9 reasons why vintage fairs give creatives hope…as well as slightly musty clothes.


Today I didn’t write because I went to a vintage fair.

You know the ones I mean? Where a lorry full of veteran garments and  lovable rogues turns up at your local city hall – determined to separate you from your hard-earned monies.

This one in particular was a ‘weigh & pay’ – basically you’re given a rather unglamorous cellophane bag and you fill it with clothes. A kilo costs £15.

There’s a good sales angle with this – you get to a kilo way faster than you’d suspect, and the prices only inflate from there.

A lot of the track-tops for sale took me back to my P.E days. If only I’d have been an entrepreneur at school – on my last day I could have tip-toed into the ‘lost property’ cupboard and pillaged their stocks.

Let them sit for another ten years or so I’d have a fortune on my hands!

Let’s face it, we’d all like to make our mark on the world by creating something truly original – but, it’s hard to do that.

I mean, everything has been done before hasn’t it?

But, as creators, vintage fairs should give us hope.

These clothes, which were new once – and which were also old and out of fashion once, have a new lease of life and a new market to be sold to.

Vintage fairs are busy, busy, busy and money certainly exchanges hands.

The organisers have found a new way to sell something old. And, as creatives, this is how we should look at things.

Reinvent, re-imagine, retell.

You remember that writer from years and years ago – Mark Twain? He said the following, and I think we all need to keep this in mind:

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of coloured glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

Take the movie “28 Days Later”. We’d all seen zombies before that. Those shuffling, decaying old things moving towards their prey with all the panache of a salt-ridden slug!

But then “28 Days Later” came along and we were introduced to fast-moving, rage-fuelled zombies.

These were something else! You couldn’t outrun them and you could barely outfight them. They’d smash your windows with all the force of a hurricane and they were smart-enough to find you afterwards. A locked bedroom door gave you little safety.

Thus audiences were interested again in a genre which hadn’t seen much originality since the 1960s/1970s when George A. Romero launched his “of the dead’ series.

It’s the same with business too. Look at Facebook – it wasn’t the first social media, was it? I can sure as hell remember using Myspace and bebo (for my sins) before that. Even one called ‘Facebox’, anyone give that a whirl back in the day?

Yet Facebook stood tall over them all. It captured our imaginations at a time when our lives were first saturated with the power of social media, and kept us in its thrall long after the competition had fallen in cyberhell.

Sure, it may not be as popular as it was once – but how often do you go a day without hearing the word ‘Facebook’ or ‘Facey B’ – depending on your social cricle.

I can recall a time when I’d use ‘Altavista’ or ‘Ask Jeeves’ as my preferred search engine of choice.

Fast forward ten years and I’m writing this blog post on ‘Google Chrome’ – can you remember the last time you used another search engine?

I can’t.

These ideas weren’t original, but that didn’t mean that they lacked the imagination and the drive to get to the top of the table.

Reinvent, re-imagine, retell.

Learn stuff from someone who knows stuff.

Ever find a website that you just can’t stop reading through?

Yeah, me too.

I bought a book recently called Predatory Thinking, written by copywriter and creative director, Dave Trott.

I happened to stumble across his blog shortly afterwards, and I suggest you have a look.

Dave Trott’s blog

A great example of how to fit creativity and information into a succinct post. Below I’ve decided to quote Trott’s description of what a story should entail:


What are the universal structural elements of all stories?

1) Hook.

2) Build.

3) Payoff.

This is the shape any story must take.

1) A beginning that grabs the listener.

2) A middle that escalates in tension, suspense, stakes, and excitement.

3) An ending that brings it all home with a bang.

That’s a novel, that’s a play, that’s a movie, that’s a joke, that’s a seduction, that’s a military campaign.

It’s also your TED talk, your sales pitch, your Master’s thesis, and the 890-page true saga of your great-great-grandmother’s life.”

(source: http://davetrott.co.uk/2016/07/storytelling-v-verbosity/)

If you’re interested in Dave’s books you can find them below:

Dave’s books.

Following on from yesterday’s post…

“Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure, only death can stop it” – Ernest Hemingway.

Sure, I know you don’t have to go too far to find a Hemingway quote on the internet, and I know that ‘lazy-bloggers’ start things with quotes – but, this one really stuck with me.

It offers an alternative perspective to what I was telling you about yesterday.

Sometimes you’re born with an ability, or your youthful imagination takes you on such a journey every day that you just can’t help but create.

That’s what happened to me as a kid. The fields that surrounded my childhood home swirled with stories and the people I met inspired characters. Wherever I went after that – from London to Scotland and all the way through to Detroit, inspiration only seemed to follow.

Writers and artists, I wonder if we’re sometimes the children who never fully grew up?

Those who clung onto their dreams of making money and/or getting something out of talents that they were born with.

It’s easier to make it as an accountant, easier to make it as a salesperson and craftspeople are generally two-a-penny. But those of us who fight normality, those of us who fight the reality that we can’t follow the dreams of youth….we’re the ones who have a chance.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an idealist, I’m aware that a very small amounts of creatives make it. I’m a big fan of business in fact, and a lot of my reading time is spent around the topic.

But an eye for opportunity tells me that there’s plenty of space for creativity in business. So, the two can meet.

Once writing does become your adult vice, it’s damned hard to stop it. I wish I had a word processor connected into my brain – one that would spit my streams of consciousness out on an empty page, wherever I was. Because, if given half the chance, I could write from dawn till dusk.

Follow your dreams, kids. Don’t let the grey and dulcet tones of the world around slow you down. Just make sure you look for other things that inspire you, just in case.

In the words of Outkast; “you can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather”.

Keeping hold of inspiration from your youth…

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up”
– Pablo Picasso

I read this quote years ago, and I often think back to it. When I was a kid I’d spend hours drawing pictures, comics and writing stories. I damn near lost any ability I had once I became a late teenager – social life and sports distracted me.

Luckily I still managed to find time – I’m glad I did, or I’d be an even worse writer than I am now…

What inspired me as a youngster was telling a good story, and entertaining people. I still cling onto this whenever I start to doubt my writing and it helps ground me and get me back into action.

Not the same for others, sadly, I know so many people who had a real flare for art but the lack of creativity in the school system and the world beyond sucked it out of them.

Reader, whoever you maybe, I hope that’s not you – but it’s never too late. I found a muse that got me back into things, and when you look for it you can find inspiration too.

7 things to learn from Toyota…

“Toyota has a rather unusual production process. If anybody on the production line is having a problem, or observes an error, they pull a cord which halts production across the plant. Senior executives rush over to see what has gone wrong and, if an employee is having difficulty performing their job, help them.

The error is then assessed, lessons learned, and the system adapted. It is called the Toyota Production Sysytem, or TPS, and is one of the most successful techniques in industrial history”.

(Syed, M. “Black Box Thinking”).

Fascinating idea isn’t it? Think of your workplace, and a simple problem you face in your day to day – can you imagine the whole building grinding to a halt and coming to help you?

Sure, it sounds impractical. But, just imagine it – just imagine how quickly fires would be snuffed and how easily permanent solutions would be brought into place.

Like you, I spend most of my life dealing with problems. Some bigger, some smaller.

Most of the time they niggle at my mind and I kind of tolerate them…as long as they don’t affect my day-to-day too much then it’s okay, right?

But then, imagine a day where you throw your 100% into solving any problem as soon as it comes up. Whether it be a drawer that doesn’t close properly or an argument that you’ve just had. If you dealt with it there and then, put all of your resources into and solved it.

Just how productive would you be? And, to keep in with the general theme of this blog, surely you’d be more creative too?

After all the less that’s on your mind, the more you can put your full concentration into the blank word document in front of you….right?

Life is but a…

…great chance to learn.

Well, the older I get the more it feels like it. At high school I was never much of a student, and things didn’t really pick up until I got to university.

But as a graduate it seems most of my spare time is now dedicated to learning.

As I said in an earlier post, the more ideas and schools of thought that you cram into your brain the more inspiration you’ll get yourself. 

The featured image is tonight’s offering – I’ll let you know my thoughts. 

Today I’m not writing because I’m learning.

33.3 ways to beat writer’s block

Let me introduce you to someone.

It’s the guy in the featured picture. His name is Eugene Schwartz – I don’t know if you’ve heard of him? I’ll be honest, I hadn’t until fairly recently.

Why should I write about him? Because he had an interesting theory on maximising productivity and beating writer’s block. Reason enough, right?

He made an absolute mint as a copywriter. He also wrote several books that you might want to check out if you’re interested in advertising and copywriting – mostly published in the 1950s and 60s.

He only wrote for (roughly) 3 hours, 5 days a week. Not a lot, is it? I mean you’d think a professional writer would be pulling in 12 hour days, seven days a week – wouldn’t you?

He measured out the exact time in which he could be creative for (without being distracted) and set an alarm.

The time would be 33 minutes and 33 seconds.

During this time he wrote. He made himself write, working in intense spurts where his thoughts were only on the blank page in front. Kind of like high intensity training, where you work out at a really difficult level for a short amount of time, before slowing it down.

Schwartz was strict on himself during that time and, unless a flying saucer or something landed outside, he wouldn’t leave the chair. He’d keep his focus.

Once that alarm went he’d stop whatever he was doing, even if he was half-way through, and go procrastinate for 15 minutes or so.

Then he’d go through the same process again.

His success speaks for itself. To use an old English phrase; ‘the bloke wasn’t short of a bob or two’.

It makes sense though. If you were a runner you wouldn’t run for ten hours straight, with just a short lunch break, would you? Creativity can be just as exhausting, albeit mentally, so maybe Schwartz’s method is the key to being productive?

Plus, I often wonder if forcing yourself to write for too long can inadvertently lead to writer’s block.

Here’s his most famous book, in case you’re interested.

(image credit: wikipedia)

by Ashley Brown

47 ways to turn your brain into a bulging bicep of creativity…

Here’s a riddle. What’s usually soft, occasionally hard, often truthful but frequently full of lies?

You’ll probably be thinking of a few different things. Depending on how far into the gutter your mind is you might even have visualised something after just reading the first two clues.

What am I on about?
The picture didn’t give it away?

Why, the humble book of course. They can either be hardback or paperback, and will either be non-fiction or fiction. Although, I guess some lines can occasionally blur – namely, in the autobiographies of celebrities who want to seem larger than life.

If you want to have ideas, you need to read. I often talk to people who want to be authors, journalists, copywriters, etc and I ask them what they read. It’s surprising how often others don’t read much or stick to the same type of genre/the same news source.

The more you put in your brain, of different themes, the more you’ll get out of it. I try and read as much as I can, and I’ve done this on and off ever since I was first taught to read. Now I’m older I never stop reading. I’ll always have one fiction and one non-fiction book on the go.

Horror stories, thrillers, philosophy, business books, pop psychology…all of these have disappeared into my metaphorical meat grinder of a brain.

Hopefully someday soon I’ll churn them all out in a masterpiece that will cement my claim for being the greatest writer who ever lived.

Or, at least it’ll get me onto the New York Times Bestsellers List.

In short, if you want to write and create you need to read.

Fill ya mind with new stuff.

P.S If there’s a day where you don’t feel like reading watch some films…but not Con Air and Die Hard on repeat.