Post-Modern Life.

Post Modern. It’s a phrase most of us know in our spines. It’s like a furniture advert jingle or the basic layout of the McDonald’s menu. Sometimes I think I know exactly what it means and sometimes I have no idea why it even exists.

What does it mean to the novel? What is a post-modern novel? Stig Abell of the prestigious Times Literary Supplement stated on the TLS podcast that ‘post-modern books always seem like they were fun to write but don’t tend to be fun to read’. It’s an interesting and well articulated point.

I’m still a little unsure of what the form is, but I’m beginning to come around to the feeling that the switch from linear narrative to something more nebulous could be more fundamental to our view on the world.

When you have a library in your pocket and your reality is driving then FaceBook, then email, then Instagram, then takeaway then horrible tragedy in a far off land while listening to music that seems somehow familiar, somehow like childhood and ten other things you’ve heard before, what is our everyday but fractured?

Sometimes it’s best not try too hard. Sometimes it’s best just to cook something nice and go for a walk. I’ll see you next week.



The Imagination Of Art

Writing is long process. Most of it is hidden inside of you until, at the very last moment, you sit down and whatever it is that you’ve been thinking about rushes out of your fingers.

Then you edit.

You craft and you proofread and you leave it for weeks or months so that your eyes can adjust to what you’ve just produced. The best you can hope for is not a better sense of perspective, but a totally different view altogether. In other words, somebody other than yourself. I’m very lucky to say that I have an editor, and she works very hard for me.

We disagree, though. This week I threw my toys out of my pram because I thought I’d get a cheap shot at the right. I was wrong.

This week’s book, by the way, is a children’s book.

Apologies for the quality of the footage, there was a change of plan and my phone decided to brick for the time I’d allocated for the filming. As always, this is a learning process.

Find the vlog below:

Flatpack Hangover

We all have a clear picture in our imaginations of what it is to be the suffering writer. We envisage a manic depressive grinding out words in between planet-class drinking sessions. If you were at university with me I probably shouldn’t remind you of that.

Although I still indulge this type of behaviour occasionally, my driving job keeps me grounded. Recently, though, I had some time off and, well, you know where this is going…

Let me be clear, the beginning of this vlog maybe humorous but it impacted on my creativity and the way I related to others for days. People, don’t do it.

I’m going to start moving away from the ‘booktuber’, five things you might like about this book format. Or I won’t. Who can say at this point?

What I do intend, though, is to move towards showing what it’s like to try to fit a writing career around working a full time job. In line with this, the vlog will show a more rounded picture of what (shudder) #writerslife is like.

Finally, I apologise for the sound quality. The IKEA research was a good idea that I didn’t do justice. Either way, the basic skinny is that I’m writing a story with a section based in IKEA. I needed to find out how many people would be in the Bristol store at Sunday morning peak. I approached a member of staff and straight out he was able to tell me.

Better sound quality and camera work is on the way. I promise.

Vlog linked below.

In Theory

I am a white, middle-classish, cisgender male living in a western democracy. You could, quite successfully, I think, argue that there is no other more privileged position in regular global society.

I want to be clear that just approaching the subject of this vlog/blog feels like I’m appropriating it. Today’s book, however, did move me on in my understanding of something that can sometimes be hidden from view, something seen as abstract.

I became interested in feminism and identity politics only because I couldn’t figure out any good reason why significant sections of the population appeared to be excluded or segregated from having a regular hassle-free life.

Thus, on my journey to understand I’ve been handed various books. Like you, I take nourishment from the books I read.

A few weeks ago I was handed Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele. This book explores what queer theory is; something I’ve heard other people talk about and figured, wrongly, that it didn’t apply to me.

I’m still no expert, but I’ve learnt a little bit more about what it is to struggle with who you are and how society relates to that. Mainly, I’ve come to understand how queer theory is important to all of us, no matter how sure we are of our identities. I think that’s valuable; I think we can all get behind that.

Find yourself a copy.

Vlog linked below:


Walking Consolation

What do you do when you run out of ideas? I used to go to the pub, or try to talk it out with someone. These days, with a driving job, limited finances, and having not been in Bristol long enough to have developed an accessible support network I tend to go for a walk. In fact, to get these very words out, I went for a walk into town to find the pace of prose I was looking for.

Recently, myself and my ever-suffering editor entered the Bristol Short Story Competition. We failed to make the long-list. The news came in the form of a tweet from the BSSC twitter feed publishing the long-list via a link. I kept scrolling over the list looking for my name. How could I not be on there?

It’s likely that I would have gone for a walk had I had the chance. I couldn’t, I was waiting for a client outside of a prestigious London hotel, The Rosewood, and I had a four-hour drive back to Wells to look forward to. Upon dropping the client and their family home I discovered that my Mum had been admitted into hospital. It had not been a good day.

Eventually, as I got around to preparing this blog, almost two weeks later I was able to relive the pleasure of dipping in and out of The Consolations Of Philosophy by Alain De Botton. I still find this book a significant comfort when things get difficult.

I’ll probably start to shy away from the ‘five reasons’ format as I seem to be saying the same things over and over. Maybe I’ll attempt to say something a bit more worth while. Maybe.

Finally, it’s been highlighted to me that I should publish a transcript for the those with hearing needs. I can’t exactly do this as although I do actually produce a script, it’s mostly there as a guide to what I’m going to say. I’m getting better at it, but I tend to stray away from the exact wording I’ve set for myself. I guess by reading the script it may give you a slightly different angle. As a guide, each bullet point represents a cut, and as a treat, Ive included pictures of what a total mess that script is upon writing it.

To my deaf readers/watchers, I apologise. If you have any better suggestions, I’m open to them.

The full vlog is below, with the transcript below that.

#7 The Consolations Of Philosophy

  • So we entered.
  • Myself and my managing editor.
  • We entered The Bristol Short Story Prize.
  • And after weeks of nervous anticipation.
  • We didn’t even make the long-list.
  • So, you know what? I’m going for a walk.

-Cutaway of walking into Bristol-

  • Success, an acquisition list.
  • That flat up there.
  • Or that one.
  • Or at the very least a warehouse where I can store many, many cool machines, with a mezzanine above where I have my living space, guest bedrooms and a bathroom with a huge bath.
  • One of these (pointing at a car).
  • One of these (pointing at a  car).
  • One of these (pointing at a bike).
  • And one of these (pointing at a car).
  • Probably not one of these (pointing at a car).
  • Money sufficient to travel widely, to be able to take friends/relatives without charging them.
  • The ability to rent whole museums or restaurants with expert tour guides like David Attenborough for the Natural History Museum or Brian Cox for the Science Museum to help deliver the perfect date with;
  • Scarlett Johansson.
  • Emma Stone.
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal.
  • Jennifer Lawrence.
  • Or all of you beautiful Tinder or Happn people.
  • The Nobel Prize for literature.
  • The Man Booker Prize.
  • A Pulitzer.
  • Winning The Bristol Short Story Prize.

-Cutaway of walking towards the Avon Gorge-

  • This week’s vlog is this, The Consolations Of Philosophy by Alain de Botton.
  • Alain is a writer of pop-philosophy and tends to be looked down upon by academics and overlooked by anyone who maybe intimidated by the word ‘philosophy’.
  • Last week I talked about the power of pop to get across complicated ideas.
  • Well philosophy isn’t generally complicated, it’s just presented in a complicated manner.
  • This is Levinas’ ‘Totality And Infinity’.
  • A book where he essentially says ‘don’t judge people on your own standards’
  • So, here’s five reasons why should go get yourself a copy of The Consolations Of Philosophy.
  • Reason Number One.
  • It’s fun to read.
  • It’s laid out using numbered paragraphs, and pictures. There’s nothing wrong with this. Pictures aren’t only for children, and neither are short bites of information.
  • Remember, philosophy is sometimes seemingly willfully obtuse. This is the opposite.
  • Reason Number Two.
  • This book is humanist and what I mean by that is that it never seeks to patronise or confuse. It is always reassuring us, the readers that our problems, our insecurities and issues are common to all of us.
  • We are not weird or extra or uncommonly selfish, we are us.
  • Reason Number Three.
  • It is good for you.
  • I believe strongly that not only is philosophy the study of the world around us that it is the study of the world within us. If you know yourself that will definitely lead to a happier life. This is the original and best own human-brand self-help.
  • Reason Number Four.
  • It comes from a rich body of work.
  • Alain De Botton has his own company called The School Of Life. You can find hundreds of videos here on YouTube explaining many more interesting and nourishing subjects for free.
  • Or you can buy another one of his books.
  • Or you can go on a course. It’s up to you, it’s all out there.
  • Reason Number Five.
  • It’s well written, with an attention to detail, concrete nouns and verbs and real life, relatable situations.
  • So success, an acquisition list:
  • A roof over ones head.
  • Meaningful Friendship.
  • Time to myself away from superiors, patronisation, infighting and competition.
  • Time to think.
  • Good food.

Consolations notes 1Consolations notes 2Consolations notes 3Consolations notes 4Consolations notes 5

Written Vision

The Red Virgin And The Vision Of Utopia is graphic, historical novel. Perhaps it’s best to call it a biography, either way you should probably track down a copy.

Set in the Paris Commune of 1871 the book tells the story of Louise Michel, ‘The Red Virgin’, who helped lead an anarchist uprising in the wake of the French Republic’s defeat at the hands and arms of Prussia.

It’s easy to say that this book is good. It’s harder to pin point why. Like most graphic novel’s I’ve read I almost couldn’t read it fast enough. With clear, rich art work and an good, solid writing style it’s typical of this ever expanding style of novel.

What really grabbed me, though, as I’ve detailed in the video below was it’s sense of duty to the reader and the public at large. This really is what all great stories are made of.

Find a copy, maybe do some further reading on the protagonist. Mainly, find the hope that Mary and Bryan Talbot so clearly want to give you.

Latest vlog below.

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of These

I think one the greatest difficulties we have as creative individuals, idealists or just people in the world, is the illusion created by publically successful people that thier fortune has come to them only through hard work, that they are just like you and me. I call this the Ethic Of Ease.

We see Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg in a tee-shirt and we think, he’s just like us. Look, he doesn’t look odd or formal or overly disciplined or obsessive at all – he has a tee-shirt on. He’s easy about his success.

The truth is, though, we often forget in the face of corporate PR something that we instinctively know:

these images are an illusion.

We know that getting up in the morning is sometimes hard; that for some of us it is an achievement to make it into work everyday looking presentable, not having made a total mess of ourselves just getting there. We know that if we want to create things to push into the world we often have to hold a job down and spend our spare time (when we should probably be sleeping or interacting with our fellow human beings) creating. It’s my day off today, by the way.

I know this. We know this.

So let’s approach it from a different angle.

Who is your hero? Who is your master? What are you creating today? What are you striving to achieve?

Last week I discovered, got obsessed with, decided I didn’t like, and then came back to Casey Neistat. If you haven’t been introduced, Casey makes a vlog almost daily. It looks great, often has a story structure to it and uses New York City, his studio, even his equipment and the various people in his life as background characters that keep the viewer engaged in a large, living, breathing world.

Now, as you know I’ve been doing a vlog of my own, and boy, oh boy, does it suck. It is, however, always under constant review and improvement. This is how we do things. We create, review, then improve. It’s the best way forward. As part of this review process I’d spent quite a bit of time looking other vloggers up. Here’s an Australian writer/reader, here’s an English, Bristol-based, Cystic Fibrosis sufferer, and here’s Casey.

So let’s go back and see how it went down.

I typed ‘vlog’ into YouTube and Casey appeared right at the top. With seven million subscribers and hundreds of videos this man looked very much like the gold standard of vlogging.

So I started watching. I started here. A vlog entitled The First Day Of Summer. I loved it. Particularly because it states at the end that the whole piece had been created on a smartphone. I was in. I create on a smartphone, using a free editing app that constantly crashes. Seeing this vlog added a bit more strength to keep trying.

I then started watching his daily vlogs. My goodness do they look good. Great editing, a cheeky sense of humour and a good ability to make fun of himself, to appear like you and me. The more I watched the more I felt I too, could create something not a million miles from it.

Then the thinking started. I started to notice just how much effort actually goes into these vlogs. How possessed the man is with his schedule, how tired his wife constantly looks, and vigorous, how abnormally full of energy the man is. In short Casey Neistat is not a normal human being. He is highly capable, hugely energetic and very, very hard working. That illusion of ease came creeping back and I was not happy to see it. A particular underlining of what I was beginning to suspect came in the form of this rather well articulated video essay from the ever excellent NerdWriter.

For a couple of days I began to resent Neistat. Then I went back to the source material. I still enjoyed it, and I still recognised it as a gold standard.

I realised that I’m not going to be able to replicate what he does, but I can learn from it.

We’re often made to feel inadequate in the face of the high achievers and the elite creators of this world. Stop comparing yourself and instead, think about what you can learn from them.

Casey’s take is below.