I was writing two different blog pieces and for some reason I thought I would post them together, you may if you wish, call that laziness.
You cannot visit any website or blog that has writing as part of its content without there being a section or a post concerning how writers distract themselves. The skill of diverting your attention to the most menial of activities can be magnificent, anything to take you away from the job at hand. I used to think that YouTube was one of the tools by which distraction could be initiated, a realm of unlimited crap to totally absorb into. That is still true, there is so much awful stuff there that it would be preferable to just open up your skull and fork out sections of your brain to save yourself the time. Yes, thank you to those saying out loud right this second, does the Thinking Plainly channel get included in this?
One person’s crap however is another person’s…well, something, and I don’t want to sound elitist by saying there is nothing good on there, quite the opposite, and I don’t want to say that the crap that we watch here and there to pass the time or just to veg out with shouldn’t be on there. There’s a time and a place to watch late 80s / early 90s children programs to bring back the memories and I’ve thanked out loud the beautiful people who have taken the time to upload them, and I’ve spent many happy hours watching them. I don’t know if I would be the person I am today if I hadn’t reminded myself how good Knightmare, Trap Door, Count Duckula, T-Bag, and I could go on and on, were, in fact I think I may have mixed some of them up with the actual DVD’s I purchased, yes I was one of those nostalgia seekers.
Moving on, what I am more concerned at is the way we can too easily dismiss distractions such as YouTube and neglect it for the fantastic educational tool it is. If we fall into the trap of convincing ourselves a break of somewhere between thirty minute to four hours is needed then we don’t have to further hurt ourselves by using that time to watch crap, I’ve listed before the type of stuff I have found myself searching when desperately trying to stay away from the manuscript so I won’t repeat them here and embarrass myself further. I have found that when the inevitable comes and I just cannot bear to look at Word anymore, then I can re-energize myself by watching something writing related and not just general brain-mush.
Try it next time you get bored, don’t just settle for funny/fighting/falling over/prank/etc clips, really think hard about what it is you enjoy and see what’s on there. Take a look at your bookshelf and find an author name you don’t know much about and put his or her name in, see what comes up, there could well be a documentary or an interview that is insightful, educational, challenging, thought-provoking and inspiring and not only would you have learnt something new, you would have learnt something new about a subject you are involved with and it may…just may…help you.
I’ve been amazed at the videos I have found online that I never would have imagined existed, because remember, you aren’t just searching your own countries television archives, you are searching the whole worlds. I recently searched Jack Kerouac, I don’t know why, just what came to mind at the time and I thought I would look him up as I didn’t know much about him. Not only did I learn more about the cultural period he lived through and then inspired, which is great in itself, but as someone who is interested in writing, importantly I learnt about the way in which he wrote, his process, his method. Now, remember to like your favourite videos so that you can go back to them easily, because for instance, when you go to your history to look up a video to list it on your blog like I am doing now…and you can’t find it, its infuriating! So I can’t show you the exact film I watched however the following clip is what I really wanted to show you because it is a part of The Steve Allen show, as a Brit born in ’79 I had never heard of him, but what a lovely gem to find! Unusual interview style but it made me smile ☺
Multiply that by the hundreds of authors I have watched programs on up to now and you really feel you learn about what it is that makes writers who they are, the complexities of environmental, cultural and family circumstances. There is nothing better than hearing them talk in real life, to hear their voices, to see them in action, see how they react to others, how they are as real human beings as opposed to just a name I’ve scanned on my bookshelf a thousand times. I’ve watched dozens of programs on authors that write in a field I don’t particularly enjoy as well because that isn’t as important to me as much as the way in which they write, the physical set up of their writing environment, their stimulus, their anxieties, their challenges and so on. So next time you find your brain drifting off, challenge yourself to waste time with something that will educate and inspire.
Except the one above (because, my fault, I couldn't locate the original) I’m not going to list/link the channels where I found interesting interviews and documentaries because they tend to be individuals and I don’t want to dare posting a link to a person without having checked all of the videos because who knows what else they may have added, some people have hundreds of videos and in case amongst them are some offensive or graphic clips I’ll avoid the risk. I’ll leave it to you to explore, instead here are just a few examples of company/organisation channels I like to watch:
British Film Institute
And of course if you are interested in self publishing then you need to make sure you keep up to date with company channels, for example:
https://www.youtube.com/kindle (Here, not only do you get to keep up to date with products and news, you get to see Gary Busey!)
I spent Christmas just gone with my mother, uncle, aunts, cousins, nieces, sister and brother because I knew that because I was going away for a year just a few days later it would be our last formal get together for some time, and it was great. However, the two years prior I spent Christmas day alone and I’ll let you know why that isn’t a bad thing.
I need to change my story straightaway, I feel bad for exaggerating. In truth, I have had Christmas dinner alone, which is an entirely different thing. I did not spend the entire day alone. If it was an ordinary day then it’s not the biggest difference in the world, but of course Xmas has such a huge focal point on the dinner that it sort of makes the day. (Before I carry on please understand that I am not religious so do not be offended by me saying that Xmas is all about the dinner! I went to Catholic school so I know very well what Xmas is actually about but in my case, things have changed.)
I felt I wanted to know what it was like to spend a special day on my own, like hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. I wanted to know the implications of being alone when you always take it for granted that you won’t be. I thought to myself, what about all those people who don’t have a choice, they don’t have any friends, they don’t have any family or a community to rely on. I also felt that as an adult in my 30s it was somewhat strange to have to still rely on my family for company. This isn’t the same as not wanting to be with my family and friends, it is more an experiment, to see that as someone who isn’t married and doesn’t have children and therefore not having his own family celebration what it feels like not to have the back-up of being part of someone else’s day. Again, this may sound like I am saying I don’t want to be with my family or that I see it as some sort of failure that I don’t have my own family, it isn’t that for sure. It was to put myself in a position whereby I take control of my own day and not having someone else cook for me, not have someone else support me, not have someone else to watch crap films with, not have someone else to buy the food and drink, not have someone else do everything. You may be crying out to say that that is the whole point! To share and be with people, and yes I agree, I am not disputing that but it just felt important to me to do something on my own to experience that sense of removal from family dependence. I hope you can see the difference.
The first year I did it I cooked myself a tradition fry up. Yes, that is correct, you did just read what you through you read. I cooked the biggest breakfast I have ever seen. The reason was that because I was on my own I wanted it to be different, I didn’t want to just replicate the exact same day but on my own. You know what, bacon and eggs on xmas day isn’t to be underestimated…
The second year, I reverted to having a tradition xmas dinner (well, traditional in my part of London anyway, don’t know about anywhere else). I felt that I wanted to take charge of a big family meal even though I was on my own, so I cooked enough for about ten…and I ate enough for about five.
(Photo source: http://bit.ly/1gcFsj9)
(Photo source: http://bit.ly/1gcFxTZ)
As you can guess, my dinners looked in no way, shape or form, like those!
When I said earlier about not spending the day alone, I’ll explain. I saw my family in the early morning, I wished everyone a merry Christmas, I handed over any presents or cards I had, etc. I then went and met some friends in the local pub (before anyone says anything, if you haven’t had a Christmas day pint in the pub you don’t know what you are missing!) and wished them a merry Christmas and drank through the hangover that was generated the previous evening in the very same pub (again, Christmas eve drinks, fantastic! Remember what I said earlier about not being married and having children…) but from around 1pm in the afternoon or so, that was it, I didn’t see anybody.
So what does that all mean and why have I bothered to tell you?
Well, in some ways, it was just another day and that is what I am in the business of trying to do with my life, tell stories that are simple everyday situations that we can all associate with. The consequences are what interest me though, day after day after day we go through life making decisions and dealing with the outcomes, when something different happens we can be challenged, do we cope with these challenges or not? Do these testing situations involve other people and if so how do we work through them? When confronted by this, what was it that I felt? Did I miss people, or find that I didn’t miss them! Did I long for certain people, did I miss the opening of presents or was I actually not that fussed? Did I realise the importance of family or realise you can get by without?
Did I…did I…did I…questions about my perceptions of ordinary life once it changes. What I am getting at is that an ordinary day to one person can be so very different to the next person. I now know what it is like to spend Christmas day alone, I didn’t before, does that make me a wiser more soulful person? Not necessarily, probably doesn’t mean anything at all, but it does allow me to explore those feelings and write about them later. Did I need to do it in order to write about it? No, for sure, if that applied to everything then my subject range would be very limited but it’s allowed me to explore a subject that I find interesting, isolation in busy places, and I can apply that to all manner of different ideas. I don’t have to one day write about someone who spends Christmas day alone, but just as anything, I can apply it where I want to. Maybe it will help me write about relationships, maybe it will help me write about loneliness, maybe it will help me write about disastrous large scale family cooking…who knows, I just wanted to do it because that is how I felt at the time and as much as people may find it odd or unsettling, and I got many many generous offers from people to stay with their family on xmas day when they found out what I was doing, that really wasn’t the point.
What has this got to do with writing?
I think I may be using this question to open a paragraph on most of my upcoming blog posts. I want to talk about things that mean something to me and have had some sort of effect on me so they may be random topics but I promise I will always bring it back to writing. When we want to express difficult situations, for a large percentage of the time we have to make it up. I am interested in writing stories that are contemporary to me, based in real places, subject to real events and historical information, whether it be London in 2014 or unnamed, so talking about these random subjects helps me consider what the hell I am up to, selfish I suppose, but as I have discussed before it is good to be selfish! I feel better writing openly about what influences me, and sometimes they may well be bizarre or seemingly irrelevant and unnecessary subjects, but I hope anyone reading this over the course of the many years to come, will see that there is a point…eventually!
Okay, so blog topics aside I thought I’d squeeze in a paragraph or two or three on my situation in Spain, and on my writing, maybe I’ll do that every time I post as a sort of diary update. I placed an advert in the local town hall last week to see if anyone wanted to arrange English/Spanish language exchange lessons/practice. As much as I want to learn I know it’s going to be painful, I know everyone has to go through it but you just feel so stupid! It’s like being a little kid again and being embarrassed to admit you have no idea what is going on around you…thankfully two locals have got in touch and we will be starting lessons this week. Let’s hope they are patient souls.
|Pointless cartoon selfie with sombrero and palm tree, couldn't fit anymore cliches in...|
The television was installed this week and although I’ve talked before about not having one of the single biggest distractions to writing in the house, this is not a cable or satellite set up, I just have the normal Spanish channels. This I hope will help me with the language, just absorbing the words and hoping some stick…so far I have watched Braveheart, Terminator 3 and Con-Air, I think I may be good enough in Spanish to fight in any future wars but as for day to day shopping and ordering off the menu in restaurants, I’m still some way off. Aside from that all the domestic stuff is sorted, I’ve deciphered the washing machine (nothing to do with language differences, just washing machine codes and symbols in general), I know where the local shop is for groceries (yes, and alcohol…please) and I’ve completed several jaunts around the area to get my bearings and to feel more at home. I’ve covered myself in sun tan protection which I feel will be my biggest expense out here judging by the rate I’m getting through it. Everything is fine, I feel settled and ready to get on with the challenge I have set myself. I have even started writing…yes, you heard me…
Carrying on from the work I started in Majorca I have all of the short stories and novel research in an approximate order to work on. I am not lost for work put it that way. My first move will be to finish the first draft of the next six short stories, two of those will be individual ebooks and the third will be a collection of four shorts. I am thinking every day about the novel too but as yet haven’t kicked off off with it in any meaningful way. I do feel for my own sanity that I need to get a few pages written soon but there is also part of me that wants to get the first few shorts out of the way, it is almost like the warm-up, I feel more adjusted and in the zone if you like, already, just a week into daily writing. So although it is constantly nagging at me, for the next week or so I will stick to the shorts.
The first short story is a day or two away from being at first draft stage, it concerns a boy of fourteen who is experiencing the first forays into relationships with girls but as he is questioning what it is to be mature and to be an adult he is challenged by a situation with an older next door neighbor and wonders if the neighbor is the person he thinks he is and as a consequence still someone to call a friend. I’ll send it off to friends and contacts for their thoughts soon and while waiting for responses hopefully complete the next short. I’ll let you know the rough outline of that one once I am at first draft stage.
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