Meatloaf died and I’m sad about that

This wasn’t the post I was planning to publish this week, but sometimes plans need to change. I’m also a bit later than I planned, but it was a bit of a struggle to gather my thoughts as this isn’t the kind of post I normally write. I’m sure by now you’ll have heard the news that the singer and actor Meatloaf has died. I’m not generally the kind of person who get’s very upset when celebrities die. These are people I’ve never met so the loss feels intangible somehow. But I this week have found myself drifting back repeatedly to listen to the series of “Bat out of hell” records he made with Jim Stienman, who also passed away recently. Another song, Not a Dry Eye in the House, plays like an earworm in my mind.

It’s got me thinking a bit about the artists who have influenced me. My list is pretty long and not at all coherent. One of the reasons I called this blog “Magpie at Midnight” is because I’m interested in, and influenced by a lot of different things and people. But I don’t often write about all the different things and people that influence my art, and I probably should. Having worked in the sciences and social sciences most of my working life, it was apparent to me that people like me, who indulge in multiple interests, rather than specialising in one, were going out of fashion (I think the tide may be turning on that now though). It’s taken a bit of time to get comfortable with the Magpie side of my nature, but I feel like I’m there now. I’m not sure many people who know me in person now would have me for a Meatloaf fan, or someone who loves the David Suchet adaptations of Poirot, but I am both of these things, as well as loving open water swimming, and cake

If I try to trace the thread between my work and the influence of some of these people, the web becomes tangled pretty quickly. But I can identify what I love about Meatloaf, and the Bat Out of Hell albums. I love the theatre and the drama of them, the fusion of gothic influences, storytelling, themes of declining small town america and rock and roll. If you go back and watch the video of “I would do anything for love”, they manage to channel the Hunchback of Notre Dam, Dracula, and Beauty and the Beast all in one seven minute music video. Some of the song writing on those albums, composed by Jim Stienman, also got a grip on my teenage imagination. Objects in the Rear View Mirror still ticks all of the nostalgic heartbreaking boxes for me.

Beyond the art, we know that Meatloaf was a complex character, who had is own trouble with mental health. While he was a robust a energetic performer, there was also something a little fragile about him too. You got the sense of someone who held their emotions close to the surface of things. I really admire that combination of energy and vulnerability in an artist, that complexity is something that works very well for me.

Now he is gone, and I’m sad about that, which is probably how it should be.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon page here.

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Reasons to be grateful: Cold mornings and sunrise over South London

Before I had my son I think it would be fair to say that I was not a morning person in any sense of the word. In fact I would like nothing better, after initially getting up at around nine, than to retreat back into bed with a pot of coffee and an armful of books or the newspaper. I can year the faint laughter of anyone who has ever looked after a small child as I type this. Those days are long gone.

My son is an early riser, which means that by default I have become one too. This is a struggle, and I do not think my physiology has caught up. Over the last few months, as the mornings have grown darker and winter has fully established herself, I have found a consolation. In some of our recent crisp cold winter mornings I have been treated to some wonderful sunrises. If I had not been forced up early to take my son to nursery, I would have missed out on seeing the sky turn golden over South London. For these mornings, I am grateful.

The image of a sunrise has been used in many cultures and across the ages to invoke ideas of new beginnings and fresh starts. On this Bank Holiday Monday, I hope that this new year will give you many reasons to be grateful, too.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Creative Prompt: Broken Strings

I walked past this broken tennis racket a number of times, and each time I thought ‘that’s not what I’m looking for’. But I began to feel more and more intrigued as I noticed the racket had moved each time I saw it. The first time I saw it, it was in a dark corner under an overhanging building where I would not have been able to get a good shot. But slowly it seemed it inch more and more out onto the pavement, as if creeping into the light, maybe wanting to be seen.

When I finally decided to stop and take a photo, it had manged to move several hundred meters down the street, and was almost in the middle of the pavement, right in my path. I felt as is it was asking me to take the photo, so I did stop and get out my phone.

The way the strings curve and wind against each other, and the way the frame, although broken, still sits in almost it’s original form is both beautiful and sad to me, as if the shape of it tries to suggest better days that are now past.

Once I had taken my photo, I did not see the racket again, as if satisfied, it melted away. Of course it is just a broken old object laying on the pavement, and someone has probably thrown it in the bin. But there was something about this episode that spoke to me, as if the racket wanted to be seen, and to be documented, to say ‘I existed’. I think there is something in this sentiment that we as humans can relate to.

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Creative Prompt: The Journey

When we moved into our house a couple of years ago the previous owners had left a lot of things behind. Most of these things were kind of annoying – huge wardrobes that have been difficult to get rid of or broken ornaments in the garden. However, they also left this little guy in a large flower pot in the garden, and I really like him.

He’s made of some kind of ceramic, and seen from the right angle, looks like he is about to journey into the wilderness. Many good stories begin with the start of a journey, and in my own books (all works in progress unfortunately) there are several. Here on the blog I like to share photos of things that give me ideas, as sometimes I think they may give other people ideas too. What does this picture make you think of? What kind of tales does this picture inspire?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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My toddler is a scientist: experimentation and the creative process.

A few weeks ago my son learned to walk. Like every other skill he has picked up, the process involved a lot of trail, and a lot of error. There were plenty of missteps and a few little falls here and there, but it didn’t take him long to get the hang of it. Now he likes to spend his days charging around, while we spend our trying to keep up with him.

Over the last year it has been his gift to us to hang out with him while he learns to do new things. I am sure all parents think their children are clever, and I am no exception to this rule, but it has been one of the most delightful surprises of parenthood to be able to see this unfold. He is the epitome of a little scientist. Touching. Tasting. Moving things about. Trying one thing, seeing it fail, trying it again with adaptations, before moving on to the next option.

The other morning we were eating breakfast together and it occurred to me that this process is also the process that underpins good art. Trying one thing, adapting it, trying the next. I am one of those odd people who trained in the sciences, but is drawn instinctively to the arts. In my mind there has never been a huge distance between the core process involved in doing science, and the one that underpins the making of art. Watching my child develop has reinforced this for me in the most profound way.

Now he has walking mostly under control, we’ve moved on to putting blocks together in new and interesting patterns. For him, inspiration appears everywhere. We aren’t quite up to building yet, but that too will happen in time. I can’t wait to see what he will experiment with next.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Creative Prompt: Foxy came a calling

We have a fox that pops in and out of our garden on a regular basis, and this photo was taken earlier this year when we had a rare few days of snow. I had thought that I had missed the boat with this prompt but then we had an odd morning of April snow last week so here it is. In the novel I am currently working on, Feeding Jasmine Valentine, foxes play an important role in the narrative, so it was a bit magical to see these foot prints in the snow.

I have the kind of romantic relationship with snow that you can only have when you don’t really have to deal with the practical consequences of it. When I was a child I was enthralled by the tale of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, (affiliate link) in which a group of children climb through the back of a wardrobe and find themselves in a snow covered landscape. I could help but feel a bit disappointed when that snow began to melt.

I like to share photos of things that give me ideas, as sometimes I think they may give other people ideas too. What does this picture make you think of? What kind of tales does this picture inspire?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Sunday Funday: Creative Prompt

I’ve been very much enjoying the kind of atmospheric weather that autumn and winter bring to the UK. On a recent walk I saw a number of these spider webs bejewelled with dew and I thought them wonderful. I find this time of year to be very inspiring from a creative point of view, and enjoy sharing the odd little things I see when I am out and about.

What does this picture make you think of? What kind of tales does this picture inspire? Ideas or flash fiction welcome in the comments below, or turn it into a post on your own blog and let me know.

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Sunday Funday: Creative Prompt

Not far from where I live there is a park with a small fishing lake. I like to take Baby Magpie there to walk him around it, and have often noticed this tree. I feel like there is a story here, somehow.

What do you think it could be? What kind of tales does this picture inspire? Ideas or flash fiction welcome in the comments below, or turn it into a post on your own blog and let me know.

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what p

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Sunday Funday: Creative Prompt

I was recently doing edits to some bits of my novel, when I realised that a lot of my scenes are set at dawn or at dusk. I seem to be drawn to those times of day when the light changes and things may seem unreal. With that thought in mind I was very attracted to this view of a telecommunications tower in the mist recently. It’s a mysterious vision, which could inspire the beginning of all sorts of stories.

What do you think could happen here? What kind of tales does this picture inspire? Ideas or flash fiction welcome in the comments below, or turn it into a post on your own blog and let me know.

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Sunday Funday: Creative Prompt

I was out walking with Baby Magpie a few weeks ago and I saw these two photo’s pinned to this tree. I’m not sure if this is a lost object that someone has pinned to the tree, hoping to reunite it with it’s owner, or a subtle piece of public art.

It’s one of those things that I come across on a fairly regular basis and think ‘Ohh, that’s interesting.’ I rarely get much further than thinking about how interesting the thing is, and how there is probably a story to tell about it. I thought that someone else may see this and get an idea that sends them off onto an interesting creative tangent.

If you are a writer, artist, doodler or storyteller, you may have your own ideas about this image. Post your ideas in the comments below, or turn it into a post on your own blog and let me know.

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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