Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Waves of Inspiration

Where does inspiration come from?

It's one of those questions that so many people ask themselves. Inspiration is a strange creature, one that comes and goes in the depths of the night or the wee hours of the morning. A sudden flicker of an image can spark an entire novel. The sound of a long forgotten song can trigger a wave of frenzied creativity.


Inspiration is all around us. From the brilliantly bright colours of autumn to the dull moments when we allow our mind to drift off to unseen worlds. Catching that inspiration doesn't take any kind of knack. There's no tricks to finding it. The only thing you need to engage are your senses.

Look around yourself. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What's sitting beneath your fingers?

What do you have hanging on your walls? What do you see out of the window? What does the sky look like?

All are questions that we can ask ourselves in the eternal question for that (sometimes) elusive spark of inspiration. In those moments of darkness when nothing seems possible, it can be a simple questions which triggers the outpouring of words on to paper, or art on to canvas, or music on to tape.

For me, it's photographs that get my creative juices flowing. I can spend hours searching through archives for that one perfect image that will help me to express what I want to say. Social media, Imgur, Getty Images, Shutterstock, and a host of other sites can transport you to anywhere in the world (or off it) and to any kind of situation require. It's like piecing together a giant puzzle, one that will eventually tell a story.

For others, music does the trick. Scanning through liner notes, hearing the crackle of a needle against a record, or taking in the smell of a used record store can trigger what they need in order to delve in to the depths of their minds and retrieve the emotions that they need to create.

For those of us who are currently experiencing winter, inspiration can be hard to find. The long nights and the cold, sometimes sunless, days can drain an energy that we have. Yet it's important to continue creating, even when we don't feel up to it. Creativity is a way to push through some of the more sombre, and often depressing, feelings that we encounter during winter. Losing yourself in another world, even for a few moments, can help to alleviate cold, dark months.

Whatever you use to inspire you, use it well. Spread it around like glitter and make the world a better place one piece of art at a time.


If you're stuck for inspiration, please feel free to visit my page. There you'll find posts that will hopefully help you to find the spark of creativity that you need.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

#MeToo

Watching the #MeToo campaign over the past few weeks has been painful. Seeing the stories of sexual harassment from so many other people makes you realise that you're not alone in this world and just how widespread the issue is.

#MeToo was started over ten years ago by actress Tarana Burke and has gained traction in the past month due to the ongoing confessions of celebrities who've been attacked or assaulted. Those two words have spread like wildfire, opening a can of worms that no one thought existed.



Except that we, deep down, we knew that the unopened can was there. We knew that buried deep within the confines of every industry there's a black hole of sexual assaults, rapes, and misogynistic behaviour. For so long we've chosen not to speak its name for fear of being ridiculed, shamed, or fired. We've feared for our lives, our families, and our security. Speaking out doesn't pay the bills. Staying silent does.

#MeToo – I've been followed through towns and cities more times than I can count.

#MeToo – I had a stalker for 6 years. He would travel hundreds of miles to stand outside my house and follow me. Wouldn't take no for an answer. The police didn't want to know until he hurt me. Yet if I lashed out at him I'd be the one getting arrested. My family eventually had to tell him that I was dead in order to get him to leave me alone.

#MeToo – The man who insisted on grabbing me every day on my way to work. The police took me seriously and the man was arrested.

#MeToo – The complete stranger who grabbed and choked me at a concert.

#MeToo – I was drugged and raped when I was 19.

There are so many people who are hurting right now. There are so many people who are still scared to step forward. Wherever you are, don't be afraid. Everyone is here for you. They will support you and love you and hold your pain. They will be there for you during your darkest moments. They will encourage you to step forward and tell your story. They will walk with you through whatever comes next. We are there for one another. We have to be because without an army of brave women and men nothing will change.

The time for change has come. This change has been brewing for many years and it's now time to storm the castle and drag these people from their ivory towers to face the justice that's long been denied to the victims. For so long they've threatened to blacklist and finish those that they've abused, using the power that they know they wield in order to keep the victims quiet.

No more. This can no longer happen. It's time for that power to be removed from them and returned to those who've lived through decades of pain. It's time for them to fear for all that they've accumulated through intimidation and threats. It's time for changes to sweep through these industries and for transparency and morals to take over. It's time for the climate of fear to become a climate of hope. No more should anyone have to fear for their security, life, or family because they were wronged by someone else.

Stand strong, my friends, for you are helping others to do the same. 


Monday, 23 October 2017

Halloween Fiction - Brandy's Battle

Brandy Snaps stared at the glowing screen of her phone. It cast the only light in her neatly decorated apartment, the glow harsh and blue. Every now and then, she tapped a painted fingernail against the plastic screen and either accepted or rejected one of the many requests that she received every day.

As her name implied, Brandy was a woman of the night. With her long bleached hair and narrow waist, she was the plaything that many desired. Yet those who wanted her never got her. Instead, they paid by the month to leer at her through their own electronic devices, sending her lewd comments whenever she dared to bare herself on their screens.

The lights in her apartment were out for a very good reason for even ladies of the night had their fears. Everything from losing their looks to their lives ran through their heads and Brandy was no exception.

She'd been a good girl. Raised by a God-fearing family in Iowa, like many other young women, she'd been lured to Hollywood by the promise of fame and fortune. She'd tried to keep her morals, scared that the slightest violation would send her to Hell. The fear of disappointing her parents had also snapped at her heels, their gentle judgement and her mother's soft words forever burned in to her psyche.

But the casting couch had called even for the tiniest of parts. Did she want to be Background Girl Number Three? Then she'd best pay her dues on her knees or back. She'd shamefully lost her virginity to a sleazoid director in a dirty motel room somewhere in the valley in return for a walk on part in pilot that had never aired. From there it had been a slippery slope until she had realised that there was more money in taking her clothes off for a global audience.

The time on her phone flicked closer to 1am and Brandy felt her body tighten. She sat with her back to the lounge window. The blinds were drawn against the sight of the street below. But it was still there, lingering like an old memory.

On the street outside her building sat an old air raid siren. Left over from the days of World War 2 and the subsequent Cold War, the mustard coloured cake shaped device peered in to her window from the top of a tall pole. The sirens had long since been decommissioned, modern technology having given the authorities an easier, and quicker, way to contact people if an emergency were to sweep the area.

Brandy remembered the night with the same clarity as one remembers every significant event in their lives. She had been sitting on the same, grey couch and staring at the screen of her phone. Every few hours another request had come in, begging her to take her clothes off and bare her body, and her soul, to the anonymous user at the other end. The numbers in her account had confirmed the lack of popularity in her life; she had just a handful of users watching her and making the rent was a struggle. Other bills were rapidly begin to form a snow drift on her otherwise spotless dining table.

“I'll do anything,” she'd murmured. “Anything to get out of this fuckin' hell hole.”

Anything?

The voice had entered her brain like a lightening bolt. She had looked around herself as she'd tried to determine where the voice had come from.

Finally, she'd replied, “Anything.”

In that case, go to bed and I shall take care of the rest.

She had done as the voice had instructed. The following morning, Brandy had woken to find that her account had several hundred more followers and that the money her videos had earned was enough to pay the rent and the bills.

That had been a month previously and, since then, her popularity had only grown. Her bank account was comfortably in the black and there was money for luxuries as well as the essentials. A few days after the voice's appearance, she'd received the first call from a casting agent in many months. They'd offered a speaking role in an established TV drama and, no, she didn't have to spread her legs to get it.

It had started the night after the voice had spoken to her. The road she lived on was, thankfully, fairly quiet. Her neighbours rarely made noise and parties were events that happened in other neighbourhoods. So her interest had been piqued when she had heard a click and a whirr.

The sound had been low at first, rasping and asthmatic before it wound up in to a high pitched whine. Brandy had slid to the floor, cowering in a corner as the noise had risen and fallen. The windows of her apartment had rattled and her hearing had dulled as the sound screamed around the neighbourhood.

As the noise had finally died away, Brandy had struggled to her feet and made for the window. Opening the blind, she had scanned the darkened street for anything that could have caused the spine-tingling whine. Yet there had been nothing.

Unable to settle and with the high-pitched sound still ringing in her ears, Brandy had gone to bed. Sleep hadn't come easily and Brandy had found herself playing over the previous days. She questioned where the voice had come from and who it belonged to. Where had her new subscribers come from? It had been months since she had contacted her agency so who was bringing in the offers of film and television work? And what had caused the sound that echoed around her skull?

Her phone didn't stop ringing or beeping with offers of work or new people signing up to her site. Each day had been the miracle she'd asked for. Yet every night brought the haunting whine that sent Brandy cowering for the corner farthest from the window.

She'd asked the neighbours about the sound yet none of them had heard. In the end, she had resorted to the internet and a post on social media had informed Brandy that she was hearing the sound of a long dead air raid siren. Sirens that had been disconnected from the power supply many, many years before.

Desperate to find answers, Brandy had called everyone she could think of; the police, the fire department, and the local government. All of them had said the same thing. That the ageing air raid siren outside of her apartment was no longer capable of sounding. She had begged them to remove it but they had citied budget cuts as the reason for it remaining in place.

And every night, at 1am, the siren began to toll its painful, mournful sound, a warning that something unpleasant was going to happen.

Brandy's phone changed to 1am and she closed her eyes. Sliding down the couch, she pressed her hands over her ears as the now familiar click and whirr started. Slowly the sound began to grow, aching through her gut as it reached its pitch before it fell and began the cycle again.

You can't escape, Brandy.

“I can,” she hissed. “I can escape. I've got the money. I'm getting the fuck outta here and somewhere better. I don't care where. Anywhere but here!”

You can't. You can never escape.

She dropped her hands from her ears and bawled, “Who the fuck are you?!”

Why don't you take a look?

Brandy tossed the phone to one side and scrambled onto the couch. Yanking the blind up, she peered in to the dark street. The siren screamed from across the road, its shadow seeming longer and darker than on previous nights. Beside the pole was another shadow, one that appeared to be cut from the black skies above the city. Brandy could make out slender arms and legs that were attached to an equally skinny body. Mist or smoke, Brandy couldn't tell, seemed to radiate from the shadow and seep out in to the street. When it lifted its head, she found herself looking into a pair of blazing red eyes.

She screamed and pushed herself away from the window. Landing heavily on the floor, Brandy scrambled across the room. Her mind was whirling as she pulled herself to her feet and grabbed for her purse. She reached the door that would give her the freedom she craved only to watch it melt into the wall and become nothing.


You can't escape, Brandy. You're mine now.

~~~

For more information on LA's current air raid sirens, please visit:

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Sun Will Rise Again



Depression is a killer. Literally. It's an all encompassing force which takes over your brain and ravages every part of your life. Darkness that falls over your eyes and clouds your vision, forcing you in to perpetual exhaustion but refusing to let you sleep. Trying to fight it can leave you even more tired and the will to live begins to fade.

It's the least wonderful time of the year again, a period when the days shorten and the air cools. It's a time when we're supposed to rest and hibernate in readiness for the coming spring. As much as you may want to sleep away the winter, life dictates that you must continue.

Over the past few weeks, I've been trying to yank myself away from the clutches of this illness. I knew that it was coming so have taken the usual precautions and stocked up on vitamin D and daylight bulbs. But it still manages to creep in and wrap its hands around your soul. All of the joy that you've been feeling all year slowly ebbs away and leaves you as a blackened husk. You know that the changes are happening and you try to fight them. But sooner or later, all you can do is give in.

Depression changes people. Their behaviours and mannerisms change. I end up isolating myself because I know that I'm not the person I was a few weeks previously. Something's changed inside of me. I'm bitter and angry, sometimes from exhaustion, sometimes from the things that are happening around us. We live in a world that doesn't changes in the brain. These are illnesses that are still seen as a non-illness because there's no physical evidence. Yet, if you asked the family and friends of someone who lives with depression, they'd be able to tell you every single physical change that they see in those who are affected.

In times like these, the smallest thing can trigger a wave of grief. However, the smallest thing can also help to alleviate the pain, if only for a moment. Staying strong while life is threatening to drag you under is hard and we have to constantly remind ourselves that calm returns once the storm has passed. Fighting against it is one of the best things that you can do.


“No matter what happens, the sun will rise in the morning.” - Barack Obama

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Ticket Touts Start to Get Their Comeuppance

Three years ago, a group of fans in the UK launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise awareness on the issues surrounding concert tickets. Primarily they were going after the ticket touts, a business that had grown from a man hawking second hand tickets outside a concert venue to a multi-billion pound industry that involved sophisticated computer programs.

On September 19th 2017, they saw some results from their campaign when a Foo Fighters concert at the O2 in London descended in to chaos. The O2 have been criticized for partnering with a secondary ticket seller. The O2's website links with StubHub were disabled at the request of the band



When tickets went on sale in June 2017, official sellers warned buyers that they would need to bring photo ID to the show. This is a warning that has been issued for years and one which many venues have never instated. It's also never stopped the secondary sellers from snapping up entire blocks of tickets in the hopes of selling them on for a profit.

Foo Fighters, along with the fans, have tried a number of ways in recent years to help combat the issue of ticket touts. In 2014, they had fans queue at local venues to buy tickets. This year they've implemented the photo ID policy and are having a release delay on tickets (Tickets can be purchased on the day of release but they won't be posted or emailed to buyers until several months later).

At the September show, the band asked that the photo ID rule be implemented. O2 complied with this and hundreds were turned away because their tickets had been bought from secondary sites thus meaning that the names on the tickets didn't match.

However, it also seems as though the ID rule was taken to the extreme. Initially it seemed as though only the lead booker (person whose name appeared on the tickets) needed identification. There was at least one story of a group who were turned away because only the lead booker had ID. They were told that everyone in their party would need to have some form of photographic identification in order for them to get in. Others were stopped because of minor spelling mistakes in their names (Q being substituted for A etc).


The tabloid media were quick to jump on the band and blame them for the chaos. However, from reading news reports and fan stories, it looks as though the venue's security were told to push the rule to the limit.

Dave has now confirmed that the photo ID policy will be in place at all of their shows (apologies for the TMZ link).

If you were affected on Tuesday, there's some fantastic advice over at FooFightersUK.com on how to claim your money back.


If you are going to a Foo Fighters show this year, make sure that everyone in your party has their ID with them. In the UK acceptable forms of photo ID tend to be a driver's license or passport (make sure that they're in date before you go.). If you don't have either forms of ID, look at applying for a Citizen Card which is a UK photographic ID card. However, please check with the venue before you use this as each venue's rules may be different (the website does say that this card is endorsed by the Home Office and police and can be used aboard domestic flights). You may also be able to use work IDs as long as they have a photo on them. Again, please check with the venue before you and, if you can, get their confirmation of your ID being valid for them in writing (and then take that email with you just in case).

Buy your tickets from official retailers only. The bands will provide a list of these when they release their tour dates. If you find yourself on StubHub, Viagogo, or GetMeIn, you're not on an official retailer. Those are secondary ticket sites and those tickets run the risk of being turned away at the gate. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of secondary ticket sites out there with new ones appearing every day. If you're unsure whether you're on an official site or not, stop and check. Normally you can tell by the price of the tickets. If they have several different prices for the same section, chances are it's a secondary site.

My original posts from three years ago can be found here.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Finding the Motivation to Write



Sometimes it's not the lack of inspiration that can trip us up when it comes to writing. Instead, a lack of motivation can stall us. Every day tasks – cleaning, washing, cooking – can throw us for a loop and kill that desire to want to sit down and create. We feel worse because of it, as though there's a blockage deep inside of us that needs to be cleared but can't because we're tired, or busy, or otherwise obligated to do other things.

Like any kind of passion, writing is something that needs to be practised frequently. Without it, those metaphorical muscles that we've spent so long developing begin to weaken. One of the most important things is to just write. Something as small as writing a shopping list or keeping some kind of journal can help to keep the writing muscles strong.



A change of location can also be a key factor in kickstarting your motivation. Often, when we're at home, we can find a million and one reasons to not sit down and concentrate. The laundry needs doing, the cat needs feeding, the dog wants walking, the dishes in the sink aren't going to wash themselves, email needs checking. We become overwhelmed and the easiest thing to do is to ignore that grinding desire in our soul to create. So we do the other things (Or not, depending on your mood). Try going somewhere and sitting for a while. A local coffee shop, a nearby church, the park up the road. Even the local train station is a good place to just sit and wait. Hopefully it won't be long before the desire to pull out a notebook hits.

Carry a notebook and pen wherever you go. Or leave one beside the bed and jot down ideas just before you go to sleep. Often the motivation will hit just as we're relaxing. When we're in a constant state of looking for what to do next, our brain finds it more difficult to settle and do what we love the most.

Sometimes finding creative ways to work writing in to your day may also help. A laundry cycle can take over an hour so make a drink, sit down, and let your brain wander to those far away places. Finding a few minutes in an otherwise busy day to sit and write can seem like a challenge but it can be done. Ten minutes here and there is all it needs before something finally clicks and you find that spark to power you along.


When your motivation is lacking it can feel like an uphill struggle to regain it. But you can. It's just finding that one thing, or that one block of time, when it'll just click back in to place for you. But don't give up and keep on trying. You've got this!


Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Desire to Create



The desire to create lives within the souls of millions of people. From photographs to music to paintings to literature, and a wealth of beauty in between, that need to do something can be painful. It's a pain that lives deep within a person, a knot that won't go away until something is done. Once the paintbrush is picked up, or the pen is put to paper, the ache begins to dull, fading to a dull throb. The ache remains like that while the creator is doing what they need to do. Once they leave that beautiful place, they find the pain returning, only to die down once they're back doing what they're called to do.

I felt like that for a long time. This summer has been the first one in four or five years that I've been able to sit back and enjoy. I haven't been desperately trying to get something started. I haven't felt like I'm racing against a mythical countdown that I only I can sense. For the first time in a long time, I feel a sense of peace and completion, as though that clock has, for the moment, either stopped or paused. To be able to relax and breathe has been a blessing this summer.

I've enjoyed the sun. I've spent time in the garden. I've delighted in walking among the trees. I've explored new places and drank in the warm air of a summer's evening. For now, it's nice to rest and relax and not have to worry about creating. While the sun still burns high in the sky, creating can take a back seat.

And it's been good for me on a creative level, too. Seeing the world through fresh eyes has allowed me to see old projects through fresh eyes, too. It's allowed me to make notes on other projects that I'd like to begin, or to branch out and start dabbling on those projects that I swear I'll do if only I had the time. But, for the past three years, my mind has been focused on that perpetually ticking clock, the clock which has pushed and pushed me to do something. Now I feel that I have done that something and I can do other things while publishers decide where its new home will be.


Whenever that urge hits, follow it. Create something beautiful and don't stop until it's finished. Put it out in to the world and see what happens. You never know what will happen when you pick up a pen, or a paintbrush, or a guitar, and do something amazing.