The Think Behind the Ink

If you can get past the fact that I’ve deliberately used the wrong word in the title just so I can have some internal rhyme, this post is an explanation of the reasoning or meaning behind my recent body art.


In a general sense, both tattoos are representations of the professional aspects of my life – teaching and writing.

The inverted commas on my wrist allude to the style of writing I am prone to write; poetry and short stories. In Standard Australian English, when these text types are discussed in reviews or analyses, their titles are presented in inverted commas (because they are “texts” within texts). I’m also a big advocate for the power of spoken word poetry and have coordinated two TEDx events and attended three others, so speech marks feel incredibly apt. Beyond that, I like the fact that at any given time I can hand write whatever quote I want in the space in between – so my tattoo is fluid rather than static like most body art.

The larger tattoo, on my back, is by deviantart user GoodFella2582. I hope he doesn’t mind that I used his design. It really spoke to me as a writer. I think writing is a part of my genetics, a talent that is heaven sent (if you believe in that sort of thing). For me, the halo is a symbol of goodness and references the cathartic benefits of creative/artistic pursuits. The wings suggest an unhindered imagination and a desire for achievement, to ‘rise up’. The pencil carries connotations of creativity and potential but it also means I can make mistakes without fear of them (or their effects) being permanent. I like the fact that it is bent too as that could signify writer’s block, an obstacle that afflicts many authors.

The quote, “The purpose of literature is to turn blood into ink” is attributed to T. S. Eliot. I teach some of Eliot’s poetry and I enjoy reading his work too. He has been hugely influential on modern and postmodern writers, and there is no doubting his talent, intelligence and breadth of literary knowledge. To me, this is as much about bringing texts to life as it is about breathing life into texts. It also reinforces that writing is hard work, as alluded to by Ernest Hemingway when he said, ‘There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.’

Anyway, that’s me. Thanks very much to the team at DH West Coast Tattoo – especially to Emily who gave me these pieces.

If you’ve got tattoos, I’d love to know what you’ve got and why you went with that design.

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