A Month of Mini Time Capsule Videos

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 22.41.07It’s hard to admit this on my blog that features the word ‘creative’ in the title, but I’ve been creatively blocked for a while now when it comes to my own projects (as you might have guessed by the lack of posts recently).

I have a bad habit of starting up something creative with great gusto and spending loads of time on it but then giving up as soon as the going gets tough – or when I realise that I just can’t carve out that much time on a regular basis.

I’m well aware that starting small is the key to establishing a new habit but even when I’ve tried to keep things small in the past, things have somehow got out of hand. My Mad Genius “Micro-Guides” are a good example of this. There was very little that was “micro” about them in reality because I didn’t set clear constraints in advance and each ended up taking a considerable amount of work to produce. And for various reasons I’ve never quite finished the series of 6 I planned to write (although I do still plan to remedy this at some point before the next ice age).

So I was delighted when my online pal and accomplished illustrator Cathryn, aka concretemoomin, shared the idea of “mini time capsules” on her blog. The idea comes from the talented photographer/videographer Xanthe Berkeley who shares weekly mini films of her weekend adventures on Instagram to great effect.

Here was something truly tiny to try – Instagram limits video uploads to 15 seconds (except for advertisers who are allowed to upload 30). And if I stuck to one video a week, this would surely be a manageable and sustainable project to try! Thankfully I had already filmed some footage that week from our trip to Torquay for a family wedding. I shared the video on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and it got a really nice reaction from friends and family.

Video: Edinburgh’s Secret Courtyard

This is my highly unofficial Guide to the Hidden Door Art Festival 2015, filmed on the final night (Saturday 30th May). Running time = 5:15 minutes which  admittedly is long for an internet video these days, but there was a lot to pack in. (Also, there’s some NSFW language at the beginning).

I’m convinced this was one of the best events ever in Edinburgh, thanks to the combination of the space itself and the independent artistry it hosted, plus the fact you could wander around and peek into the various buildings and rooms and there was always something interesting to experience.

Tommy and his Rolleiflex, Balerno. Photo: Rob St John

Water of Life: Interview with Rob St John and Tommy Perman

WoL-InsertScan-Intro-Image-Web-1024x1024Water of Life is an art-science collaboration between Rob St. John and Tommy Perman exploring flows of water through Edinburgh using drawings, photos, writing and sound.

I was suitably intrigued when I found out that Rob and Tommy were teaming up for the project. They are both multi-talented artists who have contributed a lot to the music and art scenes in Edinburgh and beyond.

Rob makes music under his own name and as part of eagleowl, as well as writing for the likes of Caught By the River. Tommy was up until recently a member of band and art collective FOUND, produces art/illustration as Surface Pressure and recently released an EP under the name ComputerScheisse.

I hope that introduction has whet your appetite. Now, here are a few probing questions about the project’s creative flow.

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Before You Quit Writing, Read This

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

Thomas Mann

Before You Quit Writing, Read This is a new collaborative book from Dave Ursillo and The Literati Writers (of which I’m a member) which is now available on Amazon Kindle.

The purpose of the book is to share our personal stories so that we can encourage fellow writers who might be considering quitting to keep going.

Digging Deep

My contribution is called I’m a Writer, Damn It! and it’s a very personal piece.

Dave challenged us to really dig deep and write about something we haven’t revealed publicly before.

So I delved into some difficult childhood memories, and told a brief story of my life, including the times when I wrote and the fallow periods when I did anything but.

“The act of writing is itself an act of understanding. By putting pen to paper, you’re engaging in a very reflective and sometimes even confrontational practice of facing your own truth: everything etched within your soul.”

Dave Ursillo (Before You Quit Writing, Read This)

My intention was to let any struggling writers out there know that I too have struggled. I spent many years not writing and without much hope of ever achieving my creative dreams. I almost gave up. But I’m still here, writing, publishing and even getting paid for it.

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It’s Covered

One of the things that made this such a great experience was that Dave put this project together in a highly professional way, from bringing in illustrator Mars Dorian to create the cover, to hiring a professional editor to give each of us feedback on our contributions, to preparing publicity material.

Edited Highlights

As a professional writer and content creator for a variety of clients, I’m used to receiving feedback on my work, however it is a different matter when it’s something so personal.

It took me a day or two to digest the editor’s comments and to accept that making those changes would definitely improve the piece, such as being clearer and more transparent about what I was trying to express. It was a great thing to experience and has definitely made me think more carefully about how I write.

Breaking Through The Fear Barrier

The day before the book was due to be published, I read over my piece again and was suddenly seized with a terrible fear that what I’d written could upset my parents. I had never discussed some of those memories with them directly and I didn’t want to them to misinterpret what I had written.

I shared my fear with the other Literati Writers and got some very supportive responses and advice, which really helped. But the fear remained.

“FEAR is a bastard. He has this way of wrapping his cold, sinewy hand around your heart that takes your breath away, sends a chill down into your guts, and causes you to freeze up. He takes the joy you get from writing and ruthlessly smashes it to bits, making you second-guess your abilities.”

Jessica Glendinning (Before You Quit Writing, Read This)

I’ve read other writers and content creators talk about this type of fear gripping them, and the general consensus seems to be that this is what happens when you break out of your comfort zone and start sharing something real, something that truly matters, and that will actually be of value to others.

And maybe by writing about those negative experiences and sharing it publicly, I can finally escape their hold on me.

“As you dig, you will learn. And once unearthed, you can choose what to keep around, and what to let go.”

Dave Ursillo (Before You Quit Writing, Read This)

That’s something that makes sense to me as a writer, but is probably difficult for others to understand, especially if they find themselves entangled in my words without having chosen to be.

Dare Greatly and Do The Work

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The fact is that what I’ve shared in my article is my own truth, of how I experienced and interpreted circumstances at the time they happened.

Perhaps those half-remembered moments from the past lack their proper context, and perhaps they are an unbalanced account of what really happened. But it is what came to me when I sat down to write.

“What’s left on the page is pure, unadulterated me. It’s not always pretty, but that’s okay. Neither am I. It’s not always funny or insightful. But whatever it is, it’s me. It’s a snapshot of myself. A little glimpse into my brain at the moment the pen hit the paper or my fingers hit the keys.”

Tom Meitner (Before You Quit Writing, Read This)

Either way, I will learn from this, and keep going. Because as Brené Brown suggests, you’ve got to Dare Greatly, and that means being vulnerable, taking risks and leaning into the discomfort that comes from baring your soul to the world.

And as Steven Pressfield says, you’ve got to Do The Work, and make a habit of sitting down to write, every day.

Whatever failings I may have, at least I’m doing both those things. This, I’m discovering, is what it’s like to be a writer.

Thanks to Dave, Jessica and Tom for their quotes above – each and every contribution to the book contains similar wisdom about writing, so I’d highly recommend having a read.

Before You Quit Writing, Read This is available now on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk as well as other Amazon stores worldwide (affiliate links).

It is free to download until Thursday July 12th 2013, and you don’t even need a Kindle to read it. 

mountainshores_icelandDave Ursillo is also the guest on the most recent Mountain Shores Podcast:

Finding Home In Writing (and Rhode Island)

In an in-depth and honest conversation, Dave chats to Fabian and I about how writing helped him bounce back from depression and how he has carved out a career as a creative entrepreneur after leaving the world of politics behind.

Visit MountainShores.net | Listen/Subscribe on iTunes | Stitcher

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Inspiring Edinburgh Events – 25th – 30th June 2013

It’s a good week for those of a literary bent this week in Edinburgh, perhaps unsurprisingly given it was the first ever UNESCO City of Literature.

 Edinburgh International Book Festival Tickets go on sale

Tickets for the Edinburgh International Book Festival (which is on from 10 – 26 August) go on sale on Friday morning at 8:30am so if you want to see some of your literary heroes in the flesh, better get in there quick (I believe tickets sell out very quickly).

The Scottish Book Trust have also announced that the New Writers Awards 2014 are now open for applications.

And now on to the four most inspiring events I could find this week:

Literary Salon – 6pm, Tuesday 25th June, Wash Bar

The Book Festival’s Director Nick Barley will be talking about this year’s event at tonight’s Edinburgh Literary Salon at The Wash Bar from 6pm. For more information on the LitSalon you can read this excellent intro on Canongate’s blog. Whilst I can’t make it tonight, I’ve been before and I can concur that it’s a friendly, laid-back evening.

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Inky Fingers Open Mic  8pm – 11pm, Tuesday 25th June, Serenity Café, 8 Jackson Entry

For those who are itching to perform their latest wordsmithery, the Inky Fingers Open Mic looks like a great option. Not only is it free, but they have a very open policy – it’s “free for anyone to perform, regardless of style, experience, or identity.”

It might be a little late to book a place for this month’s event, as they ask that people email in advance to be sure of a slot – but it’s a good chance to get a feel for things first.

Lach’s Antihoot Radio Night 8pm, Wednesday 26th June, Henry’s Cellar Bar, 16 Morrison Street

It’s still kind of hard to believe that the founder of the famed NYC antifolk movement is now living in Scotland’s Capital, and putting on a weekly show no less (here’s something I wrote about him a few years back). Promising music and comedy in the style of a radio show, I predict a messy but entertaining night at everyone’s favourite ‘burgh dive bar.

Neu! Reekie! 35, 7pm, Friday 28th June, Summerhall

Michael Pederson at Glug Edinburgh - Photo by Ross Fraser McLean / StudioRoRo

Michael Pederson at Glug Edinburgh – Photo by Ross Fraser McLean / StudioRoRo

“Heating things up with a fire-blazing feast of spoken word – film – animation and music fusions.
Plus a medley of animations curated just for the occasion!”

Neu! Reekie! co-founder Michael Pedersen’s interpretation of an Enrique Iglesias lyric at last week’s Glug Edinburgh was the undoubted highlight of the evening (see more photos from the event here).

They’ve had some amazing line-ups in the past, which makes me wonder just what I was thinking by not going sooner. Maybe this week I’ll finally manage it.. I’d definitely advise you to do so as the line-up includes Vic Godard, Momus and a raft of talented poets.

Let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed!

Four More Reasons to Leave The House if You Live in Edinburgh

Summer in Edinburgh

Summer in Edinburgh

My previous post, 4 Good Reasons to Leave the House This Week if You Live in Edinburgh got a great response on social media – thanks very much to everyone who shared it.

One Out of Four Ain’t Great

I only managed to make it to one of the four recommended events, offering my services up as a volunteer “surgeon” at the Edinburgh Social Media Surgeries. You can read about how I and other volunteers helped our “patients” at the EDSMS blog, and you can also sign up for the next event on Monday 8th July.

However I’m still planning to try out TechCube’s new hotdesking space, which I’m told has already attracted a good number of freelancers through its doors since opening. Because leaving the house a couple of times a week is good for the soul. And it’s summer. There might even be some sun now and again.

If you made it to any of the other events let me know how it went in the comments!

Expect Late Things

I’d definitely like to make this into a regular update but as I was in Ireland last week it didn’t quite happen. The result was that I failed to mention two very interesting events.

Firstly, Amb:IT:ion Scotland’s Culturing Our Creativity on Monday looks like it would have been right up my street so I’m kicking myself for missing it. Thankfully you can watch the talks online and find out more here.

There was also the Edinburgh Publisher’s Conference on “the Evolution, Disruption and Future” of publishing-  if you’re interested you can also watch all of the sessions from the event online here.

And so, after that rambling introduction, onto what’s happening this week.

Four Reasons to Leave The House This Week

Edinburgh International Film Festival, 19-30 June, various venues

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Not Another Happy Ending starring Karen Gillan

The Edinburgh Film Fest used to be at the same time as the Fringe and all the other major festivals in August but now it always seems to sneak up on me earlier than expected, Golum style.

That’s a bit of a cruel comparison though. The Fest is not quite as glamorous as it used to be but if you live and breathe cinema and have some spare cash burning a hole in your pocket, this is where you’ll want to be during June.

As well as a great selection of arty indie films from around the world they’ve got Sundance hit Breathe In with Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones, Not Another Happy Ending, a romantic comedy about writer’s block starring Karen Gillan (her from Doctor Who), and Monsters Inc. prequel Monsters University.

Edinburgh Hacklab Craft Open Night, Summerhall, Tonight (Wednesday 19th June)

This is the first craft open night for those residents of Auld Reekie who are good with their hands. The organisers say: “if you have a project that is craft focused such as using fabric, yarn, paper or card or you have some skills in those sort of areas come along. If you don’t have either yet and are just curious then you’re very welcome too”.

Glug Edinburgh – Heroes:  6pm-9pm, Thursday 20th June, TechCube

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Another great Creative Edinburgh affiliated event. Glug is “a regular after-work creative drinks and Notworking event for designers, creatives, clients and friends”. This week’s event has an excellent line up of speakers talking about their heroes and beer and pizza is provided. For more information see Creative Edinburgh’s site or book a place via EventBrite. This is the one event I’m definitely attending this week.

Song, By Toad’s Bad Fun

I don’t intend to list gigs here regularly because Matthew at Song, By Toad does a great weekly round-up already (so please don’t email me about your gig). I’ll make an exception this week however because he’s putting on not one but two of his Bad Fun gigs with the excellent David Thomas Broughton headlining on Thursday and the Phantom Band’s Rick Redbeard on Saturday.

If there’s anything else you’d recommend let me know in the comments.

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4 Good Reasons to Leave the House This Week if You Live in Edinburgh

I’ve not been getting out of the house much since I’ve been self-employed and stopped drinking  – and yet every week there is an interesting gathering of some sort which I’m missing out on.

So I thought maybe if I start listing some of the events that are on in Edinburgh for the creative and tech community I might feel more inclined to get out and about.

Plus hopefully it will be helpful to others (I know how easy it is to lose track of what’s going on).  Even people who don’t live in Auld Reekie seem to be interested in what’s happening here judging by some of the emails I get.

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What I Think About When I Read About Running

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‘Persevere’ is the motto of Leith, now a part of Edinburgh.

I was extremely saddened to hear about the tragic events at the Boston Marathon yesterday and my heart goes out to everyone affected.

I’ve never been to Boston, but my grandparents lived and worked there for a number of years after they emigrated to the States from Ireland so I feel a strong connection to the City. Plus, Mel and I (and a few of our friends) had joined the ranks of the long-distance running community only the day before, when we ran the Rock n Roll Edinburgh Half Marathon. So I feel an affinity with the runners too, who were simply trying to do something positive and achieve a personal goal.

Yesterday’s events certainly put our minor complaints about the Edinburgh wind and rain and the rather poor organisation at the finish line of the half-marathon into perspective. Suddenly, I am appreciative of my many blessings instead.

“Reaching the finish line, never walking, and enjoying the race. These three, in this order, are my goals.”

Haruki Murakami