Do You Hate Self-Promotion? Read This Amazing Book To Change That!

Before I read Show Your Work!, I used to think of self-promotion as something that was dirty and unwholesome. I was afraid of annoying people with too many updates and thought that I might come across as indulgent or arrogant if I posted too much about what I did.

But this guidebook was written for “people who hate the very idea of self-promotion”. Reading it has dramatically changed my perception and I now view self-promotion as simply sharing what you do – thinking of it in this way makes it seem less unsavoury somehow! In fact, sharing what you do – with regards to your work, thoughts and ideas – is really just being transparent about who you are as a person.

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While reading Show Your Work!, I made key notes that I will definitely refer back to in the future. If you are someone who struggles to self-promote or have trouble speaking about what you do, then I highly advise you to check out this book. It is packed full of practical advice and really does help to shift your perception. The main lessons I learned from it are as follows:

  1. Share something small every day, whether it be something that inspired you or an idea that you had. Anything from your creative process that might be insightful or interesting to others.
  2. Document everything that you do. Take photos, keep a work journal etc, so that you have a wellspring of material to draw upon when blogging or posting updates.
  3. Focus on your work and get good at what you do. Don’t waste your time and energy trying to gain followers or network. People will come to you if you are good at your craft.
  4. Don’t hoard your ideas. Post about what you’ve learned and help your fellow creatives, encouraging support and collaboration.
  5. How to deal with the dreaded question: “So what do you do?”
  6. Appreciate your guilty pleasures (i.e. that TV show that everyone else thinks is lame) because maybe it will lead to something that inspires/influences your work.
  7. The vampire test. If something drains your energy, cast it out of your life. Keep the things that boost your energy.

There are so many other things that I learned too. There was also a lot that I already knew deep down, but I just needed some reassurance and encouragement. It is precisely the book that I needed to read and I am enjoying incorporating its methods and techniques into my life. Thank you, Austin Kleon, for a fantastic guidebook!

If you wish to check it out further, then click here: http://austinkleon.com/show-your-work/

 

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Writing as a linear process

For me, writing is a linear process. I cannot jump ahead and write future scenes if I’m stuck because the unfolding of a story is so organic that unexpected things happen along the way. New characters can come into the fold, the plot may take a different direction or some scenes may no longer feel necessary. None of this may happen if you begin to time-travel.

Of course, writers are the creators of their own worlds and ultimately can time-travel if they want to (indeed, it may be part of the plot). But from experience, I have found that I never fully stick to my plan as my story comes to life on the page.

I tend to stay true to the main essence of the plot, but often the best parts of my prose come from nowhere. So travelling from A to B, from beginning to end, is the way that I operate. No chopping or changing, no jumping ahead to future scenes, just staying there with my characters from the first page to the very last.

Don’t Lose Your Magic!

I recently watched Joy, the film about the inventor of the miracle mop, which was very inspiring indeed. All such success stories serve to demonstrate that you should always persevere and never give up, for the realisation of your goals cannot happen without constant drive.

What really grabbed me about Joy’s story is that her creativity was suppressed for seventeen years, crushed and stifled by all the commitments and other things going on in her life. I can relate to this creative hibernation because I did not write for many years, but my creativity kept finding other ways to express itself, until I eventually plucked up the courage to write my first proper book.

At the beginning of the film, you get to see how bright and creative Joy was as a child. Indeed, most children are born with such fearless wonder and playfulness, but a lot of us lose this magic as we enter adulthood. It is tragic when someone’s spirit is crushed by the real world, as this person cannot shine as brightly as they would like, nor be who they want to be.

But it is never too late to change things! Joy tapped back into her creative reserves after seventeen years and overcame great odds to achieve her dreams.

Watching this film made me think… if Joy could overcome such adversity, then so can I – and so can you!

For as long as you breathe, you have the opportunity to turn things around. Don’t let your spirit get crushed by life. Don’t lose the magic!

The Fragility of Life

The other day, a car drove past me and one of its tires unexpectedly blew out. The disgruntled driver slowly pulled over and sat there in astonishment.

This incident reminded me of the fragility of life. You can be cruising along quite happily until something unexpected comes along and knocks the wind out of your sails. Indeed, the opposite can happen where you’re just muddling along and a great gust of wind lifts your spirits and elevates you to new heights.

Nothing in life is certain and things are forever in a state of flux. Nothing remains static, so we must embrace change and dance with the flow of life, otherwise we will suffer.

Many people suffer because they resist change or cannot let go of the thing that punctured their tire. But every time that something knocks us off the road, we must make repairs and get back into motion, otherwise we will rust and decay and end up on the scrapheap.

Life is fragile and unpredictable, but this should not discourage us. Each of us are on a special journey, with pitfalls and delights that lie ahead, obscured by the landscape of time, but that is what’s truly exciting in my opinion.

Wherever your road leads, no matter what obstacles you face, keep on chugging along and don’t forget to appreciate the view.

The True Spirit of Christmas

Last year, when I was at a low point in my life, Christmas was a candle in the darkness.

It evoked warm and cosy feelings that helped to lift my spirits and played and important part in my recovery, so I will always be grateful for that. This year, I am in a much better place, but I find myself turning to Christmas once again and have allowed it to nourish my soul.

Unfortunately, Christmas can be a very stressful time for a lot of people, thanks to all the financial pressure and commercialism that has hijacked the holiday. And also, it can be a rather rubbish holiday for those who have nobody to share it with.

But I find that there is great joy and wisdom to be garnered from the festive period. In fact, it can be a very spiritual time of year if you can tap into the true spirit of Christmas (the notions of generosity, sharing, goodwill etc). Imagine how horrible these cold, dark winter nights would be without the flashing lights, mulled wine and heart-warming Christmas carols. Surely anything that brings merriment and joy is a good thing, right?

Sadly, as I’m getting older, I do feel that some of the magic is fading (after all, I’m not a kid anymore). I have to be more proactive now if I am to get into the festive mood and there has seemed to be a noticeable lack of Christmas spirit in the air. For example, my mum usually comes alive at this time of year, but she now claims that “Christmas isn’t the same any more”.

My response to that is this: a day is what you make it. If you want something to be special, you’ve got to make it so. The reason I like Christmas so much is because it promotes values that should be prevalent EVERY DAY.

Why is it that generosity, sharing, goodwill and merriment are reserved only for Christmas? Why are these values not instilled in our culture ALL YEAR AROUND? Why is it that our planet is plagued by fear and destruction?

In 2016, I urge you to take the spirit of Christmas forward. Don’t leave it behind on Boxing Day. Don’t let the magic die. The world can be a better place if we choose to make it so. But this can only be achieved if we all stand together and unite.

 

 

Watching TV to avoid silence

Someone said to me today: “Why are you sat there without the TV ON?”

I found this interesting because it seems to be the natural reaction of so many people to turn on the TV if the room is quiet.

TV is very often used as background noise, but why? I suspect that it provides comfort, a connection to the outside world, something to fill the deadly silence. Because many people seem to be uncomfortable with silence, as it leaves them alone with their chattering minds.

If only people knew how sacred silence could be. If only people were brave enough to delve deep into themselves and resolve the issues that they have suppressed. But as long as the TV stays on in the background, as long as people find ways to distract themselves, then this may not happen.

Perhaps it is people’s thinking in this modern age that you do not have a functioning home unless the television is on. Perhaps watching television is now just as natural as breathing, along with shopping in a great big warehouse and taking selfies on your mobile phone. But does this technology enhance our human experience or take away from it? I suppose it depends on how these devices are used, but everyone will have a different answer to that question.

How does technology affect your life? Do you turn on the television just for background noise? Do you find yourself avoiding silence at all costs?

 

What if the terrorists were in our country?

If a terrorist group sprang up in Britain and other countries decided to bomb us, blasting apart our cities and killing the likes of me and you, we would think it was inhumane. So why is it okay for a bunch of bigwigs in an old building by the Thames to condemn innocent people? Why was there not a public vote on such a matter?

Yes.. it appears that the government has voted in favour of military action against IS, which will involve dropping bombs on Syria without any real intel as to where the terrorists might be based, so many innocent civilians will end up getting killed. David Cameron claims that the bombing will “make Britain safer”, but in my opinion, it will just make it more likely that terrorists will retaliate with attacks on our country, just like they did with France when the French got involved.

Amazingly, the airstrikes started WITHIN AN HOUR of the decision being made, which meant that aircraft and troops were on standby, poised for the green light to cause destruction. One of the first places they targeted was an oil field (hmm, I wonder why…)

I am just tired, as I am sure a lot of people are, with the  endless narrative of death and destruction spouted by the media. Every time you turn on the news, it’s talking about mass shootings and crime and other things that cause us to live in fear. I actively avoid the news for this reason, as it is not representative of our society as a whole – there is so much good in the world, but it is quite easy to think otherwise.

Thankfully, an increasing amount of people seem to be waking up and know in their hearts that the system is a mess. We know we are constantly being lied to and trampled on while governments pursue their own interests (i.e. profit and power). For example, they are justifying twelve billion pounds of welfare cuts by saying the country is in debt and yet they always manage to find the money to go to war – it’s all a massive lie!

Alas, there is nothing we can do about this unless we come together and create a new world. The only way to fight darkness is with light – none of this “eye for an eye” retaliation crap – and I know that many others feel this way too. With pacifists on the rise, there is hope for a better future, but they say that the night is darkest before the dawn.

In the meantime, we cannot live in fear. I mean my mum has just cancelled her holiday to Greece for God’s sake, because she is that scared of being blown to pieces by a terrorist. We cannot let fear govern us. We must carry on with our lives and reach out to one another, for it is unity that we need in such times. Fear and distrust will get us nowhere, so ignore the media’s prejudice against Muslims, for the vast majority of them are not terrorists and they are suffering more than anyone else at the minute, especially in the lands occupied by Islamic State.

Islamic State.. even the name is misleading. But there has been talk of referring to the group as Daesh from now, as to avoid misrepresenting Muslims, which I think would be a very good move indeed.

Peace and love to you all. May we stand united in such troubled times and help to make the world a better place.

 

The Power of the Final Installment

I saw Mockingjay: Part 2 yesterday and there were so many feels.

It is always a strange thing to read/watch the last installment of a franchise. On the one hand, you feel immense satisfaction at seeing the story come to a conclusion and yet you are sad to say goodbye to the characters that you have invested in.

It was the same with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. There is just something so bittersweet about that final goodbye. Arguably, this feeling is even more prevalent with long-running TV shows, where you follow characters and storylines for many years. Saying goodbye to Lost after six years and Prison Break after four was very strange indeed, but all good things must come to an end.

I suppose that these emotions evoked within me serve to demonstrate just how powerful and engaging fiction can be. I can only hope that people enjoy my own stories to such a degree.

Feeding The Belly God

Four different coloured spoons clamoured around the dish, each wanting to feed the last mouthful of paella to the Belly God.

‘Step back everyone,’ warned Green Spoon, diving in first. ‘This last bit’s mine.’

‘Not a chance, you greedy scoundrel!’ protested Yellow Spoon, knocking him back. ‘You’ve had far too much already!’

‘And why should you be trusted with it?’ Green Spoon asked him, with a mocking smile. ‘You’re old and chipped and belong in an antique shop.’

Yellow Spoon’s eyes bulged. ‘How very dare you!’ he roared. ‘I’ll have you know that –’

‘Stop it, the pair of you!’ cried Red Spoon. ‘Everyone knows that Belly God loves me the most – I should have the honour of feeding Him.’

‘But – what about me?’ Blue Spoon mumbled, keeping his distance from the conflict. ‘You never let me do it.’

The other spoons laughed.

‘Darling, you know you’re far too clumsy,’ said Red Spoon, trying to suppress her giggles. ‘You’d just drop that paella on the floor.’

‘No I wouldn’t –’

‘Stop this petty squabbling!’ demanded Yellow Spoon. ‘There was never any trouble before you three came along –’

‘Back in the good old days, eh Gramps?’ Green Spoon scoffed. ‘Well I’m sorry to disappoint you, but we’re here to stay!’

‘Belly God will be wanting me,’ said Red Spoon, letting out a deep and longing sigh. ‘The way He feels when I caress His tongue – oh, it’s magical.’

Green Spoon sniggered. ‘You are deluded, Red Spoon. Do you think Belly God wants you fawning over Him when He’s trying to enjoy His food?’

‘We have a connection!’ said Red Spoon grumpily. ‘Something that you wouldn’t understand.’

‘Silence!’ commanded Yellow Spoon, stomping down on the ground. ‘This is shameful behaviour. Absolutely shameful!’

Blue Spoon cleared his throat. ‘I don’t think Belly God actually cares who feeds Him – as long as He gets fed.’

‘Don’t be so ludicrous!’ cried Yellow Spoon. ‘It takes talent to serve – I have seen other spoons come and go, yet I remain!’

‘Not for much longer, you old crock!’ Green Spoon sniped. ‘Your days are numbered.’

‘Indeed, that may be the case,’ admitted Yellow Spoon. ‘But it’s been a good life. And I’ll be damned if I let you have the last mouthful again.’

Green Spoon cackled. ‘But who better for the job?’

‘Perhaps we should draw straws,’ suggested Blue Spoon. ‘Let chance decide.’

Silence fell upon the spoons. They looked at each other, terrified by the idea of fair play.

‘Blue Spoon, you yet again spout your nonsense,’ Yellow Spoon grumbled, walking around the edge of the dish. ‘If we did it your way, then you’d be in with a chance!’

‘I promise I won’t drop it –’

Green Spoon howled with laughter. ‘You said that last time. And the time before that.’

‘Just face it, dear,’ said Red Spoon, giggling to herself. ‘You’re simply not cut out for this feeding business.’

Blue Spoon grew angry. ‘How can I learn from my mistakes if you won’t let me practice? You’ve never given me a chance! Ever since I arrived here, all you’ve done is judge and criticise –’

‘All right, young one,’ said Yellow Spoon, in a soft and gentle voice. He and the other spoons were shocked by the outburst. ‘Perhaps we ought to let you –’

‘No!’ Green Spoon barked. ‘Have you completely lost your mind? Blue Spoon will never learn!’

‘There’s no harm giving him the last bit,’ said Red Spoon, taking pity on their blue companion. ‘We’ll be seeing Belly God again in the morning – and they do say that absence makes the heart grow fonder.’

‘That’s settled then,’ said Yellow Spoon, beckoning Blue Spoon over to the edge of the dish.

‘Now hang on a minute,’ cried Green Spoon, barring the way. ‘I didn’t agree to this –’

‘You’ve been outvoted,’ Yellow Spoon told him. ‘Now move aside before I feed you to Belly God!’

‘Fine,’ snapped Green Spoon, storming away in a flurry of rage. ‘But don’t come crying to me when he messes up.’

Blue Spoon watched him leave, then turned towards the dish. Yellow Spoon and Red Spoon smiled at him from the sidelines.

‘I’ll try to be careful,’ said Blue Spoon, fumbling as he climbed into the dish. ‘I’m not as clumsy as you think.’

The last mouthful of paella lay waiting for him. Red Spoon and Yellow Spoon watched as he nervously approached it.

‘Go on, dear,’ urged Red Spoon. ‘We’ve kept Belly God waiting quite long enough.’

Blue Spoon nodded. He then stooped down and shovelled up the small heap of food, wobbling slightly as he did so.

‘There you go, lad,’ said Yellow Spoon, hardly daring to breathe. ‘You’re nearly there.’

Blue Spoon saw a few grains of rice tumble off. He tried with all his might to hold the rest of the heap in place.

And then a hand appeared from the sky, swooping down to collect Blue Spoon and his precious cargo.

‘Here He is!’ Red Spoon swooned. ‘Don’t forget me, Belly God – we’ll rub against each other tomorrow.’

The majestic hand lifted Blue Spoon into the sky. The other two spoons watched with awe as he disappeared from view.

Blue Spoon could not remember the last time that he fed Belly God, but he had been practicing in secret, preparing for the day that the other spoons would give him a chance. Now it was time to make up for his past clumsiness.

Belly God’s hand directed Blue Spoon up toward His mouth, which was above His big hairy belly. A large tongue came out to greet him and licked the paella off his metallic surface.

‘Mmm,’ a deep voice boomed. ‘That was goooood.’

Blue Spoon gasped. It was always a pleasure to serve the Belly God.

When the large hand returned him to the dish, the other spoons were waiting for him, barely able to contain their curiosity.

‘How was it, child?’ Yellow Spoon asked him. ‘Did He impart any words of wisdom?’

‘Did He have any messages for me?’ Red Spoon inquired.

‘I – erm –’

‘He probably wondered why I didn’t give him the last bit,’ Green Spoon grumbled. ‘Belly God likes routine. He won’t be happy that it was broken.’

Blue Spoon walked away from his squabbling companions, filled with a deep sense of accomplishment. Every mealtime was a battle, but Blue Spoon was growing stronger.

What would you do if you could turn back the clock?

Most people have regrets or things in their past that they would like to change.

Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about this, but it’s an interesting concept to think about. In fact, it’s actually the premise of my first book, Pearl’s Hereafter.

After a lifetime of misery, Pearl Greenwood actually gets the chance to re-live her life and remedy her mistakes! Originally, she married the wrong man, never stood up for herself and let her hobbies fall by the wayside, but she is bestowed with the opportunity to fix things.

What would you do if you were granted this marvelous opportunity? Is there anything that you would change or put right? Any bad choices or silly mistakes? Perhaps you mistreated a loved one or didn’t seize an opportunity? Perhaps you never appreciated someone until it was too late?

Whatever your regrets, I hope that you can make peace with them. We might not all get a second chance like Pearl, but we can always find a way to make peace and move forward.

Personally, I don’t regret much and I’m hoping that it stays that way. But I’m still young, so there’s still plenty of time for error on my part! It’s scary to think that things could go tits-up at any time, though you’ve just got to roll with it and do the best that you can. We can learn from our mistakes and turbulence, so perhaps your regrets can be transmuted into valuable life lessons.

Here is an article about the most common regrets that people have on their deathbed: http://bit.ly/KsjpWI. It’s actually quite eye-opening and says a lot about humanity. At our core, we all want to be happy and have fulfilling lives, but circumstances and fear often stop us from doing this – tragically, some people never do what they want to do. So if you have dreams or goals, then I highly recommend pursuing them. It is said that we regret what we DID NOT do far more than the stuff that we DID do.