• Home
  • About
  • Blog
  • Modelling
  • Archives
  • Categories
  • Archive for the ‘Uncategorised’ Category

    With thanks for a miracle, or damn near close enough


    2014 - 10.30

    A miracle* is happening. A miracle 32 years, 449+ people and £14,225+ in the making.

    Literally my lifetime of scheming, dreaming, trying, failing, hoping, waiting, experimenting, working and playing in the fields of creative writing, fitness and geekery are intersecting in a Kickstarter campaign that completes its funding in exactly 24 hours from the time of writing.

    Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 17.51.28

    32 years in which I careened between interests, jobs and even countries, with no apparent road map, at times to my own despair and, I am sure, that of my family.

    Coming to the UK was… not accidental, but really only happened because of a wedding. Becoming a fitness instructor was… not accidental as such, but only really happened because of a combination of job loss + recession and the fact I was in the studio every lunch time anyway. It was a three year plan that has just hit 5 years, the longest I have ever held a job. Totally unintended. I had just found something I loved and was good at.

    Through it all, and always, I have written, almost daily; and I have watched and read, captivated by novels, films, TV series and comics. I’m never quite satisfied with real life, but always listening out for the next call to adventure.

    And tomorrow, I answer the greatest call. 449 people have invested their faith and money in me to produce Apocalypse Survival Training, a narrative fitness app that is a cross between an exercise class, personal training, life coaching and a rollicking adventure story.

    Although indebted to the first and only truly successful narrative fitness app on the market, there really is nothing out there quite like AST. It’s going to be insanely difficult to do. There are going to be twists and sheer drops on the road, most of which I won’t see until I hit them.

    This scares the shit out of me.

    It also ignites me with excitement, and every day I remind myself that fear and excitement are two sides of one coin, and that I’m going to have a lot more fun if I choose to be excited (do remind me any time you find me freaking out). And besides, I have amazing people beside and behind me.

    I am so grateful to every friend and every stranger who has gone onto the campaign page and said, with anything from a pound to a grand,  ‘yup, AST should totally Be A Thing!’

    Because of you, it will be. 

    I THANK YOU, AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.

    And I will spend the next year doing everything in my power not to let you down.

    579767_10151413501341897_953266432_n

     

    *Ok, I realise it’s not technically a miracle, but from where I’m sitting right now, behind the dashboard of the kickstarter campaign, it feels a lot like it. It’s certainly an extraordinary and welcome event and while there’s no identified divine agency involved, it still feels inexplicable that this has come to pass. So if it’s not a miracle, it’s damn near close enough for me.

     

    Why. Framing. Friends. And Tony Stark.


    2014 - 09.21

    I am one lucky unqualified entrepreneur. I have a mentor who has my back, but doesn’t gloss over the hits that life in a startup will swing my way.

    Business-stuff doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m a feeler, a dreamer, quick to laugh and just as quick to cry. I’m finding my way. It’s dangerous to go alone. Take someone who knows more than you do about where you’re going.

    In my first freeform game, The King’s Musketeers, I got to know Alex Jones as the Musketeers deposed him (as the evil king) and restored him to the throne (as his twin brother).

    um

    I was cast as a woman pretending to be a man running around duelling. AWESOME.

    We had a brilliant weekend of swashing and buckling and, discovering a lot of common ground including our writing, made Facebook friends.

    The following year we were fellow detectives in the world of Casablanca, and right at the end of the weekend, he mentioned he was there with his parents – a couple I had seen several times around but in games of 80+ players, had not actually spoken to much. Facebook soon after suggested his father, Chris, as a mutual friend, which seemed a good idea.

    I BLOODY LOVE FACEBOOK.

    Chris answered a Facebook plea for business advice. We had a couple of calls, where I displayed how staggeringly uninformed I was about all things business. We had more calls. And Facebook messages. Then he started letting me know when he was in London, so we could have face to face sessions.

    What Chris is very good at is looking not just as business, but what it means to be in business. We have had very frank discussions about the costs to lifestyle, relationships, sleep, stress levels. I’m not going into this naive and blind anymore. And I am lucky: Ras has seen me at my best and also my worst and every time I give into stress, he never asks me if I really want to go through this. He just asks what he can do to help, and assures me we’ll get through the current bump together. I don’t have to choose between him and the business, just like he will never have to choose between me and his musical career. So two key people have my back.

    On a Friday, a couple things came to head for me. It started with discovering that our Kickstarter video isn’t actually right as a kickstarter video. It’s a great little video, and has been the best part of my last month’s work in pre and post production – but it’s probably not our best chance at pulling strangers into our campaign.

    I have been working and working towards launching our Kickstarter campaign tomorrow and the key part of that campaign needs revision, if not re-doing completely.

    On Friday I sat in my coffice on the receiving end of a torrent of feedback on Facebook and PM – all of it helpful, all of it well meaning, but the sum of which I was not, at that time, equipped to deal with. In there, a few people really reached more directly out and ended up dealing with me in a heightened stare of aaargh but walked me through it, and I’m grateful (as I always am to everyone who fed back).

    I don’t know how to manage these new levels of fear and stress yet. I don’t know how to put so much on the line and have the line cut and while ill and sleep deprived, just go ‘ok. Bummer but here we go, Plan B’ without having an almighty emotional crash first. The video was the tip of the iceberg – there were other issues and fears around the project which jumped me on Friday.

    Which all led to the big question at the heart of all endeavour:

    WHY.

    Why am I doing this? Having to delay a campaign and throw out a month’s work will be the least of my worries if Imaginactive actually floats. Chris and I have talked about why he does what he does. He has a very clear understanding of his goals and rewards and is satisfied that they outweigh the costs.

    So I thought about that. I dug into everything that’s going on.

    I found an answer I’m happy with.

    And now I have a new tool: a frame tool. In a highly emotionally charged, exhausted state, my default frame for Friday was fuck my life. It’s hard to re-frame when you’re on edge anyway but I didn’t really have another strategy to even try and draw on.

    Ras is in Copenhagen. I should have been with him, for an important personal event, but I had to say no: I was launching a crowdfund on Monday. The day he left, the crowdfund strategy fell apart, as did I shortly after. I went home to an empty flat, ate all the peanut butter, started on John’s cereal box and genuinely didn’t know what to do with myself.

    So I put on Iron Man, and curled up on the couch with Tigger.

    A different kind of mentorship.

    A different kind of mentorship.

    A really helpful email from DiG came through.

    I started to regroup.

    Chris offered to call.

    I didn’t want to talk, but I also knew I had to get out of my head.

    I paused Iron Man, rang Chris, expecting a bit of ‘pull yourself together’. But I had a friend on the line, a mentor in the truest sense of the word.

    I started to re-frame the day.

    I finished watching Iron Man, fell asleep on the couch with Tigger, woke up when she got up later, went to my empty bed and lay awake until about 2am just running everything through my head, getting the heart of a couple of issues.

    I took yesterday off, which is an event in itself, and which let me think about the Why of Imaginactive. Think about framing. Inspect my weaknesses. I even went to the hairdresser, months late for my annual haircut.

    You get THIS with a HAIR CUT? Might have to start at least twice a year...

    You get THIS with a HAIR CUT? Might have to start going twice a year…

    I had a dvd night with two of my closest girlfriends and they sorted me out a bit further with a mixture of love and tough love.

    I was nervous about releasing the kickstarter video for feedback because my gut feeling was that it wasn’t right. I desperately wanted my paranoia be proven wrong.

    I was not. Everything I worried about came to pass on Friday afternoon.

    I took this as a terrible blow: my paranoia is real!

    Hollie and Eleanor re-framed that: my paranoia was true, therefore not paranoia but instinct. My instinct was true. Far from trusting myself less, I could take this as an opportunity to trust myself more.

    (that took some digesting)

    With Iron Man still on my mind, I complained that I wanted to be more like Tony Stark (post kidnapping, obviously) but have have none of his skills, business background, cast iron self-belied, teflon plating. Or, like, money.

    They reminded me that even Tony plays Tony Stark.

    We play roles. We imagine playing roles. Part of why I love reading and writing is the ability of characters to inspire us in our own lives, and to allow us to imagine being in theirs. Well, right now I’m on the other end of that. Tony crashes his suit and is pleased. He gets bashed around, thrown into walls, trashes his workshop, nearly dies in space – and it’s all brilliant to him.

    "...not bad..."

    “…not bad…”

    My journey isn’t that exciting but do me a favour: any time you see me falter, here’s the codephrase: ‘What would Tony Stark do?’

    Today I’m back to work. The kickstarter campaign has to run asap or we hit the pre-Christmas and new year crowdfund slow down and that’s it until March/April next year, and as Hollie says, all this momentum will be lost. We were already cutting the timing fine and now it’s even finer.

    Part of me is still freaking out about writing and trying to get my cast and crew back together for another video, with another edit, and in an even shorter timeframe.

    But.

    What would Tony Stark do?

    …ok, he wouldn’t write a blog about it…

    …he’d go off to the workshop. Mine isn’t anywhere near as cool and has a distinct lack of Jarvis and droids.

    But the coffee’s not bad.

     

     

     

    Step 27: Get Published


    2014 - 05.02

    I’m pretty sure I planned to have a book published at 30. That was definitely in a Life Plan somewhere. Quite a few, really. 

    I’ve missed that life goal, it seems, even though I’m sure I’m still only in my 20s really. The first book is mostly written but now it needs a staggering amount of re-writing, and this was the year I was going to do it but… this whole Audio Fitness Adventures thing kind of got going and…

    …well. I have not completed, much less published, a book by 30. It’s like in my head, my deepest self validation starts at Step 1: Get Published. Thing is, to get to that step, there a stupid number of previous steps and I don’t even want to tell you how many mistakes. So long story short (and the sequence of steps may one day appear as another blog post) I’m going to review that to Step 27: Get Published.

    Which I’ve finally bloody done.

    LE FEMME (NewCon Press)

    Front cover image: Pam Martin – Back cover image: Shaun Hodge

    And this is the story of how.

    It technically started with my friend Ian Whates getting in touch about a year ago – maybe more? – to ask to use some of my modelling shots for the covers of an anthology he was putting together. It really started when super comics writer Tony Lee dared me to wear the Slave Leia outfit at an SFX Weekender, and having rather reluctantly done so, I had my single best night of professional and geeky networking ever. And met, amongst many others, Ian, who I then bumped into at Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker launch and have been very happy Facebook and real life friends with since.

    Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 18.43.15

    Me and my first publisher – YAAAY IAN!!!

    Now there was a time, about 18 months ago, when it seemed I was more likely to get agented and published as a model than a writer. Which quietly wearied me – and then that didn’t happen either so the equilibrium of my total obscurity remained unchallenged.

    But Ian wanted some shots, and photographers Pam Martin and Shaun Hodge OK’d them and VOILA: I was to appear in print!

    Well.
    On the cover of someone else’s print.

    Quietly, I despaired.

    And then asked Ian whether – ‘long shot, no worries if not, totally understand if it’s utter unprintable bollocks’ – I could submit to the anthology. The theme was the Femme Fatale. I write several of those already and sometimes prance around pretending to be one on the weekends. I felt marginally qualified.

    He said yes, I could submit.

    But with the usual necessary disclaimers that he would not sympathy print me just because I was 31 and incapable of getting a book out in the public domain or short stories beyond my website. Not that I’ve tried the latter much mind you, to be fair. I write them, and then I hide them on my website, and might link to them once ever, when a new one goes up. Little secret for you: you can find them right here if you feel so inclined.

    No, for this, I had to write a decent story, one I couldn’t just sympathy beg my friends to read.

    So I pondered over whether to start a completely new story, or step into one of my existing works. This was 2013 and the theme of the year was to write stories from my larger projects in short form (my reasoning being that instead of saying ‘oh yes, I write stuff! But no, none of it is finished’ or ‘so do you read scripts for pleasure?’ I could say ‘oh yes, I write stuff! And you can read some of it here!‘).

    Vandal is my most obvious femme fatale, but the most interesting part of her life does rather require backstory, and I had a 4,000 word limit. So I ended up working with Soleil in the backstory to my TV series concept Life In Me and from an image taken by my friend John Henry:

    John Henry

    Adler vs Sherlock (poor Jez Hellion – but he had his vengeance) PHOTO: John Henry

    A few loyal friends have endured various drafts and forms of Life In Me being thrust somewhat desperately upon them, and while the story has its fans, it has its detractors as well. I will never forget one friend telling me to abandon the whole thing if I ever wanted to write something decent. I’ll never forget it because while reading that feedback, in an email on my phone, I became so distraught that I didn’t notice some bastard nick my purse on the bus home. I was already crying by the time I got off, checked my bag and discovered the theft. It took a while to get over that.

    Soleil's future on Earth - and a surprisingly accurate portrayal of how I felt after the feedback (PHOTO: David Long of Exposure Studios London)

    Soleil’s future on Earth – and a surprisingly accurate portrayal of how I felt after the feedback (PHOTO: David Long of Exposure Studios London, MODEL: Anita De Bouch )

    But Life in Me is what I largely spent my university years working on, what I wrote my first ever attempts at scripts for, and what kept me writing through my seven months in Italy by getting up at 4:30am to get the hour in before getting the kids up at 6. I wrote and shot a photo story for it with my photographer friend David Long, and I wrote and workshopped a ‘trailer’ for the series as an experimental piece of theatre for The Hospital Club a few years back (a truly, truly strange video does exist). I can leave it for a year and dive back in as though I never left – and I loved stepping into its backstory for the short story submission.

    An alternate vision of Soleil (PHOTO: David Long, Exposure Studios London)

    A vision of Soleil (PHOTO: David Long, Exposure Studios London)

    Only one person read it before I submitted it to Ian – and that’s rare for me, as I’m always bumming around for feedback, even though I’ve had to learn to toughen the hell up the last few years. But I submitted and didn’t hear anything back for months and forgot about it.

    Then Ian emailed, and there were some tense issues and a definite need for some editing between us but he liked it.

    He said: yes.

    Suddenly, I was going to be published! As both a writer and a model! And at the same time!

    I rejoiced!

    Then I realised that by announcing my first publication (at 31), I was also confessing to having my first publication at 31. Which really didn’t match those younger Life Plans.

    I despaired.
    Again.

    As is my fractious nature – I have a sunny disposition on all matters unless I have a pistol to hold to my own head and then damn I will take aim – I did indeed manage to make this first win into a fail. During the editing back-and-forths, some of which were taking place during my pre-burnout period at the start of this year, and when my self esteem and emotional resilience was precarious at best, I actually demanded Ian to tell me why he was even publishing it. WHY, IT’S CRAP!

    It really became a messy situation in my head, a success that just seemed to illustrate a larger failure, and the closer we got to print, the more I worried people would buy the book to support me having finally been published, but wouldn’t particularly enjoy the story. And then probably wouldn’t tell me they had bought it or mention that they had read it (knowing someone is planning to read your work, and then never hearing back, is like trauma to a writer, believe me).

    The good news is the anthology has stories from many considerably experienced and imaginative story tellers and I, so is totally worth your investment :)  It’s a steal on Kindle and also available in paperback and hardcover with signed author sheets, if you’d like to enjoy the covers. Or like signatures.

    Really should have practiced my scrawl first...

    Really should have practiced my scrawl first…

     

    I! Signed! Author sheets!

    I! Signed! Author sheets!

    Of the covers themselves, let it be said that the front cover was one of the first modelling pictures of me that didn’t involve weapons and a variation of the ‘I’m going to fuck you up’ face and was therefore quite the challenge for Pam Martin to capture, and the back cover makes me look elegant and like a dancer which is a bloody miracle on Shaun Hodge’s part.

    So I guess the concluding moral of the story is: dress up as Leia, get published a few years later*.

    Also, steal everyone else's steampunk weapons.

    Also, steal everyone else’s steampunk weapons.

    *though I am fairly sure there are faster and more conventional methods

     

    Buy LA FEMME on Kindle
    Buy LA FEMME in paperback on Amazon
    Buy LE FEMME in hardcover on Amazon
    Buy LA FEMME  from a small independent bookseller

     

    Love. Actually. Actually actually ACTUALLY.


    2014 - 01.31

    So I have some time on my hands. 

    Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d hear myself say. And it hasn’t turned out quite as I planned: three month of relentlessly running myself into the ground (business as usual there of course) just crashed my romantic weekend break with an unfortunate visit to A&E -

    - now wait a damn minute – there’s another sentence I never thought I’d hear myself say.

    Romantic weekend break…

    This is someone else’s life, surely? I’ve interloped into another woman’s reality. The Adele I know never has ‘time on her hands’ and she sure as hell doesn’t do romance. In fact, she’s practically notorious for her spinsterhood. Romance would require, like, a boyfriend and a heart and everything.

    And YET.

    It seems, against all statistical and anecdotal evidence, that I do have a boyfriend. 27th January marked four months together and I still have to ask myself at least twelve or thirteen times a day: so come on Kirby, how DID this whole relationship thing happen again…?

    We didn’t even notice the 27th pass this week. We were otherwise preoccupied. Ras had a hard time getting me up. We needed to shop at the giant ASDA while we still had the hire car, so I wouldn’t have to suicide cycle home my mega-tons of fresh fruit and veg. I trailed him wearily around the supermarket and when he dropped me home, I did the only thing I could at the time: I lay on the floor and cried. He held me and talked me round, the way only he can, until smiles replaced tears. It hadn’t been the romantic weekend we were hoping for, but I cannot imagine circumstances under which I could been shown more love.

    1472737_10151951046325852_1140893854_n

    Best. Pillow. Ever.

    So. I have some time off work, therefore unexpected time on my hands, and many seriously pressing uses for that time. I have fallen inconceivably far behind on AFA, that novel just won’t write itself, dozens of books lay accusingly unread by my bed, accounts need to be filed and of course Tigger is sitting here next to me tutoring me on the absolute importance of the mid-afternoon nap.

    tigger

    Sleep, you must.

    But I am going to try to write three blogs, all recent lessons taught by Life with varying degrees of subtlety and brute force. I figure I have been forced to rest and reflect, so can process them the way I do best: through writing. One or two paragraphs may even be interesting to other people. They shall be:

    1. Love. Actually (aka ‘how I got dated’)
    2. Beautiful Lies
    3. Gratitude

    So…

    …about this love thing.

    (more…)

    Meditation through Movement


    2013 - 06.10

    I am not what you would consider a person naturally predisposed to meditation.

    It requires being still. It requires being calm. It requires being clear-minded.

    Most difficult of all, it requires the application of some serious mono-tasking – a nightmare to someone who has just been doing therapy stretches while eating lunch while listening to a podcast on swordsmanship and spirituality while also having a conversation on Facebook, all while running through the idea of this blog in my head.

    WHAT DO YOU MEAN I CAN DO ONLY ONE THING AT A TIME?

    And so, despite my zen-guru Hollie’s many attempts to help me employ mindfulness techniques into daily life, apply focus and practice meditation, for better or for worse, I remain as ballistic as ever.

    In the newly immortal words of Jackie Chan as Mr Miyagi, my focus needs more focus.

    And then I have this amazing riding experience on the weekend with my new equestrian Jedi Master, Dylan Jones of Dolbadran Film Horses, where he pretty much Mr Miyagi’s me. I’m pretty sure he mentioned focus more than once. I’d know for sure, if I only had more of it.

    So that’s on my mind, and both getting-and-staying asleep is a drag, and then Mike Fitch, creator of Equinox’s Animal Flow program, and of whom I am an avid disciple, posts this video last night: slow flow.

    And I’m in bed way past bedtime but watching it anyway – while having two Facebook PM conversations at the same time – and I’m thinking: that looks like meditation to me.

    Mediation through movement.

    I have a feeling, like I’m on the cusp of something. In his feedback on my last video, Mike told me ‘your body will know where to go.’ If that’s the case, then I don’t give it anywhere enough credit because I’m always doing the telling and I ain’t ever doing the listening.

    So after teaching this afternoon, I put on some of my favourite music from Body Balance – the tai chi and yoga tracks, all emotive and expressive and slow - and I start to…listen. I start to flow.

    AN HOUR FLOWS BY.

    Say what?!

    I was thinking 30 mins max – I’m busy! I’ve just flogged myself in cycle and combat, I’m tired! My To Do List is a thing of terror and this blog isn’t even on it!

    But this hour just goes by and I’m all calm and focussed and stuff. I’m listening to my body, and it’s talking back. It’s a bit lost, but it’s loving not being thrashed by all the high impact, cardio and resistance training I assault it with daily.

    I have, in fact, just been in the closest thing I’ve probably ever experienced to a willingly meditative state.

    This is sort of where I got up to – I handstand all the time, in fairly average fashion. It’s a lot harder from here, and this is what my body wanted to go – into a sort of animal flow/hand balancing fusion. I am, in this film, surreally relaxed and focussed.

    This will get better. But this is a new – and thoroughly enjoyable – place to be. I may not be ready for meditation sitting still with my eyes closed, but I am right up for meditative practice through movement.

    If there’s some kind of movement you like to do, I suggest trying it without your head in the driver’s seat. Find a space, find some music that you connect to, and just…flow. Listen. Be. I’m a big fan of Nike’s Just Do It, but now I’m starting to think there should be a new slogan: Just Feel It.

    …to be continued…

    A Dream Left Dying


    2013 - 06.09

    For most of my life, I had a Dream. Just the one, and but it had no limits and it was all I needed. It was all I wanted: just a life with horses.

     

    This is not me. But this is where I went in my head.

     

    Worn down by years of begging, my parents promised me horse riding lessons when I turned ten. I will never have a birthday more magical.

     

    But before that time, I genuinely believed that horses were my destiny, so everything was possible. My assumption was that I would have a natural affinity with them, and would inevitably become an outstanding rider, trainer and teacher. Case in point for an assumption making an ass out of – well, at least me.

     

    Yeah, hilarious.

     

    At my stables we used to joke that the love of horses was an addiction: irrational to anyone not afflicted with it, and all-consuming of time and money, often to the detriment of friendships and relationships. This is perhaps less funny when you realise how true it is. Through my teens I didn’t know a horsey girl who would put the needs of her boyfriend before those of her horse. Those boys were dragged all over the country at all hours of the day to groom the horse, drive the horse, support the rider, do the heavy lifting and, most romantically, pick up poo. Myself, I never had a boyfriend. I was too busy with horses.

     

    I read every book in the school and local library with a horse on the front cover. I wrote stories about horses. I recall my mother and teachers despairing that I would write nothing else. I only discovered fantasy because Piers Antony’s On A Pale Horse had the eponymous horse on the front cover. This led me from his outstanding Incarnations of Immortality series to his Xanth novels, which frequently had equines on the cover, because he was an author who adored his horses. I think it would be safe to blame my later dream of being a writer on Piers and Helen Barrett, a sadly unappreciated writer of horse novels set in my hometown of Adelaide.

     

    But alas, after I was finally permitted to ride ponies at Sheoak Hill Riding School, reality set in. No amount of love could overcome my innate lack of natural affinity for horses, but enthusiasm ensured I learned slowly by practice what I could not intuit through feel. I was fortunate in that, although my family did not fully understand my obsession hobby, they were nonetheless tolerant and supportive and afforded my lessons until I was able to work the stables all weekend in lieu.

     

    I tell you true: there was nothing in the world that could beat a day in the stables.

     

    LOVE LOVE LOVE (photo by Exposure Studios London)

     

    Now in my adult years, I cannot put into words the excitement I felt, week after week, year after year, every time I ‘went to the horses’. It is my sincere hope for every child that they have something in their life that enchants them so, and for every adult that they have something so joyful to remember. As I remember and write this, I am quietly devastated to realise there is nothing in life now which feels as good as ‘going to the horses’ felt to my teenage self. How I do envy her those golden years.

     

    These days, when my life is a disordered mess and my dreams are multiple, myriad and confused, I say every July that regardless of what calendar year I’m turning, I still feel 19. And that’s because it was when I was 19 that this simple, consuming, glorious dream started to properly fracture. Cracks had been forming for years before, through the Dark Ages in which my run of bad luck became local legend – god, I remember a mother offering me the ride on a horse, and having to retract it when her daughter refused, in case my ‘curse’ struck them.

     

    But the year I turned 19 – and I got my biggest break – really fucked it up. I became acutely aware of my inadequacies. I began to expect and then even await the worst in all situations. I became very trapped by the knowledge of what I could not do, forgetting the existence of the alternate choice: to be empowered by what I could do.

    (more…)

    The Year Of Making Mistakes


    2013 - 04.22

    So, 2012. I tried a few things new. They say that

    and if that’s the case, then I was trying real hard. 2012 was The Year Of Making Mistakes.

    In the course of these mistakes, I bummed out on my writing. That’s how, in the end, I knew they were crappy mistakes, instead of mistakes that were Really Going To Make Everything Better!! Neil Gaiman did an amazing commencement talk for Stanford University where he gave a reliable compass to all artists in doubt: is your dilemma moving you closer to, or farther from, the mountain?

    Man, my compass was waaaaay off, because that mountain was behind me and it took a while to find the path back to it.

    But I did, so it’s time to

    But that means taking risks, right? It probably means being wrong a whole lot. It’s like

    But this year, I’m going to make better ones. Because I need to play catch up and apparently

     So I don’t know about the wisdom part, but I do know that I need a progress acceleration, people. So in the spirit of the sage advice above, I am dubbing 2013 The Year of Making Mistakes In Public.

    You, my friends, are the public.

    I’m writing stories and putting them on my website and finding out whether they get read, and whether people will read from one to the next, and what’s working and for who. Because here’s the single best inspirational quotation I have seen for an artist:

    I’m minding the gap. I’m going to write and I’m going to post and I’m sorry that I’m not going to be amazing right now but I’m going to get better. I’d be grateful for some help along the way. The first story is up now, and since I’m an artist, and the statistics for making an income much less living from my writing are astronomically stacked against me, I’ve put in a virtual tip jar, in case you’d like to throw some change in.

    When I get my hands back on Photoshop, I’ll make it an actual tip jar, instead of just a button that says it’s a tip jar…

    So keeping to schedule may be a challenge, given my startling similarities to Dug. You know how it is. “I’m busy writing and is that a SQUIRREL?!”

    And after all those motivational quotes, I leave you with my favourite.

    Don’t ask why, because there’s

    Amazing Monday


    2013 - 01.25

    It started with an email from one of my gym chains, warning us instructor folk of the impending arrival of ‘Blue Monday’, a day which has been (scientifically dubiously) ‘scientifically proven’ to be the most depressing of year. I suspect the third Monday of January has excellent grounds for calling slander, and Dean Burnett has written what is probably its most entertaining defence over in the Guardian (his comparable ‘scientific equations’ are glorious for a giggle).

    So. We were being asked to combat the effect of the Blue Monday phenomenon with… enhanced enthusiasm. The wearing of bright colours. To more cheerfully inflict acts of exercise on those brave souls who still made it to the gym. That sort of thing.

    To be fair, instructors get quite a few emails from clubs asking us to dress up for this, help fund raise for that, encourage members to participate in whatever new initiative is going around. But every now and again you find an instructor who not only reads such emails but also runs with them, and then you end up with something like this turning up on your Facebook feed at a goddawful hour of the morning:

     

    Cheerful Thursday! And why not? And check that girl’s waist! I used to dress for work like that. Then I got told to eat all the cake to put on weight and now it’s full length for me. Go Caitlin!

    Now, offensively enthusiastic posts and pictures are normally my area of specialty, so I felt like I was behind in the game. Naturally, I had to respond in kind. Cheerful Thursday? I think YES.

     

    This thing needed some momentum.

    With tongue firmly in cheek, I warned my classes of the perils of Blue Monday, ordering them to turn up on Monday armed with joy, gratitude and an enthusiastic two fingered salute to the January blues*.

    * If you’re reading this from the southern hemisphere, you’re probably wondering what this ‘January Blues’ is of which I speak. Well, you and your glorious summer can just stay smug while I take five minutes to pull on several layers of clothing and waterproofs every time I go outside…

    Cheerful Thursday was quickly followed by call to arms to have a Fantastic Friday:

     

    To my great surprise, two members at Hammertime caught me after class to assure me that if they did not turn up on Monday, I was not to worry. They would not have committed suicide under the weight of the January blues, all was well but there were places to be etc.

    Interesting. My plan to defy Blue Monday seemed to be working. Certainly I was fulfilling the club’s request to raise people’s awareness of it – even if I was only perpetuating the urban myth with a healthy degree of cynicism. I began to wonder if the question was not so much whether people would turn up to class Monday, but would dare not to.

    Blue Monday, as it turned out, actually dawned a White Monday, at least in London and much of England. Personally I think it’s damn hard to have a bad start to a day which begins by running about and snowballing your fellow bootcampers in the park – right?

    At 7am on Blue Monday, Ravenscourt Park was not dark, but instead the surreal light that comes from lamp, star and ambient light reflected from snow.

    That’s my guys to the left of the trees, practicing out their snow galloping. Proud. Also amused:

     

    Glorious way to start the day, and with double combat and spin to come, there was no force in the universe that could ruin my day. The first combat admittedly slightly cripples me (currently lame, but not acting enough like it) but I manned up, donned my brightest blue and officially dubbed the day Amazing Monday**:

     

    ** NB in the interests of fair disclosure: taking these photos is MUCH harder than you might think, especially on an old iPhone without the reversal function. I won’t pretend these were the first I took, and that I didn’t look like a total knob doing it…

    I scooted down to Hammertime, no more cheerful than normal (otherwise Beth might not be the only one wanting to punch me out) but certainly on a fair 11 from a scale of 1-10. And what did I find?

    Two full classes. Rammed.

    Blue Monday, you LOSE. We WON.

    We worked hard. We committed lactic acid to our muscles,    sweat to the studio floor, fought through fatigue and I almost committed an act of violence against the stereo when it skipped during key moments of both Death is the Road To Awe and Turbulence.

    And we had a sensational time doing it.

    No-one took the easy way out.
    No-one gave any less than they had to give.
    No-one let themselves down.

    It was an Amazing Monday.

    Which got me to thinking. About Blue Monday, and about life, about swings and roundabouts and peaks and plateaus. About how we can have these incredible highs in a day/week/year/life and still lose them in the lows.

    I’m not saying a gym class is the biggest high around – for all that I love my job and what I can give to people, I sincerely hope it is not the absolute pinnacle of anyone’s week – but whatever it is that lifts you up, that sets your heart literally or metaphorically racing, sometimes it’s not enough. Or you find yourself addictively chasing those highs, because something else is missing.

    …So I’m pondering. And then I found an answer, of sorts. Unless you’ve already had the pleasure, allow me to introduce you to Dax Moy. He’s a Personal Trainer, but he’s got the holistic approach in the bag and a lot of what he’s training is the brain. He is well worth stalking on Facebook and once of his recent rambles really rang true with a lot of people: this little (well, it’s Dax, he trumps even me on the rambling front, but what rambling!) video about self esteem, and how we so readily sabotage ourselves. See me here? Guilty as charged. Worth a listen.

    So in the video, Dax explains that every time we make and break a promise to ourselves, we betray our self confidence. I make a lot of promises to myself and to my shame, I break far, far too many of them. I listened to that video going ‘Oh. OH. Oh shit. Oh. Oh ok. Right. Um.’

    In the 3 days since I saw it, I’ve watched myself lie repeatedly. Never with ill intent. I just betray myself, continually, with breathtakingly unrealistic expectations. And the subconscious cynicism this kind of behaviour breeds is the noose around my neck.

    So. With all that on my mind, and I spent the rest of Amazing Monday with Greg. I met him at SFX Weekender last year, dressed as Leia, he as Captain Hammer.

    I still call him Captain Hammer (he is more polite and does not call me Hot Leia – at least, not to my face), but he’s more of a Doctor Who meets Superman hybrid, and ninja to boot. He is also is trying to get into space (you can vote for him here, and I’d love you to because that would also make him Captain Kirk).

     

    We ran around the Science Museum in a state of child-like enthusiasm, and I learned a lot from the hours in his company. He’s one of the smartest people I know,  and he doesn’t have a smart phone (the same goes for Iain, another genius over-achieving friend who lectures in theoretically physics at Oxford while being significantly younger than me.  I’m starting to think there might be a connection between this and their terrifying productivity).

    Amongst other things, Greg is an elite athlete competing for a place in the Commonwealth Games for cycling. The more we talked, the more I thought: this is someone who doesn’t lie to himself. He simply couldn’t do all the things he does, as well as he does, if he didn’t fully trust his capacity to carry them out. He might disagree with that, but I was seriously impressed.

    So in the end, I learned three things this week. I think Dax perfectly revealed the foundation of the Blue Monday phenomenon – that day when the rush and hope of the holiday season is over, when you’ve made promises/resolutions to yourself which you realise you haven’t kept, and all the lies you have told yourself take their toll.

    I realised why bootcamps and PT and exercise classes can be so empowering: because they are an hour of your day in which you’ve turned up to fulfil a promise you have made, and though you can still betray yourself by compromising your effort, you also have the chance to impress yourself with your commitment. You have a chance to fortify your self esteem against the toll of smaller, daily erosions.

    Finally, I was inspired by Greg to be less of a liar to myself. He’s more ambitious than I, and achieving ten times what I manage. I believe that’s the armour that will stave off Blue Mondays in any week of any month of any year. Be realistic. Be true. Be awesome.

    So, dear Blue Monday, I thank you. You have been an education. Let’s do it all again same time next year.

     

    Say Yes


    2011 - 06.01

    So last Monday, I go to Starbucks to write as usual before work. The usual folk don’t bat an eyelid, but irregular early morning coffee folk keep kind of skirting around me.

    Just speculating, but this might be why…

    Later, whizzing past cars stopped at a red outside Notting Hill Police Station, I was blinded up a huge pollen-laden blast on wind and rammed into some poor sod’s wing mirror. Appropriately mortified, I fell off the side of my bike stammering my apologies.

    Turns out I needn’t have worried; he was so amused by the sword sticking out from my day-glo hump he either didn’t notice or care about the mirror. Pedestrians, street cleaners, drivers and policemen – complete strangers, the lot of them – grinned at (not necessarily with me, but near enough) all the way to Brentford. It was completely brilliant.

    Moral of the story: be an idiot. Run around with a sword sticking out your bag, and even London, a city often vilified for the coldness of its population, will love you.

    But it wasn’t just a sword in my bag. Oh no, I had a full warrior outfit in there, complete with (admittedly not very warriorly) 9 inch stiletto ‘Athena Goddess’ sandals (also known in student house as ‘Adele’s Stripper Sandals’. Can’t for the life of me see why… :P ). And I wore that costume around the Sky TV site. Why? Because we have the Iron Throne of Westeros from Game of Thrones there, and I have work-mate who is a fantastic photographer.

    And I have a warrior outfit.

    Who the hell wouldn’t say yes to the chance to dress up for awesome pics on that?

    ….

    ..
    .

    Apparently, quite a lot of people.

    (more…)

    3Ness: See it for yourself!


    2010 - 07.18