Nobody knows what they’re doing.

So Ashley didn’t write today because he’s off on a wine tasting tour. As I type this he’s pouring wine, and if he’s anything like me while on tour he’ll be befriending the people at the cheese stand and swapping Syrah for Cornish stilton.

But I’m not like Ashley, and it doesn’t take quite as much wine or whimsy for me not to write.

She wants to write, really write someday. But she is not fully formed. So she does not write. Not really. Unless attempting to live is a form of attempting to write.”

That’s a quote by author Kate Zambreno, from her novel Green Girl.

It’s also a pretty accurate description of my own approach to writing. I didn’t write today because I didn’t feel confident enough to do proper job.

Impostor syndrome was coined by clinical psychologists Dr Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. It almost exclusively affects women (although non-binary people and men who are marginalised experience it too, thanks patriarchy) and can be defined as one’s inability to internalise their accomplishments, paired with a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. It’s the crippling belief that our successes are the product of luck rather than talent.

I didn’t write today because the voice in my head told me I’m too amateur to even try (a voice echoed by decades of internalised inferiority courtesy of our mainstream media and, you guessed it, the bloody patriarchy). But I realise this is a blog about empowering creatives, recognising the hypocrisies that undermine us, and overcoming the things that squelch us.

The reasons we feel like impostors doomed to mediocrity are deeply embedded in society and probably won’t change overnight (but if they did I’m sure it wouldn’t be me who did it and would be somebody much cleverer and more successful…). Sod it! Write anyway. Write because you need to.

Even the undeniably talented Maya Angelou once said “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”

You’re clearly not alone, so get on with it. Just imagine if Maya Angelou had waited until she felt adequate – we’d all be worse off because she’s fab and a gift to the world.

Which brings me to my final point really – support one another in our endeavours to live creative lives. If you read something wonderful, don’t let your first thoughts be “I could never be as talented/insightful/witty/successful”. Appreciate the art, let it move you, be inspired, and that inner voice will quieten. Do your very best not to let self doubt be the reason you don’t write today.

Nobody really knows what they’re doing anyway.

The Pursuit of Happyness

Have you seen the film ‘The Pursuit of Happyness‘?

If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. Will Smith stars as struggling salesman, who’s trying to make ends meet for his wife and young son.

Luck doesn’t go his way, and he falls into a downward spiral – which hits a climax when he winds up homeless.

Things get so bad that he ends up sleeping in a public toilet cubicle one night. His young son lying beside him.

But, rather than feel sorry for himself (I wouldn’t blame him if he was), he looks for opportunity and clinches an internship as a broker in the city. It’s not a paid gig sadly, and it’s so competitive that only one person will end up with a full-time role.

What I like about Will Smith’s character in the film is that he continually visualises success. He knows that, given the right moment and chance, he can do it. It’s his belief that wins the audience over, and ultimately wins his employers over.

And I ask you, as an aspiring creative…how often do you visualise the success you want?

Whether you want to be the next Stephen King, the next Picasso or just a cool designer who has an office that overlooks a city skyline.

Whatever you’re doing right now, take a moment to visualise the success you want. I know it sounds cheesy, but if you don’t know what your destination looks like…how can you get there? How can you know that you’re making progress if your path is murky and blurred?

I once heard about a guy who visualises success so much that when he’s driving he pretends that he’s being interviewed about his novels and speaks about them as if he’s talking to an interviewer.

Ahem…I promise you that guy isn’t me…

by Ashley Brown 2017

 

The pathways of memory lane…

I didn’t write today because I spent a lot of my time down memory lane.

By this, I don’t mean that I sat around looking at photo albums and old memory cards.

I actually got out there and walked through the streets, roads and lanes that made up some of my formulative years.

I guess it’s an advantage of still having a base close to where you grew up. It’s easy to remember the child you used to be.

Early memories are really precious and, if not treated with care, can soon float away and dissolve into the hustle & bustle around us. Like rogue bubbles or balloons that have drifted too far away and subsequently popped in the bright light of the day.

As I went from place to place, I remembered summers spent in friends’ houses. Football games played on wide open playing fields. The shop that sold the best type of energy drink. The pubs where I learnt to enjoy the taste of beer.

Wymondham Green Dragon Pub
(The Green Dragon, Wymondham).

It was also strange to think that, while still open, those pubs wouldn’t be full of the familiar faces that I’d look forward to seeing on Friday nights.

Those Friday nights as an eighteen year old had a bit of magic around them. You got your first taste of adult nightlife, with the thought of University and a world of socialising just ahead of you. Everyone you’d speak to on those nights would be excited for the futures that lay ahead.

I can even remember a time when I had to flip over a fence and run down a hill. Fifteen year old legs moving as fast as they could. A bunch of guys in the year above hot on my heels, determined to serve me a knuckle sandwich.

As I looked at the spot where I landed on that day I couldn’t help but feel close to ‘past me’. For a second our realities, although now so far away from each other, touched. I could remember how scared I was, I could smell the ‘Shockwaves’ hair gel that I wore and felt the tattered old Vans that I’d have worn.

If I could I’d have reached out to past me and told him that he’d get away from them, and would be home for dinner before he knew it.

I even saw an old schoolyard bully. Now all grown up and clean-shaven. As he walked past there was a glimmer of recognition in his eyes. I suppose for him I was just another name from the past. But for me it was much different – we tend to remember those who taunt us much clearer than they remember us.

I always think that memories are a proof of a life outside of the linear path we follow every day. And, when it comes to the ones that you want to remember, you should take extra care to keep them alive.

 

It’s nice to be beside the seaside…

Today I didn’t write because I went to the seaside.

There’s something in the saying “oh I do like to be beside the seaside”.

There’s something about the air and the sun as it twinkles off the water. 

A cleansing, blow-out-the-cobwebs experience.

It made me feel creative.
 I know us artists and writers can often be indoor types but crisp, clean and fresh air should never be discounted as a remedy for the creative block.

Good Advice Hunting with Matt Damon…

Today we draw some inspiration from Matt Damon.

Perhaps you might think that he’s an unusual choice – I get that.

I mean the impression of him in ‘Team America’ doesn’t exactly paint him in the best light.

But, regardless, Matt Damon’s a bright guy and he pulled one real slick move that we could all learn something from.

As you’ll likely know, the film that launched Matt Damon’s (and Ben Affleck’s) career was ‘Good Will Hunting’. They started writing it when Damon was 22 and Affleck was 20 – by the time they sold it they were 27 and 25 respectively.

If you haven’t seen it, you really should. “Good Will Hunting” made $200 million worldwide. Affleck and Damon picked up the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and Robin Williams got the Best Supporting Actor gong. All in all, a rip-roaring success.

oscarsgoodwill

Miramax Films produced the film. It’s one of the best movies they’ve ever made.

But, they weren’t always Affleck and Damon’s first choice producers. In fact, there were loads of film companies who were courting the script.

Why did Miramax close the deal?

Because they took the time to actually read the whole script.

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But the initial company they were working with, Castle Rock, didn’t quite play to that rule book. They were asking for re-write after re-write, and while Damon & Affleck were happy to oblige…it got a bit tiresome after a while.

And they started to wonder whether anyone was actually reading it.

So, Damon decides to spice things up. He includes a random, gratuitous sex scene right in the middle of the film. It comes quite at random, and includes two characters who aren’t into each other in that way. Williams & Damon. It completely didn’t fit with the story at all.

They submitted this new draft and…

…heard nothing.

No a peep from Castle Rock.

So they decide to circulate their script around a few other companies. And eventually, Harvey Weinstein – one of the guys from Miramax – calls them.

He loves the film. Wants to make it. But, his only question is – what’s with that sudden sex scene, it doesn’t fit in with the film at all…?

What was the reply from the Damon/Affleck camp?

‘That’s the scene that we wrote to find out whether people in your job actually read the script, because every studio executive we went to … no one brought that scene up, or maybe people thought it was a mistake or maybe nobody read it themselves.’ They said, ‘You’re the only guy that brought it up. You get the movie.’

Who knew that actually paying attention and fully reading the things that creatives drop at your door could lead to a $200 million success?

It’s tru, man…

I don’t pretend to be any kind of an expert on American politics, but I’m aware that they once had a president called Harry S. Truman. A man who, quite naturally, had a lot of important decisions to make during his time in office.

And, as with the debates in England right now, (and regardless of my personal political views) I can’t help but think about how much of a tough gig it must be as the leader of a country.

The decisions I make during the day are usually as pulse-racing as ‘shall I put a wash on tonight’ or ‘which TED talk looks the best?’. Decisions that, by and large, have little effect on anyone else outside of my small social/family circle.

But I am a fan of accountability. If I do something wrong, and I believe it’s my fault, I’ll hold myself accountable.

This is something I always bear in mind while taking criticism from others. As much as I’d like to one day be the greatest writer who ever did live – I’m aware that what I write isn’t always going to be perfect. Particularly if I’m writing for a client.

So I’m always open to suggestion and if I’ve done something that’s not good or wrong – I’ll change it. Too often I see many of us looking to blame, rather than accepting responsibility.

While I’m all for making my own way, I’m aware that – to progress as a creative – you need to accept that the fact the sun doesn’t shine out of your derriere 24/7 and that your work won’t always be top-drawer right away.

It’s the same if you let people down in project work, or if you mess up slightly in a meeting. As we all like to say “we’re only human”. It’s true…or ‘tru’.

Why do I choose Truman for this piece?

Well, below you can see the featured image for this article again…may I draw your attention to the sign on his desk. Something we should all keep in our heads as we go through our days…

truman

How kebabs can teach you not to bullshit

I didn’t write yesterday because I spent a good part of the day chasing up leads for a new car.

Buying a car takes a lot of thought. Aesthetics, reliability and character need to be in abundance for me to even think about exchanging monies.

My adventures took me to a small coastal town, and as is common when you’re near the seaside, I indulged in a traditional dish of chips. Simple, honest food with a dash of ketchup, a spatter of vinegar and a generous dollop of Ketchup.

Sadly it was ketchup from one of those sachets which require you to have a degree in engineering to even open them.

It was while I sat there that I saw something of beauty. It was an advert for kebabs. Now, I don’t really eat them myself so initially I disregarded it.

20170530_175558

But, then my attention was drawn back. I realised that it was a near perfect advertisement.

The language was clipped and easy to follow. The picture caught the eye. The benefits were clear.

I could even overlook the lack of punctuation as it was just so easy to read. Sometimes it doesn’t take a writing degree to write some good copy in order to flog something.

It knows the target audience – speaks directly to them, and sells the product. No bullshit, no being too clever and no glossy language.

The art of cutting out the bullshit and getting to the point is in danger. I’m all for pretty prose and slick sentences, but sometimes you don’t need either.

Practicing what you preach ft. Walt Disney

I tell you what feels great.

The feeling you get when you actually practice what you preach.

I often harp on about how you should try and do something a little different, and force yourself to do something out of your usual comfort zone.

Well here I sit, just an hour or so away from jumping on a coach to London for an all-night Disney marathon.

Apparently it’s supposed to be a pyjama only affair, but I haven’t had a pair of those since I could grow stubble.

I wonder what I’ll learn. I think I’ll be inspired.