Talent: yours is better than you think

Talent.

It’s a great thing, isn’t it? It’s one of my favourite qualities that we have as humans and I think we should celebrate our talents at all times – you know, those little things that we’re able to do just that bit better than anyone else.

Whether it’s singing a note, kicking a football, writing a sonnet or anything inbetween.

Yet, how often do you really make the most out of your talents? How often do you use them to your full benefit?

There are a lot of people out there who are really talented, but they just never pursue it. I guess sometimes they think their talents are too obscure or too useless to really help them in the world.

But, for anyone who thinks that their talent isn’t worthwhile…let me tell you about a man called Tarrare.

A chap who well and truly had one of the ‘worst’ talents you can imagine.

Tarrare was born into a relatively poor family in late 16th century France. But, before he was really into his teenage years, his parents had to kick him out.

Not because they didn’t love him. But because he was, quite literally, eating them out of house and home.

You see Tarrare had an insatiable appetite for food. There’s no other way to describe it. Live animals, loaves of bread and even furniture – he’d eat nearly everything in sight, yet it still wouldn’t cure the great hunger within him.

Tarrare ended up travelling with a bunch of circus performers and made something of a living by eating random objects in front of a crowd. Whether it be animal refuse, blocks of wood or shards of glass.

The military even tried to use his talents by getting him to swallow important instructions and take them through enemy lines. He wasn’t suited to this line of employment though and gave the secrets away to the enemy without too much questioning.

Perhaps it just took one laxative…

Legend has it that he once ate enough for fifteen people in one sitting. Including portions of puppy, snake and lizard. Yet, even after all that grub, he still wasn’t full.

Those who knew him described him as normal size and said that, asides from being weirdly apathetic, he didn’t seem to have any unusual character traits…asides from his appetite.

Eventually Tarrare was admitted to hospital with exhaustation because, try as he might, he just couldn’t top off his hunger.

He didn’t last too long in hospital. They ejected him after he (apparently) started eating corpses…some even say that he was responsible for eating a toddler!

Whether these tales are true…I do not know. But he was thrown out of the hospital. Which is fair enough. I’d hate to be in hospital with someone who might try to eat me…

After that, Tarrare disappeared from the records for a few years.

Only to resurface a few years later and ultimately die of tuberculosis. An autopsy revealed that he had an abnormally large gullet and stomach…but you probably guessed that, I’m sure.

So as you can see, there are talents more unfortunate than yours…now, if you tried, what could you really do with your talent?

 

 

 

If you’ve ever worn a T-shirt you need to read this!

This morning, as I scrabbled to get ready for work, I opened my cupboard and found a clean T-shirt to wear.

I slipped it on without thinking and then went about my day.

I mean, it’s just such a part of daily life that I was on autopilot.

T-shirts. Everyone wears them, right?

But, actually, as it turns out…wearing T-shirts is a fairly new thing, by historical standards, something that only really became popular after the 1950s.

You have the US Navy and the actor Marlon Brando to thank for their popularity.

T-shirts started out their lives as simple, crude undergarments – usually worn by farmers or general laborers underneath their work shirts.

If you believe in reincarnation, here’s hoping that you don’t come back as a 1800s farm worker’s T-shirt…living out your days with only a sweaty armpit for company.

But they didn’t get their big break until 1913 when the US Navy issued them (as undergarments) – simple white crew necks. By the 1920s the word T-shirt gradually slipped into the dictionary.

They were hidden away. Never displayed. Worn under shirts or jumpers. Locked away like the child of an overprotective parent – barely seeing the light of day.

Then in 1951 the T-shirt finally gained recognition for being a standalone fashionable item. Thanks to Marlon Brando, one of the coolest guys of the era.

He wore it in the classic ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ and the youngsters who idolised him at the time rushed out to buy and wear them.

A great example of just how much film inspires culture.


european

The swinging sixties rolled round and more and more people began to wear printed T-shirts – often putting their own slogans on them to protest and make statements.

Not much has changed since the sixties, has it?

So there you go – there’s a story behind the humble t-shirt. That piece of fabric that we usually put on without thinking.

And, as a storyteller, it’s worth remembering that everything – even the simplest things – have a story behind them and it’s up to you to flesh them out.

For example, if I were in the fashion industry and I wanted to sell T-shirts, I’d find a creative way to sell them and their story.

‘DID YOU KNOW THAT MARLON BRANDO MADE THE T-SHIRT FAMOUS?’ I guarantee that people would be interested, particularly as most of us now only remember Brando as the old guy in ‘The Godfather’.

So, whether you’re selling something or just writing about something, have a look at the story behind it – does it have a good enough story to sell itself?

Most things do. Just look at the telescope, for example…

Class dismissed.

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room…

“The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.”

How’s that for a first line? (Or maybe two lines, as there’s a full stop in-between).

It conjures up a lot of questions and it had me, for one, wanting to read on.
Who is this man?
What happened to everyone else?
Is he the last man on the earth, or the last actual person?
Etc.

When it comes to writing anything that you want someone to read it’s important to hook them in, from either the headline or the first line. It seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it?

But then, you’d be surprised how few people actually put it into practice.

‘On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.’ (Copyblogger)

Ask a question, inspire thought – do something that will make the reader want to continue.

Because, once you’ve written than opening line, every other word you write is, in itself, a reason to get your audience to read the next word.

If you’re interested in where that quote came from at the start, it’s been taken from the short story ‘Knock’ – written by Fredric Brown.

It was based on the following short segment of text, which was written by Thomas Bailey Aldrich:

“Imagine all human beings swept off the face of the earth, excepting one man. Imagine this man in some vast city, Tripoli or Paris. Imagine him on the third or fourth day of his solitude sitting in a house and hearing a ring at the door-bell!

Class dismissed.

The Top Shelf of the Library

I didn’t write today, because I couldn’t find the right story to start on.

I always feel that the fictional storyteller’s mind is a library of ideas and plots, many of these are easy to access and get a hold of. But, usually the ideas that you really want to pursue and start to write about are the hardest ones to find.

By that I mean, to again use the library analogy, they’ll often be on the top shelf. You can see them from a distance, and can make out a bit about them, but you need to get closer to them.  So, you’ll spend ages looking around for a ladder or maybe you’ll clumsily try and climb up the shelves until you reach the top.

Then, after using all that time to try and get a proper hold of the idea, you’ll be so distracted that all the time that you’d made to write will have floated away.

I’ve always been an ideas guy. Even as a kid I’d be more interested in sketching out my own comics and stories than I would reading them. I guess there are two types of people – those who walk out of a cinema and think; “man, that was a great film!” – and those who walk out of a cinema and think; “that was an awesome film, but I reckon I could do better”.

Creative consumers and creative do-ers.

I’ve always been the latter.

I can’t remember the last time a day went by where I didn’t have a story in the back of mind that I wanted to tell. Whether it be simple, or more complex. Sadly, without a computer (or at the very least) a notepad permanently taped to my hands the creative flow can’t always be tapped at the best time. Life has a habit of getting in the way, doesn’t it?

I wonder how often, in the whole history of the world and everything ever, truly great masterpieces have fallen to the wayside because the potential authors just weren’t able to organise their mental libraries in time to grab the bull by its horns and get some words down on some paper.

Motivation for an idea can be lost so quickly.

Why do they always come to you when you’re just about to drift into the land of nod, or when you’re out and miles away from your desk?
But, here’s a Sunday night vow…I will be better, and I’ll avoid excuses and organise my gems when necessary.

Because becoming the greatest writer who ever did live isn’t going to come about without a blood, sweat & tears.

New York Times Bestsellers List here I come…

Procrastination…the doom of a cyber generation.

When many bloggers or cyber writers tackle a theme they start off by pasting the dictionary definition of their topic…why!? Do they think their audience is too silly to know what the word means? Did they not know what it meant themselves? Or, are they just using it as a springboard to help their lazy ass get a creative flow going? My apologies, to quote many a millennial…’rant over’. Let’s get on with the blog post…

Procrastination
prə(ʊ)ˌkrastɪˈneɪʃ(ə)n/

noun

  1. the action of delaying or postponing something.
    “your first tip is to avoid procrastination”

In case you’ve not guessed this one is about procrastination, and for as long as I’ve tried to write creatively procrastination has been the main reason why I’ve not been writing. It’s such an easy thing to do, and an easy trap to fall into…I’ll sit there at my desk, ready to launch a full blown verbal assault on a blank word document, and then suddenly I’ll start to wonder what year Die Hard was released or what happened to an old footballer I used to like once he’d retired, or perhaps I’ll start to wonder how long it would take to fly to Mars in a rocket.

And thus that catalyst for procrastination ‘Google’ will open and away my hours will wile, access to information is great…but it sure as hell can shut the doorway of productivity at times.

Asides from maintaining focus, there’s not really a known cure for procrastination is there? Very few doctors seem to be trained in dealing with it, and listening to TED talks about it only further exacerbates the issue in the first place.

I guess it says a lot for how advanced the human mind is now that we have enough time for such a level of reflection that it can take us away from the present so easily. I mean back in the day, when cavemen and women danced across the far corners of the Earth, I’m pretty sure procrastination must have been nigh on impossible.

The fear of a T-Rex making me into a candlelit dinner for one would certainly keep my ass in check and stop me from googling the full cast and crew of an episode of ‘Friends’ to see if the bit part actor I thought I saw was actually in it!

But yet, as our lives and the worlds around us become more and more complicated, the more scope there is for delaying what you want to do.

So, today I didn’t write because I was procrastinating and, after thinking about cooking dinner for ages, decided to alert the nearest pizza merchant of my hunger and ask them to deliver their product forthwith.

I guess the secret to stop procrastination and maximise productivity would be to make sure I find the right project. One that I simply can’t put down, one that keeps me awake with flowing words until the wee hours. Mind abuzz with ideas.

But…finding that project…that’s the challenge.