Thursday, 7 February 2013

COMPULSION


Abemustwrite is the name of a blog that I enjoy reading. Especially because of its title. I find myself intrigued by the compulsion that drives the thing – the 'must'. That’s what gets me interested.

It’s a little bit like the way we love to watch reality TV shows about people who are awesomely fat, but who can’t seem to help themselves from eating their way through 3 Chinese take-aways every evening of the week. That’s compulsion.


And I think I am afflicted with it too. A compulsion. Though (thankfully) mine doesn’t involve consuming my weekly recommended calorie intake, in one meal.


My compulsion had me scrawling the first draft of this post on the back of a loose sheet of paper while standing on a breezy Finchley Road station platform. True story.


This compulsion. This drive. This desire to do this above every other option. I guess think that’s what makes me a writer. Well there’s that, plus the fact that I’m pretty damn good at it. That helps.


So what’s yours? And does it define you or defile you? Food for thought.


Thursday, 31 January 2013

SWEET DREAMS

Reality.

Interesting concept.

For me, it's almost a dirty word. Not because I have a problem with real life. Well actually, maybe it is.

Let's be honest with ourselves for a moment. Do you remember your last 'I wish I'd never wake up' dream? One of those dreams where you wake up thick with the tastes and voices and warmth of the place, still as distinct and real as the smell of freshly cut grass on an August afternoon.

Do you remember that dream? Of course you do.

Because it was amazing. And more poignantly, it was so amazing because it was so very much better than the reality that you eventually woke up to.

Now let me ground this a little before we all get carried away. I have a remarkably blessed life, for which I try to send up as many thanks as I can, as often as I remember to. And I'm sure if you forced yourself to, you could rattle off your own list of blessings and fortunes, including the many forms that these things come in (a warm home, the chair you're sat in right now, the food working its way along your digestive tract). Because it could always be so very much worse, no matter how dismal you think things might be.

So yes, I have a great life. And yes, things could always be infinitely worse. But I'd be no more than a miserable, dogged pessimist if I ignored the fact that things could also be much better. Much, much better. Case in point: that lick-your-lips-it-felt-so-good dream world.

Now, the smutty amongst you will no doubt have your minds sloshing around in the gutter right about now. But I'm really not thinking along such base terms (to make a change). I’m not talking about those dreams.

It's the dreams that are simple and light that are the most delicious. With easily conceivable plots set in a world not so different to this one. Close to reality, just without the shadows and haunts and harsh lines that The World Out There can't help but have.

Though I suppose reality shouldn't be blamed for how it looks in comparison to Nirvana / Shangri-La. After all, if we had nothing but nightmares when we closed our eyes, then reality would seem like heaven on Earth.

So perhaps next time I find myself chanting an incantation at my alarm clock for ripping me out of the arms of pure joy, maybe I should be a lil' pissed at my dream world instead. For being so damn good.

But let's be honest, it'd be like hating chocolate, or your favourite jumper, or Dragonball Z – generally impossible to do. They're just too damn good to hate.




Tuesday, 22 January 2013

TRIPLE THREAT

A few days ago I went to watch Les Mis̩rables in the cinema. I'd never seen it in the theatre so I actively avoided looking up the story line beforehand РI wanted maximum impact and blow-me-away-factor when I saw it for the first time.

And it happened - I was genuinely blown away. Keep in mind - this doesn't happen to me willy nilly. I'm not the kind of person who gets blown away by a Snickers bar. Yes, they are damn delicious, but they don't incite a very explosive reaction.

But Les Mis did blow me away. For a multitude of reasons – the amazing stories of individual characters, beautiful songs, cinematically interesting shooting and probably most notably, the amazing skills of the actors and actresses. Just ask the mob over at the Golden Globe decision makers committee.

I found myself thinking, 'What are the chances of there being people walking around that are fantastic actors, and great singers?' Mr Jackman and young (former) Miss Hathaway suddenly seemed like real gems of their era and industry.

Then I remembered what I was doing around this time last month – I saw Singin' in the Rain in the theatre. And, oh yeah, every single person on the stage (and there were a fair few) were fantastic singers and actors, and they could dance. Like, really dance. I'm not talking about throwing shapes on a Friday night in Electric Social. I'm talking trained dancers. Like tapping, shucking, jiving and diving through the air, all while singing 'Moses Supposes'.

Amazing.

And then I thought of the original movie. And then, hang on, what about every movie of that era. It was common place for actors to have the full package – triple threats all over the place.

Yet today, when Hugh Jackman moves me to tears, I'm momentarily gob-smacked that he managed this feat, with a perfect vibrato.

My point? Well I'll never want to take away from the skills of the actors that so moved me. But I can't help but wonder what happened to the standards of the art? Sixty years ago, you had to be able to sing and dance at the same time, while maintaining a convincing grin, in dress-shoes, to be even considered for a leading role. Whereas today, I'm shocked when I learn an actress can do more than cry on cue.

Same goes for 'traditional' art. I went to a photography exhibition recently and genuinely felt my big sister could've quite easily reproduced the images in the smart frames on the walls, if only I lent her a decent camera and looked after her two kids for an afternoon.

Have the standards of art declined? And have our expectations dropped on response? Curious.

Or perhaps this is just my plea to the ether to please produce some more musicals. I do enjoy them so.


Monday, 14 January 2013

JUST DO IT

It seems I’ve tried everything to work out how to get back in to the swing of writing. Reading a bunch of blogs. Buying an assortment of writers’ magazines. Reading over my past work.

And when I still came up empty, all that was really left to do, short of paying someone to do it for me (like this incredible chap), was a pretty unexciting, firework-less solution: to open up a blank document and just start writing.

And 'lo and behold, it worked.

So for your personal enjoyment, here is the living proof of one of the best bits of advice that I could give you, as well as the source of a pretty successful advertising campaign:

Just fxcking do it.

That’s it. Simples. Just take the next step.

It’s been months of mild heart palpitations and stressy internal monologues - all from just thinking of getting something down. And thinking about how long it’s been since my last brain wave. Or paragraph of non-work related copy for that matter (you may as well see where all my hard work’s been going).  And most rackingly, asking myself when exactly I planned on taking myself up on the title ‘Writer’ and seriously begin doing some actual writing.

And do you know what, dear readers? It’s been a waste of my sweet, Dragonball Z-loving time. Completely. Because all I needed to do was… do. In this case... write.

So if you find yourself bogged down with “writers'  block” or “photographers' block”, or any other kind of block that might be plaguing your journey – don't stress. Suspend the anxiety, pick a topic or concept that interests you, and start from there. That's it.

You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

And if you are, you can thank your favourite pensive buddha.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

ONCE UPON A TIME

Stories are remarkable things. They have the power to alter the tempo of reality – slow it right down to a nice, easy pace. The perfect pace in fact to allow you to step out of your reality, and enter into an entirely new one. A little like those old London Routemaster buses with the open back – when the bus slowed just enough, you could step off and retain your cool, making a seamless transition from the bus to the pavement. No trips or tumbles to be seen.

So when it comes to telling a story, the onus falls on you to recreate this remarkable quality, the quality that keeps our bookshelves forever stacked and our Kindles brimming and our Amazon orders flowing. To put it simply, you kind of have to tell a good story.

I recently set myself the challenge to write my first screenplay. It was the hardest thing I’ve done since my 10,000 word dissertation on Sex Differences in Cognitive Reasoning (which was thorough and impressive in every way). And while I toiled away an entire day just trying to decide on the general plot, I realised something hugely elucidating.

Now, we all know that 50 Cent was shot 9 times. We know the ins and outs of Eminem’s marital history. We know that Christina Aguilera is now beautiful “no matter what they say”. We know all the life stories of so many strangers. But there is one binding thread – they are all also artists. And that’s where it all begins to make sense. When you’re trying to tell a good story, to create a piece of compelling art, you need some good material. And though your own story is the hardest one to tell, it’s the story that we know the best.

So where I used to ask myself why Enrique Iglesias felt that I should know the depths of pain and passion of his most recent break-up, I now understand. When you want to create something meaningful - something absorbing, you may well look for inspiration in the thing that means the most to you. And what can be more meaningful than the events of your own life? What could mean more than your own life story? Do tell.



Thursday, 25 October 2012

SELF PORTRAIT

Scroll through your Facebook newsfeed and all of your ‘friends’ will have you believing that they moonlight as part-time models. Striking poses. Smizing. Be it the classic ‘conveniently-and-perfectly-catch-the-light’ beauty shot, or the ‘I’m-so-geeky-that-I’m-actually-cool’ goofy face. In the trendiest get-up. Looking as though they rock around with a hair brush / barber always primed to step up.

And that’s great. All of that is good, clean fun. It feels great to show the world an image of yourself at your best. Look good – feel good: a perfectly justifiable aphorism. But something occurred to me, then that idea nestled in and really got me thinking.

And there was a very particular prompt.

I got home from work, after the 1hr and 20minute journey. I helped my mum tend to my baby niece and nephew, getting them ready for their dad to come and pick them up. I prepared and ate some dinner. I made myself a cup of tea. And then I finally sat down on the edge of my bed, kicked off my winter boots and tied up my hair. Then I glanced in my full length mirror and caught sight of the image of me.

What I saw was... well, me. Unpreened. No touch ups. Not even a quick swipe of Carmex. Just me, after a long day. Me, mentally mapping out how I was going to spend the rest of the evening. Me, quietly living, in a way that’s only truly possible when you are completely unobserved. The young woman that exists beneath the daily beauty routine and wardrobe raid and seemingly sunny disposition. And as I caught sight of that image, one phrase landed in my mind with a gentle thump. ‘Self Portrait’.

Go to the National Portrait Gallery, and the self portraits will fail miserably on a Facebook Profile Pic checklist. It’s all straight faces and no make-up. Missing ears and mere hints of a smile. I think there is a good reason for this. I think these images present an acute honesty. An upfront portrayal. A true portrait.

So I can’t help but think that Instagram filtering, a perfectly coiffured Brazilian weave and expertly applied red lipstick don’t have quite the same end result. Not even close. So who is it that your Facebook avatar says that you are? And how far is the disparity between that, and the You sat in the edge of your bed?

Food for thought I suppose, in true pensivebuddha style.

Friday, 28 September 2012

ABSOLUTELY


When I was young I tried to teach myself to write with my left hand. One summer, I decided that I may as well spend my 6 weeks learning something new as my play-date schedule was... pending. I’d learned at some point that lefties tended to be more creative, and were more disposed to falling into the genius category. That sounded like a worthwhile pursuit.

The fact that I was learning it, rather than my motor skills naturally selecting it, wasn’t important. Genius does come naturally, indeed, but learning to read and write certainly helps things along, was my thought process.

This memory assaulted me as I let my mind wonder while at my desk, searching for an inspiring way to make some product description copy seem interesting. In the latter pursuit, I most likely failed. But this memory made me wonder at myself. I wondered at the type of person that I was. Or am. I found myself so thoroughly impressed at my own total belief, that one thing would absolutely lead to another. That learning this new skill would absolutely stimulate the recesses of my brain into churning out some genius.

And so it is that I learnt something about myself, from myself. That to merely believe something to be so, doesn’t necessarily make it materialise. But that you’ll likely find that your goals feel much closer once you’ve dispensed of doubt and disbelief and all those other time consuming barriers. A simple, temperate belief almost brings you halfway. After all, why waste time doubting, when you could be practicing writing your name with your non-dominant hand.