Welcome to my adventures and experiments in creativity. Where writing is like running: sometimes I know where I'm going, and sometimes I see where the mood takes me.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Spot The Diffierence!

Given the infrequent updates you would struggle to notice that anything has changed, but I have officially stopped posting here on Writer & Runner.

I have made a new home under the identity of The Writing Man, including a new blog called The Writing Mandate. Click the links to be taken straight there!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Baby, You Ain't Seen Blogging Yet

Oh dear. Last post in November? That's, like, so last year!

Ah well, onwards and upwards. Or, at the very least, sideways. Let's see how many excuses I can come up with...

Great Expectations

When I relaunched this blog with a fresh identity at the start of that month, it was with good intentions as well. I didn't expect to post two or three times a week, but I hoped to manage one short post every seven days.

Now here I am, more than three months since I last posted anything online, no closer to claiming my place in the pantheon of great writers (!) (or bloggers!).

Or am I? I haven't been lazy; a fact which gives me cause for optimism.

Optimism that I am still right to pursue 'Option 1' - building my creative identity while flourishing in, and wanting to keep, my 37-hour-a-week day job. Where that 'regular' job is concerned, colleagues are starting to make use of my creative abilities. I've had a technical article published in an industry magazine, and I'm writing content to support my employer's redoubled marketing efforts.

Excuses, Excuses

I'll also be inflicting my inimitable style on people via the medium of Powerpoint in the near future! I'm not here to blog about all that corporate stuff, though. Instead, this is a quick round up of the creative work I've done in my own time:

- Written and submitted a 2500-word entry for the Jeremy Mogford Prize for Food and Drink Writing (which, as it happens, I've had an email about today. I haven't won).

- Written and submitted an 800-word entry for the We Said Go Inspiration Travel Writing contest (which, as it happens, I've had an email about today! My entry will appear on the website on March 17th and a winner is due to be announced in April).

- Submitted an application for the Room 204 Writer Development Programme run by Writing West Midlands (successful applicants due to be notified by end of March).

- Most importantly, I have been working furiously on A Tour of the Indies. I've employed the services of a professional editor: the brilliant Joy Tibbs, from Joy of Editing, who has improved the manuscript with her suggestions and given me confidence that the tale I've got to tell is one that others will want to read. As a result, I will shortly be submitting the finished 35,500-word book to publishers.

As excuses go, I think the above are good enough reasons for not putting more effort into blogging. The Mogford Prize entry was a full three weeks of work; the We Said Go entry, a mere three days. Three full evenings on top of one normal working week, though, is exhausting - and doesn't leave much room for projecting a creative identity to the wider world.

Value For (No) Money

Blog posts are supposed to provide the reader with value, and I'm concious that this one so far might read like:

'Boo hoo, I'm too busy'
'Hey! Look how productive I can be! (sometimes)'

Neither of those scenarios are intentional. Rather, I'm keen to show that writing (or any creative practice) can be done concurrently with a regular day job, and I'm keen to help people who feel worn down by their job try and achieve more with their spare time.

I can't tell anyone how to get noticed - because, currently, I don't get noticed! - but I think I can use my endeavours as the basis for advice on being more creative more often. While A Tour of the Indies sits on the desks of publishing people, that's where I plan to focus my writing next.

Getting Out Into The World

Applying for the Writer Development Programme, too, is my way of showing that I'm serious about being seen as a writer, and connecting with the outside world a lot more than I have been doing. Time is a precious resource, and if I can tap into the knowledge of people who work with writers day in, day out, then it can only help make the fullest use of the hours I have available.

To that end, I'm working on a new online presence too. A website where a blog is not the central feature, but where I can present myself professionally and showcase my projects. At the same time, I hope to post a couple of times a month about the challenges of balancing work with ... well, more work.

Enjoyable work!

Dodgy Metaphor, Ahoy!

This blog in its current form is unlikely to last much longer, then. But it has been a useful stepping stone on the tricky journey across the river of establishing my creative identity. I've got a clearer vision of what sustainable online presence I think I can have, and which I think can help achieve my goals.

It's a good example of the benefit of experimenting; of thinking out loud. Rewards may not be instant, if rewards are desired at all. But for anyone who has ever been unsure of their creative identity, or who hasn't come up with a fully formed vision of their ultimate online 'brand', then refreshing a blog or adopting a change of approach is far better than stagnating and becoming resentful.

Even if you do then neglect it all in a desperate chase for competition success...!

Do you balance creativity with a day job? Is your day job exciting or mundane, and does that help/hinder? If you've got any thoughts on the above or examples of your own, please do get in touch either by a blog comment or by email.

And if you're interested in A Tour of the Indies, why not pass the time until it becomes available with my first book: We Will Write Them on the Pitches. Click the link for more information and where to buy/download.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Movember update #4

As Movember draws to a close, it's time for one last update.

I know the end of November is tomorrow (Saturday), but I'm off to Germany so I won't be able to post a picture.

Over the weekend I plan to introduce myself to people (though probably not passprt control...!) as Herr E. Lipp, and try to get myself photographed with someone with better facial hair than mine. Someone like this:

It goes without saying that the Herr E. Lipp joke is not mine. I've no idea where or when I heard it, but it isn't mine. Anyway, if you can see past the shininess of my forehead, here's the final photo. The hair was starting to curl over my lip, so I've had it trimmed back a bit in an effort to smarten myself up!

I think it'll be a while, however, before I can enter the World Beard & Moustache Championship...

As part of a team with my work colleagues, we've managed to raise getting on for £400 which seems like a respectable effort. Nevertheless, any further donations made here would be gratefully received!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Movember Update #3

Growing a moustache has significantly affected my appearance...

Of course not! Bet you were fooled for a moment though...

Here's the proper update photo; told you I'd try and look the other way.

Definitely thickening out a little now. Don't forget, if you're going bananas for these Movember updates then you can donate here to support men's health charities.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

How Are You Today?

This was only going to be a quick two paragraph blog post – a snatch of observation that, when I started writing, blossomed into a lot more…
The Wonder Of Youth
You know the advice that exists about child-like wonder? About how we should recapture the creative freedom that we lose in the transition to adulthood?
Well, it’s good advice! I wrote about it in We Will WriteThem On The Pitches, after all, but it sure can be difficult to enact. When my fingertips are hovering over the computer keyboard, itching to add another chapter to the next book, sometimes I pile pressure on myself.
Pressure to write a certain way, or to meet a self-imposed standard that is tantalisingly out of reach. Always just out of reach!
So much pressure … rather than relaxing and letting the words flow. Maybe you do similar with the art you create? In those moments, the idea of embracing the freedom of youth is the last thing on your mind.
Learning When To Spot It
Yet when you see it happen in other people, it’s a delight to behold. It makes you realise that maturity and world-weariness can be abandoned – even if just for a while – and life can be experienced with the joy that a child should possess.
It happened recently at work when a colleague hit one of those ‘silly’ moods; all light-heartedness, jokes and random comments. That person doesn’t aspire to produce art so didn’t recognise it as anything creative, but it was. It lifted the mood, made life seem more fun, and was exactly what the rest of us should aspire to more of the time.
And do you know what another colleague said to them? Do you know what they contributed to the improved atmosphere? If I tell you it made my heart sink then you might be able to guess, for the question they asked was:
‘What's wrong with you today?’
Why Does Something Have To Be Wrong?
It’s a sad indictment of society (or my office, at least!) that Colleague 1 could have sat at their desk in a bad mood and nobody would have said a thing. Part of that would have been the rest of us giving them some space, but part of it would also have been the acceptance of such a mood as normal.
Then they exhibit positive behaviour and Colleague 2 immediately questions it. That might say more about Colleague 2 than anything else, but I’ve been dwelling on this little episode because I think it’s emblematic of people’s reactions to each other’s moods.
One of the benefits of maturity and adulthood is the ability to better control our emotions. It’s not appropriate – or healthy! – to break down at the drop of a hat, but there seems to be an increasing unwillingness for people to appear vulnerable at all – even to close friends.
With social media and the inherent distractions of “being busy”, it’s easy to become disconnected from the people nearest and dearest to us. Ironically, something like Twitter makes it easier to embrace randomness: a quick, funny response to someone’s tweet can blossom into a rapid exchange of creativity that enlivens an otherwise humdrum day. The biggest shame is that those exchanges seem to be absent in existing relationships.
Or Is That Just Me?
I’m concerned at this trend, albeit not sure whether it’s a general one or specific only to my own life! I’ve tried to be more open with people of late and ask genuine, meaningful, ‘How are you?’ questions. Sometimes I get no answer, so perhaps I’m picking the wrong time to ask, or asking in the wrong way.
But when I do get an answer (and sometimes when I don’t), I’m sensing feelings of resignation; that “being busy” is the default setting and disconnectedness is simply inevitable. There’s nothing wrong with busy as long as it’s for the right reasons, but if it starts to impact on your mood and relationships then alarm bells should ring – unless, of course, letting relationships slip is a compromise worth accepting.
Writing, Listening, Observing
It’s not a compromise I’m willing to make, which is why I need to understand this apparent inhibition of our inner child. The most recent round-up e-mail from the website Brain Pickings featured Ernest Hemingway’s advice to writers, and one particular quote stood out:
“As a writer you should not judge. You should understand. When people talk, listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen. Nor do they observe.”
Maybe through writing more I’ve unconsciously developed some of these traits. Not that I’m comparing myself to Hemingway – far from it! – but it could explain why I’m feeling what I’m feeling, and why that concern is not reciprocated as fully as I sometimes wish.
By coincidence, in today’s One Thing Today podcast, Michael Nobbs mentioned how leading a somewhat introverted existence can skew your view of things, and finding out the opinions of others is important for perspective. Creating art can be a lonely business, so it’s hardly surprising when we feel the need to connect with people on a more meaningful level.
That doesn’t have to be true only of writers or artists – we can all listen and observe better. We encourage children to do so, and as adults we are capable of much greater empathy. Asking, “How are you today?” shouldn’t be a platitude or something we say out of routine. It’s time we asked it like we really meant it, so that we might encourage each other to rediscover our sense of joy.