Friday, October 31, 2008

Playing the role

I have a friend.

Well, I have a lot of friends (I suppose) but this particular friend is someone I have known for nigh on 30 years (gosh). I met him at the Manchester University D&D Society and we've been playing table-top role-playing games since that time. We have a group that's met almost once per week for the last 20 years and played a multitude of games (mostly not D&D as it happens).

In 1987 I had the bright idea of starting a live role-playing game company. So we did (along with my wife and others). It lasted about 7 years but we always loved live role-playing. There's nothing sordid about this, we're talking about running around the countryside having mock-medieval adventures complete with magic and sword-play. Like re-enactment, only it's enactment, it's improvisational (although the adventures are scripted the players have no idea what will happen - a bit like murder mysteries).

This is all, in fact, relevant to Halloween. I'm coming to the point soon.

So my friend Steve (let's call him Steve because that's his name) likes to do things proper on Halloween, so he dresses up his house, has a graveyard in the garden, a smoke machine, atmospheric effects, lots of skulls and such like. And then he dresses up and scares all the kids that come trick or treating (some of them not so little).

Ths evening was the first evening in all these years I've had a chance to join in. I love it. You get the costume on and you're in character - an ogre in my case - I scared dozens of kids this evening, Brilliant. My daughter, who is a professional cackler (she's done two semi-pro pantomimes as the witch), let rip with her superb cackles which do not damage her voice (she could give masterclasses).

Even the boy, who was not even in a scary costume, managed to scare a few by simply emerging unexpectedly from the shadows. The wife, who also loves the dressing up, wasn't feeling too good so gave it a miss this year.

But it wasn't just us: we had two skeletal pirates, a Countess Dracula, a superb Death - and that was just the adults. The kids were brilliant too: a Corpse Bride (who kept insisting that her husband was buried in the graveyard, she was 10 I think), zombies, mini-witches all decked out in quality costumes. And even sweet little Summer dressed as a witch, she was about 2. That's what you get for being born into families of live role-players: decent costumes and a willingness to play the role.

We had a brilliant time, and so did the kids that came to visit. Steve, as a skeletal pirate, had this line "Come and get your treat, if you're brave enough". And the memorable "I'm not brave" came wavering through the dark from some young girl ... but she was, and she got her treat. Other phrases like "this is the best house ever" and "better than Alton Towers" came back to us. Steve's house is always the talk of the neighbourhood for the next week.

Next year we're thinking in terms of a castle frontage. I'll pop some pictures in tomorrow.

I haven't had so much pure fun in years.

What's on the turntable? Quiet as the grave.

Yes, dear reader,

I got the job.

Amusingly, I had applied to the same company 7 months ago and said exactly the wrong thing in the interview. So didn't get the job then.

I reminded them of this fact. Oh, how we laughed.

And I still got the job.

What's on the turntable? Nuffink.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Well, last day on the current contract today and it's all over. Tomorrow I have a job interview which apparently I'm 95% likely to get, so much so that they wanted me to start work immediately. I refused ... assuming I got the job ... my family come before any of that and I have a Halloween party to go to.

So I do the interview and then go home. And hopefully start work on Monday. Excellent.

I had decided I wouldn't do that personality test thing where you draw a mountain and it analyses it for you. This was mainly because I'd seen other people's and they appeared to be coming out all very similar analyses.

But procrastination is a bitch, so I did it:

drawing personality
What does your drawing say about YOU?
  • You tend to pursue many different activities simultaneously. When misfortune does happen, it doesn't actually dishearten you all that much.
  • You are a thoughtful and cautious person. You like to think about your method, seeking to pursue your goal in the most effective way.
  • You like following the rules and being objective. You are precise and meticulous, and like to evaluate decisions before making them.
  • You have a sunny, cheerful disposition.
Which isn't really too bad an analysis, the same as all the others, and doesn't really achieve much apart from some wasted time. Course I didn't read the instructions carefully enough and didn't realise I was supposed to only draw one. I wanted a whole range, and a forest, and path that went the other way to everybody else's. The thing on the left is supposed to be a waterfall, and just round the corner is Eustace's dragon cave...

In other news my daughter went for new headshots today, she's keen to be an actress (though she's training to be a zoologist, and is hoping to go to Borneo next year to push baby orangutans around in a wheelbarrow). She had an extra's part with an extreme close-up in The Street 1.3 but has mostly done stage work so far. She does have an IMDb entry as "herself" because of a TV documentary about a pantomime she was in last year.

Anyway, with 2 hours of the photographer's time available and it really doesn't take that long for her, it was decided that the boy would have shots done too.

Damn it the camera loves him.

He's indicated that he wouldn't object to making a few quid from acting or catalogue work - to pay for the games he'd like to buy. Daughter is jealous. She knows that he stands a much better chance of getting work than she does: fewer boys want to act and there are more parts available for boys.

We shall see, I shall speak to daughter's agent.

I've been thinking about my opening to Air and the rubbish scenes I talked about yesterday. they need to go completely. Enough with the scene setting and backstory, I can get that out in a few lines just before the thing happens that throws her into our world.

These walks to and from work have been very useful. If I do get this new job I shall have the same walk plus a long train journey. I hate long journeys to work. I used to do the whole commute thing, I thought I'd lost that for good.

Still, money is money.

Why did I call this post "Breathing"?

Apart from the fact it's one of the best songs Kate Bush ever did?

Actually that's the only reason ... and I'm still breathing.

Out. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. Out. Out.

What's on the turntable? "Haunted" by Evanescence from "Fallen".

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Digging into Air

So I had another go at Air this evening, and made a bit more progress. Wrote the first bit of dialogue which doesn't include Air.

Then I went and read some more of Russell T Davies's "A Writer's Tale".

Then went back and realised that the second scene is currently developing into rubbish ... because it's going nowhere. It's a typical problem when you've writing something that sits in a completely different world. You have to communicate all the world's rules without it being obvious exposition.

I ultimately achieved this in Monsters by cheating: I wrote the credit sequence to be a complete info dump on 50 years of history - in just 4 lines of script space.

I don't have that kind of freedom with Air, plus the fact that after the credits we'll be in the real (i.e. our) world. I've got 2-3 pages to set up an entire fantasy world and the protagonist's goal before throwing her into a completely different realm. Talk about making things easy for yourself.

And the second scene is useless. Oh well, it'll come to me.

On the subject of RTD's book I'm so pleased that I agree with him on so many points, like having to write a script in order ... he does it that way, couldn't do it any other way. I'm the same, I have ideas about future scenes but could never write them out of order. As RTD says, each scene is informed by the ones that go before.

This is such an important book for budding TV writers, I'm not saying that we should all get into the panics over deadlines the way he does. That would be bad. But the insight into the whole production process in addition to his experienced view of the writing process as it applies to TV, makes this a masterclass in very nicely produced book form.

I said I wasn't going to write a review until I'd finished it. Too late. And I'm only halfway through.

What's on the turntable? "House Carpenter" by Pentangle from "Light Flight". Another tale of lust, betrayal and ultimate doom. Good stuff.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Busy but not writing

Okay the 5 top methods of procrastination meme:

1. Reading blogs (I call that research)
2. Reading e-mails
3. Reading, currently Russell T Davies's "The Writer's Tale" (very enlightening, I call this research too)
4. Working on my pet website project (I call that "future income")
5. Getting a new job. Contract ends this week and I need a new job.

Tried to work on "Air" tonight and wrote a few things but really couldn't get into it, the "need to get a new job" thing is a bit pressing.

Got a nice e-mail back from BBC Wales complimenting my writing, and viewing my script as a serious commission (gosh, I wasn't expecting that). Got some very sensible reasons why they wouldn't commission it. It was interesting.

Still awaiting responses from the first round of agency submissions.


And did Danny Stack really mean it when he said "2 months"? We have to wait another month before we hear on Red Planet? I hope not.

I'll review RTD's book properly when I've finished it, but it's really making me think about budgets ... yes, I know, writers aren't supposed to ... but why not deliver something that is well written and works to a budget as well?

For instance the opening of Air originally took in 4-5 locations in a castle for the same number of scenes. Yet, with a little thought, I made it two locations without losing anything else. Also, particularly since Air is for kids, I ought to think about the number of characters. Can't really have that many.

Right. Stopping now. No more quick thoughts.

What's on the turntable? "Omie Wise" by Pentangle from "Light Flight". This is a very cruel story of a man who tricks a girl into running away with him, has his wicked way with her, then murders her. After her body is found much later, he is arrested, tried and executed without evidence. Luckily they got the right man.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Using Celtx #2

I did a thing about using Celtx back here. Where I showed that celtx was so easy to use that my 11 year old son could do it after minimal instruction.

I don't really see myself as an advocate of Celtx, it's just that it's pretty good and it's free. (The free thing is fairly convincing.)

Anyway after my flurry of "must write some words" in my Air script, I got down to some more serious planning. As I have mentioned my workspace (such as it is) does not include a corkboard with index cards. But that doesn't mean that I don't use them.

On the contrary, up to now, I've used a piece of software called Storylines which is quite nice, but duplicates a lot of the functionality of Celtx without actually really being able to write a script with it. (You can but it's not straightforward.) And it costs money.

The latest version of Celtx integrated virtual index cards with its main script writing section which means you can plot out your story on "index cards" and have the scenes appear in the script area. And vice versa. You can colour the index cards for the various plot lines. Anyway as previously determined a picture is better than a thousand words, so here are some pictures:

So this was the bit of script that I threw together last night. No comments please, first draft, demonstration purposes only and I already have changes in mind.

The extra scenes were not created on this page but on the next one...

This is the index card page in the "notes" setting which means it's showing the notes that I made about every scene. I have taken the liberty of obscuring my actual notes.

Notice how the scene headings on the left are coloured with the plotline colouring.

This is the scene-content version of the same index card page so you can see what you've written. Flip between them at a click.

I have to say that I really liked the way that works out and I'll definitely be using that feature again in future.

What's on the turntable? "Samba Pa Ti" by Santana from their "Greatest Hits" album. Even if you don't know Santana (Latin-American rock) you probably know this tune from the breakthrough M&S adverts of a couple of years ago.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

That "Once Upon A Time" Moment

It's funny really, ever since finishing "Monsters" I've been rather ambivalent towards the next piece of writing. No rush, not really important, I can take it or leave it. Stuff like that.

Of course there was the non-starter of "One Night in Paris", which didn't help. And I sit around pontificating about how I've been a professional writer for over 20 years and blank pages don't scare me.

Then there was the slow build up of "Air" with that bit of work I did last week and the excitement last night of getting the structure straight.

All this time I've had the opening scene in my head. I've known exactly how this story begins, the images vivid in my mind.

I did a little more work this evening on the plot lines. I had realised my descriptions of the plots were glib. A protagonist is only as good as the intentions of the antagonist. You make the protagonist bigger by making the antagonist bigger. My descriptions were vague when it came to what the antagonist actually intended. So I got those tightened up.

And finally the force of water behind the dam became too much. I couldn't "not write" any longer.

So I launched Celtx, sorted out the various options that I wanted, prepared the title page, and saved the otherwise empty file up to (a backup that's guaranteed to be off-site and, depending where you are, in a completely different country).

And then I began to write the opening scene, and a shiver of delight ran through me as the images began to flow. I was excited again, I haven't felt that way in quite a while.

... and then I discovered that what I had been imagining as the first scene wasn't the first scene after all but something completely different.

Writing's full of surprises.

What's on the turntable? "Heads we're dancing" by Kate Bush from "Sensual World"

Chair lift

There was a meme going around a few weeks ago about putting up photos of writing workspaces. Not that I got memed but I did wonder what in the world I would show.

It is true that back up north I do have an office, but here in Reading? Nothing. Just the computer and sometimes bits of paper. No cards, no corkboards, no stick-it notes.

I also don't have a decent chair. For six months I've been sitting on the sofa with a pillow behind me for support and the computer perched on a stool. The only other option being the laptop on the table and me perched on the stool without any back support. Not good.

Today, having made a point of not completely knocking myself out at work, I decided I would buy a decent chair. So off I went to Argos and played with their high tech ordering system and located the very last of their (one person self-assembly, made in China) ergonomic chairs.

Excellent. I bought it and then discovered it was too bulky (20Kgs in a big box) to carry back to the flat nearly a mile away. Off I zoomed and located a convenient cabby, got back to Argos, loaded up, got the thing to the flat. Dragged it up a switchback flight of steps and collapsed into the sofa.

Having recovered I set about putting it together. Self-assembly is a lot easier than it used to be so just 45 minutes later I'm proudly enthroned in my super-duper ergonomic executive chair. The lumbar support is adjustable and I have it placed just right for me. It's really comfortable.

There is just one small problem.

I have nothing the right height to put the computer on. I need a desk.

What's on the turntable? "Pentangling" by Pentangle from Light Flight.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Patience, Prevarication and Planning

I originally entitled this blog "impatience, prevarication and planning" but I thought having three "P"s sounded cleverer.

I just got very excited because, stuck in Reading again this weekend as the launch of the website is only days away, I have been working on my next work.

This is not my "One Night in Paris" because I got some very poor feedback (the feedback was good, the opinions expressed were unpleasantly accurate) so it needs more time to ferment. Plus the fact my wife made a suggestion last week that suddenly turned the whole idea upside down and would make it super-cheap to produce. It needs fermentation or possibly extended composting.

So I'm working on Air. (snigger)

"Air" is the working title for my kids fantasy TV series -- as I'm still waiting for responses from all the agents and TV Companies that are reading Monsters.

Air is inspired by a 70s TV show called Sky (see what I did there, with the name) and while it has some similar concepts it's a very different tale. Sky was seriously scary but totally amazing, and had a profound effect on me.

But to the point of this blog (finally) I'm very impatient when it comes to writing because I really do just want to get in there and get some words down, let's face it I'm not going to write all 12 episodes, this is just a spec, so 30 pages is something I could just throw together. Right? Wrong. That would be fatal.

I sat down last week and got some ideas into a concrete form, tried to do some planning following the suggestions in Adrian Mead's little tome How to Make it as a Scriptwriter as I like to try things out. I also used the excellent Writing a Great Movie by Jeff Kitchen - don't be fooled, this book is excellent for all types of dramatic writing, and it's the only book on screenwriting that I come back to time and again and actually use as a reference.

All this meant I had to think about the protagonist's dilemma in detail, and then attempt to derive the theme from that. All good stuff, because getting a handle on theme can really provide a depth to what you're doing.

I did all this, wasn't really happy with what I'd produced and then the day job intervened for a week.

I got back to it this evening. Walking back from the day job allowed me some thinking time and I realised how I could structure the whole 12 episodes with overlapping 3-episode plotlines that would result in a sequence that would demand continued watching because so much would happen and keep on happening.

I probably didn't explain that very well, so here's a picture to paint a thousand words...

It's like writing 8 features, 2 x 60min and 2 x 30 min, except that obviously the A plots get more time than the B plots which get more than the C plots.

This might seem very formal but as I began to fill in what the storylines would actually be it all came together very nicely with each plot idea contributing to and complementing the others.

It's all very well saying that I'm going to only write a 30 minute episode but unless I know what's happening in the rest of the series in reasonable detail that episode will be shallow.

As I worked on the plot ideas another thing happened. The real reason I am very pleased with myself: The theme suddenly hit me. Something simple, easy for children (and adults) to identify with and something that has real emotional impact.

Oh yes, I'm a real smarty-pants.

What's on the turntable? "Live Bed Show" by Pulp from "Different Class". Jarvis Cocker is another great writer, his songs evoke real characters and tell definite stories.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Getting all literary-like

As I have mentioned elsewhere a very good friend of mine is the writer Roger Ellory, who writes Literary Crime Fiction, bit of a niche you might think but his "A Quiet Belief In Angels" has been one of Richard and Judy's book club books. And an excellent book it is too.

Honestly I find Roger's writing breathtaking, that's the best description I can manage.

I have also commented on the fact that I don't read much nowadays due to lack of time.

Actually Roger has every right to be annoyed at me. My 5oth birthday yielded book tokens so I popped to Waterstones a couple of weeks ago and bought myself the Heroes graphic "deleted scenes" book - and another literary writer. Trouble is I tend to gravitate to the SF/F and among all the other writers I have never heard of (okay I should live dangerously) I found Iain M Banks and bought his "Use of Weapons".

Which I finished this evening. Very clever. That's all I'll say. No, I'll add "brilliant".

Now Iain Banks is a renowned literary writer, who condescends to write SF from time to time.

I jest. Iain M Banks is a completely different writer. You can tell because he's got the initial "M" in the middle of his name. Must be someone else completely.

As far as the print trade is concerned, and literary snobs, he is. That fact that the two Iains inhabit the same body is irrelevant.

I know I've said this before but how can some so-called literary writer claim that she doesn't write SF when she's written a novel set in the future where the planet Earth is suffering from the after-effects of extreme pollution? This is a true story, dear reader. Silly bint.

The problem is in the nature of mis-definitions. And I've said this several times before and I'm going to go on saying it: SF is not a genre, nor is Fantasy. They are settings. But things like Horror and Crime Mystery are genres because you can put them in any setting. For example, you can have Fantasy Police procedural (the Lord D'Arcy stories by Randall Garrett). "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell" is historical fantasy ... political? (Why political? Well if you sum up what it's ultimately about it's either politics or a love story, I think political wins out.)

Then there's "Period": Past, Contemporary or Future. Steam-punk is historical SF. The conceptually brilliant "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is 1930s SF.

Arguably the concept of "Fantasy" is irrelevant since if the story is made up then it's fantasy. While the degree of fantasy is dependent on how far it departs from what is considered "real". SF is a fantasy which extrapolates physical or science. Magical fantasy adds features (and creatures) to the universe that are not generally considered possible or likely.

You could say that amount of "fantasy" is merely the "degree of unlikelihood".

Literary is just a style which can be applied to any setting/genre combination.

If you were feeling really enthusiastic you could draw a five dimensional chart with Period, Setting, Genre, Style, and Published date as the axes, plot all the books released in the last 150 years using the size of the dot to represent sales (which effectively makes it six dimensional) and discover fascinating things about how tastes have altered. Also spotting those areas of minimum density where one could place a book with content no one has ever done before.

(Though one caveat if you choose to do so: Sherlock Holmes was contemporary when his stories were printed and steadily retreated into historical. It's crucial to keep that in mind when plotting.)

This is left as an exercise for the reader.

What's on the turntable? "Headlong" by Queen from "Greatest Hits III"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Un-poetry day

I'm posting because I'm bored and at work. I'm doing overtime but I can't do any actual work right now because the main server won't play.

It's very prosaic.

I haven't posted recently for the same sort of reason, the project I'm working on is approaching launch, and I'm really busy with overtime and "ohmigodisitgoingtowork" kind of stuff.

Ah, we're back in business. Back to work.

What's on the turntable? Had some dubstep on a while back but now it's quiet.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Poetry Day (apparently)

Apparently it's Poetry day today (according to the WGGB blog).

So here's one of mine, another short one but if 4 words can make a poem, 10 certainly can, and anyway, I say it is. Ideally to be spoken out loud, with lots of significance, in a declaiming pose:

Fickle love
You were my star...
But you went out.


What's on the turntable? I'm at work (on lunch break) so nothing.

Monday, October 06, 2008

I told you so!

Well, okay, I probably didn't, but I told various private individuals.

Told? No, I mean I discussed, I suggested, I mentioned ... I opined.

What I opined was that I thought the number of entries to Red Planet would be significantly reduced this year for several reasons: the fact it had to be a pilot for a continuing TV series and that it had to be supplied as hardcopy.

You'd be amazed at how much a little "hard work" puts people off.

But it's brilliant news for us dedicated few. The odds are twice as good as last year, according to Danny Stack's blog there were only 1000 entries as opposed to last year's 2000.

Of course, by the same token, only the dedicated will have actually entered so that probably means the odds aren't really any better. We're up against the best of us. Still, it sounds better.

Here's to all of us.

What's on the turntable? "I Spy" by Pulp from "Different Class"

Friday, October 03, 2008

Making it

Oh well, see a bandwagon and jump on it...

Adrian Mead has got a new book out about how to make it as a screenwriter. Yes, I know you know.

But I'm not going to regurgitate the PR blurb. I bought it (online PDF version, it's less than £8 and money goes to Childline, what's stopping you?) and I'm reading it.

I haven't finished it yet but I've got to the "How To Get An Agent" stage. Now it's true that Philip Shelley is using his contacts in the business on my behalf, he's introduced me to two leading agencies so far (no feedback as yet). As Adrian says: this business is all about contacts.

I have made my own contacts in a third agency and persuaded them to read a script, and I have a major TV company reading as well. All this from using contacts and chutzpah.

But I'm not using the Mead approach, chapter 13, and I know he's right. I don't have a portfolio of work, I have the one major piece and no matter how good it is on its own, it's still just one piece. I could be a one-hit wonder.

So, do I think Adrian's book is worth it? I think so. It's intelligent, informed and, most important of all, it's practical. Nothing can guarantee you success as a screenwriter, and just having talent isn't enough. The information in this book will definitely help, as long as you're willing to act like a professional.

What's on the turntable? I've got some Laurent Garnier electronic trance running upstairs but I can't hear it from here.

BBC's Merlin #2

Due to work I couldn't watch the second episode last week but did a big catch up yesterday on iPlayer - Heroes, Sarah Jane adventures, and Merlin.


Let's talk historical and fantastical contexts. It was pointed out to me, quite rightly, that although if Arthur had ever existed he would have been post-Roman pre-1066 (as I mentioned in my previous blog on the subject), the mythology was written down in the Medieval knights-in-shining-armour chivalric time. And all the stories had this chivalrous knight element built in, which just doesn't fit with the "real" period.

Which means you either do a "real" Arthur and lose the chivalry and armour, or you do a medieval version which can't fit the historical timeline.

Personally I'm in favour of the former, however if you're going to do the latter it would be as well to actually research your subject which, I feel, the creators of Merlin have not. Did they read their Malory?

What they have actually done is invented a whole new, in places ludicrous and inconsistent, society and mythology and given some of the characters the same name as the Arthur mythology in an effort to draw people in.

If they had done their research they would know that there is a huge source of material on Merlin's young life. Real research yields real stories.

So what about this episode? It had its moments. I thought the overall plot was reasonably sound you can see they are playing for some series arc though it's a bit thin on the ground. The character of Merlin is still far too 21st century, and much more dramatic tension could be generated by actually trying to adhere to the social structures (servants do not talk back to their masters on pain of, at best, pain).

It's possible they think they're doing "Knight's Tale" but if so they missed the basic fact that Brian Helgeland (writer, director, producer) researched it thoroughly which is why the 21st century elements blend perfectly. He spent a very long time working on the story and it wasn't until he discovered that there was a missing year in Chaucer's life that the story finally came together. His modern elements complemented and enhanced the historical elements.

But this TV show, Merlin, is a camel - designed by committee to be "appealing".

And that's never a good thing.

What's on the turntable? Still nowt

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Inspirations #4: Perspiration

Is this a cheat? Can I use "perspiration" as an inspiration?

It's my blog, so I will.

I studied Computer Science at Manchester University, I loved every second of it. Computers were and always have been "my thing". I fell in love and out again a couple of times (with girls, not computers). Had my own band performing stuff I and the keyboardist wrote, and also gigged performing my own poetry in the Student Union (okay, I did it once ... to a very small audience ... of friends ... but I've done it more recently to bigger audiences, not at MUSU).

After Uni I refused to join the merry throngs of Comp Sci graduates heading into businesses to rewrite accounting software. In fact I ended, for a long time, without a job in a market that was desperate for people like me.

But in the end I found what I was looking for, I worked for the Open University on a project involving computers and the blind. We did some ground-breaking stuff. These were the days of the Sinclair Spectrum and the BBC Micro, I worked on the latter mainly. And I wrote a space adventure game for which a magazine company paid me £100, all rights, and put on a compilation of simple games. (I was young and innocent and £100 seemed like a lot of money.)

My OU project came to an end. But almost instantly I had a call from the company that bought my game asking if I wanted to join their magazine editorial team. An odd way to recruit, but it suited me.

So I became an editorial assistant. Within five years I was editor. And I stayed that way for another 10 years at least, I lose track to be honest.

But here's the perspiration: I wrote my first article for that magazine, and had it ripped (metaphorically) to shreds by the editor-in-chief - it came back covered in red. So I tried again, and again, and eventually it was considered passable and printed.

I edited other people's work, I wrote articles, more importantly for however many years it was I wrote articles to deadline. When I became editor I instigated the "editor's comment", every 4 weeks (and I don't mean month, we had 13 issues per year) I sat with a blank screen in front of me and conjured 500 words out of nothing.

Whether it was 500 or 5000 words, writing became merely a function, like eating. I did it when I had to.

There have been bloggers recently commenting on whether writing is "just a job" or a "must do or I'd die" activity. For me it is neither. I can take writing or leave it. True, I have stories to tell and I want people to experience them in one form or another. But it's neither a job nor a compulsion: It is something I can do, if I want to.

So is it an inspiration? I have no idea, but 20 years of magazine journalism (I did more than just computers in the end) was sufficient perspiration to mean that a blank page holds no terror and, unfortunately, makes me unsympathetic to people who complain of writers' block, a luxury I've never been permitted. (Sorry. But not much.)

Other inspirations
  1. The Art of Words
  2. "It's a tragedy!"
  3. Haiku
  4. Inspirational addendum
  5. Perspiration (this one)

What's on the turntable? Nowt.

Inspirational addendum

In reference to my first Inspiration about Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee, it seems I can nail it down to a specific school term.

As mentioned in an earlier blog I reached the exciting age of 50 a couple of weeks ago. I say "exciting" though frankly I can't say I've noticed any specific changes. Still no evidence of age being treated with deference. Hum ho.

My parents, currently heading into their 80s, decided to send me a rather special present, my Grammar school reports. Eeek.

Quite fascinating and amusing especially from the highly non-PC teacher's comments particularly in English: Form 3Q (equivalent of today's Year 9) Grade C: "His oral contribution is quite good but bhis written work is sometimes rather feeble." and later that year Grade D: "He has plenty of ability but sometimes lethargy gets the better of him."

We were even rated as "position in class" the remark above gave me a 23rd out of 27.

But less than 4 months later: Grade B, position 5, "He has worked hard this term and deserves his exam success." So there you have it, my guess is I encountered "Cider with Rosie" somewhere in those 4 months.

Other inspirations:
  1. The Art of Words
  2. "It's a tragedy"
  3. Haiku
  4. Art of Words addendum (this one)
  5. Perspiration

What's on the turntable? "Chewing a bone" by Toby the dog from "Noises I can make"