Monday, 18 November 2013

Off to see Bob Dylan

I'm off to see Bob Dylan in Blackpool this Sunday.  Judging by his recent setlists, I'm unlikely to hear my favourite Dylan track, so I figured I'd share it here.

Here's Tombstone Blues.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Let good enough be good enough

I have a hard time dealing with the idea that good enough can be good enough.

It was the same when I decided, for at least the fourth time in two years, to scrap my blog and start a new one.

Before this, I'd been blogging for the best part of ten years, managed blogs for clients and had a pretty good idea of what I was doing.

I had an idea, more or less, of how I wanted my new blog to look and had more than enough ideas for content; all I had to do was get started.

Scrap the old blog. Tinker with a new theme. Write some posts. Done.

Except there was one thing hindering my progress; me.

Just not good enough

Or to put it a better way, my insistence that only the very best will ever be good enough.

I'm certainly not alone in this train of thought. No matter what you do, if you take any kind of pride in your work, you want that work to be the absolute best it can be.

On its own, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

It could be a case of that ugly word perfectionism, personal pride or a desire to be the very best in our chosen field. It could simply be a fear that if we don't deliver our best we'll ultimately be rejected, be it by our peers, clients, publishers, fans or anyone else whose opinions matter to us.

All perfectly natural and valid reasons of course, yet not without their own problems.

The longer we work on something, be it writing an article or novel, creating art or even polishing off a business project, the harder it becomes to unleash it into the world at large and let go.

The Hidden Masterpiece


It's the reason some very creative and talented people take years to put out a new piece of work,. It's the reason why our favourite musicians spend so long between albums and it's also the reason why some people never let the world see how truly talented they are.

I know of, and I'm sure you do too, at least a handful of people who may be exceptionally good at what they do,  yet will never let anybody see it because whatever it is they do isn't the best it can be.

Take the writer who leaves a masterpiece of manuscript sitting in a drawer for all eternity for example. He vows that he will, eventually, submit it to a publisher..only not right now, it could be so much better.

Sure it could be better. Everything could always be better. Though if he'd just allow himself to let it go, he'd see that it's already good enough, and could easily be the next big bestseller.

Back to the Blog

In my own case, it was the reason I toyed and tinkered and agonized over relaunching my blog. I can't begin to tell you how many different template designs I tried nor how long I spent playing around with the code for each one in an attempt to get a design that was absolutely perfect. Nor can I express how many different titles, sub-titles and descriptions I went through in a desperate attempt to sum up what I want to achieve with this little corner of the web.

In either case, I'm still not satisfied with either. Both title and design could be so much better, but for now they're at least good enough, and even though I could spend much longer agonising over what constitutes the perfect blog, I simply had to let go and unleash this thing out into the world.

After all, I can always change it.

Blueprints

I recently read an old interview with Bob Dylan in which the legendary musician claimed that his classic songs, as they appear on record, were never intended as the finished product. Instead, the prolific songwriter insisted that these records were merely 'blueprints' which he would then expand upon, change and  rework as the years went on.

Clearly Dylan never thought that some of the most well-written songs of the past several decades were absolutely the best that they could be, but he was satisfied that they were good enough to be unleashed into the world.

The result? 35 studio albums (and counting) and a career unrivalled by just about anybody.

Even if most of us never reach the heights of creativity or success that Dylan has, even if all we want to do is start a blog, surely learning to let go and worrying about improvements later is a good way to start?

To sum up then:

  • Your work is probably better than you think it is
  • Let it go and let people see it
  • You can always improve later

Monday, 11 November 2013

When Pearl Jam played Reading and Leeds Festival 2006.

After last week, when I posted the video of Eddie Vedder and Roger Waters playing Comfortably Numb,  I started to think about my favorite gig of all time; when Pearl Jam played Reading and Leeds Festival in 2006.

I particular remember their performance of Alive, a passionate, emotional moment which created chills down my spine and a lump in my throat.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any videos of Pearl Jam at Leeds Festival 2006, y'know, the gig I was actually at, but I did find this one from Leeds Festival's southern counterpart, Reading.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The perfect writing conditions

What are the perfect writing conditions?
If I had my own way, I would have the perfect writing conditions at all times.

For me, the perfect conditions for writing are a temperamental mix of the physical and mental all topped with some intangible other which I guess you might call inspiration.

For me to have the perfect writing conditions I would be sitting comfortably in a nice, soft chair, preferably leather, with a cushion gently resting against my lower back. My feet would be warm, my body cool and my head clear.

I would feel at once relaxed and full of energy, with the patience to sit for a long time and let my fingers dance, fast and light against the keyboard of my laptop, churning out page after page of perfect prose.

My imagination would be fired, would lead me on a journey, fueled by an unrelenting inspiration and endless cups of sweet, hot coffee, towards the kind of writing I often doubt I'm capable of producing.

My brain would be free of any and all thoughts that were not directly related to the work at hand. There would no distractions, no whimsical daydreams creeping up unexpectedly and carrying me off on some wonderful, if entirely counter-productive tangent for ages at time.

The rest of the world would cease to exist, drowned out and smothered by the beat of some perfect piece of music which at once both drives my passion and keeps me calm.

The phone wouldn't ring. I could ignore it if it did. Nobody would tap me on the shoulder to ask me something. I wouldn't have to get up to pee or stretch or make more coffee.

I would be able to sit in bliss and write, and write, and write.

When I finished writing, I would be able to look at the page and see nothing that needed changing. There would be no errors to fix or typos to correct. Even better, there would be nothing on that page that would leap out and torment me with the nagging feeling that I could have somehow written something better. I would look at that page and feel satisfied, almost ecstatic with what I'd produced.

It isn't often that every single one of these things comes together to create the perfect writing conditions. Even as I sit and type this, my feet are cold and I have to pee.

I'll keep going though, because when I do find myself with the perfect conditions for writing, it's a wonderful thing indeed.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Eddie Vedder and Roger Waters performing Comfortably Numb

It was a complete accident that I stumbled across this video of Eddie Vedder and Roger Waters performing Comfortably Numb.

It was certainly no accident that I've been back and watched it over and over at least a dozen times since.

I challenge anyone to watch this breathtaking live performance without feeling a shiver run down your spine.


Monday, 28 October 2013

Music to beat away the dreaded Monday Blues

I find music to be the best way to beat away the dreaded Monday blues.

Most of the time, I manage to escape such things. I'm one of those weird, insane people who actually enjoys Mondays. I take some amount of pleasure from the idea of a brand new start that each Monday brings, seeing the week ahead lay out before me like a big, beautiful blank canvas I get to fill with stuff.

Yet every now and again, even I can't escape the fact that Monday's can be miserable, soul-crushing experiences.

That's when I turn on the tunes and get cracking.

Here's five uplifting songs which always work for me when it comes to battling the Monday blues, changing my mood and finding the motivation to have a productive, successful week.

Don't agree with these suggestions? Leave your own Monday Blues beaters in the comments, I'd love to hear them.

1) Incubus - Warning
"What's so wrong with being happy? / Kudos to those who see through sickness. / When she woke in the morning she knew that her life had passed her by. / And she called out a warning, 'Don't ever let life pass you by.'"


2) Counting Crows - Angels of the Silences
The lyrics to this song may not be as inspiring as the previous song, but just check out the energy, the drive and the adrenalin that pumps through this song. Check it out, and then tell me you don't feel a little more motivated this morning.



3) Scorpions - Rock you like a hurricane
Cheesy to some, a little too hard for others, but almost certain to get your blood pumping and lift your mood.


4) Skillet - Awake and Alive

"I'm awake, I'm alive / Now I know what I believe inside / Now it's my time / I'll do what I want 'cause this is my life" - Inspiring words mixed with thunderous music? Yep, gets me back on track.



5) New Radicalz - Get What you Give
An obvious choice perhaps, but could I really make a list of songs to beat away the Monday blues without including this one?


Friday, 25 October 2013

Why I still write when I'd rather hack off my own head with a rusty saw

An old rusty saw: Hacking my head off with it is still better than writing
There are days when I'd rather hack off my own head with a rusty saw than sit down and write.

It's not so much writer's block as it is an odd combination of stubbornness, laziness and that bat-shit crazy part of my brain which will always tell me that, no matter where I am nor what I'm doing, I could be somewhere else doing something better.

Still, I have to write.

Even when I'd rather go for a run, or watch a movie, or do the laundry or call up my friend and ask to borrow his rusty saw, I have to sit down and turn some words into sentences.

So I do, and I'm horrible at it. Or at least, I think I'm horrible at it.

Take yesterday, when I sat down and, despite wanting to reach for that rusty saw, somehow churned out precisely 1073 words of a story I'm working on.

Every single one of those 1073 words came slowly, oozing their way through a thick fog of stubbornness and crawling onto the page where they sat, fat and lethargic and horrifically ugly.
Every one of those 1073 words sucked.

Every. Single. One.

They didn't look right, didn't sit right on the page, didn't do their job right. They sucked. I'd just produced over a thousand words of crap, and every single one of those words mocked me.

See? They snarled. You knew you shouldn't have written today. Look what happens when you do!

Then, something else happened.

A bunch of hours later, Stacy and I had nothing better to do, so I said this:

'Tell you what, why don't I read you what I wrote today?'

Apparently even more fed up than I was, she agreed. So I read to her.

1073 words.

Every single one of those words came quick and easy, dancing off the page and falling perfectly into their rightful place to create this vivid, exciting piece of work.

Damn, this was some good stuff.

Far from writing a thousand words of suck, it turned out I'd actually come up with something a decent bit of writing which fit comfortably and happily into my story.

That's why I still write, even on those days when the world seems to present any number of alternatives to doing so. It's why I still write even when I'd rather hack off my own head with a rusty saw.

I write despite the crisis of confidence and self-doubt. I do it for those times when I can look back on something I wrote and think yeah, y'know what? That was pretty good.