From the Desk Remix! – Information Overload and Lettuce!

Information overload.

We are living in an environment of information ubiquity, which is at times amazing.

At other times, it can be a problem.

Too much of a good thing turns out not to be good for us.

Consider this – how many doughnuts is too many? You are correct, no amount of doughnuts is too many as long as there is coffee to go with it!

Our need for new clothes to cover our expanding waistlines and the doctor’s report on our health may indicate otherwise, however.

Currently, I am reading too many books, studying too many online courses, writing too many articles/stories, and trying to work in too many art mediums.

All at the same time!

There is so much knowledge I need to acquire and so many creative things I want to do, but too many isn’t good for me.

I started musing over this today due to our recent family pet acquistion of a tortoise.

George is an amazing creature but he goes wild for lettuce. He won’t eat anything else.

It turns out that lettuce to a tortoise is like McDonalds to a teenager, or coffee and doughnuts to me.

George loves it but it isn’t good for him, as it has relatively little nutrional goodness for him.

I am trying to do too many things all at once, which I love doing, but I might not get as much from them all in the long run as if I was more focused.

I need to change my ‘diet’ and so does George.

Tortioses, however, are notoriously stubborn – something we weren’t told when we bought him.

Apparently, given sufficient water, they can go without eating for up to a month.

It turns out that I must be stubborn too, because I have been on a ‘diet of lettuce’ for a good while, knowing that it can water down everything I am trying to achieve.

George needs to change his ways and so do I.

So George and I are going to enter a pact. We will wean ourselves off of ‘lettuce’ together.

I acknowledge his side of things will be easier as I will be witholding his preferred diet and, although he may hiss at me in outrage, I will need to exert great self-discipline to match him.

I need to be more specific about what I will accomplish each day in writing and art, read one book until I have finished it, and follow one online course to the end before starting another one.

And if you can’t keep a deal with a tortoise, who can you keep one with?

Chase Jarvis – Creative Calling – Pt.2

Last week I shared some takeaways from the first session of Chase Jarvis’ Creative Calling Bookclub – if you missed it then click here!

Week 2 was about focusing on the I.

  • I – Imagine what you want
  • D – Design a system to do it
  • E – execute the plan
  • A – Amplify

So Imagine what you want.

Then be creative and take it further – take it as far as it will go. Push the envelope. What does the want look like now?

As a writer my want might be to get book(s) published. I can push this further to, publish enough books to mean I can write full time. Plus, I want to publish a fiction book one year and a non-fiction book the next year.

Let’s keep being creative!

The fiction books I want to write will be a series and some stand alones. The non-fiction books I want to write will be sport based, focused on the teams I follow, spending a season with each. Other creative arts as well.

More creative!

Let’s not worry about bestsellers but add in a podcast and still sharing writer’s knowledge to help others on the journey. I’m pretty keen on music as well – and art – so maybe the odd book or the podcast can cover these subjects?

Where does this all leave me?


I might not be a full time writer yet, but I can sure plan as if I was!

I can set out a three, five, or ten year plan – or all of them.

What books do I plan to write first? Fiction series – more chance of catching a book deal when there is the easy sell, several more similar to the one an editor/publisher might like. I want the fourth book I write to be non-fiction.

I’m going to develop a podcast alongside those first few books – writer’s craft and the other creative arts I’m interested in. Part of this development is to start talking with other creatives in these different fields. This is preparing the way for the non-fiction books.

All the time I’m developing and adding to the blog/website.

The timeline is the guide for me to get my butt in the seat researching and writing! It all might be completed slightly sooner or later. It almost doesn’t matter. I can adapt and adjust, so long as I keep researching and writing.

Whilst doing all of this I need to keep learning and take on board new stuff.

For this Chase Jarvis recommends the following – DEAR.

  • D – Deconstruct
  • E – Emulate
  • A – Action
  • R – Review

In all of the areas I have identified I need to Deconstruct – Look at the best in craft in the type of fiction and non-fiction I want to write. Listen to the best podcasts similar to what I want to produce.

Then I need to Emulate – I need to practice all of those good things I deconstructed from the best in the business.

I need to take Action – by analysing what I have produced and checking it against the guides and teachers from that original deconstructing.

Finally, Review – go back to the beginning and start all over again, with the new writers/podcasters who have risen to the top since I last looked.

Now it’s your turn!

What’s your 3 or 5 of 10 year plan?

Day 466 – Creative Like Bill Belichick, Pt.1.

I’m not trying to alienate anyone here by mentioning the New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. I understand that the franchise and the coach are like Marmite – you love them or you hate them.

For full disclosure I am a San Francisco 49ers fan, but as a sports coach you have got to learn from the best and the 6 Super Bowl victories simply make him the best.

I was listening to the Sky Sports NFL podcast, with the excellent Neil Reynolds and Jeff Reinebold, where they were finishing up their pre-season ‘state of the franchise’ thoughts and the final team being mentioned was the Patriots.

It occurred to me that surely the secrets of Belichick’s success could be applied to being creative.

Hear me out.

Players on a team are ultimately a set of skills and experiences. The coach uses those skills and experiences to craft a win. You get enough wins in a season then you get the big prize at the end; but even if you don’t, those wins remain achievements in themselves.

As a creative you gather together as many skills and experiences as you can. You use those to produce a piece of work. You put together a good enough body of work then you are often acknowledged/rewarded/awarded titles and prizes.

Let me be more specific.

You are a writer. You gather your group of players – in this case authors/books/characters/plots from across all your years of reading. You use this knowledge, these skills and experiences, to write a chapter – to win. You win as many regular season games as you can – you write as many chapters as successfully as you can. Losses and ties mean you need to do some revision. The post-season is where you hone it all down to that last championship game – the finished novel.

Perhaps, alternatively, the different games in the normal season are different types of writing. The post-season is your overall body of work.

The head coach is the natural editor in your brain. A little more of this. A little less of that. Those elements for that particular match, or these elements for this piece of writing, in order to be successful.

Hopefully, you can see where I am going with this.

Tomorrow, I will try and convince you of what Bill Belichick can bring to our creative endeavours.

Day 463 – Sunday Reflection.

I’ve been busy revamping my study.

Basically, I’ve got rid of more stuff I had forgotten I even had, or had kept because it might be useful at some point. I decided that some point had been reached and that the stuff wasn’t useful after all.

A family desk taken by my eldest son, freed up space for an armchair I’ve been looking at with fondness for a while now. I write at a standing desk, but I was hankering after a seat to muse, imagine, read, in.

I thoroughly recommend a standing desk if you don’t usually use one. Some are very pricey but mine is about the size of your laptop and does the job perfectly.

Revamping and tidying up are often necessary but also serve as perfect actions for not writing.

I sway between being really frustrated when I don’t write and just accepting that sometimes my brain needs a pause to fix something in a story, or make the necessary links to the next stage of the story.

I’ve probably mentioned this before but I don’t plot/plan in a James Patterson kind of way. Once the plot is down on paper then I know the story and my brain is off to the next one. The discipline to then take an extended plot and write it up into the finished novel eludes me. Be honest though, James Patterson probably feels the same way, which is why he has all of those co-authors.

I plan more like Lee Childs. I turn up, like Jack Reacher (okay – like a Jack Reacher who has been placed on too warm a wash cycle than the label directs!), meet a couple of people – good or bad – and the rest happens from there.

I am currently writing something new and it is requiring a little more thinking than I am used to. I think? Or I am doing a good job of pulling the wool over my own eyes. Sometimes, kicking back into the habit of hitting a word count each day, no matter what, really does get the job done.

I confess that all my normal habits have gone a bit wayward, with the only one remaining intact is the one where I listen to a new album everyday. Writing 1000 words a day has become disjointed. French language learning hasn’t been learnt for almost three weeks now. Exercise has not been what it should be. I have read more, and listened to podcasts and audio books more frequently.

My cotton-wash-when-it-should-have-been-a-wool-wash Reacher gives a Gallic shrug (as he can’t remember the phrase he was looking for) and wanders off into the night to regain his writing habit and his credibility . . .

Day 446 – Wind.

I am currently reading Where The Wild Winds Are by Nick Hunt.

He searches for four winds which effect European weather.

The Helm. The Bora. The Foehn. The Mistral.

Hunt’s writing is descriptive, informative, and engaging.

It is one of those books where you rack your brain for a similar idea, to justify going off around the world, and writing about it.

The wind is exotic and has lots of references to it in folklore and even religious belief, cultural history and science, but had been done.

So what would you go in search of?

Day 406 – The Little Things.

The little things matter.

What did you read today? What did you write today?

What did you see as you were travelling? What did you listen to?

What conversations did you have?

Keep a notebook, write these things down. Electronic or pen and paper. Your choice.

Record and use.

Creativity is always with you.

You just need to recognise it and remember it.

Which reminds me, I just need to go and write something down . . .

Day Ninety – The Random Edition.

Day One began on Sunday 6th May, for no other reason than that was the day I decided to write – it was practice really – for between two and five minutes each day.

There is no theme. No continuity. Simply, whatever comes into my head and my fingers type the words. Most of the entries are closer to the two minutes.

I use the app DayOne, which is a great journalling app across all of the Apple platforms, and you can send stuff to it from pretty much anywhere and anything.

I also began writing in a red Moleskine notebook. I prefer to type as I can read what I have written and it is always neat. Writing with a pen on paper is a different experience and, as well as notes, I tend to find I am writing poetry again this way.

I set myself the challenge of listening to something new everyday. There are plenty of music platforms out there. I use Amazon Music.

Today I am listening to Hybrid – Light of the Fearless.


With the Rugby League Challenge Cup semifinals today, two rugby related thoughts are in my head:

  1. I watched the final of the Super Rugby, between the Crusaders and the Lions, yesterday. I watched ten minutes and I am pretty sure I only actually saw two minutes of actual play. I will watch the rest on fast-forward.
  2. Matt Cecchin, an Aussie Rugby League referee (an excellent one I will note) is quitting the sport at the end of this season due to the amount of abuse death threats(!) he is receiving. This is madness.

Back with the Challenge Cup – Saints v Catalans and Warrington v Leeds – none of them are my team so I am going with Catalans today, as it would be fantastic for growing the game for the French side to make it into the final. However, I think Saints will win the whole competition and the Super League title this year.

Have you heard of Chase Jarvis? You have now and he is awesome. Check him out via this link.

I listened to his podcast interview with Gregory Heisler, this morning. The takeaway? Prioritise Voice and Style over Technique.

I read L.J. Ross’ blog also this morning. If you haven’t come across her DCI Ryan novels, then I suggest you jump across to your favourite book/e-book provider and get the first of her Northumbrian set novels, Holy Island.



Ballard, Bosch, Reacher.

News on my three favourite characters in fiction came out yesterday.

Michael Connelly revealed that his next book will see his new heroine Renée Ballard team up with his most famous hero Harry Bosch. I guarantee fans of Connelly are trying to find ways to shorten the months so October gets here quicker. News broke of the book’s title Dark Sacred Night and a brief synopsis on his website:

Dark Sacred Night

On the same day, Lee Child revealed the title of the 23rd Jack Reacher novel via his Facebook feed. The novel, out in November, will be called Past Tense and will set Reacher searching the past and his father.

Past Tense

Ballard, Bosch, Reacher. Dark Sacred Night. Past Tense.

I don’t think the year is going to fictionally get better than this.


The Tuesday Recommendation.

The Tuesday recommendation is now a thing.

Why? Because I decided.

Sometimes when we are creative, whether we write, or paint, or record, or photograph, we make choices of words, colours, frames, just because.

Why did your character leave the house without a rain coat when it is raining in the street? Because that is what they did. And it will become important in a few pages time, although you didn’t know it when you wrote it.

So now to the thing. Now it is a thing.

My Tuesday Recommendation is to check out artist and writer Austin Kleon.

I first came across Austin Kleon through Twitter and quite recently at that. Follow him and head over to his blog and sign up, you won’t regret taking the time to read his stuff.

He is a writer who thinks about the creative process in interesting ways. I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts about the ‘process’ of creating art and my thinking on this has been highlighted by his thoughts.

We, as creative people, aren’t just creative because of the finished product. That is the product, the final manifestation of us being creative. We were being creative all the way through the process right up to that final piece.

Kleon urges us to show our work in all of those stages on the way to the final product. He wrote a book about it, Show Your Work. I’m working my way through it now and it is packed with great ideas and observations about the creative process, as well as ways you can share your art.

As a result of what I’ve learnt so far, I will be sharing a number of creative takeaways from the the latest book I am working on, over the coming weeks.

I’m Enjoying Reading . . .

I am enjoying reading L.J. Ross‘ DCI Ryan detective mystery Holy Island at the moment.


Detective Chief Inspector Ryan retreats to Holy Island seeking sanctuary when he is forced to take sabbatical leave from his duties as a murder detective. A few days before Christmas, his peace is shattered and he is thrust back into the murky world of murder when a young woman is found dead amongst the ancient ruins of the nearby Priory.

I’ll be honest, I started reading this book because the image caught my attention. I am familiar with the Northumbrian island of Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, having visited with my wife a number of times.

LJ Ross writes in quick prose and easy dialogue which rips you through the story nicely. Holy Island is tidal island cutting it off from the mainland everyday, so the killer is right there next to you and everyone is a suspect. The setting is well detailed and the background and history of the island informs upon the plot.

I’m about two-thirds of the way through, and still suspect everyone!

So if you have already read Holy Island, don’t tell me who did do it!

And if you haven’t read L.J. Ross’ Holy Island, buy it right now!

(Update – 20th Jan. I did catch on to who the killer was before the end, but I didn’t expect the twist at the end – well half of it, anyway! As I said in the last sentence – if you haven’t read any L.J. Ross yet, what are you waiting for?!)