Category Archives: Writing

Life at the moment

Dovernoted-scaledDovercastleed-scaled

So it has been a little while since I have managed to get my head together to write a blog. There has been a lot going on in my life that unfortunately I can’t go into specifics on. A number of difficult people have been making life harder than it needs to be for me, and this has sapped my strength and energy. I am trying my level best to continue to be positive during life’s hardships and God has been good during a number of things that would usually cause me to panic. I also have to thank God I have such a supportive husband when I get stressed and worried about things. I have been learning that sometimes when you can’t change something, there is no point worrying that you can’t change the outcome.

I recently had a week off and finally had some time to spend editing photos, which is something I find incredibly satisfying. I shan’t post any just yet, though be sure they will appear soon. There is something about removing unwanted parts of a photo, making the photo clearer and cleaner that I just love. I know many people feel odd about having photos being changed in that way, but I try to keep the image the same, just enhance it as best as I can. I’ve not had much time to take photos in 2015, which seems really absurd to me as it is now March. I just seem to have had a never-ending cough/cold (along with everything else). Just when I think I’m over it, the following day it returns. I think my camera is overdue a trip to a zoo.

On the plus side this year I have managed to lose a bit of weight and feel much fitter. I’ve not been on any diet, I just cut out cake and upped my exercise. (Never been on a diet, don’t intend to). I had forgotten how much I get out of just walking, jogging or (sometimes) running a route. There is something about having that peace from distractions and being able to just pray while I’m out that just puts things back into perspective. I often find myself over-thinking and jumping to conclusions, when I need to just put logic and a bit of perspective back into a situation. I think I care too much about too much, and I have to hand it over. It is all too easy to make everything negative when one thing is not going right, suddenly everything is not going right. All it takes sometimes is time with someone who cares, for me to just spill to and it all ceases to be the problem it once was. There have been so many people in the right place at the right time for me recently, and I cannot thank my friends enough for the support they give me in difficult situations.

I’ve sort of come full circle here and back to the blog situation. Much like Kieran I’ve not had much creative energy to write things, or I have written it and hated it. It takes a lot of me to put something down and hope that people will get things out of it. I’ve never sugar-coated things I write, which I partly why more gets deleted than posted. Life is not pink and fluffy, and sometimes I leave in too many hard edges in what I write. I don’t want people to think that I don’t enjoy life either, because I love what I do. I sometimes feel that many others have it easier, but that is a lie as each person faces their own challenges and I’ll never know the full picture. I know I’ve said this before and while it can be difficult, I will always try to build others up. I know I don’t always succeed, as I’m not perfect, but I give it my best.

I guess that’s it for an overview of things at the moment.

Creative Bomb

It’s funny how things work. I’ve been struggling for around 2 months with being creative. That even extends to writing blog posts. I’ve written, and metaphorically (because I work on computer, and it’s tough to literally) screwed up and burnt pages upon pages of stuff. The project I’ve been working on for close to a year has stalled, and I don’t know where to go with it.

It’s not that I lack ideas, or time, or even effort. It’s more that everything I write I hate. I write four pages in a morning, then come back to it in the afternoon, and wonder what I was possibly thinking. A wise man once said that writing was “…one part writing…five parts re-writing to make it not rubbish…” This is what I’ve been dealing with for a couple of months, the writing has been fine, the making it not rubbish, not so much.

It would be easy for me to think I’m being too hard on myself, too critical, and maybe I am. In the Summer I submitted some work to a gaming company that was holding, well I guess auditions, for freelance writers. I didn’t hear back from them, not even a courtesy “Thank-you for your submission” email, and I must admit it knocked my confidence a little. But some of my best writing happened in September and October, a couple of months after that submission, so I don’t think I can blame my current slump on that.

I’ve often had the problem of being distracted from a current project by something new. The start of something is so exciting, and you have so many ideas that everything moves quickly and you feel like you’re really succeeding. It’s a temptation, and one I’ve desperately tried to avoid with this project, because I’m really excited by it, I think it’s a compelling piece of work, and I want to finish it, but all I’m doing is coming up dry.

Yesterday, I was struck by inspiration, unfortunately it was for something new. However despite the danger, I allowed myself to consider it. Unlike most things, this wasn’t a BIG new project, something to distract me from what I want, and need to do. Instead this was a small thing, probably only twenty to thirty pages long. Something I can do quickly, something to refresh my creativity, get me thinking outside the box again. Something I can write, and finish, and have ready to be read by people within a few days. I had the idea at about 8pm last night, and sitting here typing at lunchtime the next day, and I’ve already written about 11 pages, and it’s good stuff. I’ve just re-read it, and apart from the usual spelling mistakes, sentences that don’t make sense, and mixed up tenses that litter, my pre-edited work it’s good stuff, it works well. In addition to that, I know what needs to be written for the other pages, I don’t need to stop and think what happens next, I know. It’s all in my head, it just needs to be transported to the page.

What’s even better is that this…this bomb of creativity that exploded in my mind, is doing a lot more than just allowing me to write something new. It’s giving me more confidence in my creativity as a whole, giving me more ideas for my main project. Reassuring me that I can write, and that I do have the ability to carry on with what I’m doing. I’m feeling more creative than I have in weeks, months even. This creative…holiday that I’m taking is allowing me to refresh myself ready for the next push of my main project and sometimes that’s what’s needed.

A relative of mine has mentioned multiple times that I should see the fact that I’m out of work as a positive. That’s pretty hard to do at times…most of the time even. I’ve got goals, I’ve got plans, and I know God’s got stuff for me, for me to be doing in my future, and it’s frustrating that I feel that all I’m doing is sitting here, being told “No” by people that aren’t interested in me. But maybe being out of work is a necessity, a time of refresh before heading back into the high stress world of Christian Ministry. Maybe, like with my writing, I need an infusion of raw energy before I jump back in. Is this what this time is? I don’t know, and it’s not going to stop me pushing, and trying, in God’s time, and will to move forward into what he has for me, but rather than seeing it as a bad thing, maybe this is something positive. A time to pause and become refreshed before going back in.

Moving fast is my nature, it’s who I am, it’s what I do. Unfortunately God likes moving us out of our comfort zones to further enhance our reliance on him. I may not like it, but if it’s what He’s doing I know it’s what is best for me in the long run. I will be going back to my main project after I’ve completed this small one. I will keep pushing to get a new job, and to move, and to see God’s grand plan unveiled for myself and my wife.

I just may not look so negatively on a week’s time out, or a year of refreshment as I have done before.

Professionalism

professionals

I’ve gone back and forth over how to approach this subject for most of a week. I’ve talked myself into, and then out of doing it. Too many issues and pitfalls I tell myself. Then I think, the subject matter will continue to go over in my mind until I write it, so here goes:

There seem to be very few people that totally understand the notion of professionalism. I have been into so many places and been shocked by the complete lack of regard for professional language. When you go to a shop, you expect to be treated with some kind of courtesy. It seems to me that there is a lack of expectation now. It no longer matters how people conduct themselves within their business setting. It also seems that there is a lack of confidentiality and rumour mills abound. That you can be in a dentist or a doctor’s waiting room and hear comments that you know are not for your ears.

Whatever happened to the notion of self-control? The notion of following guidelines? That ever so burning piece of information, that should be left where it belongs. Is there any wonder that some people have trust issues. How many people keep their word? Hold to a promise? Is it all too easy to just break that word or promise in the name of convenience?

I try to conduct myself in a way that is professional, regardless of where I am. What I do reflects on those around me. When I drive, I try my best to follow the rules, and am constantly appalled by the number of drivers that take insane risks on the roads. When people do something that reflects badly on me, I struggle with it. It is difficult not to get angry and upset. It takes me a while to compose myself and deal with the situation in a way that is professional. I always give myself the time to do it. I hold myself to account and am courteous regardless of the situation.

So righteous indignation, this view of mine. One side of a story told. Behind every piece of gossip shared there can be a good intention. Most people do genuinely care about what they do. They blow off steam when they are stressed or upset. When a situation is emotionally charged, words are exchanged that can’t ever be unsaid. This doesn’t excuse actions, but it might just explain them somewhat.

There was part of me once when I was a teenager, that felt the need to make people pay for their mistakes. I would get back at people in subtle ways and they would know not to cross me again. I know that there is always that option, but I do not want to be that person again. Hate and retribution will never make things better. Putting myself in another person’s shoes and understanding why (even if I don’t agree), is a far better way of fixing things.

We live in a world where people are far from perfect. A world where people mess up all the time. It is how we respond to a situation that matters. We cannot make people understand us, but we can try to understand them.

Balance

Balance-scaled

Much of life is a question of balance. Work/life balance. People time and alone time balance. Sleep/awake balance. Not many people have got these completely right. I know that I am someone who cannot survive without a good amount of sleep. I need my eight hours, or I feel horrible. If the balance is out then there is some kind of consequence, often that is I need to crash, or have a nap. I’ve always been someone who needs my sleep. I find that when I am ill, the best thing for me to do is sleep. I realise that lots of people do not have the option to sleep when they need it, and I know that that is often the reason for there being a knock-on into other areas in their lives. That’s the thing with many areas of our lives, there is an overlap. When one thing is not as it should be, it can be very easy for other things to become skewed. Relationships are often the first thing for there to be a knock on with. Going with the example of sleep, I’m sure many of us have snapped at someone we care about due to lack of sleep.

The thing is, there is often a reason to push ourselves in a given area. To stay up too late, to ‘help out’ more than we perhaps should. To give more of ourselves over to something than we should. It’s nice when people are selfless and self-sacrificing, as long as it is not to their long-term detriment. It is great that a nurse went to Africa to help out with Ebola. Not great that he then contracted it. Great that he was given the treatment to get better. Going back to Africa again to help out? I’m not sure I could do it. Do I admire him? Yes. Is it a healthy choice? Not so much. If your whole life is geared up for helping others, then you need to be in the shape to do that.

I guess where I’m going with this is that we need to watch our steps and keep our balance as best as we can. A one off shift is not a big deal, but if we are permanently over-doing it, then the consequences will be all the greater.

Bait

Tranquil

There are a lot of times when I don’t know how to respond to something someone is baiting me with. A few days ago I was baited with a question, and this person was trying his best to belittle someone and call them less than human. Within the context I was in, there was no way I was able to respond without causing an issue for others around me. I wanted to say any number of things to make this person feel bad about themselves for holding such a view, but most of all I wanted an apology. Unfortunately for me, I was not the person who had been insulted, and the other person just acted as though the comment had not been made. I now find myself in a place where I wish I had said something, but equally glad that I did not compound the problem. If someone is looking for a rise out of you or an argument, then not putting fuel on the fire might be the only way to stop it before it starts. Sometimes getting involved just makes things worse, or gives someone ammunition to continue a line of conversation that should be stopped.

This is not the only time I have found myself baited on issues. People make certain assumptions about how others will react. This is often based on what perceived beliefs that person holds are. They then pick an opposing view and then try to have some fun, regardless of their true beliefs or if they have even given any thought to the subject whatsoever. Many people hold their opinions because it is what ‘everyone thinks’, and because if you don’t think that way there must be something wrong with you. How can solutions to problems be found if we all think alike? Giving a stock response is sometimes the worst thing you can do. Even if you wholeheartedly disagree with someone, at least try to see where they are coming from in order to give a measured response. Make sure you consider the context you are in as to the appropriateness of the response too, and whether no response or a continuation of the discussion in another context would be more appropriate.

If you want people to treat you with dignity and respect, then you need to treat people with dignity and respect. Regardless of your opinion as to whether you feel they deserve it, simply by being human people deserve respect. If people could talk together without trying to be mean-spirited to one another, then this world would be a better place. Just because you can put others down and do them harm actually means that you should be the bigger person and behave in a manner that does not demean them or you. There are many times when I have wanted to give a childish response to someone, but I am glad even for my sake that I have not. If you want people to take you seriously and listen to your opinions, then you have to behave in a way that makes them want to listen.

Honesty, integrity, trust. All these things have to be worked upon your whole life. If you are worthy of these titles then people will listen to what you have to say and take it on board. I want my life to match up to what I believe. I want to be able to talk to anyone and make them feel like they are glad they spoke to me. I want others to know that God loves them regardless. I want people to know that there is hope even in the darkest of situations. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 says ‘Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.’

duckling

Pun Fun

Snow Reflection
Snow Reflection

 

If you want to just muck about a bit and amuse yourself without harm, follow my fun example. Puns are awesome. Kieran doesn’t agree, but the thing is it gives me something to do in those moments when some light relief is needed. Many people just groan, but it does make me smile when I’ve managed to draw someone in, and then drop a pun on them at the last moment. It is just a way to get the mind working in a creative way, honestly. I never used to be someone who found puns funny, but now I see them all the time. Sometimes I’ll smirk and try to not say the pun, and someone will ask ‘what’s funny?’. That is not my fault!

Many puns are situational, dependent on your environment. A tent is perfect for ‘intent’ puns, a fence is also good to not cause offence. I can hear people laughing already. Ok, so I know they aren’t always that funny, but they are a good way to relieve tension.

In the past my sense of humour had become somewhat dry and sarcastic. It sometimes had even been at the expense of others. I guess it has been a process worked out in me through others, and by God’s hand to see this as something that is not only damaging to others, but to me as well. I used to be able to watch horror films and find them funny. I used to point out in a descriptive way to friends ways they had got the gore wrong. There was one point when I was at the cinema, and I was the only one laughing…. awkward. All the while being nudged in the ribs to shut up. This was a long time before I met Kieran thankfully.

I realise I have been on this journey, with even the little things like my sense of humour. My attitude to those I would generally shy away from has changed dramatically. The people who bugged me the most when I first met them, I made an effort and they became my closest friends. I’ve also got better at sharing the world the way I see it with people better. I’m a very visual person, and not many people understand that if they describe something to me that my mind will create a picture of it. (This is dangerous me sharing this I realise, so be nice.) I guess that’s how a lot of the puns come about, and my humour, because I actually see it. This also happens when I listen to music, though I have no idea how to describe it. I don’t just hear music, I get a picture painted. This is where some of the sarcastic humour has stemmed from, because I see an imperfection, and it used to be out of my mouth before I could stop it. If you ever go clothes shopping with me, you’ll understand – that’s one place I don’t have to hold it back.

Words have great power, and once they are out of your mouth, or on your status bar – you can’t take them back. Even if you try to delete them, try to change them, someone will have heard them. There is a responsibility for every person to be in control of their words. My sense of humour no matter what it is, is fine, as long as it doesn’t hurt others. I think back on some of the jokes I’ve been at the receiving end of, and even though I know they aren’t true, they stay with me. So give me harmless pun any day.

Insanity breeds…Creativity?

So I think I have a problem.

I can identify exactly when it started, and exactly when it escalated, and I’m not sure I know what to do about it.  It started just before Christmas, and it escalated late last week.

Every year at Christmas for the past goodness knows how long we’ve done a Carol Service at the Church, which we’ve invited the local schools to, and various other community people/organisations etc.  For the last five or six years, it’s been my role, my job, to stand up at the end of the evening, and do a five-ten minute talk.  I have used this as my once a year opportunity to be funny, or at least to try to be funny.

Five minutes is not a long time for me. Usually if I’m speaking on a Sunday morning I have about three hours worth of stuff that then has to be condensed down into thirty odd minutes.  To condense things down into five minutes is a much more complex task, especially when being aware that you have a large group of people, most of whom aren’t accustomed to listening to a guy speaking, and also the difficulty of me trying to be funny.

So I did what I usually do in these circumstances, pick a theme, and write some jokes.  Then once I’ve got a huge amount of jokes, I viciously cull them based on the following rules:

  1. Do I think it’s hilarious? If Yes: Cut it, no one else will even find it even slightly funny.
  2. Does it make reference to certain geek culture icons, concepts or jokes? If Yes: Cut it, no one will get the reference.
  3. Is is self-deprecating? If Yes: It stays, people enjoy laughing at me for some reason.
  4. Will my wife subject me to physical pain after the service for telling the joke? If Yes: reluctantly cut it, it’s probably incredibly funny, but not worth the pain.
  5. Does it reference Justin Hawkins, or the Darkness? If Yes: It stays, no matter what, no matter what other rules it breaks, IT STAYS.

Usually this process is one of me wandering around my living room talking to myself.  It’s how I tend to prepare for most things, I mutter under my breath as I wander around, waving my arms about.  Some people who’ve watched me talk might comment that it’s not all that dissimilar to the way I preach.  However the problem I often have is that I tend to start to forget what I’ve done, what I’ve liked, the turn of phrase, the pauses.  So this year I tried something different.

Now I hate the sound of my voice when it’s been recorded, but over the years I’ve managed to protect myself from the instant self-loathing that is triggered by hearing myself enough to use it as a tool, albeit one that isn’t used all that often.  So on a whim, a spur of the moment, I decided that I would record my random mutterings, so that I could go back, and cull the very best bits of those mutterings at a later date, and get the very best of all I’ve done.  That decided it was the work of a moment to find my tablet (Tablet PC, not tablets, however relevant that might have been) find a voice recording app, set it up, hit record, and start to mutter.

It utterly shocked me, just how useful it was.  I type pretty fast, but I don’t think all that well sitting behind a computer screen typing.  If I scribbled it on paper no-one, including me would ever be able to read it again.  This gave me a way to get my thoughts recorded, literally, while still allowing me to do what I need to do to let the thought process flow, to let my creativity flow.

Over the last couple of months I’ve tried it for a few other things, and apart from feeling really odd at points, and apart from wondering just what our downstairs neighbour thinks of us (although I think that ship sailed as soon as we started having small group at our house) it’s always been incredibly helpful, and worth the time to do it.

Then last week it escalated.  For the last couple of weeks some thoughts have been percolating in my mind, I’ve been brewing up a couple of different ideas, what’s more whilst they felt like very different ideas to start with I’m increasingly realising that in fact they are just two different aspects of the same idea.  I’ve been here before, a big idea, something that forms in my mind, something I know I can achieve, something I know I can make awesome, something I’ve rushed into starting before I’ve really understood what it was, something that’s stopped, and never started again, and I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again.

My wife asked me, I’m not sure if facetiously or not, whether part of my job search was going to involve sending a chapter/excerpt from my book to publishers.  My instant response was “Nope”, then she had the gall to ask why?  My first response was that “It wasn’t good enough.” and while I still stand by that response, it was a little flippant of me, so I repented and explained why it wasn’t good enough.

Telling people that I’ve got an idea, that I’m working on something is always the hardest thing for me to do. I guess like a painter who doesn’t want someone to see their work until they’re finished, I want to be happy with something before someone else sees it, because once someone else sees it or knows about it, it’s real, it exists, I’ll get asked how far along am I with it.  So it took great effort, and in fact I tried to do it subtly last night, to tell Rowena the other part of the reason for me not sending a chapter of my book to a publisher, is that I’m writing something new, something better, something special.

Bernard Cornwall in the preface to the second or third edition of Sharpe’s Eagle, wrote that this book was the only book he had written that he had never gone back and read…because he didn’t dare to.  He didn’t want to see it, and think about how terrible it was, how many mistakes he made. He knew if he went back to read it, that he would hate it.  I understand that, I have gone back to read my book, and I do hate it, I can see how terrible it is, and I can see the mistakes I’ve made, but instead of feeling bad about myself it’s driven me on to not make those same mistakes.

So here’s the thing, for the last week or so, I’ve been wandering around my living room talking to myself.  My faithful tablet has recorded all my thoughts, ready for me to come back to.  Something is brewing, I’m not entirely sure I know what it looks like yet, I don’t know what it will feel like yet, but I do know this.  This time, before anything goes down on paper, before anything is written, I’m going to allow the creative process to take it’s time.  If that means I end up with fifty hours of me babbling to myself to work through (I already have about four hours) so be it.

I’m pretty excited about it already, even if my internal editor is laughing hilariously, and thinking I’m going insane at the sight of me wandering around my living room talking about these things to my tablet.  Well as much as I enjoy his presence usually he can bite me. If sounding a little crazy, if acting a little crazy gets it done…just call me crazy, all the best people were.  I might have a problem, and it might be escalating, the trouble is I was lying before when I said I didn’t know what to do about it, I do.  I should run with it, this is the best bit about being a Christian, I believe that God made me who I am, so it’s his fault if he made me do my best work when everyone around me thinks I’m going nuts!  There’s a timing thing going on, so if this is the way it works for me, then just call me crazy!