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

What’s life got to do with the colour of the sky?

It took me twenty-five years to realise that I was a goals-orientated individual. I guess until someone pointed it out, I was so caught up in the way I was doing things that I hadn’t realised.

I mean it’s not a bad thing, in many ways life (and writing) is all a series of goals – an invisible checklist that exists only in your head, presiding over your waking life. A multitude of boxes waiting to be ticked off as you go. Just in this week alone my goals have ranged from getting a haircut (failed) to becoming the greatest, most influential writer who ever lived (also sadly failed).

It’s the same with writing…if you don’t have goals you’re going to struggle – since I started this blog I’ve said that every day, rain or shine, I’ll post something. And I’ve stuck with it. On some days I’ve felt tired or been busy, so I’ve written a shorter post – but I’ve still achieved that goal and it’s kept me writing.

Set little goals for yourself. It works. Even if you only manage to write 50 words you’ve still written – you’re not gonna be able to whack out a whopping 70 thousand words every day. Keep the momentum going. As I’ve said before, writing is a bit like working out – if you suddenly miss a few days, it can soon turn to weeks and the absence can create a warm spot for the parasite of laziness to develop and you can soon find your New York Times Bestseller (every published book ever) thrown onto the wayside.

When I started this post I didn’t intend to mention goals as much, but hey I’ve got nothing against freestyling.

I wanted to mention that, as goals-orientated about life as you maybe, take a moment every now and then to notice the colour of the sky as you go from A to B. You’ll appreciate it. I spent many years smashing objectives and achieving goals, but lost count of things along the way. Missing the journey as my mind was only set on reaching the destination.

People-watch, look at the colour of the sky, take the route less travelled on your usual commute…whatever it is do something different and, most importantly, look for something different. After all inspiration is often in the unexpected, but if you’re only concentrating on the road ahead then who knows what you’ll miss on the sides of the roads.

Sure, on most motorways you’ll only miss seeing a handful of McDonalds and Little Chefs (other fast food joints are available too)…but inspiration will always be grazing somewhere along the grass – like a unicorn waiting to be found…or at the very least a carrot-chomping donkey.

The rhythm of creativity.

One of the hardest things about being creative is actually getting the momentum going and finishing the thing.

Whether you’re writing a story, typing up your memoirs or jotting down the lyrics for a power ballad – at one time or another you’re more than likely going to want to stop mid-sentence. Perhaps you’ll realise you fucked up something in the first paragraph, or maybe you’ll decide that the second verse isn’t quite right. Whatever the case, the likelihood is that you’re going to stop prematurely.

The lesson for today is simple.

Don’t do that.

A creative flow can be hard to find and once we get into one it’s important to do all you can to preserve it. On the various laptops and PCs that I’ve had over the years there are files and files full of unfinished novels and stories. They were either abandoned because I went off to chase the next shiny project I saw in the distance, or because I stopped writing and started editing – thus, breaking my flow and meaning that when I tried to come back to it the words weren’t coming as easy.

A good creative flow is like an incredible looking butterfly – amazing when you see it, gliding along at a good pace. But also very, very delicate – you just know that those wings are so flimsy that the slightest heavy touch could damage them beyond repair.

(Although, unlike butterflies, when your creative flow dies don’t pin its corpse to the inside of a collection book. That’s just weird.)

Your creativity is like this – once you get into the swing of it do as much as you can to keep it going, get those words out and don’t do anything heavy-handed that might affect it. If the words are coming naturally, don’t worry about those typos in paragraph one – don’t worry that you accidentally typed the name Maggie, when you meant to write about your character called Jed.

Concentrate on getting those words down, it’s easier to edit a page full of words than to take on a blank page with a mindset of fragile creativity.

Even if you suddenly decide you want to go back and change a full chapter of your story – just make a quick note of it, and then go back to your flow.

Once the words start to naturally get a little harder, or once that thing called life gets in the way – then you can come back to it and make those changes. Or maybe you just continue writing your story/blog post/etc as you now want it and go back once you’ve completed the draft.

When things flow and the job’s a good ‘un do all you can to keep it going. Don’t over-analyse until afterwards. If you ask a child to write you a story or draw you a picture, 90% of the time they’ll finish it.

Sure most of their work won’t make the ‘New York Times Bestsellers’ list (although maybe it would? Nearly every paperback I see has that on the front) – but they’ll get to the end. Because they just go with what they feel, and their inner-critic doesn’t break things up for them.

So, yeah next time someone calls you ‘childish’ or tells you that you’re acting like a ‘kid’ thank them and go smash something creative.

What are you doing to develop yourself?

We live in a world saturated by motivation, or at least attempts at motivation. If you look down any social media feed you’ll find quotes, inspirational videos and memes – flowing across the page like some kind of wide-eyed, shiny-smiley waterfall of alliteration and ambition.

It’s a good thing in some ways, such easy access to information and such an ability to connect with like-minded people is something that we’ve never had before. Not only that but nearly any ‘self-help’ book, information book or philosophy book can be delivered to your door by the next working day. Just at the click of a button. Perfect, we should all be brainier and better at life, right?

The problem is…you can have all the tools to hand, but unless you actually use them…well, what’s the point?

So whoever or wherever you are, the question I want to ask you is… “what are you doing to develop yourself today?”

Whether it’s to do with writing, applying for a job/course, fitness, sport or anything in-between or beyond, you can have a head full of dreams and talent, but unless you take the time to work on you it’s unlikely that the success you crave is going to find you.

Sometimes that means sacrifices – saying no to the occasional night out, taking a day off or waking up a couple of hours earlier.

Writing was always my first love but as I reluctantly tumbled into adulthood time became scarce – I suddenly had this thing called ‘full-time work’ that seemed to take up the best part of my day. Apparently it’s a phenomenon that most of us experience…!

And, so, until recently when I started consciously making the time to write, my creativity fell on the wayside and I had to work to get it back. I see writing a bit like physical fitness – sure some of us are born with a good natural level of fitness, but if we get lazy it becomes harder and harder to get back on track.

Writing is like that. It’s a metaphorical muscle that can turn to metaphorical fat if you don’t use it enough and it can take a while to get it back.

If you don’t make (or find) the time to develop ‘you’ it’s likely that you’ll watch the hours and the days and the weeks and the months and the years whizz past in a blur of moderate good times and a lingering sense of unfulfillment.

Enough preaching – wake up an hour early, take a night to yourself, book some time off…whatever it takes – start buying yourself time to do what you want to do. No other generation has had as much access to information, education and leisure time as us. You should make it count – start developing YOU today!

Getting things done is an art and you, me – we’ve all got this covered.