Tag: Creativity

The Blogger Recognition Award

(I’m certainly a blogger; not sure about being recognised though)

You know those boss battles where you’re down two party members, have run out of PP on your designated healer and your jack-of-all-trades protagonist is suddenly left isolated, their weaknesses exposed and their lack of specialisation hamstringing, as your HP dwindles yet you guard and physically attack for a desperate last few turns; and then you get three critical hits in a row out of nowhere, find a perfect recovery item in the lining of your knapsack to revive your heavy-hitting mage, and suddenly you’re launching fireballs like a pyromaniac on speed as the battle music picks up at an eerily appropriate time? Well, I had the blogging equivalent today; I couldn’t think of an idea for a post, only to stumble into the welcoming awarding arms of this cleverly-named blogger.

With that in mind, let’s get on with the award, shall we?

Select fifteen other people or blogs to give the award to

Fifteen!? Alright then.

  1. Dan Marino
  2. Littlekuriboh
  3. Joseph Stalin
  4. Noodle from Gorrilaz
  5. Egil Skallagrimsson
  6. NicePeter
  7. Gandhi
  8. God, as portrayed in Milton’s Paradise Lost
  9. Amen from Lordi
  10. Rick Astley
  11. Anton LaVey
  12. Nona from the awesome Bowling For Soup song
  13. King K. Rool
  14. Duck Dodgers
  15. Your mum

Write a post to show off your award

Nah, I’ll get to it next week.

Give a brief story of how your blog started

I’d been interested in writing since I was literate – seriously, my shed at home is 90% full of old exercise books I scrawled worlds and little stories into – and wanted to pursue writing as a career from when I was about fifteen or so. When I was seventeen, having written nothing but school essays, I decided to broaden my range of writing, and start writing things regularly that I liked. On the 5th of October 2013, I set up a WordPress account, on the two conditions that I’d write whatever I felt like, and would post every day, exams, hospitalisations and fatigue providing. I’m still here two years later, and while this blog isn’t my most important creative outlet any more, it’s been the springboard for almost all of my larger projects, and remains one of the closest projects to my heart.

Give a piece of advice or two to new bloggers

Write for your ideal audience. Obviously, hearing people disagree with and suggest improvements to your work is a vital part of writing – and being creative in general – but it can’t all be criticism, criticism, criticism. Most of the ‘writing’ process consists of being bogged down on a miserable afternoon in February bashing your head against a laptop as rain clangs with a discordant crackle outside your window, and you feel like shit. Having a perfect reader, one who gets your references, likes your style of writing, and finds you the greatest of god’s creative gifts, really helps get over that hump.

Also, share your crap all over social media. You’ll feel like The Person Who’s Whoring Their Inane Shite Over Facebook for a bit, and this is certainly a part of your identity you’ll have to get used to, but presenting things for people to read, and broadening your pool of potential readers, is never a bad thing. Don’t headhunt people, asking them specifically if they’ve read your stuff, but remind people that you’re still artistically relevant, which is a big challenge for even ‘successful’ creators; look at Game of Thrones, which is struggling to still be entertaining and shocking five years into its run. This year, around 1/5 of all my views have come from my mates clicking on the links I post on Facebook every day.

Thank whoever nominated you and put a link to their blog

Thx m8 (y)

Attach the award to the post

‘Attach’? What is this, an email?

So much yarn

(yarn for days!)

My flatmate has started crocheting. This isn’t a problem, and could actually be a rather rewarding creative experience, especially because it’s so radically different to some of the other, exclusively mental, processes that people like me tend to engage with. But there’s a key issue with the relentless yarn-weaving: there’s yarn all over the place.

It gathers in balls, like slugs performing bizarre mating rituals on one another, on tables and surfaces; there are strands dotted around the floor and the stairs like the hallmarks of a guilty dog, slinking through a house after flopping into one too many puddles, an dropping slick, wet hairs in their wake; a brave few pieces make it up the stairs, peering boldly over the nightmarish precipice of our short steps like the Yarn World’s equivalent of Neil Armstrong, forever breaking barriers and ascending, quite literally, to new peaks of shocking brilliance while the ogreish humans lumber about their hero, forever ignorant to their accomplishments.

And, in all honesty, I don’t want to disturb the yarn; for too long have the small, functional things of life been disregarded by pretentious blog-writing intellectual types, who reckon their latest half-baked magazine idea is of greater intrinsic value than the slow, heroic lurching of a piece of yarn up a flight of steps, clinging onto the sock of an unwittingly history-defining human. A salute you yarn, and your colourful diversity that has never been an obstacle to success unlike in human culture, and wish that these achievements continue, and records of Yarnkind continue to tumble as the crochet-hook of history bends towards more fluffy things inexplicably stuck to my socks after they come out of the wash.

Godspeed Yarn. Godspeed.

Writing Doesn’t Help Me Write

(writingception?)

I’ve been doing a lot of writing this summer: I’m approaching 50,000 words of my novel, have had pieces accepted for three online magazines, and wrote this little thing about my sexuality yesterday that got more views by itself than the rest of this entire blog in the last six days. But all of these things are disconnected from each other, and rather than encourage me to write more, are actually discouraging.

Take the journalism stuff, for instance; I wrote one article about the Straight Edge movement, something that’s very important to me personally, but it’ll be published on a magazine’s site, rather than being stuck on here. Similarly, I’ve written about Mass Effect and sporting corruption for other sites, things that wouldn’t look out of place in the random, stream of consciousness-like archives on this blog. Equally, I was going to write a review of InFamous: Second Son and stick it on here, rather than put it on The News Hub, which may have a more specialised gaming audience.

Working on my novel has also been a problem regarding blogging output; my writing blog has been on hiatus for months now, not because I’m not writing, but because I’m working towards a large, unpublished project, rather than a series of small projects that will be published regularly and individually.

I know that I’m not sitting on my arse doing nothing, but I have little of value, or indeed anything, to show for my work (the novel is unfinished, a lot of these magazines’ sites aren’t active yet), which knocks the confidence a bit. So I’m sorry if I’m writing a lot of shit, or apparently little at all, but you’ll just have to bear with me a bit.

Why Do I Write?

(asking myself makes this a meta-post! Probably)

I’m a creative person. I don’t think it’s narcissistic or inaccurate to say that I like playing around with ideas and forming them into these things called ‘creations’ that other people stare at and derive meaning from. But there’s a disconnect between the ideas that make up a piece of art, and the piece of art itself; in the past I’ve looked at those pieces as wholes, and discussed things like writing technique and forms of literature on this blog, but I’ve never explicitly taken a step back. I’ve never looked at the kind of art versus the original ideas. Essentially, if I am a creative person, why have I chosen to write, as opposed to paint, or draw, or sing?

A lot of it comes from the lack of barriers between written word and thought: the fact that language is not only the tool used to create art, but the tool used to create thought – do it now, try thinking without words, and you’ll see how reliant on language you are – means that turning thought into art is a less convoluted process when I’m writing. If I want to create an ominous setting, I write ‘this was an ominous place’, rather than faffing about with appropriately ominous shades of burgundy when painting a landscape. Part of this is laziness, sure, but a bigger part is that I think my ideas are quite specific and, to be honest, confused. Take my ideas on education – that learning is an inviolable human right but university, in its current format, cannot and should not be made available to everyone in the country – that are simultaneously leftwing and elitist, inclusive and snobbish; I feel like my message comes across if I present this complex stance through words, rather than adding in an extra level of complexity and confusion by introducing additional mechanics like rhyming lyrics or brushstrokes.

Related to this is the fact that I’m a bit of a control freak regarding matters relating to me. Obviously I’m not opposed to debate, or other people to have different ways of looking at my ideas, but I want conversation and interpretation to be based around those ideas, not the medium I use to present them. I can’t control how you respond to a thing I produce, but I can control the thing you see to generate that response, and if a key feature of art is to blast the artist’s ideas though a loudhailer, writing gives me the control that other mediums lack.

But I’m aware that writing is a deeply flawed medium. As well as the social problem that people don’t read shit any more, writing is intrinsically inferior to music in that it lacks a performative element and writers are often devoid of a personality while musicians are encouraged to indulge in theirs; writing has much less of a mass appeal than a painting that anyone can see, and the difficulty of sharing a 600-page tome over a single-sided picture makes writing one of the more elitist of art forms; writing is far less collaborative than acting or directing; and writing can very easily be ignored altogether, unlike larger forms of creativity such as sculpture or even architecture.

So I guess I write not because it’s a good art form, but because it’s the one I’m most comfortable with. I was writing my own comics and gamebooks from when I was about eight, I’ve had poetry and journalism published, I’ve put over 550 posts on this blog alone, and I’ll have written a novel by September. Be it childhood experience, genetics or dumb luck, I have always written, and words are my go-to medium when I’m feeling creative. I can pontificate all day on the importance of spreading one’s internal ideas through the external mediums of art, and weigh their relative flaws and advantages, but I don’t really create for your sake. I don’t create for the sake of making something perfect. I create because the process is deeply satisfying for me, and written creativity is the most therapeutic, empowering form of addiction I know.

In answer to that initial question, then, I write because I think it’s bloody awesome.

I’m Enjoying Playing Bass Again

(the goal is to learn the solo to 88 Finger Louie’s 100 Proof. Then I will rest)

I used to play bass. Long ago. Before this blog. Before my A-levels. Before the glorious York save on Football Manager 2013 even. I was part of a music group up in Ponder’s End (a group that I attribute almost all of my social skills, ability to make new friends and attempts to treat others as complex, inherently valid individuals to), that was a very welcoming and accepting of people who aren’t musicians but are willing to learn. I found out about it through an old school friend who was a member (the means of this finding out is another story for another post), so I tagged along, with my mum’s rather superb bass, and about a half-term of half-arsed plucking in year seven as experience.

I bombed out of the group pretty quickly, lasting just two months over summer before A-levels got in the way and I had to quit, and never really went back to playing music. Although that group was brilliant in so many ways, the fact that our social interactions were based around a skill – playing an instrument – that I was so desperately inferior in meant that I always had a nagging sense of inadequacy whenever I thought about playing the bass again; my only memories of playing it were playing it badly.

This was also the point in my life where I started to take writing pretty seriously (this blog started thirteen months after this flirtation with bass-playing), and was quickly drawing comparisons between the artistic craft of writing and the artistic craft of music that left music looking a bit naff. To produce a story, one must have ideas; technical skill is important, sure, but you can create a finished product without much redrafting or rewriting if you’re only interested in that story. Yet a piece of music physically cannot exist without a certain level of technical competence, i.e. the ability to play that piece of music. And it wasn’t like I was afraid of hard work, but putting hours into a novel meant creating new worlds and new characters, while putting that same into a song meant going over the same parts again and again. It became an exercise in repetition, not creation.

But recently an odd thing has happened, namely that I’m really getting into music. Like really. There’s been the Savage music writing for UCL all year, but now I’ve got a job writing for a new music magazine that’s insanely promising, and I spend hours reading and annotating write-outs of Rise Against lyrics, breaking them down as poetic narratives rather than just fuel for moshing. And, having exhausted this vein of interaction to the point that I’m seriously considering writing a book on the relationship between religion and American hardcore punk since the 1980s, I decided to move on from responding to music to creating music.

Sure, I’m not writing my own songs as such, just learning Rise Against’s 1000 Good Intentions, but it feels good to make things; that sound coming from my living room that sounds like a cat purring into an early version of a Guitar Hero mic to only score 70%? That’s me. That’s my sound! And it sucks, and it’s unoriginal, and it’s probably annoying the neighbours because I’m practicing at like 3am, but it’s something I’m doing.

This is all a far, far cry from making my own songs or, gods forbid, forming my own band, but as someone who is vaguely arty and creative, it’s a great feeling when you engage with a new kind of art.

And for the record, some of you may know my buddy Izzy, from blogging and Zone Of Proximal Development fame? Yeah, I met her at that music group.

My Benchmark Of Success

(*raises bar*)

When I was a kid, I’d always compare myself to young footballers; not only were they literally the only celebrities 10 year-old James had any contact with, but these 17 and 18-year-olds were that perfect mixture of being young enough to be relatable to a child, yet old enough for their lives to be separated from my own, and their lives as athletes to be something I was so far away from that I could put off becoming a pro footballer for the foreseeable future. But then I became 16 and 17, and slowly crossed off milestones that I’d missed: Aaron Lennon was playing for the Leeds first team at sixteen; Wayne Rooney won the BBC’s Young Sports Personality Of The Year award at seventeen; Iker Casillas was starting the Champions’ League final at nineteen, the age I’ll be in almost exactly a month next week.

I don’t think it’s harmful to have these aspirations based on people, especially when you’re younger; they provide some general parameters for what you define as a ‘successful’ life when the rest of your time is spent playing Need For Speed Carbon, and can help split up the various phases of life into manageable sections, as opposed to the only other people you know in your life who are either old (your parents and teachers) or the same age as you (your friends). But as you grow older, and people turn out to be more than images on a screen for you to gawp at and feel inferior to (at least most of the time), standards shift to more tangible things, things that you can achieve, rather than people you can emulate.

And with this aspiration based on product, I have found a mark against which to judge myself for the next five years: Classified’s excellent 2001 album, Union Dues, a record so obscure it’s not even on iTunes. All of these aspirations work off the dodgy indicator of progress that is age – we all grow and develop at different rates so it’s not a great scale but bear with me – and if we look at that, Classified released this album at the age of 24 and, frankly, it’s one of his best: it’s punchy without feeling like a churned-out, record exec cock-sucking EP; it’s musically stripped down and edgy without any of the musical fuzziness of a Minor Threat album; it’s lyrically diverse, and surprisingly mature for a bloke without much commercial success to his name. Obviously, it’s not a perfect record, but I think that as a piece of art produced by someone very much in the early stages of their life, it has a depth and stylistic craft that’s truly commendable.

I’m not going to be dropping a rap album any time soon, but it’s those last two things that I can work towards in my writings (be it in these posts, prose, poetry, journalism or god knows what I’ll try next), and those two things that I’ll judge myself as a writer against on my 24th birthday. With any luck, I’ll still be writing this blog, and we’ll be able to see how it’s gone.

Here’s A Poem Of Mine

(isn’t it for this kinda thing that my writing blog was set up for?)

A combination of recovering from illness, fatigue and an essay deadline means I don’t have oodles of time today; but nonetheless, here’s a poem I wrote for UCL arts magazine Savage, which was going to be published in their first-ever print edition, but has since been pulled and stuck online like your least-favourite child, when you give them a Dairy Lee Lunchables box and a game of Kerplunk, and tell them to piss off to some godforsaken corner to amuse themselves, while the actually-liked children hang out in the spotlight.

And my poem’s kinda like that, but I didn’t even get a pack of Lunchables 😦

Healing (which contains 16 references to a thing – try to guess what that thing is!)