Do you get nostalgic while doing your tax? When you find a receipt for some great thing/some experience, do you get wistful? Lost in reverie and return to the night in question? #goodtimes

Doing your tax is a test of your ethics. (Isn't that somewhere near Sussex?)

Q. Can I claim 50% of that dinner as a business expense?

Q. Did I wear those clothes as a costume to an audition or to perform poetry? If so, do I have proof?

Q. How creative can I get here?

Q. Do you think the Tax Dept check your Social Media?... You bet.

Rule No.1 for Freelance Artists: Get a good accountant and organize all your receipts for them. Don't write funny #hahaiku on the back so it's unclear if they are in the receipt or poetry pile. This is how the world ends – not with a bang but an audit.

Rule No.2: Don’t do any work until you’ve signed a contract.

Rule No.3: Read the contract. Closely. Like a good dramaturg should. Question the meaning of everything. Pretend you are a hotshot lawyer and many lives depend on you to win a class-action lawsuit against “The Man”. It could come down to a misplaced semicolon or hyphen. There is a world of difference between resigned and re-signed.

Dramaturgs / dramanerds love punctuation and grammar. They like taking care of the small stuff so the big stuff flows. They love the story of Harold Pinter ringing up his publisher in the middle of the night to say he’d like to insert a (PAUSE) instead of a (SILENCE).

But, honestly, punctuation freaks me out. I’m with Oscar Wilde when he said he put all the commas in one morning and took them all out again in the afternoon.

Samuel Beckett? I threw him across the room. In my first year of university (1982), I accidentally took the course ‘Introduction to Modern Literature’. It was just some elective, and I was there to do a law degree, inspired by an American TV show, The Paper Chase. I wanted to be the lead character Hart, part of a Harvard freshman study group who were terrorized by Professor Kingsfield and his Socratic Method: “You come in here with skulls full of mush and, if you are lucky, you will leave thinking like a lawyer!”

I’d never heard of Beckett. I read the first half of Waiting for Godot and was bewildered. I started Act 2 and was struck by the same criticism someone much more learned made: Nothing happens twice. I threw the play across the room. I grumped my way to the lecture determined not to be enlightened by how this was some seminal work of genius.

The lecture started with a young lecturer, Adrian Kiernander, doing Lucky’s “In spite of the tennis…” – speech. It was nonsense… but riveting. I played tennis. I hung in there. A few years later I played Pozzo. It’s now my favourite play.

Brecht was in the same course. When I wrote about Socialism yesterday, I thought about my first foray into acting. It was in a collection of Brecht bits directed by Phil Mann, called Stop That Romantic Staring. I was struck by Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt. I wondered how it worked. The opening night was jammed so the ushers put the extra audience down the front. But forgot to tell the soldiers with spears who ran out at the start of the show. They stabbed an audience member. Boy, did that person understand Brecht’s Alienation Effect on a real deep level! 😊

But it wasn’t all fun and punctured lungs. I’d had a major crisis when I got into Bill Manhire’s creative writing class (another elective) in my second year at Victoria University of Wellington. I’d got disillusioned by Law and begun writing bad poetry to the tune of Rod Stewart songs. I dropped Contracts, picked up Shakespeare and got a C grade. My parents freaked. But the coolest / hottest people were doing drama and had the best parties, so I decided to concentrate on that in my third year.