What is creativity?

I have just been perusing an old friend and colleague’s new site ‘Open for Ideas’ and I love it. It’s brand spanking new and there are some good thoughts on there. Makes you stop and think. It’s early days But I will make sure I pay a visit on a regular basis.

From his site, Mr. Dave Birss asks a very interesting question; what is creativity? Thinking about it, I haven’t got a scooby. I know for my own part it’s sitting around and thinking of ‘stuff’. But that doesn’t explain ‘creativity’.

At the moment I’m tussling with an idea called the ‘Marijuahana Trench’. Very strange fish living in the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean.

This idea started with the name ‘Mariana Trench’ and I thought it would be ‘funny’ to change it to ‘Marijuahana’ instead. A bit of wordplay that conjured up a whole raft of ideas. But that’s just me, mucking about with words.

Everyone is creative. There are creative accountants whose magical book work can save or destroy a company. Anyone who has gone to the fridge and seen the sparse contents and thought, ‘yes, I can do something with parsnips and ham that could have anyone salivating with delight’. is creative.

Anyone stuck in a tube strike can think of creative ways to get to their destination. It may not be the most direct route, but it can work.

One thing creativity could be seen as is ‘bending the rules’. Changing one thing slightly to create a new reality and then fleshing it out to become amazing.

I remember reading about the old comedic actor Terry Thomas and his fight with Parkinson’s Disease. It became so bad that he couldn’t walk through a doorway without falling. So one day he danced through it, The next day he limboed through it. Anything rather than just walk through it because his poor brain couldn’t negotiate it in the normal way.

Personally, I love the ‘rule-bending’ approach. I remember a team-building exercise where a group of people were told to get across a river using only what they had to hand. One of the team – who shall remain nameless – smuggled a mobile phone into the game, phoned a cab and got his whole team across a bridge two miles away and into the pub before any other team.

It was cheating. But it was creative.

So what is creativity? It could be thinking around a problem by unconvential means. Or something else. I’m open for ideas.

 

 

Give me a belt

It’s now been a little over two weeks since I started this health kick and I must admit I am very pleased with the results.

Doctors said my blood sugars were very high and diabetes has come a-calling. In my own inimtable manner I hit the books – and nearly hit the doctors who have been testing my blood for over two years and not testing my blood sugar.

Let’s say I left the doctors in no doubt about what I thought of them in the most colourful language and my best northern accent which I reserve for such ocassions.

When I got home I emptied my fridge and my cupboards of anything with carbohydrate and sugar in it – which turned out to be 95% of my pantry.

The next day I bought a glucose monitor, a book on foods that are recommended by a diabetic doctor – the thing to note here is that everyone reacts differently to certain foods –  and broke out the running shoes.

Then I started to experiment.

Breakfast cereals I don’t even go near now. They said I could have Shredded Wheat well my blood glucose monitor said not really.

One of the recipes said I could have bacon. The monitor said no.

Milk? Nope. But I can have soy milk.

No more bananas either. But apples and pears I can go ‘bananas’ with.

Bread in any shape or form is a definite no unless I want to spend the next hour exercising to burn off the sugars.

Meat or protein is fine. Butter is great – I just don’t have anything to put it on. Gravy, not a problem.

One doctor told me that I could have diet coke because it has no sugar. Turns out the caffeine sends the blood sugar sky-high. And because the body thinks it’s sweet it reacts like it is taking in sugar.

After all this, and a regular exercise regime I now find I am pulling up my jeans. There’s a ways to go yet but I barely recognise the waif staring back at me in the mirror.

It turns out that in the 1980s we were told that fats were bad for us. So everything went low-fat. But instead they pumped it full of sugar.

Fat isn’t the enemy, sugar is and always has been. That’s why there are record numbers of obesity cases in the Western world. We’ve all been looking at the wrong villain.

Today, after numerous glucose tests I know what the problem is. Anything refined and with carbohydrates. I will be steering clear of all the bad shit from now on. And shouting at doctors a hell of a lot more.

Testing testing 1.2.3.

Once again, I’m fighting another upgrade. For some reason my blog site is acting up and instead of sending me to my dashboard I have had to circumnavigate the usual login page and try another route. Let’s see if ‘this’ works.

I can only assume that since my subscription to WordPress has been renewed they decided to shake things up a bit. Change a few things. Improve them. And so on and so forth.

All well and good but it’s also changed everything else. Nothing works the way it should and I am desperately trying to get the furshlugginer thing up and running again.

Because my dashboard has vanished I can’t sit down and go through all that strange spam messaging – and delete it.

I also can’t approve any relevant comments. So if you send a message don’t think I’m ignoring you, I’m probably bashing my computer with a hammer again.

What annoys me about upgrades is that they tend to confuse everything. My Spotify account has been upgraded which means I have to re-sign in and reset bookmarks again.

It is all an aggravation when you just want the blasted thing to work. It seems like the computer is my master and I have to attend to its every need.

Weren’t these things supposed to be ‘tools’ that allowed us to do our jobs better. Instead we spend more of our days wiping their noses and arses in the vain hope that they will help us.

Today I wrote a short story for a competition. It might not do anything, it might, but nothing ventured and all that. It took two hours to write the story and the next three trying to get my &*%£ing computer to send it – another upgrade which sends saved files into the hidden mist of ‘the Cloud’ and then stubbornly refuses to find them again.

We can’t live without computers these days. They are a necessary ‘evil’. But everyone seems to be spending more and more time sorting them out.

Shouldn’t the companies that build these upgrades actually make sure they work properly before sending them out?

 

 

 

 

 

A health-kick in the nuts

There never seems to be enough hours in the day to do all that I have to do. Especially since my new weight loss programme has kicked in. Two hours a day are spent walking and riding the bicycle.

It looks like I’ve lost weight but when I get on the scales, the needle still spins to 17 stone – if the scales could speak they would say ‘get off you fat cunt’.

In my usual manner I’ve been reading up about everything. I’ve cut out the carbohydrates, thrown out the dairy, anything refined has been banished from my kitchen. I even check everything I buy for sugar and salt content.

The vegetable racks are overflowing with fresh produce. I’m drinking green tea. I make my own ‘green’ drinks with all the fibre still in.

I’m having one coffee a day without milk. And only because the books say that coffee is an antioxidant and one won’t hurt you.

My first drink of the morning is water with fresh lemon squeezed into it. My second is a green smoothie with spinach, celery, cucumber, organic oats, whey protein and flaxseed mixed in for good measure,

Between meals I’m eating bananas, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts and peanuts as snacks. Anything to try and keep the hunger pangs away. I’m even drinking what seems like a swimming pool’s worth of water every day.

I’m trying to change my whole regime. Without doing a Steve Jobs and killing my pancreas with a pure fruit diet.

So, how do I feel? Like shit. I would kill for a bacon double cheeseburger and a pint of Guinness right now.

The books say that as soon as I get into a proper routine it will become second nature. They also say that to lose weight proper you have to do 300 minutes of cardiovascular work every week. And don’t eat after 7 o’clock. It doesn’t say when you should start eating the next day though – I think I’ve found a loophole.

No, I must be strong. If I want to grate cheese on my abs again I have to get in shape. It would be a shame to waste the cheese though.

*Drool*

 

Sorry?

Alan Turing, the Bletchley Park hero who saved thousands of lives during World War II was convicted in 1952 of gross indecency with a 19-year-old man.

He later volunteered to be chemically castrated so he wasn’t at the mercy of his ‘sexuality’. In 1954, he committed suicide by taking cyanide.

Now thanks to the law that convicted him being abolished he is going to be ‘pardoned’ for his crime. Bit late isn’t it? I mean he’s dead isn’t he?

Fat lot of good it will do him. Although his family seem pleased with this turn of events.

Thousands of living men convicted over consensual same-sex relationships will also be eligible for a pardon. But what about all those died with a slur on their character and being made to feel ‘deviant’ all of their lives?

Lib Dem peer Lord Sharkey, who put forward the amendment said it was “momentous”. A little too late Sharkey.

George Montague, who was convicted in 1974 of gross indecency with a man says he wants an apology – not a pardon.

“To accept a pardon means you accept that you were guilty. I was not guilty of anything. I was only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

He has a point. If it was a man and woman they may have been given a public indecency verdict and told to pay a fine. But this ruined thousands of people’s lives.

It’s the same as Emperor Hirohito apologising for Japans war crimes – an apology that was not accepted- too late, been done. Or Obama’s alleged ‘Apology’ Tour where Obama expressed his deepest sympathies for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

(Not an apology as a friend of mine keeps pointing out but as close as you can get within diplomatic circles, or a sit-com where someone can’t say the word ‘sorry’.)

We’re sorry. We good? Well, not really. Millions died. Sorry doesn’t quite cover it.

The United States (again) apologised to the native American people for slaughtering over 100 million indigenous people. Genocide is okay as long as you say sorry afterwards.

Britain isn’t free of guilt either, we invented concentration camps, profited from slavery and our empire was a murderous and bloody story of conquest. But, we’re sorry.

Personally, I am pleased the law has been abolished. It’s another step closer to civilisation.

But how many steps are left before we accept everyone without treating them as deviants for their sexuality or inferiors for the colour of their skin?

Kiddy-fiddlers can burn in hell though.

 

 

It’s been a funny old year

I started this blog, roughly a year ago. I think I had just started my book and inbetween the flurries of activity and the thinking, I needed something to take my mind off all the other stuff that was going on in my life.

At this time last year I wanted to try a few things out for myself. I wanted to build a website that was just writing. I didn’t want pictures all over the place or to even aggregate videos and thoughts from someone else. I wanted something that was mine.

(After years of working in advertising you know that no idea goes through completely unmolested.)

The book was a great outlet but that’s fiction. Why don’t I write some of the stuff that’s in my head? Not all, because it can get very dark in here and some people are scared of the dark.

Any way, I built this blogsite with my own little laptop and lots of ‘why doesn’t this fucking thing fucking, cunting work’?

In the end it all fell into place and I’ve been using it to blow off some of the steam that was building up.

This last year has been a bad one for my heroes. The death of Philthy Animal Taylor: Lemmy: David Bowie: Robin Williams. Each one hit me hard.

I know they were only celebrities that I watched from afar but the death of each one destroyed another part of my childhood – when Ronnie Corbett died a part of my Saturdays vanished with him. The Two Ronnies was compulsory Saturday viewing.

I was made redundant in January and although some people might say it’s a bad thing all I was thinking was ‘it gives me more time to do other things’. The other benefit of this was I got to build another website for my advertising work. Not as much fun, but a good experience.

The Brexit vote came and went dividing the nation like a civil war and we’re still waiting to see the full consequences of that as we teeter on the threshold like an agoraphobic trying to leave the house.

My book was finished. Then revised. Then changed. Then I threw out a chapter. Wrote a new one. And now it is to be published.

I was diagnosed with diabetes, which as my friends would say ‘It’s just one of the reasons why we call you Lucky Taf’

Today I am in the middle of writing four other jobs. But last night I had another idea. One which I think could be really good. You know how good an idea is by how many other ideas spring from it. Today I’ve already written over 2,000 words – good ones. With plans to write a hell of a lot more. I just have to do some more research before tomorrow.

In some ways it’s been a terrible year, but like the Curate’s Egg, some parts of it have been excellent.

 

Good weekend? There was a weekend!

I don’t have weekends anymore. All that mallarky about a day of rest doesn’t happen. Instead I’m tapping away on the computer trying to do stuff remotely with a publisher. Yesterday I had to write what I wanted for my book cover.

“Can’t I just draw it roughly and your designer can work to that?”

“No, it has to be written so that the designer can do his job.”

So, I sat down and described in detail how I envisaged it. The typefaces that I thought complemented the title, the image I wanted, the colour scheme, and the thought behind each bit of it. (It was like writing a brief for a photoshoot.)

Then I had to write some blurb about the story – which was basically a cut and shunt of the synopsis I had written to send to literary agents, many moons ago.

Also, this weekend I spent Saturday morning at the doctors who informed me my blood sugar was off the chart and poking through the suspended ceiling.

“Yes, I know,” I informed her. “I had some tests at the hospital and that is when they sent me down to see you so that I can receive treatment. Instead you did another blood test and told me to come in today.”

“Well, make another appointment in 10 days and we’ll start treating you.”

“What’s the matter with now?”

“10 days, and Dr Procrastination will see you then.”

I fumed all the way home. If my blood sugar was so high and in danger of doing serious damage, why would they send me home without insulin?

In the meantime, I’ve thrown anything with carbohydrate in it, in the bin. I’ve cut out coffee – a big problem it seems. No more milk. Thrown out my wheaty-bangs – too much sugar. And am concentrating on the ‘protein and vegetable’ way of eating. Also, lots of water, antioxidants and fibre to flush the bad shit out of me.

I’m also cycling again. A quick burst of activity in the morning. Another tootle around after dinner and then a long walk before bed.

Another worry is my father. Despite his inability to look after himself and his frequent falls, he obstinately refuses any help from doctors, nurse or health visitors.

The only reason he was released from hospital last week was on the provisio that someone could come round and check on him.

He later related to my brother. “They can come round, but I don’t have to let them in.”

This is the man who, a few years ago, used to hide from the health visitor or pretend he was out whenever she called.

After 22 years my poor brother is at the end of his tether with him. Personally I worry more for my brother than a man who won’t accept help.

Somewhere inbetween all this I am applying for jobs as well. I have decided the freelance thing is okay but if I am to pursue this ‘writing’ thing I have to have some regular sheckels coming in.

Oh yes and I have some other ideas which I need to write up as well. Two of which I think would be quite good. If they don’t go anywhere I will consign them to my short story project.

So, that was my weekend. The only people I’ve talked to are the doctor and my brother. And neither had any good news.

Ah well, back to work.

 

Yes, I’ve written a book

I must be really bad at promoting myself because for the last few months I have been writing a book and trying to find the best way to publish it.

Didn’t I tell you? Shame on me.

Well, the book is finished and I must admit it has been the hardest thing I have ever done. But as Ross Keenleyside said, ‘probably the most rewarding’.

It’s always been an ambition of mine to do some ‘joined-up writing’ as I call it and maybe publish a few novels and a few books on short stories.

So, my ‘first’ novel called ‘Nothing Important Happened Today’ will soon be available and I will be expecting all my friends to run out and buy it. Pick it to pieces and recommend it to all their friends so I can scrape together enough money to work on my ‘second’ novel ’28 Days Without Incident’.

For those who want to know more, I will be publishing it on Amazon to begin with. And see how things go from there – the publishing industry casts a suspicious eye on first time novellists and is wary of their appeal.

The publishing industry is in all sorts of trouble. Paperbacks fill the shelves but that’s it. They’re still filling the shelves. Electronic readers are taking over.

Old-fashioned publishing is suffering. So when a new author comes along, they want a lot of money up-front and a big slice of the action.  Self-publishing with Amazon seems the best course of action to me.

Besides after approaching literary agents who want a slice of the pie and publishers who want another slice there’s precious little left.

When asked ‘Why did I go down this road?’ my answer is, that’s the way it’s always been done. Charles Dickens self-published. So did Mark Twain. If it’s good enough for those bearded rapscallions, then it’s good enough for this one.

After the frustrations of dealing with agents this could be the way forward. Cutting out the middlemen and middlewomen.

Besides, if the book takes off, literary agents could start knocking at my door. And then it will be my turn to ignore them.

 

“Anyone can write.” Go on, then

I’m all for anyone putting pen to paper. Or digits to Word documents, if you prefer. I’m right behind everyone, every step of the way.

But usually, what comes out is a muddle of ‘jargon’ glued together with a few ‘and’s and ‘because’s.

Clients appear to be the worst offenders. They start strongly. Lose sight of what they want to say. Then finish wondering if they had a point in the first place.

Writing isn’t about jumbling everything together and hoping for the best. It’s a process where you decide what you want to say and the simplest way to say it.

I don’t think I’m giving away any trade secrets when I say ‘keep it simple, keep it stupid’. There is another one, which is ‘stick to the point’, but I digress.

Over complicate any piece of writing and your audience get bored, lose interest and fuck off to the pub. Metaphorically speaking.

Another great discipline is; have one thought per sentence. Don’t try shoehorning everything inbetween the capital letter and full-stop. Again, your audience will get bored, lose interest and fuck off to the pub.

Vary the pace. Put short sentences nose-to-derriere with longer, more interesting ones. People keep reading when they see short, pithy comments.

Last rule is; tell me something I want to know. Don’t hide your information behind phrases like ‘our unique approach’. Tell me why. That’s more interesting.

And that’s my advice.

You’d think telling you all this would put people like me out of a job. But, just because you know the rules, doesn’t mean you know how to use them.

Just take a look at a client’s copy.

Hold still Doctor, I’m going to draw some of your blood. But not with a needle

For the last 20 years I’ve been having blood tests. I followed doctor’s orders like a good little boy and suffered at the hand of many a trainee nurse who jabbed at my arms trying to locate a vein. “It’s there. No, there. No, where I’m pointing!”

(There was even a very amusing incident where I passed out because the trainee was jabbing away at my arm with a needle like ‘whack-a-mole.’)

The family medical history doesn’t look great. Cancer on mum’s side and depression and diabetes on the other. So, I took precautions.

Two weeks ago I went in for my usual blood-letting and allowed them to take the ‘piss’ as well. Too much information? Sorry.

Then I receive a concerned phone call telling me to come in again. My blood sugar is way, way too high. And can they do another test?

So I rolled up my sleeve and the head nurse got to work. No trainee this time. This was serious.

The second test proved that my blood sugar is well above normal. We’re talking type 2 diabetes levels here. The blood drained from my face and other extremities. I’m not too proud to say I nearly shit myself.

This week I have been to another doctor who has informed me that blood sugar levels this high indicate that I have been diabetic for over two years.

My question is, what were the other doctors doing with my blood for the last few years?

I remember them performing tests for syphilis and hepatitis – obviously they think I’m some sort of depraved sex monster.

But an overweight, middle-aged bloke with a family history of diabetes. High blood sugar? Preposterous!.

I would urge anyone who has a history of diabetes in their family to get themselves checked out and make sure you ask for a blood glucose level test.

It’s either that or carve on your gravestone ‘I told you I wasn’t feeling well.’