Day 443 – Embracing the Void.

I’ve just read a great article by Gwenna Laithland advising writers to use ‘white noise’.

Basically, white noise is the void – the bits you leave out which the reader then projects their own thoughts and imagination onto.

Laithland uses the example of a Harry Potter stage show casting Hermione Grainger with a black actress. J.K. Rowling admits that she never specified her heroine’s skin colour.

I often get caught up in feeling the need to give more detail in description and narration – partly because I write dialogue much more easily and my pages can quickly resemble a play script.

I like writers at both ends of the spectrum. The very precise and detailed, and the void.

So which is best?

I suppose the answer is write with detail when you need to manouveur the reader into a specific place and embrace the void where it really doesn’t matter.

I am still working on this.

Day 436 – Sunday Reflection.

Style.

I re-watched the movie The Thomas Crown Affair the other night and Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway clearly had style, in both their personalities and their fashion.

Creatively, I think we spend a long time trying to find our ‘style’. Early works are often composites of our favourite writers/artists/musicians, as we learn new techniques and experiment out of confidence in our ability to produce something maybe worthwhile.

Structure and technique can both define and dictate what we produce, but most of the successful creatives you could name eventually do something a little different and that is what gets them noticed.

What’s your sense of ‘different’ from your heroes or fellow creatives?

Chase Jarvis put out a great podcast/video on style with fellow photographer Alex Strohl – it is worth a look.

Day 432 – Dark-side of the Moon.

This isn’t an inspired by Pink Floyd post – not that I have anything against the band.

The anniversary of the lunar landings let people know what was on the side we all can gaze out of our windows and see.

Sure, it took a lot of effort to get there, but very quickly we kind of knew what we didn’t know before.

So then people started to wonder what was on the other side – the dark side.

It is a metaphor that’s been there in creative arts forever.

So what’s on the other side of the ideas you’ve been working on recently?

23 Days in July 2019 – Le Tour – Stage 6.

There is a mini feature in the ITV 4 highlights coverage of Stage 5 where Matt Rendell presents on Panini sticker books. The standard in sticker books for forty years, and normally the preserve of football teams and competitions, they cover the Giro but now have struck a deal for the Tour de France. The Tour inspires this kind of following. The riders, the teams, the stages, are all colourful and worthy of collection.

Writers and other creatives also collect. They collect ideas and techniques, stories and authors, for reflection and use later on. In recent years Haruki Murakami has written books very much focused on his influences such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and George Orwell’s 1984.

The Tour loves its legends and semi-superstitions and today this is fulfilled in the statistic that of the four times La Planges des Belle Filles has been a stage finish, the Yellow Jersey wearer has carried it into Paris. This statistic could be hampered by the extra gravelly kilometre added on and the remaining two weeks of the Tour with the Alps and the Pyrenees still to go.

Perhaps this is another reason that the Tour endures, because every day you get to try and predict the stage winners, the GC Jersey wearers, all with a weather-eye on your own preferred team and riders.

Stage Summary:

160.5km – Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles.

2x Cat3 climbs, 2x Cat2 climbs, and 3x Cat1 climbs, with the final one reaching a gradient to 24% on gravel at the end. A super tough stage which showed up a semi-surprise winner in Ciccone, leaving Dylan Teuns in the Mailot Jaune, but really shook the main contenders up; which was the point of the stage really, but just like cream rising to the top, Geraint Thomas proved that maybe he does have the form to defend his crown after all, moving into 4th.

23 Days in July 2019 – Le Tour – Stage 3.

This stage of the Tour leaves Belgium and enters France, travelling on one of the longest routes of this edition through the famous Champagne region. Dom Perpignan will watch over the riders as they pass through the vines of Moët and Chandon.

Also in this stage there is the relatively recent invention of time bonuses over some specific climbs, as a way to spice up the race. Interestingly, perhaps one of the reasons why not much happens in some of these early long stages is exactly that – it is an early stage in a three week race and it is ridiculously long.

Over recent years there has been much publicity attached to the design of each year’s Tour and the organiser’s attempts to break the control of the winning teams – well Team Sky really. It also happened before with the various incarnations of the teams of the now disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.

This always seems to be the reverse of what should happen.

The weight of tradition and teams who carry on doing what they have always done – and not being successful or at least only being partially successful – seem to apply pressure to the race organisers to adapt the course to try and ‘defeat’ the top teams/contenders.

Surely those teams missing out on a final podium place and/or the Yellow Jersey should be adapting the winning habits of those teams winning?

One of the key developments in the Creative world recently is surely the amount of information which can be shared/learned from other creatives?

In the past there have been ‘schools’ of art and music, mostly from the physical proximity of those people involved. Now we can link up with creatives from all over the world at the tap of a screen or press of a keyboard.

What remains, however, is the individual’s uptake of those lessons, which I suspect is read/seen but then not fully adopted. You can see this in sport all the time.

I am not suggesting that we all follow the same blueprint and become clones of each other, but if a sports team/person, or Creative, is producing great results from following specific habits or actions, why wouldn’t we want to add that to our armoury also?

Here is my Tour inspired Creative list of things to do to accomplish your aims:

1. Be clear about the desired end result – e.g. at the end of 90 days you will have a 90,000 word story complete, or you will have a fully completed canvas after 3 days, or 12 song ideas for development after 12 days. The length of time does and doesn’t matter. It is the time frame which you set and will complete the task by.

2. What do you need to do to prepare undertake the task? Think planning, materials, schedules, letting people know you will be engaged upon your creative endeavour for a specific amount of time each day etc. Do you need to plot in detail or just have the basic skeleton of your story? Do you need certain paints or new strings for your guitar. Once you start your creative ‘tour’ if you don’t have it then it is to late.

3. Be clear about the route – each of the Tour riders have a handbook which contains every detail about each stage route they could possibly need. You need to think like this too. Each day you will write 1000 words and spend 20 minutes reviewing the previous day’s efforts. You will spend 3 days sketching and 5 days painting. Each song needs to be between 3-4 minutes and you will lay down the basic guitar chords and a hummed melody for each.

4. What do you need to do each day to optimise your performance? Make sure the cupboard is well stocked with coffee. A short walk before you start writing, or walking and feeding the dog before you paint. 20 minutes of warm-up on the guitar before you start with new ideas. Whatever works best for you.

5. How will you celebrate the wins along the way? Stage winners and Jersey leaders on the Tour get to stand on a podium, shake hands with the local dignitaries, wave at the crowd. What are you going to do? A meal out at the end of each week with your wife if you hit your target. Watching your favourite tv show at the end of your painting session. PlayStation with the kids once you have rough recorded the chords and melody.

Stage Summary:

215km – Binche to Epernay – Essentially flat apart from the one Cat 4 and three Cat 3 climbs right towards the end. The breakaways were kept on a short lead for most of the day but then the peloton were caught napping by J. Alaphilippe. Egan Bernal gained 5 seconds over Geraint Thomas from a small break in the chasing pack and the Tour press seemed keen to try and make something out of this. Potentially Alaphilippe could hold onto the journey for a few stages.

Day 422 – Sunday Reflection.

Is it just me, or did it seem to get around to Sunday again awfully quick?

It has been a busy week and I’m not sure I stood still long enough at any point to reflect on anything.

If you do any research on the habits of successful people and ‘reflection’ is often quite high up on the list.

I have The Five Minute Journal app downloaded on my phone but I still tend to be quite hit and miss in how regularly I use it. I like it when I use it. I think I probably would use the book version more, but there is quite a price difference. Tim Ferris has a video up on YouTube which shows how he uses the journal which is good.

I’ve set myself the challenge of trying to learn a new song on the guitar each week. I will let you know how that goes.

Now the summer is here I intend to get a novel written. And one I’ve completed revised and sent to an agent. And continue to blog everyday. Make that blog twice every day (for the next 23 days anyway). I’m sure no one will want me to do anything else for the next 50ish days, will they?

Today had a healthy amount of blue sky in it. It definitely suits my mood, so I’m going to ignore the weather forecasts and be positive about more blue!

Wigan Warriors have secured 4th place in the Super League this weekend with a great win over Hull KR.

Day 421 – The Saturday Answer and Other Stuff.

Quick Recap – The Friday Question was: if you could have written one book, painted one picture, or performed/written one song – what would it be?

It is so easy to run off a list of at least a dozen books for this answer, but I’m going to be good and only give you the one.

If I could have written one book, it would be Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. There are so many reasons why but the cleanness of the narrative and the name of the main protagonist ‘Montag’ have always resonated with me.

(I am not a visual artist but if I was then Hokasu’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa would be the picture)

(I have written songs but will only confess to this in parenthesis, so the song would be Genesis’ Supper’s Ready)

The other stuff:

A couple of days of blue skies and I’ve realised just how depressing I find grey cloudy skies. It doesn’t even need to be warm, but it is always nice.

I’ve downloaded Rod Judkins’ The Art of Creative Thinking. I’m only on p.27 but he’s pulled out the cannons early on with quotes like this, ‘No masterpieces have ever been produced by a talented but lazy artist’.

Le Tour has arrived! The Tour de France 2019 has begun today. I will write some extra posts with the Tour as the back drop for the next 23 days. I will publish thoughts and observations a day after the actual stage in order to give me time to get the podium placings and other stage information straight. It will be very much a working document which I hope will come together as something more significant at the end.

Day 417 – Walking Slowly.

I read a list of productivity hacks. One of them was to walk faster.

Bruce Lee teaches a young pupil in Enter the Dragon and points at the moon with his finger. The pupil is chastised for looking at the finger and ignoring the splendour of the moon.

We can get wrapped up in either the process or the destination.

As creatives, both the process and the destination are equally important.

Walk slowly and take in the journey. Walk slowly and get to the destination.

Be the tortoise. A steady word count wins the day.

You can be the hare, but what did you miss along the way?

Your audience is just as interested in the journey as the destination.

Show those sketches and early versions, as well as the finished painting.

Some musicians have been releasing demo versions of songs on their special edition albums for a while now. They get the importance of the journey as well as the destination.

Walking slowly is okay.

Day 412 – Investment.

What’s your investment in your creative endeavour?

The Number One Bestselling Thriller writer Lee Child had been fired from his TV job so sat down to write a novel which sold. The alternative was his wife’s suggestion that he could be a ‘reacher’ in a supermarket.

He was pretty invested in getting that book finished and finding a publisher.

What about you?

To be invested you don’t need to be on the verge of plunging your family out onto the street, but I would suggest you do need a reason to be serious about what you are doing.

It might be that it is your lifelong ambition to get one of your paintings hung in a gallery. Great. Tell me which gallery and by what date?

You think you can write a better screenplay that the one you just sat through for two hours and wasted the ticket price on? Great. Write it and submit it.

Your investment is what you didn’t do to achieve your goal. Time. Money. Relationships.

Skulking off to your creative cave for the odd ten minutes to type a paragraph or mix some paint, or strum a few chords, isn’t investment.

It’s like the Matrix. The blue pill is you play creative. The red pill is you chase your creativity down that rabbit hole.

Writer or Reacher?

Which one will you be?

Day 405 – This Is What It Feels Like.

After you read this, watch this.

What you are going to watch is a like writing.

This is what it feels like.

If it doesn’t, you must be doing it wrong.

It is tricky, it is thrilling, it is dangerous. There are plenty of places where you want to get off.

There is the uphill bit in the middle, which is just a slog.

Then there is the end, which is even more scary than the beginning.

Writing.

This feeling is why we do it and why you should see it through right to the end.

This is what it feels like.