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25+5 (A Retrospective)

Five years ago, the decade was changing and I wrote a somewhat melancholic blog about the arrival of my 25th birthday. Now here we are and I’m turning 30 in a couple of weeks and I thought it might be good to critique this old blog and see how much I have (or haven’t) changed. I know that this might seem a little self-indulgent going over my own stuff like this, but it’s my birthday so just go with it, okay?

Let us begin.

The decade’s nearly over. That means that it’ll be 2010 before you know it. If I had to pick the one thing that matters the most to me in 2010 it would be my birthday. Not just because it’s my birthday, but because it’s the big number twenty-five. It’s the last big milestone birthday before you hit thirty. Sixteen, eighteen and twenty-one are all long gone and that means that it’s time to take stock of my life.

I like that it starts with this sense of impending doom (The decade is ending! What will we do?!) and a little element of narcissism (What matters most is my special day!). I still hold that those are the milestone birthdays and I believe that they are the ones that people really care about. Shame I won’t get another for a decade.

Ten years ago, I was still new at an English high school. I split my time between trying to fit in and trying to stand out. Six years ago, I was dropping out of Manchester Metropolitan University. Back then I was sure that this was the right idea. Well, the jury’s still out on that one. Two and a half years ago, I was moving out of my parents’ home. This time for good, I promised. One year ago, I was sporting a particularly nice ginger beard.

Okay, so not everything listed above is particularly important.

These things were and are all true. I used to think a lot about where I had come from and I would beat myself up over choices that I had made. Coming to an English school was a serious shift in gears for me and I’m genuinely surprised that I made it through without losing my mind. I always considered dropping out of University to be one of my biggest failings, but actually my life could have been totally different had I stayed in and gotten my degree. I probably wouldn’t be as happy as I am now, although 25-year-old-me wouldn’t necessarily believe that. Moving out and staying out of the parent’s home was important for everyone involved. I know that they would agree. And although I may make light of it in the paragraph above, it was a nice beard and was the origin story for the one I wear today, so that’s something.

So I’m rapidly approaching twenty-five and I don’t know if I have much to show for it. I haven’t done particularly well with the factors that usually define success: career, wealth and family. I work for a good company, earning a decent wage. Maybe there isn’t as much in the way of progression as I would hope for, but at least I’ve been comfortably employed throughout the recession. In terms of wealth I’m probably in about as much debt as the next guy, just with less to show for it. And my love life… Well that’s something that’s best left unspoken about (not because it’s terrible and seedy, but because it’s relatively non-existent).

Wow. There are a lot of deep-seated neuroses in the lines above (this is where the melancholia I mentioned at the start kicks in). I seemed to carry around a lot of crippling self-doubt a few years back. Luckily, just like Taylor Swift, I’ve learned to shake it off. Am I still aware of not having ticked certain boxes, of course I am, but I just don’t worry about them so much (I go into this a bit in one of my earlier blogs). At least the last part has improved. I’m engaged to the love of my life and she, for some inexplicable reason, has been putting up with me for three years now.

I think all in all it’s not the getting older bit that bugs me; it’s the worry that I may not be achieving what I wish I was. Funnily enough not only do I not worry about ageing, I actually want to live to be one hundred and sixteen years old. If I do, I’ll have officially lived in three centuries. How about that for an awesome achievement?

The progression of modern medical science means that 116 might actually be an achievable age. Maybe. Or at least I keep telling myself that. Anyway, I’ll go into my theory on mortality and the concept of the body as a self-repairing machine at another time.

So what are the goals to achieve before this (rather minor) milestone age? I should know them, but I’ve pretty much given up on birthday resolutions. I usually just rely on booze to be a comforting mistress at birthday time instead of planning my year ahead. Of course I do have life goals, but they’re mostly scheduled for around that next big milestone; the big three-oh. I’ll start worrying about them in four years time.

Oh brilliant. Thanks past-me. Leaving a big old heap of ‘things to do’ for me to worry about. It’s not bad enough that I’ll be missing my more recent deadlines (read more about that here), but now I’m going to miss past ones too. Ugh. I don’t even know why I said that thing about booze being a comfort. I’ve never really been much of a drinker. When I do drink, I get emotional… and usually messy (bit of a lightweight). Best avoided, really.

I think that what I’m trying to say (and at the same time, convince myself of) is that although birthdays cause you to pause and examine yourself (not physically), they shouldn’t be how you judge yourself or anyone else. I’ve met massively accomplished twenty-somethings (they make me jealous) and I’ve met middle-aged folks with nothing but their name (they make me worry). From now on, when you think about your age, don’t think about the number. Think about what you’ve done, who you’ve known, how you’ve changed. If the thoughts and memories that you conjure up make you smile then the number is no longer important. That’s how I’m going to work from now on. Happier birthdays.

Check that out! Finishing as a plucky optimist. Who’d have thought that it would end up that way after the first few lines? What reading this has taught me is that my opinions on things like age, success and so on have pretty much remained the same over the last few years (except for the odd moments of panic and cold sweat). Since I wrote that blog I’ve made a feature length movie with some of my best friends (check out the trailer or read about the premiere maybe?) and I’ve met and made plans to wife my dream girl. I think that’s pretty good for a neurotic thirty year old.

Now I just need to tick the rest of the boxes and buy a house and have a baby and make it as a writer and…

Forty is a good age for deadlines, right?

Je-suis-Charlie

#JeSuisCharlie

I want to talk about the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris.

I’ve agonised over it, talking myself out of it and back into it a few times now. I’ve seen so much written over the last few days (some calm and measured, others furious and vitriolic) and I’ve decided that (despite my better judgement) I want to add my voice to that ever-growing cacophony. I know that I’ll probably draw criticism for over-simplifying things, but I just felt the need to say something.

Charlie Hebdo is a French weekly satirical newspaper and I have to admit that before the events this week, I had never even heard of it. I expect this is the same for most people outside of France. A quick check on Wikipedia sheds some light on the paper and its history. It describes Charlie Hebdo as left-wing, with a history of satirical attacks in all directions. By its very nature, the paper will have offended a lot of people (this should go without saying as satire is always attacking the beliefs or opinions of someone) but for it to have been attacked twice (firebombed in 2011 and the shooting this week) is really quite shocking. Viz and Private Eye have been known to offend regularly in the UK, but neither of them have ever been attacked like this.

The most surprising thing to me in the aftermath of all of this, however, is the position of what appears to be a growing number of people on the internet. That position seems to be “Charlie Hebdo is a racist newspaper so let’s not start calling them heroes…” In the wake of something terrible, victims are regularly referred to as ‘heroes’. Not necessarily because they died heroically, but mostly just because they died. Playing down the grief because perhaps they weren’t all lovely people is ridiculous. The paper was offensive, that much is accepted as true by all parties. But the issue isn’t whether or not they even WERE racists. They were murdered in their offices. The police officers in the street were killed trying to protect their community. Mercilessly gunned down by people claiming to have been insulted by cartoons and harsh words. You don’t get to kill people because you don’t like what someone has said, not even if they’ve REALLY hurt your feelings. Likewise, the things that those people wrote/drew/did should not lessen the grief felt by those left behind. To say that “we shouldn’t start excusing what they said just because of a shooting” is just stupid. People are united in sadness for the victims and condemnation for the attackers. If you have a problem with the content of the paper, you could at least wait until the bodies are cold. Otherwise you are just grandstanding, using the victims as your stage.

And now, after all of this has happened, people are proclaiming ‘Je suis Charlie’. The common thread between those using this statement is that freedom of speech and freedom of expression should be fundamental rights for all of us. The response I have seen to this is “I hope everyone isn’t Charlie, because if they are, then they are all racists too.” I really don’t believe that this is what ‘Je suis Charlie’ means. People aren’t saying that they embody and are represented by everything Charlie Hebdo ever published. Nor are they saying that what was published should be free from criticism. What they are saying is that we accept everyone’s right to an opinion, no matter how much it may differ from our own or how much it may upset somebody else. Charlie Hebdo’s opinion may not be one that you share, you may not even like it, but you should allow them to have that opinion. That is their freedom. Everyone is offended by something and it is your right to be offended. Things that you believe or say may offend me, but that is YOUR right to believe and to say them. You see where I’m going with this?

Should Charlie Hebdo be free from all criticism in their quest to offend all cultures and religions with their use of heavily barbed satire? Of course not, but the victims of January 7th sure as hell didn’t deserve to die for it.

#JeSuisCharlie

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Deadlines

I’ve never really been very good with deadlines. Either I haven’t set them or I’ve missed them entirely. I set myself a deadline of the 4th of February to have a first draft of my book and I think it is fair to say that, as it stands, I’m going to miss it by some way. Now this would usually upset me, but I’m missing the deadline not because I have been idle, but because I have been busy with other important (although different) things. These things of importance are scripts of varying lengths and styles. I think I’ve always found it easier to write scripts than prose because of my fondness for dialogue and how much easier I find it to format dialogue in a screenplay. It’s a silly reason, but it’s the only one I can think of.

The first things that have taken time away from my book are a number of short scripts that I’ve written throughout the last few months. They are different lengths, covering different topics. Some could be developed further (and maybe should be) and some are just simple ideas turned into dialogue. My goal is to submit them to festivals and to use them as samples of my writing ability. After asking for some advice (thanks to Debbie Moon for that) I have also decided to share them with some filmmaker contacts in the hope that they may wish to produce them. A script can be much better appreciated if you add some talented actors, camera work and direction (for example I’m sure that the script for Gone Girl was amazing, but Rosamund Pike absolutely nailed it in that film, thus elevating the work done by Gillian Flynn). My scripts are available to view on my IdeasTap portfolio if any of you reading are filmmakers in need of a script or if you’re just curious and eager to give feedback (always welcome) to a wannabe writer like myself.

I’ve also written a spec sitcom pilot which I’m hoping to develop into a pitchable (is that a word?) product for a network. I have no idea how to do this, so there in lies the challenge. I’m working on it though. Soon I’ll have synopses that make sense for the series and at least one episode (hopefully more) to show them (whoever ‘them’ is). I have this romanticised view of old Hollywood where you could just slip a script in front of a random producer and then suddenly you’re in the movie business. I don’t think that it works quite the same way anymore (a crying shame if you ask me).

An even more recent and exciting opportunity (I make out that everything is exciting and yet I feel that I have sorely underused the exclamation point) has taken the shape of redeveloping the webseries that I co-wrote and produced with my friends a few years ago. The show was called Ramblers (more rambling conversation and less countryside walks) and was about a group of friends being geeks and dealing with life. It was originally a sitcom idea that we squeezed and mashed into a webseries shape and put online (you can watch the whole thing here in fact). We’re rebuilding the story from scratch, updating the characters and just generally making it better. We’re even changing the title, so it will be it’s own entity. This time we’re going to keep it as a television sitcom and not produce it ourselves. It takes away the limitations if you don’t agonise over how you’re going to film it with no budget.

So there you have it. Missing my self-imposed deadline, but instead exchanging it for several more things to work on and worry about. I’m going to come back to the book, but for now I’m redoubling my efforts to get into television work. I think that’s a worthy trade off.

And as it is January, I have a New Year’s Resolution: be sure to make all future deadlines.

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A Dose of Christmas Cheer

(I feel like you need to be warned that there is a mushy message at the end of this post. Please try not to be alarmed when you come across it.)

Nine days until Christmas. It’s getting pretty close to the big day and I’ve just started building a delightful little Christmas buzz. The highlight for me so far? The other night I bought my first Christmas tree. It’s a modest little five-foot thing made of green plastic, but it’s the first tree I’ve ever bought and I got to decorate it with Lou whilst listening to A Christmas Sing With Bing (this album is played every Christmas by my dad and by his dad before that, so it’s a pretty big deal for me).

This has helped me to acquire a little holiday cheer, albeit a little late in the proceedings. A lack of festive feeling never used to be a problem. I think a lot of that is down to where I used to work. For several years, I worked for Starbucks Coffee Company (across many stores in many places). There, Christmas started immediately after Thanksgiving. I mean it. It was usually a day or so afterwards that the store’s decor would change completely and then Christmas had arrived. The red cups came out, the decorations went up and the holiday-themed music of all styles started. A solid month of festive bombardment has a way of either making you embrace the holidays or it forces you to check into some kind of institution that is stocked with rubber walls and medication. Being someone who is always eager to avoid situations that would put me in the news for all the wrong reasons, I learned to love the season and accept that Christmas now lasted for a whole month of every year.

I felt that way every year up until a few years ago when I left Starbucks and went to a different retail establishment. This place doesn’t have the same Christmas cheer that Starbucks did. There are little to no decorations (no tinsel or freely roaming Santa hats). Very little Christmas music is played (not even Mariah Carey gets a look in and she gets everywhere this time of year). No longer do I work with food and drink and so there are no festive beverages to warm me on a cold morning. No aroma of freshly brewed coffee with hints of gingerbread and nutmeg. Just the cold, hard scent of cleaned and polished commercialism. My current work environment just does not give off the same festive wintery zing. This isn’t entirely a bad thing. Now I rarely ever get to the edge of Christmas-induced psychosis, just one broken biscuit away from a string of scarily emotive headlines (there is such a thing as bad press).

This year, I’m working to build the cheer in different ways. Buying the tree was just one of them. Walking home in the crisp air with a tree under my arm and a bag of baubles, tinsel and lights in my hand, I felt like an extra out of It’s a Wonderful Life. This weekend I’m attending a legendary Christmas party that I’ve only ever heard stories about. That should help too as I have been promised good food, wine and Christmas songs at the piano (yep, classier than I deserve). The other night I watched a double bill of Scrooged and Elf (I highly recommended these films) and found myself thoroughly cheered up by the time the credits rolled.

Although I will be working all through the Christmas period and Lou will be away with her family for most of it, I intend to bring back some of the feelings of Christmases long gone (I’ve been mainlining gingerbread flavoured coffee, so that’s a start). Hopefully as I work to rekindle the sensation in myself I can spread it to others as a sort of Christmas wildfire (but, you know, without the risk of property damage or the destruction of wildlife).

Happy Holidays everyone. I hope whatever it is that you are celebrating brings you happiness and togetherness as we continue on into 2015.

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North of the Border

Oh, Edinburgh. You are something special. I’ve spent this whole week thinking about how I could live there. This is no small consideration. There are only four places in the entire world that I’ve felt that way about: New York City (expensive and a little scary with guns and the like), Oxford (also expensive, less guns though I think), Manchester (already live there, so there’s that) and now Edinburgh.

If you’re wondering what makes Edinburgh so special, then I have to assume that you’ve never been there. It is something about the way that the city feels. It has the sense of a city of great age and importance but with a very young spirit. The buildings all over are centuries old but nothing feels rundown or shabby (I’ve got issues with London for this very reason; the sense of decay). You can look out through a window in one direction and see a castle (I’ll get on to the castle properly in a minute) and the other direction there will be rolling green hills and steep climbs (I’ll cover that in a minute too). It’s a beautiful place with something for everyone (that’s a tired old cliché, but I really believe it).

Let’s talk about the castle for a second. It’s incredible. I mean it. I could throw out adjectives like awe-inspiring, breathtaking, majestic, extraordinary and downright epic and they would all be true and would barely scratch the surface of what I could say about it. It’s a glorious fusion of engineering wizardry and raw incredibleness. Actually, though, the word ‘castle’ doesn’t really do the place justice either. It is far more of a fortress, really. It has layers of walls, numerous interior gates with lanes running between them all and the whole place is sitting proudly on a massive dormant volcano. It’s imposing and it is totally meant to be just that. But there is something beautiful buried within the seriousness of it all (many people have lived and died there over the centuries, let us not forget). One assembly of cannons is arranged in a crescent shape and is called (rather fittingly) the Half Moon Battery. From below it looks to be an amazing turret-like structure, desperately clinging to the rock. When you are standing up there, you realize that it houses several large guns that were designed with only the the most terrible of purposes in mind. Weapons of death and destruction housed in such a way as to take away the fear and replace it with beauty. You stop thinking of it as just a fortification and you start viewing it in the same way one would view a stately home; grand and beautiful, whilst remaining deeply intimidating. Such is the power of Edinburgh Castle.

The man-made side of the city is striking, but the natural side is just as spectacular. Right on the edge of the city, there there is an area of incredible beauty called Holyrood Park (more about it can be found here). Arthur’s Seat and The Salisbury Crags are the main points of interest within it. I set out to climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat thinking that it would be a standard hill climb, probably with steps, a bannister and maybe a sherpa to carry your things for you (maybe). This was incorrect. My error was compounded when I realized that one had a choice in which way to begin the ascent and I chose poorly. This meant starting off by climbing what felt like nearly vertical steps up the Crags, only to then discover that Arthur’s Seat was further up than I had expected (this is an understatement). Many rocky steps and lots of puffing and panting later, I reached the top. Only then did it hit me why so many people were up there with me; the view was absolutely amazing. That, coupled with the definite sense of achievement for making it to the top (I thought I was going to die halfway up, as I am so out of shape), gave me a positive spring in my step the whole way back down the (far more forgiving) downhill slope to street level. All of this right on the edge of town. No journeying to the middle of nowhere. Just a simple walk to the town limits. Wonderfully energizing and a perfect way to recharge and unwind (although my poor legs might disagree with me there).

Any discussion of the place would be incomplete without mentioning the people. I’ve met (and had the pleasure of working with) some genuinely awesome people this week. A lot of it seems to come from the people having a deep affection for their city (whether they are from Edinburgh or not) and the urge to share it with others. This may be due to the practice they’ve had because of the sheer quantity of tourists in town, but I don’t know that for sure. Either way, I haven’t met an Edinburger I didn’t like (and yes, they are called Edinburgers).

I suppose all that’s left to say is that I think everyone should visit Edinburgh. The only worry there is that if everyone feels like I do about the city, they all may never leave. But I think that’s what makes Edinburgh great. The place is fiercely Scottish (the sheer number of tourist shops and kilted bagpipists that I saw can attest to that) but it welcomes all who would wish to add something to it. The city adopts the best parts of those people, growing and evolving. People have been adding to it for centuries. I see no sign of that changing and I hope that it never does.

Thank you for this last week, Edinburgh. I will return (and next time I will definitely wear appropriate footwear when I decide to challenge the rocks and ridges).

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Public Transportation

At 9:59 this morning, I should have been taking my second (and hopefully final) driving test. It may have been a long time coming, but my full driving license was finally within reach. Unfortunately, having had the test booked for around six weeks, I received an email at 8:15 stating that my test had been cancelled and rescheduled to another (far, far less convenient) date and time. Their reason was not explained, but they did apologise for the inconvenience caused. That was a nice touch, I suppose. I always appreciate fake remorse from big businesses.

My frustration is not that the test was cancelled. These things happen and although they failed to elaborate on why the cancellation was required (probably examiner sickness or something) I know that sometimes things like this are unavoidable. My frustration is the stress of the whole process. Stressing the night before about a test that I’m desperate not to fail. Stressing about not being able to sleep properly (tired driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, after all). Stressing on the morning of the test as I got ready to face an examiner. Stress about not wanting to let anyone down by failing again (my instructor’s stats matter to me and I’ve promised that I’ll start driving Lou around soon). I addressed my initial driving fears and aspirations a little while ago in Not Much of a Motorhead, and all of those feelings are still present and valid.

You might think that the cancellation effectively lifted this weight off of my shoulders, but what it actually did was copy the stresses to another day AFTER I had already suffered them. This sucks, but as I said before, I understand when these things are unavoidable.

I guess it is easier for me to be cool about it all because I’m sitting on a train right now, on my way to Edinburgh for the first time. It helps even more that I’m sitting in a First Class seat. What should be obvious is that I didn’t book this trip myself as I probably wouldn’t have done it on the same day as a driving test and I sure as hell couldn’t afford this seat. But I’m here, nonetheless, and it’s pretty awesome (the coffee isn’t great though, which is a shame). Can’t be too mad at the world when you’re busy travelling in style with rolling green countryside outside each window (the Lake District looks lovely today, by the way).

So, Edinburgh. I’ll be up here on behalf of the day job, but my intention is to use all of my spare time being a tourist whilst also working on some of my writing projects. I need to polish up my sitcom pilot script (the deadline is November 3rd *gulp*) and finish up a half-decent writing CV (I still don’t know what it’s meant to look like, but I’ll figure it out eventually). Maybe work on a second episode of the sitcom along with a drama pilot idea. I don’t know. Whatever takes my fancy whilst looking at the pretty Scottish buildings and the like (whilst also dodging the imminent wet weather).

Scotland! Visit the castle? Hell yes! Eat a deep-fried Mars bar? Definitely! Drink some whisky? Probably! Wear a kilt? Well… (!)

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Affirmation

This past weekend, I attended a wedding in Yorkshire. It was a wholly beautiful affair with a giant tipi, a vintage bus ride and a multi-tiered cake made entirely of pork pies (most certainly a highlight for a food addict and gross over-eater like myself). It was here that I met a young woman who, in the course of one brief conversation, helped me to make a realisation that I had previously struggled with.

The woman that I was speaking with (her name is Hannah, by the way) is an actress. Like many other creative types that I know, Hannah holds a separate day job. Nonetheless, when I asked what she did, she told me that she is an actress. When this entirely safe and neutral question was levelled back in my direction, I stumbled. For a while now, I’ve been assuring myself that when I get that question I’m going to start telling people that I am a writer. Yes, my day job is a retail one and that is where I currently earn my living, but it is not how I choose to define myself. However, when someone asks the question “what do you do?”, I inevitably find myself falling back on the safe, comfortable answer of “I work in retail”. Why do I do that? The question isn’t about how I earn money. If that is what was being asked, then surely retail would have been the correct answer. But the question isn’t about that. It’s about what you do. On days off, after shifts and on lunch breaks, I write. It doesn’t matter if it’s short scripts, blog posts or my manuscript… I write.

In our chat, the point was made that people in the creative industry often feel the need to justify themselves because so many others don’t consider their passion to be a ‘proper job’. It’s a proper job when George Clooney makes a movie, Taylor Swift releases an album or James Patterson writes a novel. Why should it be different when someone is just starting out? Creativity, imagination and bravery in performance are still definite skills. If someone uses those skills, then their job is no less ‘proper’ than any other. And just because you don’t earn a wage from it, doesn’t mean that it can’t be your vocation. How many film editors do I know who work in offices, answering calls and replying to memos? How many actors and actresses do I know who, even at this very moment, are ringing up transactions at a cash register in some shopping centre? How many musicians will be working at a bar in a club this weekend, pouring shots for crowds of drunken students? If these people have credits to their name or a body of work that they are proud of, why should they not label themselves with the title of their prospective craft? Why are we (and by ‘we’ I almost certainly just mean ‘me’ as this entire blog is pretty much just a projection of my concerns and worries onto the world around me) so concerned about our job title? The people that I have listed above should be happy to use the name of their craft when someone drops that bomb in a conversation. “What do you do?”

It’s up to you to decide who you are and how you define yourself to others. The people asking don’t know. That’s WHY they’re asking. Tell them what feels true to you and it is going to be the right answer, regardless of what you actually say.

I have decided that my answer to that question from now on is “I’m a writer”. That’s where my drive is. That is my passion. It’s funny to think that it required a conversation with a complete stranger (thanks again for that, Hannah) in order for me to realise something that should have been so basic and obvious. That is one of the funny things in life, I guess. We are always looking for that one defining moment when something finally clicks. That epiphany moment that is always accompanied by an interesting musical sound effect in the movies. When that does occur, we know that it is all that we’ve needed all along. A little affirmation and then it all makes sense.

Hi. I’m Dave and I’m a writer. What do you do?

Not my actual desk, but you get the idea.

Welcome Distractions

That’s not my actual desk up there, but you get the idea.

I’ve taken a little break from writing my book recently. I know, I know… I have a deadline. I haven’t forgotten about it (February 4th, completely self-imposed) but I have still been writing, so that makes delays acceptable, right? Anyway, I am going to finish the book so let’s not worry about it.

What am I writing that can warrant a break from ‘The Manuscript’? Short film scripts. Several of them over the last couple of months, as a matter of fact. This is a real departure from my usual method of sitting and staring at a blank page in a notebook for hours with no ideas forthcoming. I’m not usually an ideas man. I usually write in collaboration and an idea is formed collectively. In the past when I have written on my own, I’ve normally wound up with things half done and incomplete, or things that just weren’t very good (I mentioned the aptly titled ‘Untitled Mediocre Project in my last blog). That’s changed recently and I have no idea why. It must be practice and perseverance. Now I seem able to have an idea of my own, flesh it out sufficiently, make it half decent and then write it in a way that does the original idea justice. I seem to have developed an annoying habit of starting with a title and then I make an idea fit with it. I know that this doesn’t sound like the most practical way to write, but it’s working so far.

Of course, I’m not going to assert here that everything I’ve written recently is earth-shatteringly brilliant nor will I say that any of the scripts are going to shake up what we expect from short-form scriptwriting. What I will say is that I like them and I think they’re good enough to at least be seen by others, if not to actually be produced by someone.

It’s for that reason that I’ve set up a profile on IdeasTap to showcase some of these scripts. IdeasTap are a charity organisation that helps to find people in the arts work as well as providing access to competitions and funding opportunities. You can also build a network of other creative types and recommend each other based on you relevant experiences. I’ve used IdeasTap to enter a short script competition (I say ‘enter’ when actually the word ‘spammed’ is more appropriate). For the first time, my work will actually be judged by people who I don’t know. Exciting and terrifying, but I think it is necessary. How can I get any better without feedback?

One thing I have definitely learned from writing these things recently is that I really don’t want to produce or direct professionally. What really excites me is the writing. The creation and building of an idea is what I enjoy. I especially like writing dialogue (I don’t really know why where that preference came from but it probably has something to do with enjoying Kevin Smith films) and allowing characters to be wittier or more clever than I ever am able to be in real life.

The goal with all of this, really, is that I want to go pro. I need a body of work and I need to be judged. Contests are a good way to start. Maybe someone sees it, thinks it’s good and passes it on to someone higher. Maybe. One can dream.

Once all is said and done, we’ll see if my scripts take and whether anyone wants to take a shot at them. After that, I guess I’ll get back to that book of mine.

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The Storyteller

“Let me tell you a story…”

That’s how my dad begins every one of his tales. He has a few to tell, I can assure you.

My dad has lived in the US, Italy, Germany and here in the UK. He has visited India and Malawi with charitable ambitions. He grew up with three brothers, two sisters and an often necessarily-absent father (due to his service in the military). My dad has also been married twice (with me to show for the first one).

So yeah. He’s got plenty of stories up his sleeve for pretty much any situation.

I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s been such an inspiration to me, in a social capacity. When I’m amongst a group I usually have something to say, an anecdote to share or a story of my own to tell. I very rarely have to shrink away from a gathering whether they’re new to me or not. Whenever I’m with a group of family members, my dad is almost always at the centre, holding court. It’s a kind of quiet confidence that I would really like to emulate.

However, more important to me than his social credentials are his creative ones. Professionally, he is a retail manager and has been for many years. Management is something that he is very good at (even at his most humble, I think he would agree) but I don’t believe that it is what he was born to do (I imagine he’d most likely agree with that too). He has a creative mind like few others I’ve ever met and an artistic flair with words in order to properly compliment it. I’ll always remember one of the opening lines from one of the short stories that were included as part of a game’s rulebook that he worked on (probably my favourite of what he’s written): “The night was wicked cold.” The argument that was put forward was that the line should be “wickedly cold” (something about the proper use of adverbs or some such nonsense) but my dad stood fast. “Wicked cold” just sounded better to him so that’s how it stayed. I’ve always preferred the line that way too.

As a writer, he’s always tried to write stuff that he knows he’d like to read. That’s an attitude that I’ve shamelessly tried to copy. Sometimes I’ve written things that weren’t very good, but they were what I wanted to write at the time. An uncompromising approach to creativity is something I’ve taken from my dad. People might not like something that I’ve written (hell, I might not even like it myself) but at the very least it will be practise. I actually have something in my drawer of old scripts and stories (yep, a drawer full of scraps and notebooks just sitting there) called ‘Untitled Mediocre Project’. It was a story about the crossing paths of three very different couples. Unfortunately, it was just a bit underwhelming. It had some very small good bits that I want to keep, though. I’ve always just considered it practice and I think I’m better for it.

That’s the thing I’m most grateful for. My dad taught me that being a good writer isn’t always about being good. It’s about writing what you want and not being deterred when what you want doesn’t turn out as good as you’d hoped. Being good at anything doesn’t just happen.

Keep writing. Keep getting better. Keep gathering stories. Then, maybe one day, I’ll have the confidence to hold court like my dad does.

One day, maybe I’ll be the storyteller.

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Cutting the (Wireless) Cord

Yesterday started strangely for me. Why? Well, yesterday I forgot my iPhone and left it at home all day. I could picture exactly where it was; sitting on the side table, laughing at me. “Weak human,” it would probably have said, “try to live a day without me.”

Not having my attention buried in Facebook, Twitter, Buzzfeed, Engadget (or any of a number of other items plucked straight from the Master Procrastinator’s toolkit) meant that I had a chance to learn a little about myself.

1) I still know how to use a pen. However it should be mentioned that my handwriting was awful before and has probably gotten worse. Writing upstairs on a bus probably didn’t help either. You know how some professionals (doctors, psychologists, lawyers, etc) use a kind of coded shorthand for their notes and journals? My handwriting is just like that all of the time, but there isn’t a key to decipher it. It’s a little like trying to read the handwriting of a child who has just learned a foreign language; you recognize some letters, but there are just no recognizable words.

2) I really enjoy writing in a notebook. Despite my atrocious handwriting, I get a real kick out of seeing words on a page. I think it has something to do with the idea of permanence. Once I’ve written on the page, that’s where it stays. I could write it again or photocopy the page, but I can’t change what’s already been committed to the original paper and no duplicate I could write would ever be exactly the same. When I type on a phone, iPad or computer I can copy and paste all day long (although that would be a rather inefficient day).

3) I’m a bit like one of those crazy people that watches everyone and everything around me. I was being incredibly judgmental about some of the parking attempts made nearby (this might have something to do with having just failed my first driving test, maybe). A lady was debating whether a sibling should be given an iPad as a present or not, but I missed the resolution because the bus arrived (I was rooting for the kid). Had I a Twitter timeline to peruse, I’d have missed all of this.

4) My attention span is not what it once was. I guess years of jumping from timeline to newsfeed and back again will do that to you. I don’t even know if I’d be able to read a whole book. I like to think that I could, but…

5) I spend a lot of time travelling to and from work. When I’m focused on something like news or notifications, I don’t pay attention to how long my journey actually is. That travel time can be a lot more effective if I would just use it right.

Now let’s be honest. I already knew some of this stuff. I just don’t acknowledge it because I’m so regularly distracted. Part of me thinks that I should leave my phone at home more often. Unfortunately, that part of me is always shouted down by the other side of my brain that believes the phone’s lies.

“Live without me?” the phone would snarl, “unlikely.” Every once in a while, I’d like to prove it wrong. Even if only for a day.