byq-kindle

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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Join The International League of Creative Minds!

A few weeks ago, during covert communications between the UK and Germany, The International League of Creative Minds was formed.

Up until now this information has been Classified and on a Need to Know Basis only. The mainstream media were not informed, nor were the Whitehouse.

Information will continue to be transmitted at irregular intervals via the iTunes and Stitcher frequency bandwave. The League highly recommends that you subscribe to one of these methods in order to receive audio transmissions via your mobile computing device.

All roads lead to our base of operations mountain shores (dot) net where you can begin your initiation into the League.

This is only the beginning.

Markus Friese - Liebeslied-2000/Love Song 2000

Markus Friese – Liebeslied-2000/Love Song 2000

Unravelling the Truth With FOUND & Aidan Moffat

“Everything starts with the truth and goes somewhere else”

Aidan Moffat 

The Edinburgh-based FOUND Arts Collective have followed their brilliant (and BAFTA-winning) Cybraphon project with a new interactive sound installation called #unravel. They’ve collaborated with songwriter and storyteller extraordinaire Aidan Moffat, former frontman of Arab Strap and who recently collaborated with Bill Wells for the excellent ‘Everything’s Getting Older’ project.

I spoke to FOUND and Aidan Moffat at the launch of the project yesterday at Edinburgh’s Inspace Gallery and cobbled together this video today (despite a number of technical difficulties!) to give you an idea of what the project involves.

Fear not though as there will be a proper short documentary about the project coming soon – for more details see the official website.

#UNRAVEL opens to the public on 20 April – 7 May as part of Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art at Arch 24/ SWG3.

The Clear-Minded Creative: one of Scotland’s Best Websites

Don’t worry, I’ve not suddenly been overcome by a massive dose of hubris, but I am on a little bit of a happy high, because The Clear-Minded Creative been included in highly respected Scottish culture magazine The List‘s ahem, list.. of Best Scottish Websites, coming in at no.14 out of the 30 they mention.

It’s a particular honour because I’m in such tremendous company, from the brilliant resources for creative people that are Blipfoto and Central Station, to local eco blog Greener Leith and the excellent cinema blog Reel Scotland, to some of my favourite music sites such as Radio Magnetic, Glasgow Podcart, Song, By Toad, The Pop Cop and Is This Music?, and of course Lis from Last Year’s Girl who is one of our lovely Clear-Minded Creative Types. Plus a few other faves and a few that are new discoveries for me.

The List do clarify that they were looking for unique and interesting ideas rather than the biggest and best known sites (thankfully for me!) But of course some of my other favourite Scottish blogs are notable by their absence, as always happens with these things.

Once the full article is up on the List’s website I’ll share it here. But for now, here is an extract from the kind words that List writer Kirsten Innes penned about this blog:

The most recent start-up in our list, Milo McLaughlin’s fascinating blog does exactly what it says on the tin: it helps creative people stay focused and, er, clear-minded… McLaughlin is no catchphrase-spouting self-help guru, though. The blog is equal parts personal journey and guide, and was set up as much to help him trace his own clear-minded path as to assist others with theirs.

Which makes me extremely happy as it’s exactly what I intended this blog to be. Sometimes, when you feel like giving up, you get just the encouragement you need – and this, combined with everyone’s generous comments and tweets regarding my last post, have been really touching and helped me to stay positive -so  thanks.

If you’re in Edinburgh or Glasgow pick up the latest issue of The List now from all good newsagents – it also comes with a massive free Edinburgh Festival guide.

Update: The full list is now online

It’s been a great 6 months. So why do I feel like giving up?

Escape Hatch on the HMS Portland

Hi and welcome back to The Clear-Minded Creative. As I’m writing this, it’s the beginning of July 2011, which means the year has reached the half-way point. And this blog has now been going for 6 months too. So it seems a good time for a little reflection.

I feel like I’ve achieved quite a bit since the beginning of the year. Three things that have happened since January 1st are amongst the biggest achievements of my life:

  • Starting this blog and getting a positive reaction to it
  • Getting consistent paid freelance copywriting work which I enjoy
  • Getting married (ok this one should have been no.1!)

All three of course are not just down to me – they’re all down to the help and support of other people.

So I feel especially grateful to have those people in my life as well as these amazing opportunities to reach new people through the blog and gain new experiences through my freelance work.

So why do I feel like giving up?

It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve given up on a good thing. In fact, I’ve done it consistently. For example I used to write a regular column/produce a podcast for a local magazine, but I gave it up as I felt the work involved far outweighed the rewards.

In retrospect it wasn’t always for completely the wrong reasons. Making some space in my schedule allowed me to get paid freelance work, after all. But now I feel like giving up again, even though I know I’m headed in a positive direction.

Impatience

The trouble is, I got impatient. I thought that now I had a bit of freelance work, maybe I could leave my day job. Maybe if I just got a bit more work, I could give up the security of the job which pays my mortgage and bills.

So I took on a few other pieces of work, and subsequently struggled to get them done. Not only that, but my work at my day job has also suffered – the worst of both worlds. Now I realise it was far too soon to expect to make a comfortable living freelance.

What’s even worse though is I’ve failed to keep to the schedule I promised to on this blog, even though I reduced the posting frequency recently from twice to once a week. I haven’t even managed that. And it stings.

Because I know I can do better.

And because I’ve become the polar opposite of clear-minded again. I’m overwhelmed, confused and frozen by indecision. And I’m trying to escape through reading all the blogs I follow in Google Reader and surfing my social media feeds – which only makes my mind more cluttered.

Hit Refresh

But hey, we all have relapses right? We all need to take a step back, reflect on what went right and do more of that and less of the other.

So I’m not going to give up. I’m just going to ask you to be kind and be a little patient with me, as I try and get back to full speed again. And I’m going to be a little more patient with myself and my situation and not try to force things to happen that aren’t meant to happen yet.

If you’ve not achieved your goals so far this year, could you turn things around? Or could you at least be a little kinder to yourself and celebrate the things you have achieved?

I hope so.

Here’s a wee video I made at the weekend to mark the six months mark of the blog and with a few hints of what’s to come for the rest of the year.

Thanks for sticking around so far. Let me know in the comments where you find yourself at the mid-point of the year and if you have a goal to achieve by the end of it. From now on I really want to bring the focus here back to how I can help others instead of moaning on about my own problems all of the time!

p.s. there’s more info on the record I mention in the video over at Song, By Toad.

p.p.s. In an effort to spend less time messing about with social media, I’m going to put Share Your Wares Sunday on pause for the time being, probably just for the rest of the summer. Thanks very much to everyone who’s taken part over the last few months.

Happy New Year!

Hello! I’m excited to kick of 2011 with my first ‘proper’ post on this new blog – and I decided to record a quick video just to explain a bit further what you can expect.

In the video I talk briefly about the need for creative people to gain clarity, consistency and confidence in order to move ahead with their work.

The lack of any of these can seriously hold you back – and coincidentally, straight after I recorded it I was checking my Google Reader and found this excellent video by Chris Brogan on the exact same topic: My Escape Velocity – Confidence is a Key

I think he might be copying me with that beard though..

I’ve now also added an About Page in case you’re interested, and over the next few weeks I’ll be exploring what I mean by Clear-Minded Creativity a little further. In fact, posting here regularly is my ‘blogging new year resolution’, as you can see from this post over at Blogging Teacher in which I and 34 other bloggers reveal our intentions for the year.

What Have You Got Planned?

As I mention in the video, I’d love to hear about the creative projects you’ve all got planned for 2011 – please let me know in the comments!

Welcome to The Clear-Minded Creative

Image: I Think I'm Starting to Crack by Nina Matthews Photography

Hello and welcome to The Clear-Minded Creative, thanks for stopping by :)

I’ll be posting new content here every week starting from January 2011. But before we start, you probably want to know what the blog is all about – well if you answer yes to any of the following questions then this is probably the blog for you.

Are you:

  • Confused about what you want to do with your life?
  • Desperate to be more creative, but struggle to find the time?
  • Forever trying new things but never spending enough time on one thing to get really good at it?
  • Unable to find a job that you enjoy and truly motivates you?
  • Stuck in a destructive loop of procrastination and “analysis paralysis” as you flounder from one day to the next in a drunken, confused haze?

Glad it’s not just me then.