Owning a Creative Mind

What’s it like having a creative mind?  Maddening and wonderful at the same time.  I love seeing the world in a different light to most people.  New ways of imagining objects, a different twist to language ( why, for example, does stench have to be a word describing a bad smell, to me it indicates a strong odour.  Aroma is nice but delicate.  Even with the addition of ‘heady’, it doesn’t sound as strong as stench), are fun to me.

In the last few minutes I have thought about what to write for this blog, the subject list is as follows; weather, food, family, cats, Christmas (or at least a time of coming together as a family regardless of your denomination), the past, update on the Syria story.  While it is fun to be able to jump from one subject to another, sometimes it can be difficult to concentrate.  Still, it does mean I’m a whiz at word association!

The maddening side of it though, I have to keep my brain active.  Various inputs are necessary; music, film, modelling (not the catwalk variety, I mean plastic kits), photography, video games (esp. Dreamfall: Chapters, now that’s a beautiful story right there), reading, writing, cooking, philosophical arguments, space exploration (and not just because of Tim Peake), science and I’d better stop there.

Conclusion: I really need to learn yoga or some other form of meditation to calm this mental hurricane down.

The Ultimate Observer

More than once I have wondered what it would feel like to be unable to communicate via speech.  Speaking and by extension, listening, is an inherent part of me.  Yet it is said that ninety five per cent of communication is non-verbal.  So why does speaking mean so much to us?

It is one of the foremost ways of giving information to others.  We use speech to bond, to inform, to educate, to entertain.  Without speech, would life be bleak?

My answer is no and here’s why.  Recently I have experienced and seen what it is like to be unable to talk.  On a visit to my sister recently, we decided to take a tour of the town.  While doing so, we passed two women communicating through sign language.  In that brief moment, I knew they were having fun through taking photos and playing about.

The other example happened a few weeks earlier when I had been skyping with a friend.  Due to an error, I could not hear what she said.  Therefore we resorted to the traditional back-up, the written word.  During the conversation, it seemed to me that we were conversing on a deeper level.  Having to rely on body language meant I became more adept at reading her thoughts and emotions.

This lead me to wonder, could deaf people be the ultimate observers?

Why does this have to do with writing? Easy.  By putting myself in their position, I can see what life would be like.  This is the same process you need to perform for your characters.  Give them life by understanding that everyone views life their way.


Inspiration, or “Where do you get your ideas from, anyway?”

So I’ve been asked this question a few times and I thought it was about time I start addressing it.  How do you get from ironing to a story about dismembering people?  Well I’ll tell you.

One Sunday I was ironing my shirts for the following week (I do it in the morning, gives me time to relax and let go) and I went to the shirt away.  Pulling open the wardrobe, I saw all these items of clothing and a thought occurred.  What if instead of changing pieces of fabric everyday, people changed bodies?

The urge to write became so intense that I put the shirt away, grabbed a pen (I swear I have about a dozen but they like avoiding me), my new writing book (let’s be honest here, it’s an A4 sheaf of hard-bound lined paper.  Looks nice but blank paper will suffice) and started writing.

As my story was evolving, my iron was gently clicking away reminding me I had chores to do, it didn’t work.  Sure enough, I lost track of time and if it wasn’t for those pesky chores I would have finished it in one go.

Saying that, after finishing my ironing I went back and added the last half.  Within the space of half an hour I had typed it up and printed it off.  Now was the time to pull it apart and edit it.  Having done so, it quickly got added to the website in the shape of the story called ‘Clothing.’  If you’re interested, click on the link or just scroll down to the previous post.


What shall I wear today?” asked Katherine.

Every morning Katherine would ask the same question of her husband. Getting drawn into a discussion on clothing was anathema to Marius, yet unavoidable. Ignoring his wife was the only option yet it could not last forever, Katherine would always win this ritual. Marius’ strict up-bringing meant he was dressed before breakfast. The first he knew of Katherine’s attitude was when they married, that was ten years ago.

I think I’ll try something different.” said Katherine, trying to draw Marius out.

He was reading the news as she pushed ahead. Outside the sun was busy waking up the world.

Yes, I think I’ll go for black today.” said Katherine, looking wistfully out the window. She could hear the neighbours talking.

Jealousy had crept into her world when Maryanne had unveiled her new garden sculpture. A fifteen metre long replica of the first interstellar ship dominated the greenery. The light dancing across the structure told Katherine of the money that went into making it.

Black is such a lovely colour, don’t you think?” she added when her husband failed to respond.

Black?” said Marius, shaking his head and looking puzzled.

Yes, black.”

You can’t do that, you don’t have the skin, you’ll look ridiculous. Have you ever seen a white head on a black body?”

There’s this new procedure, they can change your skin tone. You can do it as many times as you like. It only increases the cancer risk by twenty seven per cent. With our medical technology being what it is, we don’t need to worry about that, do we?”

What’s the name of the company?” said Marius.

Active Harmony.”

Give me time to think it over.” he answered, standing.

You’ll say no. You always say no when you give me that line.”

I’m late for work.” he said, pointing to his watch.

You own the company, dear.”

I like setting a good example.”

The door buzzer sounded. An image of the chauffeur appeared on the screen by the door.

Ready when you are, Mr. Walton. Your itinerary for the day has been loaded and your sleeping tablets and anti-pressure pills have been re-stocked. Josephine needs to talk to you about last night’s progress so I’ve scheduled her first.”

Thank you Vernon, I’ll be right down.”

Do I have an answer for my question?” pressed Katherine as the screen clicked off.

It doesn’t matter what answer I give, you’ll go ahead and do whatever you want anyway.”

Not true.” answered Katherine, trying to sound hurt.

Fine, go with the black.”

I’ve changed my mind, I’ll go with Indian.”

Marius threw his hands up in despair.

Fine, fine, go with that then! I really must get going.”

Marius headed to the door, looked back and said

Love you.” before slipping out.

Jane, fetch me the Indian and call Active Harmony for me.”

Yes, Mrs. Walton.” said the in-house AI.

Five minutes later, a slim Indian woman stood shivering and blinking before Katherine. Breakfast had been cleaned away, leaving Katherine to occupy centre stage. After taking in her surroundings, the woman looked at the disconnected head.

She seems malnourished to me. I hope you’ve been remembering to feed the animals, Jane.” said Katherine.

Jane remained obstinately quiet.

Turn around.” said Katherine, addressing the woman.

A small electric shock by Jane reminded the woman of her obligation. Katherine eyed her up.

Hello Mrs. Walton, what can Active Harmony do for you today?”

A well groomed male had appeared on the main screen.

I want to look like this woman.”

Certainly madam, I’ll take her measurements and you’ll have a new skin ready for you tomorrow.”

I want it today.”

No problem, we have a six hour service-”

I’m going out in an hour, have it ready by then.”

Yes, ma’am.” he answered obsequiously. His face told a different story.

All right Jane, take the body from the base of the neck and I want a good job this time. Maryanne spotted the join from two metres away when I tried it before. I’ll not have that happen again.”

I understand, Mrs. Walton.”

While they had been talking, the Indian woman rubbed her neck.

Don’t worry, you won’t miss it.” said Katherine.

Maryanne looked out of her front window and saw a strange woman in her garden. It was the colour of her skin which made her stand out. All her neighbours were white, this woman was chestnut.

Get off my property this instant!” screamed Maryanne, on opening her door.

When it garnered no reaction, she marched across to the woman.

I said-”

I know what you said dear, I was busy admiring your new toy.”

Maryanne looked at the woman, her mouth wide open.

Surprised?” said Katherine, turning to her.


Why surely you must recognise your own neighbour? Don’t tell me you were drawn in by this?” said Katherine, waving at her new body.

That AI of yours is good, I’ll admit.”

True.” said Katherine. “But Active Harmony completed the picture. Did you know they can take a skin tone, match it and deliver it all in under an hour?”

They claim twenty four hours on their advert.”

If you don’t believe me, just ask for Blair Aldrich, he’ll confirm everything I’ve said.”

As an aside Katherine said

I have a feeling I’m going to be their favourite client. I might try Chinese tomorrow, see how it feels.”

Or Mexican.” replied Maryanne.

That’s so common. Everyone wants to be Mexican, I want to be different. Frankly I wanted to be black but my darling husband explained to me that the light wouldn’t be favourable to a black body. He’s such a dear.”

Growing up, Mexican had seemed so exotic to Maryanne. She had tried and failed many times to achieve her dream of looking like one. Abandoning her dream had made her feel a failure. Katherine’s comment cut deeply. Maryanne turned on her heel to hide her tears and walked away.

Smiling to herself, Katherine headed to the shops. She had a feeling she would turn heads there too. Being the wife of the richest man on the planet had some advantages, she mused.

The End

On The Edge

Gawkers look up at me and point, but they are not the worst.  That dubious distinction goes to those who take photos.  For a second, my life is capture for posterity.

I did not want it to go this way, but it is out of my hands now.  What I valued most has gone.  The mask has slipped, unveiling my inner core.  No longer am I the life and soul.  My self-loathing is there for all to see.

The man shouts at me again, but it blends in with the rest of the noise.  closing my eyes does not help, either.  Instead of relieving me from the torture, it focusses the pain.  The mind can do such vile things to itself.  The doctor said it could be chemical, what does he know?

Before my life fell apart, I lied to myself.

‘It’s okay’ I used to say.

‘Everyone feels this way from time to time’.

Maybe they did.  But for as long as I remember, I’ve always been this way.  It’s not sadness, it goes much deeper than that.  It seeps into your everyday life, insidious and awful.  Whatever it touches, conspires against you.

Words, actions, thoughts are twisted until they no longer represent reality.  Over time, you learn to compartmentalise, to shut it away in little boxes.  No longer is it the driving force in your life.  That’s what you tell yourself, anyway.

This disease of the mind, depression, call it what you will, has a way round all your defences.  For the simple reason that it is your defences.  It forms a part of it and thus undermines all you have tried to achieve.

Murphy’s Law dictates that if things can go from bad to worse, it will do so at the worst possible moment.  Sure enough, it did.  First the relationship, already a disaster from the beginning.  Soon after, the job went too.  The boss said it was the economy, but I knew better.

The bank started asking why I needed an extension on the mortgage.  When I told them about my situation, they were sympathetic.  That dried up too.

No job, no money, no place to live and no wife, you tell me what was the point in living?

“You’ve got everything to live for.”

The words brought me back to reality.  Reminiscing had felt warm, cosy.  Sat out on a ledge like this is too much to bear.  I shuffle closer, letting my feet dangle over.  It reminds me of when I was young, doing the same thing with my dad.

Back then we were fishing at the end of the pier while on holiday.  Below me are a different set of fish now.  Lights flash as cameras take pictures, helping me to recall the sun dancing on the water.

‘Now Son, I want to tell you something.’

‘What is it Dad?’

He looks around, hesitating.

‘I want you to know-‘

The words catch in his throat.  It’s too much for me to bear.  I dropped my rod and held him tightly around his neck.

‘You’re the greatest, Dad.’

I felt his tears soaking through my t-shirt.  When we part, I can see the red in his eyes.

‘Thank you for taking me fishing, Dad.’

He smiles and ruffles my hair.

‘Where would I be without you, Son?’

‘Where would I be without you, Dad?’

With those words, the dream is gone once more, to be replaced with bitter reality.

“What did you say?”

The man is shouting at me again.

I turn to him and say

“No one understands my pain.”

I see him cup his ear, but the wind snatches my words away.

“Don’t do it, Son.”

I look at him afresh and see that he is much older than me.  Maybe he has a son, just like me.

“Do you have a son?” I ask.

He nods, a sober expression on his face.

“My pride and joy.  My daughter-”

Did I see a tear in his eye?

“My daughter died five years ago now.  A drunk driver mounted the kerb and ran her over.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“He was under the limit but you could tell he wasn’t fit to drive.”

Someone understands my pain after all.  I can see the hole it has brought to his life.  Written on his face is the same that is on mine.  Standing up, I can hear the gasp from below.  The noise is meaningless.

The walk is easy now as I have something to live for.  Climbing over the parapet, I grasp the man tightly.  Tears streaming down our faces help to wash the pain away.

An age passes but soon we part.  Looking at me he says

“You’re never too old to ask for help.  You can always ask me, for I have been where you are.”


The End


I’d like to hear your thoughts on this story.

Tackling Taboo Subjects

The first question you need to ask yourself is, why do I want to do this?  Understanding your motivation for tackling a subject helps to define what sort of story you wish to write.  Personally, tackling taboo subjects is one of main motivators for writing.  I like the idea of bringing them to the fore so people can talk about them.

Sometimes I get the feeling that people want to talk about a particular issue but they wait for others to raise it first.  I have had long and deep discussions about depression, for example, and I have found them informative and rewarding.  Writing a story on the subject is like giving people an ice breaker.

I’ll admit, putting these subjects out there in story form is scary.  There are those who are not willing to discuss matters and would prefer them to remain hidden.  For too long though, we have oppressed those who cannot and possibly will not speak loudly enough.  I think it is about time we gave them a chance to be heard.

Who are you?

For many years I thought I had this down.  I knew who I was and what I wanted to be.  Then, suddenly I was doing my dream job.  So why did I have a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right?  Why did I doubt myself?  This was it, I had arrived, doing what I always wanted.  But I wasn’t happy.

It was only several years after leaving my dream job did I understand that I was not truly happy there.  When you are a child you are asked ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’  But at that age, you don’t know, you don’t even care.  The weekend is too far away to think about let alone ten years.  Even as you draw closer to that pivotal moment in life you may still be unsure.

I should know, it took me to my mid-thirties and a lucky chance before I hit on something.  Is it too late to change? No!  I have a friend who changed careers and he’s just turned fifty.  But what about all the time, effort and money that’s gone onto getting me this far?  Nothing is wasted if all you are doing is refocusing your skill set.

One major skill my past life taught me was self discipline.  Setting aside an hour a day dedicated to writing.  Don’t pretend you’re going to do it, you will just be lying to yourself.  But what if I don’t find my one true calling?  Then you are lucky for instead of being a specialist, you are a polymath.

Someone who brings many different skills from a wide range of disciplines is useful to have.  They can bring fresh ideas to the table enabling the specialist to run with them.  These new ideas can change the world subtly or in a way that is beyond our imagination.  In the Renaissance period you were not considered a true gentleman until you were a polymath.  If you’re still not convinced, notable polymaths include Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo.

So, who do you think you are; specialist, polymath, undecided?  Why not leave your answers in the comments, I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Tourist Town

Fighting through the crowds of wannabe photographers is a tall, lean man.  He walks with a slow, purposeful air but his eyes tell a different story, he is searching.  The grey spots move back and forth, flitting from one to the next.  A new target is found and discarded in less than a second.  The seething mass of people move and change before his eyes making his job more difficult.

He is smelling the air too, looking for a special fragrance.  He does not know what it is yet but he has convinced himself he will know it when he finds it.  To intensify the odour, he keeps his mouth closed.  It is a pity the only smells to reach him so far would make a sewer proud.  Sweat mixed with copious amounts of hairspray assault his senses.

What is it he is looking for and why must we be looking at him?  Because it is with him that the future of this town rests.  He has the power to hold the bored spellbound.  He is the one who wants to learn, to understand.  This man wants to immerse himself in the culture.

The man in question is not the first of his kind.  There have been many before him and better qualified too.  The only thing they have lacked is timing.  Now, when interest is at its lowest and the fire in the soul of the last resident is almost out, does he appear.  His furtive questioning is a glimmer in the night.

“Excuse me.” he tries in the native language.

The person he is addressing holds his head in his hand with a disinterested air.  Eyes focussed on nothing as the mass changes once more.

“Excuse me.” he tries a second time.

In between, our quiet spark has taken in his surroundings.  Like the man he has addressed, it no longer functions in its former state.  Dust has gathered everywhere, from tables to shelves and bottles to glasses.  A bare patch underneath the resident’s head is all that remains.  Slowly the eyes turn upwards and registers someone is addressing him.

For too long he has been ignored.  Before then he was spoken to in many languages, but never his own.  Has he forgotten his mother tongue?

“I’d like to order some food?”  says the spark.

The words are not perfect, far from it, but it should suffice.

The hand comes down and slaps the table hard.  The mass of people jumps like a flock of disturbed pigeons.  The quiet spark does not move.

“What can I get you, my friend?” the tone is flat, impassive.

“A local speciality, if you please.”

“We have your American burgers, English fish and chips, Japanese-”

The spark holds his hand up, stopping him mid-sentence.

“Local speciality.”

The words hit the resident like a wave crashing on the shore.

“You want local cuisine?”


“Local to here?”

“That’s what I came here for.  I want to know what it is to eat it.”

“But why don’t you want the other food?”

“I can get that at home.”

“But the others-”

“Are not like me.  Now please, I’d like some local food.”

The resident looks askance at this strange being now.

“I’ll have to cook it.”

“I can wait.” the spark answers.

To reinforce his words he removes his jacket, walks over to a chair and sits down.  For now the resident admits defeat and shuffles off to the kitchen.  Bangs, crashes and curses emanate from the door.  Time limps on like a man with a wooden leg.  An hour passes before the resident returns with a steaming plate of food held in both hands, reverentially.

“There.” he says, placing the food in front of the spark.

The resident’s voice is a mix of triumph and relief.  A confused look passes over his face as the spark leans over.  A moment later it is replaced by one of wonder.

“Smells delightful.”

“Thank you.”

Looking through the window of the restaurant the resident sees the closest of the mass pressing their noses to the glass.  The aroma has performed its magic.  Cautiously the door opens and a head is poked inside.  The owner, on confirming the origin of the smell asks hesitantly

“Are you open?”

The resident is dumb-struck.

“Yes.” he answers, unprepared for the outcome.

First one, then three, then eleven are through the door asking for their share.  It is too much for the resident.

“Please, form an orderly queue. I’m sure our friend here can’t wait to serve you.  But as you can see there is one of him and so many of you.” says the spark.

Without further prompting the eleven form behind one another.  Sheep could not have done a better job of being obedient.  The spark smiles as the resident relaxes.

One by one they are served.  The pace quickens until by the last, the resident has delivery down to ten minutes.  Each one leaves with a smile and a full stomach.  Turning to his new friend the resident says

“A thousand thanks to you.”

“No need.  All I did was to bring a spark to what was already here, you did the rest.”

“How can I repay you for bringing that spark?”

“Keep the fire going.  One day I shall return and we can laugh about the days of old.”

With that the spark rose from his seat and left.  To honour his new found friend the resident renamed his restaurant ‘The Spark of Life.’


And so dear friends we come to the end of the story.  If you’d like to see more of my works, why not head over to my writing page and have a look.


No Fear

So there I was on my favourite form of public transport minding my own business when an old gentleman boards.  Before he sat down, opposite me I might add, he starts addressing me as if we have met already.  Within a matter of seconds he has bewildered me and made me smile.

This gentleman is one of those rare people who seem to have no fear when talking to others.  His life, however it may have been lived, seems to have been full.  When he left, he turned and waved making me smile once more.  Once we parted company I thought about his life.  I imagined that his wife would have been very happy living with a man who was cheeky, funny and original.  Yet it could be that this was a public veneer, designed to keep others at bay.  Whatever the real answer, I learned a lesson from him.

Observation is a key skill when comes to being a writer.  Everything you do, see, feel or hear can be catalogued and used later on.  Watch, listen and learn from others.  See how they interact with the world around them.  Surely this gentleman behaved differently to the way I do.  I, like most from my city, keep to themselves.  Books and phones are used by many as a shield to ward off others ‘I am busy, don’t bother me!’

Take what they are doing and try and understand why.  Learning about yourself and the world around you helps to develop your fictional characters and the world you construct for them.

You can always tell me your own observations.  You never know, you might be surprised by what you’ve picked up already.

Writing Plays

So what makes writing a play any different from other forms of writing?

Direction, timing and dialogue.

The simple definition of direction is telling the actors what you want them to do( I’m sticking with stage plays here to make things simple.  Radio plays are slightly different).  I prefer a light approach.  A few general directions here and there e.g. move from one side of the stage to the other, shout, gesticulate, sit down, stand up…you get the idea.

When writing a novel, you have an audience of one, the reader.  When writing a play, you have a bigger audience and it is this which causes issues to arise.  The old adage ‘Too many chefs spoil the broth’ comes to mind.  Each new input, while well meaning, is likely to derail the story and reduce it to a horrible mess.

The next area of interest is timing.  Most stage plays have two acts which are about forty five minutes long, on average.  This length of time gives you some room to play with (no pun intended!) but be careful.  Audience attention is likely to wane if it is too long.  A consideration you need to be aware of is that the audience needs to get home once the play is finished.

Like other forms of short writing, it forces you to edit your work so it can be the best.  Extraneous words must be hunted down and removed forthwith.

Lastly, plays are almost purely dialogue, with the exception of a short passage at the beginning of a scene setting it up (partly for the actors, partly for the audience).  So your dialogue needs to be good or it will feel flat.

Get these three ingredients right and you’ll have a decent play on your hands.  Then, work at it so it delivers what you wanted it to.  Like all things in life, practice makes perfect.  The more you do something, the better you’ll get at it.