Notes From the Wasteland No. 42 ‘How To Be Creative About Being Creative Part One’

Do you do something creative every day? I’m sure you do. Have you ever felt that some things you do are creative and some things you do aren’t? How can you tell? I am asking lots of questions because I’m fascinated by the answers they might generate.

Is Watching Netflix Creative?

Did you ever think that watching Netflix was an act of creativity? You know, that thing we all flick through and pick at, all those tv shows we start and stop and pause and start again, or add to our list and yet never watch. Picture this, the myth is that we are passive viewers of content. Apparently we sit back and relax and chill as we watch. We let the images wash over us like so much pixellated water. We fall asleep – the ultimate in being passive. But what if we saw our relationship with Netflix as an active one? After all, we choose when to watch and watch to watch. And each time we play and pause and stop and start and switch genres and watch one thing for a little while and then stop to watch two more things for a bit longer, do you not think that we are actually creating our version of Netflix, and by doing so, demonstrating the active and creative relationship we have with it? Try it next time you are watching Netflix and doing all the things we do when we aren’t actually watching something.

How Long Do You Spend Scrolling on Your Phone?

For many of us, our thumbs are the most active parts of our bodies. They get the most exercise, don’t they? What do we use our thumbs for? Holding things? Driving? Gripping? Kneading? Controlling incredibly complex miniaturised digital technology? This. Almost exclusively. How many different things can you do on your phone? How many different things can your phone do for you? The list is almost too long to type. In fact, if we were to type out this list it is highly likely that we would use our thumbs to type it out. And were we to do so, surely we would have to be proving our own point, wouldn’t we? But none of this is to say that this time is a waste of time, certainly not to my mind.

I take a more creative view of the many minutes and hours per day I spend on my phone. I marvel at the technology, convinced, somehow, that this is the closest I will ever get to experience real magic. I am certain that this thing I hold in mind, the rectangle I cradle, protect, feed, has mystical properties and rather than stunting my intellectual growth, causing me to look down instead of up, has opened the digital doors of my perception, using only my two thumbs as the key. In fact, the only thing I can’t really do with my phone is lose it. That would be a disaster.

How Many Photos Have You Deleted in the Last 24 Hours?

Taking photos is like writing sentences, isn’t it? Finding the subject, setting up the frame, making sure that you image you choose is the image you want to use, adjusting your focus, making your angle is right, asking yourself if you are too near or too far to best capture the image. Then, once the image is the one you want, you might choose to further develop the original concept; adding a filter, perhaps, to change the tone, layering other elements on top to further develop your theme. You might add more text as other comment or counterpoint. With all this done, you might then share what you’ve created, sharing your thought with other people. All of this seems right and sure and without a doubt, creative. But what about all those images that you choose not to use, the ones you choose to delete? For every one image we might decided to keep we might end up deleting ten, that’s some ratio. We remove nine images from our library so that we can keep one. As attrition rates go, that’s quite extreme. Then, bearing in mind the way things work, removing these nine images can seem like an awfully negative thing to do; we are actually negating them, making sure that they no longer actually exist – that is quite some feat of finality. But should we see this deleting nine images as a negative thing to do? I don’t think so.

Do You Mourn The Words You Delete?

In writing this post, I have probably deleted one hundred words or more, and doing this has helped me shape my thoughts and, hopefully, develop a coherence in relation to them. This can only be a positive thing and unless there was a situation where my deleting words had brought the actual loss of important words that I needed, I’m not going to start lamenting all the deleted words; they have helped me make positive active choices about my sentences. And this has to be same way to look, or not look, at deleted photographs – my deletion has always been a positive creative thing to do rather than a negative, destructive act. But sometimes, I guess, we feel differently about deleting things. I don’t imagine we would be quite as extreme as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins who one day decided to burn all his poems but there is something about the movement between the temporary and the permanent when we delete things. Nowadays we have Ctrl Z to stop us if we really want to bring our words back to life. It would be much harder if we were on our knees sifting through the soot, looking to piece together the pages of our work.

How To Be Creative About Being Creative

My sense in all of this, in all of these ordinary moments in our currently extraordinary lives, is that there is always creativity in (almost) everything we do. Some of this is blatant and obvious, like writing, some of this less obvious and far more latent, like shaping our own version of Netflix. But in both of these instances, and the many many others we could think of if we were to think of them, it is not that we don’t think of them as the same, we don’t always realise that we think of them as the same. This is not meant to be a tongue twister or play on words, it is simply meant to be an observation; a gentle thing, not earth-shattering or empire-building, just quiet and small but well-intended.

What do you think?

Notes From the Wasteland No. 11 ‘I’m happy to say that I’m not always happy.’

I’m happy to say that I’m not always happy. Not in the sense of a joke or a tongue-twister; that’s not what I’m happy to say. I’m not being glib, or facetious, I’m not downplaying or undermining anyone or anything. But I am happy to say that things are not always light and bright for me. The darkness is always there, just over the hill, only as as far as the end of the day, the next passing cloud, the step I take after the next one. This is not a confession or a realisation. It is nowhere near as dramatic as that. This is just a simple statement of fact. Not that there is anything simple about simply being happy. Far from it.

I look back as far as I can to see where the darkness was born and I can only say that it was possibly always there inside of me. And outside of me. There is no blame. No one who knows me is responsible in any way for anything. That’s not how this works. I am only responsible for myself. Perhaps this is a luxurious position to occupy? As always, I can only speak for myself. For other people there are other reasons. That is understood. When I survey my past I can identify events and situations, as we all can, but the same can be said of my more recent life. Indeed, I feel that this more recent life has been far more profound in terms of its impact on me. Far more. In fact so far more that I am only slowly beginning to realise how profound. Hence each one of these slowly typed words.

The pandemic doesn’t help. Pandemics never do. But that’s slightly counter-intuitive, like blaming meat for rotting, or vacuums for filling with air. If it wasn’t this, it would be that. And if it wasn’t that it would be something else. Or something else. Again. Ad infinitum. Perhaps the pandemic does help? And nothing in this last sentence is meant to downplay anything whatsoever to do with the global misery and horror that the pandemic has brought upon us all. But perhaps the pandemic helps me to find the time to sit down and think more deeply about things. Mortality does that, I guess, and I have been as mortally afraid of the virus as everyone else. Outside the window of the room I’m currently writing in, the surge in cases is truly extraordinary, as it is elsewhere, and were it not the reality of our lives it would be another hold that Netflix can cleverly have over us with their current capacity for compelling storytelling.

So why am I happy to say that I’m not always happy? Is that even a thing to say out loud? It is. And I’m happy to say it. Because the alternative is not to say it and not saying things is something I use to do too much.

Far too much.

VIRO – Proposal for TV Series – Introduction

Introduction

And so the task begins, as I start to turn the highly successful VIRO book series into a proposal for a TV series. Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing insights and updates as to how this process is going.  So let’s begin at the beginning.

VIRO – The TV Series Proposal

GENRE: Horror/Science Fiction – Post-Apocalypse

TAG LINE: Four Kids, One Apocalypse

LOG LINE: As a viral pandemic turns the world into bloodthirsty creatures, a boy with special needs looks for his missing mum.

VIRO tells the story of Jake, a boy born with special needs who wakes one morning to find that the world has been catastrophically overrun by a deadly virus and his mum has not come home after work. Determined but unused to being out on his own, Jake sets off to find her.

The book series is set in the south east of England and Season One takes place in Burton-on-Sea, a fictional seaside town modelled on Hastings. The time is somewhere in the 1970s. 

There is no knowing exactly where the virus came from and the point of the series is that no-one will ever know. There is a lot of speculation but no definitive explanation. This makes VIRO darker and bleaker as we soon come to realise that the world will not be saved. 

The story is not a race to find a cure but about finding a way to simply survive. Science, like God, and society, is broken now. It makes no difference, especially to a group of teenage friends who don’t really have time to try and make sense of what has happened.  They just want to stay alive.

VIRO – the Book Series – NEWS FLASH

As a viral outbreak turns the world into bloodthirsty creatures, a boy with special needs looks for his missing mum.

‘The writing style is beautifully compelling, and after the first couple of pages I couldn’t put it down. The author very skilfully creates a world and characters through deceptively simple prose that draws the reader right in. It is a fascinating blend of one-after-the-other edge-of-the seat scares, alongside a haunting narrative about what it is to be human.’

‘Capturing the voice of a young character with special needs (I spent 25 years as a special education teacher/administrator), Taylor’s story of a group of young people coping with a world disintegrating in front of them; with the loss of structure and trust, and with betrayal by the adults who should be protecting them is both uplifting and horrifying. Do not be fooled by the simple language of the narrator: there are hard questions asked and realistic, unsentimental consequences to the apocalypse confronting the children, and an ending that you are unlikely to forget easily.’

‘I absolutely loved this book. Powerful and poignant, VIRO packs a punch. Sad and haunting, VIRO is a new take on the zombie genre. The characters are dynamic and interesting, finding strength despite their horrifying circumstances. Jake is a character that will stick with you long after the final page. The action sequences are thrilling. I was on the edge of my seat!’

Get your copy today – Book One FREE for download HERE

Inteachán – Book Three: Operation Turnback 3: 16 ‘groping for a better word’

Of course, lowering a rope is the easy part.

Lowering yourself is another thing altogether.

Breathing slowly, Inteachán checked her gloves and began her descent.

If the sight of child feeding a rope to a hole was bizarre enough then the sight of this same hole slowly swallowing the same child whole would undoubtedly leave any onlooker groping for a better word.

Not that the world will be saved by the finding of a better word.

We are way beyond that now.

Inteachán – Book Two: A New Signal 2: 7 ‘People missing people’

And then the posters started.

Like petals fallen from the most hopeless of blooms. Handwritten. Photocopied. Badly printed.

Missing people. People missing people.

Everyone who attended the concert never returned home. Including Inteachán.

Though he knew it was helpless, Mac pinned his poster with the rest of them.

Inteachán – Book Two: A New Signal 2: 6 ‘The Weeds of Priory Hall’

Cities normally return to nature after desertion.

Sand can cover office blocks.

Shopping centres fall in on themselves.

Civic buildings lose all semblance of significance.

Sewers clog and silt.

Vehicles return their elements to the earth.

Or house new tenants.

Fountains fall silent.

Slowly, troublingly, desperately, inexorably, the weeds of Priory Hall exerted their cosmic influence on the city.

Inteachán – Book Two: A New Signal 2: 5 ‘It started with the weeds’

As he walked across Front Square Mac felt now that the world was only different.

He knew the First of the TheFive was here. The disturbance was now unignorable. The weight of this fact caused the world to spin ever so slightly out of kilter.

‘I knew this was always going to happen,’ Mac said to himself. And he steeled himself for the worst.

It started with the weeds.

Inteachán – Book Two: A New Signal 2: 4 ‘A Brand-New Loneliness’

Loss hits hard and holds firm and deep and long.

After a lifetime of solitude Mac now found himself unable to deal with a brand-new loneliness.

There simply is no substitute for presence.

‘I’m a selfish cowardly fool,’ he told himself.

‘That a man should send a child to stop the darkness.’

Inteachán – Book One: The Song of the NotBeSpeak 1: 40 ‘#The5’

Inteachán was half-way-up the ladder when the Biggest Band in the World took to the stage. The roar of the crowd was deafening now.

The darkness in the stadium was punctured by the countless tiny lights of thousands and thousands of phones and cameras taking photographs. The sky sparkled and danced, shimmering with a digital haze.

‘Welcome everyone,’ said the Rock Star into his microphone. He wore a t-shirt that said ‘#The5’.

ROAR.

‘We have a real treat for you all tonight.’

ROAR.

‘Something so amazing that it is going to change the world.

ROAR.

‘Forever!’