Sunday Funday’s Creative Prompt: Lost in Croydon #2

I have just started on a third draft of the first novel in my fantasy series (called Feeding Jasmine Valentine). More than one of the characters starts the book feeling more than a little lost.

While I was out walking with my son a few weeks ago I found myself being attracted to objects around the place that seem a little lost. This is the second in a mini series of creative prompts. This week’s prompt – a pair of glasses on a bench.

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.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. 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.

Sunday Funday: Creative Prompt

On of the things I have started looking for on my walks with Baby Magpie is those little incidents where nature seems to get the better of the modern world. While out this week I saw this tree, that seems to have got the better of the wall it was growing through. Inch by inch, the little tree has grown through the mortar and caused the bricks to separate. In my Feeding Jasmine Valentine series, the idea of nature ‘taking back’ is a relatively strong theme, so I have started to collect pictures like this. I hope that you find it intriguing too.

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.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. 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.

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.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. 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.

Sunday Funday: Creative Prompt

It’s Sunday, time to have some creative fun. For this week’s creative prompt I’ve chosen this photo of a path leading into the woods.

Writers, artists, doodlers and storytellers, have some fun with this image. Post your ideas in the comments below, or turn it into a post on your own blog and let me know.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. 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.

Sunday Funday: Creative Prompt

It’s been a bit grim here in London over the last few words and I’ve been thinking about how much the weather influences my own writing and other creative work.

Here’s a video of some moody weather to inspire. Writers, artists, doodlers and storytellers, what does this film suggest to you?

Post your ideas in the comments below, or turn it into a post on your own blog and let me know.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. 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.

Sunday Funday: Story Prompt

While away at my parents a number of weeks ago I came across this tiny little hidden street with a great name – Shin Bone Alley. It sparked my imagination as it sounds a bit Dickensian.

So, just for fun, what’s the story with this alley? What kind of tales happened here? Ideas or flash fiction welcome in the comments below, or turn it into a post on your own blog and let me know.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. 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.

Sunday funday: story prompt

A week or so ago I was out walking with Baby Magpie and I saw this fella in a tree. I thought he looked kind of majestic, just sitting there, and wondered what his story maybe on the way home.

As a bit of fun, what do you think his story is? Pop ideas, or flash fiction pieces in the comments below.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. 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.

Thoughts on Radical Kindness: Why writers and artists should practice it (Part 3)

img_0390

[This is part 3 of a series of blogs about kindness. Please see parts 1 and 2 here]

When I began writing these posts I kind of thought this would have been one of my ‘here are my random thoughts on this’ kind of posts and that would be it. However life rarely turns out as you expect. I have been thinking a bit about my own journey as a person, and as an artist and writer, and what I’m about really through these posts.

I actually wanted to write and make art when I was a teenager, but I also wanted to ‘help people’ and somehow got it into my head that being an artist/writer would mean that I wouldn’t be doing that (I have seriously revised my view on this now!). Instead I went off to university to study medicine, thinking that doctors ‘helped’ people so that was what I should do. While I really loved learning about the science, and believe that having the opportunity to study human anatomy through full body dissection was one of the great privileges of my life, it turned out that the practice of medicine was not for me. I left after four years to do a PhD in psychology, during which I studied things like advertising, persuasion and the impact that stories can have on us. I still wanted to write and make art, but some how I wasn’t ready, because I hadn’t really found my subject.

Later I did research into mental health and genetics, and I left a long term relationship because my then partner would not even talk about having children (hence I am quite late to the baby party). After this I had a bit of a break down really, although I would not have called it that at the time. I was depressed, very anxious, and drinking lots. I was in a bad way, and (cliche alert) I became attached to a number of men who were not attached to me.

I continued to work in mental health but the kind of work I did changed so that I was doing research with colleagues who also had mental health issues. We talked a lot, and I listened a lot, and in the middle of all of that, I found I was ready to make things and write things. I am now writing a novel in which people have experienced trauma and who live with those things. It’s also a fantasy novel, so I am trying to weave in strands of myth and magic, which makes things a bit complicated, but and I think I finally found my subject. I think this is the many splendid forms of being human and all the emotional consequences of that. 

So why do I think that artists and writers in particular should practice radical kindness? I think that, beyond just being a good person, there are a number of reasons. I think to create art, or convincing characters that really speak to people, it can really help to understand people. It can really help to understand the rich and varied emotional lives many people live. To understand people, you need to connect with people on an honest level. To connect with people, it really, really helps if you are kind. People will tell you things about themselves, and help you, incrementally, to better understand all the different ways of being human, if you are kind.

I also make art. 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.

More stuff on Lionel Shriver

I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about Lionel Shriver and her objection to the new diversity policy of Random House. Quite a few other more well read people than me also wrote about it, and came to similar conclusions. Shriver has now come out to say that her words had been deliberately misconstrued, and that snippets of her writing should not have been talked about out of the context of the full column. Her problem is not diversity, but diversity quotas. So diversity good, diversity quotas bad.

I get why she is annoyed. It is annoying when people, deliberately or otherwise, don’t get what you are saying. But here’s the thing. I did read the whole column, and it wasn’t really clear that quotas were the issue. She spent a lot of words moaning about a demographic monitoring form. As someone who has had to write demographic monitoring forms I can sympathise – they are not perfect, only a tool to help you begin to understand what a group of people, in this case a work force, may look like. Sometimes they are used to monitor quotas, but most of the time they are just used to get an idea of the kind of people who may make up a group. Having a form does not automatically mean having a quota. And frankly if you want to spend a few hundred words proving how clever you are, diversity monitoring forms are an easy target, because they are never perfect. Ever. She then got so caught up in creating a straw black disabled lesbian to knock down that it wasn’t really at all clear that it was only diversity quotas she objected to, and not diversity in principle. It also was entirely unclear that she’s actually very enthusiastic about diversity in principle.

Five years ago I may have just watched this whole performance pass without comment. As I have said before five years ago people on the left were smugly enjoying a certainty that things were getting better. It was slow progress but we were sure of the ‘progress’ part of that. That was then. Our complacency had lead us into dark times. We urgently need to make the arguments for diversity as a good thing. Lionel Shriver has not done that in this column. At all. Full disclosure here – my day job involves trying to open up the world of mental health research to a broader range of people. It’s slow, hard work. I’ll thought through columns on National news platforms can do damage.

Lionel Shriver is a clever woman with a large platform, and we do not have time for this kind of bullshit. If you get so wrapped up in enjoying saying clever nasty things that you don’t notice you have obscured your own message then frankly who are you to make declarations on ‘standards’ in writing. If you write something provocative that can so easily be used by the anti-PC brigade as support for their (often frankly racist) cause then don’t cry when it provokes a reaction you don’t like. If you can’t communicate clearly that you in fact celebrate writing from all sorts of weird and wonderful corners of humanity then step off the stage and make some room for people who can. It’s time for that black disabled lesbian to shine.

Lionel Shriver and her flawed imagination

P1000638

A friend of mine once called me a fag hag. She meant it as a complement, but later decided to upgrade me to a ‘diversity whore’, which was also, I think, meant as a complement. I am a fan of diversity. I like to hear about and speak with people who are quite different to me doing their own things. I think I was pretty complacent about being ‘on the right side of things’ with this view for quite a long time. I was a teenager in he 90’s, and things did feel like they were getting a bit ‘better’ then. Over the last year I have seen the onward march of racism and, well nazis, with mounting horror. Here’s the thing, we on the left bare some not insignificant responsibility for that. We were quite happy to ring our hands about the situation of people with less privilege or opportunity than us, and have lengthy intellectual conversations about the causes of such things. But I don’t think we ever tried to understand, at all, what these things felt like from the perspective of people actually living that disadvantage. Frankly we ignored it unless it made for good dinner time conversation, and smugly reassured each other that we knew the truth of things.

A lot can happen while you are busy drinking chardonay. I now feel rather more humble, and try much harder to understand the actual experiences of people who are different from me. I have left wing friends who are still content to smugly brand anyone who voted for Brexit a moron, and that isn’t helping anyone. Which brings me to Lionel Shriver. It surely speaks to my own prejudices that I still manage to be horribly disappointed when some one who has written at least one book that I liked (and I did very much like We need to talk about Kevin, although I couldn’t settle into her later books) turns out to be very comfortable saying bigoted things. First she took aim at ‘cultural appropriation’ without appearing to even try to understand what the issue there is because FREE SPEECH. This week she set her sights on the new diversity policy of Penguin (for some more intelligent comment on this see this article by Amrou Al-Kadhi). The publisher is, in a long over due but laudable overhaul of it’s employment policy, trying to enable people from more diverse back grounds to both work there and be published by them. I think this is great. Lionel Shriver, not so much. In fact she said this:

“Thus from now until 2025, literary excellence will be secondary to ticking all those ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual preference and crap-education boxes. We can safely infer from that email that if an agent submits a manuscript written by a gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers around town on a mobility scooter, it will be published, whether or not said manuscript is an incoherent, tedious, meandering and insensible pile of mixed-paper recycling. Good luck with that business model. Publishers may eschew standards, but readers will still have some.”

Racism, abilism, homophobia, classism. I mean she really packed those isms into this one didn’t she? It can be so enjoyable when you think of a witty put down. I get that. But this isn’t really that clever. Shriver here gives something away. She is so pleased with herself for her own nasty brand of verbose put downs that she fails to notice that she has also told us something about herself. Embedded in this statement that drips with isms, is an assumption that a ‘gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers around town on a mobility scooter’ could not possibly write a good book. If you didn’t go to university (and have all of the privileges that this frequently entails) how could you possibly write well? This shows a staggering lack of imagination. If you can’t even imagine that people very different to you are capable of amazing and brilliant things maybe you might want to spend some time reflecting on that. Frankly if you can’t do this then why be a novelist? Maybe she has indeed run out of ideas and so has done a ‘Martin Amis’ and just started spouting controversial retrograde stuff to stay in the news. They pay shock jocks well these days. I don’t know. But in the future I think I’ll be looking for an abundance of imagination in my novelists, where ever they may come from. I’ll be leaving Shriver on the shelf.