A King in a dress

I was listening to a podcast today and amongst all the great content included, there was one snippet of a story that stuck with me.

It was about a pre-teen boy who was, for whatever reason, wearing a dress. Someone else in his class stopped him and said:

“You can’t wear that. You’re not a princess”.

His reply?

“I can. I’m a King in a dress”.

If that’s not a perfect example of using creativity to change someone’s perspective, I don’t know what else is.

And, as writers, many of us have messages to deliver, as well as stories. Whether they be social, ethical or everything in-between.

Your creativity is a great tool, and it empowers you – giving you the ability to present things in a way that others can understand and empathise with. Use it wisely.

If you’re interested the podcast was ‘Guilty Feminist’ – which I highly recommend.

Did you hear the one about the internet and the spade?

The internet. It seems like such an all-powerful thing doesn’t it? A 24/7 access to everything around us, available at the touch of a fingertip.

A way to socialise, to work, to sell and to find information. A digital land of happiness, cat memes and dark, evil corners.

When I think of the internet, the first image that comes to mind is a giant cyber brain. That’s constantly pulsating and growing. Growing bigger and bigger by the day.

It’s a complicated thing. Few of us really understand it, and even though we take it as part of our day-to-day it’s still an awe-inspiring thing.

Let me take you now to the Georgian capital city of Tbilisi. A place of cobblestones and art Noveau buildings, among many other things.

One day, not so long ago, a 75 year old woman was out digging for scrap metal. She was just on the outskirts of the city and had been working really hard that day – the more scrap she got, the more money she’d head home with.

tibilisi

As she was digging her spade accidentally ripped through a cable. Naturally this worried her, but after a quick look around all seemed okay and there was no one around to notice. So she continued her day’s work, set the memory of the cable aside and as dusk fell across the city she headed home.

Meanwhile, web-users in neighbouring Armenia were having a tough day. No matter how hard they tried they just couldn’t get online. It took five hours for them to realise that something had gone wrong in Georgia, the country that provided 95% of their internet.

You’ve probably guessed what happened.

The cable that the old lady had damaged was a fibre-optic one that provided Armenia with their internet.

Sure they fixed it soon enough, once they’d realised.

But, it just goes to show that even though the cyber world around us is so advanced and complex, it isn’t invincible.

Something as simple as the spade can conquer the internet.

It’s the same with life. As intense and complicated as it may well be, we need to make time for the simple things and look out for the simple problems – as they could very soon evolve into much bigger problems.

Hamburg, the Beatles and the sweet music of success…

As regular readers will know, I’m a big believer in the theory that it takes 10, 000 hours of practice to be good at something.

But, while practice makes perfect, there are other factors that can control success and give some of us an exceptional advantage over others in our field. While I don’t claim to be successful just yet, any talent I have when it comes to writing stems back to the hours of practice I put in as a youth.

My parents’ house was so far out of town I had little else to do on some evenings but write and be creative.

But, let’s use a more interesting case study…’The Beatles’. If you haven’t heard of them…then…where have you been? They defined popular music and elevated it to the dizziest contemporary heights imaginable.

Many people still wonder, even now, what it was that made them so good. I believe that part of it was due to some gigs they played in a German city…

An unlikely twist of fate took them to the city of Hamburg when they were very young…and it was that same twist of fate that helped give them something of an edge over the other bands and solo artists of the day.

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Back in the day, as a small band of high school kids, The Beatles were lucky enough to get an invite to play in Germany. And, they took it – one of the reasons being that they had access to a lot of alcohol and sex over there. The other reason (more relevant to this post) is the access that it gave them to clubs who wanted them to play live music to big crowds.

When it came to gigging, the Hamburg clubs differed to the English ones in a key way. Back in Blighty the guys were asked to play a set for an hour, or maybe two if they were lucky.

But, in Hamburg, the club promoters wanted them to play all night – meaning that they’d often be going for 6-8 hours!

Imagine that…gigging for eight hours! I can only imagine the sweat.

Not only that, but as the guys’ popularity skyrocketed in Germany, the Hamburg clubs wanted them to play every night of the week. Some fifty-six hours of performing. In total, after several trips, they played for 270 nights in just over a year and a half.

This meant that the guys had to improve their stamina, their stage presence and, above all, they had to learn more songs.

They couldn’t get by with just playing their go-to ‘hits’ they had to learn loads of new songs and even different genres – such as a few jazz numbers. This gave them a discipline on stage that other bands at the time just didn’t learn – plus, it gave them plenty of time to practice until they made it perfect.

As John Lennon said; “in Liverpool we’d only ever done one-hour sessions, and we just used to do our best numbers, the same ones, at every one. In Hamburg, we had to play for eight hours, so we really had to find a new way of playing”.

So, as someone who wants to make it as a creative – you need to look out for your Hamburg. Something special that gives you an edge or an experience over the others. Whether it be using weird dreams you had as a kid to influence your art, or maybe booking a month off work and going to your grandparents’ quiet holiday house on the coast to write uninterrupted.

The research for this post mostly came from Malcolm Gladwell’s fantastic book ‘Outliers‘, I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in success and talent.

by Ashley Brown 2017

 

The Way of the Dog

dog

This is one of the best photos I’ve seen in a long time and I think we can learn a lot from it.

As the story goes, a massive parade was being held in Mexico for the Pope and, by some twist of fate, a dog ended up walking down the pathway that had been set up.

What did the dog do? Did it get all embarrassed? Did it run off to the nearest corner? Did it post a status beginning with the words ‘that awkward moment when…’ ?

Nope. It did none of the above. In fact, some say that the dog actually thought the parade was in its honour – it didn’t think to doubt itself for a minute.

Why wouldn’t those humanoids hold a celebration for me? I’ve been a good dog!”

It just enjoyed the moment. Dogs are good at that. Humans aren’t. We’re all so conditioned to over-analyse and worry about things that we’re guilty of not enjoying ourselves as much as we could.

People tend to like dogs because they’re honest, loving and fun.

Maybe we could consciously be more like them sometimes.

I’ll leave you with the words of Dale Carnegie, author of ‘How to win friends and influence people”…

“Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says, “I like you, You make me happy. I am glad to see you.” That is why dogs make such a hit. They are so glad to see us that they almost jump out of their skins. So, naturally, we are glad to see them.”

3 lessons you can learn from my first car…

After being together for eleven years I’m now in the process of selling my first car.

As much as I’d like to have kept it forever and ever, life has a way of moving on. But, as I’ll mention later, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep the memories.

There was a badge on my first car that bore the legend ‘Independence’. Which is beautifully apt, as that’s what it gave me – a full sense of independence that I’d never had before. I could go anywhere that the roads could take me.

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My first car wasn’t the best model out there, it wasn’t the fastest and it certainly wasn’t the biggest. But yet it was with me through many adventures, and I learnt a lot from it.

Here are 3 lessons that you can learn from my first car…

Don’t be afraid to take the reins…

My first car didn’t have power steering. To get that car to swerve in any direction it took a lot of wrenching…and parallel parking was always a problem.

(For those not in the know power steering basically makes it easier to steer your car. It’s like having an extra hand on your wheel – helping you ease off into the direction of your choice.)

But I learnt that sometimes you need to use a bit of brute force, sometimes you need to take problems and scenarios in life by the reins and give them a metaphorical wrench to get things going in the right direction. Sometimes we look over our shoulders too much for assistance, and it’s not going to always be there.

Practicality can trump aesthetics

Another friend passed his test around the same time as me, and we both got our cars on the road at around the same time.

He was luckily enough to be given a car that was all bells and whistles. It had been top of the range just a couple of years ago and it even had a soft top…which made him look cool as hell as he cruised through the British summer of that year with his aviators on. My car was more than a couple of years old, much older and a lot more humble.

I went miles in my car – it got me from A to B with no fuss and no frills. I ran into my friend about a year later, and he’d downsized to a car a little like mine.

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While his car looked awesome it wasn’t well made. There were constant problems, and parts for that car were expensive. It had cost him a couple of grand, and they’d lost a lot of money on it when they sold it. Whereas I’d spent £30 on a new wheel and £2 on an air freshener that was meant to smell like pineapple.

The glossy pages won’t tell you this, but sometimes you need to prioritise practicality over aesthetics.

Become emotionally attached to it

I fear that we underestimate nostalgia and sentimentality sometimes. No matter how long you have it for, you’ll always remember your first car. So think about it as a friend, rather than just a tool to get from A to B.

As you’ll probably know, whenever you talk to older people they’ll regale you with stories from their past. Sometimes the same story over and over again.

I used to get bored, but now I don’t…because I’ve figured out that the reason people retell stories is because they like telling them.

Who am I to rob someone of that pleasure?

Life is all about making memories. So make the most of sentimentality and nostalgia, attach mental value to things…who knows how many times you’ll revisit, retell and re-enjoy the past.

And, of course – always drive safe and take care of yourself. The most important asset you have to the world is you.

Ashley Brown, 2017

Bruce Lee on practice 

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee.

I didn’t write today because I spent ages chasing down this Bruce Lee quote to share. I’d heard it years ago and couldn’t remember how it went.

As regular readers will know I genuinely believe that practice makes perfect.

Particularly the right quite of practice.

Sometimes you really have to narrow your practicing down to truly excel at something.

It’s nice to be beside the seaside…

Today I didn’t write because I went to the seaside.

There’s something in the saying “oh I do like to be beside the seaside”.

There’s something about the air and the sun as it twinkles off the water. 

A cleansing, blow-out-the-cobwebs experience.

It made me feel creative.
 I know us artists and writers can often be indoor types but crisp, clean and fresh air should never be discounted as a remedy for the creative block.