Category Archives: Writing

Coping With Decompression

Evening is the time when I come alive, or was for many years. Lately I have found myself suppressing natural tenancies so I am able to work properly during the day and it is really killing me. Not physically of course, that would be stupid, but intellectually the stimulus that I craved for many years that is brought about by the right time of day is missing and, with it, much of my creative drive.

I don’t know who originally told me this but I was once told that writing happens early in the morning. I think that is probably true. I have often seen writers up at all hours breaking away to social networks in order to comment on the progress of their work at two, three or even four AM. For me the writing process often starts at three in the morning because I have been awake long enough to make some kind of sense of the day and find my inner voice, the narrator’s voice. It’s not even the voice of the writer (which I currently seem to be using). The writer’s voice is the closest approximation I can muster to the voice of God. The narratorial equivalent is not the voice of God but rather the voice of the story which in turn is under the influence of the writer, the deus ex fabula if you will.

However this strange concatenation of literary expression is formed I still have an inability to contact this particular subset of my psyche. I have written a lot over the last couple of months. I have started and finished a novel in that time and contributed to a couple of magazines under various different pseudonyms (my fear of using my own name being bolstered by my flair for the dramatic which is not healthy I suppose). I have forced this voice out in to the world like a premature birth (fixed to the caffeine drip of the incubator) in order to bring in money, all the while taking ten hours a day up with a very stressful full time occupation for which I am being sadly underpaid. As well as that, other creative endeavours come to me, remove my time, wear me out until I am so tired that I am unable to participate in anything; any remnants of talent is ripped from my arms. This makes me incredibly sad. I have had times where I can not breath because of the weight of work and the world that I have to carry. I am sure everyone is the same but where as many will go to the pub or relax with friends I find myself unable to take solace in these simple pleasures because the one thing with which I have always defined myself is no longer there. As if a part of my soul had been ripped away from me I can only exist as a husk of myself until the instincts of an emotional vampire kick in and I try to feed. But I can only eat the simplest of meals. The McDonalds restaurant of television serves up endless soaps and reality shows leaving me with only scraps for sustenance. Inevitably it is not enough and I fret, I moan, I am unable to sleep. It’s then that panic sets in because if I don’t get a full six hours then… maybe I could survive on five hours but… I will be okay with only two hours if I… Just take a nap for an hour I can at least get through the day.

This is the wasteland where my mind sits day after day until at one point I am up at three in the morning and something clicks in to place and it sit and I type. For the briefest of moments the spark reignites and my soul is pulled together. I am a whole person. I can feel again. I will revel in that joy for as long as I am able but I know it is not forever and all too soon the story ends, I finish writing and I can see the dark clouds on the horizon.

I wish I had more three AMs.

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Doctor Who New Series Review: A Review

We are constantly lied to by journalists.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s their fault that this happens. They have to sum up very difficult stories in a few hundred words, many times only including the salient points. It’s probably become much more complex since the internet and it’s an often demanding job which society is now slightly more weary of since the Murdock scandal.

What I don’t like. What, frankly, really annoys me is when journalism foists a viewpoint on people. The most avid exponents of this are the Daily Mail where not a day goes by without them apparently forcing their agenda on their unsuspecting readership. Local papers are really bad for this. My parents are convinced that if you go out in Gloucester at night, you’ll get stabbed. That’s what the papers are always saying tough,

“Youth Stabbed in Gloucester Center.”

Is the center of Gloucester actually different from any other city? No, but it’s all the paper has room to report. You don’t get articles telling you that 2 gangs of youths met up in the city, decided to watch a film, had a really good time and got home by midnight.

It’s the same with daytime television. Debate shows that have too little time to discuss a subject properly just set up two opposing viewpoints and let callers battle it out. The host must take an opposing position occasionally but they can have their own opinions as well. The problem is that these shows are often the decision makers of a nation, as are the tabloids that preceded them, and a new level of authority is given to them that they probably don’t deserve. Lets not forget that the journalists on our televisions are the same journalists who were writing the tabloids before their TV break.

The poster boy of tabloid television has to be The Wright Stuff. Debate every morning in the studio and on the telephones. I’ve seen how the show affects people. I’ve had conversations with people whose entire viewpoint has stemmed from their patronage of that particular show and, largely, they don’t understand the wider implications of the decisions they have come to. Can we ever understand all of the implications… that’s probably a discussion for a different time but we can all grasp a greater range of concepts than are allowed to come out in these television debates.

All of which brings me to the point of this post, the way The Wright Stuff treated Doctor Who this morning. Yes, all of this pseudo-intellectual build-up was really just an excuse for me to rant about the way they treated a show that I am very fond of. Apart form calling it Doctor Snooze throughout the programme (that is just personal opinion, not bad journalism) the thing that actually annoyed me was the review that it was given by the shows TV critic.

Firstly, he said that he was not a fan of science fiction. That’s fine, each to his own, but to then to say that he couldn’t follow the story and so, therefore, it was a bad programme really smacks of a false syllogism to me. Matthew Wright’s opinions of the show (which we already know he doesn’t like) seemed to be more of an attack on the BBC than a considered opinion on the matter. And that’s the problem in my mind. The critic (whose name I can’t remember) said he thought the show was funny. OK, he couldn’t follow the plot but he also conceded that there were a lot of people out there who would be able to and are already fans of the show. I wonder if he is aware of the overarching story that we have seen in the previous series. I wonder if he has considered that this first episode may very well be the first in a group of episodes and that not all elements of the plot needed to be explained?

Personally, I find it very refreshing that we actually have some intelligent sci-fi stories in Doctor Who and we’re not just dealing with the ‘monster of the week’ each time. I also wonder how much the employment of channel 5 has influenced what was said on the show. Would he have said the same things if he was working for the BBC? Finally, I still think that there’s a little bit of snobery when it comes to Doctor Who. The series has changed from the Rustle T Davies days and many would say that it has changed for the better. But, the move away from the mainstream back to it’s sci-fi roots seems to have polarised opinions somewhat. Some of the sillyness of the show has gone and been replaced by some really well thought out, funny, intelligent lines which really speak to the audience.

Finally, the comment that annoyed me more than anything else…

“It’s not high drama”

I may be paraphrasing here, but that was the jist (and said in the same piece that mentioned how good the latest series of Big Brother is). Doctor Who was never meant to be high drama. Is that really a fair criticism of a show that probably brings more money in to the corporation than any of it’s other drama exports? Certainly, there is no drama on any other channel which would compete with it. Midsummer Murders, for example. How ridiculous a programme is that?

The fact of the matter is that if you want good science fiction in this country there are only two programms that you can watch. Doctor Who is not only one of them, it is the flagship that Torchwood sits under as well. Yes, the audiences are different and that has allowed Torchwood to delve deeper in to plot and exposition. But that’s fine because as shows they both have there place in the audiences affections. If you want high drama, the BBC has that as well. Critically acclaimed dramas are on there each year. If you think Doctor Who is bad drama just because it’s sci-fi then look around at some of the stuff Channel 5 puts on. I’d take Doctor Who over Neighbours any day. If you think Doctor Who is just bad Sci-fi, don’t keep putting the boot in, go out there and make something better. You’re in television after all, lets see you get more viewers.

Now, I feel I am allowed to say this because I am a blogger. I don’t hold my writing up as master journalism at all and I don’t pretend it is anything other than what it is, my opinion. On a show that informs people’s opinions, however, why are we being treated to nothing but personal opinions and not a more balanced view of the subject matter. After all, these same tabloid television journalists would be the first ones to bemoan their own shows coming under attack from a BBC seemingly awash with bias. Why do they not hold there own journalistic integrity up to those same strict guidelines?


A Macro-Micro Blog

This entry in to my occasional blog is an experiment in macro-micro bogging, a term that I have just made up. Basically, there are things that I wanted to talk about that are too small for a usual blog post but just that bit too large to post on Facebook. So, instead, I am going to write a blog post (the macro) encompassing much smaller (micro) subjects.

What’s the point in Social Media?

A friend of mine posted a blog regarding how he is agnostic about social media and the irony that those views are most likely to be seen by people who have found the blog through social media. I personally found it through Facebook where he posted the link (Take a look here). This just reminds me of something that I was told a long time ago. It doesn’t matter what you produce if no one can find it. That’s the real power of social media for businesses, musicians, writers and the like. But why is it important to post the same stuff across facebook, twitter, Google+ and whatever other network comes along? It’s all to do with the way people want to follow you. Some people don’t like Twitter or Facebook or might just use one of them. There has been an increasing move away from Facebook recently and many people on the Google+ platform have said they will give up twitter when plus is accessible to all their friends. If you make your content only viewable through a blog or only on Facebook you will alienate those people who don’t use one or other platform.

Take me for example. I’m on Facebook, twitter, MySpace… God, I had a Bebo account at one point but I spend most of my social media time on twitter because it’s just like chatting to friends (in a way that Facebook isn’t) and I get push messages to my phone. For me, twitter has replaced SMS for quick messages to friends and it doesn’t use up any monthly allowance. So if I want to find out about a comedian, band or product I am more likely to follow them on twitter than like their facebook page. It suits me better and that is the point I want to make:

If you have a business, produce something creative or just want people to read what you write online you have to make yourself accessible in the way your followers want and not try and force them down a path they might not want to take. If you do, you are alienating the very people you want as fans and customers.

Writing Comedy is Hard…

…So why haven’t I done it yet?

I know how difficult it is t get a 15 minute set together but for some reason I can’t bring myself to do it until I am under pressure to. I’ve done a few stand-up gigs over the past few months and my next two are coming up. It’s the next Comedy Showcase at Cafe Rene this week and they have heard my material before so I want to write something new for them. What have I got so far? A small story about going to the loo in the pub when you’re drunk and some songs that are 15 years old now. But I will write more, it’s what I do.

What I wonder is why I find it so hard to be funny unless deadlines are looming. I suppose it could be argued that the pressure you are under acts as a false sense of being on stage (that sweet spot when you are talking and what’s coming out of your mouth is just gag after gag). Perhaps that is it. Maybe it’s because as the hour approaches I spend more time writing without distractions although I tend to write short stories with the telly on and they are still selling all right. So, here I am with 5 days to go and I know that by Tuesday I shall have my 15 minutes. I also have the feeling that I shall scrap the whole 15 minutes on Wednesday night when I come up with something I think is better.

Friends With On Benefits

OK, not actually on benefits but there are a few people who I know who are doing some fantastic things and could do with getting the word out.

Packtypes Life

I almost want to call this game “Which dog are you?” and I’m sure that Facebook would enjoy an app like that. My strongest type is Mastiff, for example which means I’m big with an easy to care for coat that sheds terribly. To be honest, I think they go it right.

I jest of course. The game uses questions that you answer in order to determine what your personality type is. It looks really interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it. They’ve got a very limited demo to give you an idea on their Facebook page. It gives you an example of what Packtype you are and what Packtype you look for in a partner. Personally, I’m looking for a fox.

Click here to see them on Facebook and try out a very limited demo

The Pride

There aren’t gay superheroes? These are men who spend there time in spandex and tights and there aren’t gay superheroes? Actually, there are but you would be forgiven for thinking that there aren’t. Marvel didn’t have an openly gay character until 1992 and even then he was Canadian so you’ve probably never heard of him. Over the last few decades a few characters have been outed as being gay but it has largely seemed like something crowbarred in to appeal to a specific demographic. Enter The Pride.Writer, Joe Glass, speaks about the project.

When I was growing up, and coming to terms with my sexuality, one of the things I always felt sad about was the fact there were no visible, openly gay superheroes I could relate to. Sure, there were one or two, but they lived in the background or were poorly reresented. Ever since then, I wanted to change that. And that’s what The Pride is all about.

It’s a really great project and they’re looking for a bit of funding to get a larger foothold in the industry and start distributing properly. Head over to there IndieGoGo page. You’ll get something for it. Every dollar helps.

Snappers

As I am writing this I am watching Kitchen Nightmares which has just had the best line EVER. “I can’t wait to try your snapper”. Just saying! 😉

Finally

Well, that’s about it for my experiment in macro-micro blogging. Did it go well? I think so. Might have to try it again sometime. One final thing before I go. Doctor Who is back shortly. Can’t wait.

Stay safe everyone and have fun 🙂


Big Red Hootenanny

About a week ago, I was involved in organising a party for Comic Relief. I was only a small cog in a big wheel, the bulk of the show organised by P. J. Montgomory. I hosted the show on the night (my first time doing standup in five years) and brought along equiptment for the bands who would be performing on the night. P. J sorted out some great prizes for an epic raffle held at the end of the night as well as the venu, the acts and everything connected with that. I’ve known about this since November and I have been writing since then to try and come up with material suitable for the show.

At the last minute I scrapped the Lot and decided to write something the night before the show. This is actually something I did a lot when I was performing before but something (I can only assume the onset of old age) meant that I can no longer remember things the way I used to. So it was an interesting night from my perspective.

I would have liked to have blogged about it at the time but it was a long night and I just can’t remember it anymore. Anyway, today I have been looking at the footage from the night and I have to say, it wasn’t half bad. I actually spent most of my time on stage performing comedy songs and I learned that the stuff I write by myself seems to go down better that the stuff that I had always thought was tried and tested. If you don’t know what I mean by that, I used to be in a comedy band performing other people’s material, loads of people wrote for us.

I suppose it is the onset of the same memory erasing old age that has made me look more closely at the material I write and perhaps the hootenanny will see me return to writing and performing stand-up. Certainly the few jokes I did went down well. These days, however, I just need to put it in to more of a rehearsed set.

All of this introspection is detracting from what I wanted to say in this blog. I really wanted to thank everyone who was involved in the night. Our headline act was the amazing Taylor Glenn. We also had acts from friends of ours Verity Smith and Andrew Davies.

In all, it was a good night where we raised over £500 for comic relief. We also released a single as well called Red on the Inside which is still available and I urge you to go and buy.

Thank you. To everyone who came, to everyone who laughed, to everyone who bought the single. You really did help us help comic relief make a difference.