Dawn is a feeling

May 28th, 2012

I am awake at 4 am. Sitting outside. Watching the dawn.

The sky is beautiful. The birds are singing. I love the sound of sea gulls. It makes me so happy.

My garden is a mess. Full of weeds. And yet there’s not a thing I would change about it. I don’t even want to mow the lawn because it is doing what it does and who am I to change it? Dandelion heads are everywhere. In the night they shine like lanterns.

My flowerpots are looking so pretty. They make me so happy. I did that small thing. It is a good feeling.

I could be asleep now in my bed. But instead I’m awake. Out here. Having a beautiful, wonderful moment. Or rather an hour. Wondering at the sheer beauty and miracle of the dawn.

They call it insomnia. They say it’s a problem. I call it wonderful.

I will go back to sleep in a while, then later start my day.

I will go out into my world. Go to my interview. Go for a drive.

Sit by the sea.

Write some. Think some. And wonder at the day.

I will meet some people. I will wonder at the people as I always do. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.

For a long while I turned that off. The warmth of our bed was too perfect to step out of. Even for a moment.

But I am grateful for this moment. Even with its bittersweet pain.

For without the cold, loneliness of my bed I could never have experienced this perfect moment of joy.

If we don’t step out of the warmth sometimes, just for a moment, we don’t experience the wonders of our worlds.

When I step back into my bed I will miss him.

But I will resent not the coldness of my bed, only regret the fact that I never stepped out of it to experience such joy as this, when my bed was still filled with his warmth.

Why does life have to be one thing or the other?

Let go of your dreams, girls! Goals are better!!

April 12th, 2012

As little girls - and boys - we are taught to dream and to dream big. Whether that's fairy castles or great sporting victories, dreams are something that is ingrained in our upbringing.

Sometimes in life the hardest thing is letting go of the fantasy and letting go of the dream, but there are times when this is essential. Maybe they are the dreams for a future that's no longer going to happen or a past that wasn't quite as perfect as we recall, but until we do this we can't really embrace reality - and without reality where are we? Dedication to reality and mindfulness of the present are essential for our well-being and success.

Society and media constantly promote the idea of dreams. "You gotta have dreams!" But do we really need them? Are they real? Do they really serve the purpose of taking us to where we want to go or who we want to be? Or do they keep us rooted firmly where we are?

Well, if you think about it the clue is in the word dreams - something we do when we are asleep; incoherent random fancies from the unconscious.  How often do we actually dream about those things we call our 'dreams'? Career ambitions? Luxury purchases? Exotic vacations? Does your sub-conscious provide uplifting motivations that serve to get you where you want to go? How often does it provide nightmares that highlight our fears via terrifying visions of an unrealistically scary future? Why are we even talking about sleep, anyway? Isn't there a danger that the very word we use keeps what we want in the realms of unreality, that soft-focus fairyland that is, and always will be, out of reach?

What's better than dreams?  Visualisation!
Visualisation enables you to focus on what you want, seeing yourself in that setting, encompassing all of who you will need to be to get there and to stay there. Dreams on the other hand always encompass an element of unreality as well as the bitter sting of our fears. Dreams are really only useful in telling us the kind of places that we might like to go or the sort of things that we might like to do.

In terms of actually getting there, we have useful and much more practical tools at our disposal for getting us to where we want to go than our dreams:

  • By visualising, you focus on what you want instead of what you don't want. If you think about driving your car you need to look at where you're going. All too often, in driving as well as in life, people will focus on the obstacle they are skidding towards. Exactly what they don't want! So aim for your destination.
  • Get your sub-conscious to help out by asking great questions! How often do you ask yourself questions like 'why do I always fail?' and your brain responds with 'Because you're an idiot'? Your brain will do more to avoid pain that it will do to seek pleasure. One of the most important steps you can take to get what you want is by asking great questions. These are typically questions like 'how can I do get this?', 'what are some solutions to my problem?', 'who do I know that can help me?' - questions that will set your sub-conscious working and doing what it does best. Asking yourself these type of questions before you sleep or as you do repetitive physical activities like doing the dishes, digging the garden or waxing your car, will let your intuitive brain get to work.
  • Goal setting allows us, not only to focus on what we want, but gives us a roadmap to get there. By setting small achievable, realistic and measurable goals we can chunk down big, seeming impossible changes into small tasks that we can tick off along the way.
  • Stretch goals are massive changes - the things that are closest to what could be called 'dreams', and these can be seemingly impossible which is why they are most easily and quickly given up as something that is truly beyond us. But stretch goals can be approached just as easily as any other by visualising who we need to be to achieve that 'dream'. What sort of person would we need to be? What qualities, disciplines and habits would we need? Are you that person yet? If not, then you know what you need to do! Break it down into smaller goals, then tasks. Keep them small. For stretch goals there will be more of them, that's all. Extra honesty about where you are starting from may be required (more on this below) and you will constantly need to reassess. All progress is good!
  • Modelling enables us to look at successful people (those who are perhaps already 'living the dream') to study their habits, qualities, attitudes and behaviours in order to copy them. If those qualities got them to where they are, would those same qualities help you to get there? You betcha!
So, while your dreams may be useful in identifying what it is you really want, the time is now to take that dream and start to make it a reality.
Here are some more ways to do that:

Read the rest of this entry »

Shared pain? Good grist for the writing mill!

February 28th, 2012

My last post about writing through adversity covered how to use your own tough life experiences as a well-spring of new ideas for your writing. This post is about using those experiences that you share and that others share in return to inspire your writing.

One thing I have learned lately from my journey into the world since the break-up of my marriage is that a lot of people have problems. Not just me!  😉 And sharing your problems with people involves listening to theirs too. Usually a story they share will relate in some way to your own experience, so it becomes a dialogue of stories and experiences shared as lessons for all those taking part in the conversation. Humans love to teach!

Recently I've heard a lot of stories. Some that make mine seem very minor indeed. That brings with it gratitude and a sense that 'no matter how hard my life is right now I am glad I am not in your shoes'.

Right after that feeling comes the urge to write. To save the lesson I've learned, record the insights that person has given into my own problems and preserve the gemstones of life experience I've received from listening to theirs.

Grist for the Writing Mill?

Maybe, and this is a slightly guilty confession, their problems give me a few ideas for new writing. Fresh unexplored characters spring to life. Scenarios that I had never thought about before are laid out before me like a new and as yet undiscovered landscape.

Should that be a guilty confession? That I use these things to write??  My answer is no. I don't think so. Most people share their story with you as a lesson, a little parable to help guide you on your own journey.  So if you as a writer are able to take that lesson and make it into something that can be travel further and help spread a little more light in this sometimes dark and lonely world, where's the harm?

A Few Rules

That said it's important not to tell their story exactly - use it to inspire you. It's important not to be mercenary about it or cannibalize their lives. In reality few people's real-life stories would ever fit exactly into an appropriate narrative structure - especially for the screen - so writing from life almost always requires reworking. This is usually enough to make it difficult to recognise themselves in your writing.

And it's important never to include names or details that could be used to identify that person.

If in doubt be straight - and ask for the life rights to write about their story. Most people will be flattered at the notion and will happily give you permission.

Giving Back

It is also important to say thank you. If someone has inspired you why not say "Wow the other day after talking to you, I forgot my own troubles enough to write a story and I wanted to say thank you."

Most people are thrilled to be included in a writer's work. And if they read your work chances are they will only recognise the parts of their own story that you used to inspire you in a casual way. "Oh my God, that's just like what happened to me."  People, in my experience, rarely recognise themselves in what you've written.


Occasionally, I find people are nervous when I say I am a writer. People will ask me if I am there to steal their story or to make them into characters in a film.  I even got accused once of being "another scumbag writer" by someone  who'd had a bad experience with a journalist once.

Usually though, if you are honest and open people will quickly relax and start to share their ideas and will often even turn around and say later on "you know what because you're so nice, I don't mind if you DO use me in one of your stories". Result!

My main caveat in writing from other people's experiences is that you must have a good purpose behind what you write. It must be for good - to help, to educate, to raise awareness or to alleviate the suffering of others.

Otherwise that would be just downright scumbaggery that gives all of us writers a bad name!

e-family: The Seeds of Recovery

February 26th, 2012

An update to my previous post about our little e-family since last writing:

Well, I am pleased to say that the kids have plunged themselves into activities in the outside world. This is a happy discovery. Living the way we did does not seem to have had any impact on their ability to socialise and meet new friends. They are likeable and well-liked, mature for their ages, outgoing and friendly. Thankfully they have found some good friends!! It is hard to keep up these days and after a few short weeks they are involved in different interests and productions.

This is all great, although for me personally it is a harsher reality to accept. No longer is everyone together, now none of us are together. And that gets a little lonely for me at times. It is however heart warming to see the progress they have made.

Well the iPad is never far from my hand still, but I do find that I enjoy the days when I have left it behind more.  I even deleted the Twitter and Facebook apps temporarily, but I have put them back on now. The iPad is not nearly so cool without them and social media is important for communication with colleagues and also my main method of support in these difficult times. I do need to get out and meet people in the real world more - and I am! - but it takes time to build new friendships. In the meantime, killing the apps was cutting off my nose to spite my face.

I find I use the phone for communication much more now. I have seen so much miscommunication that has come about from text, iMessage and email over the last six weeks. It is hard to trust it with important communication anymore.

Well my work has largely gone out the window of late. Oh to be a man! Men tend to throw themselves into work after a split (rightly or wrongly) whereas women often have so much else to deal with that work gets forgotten or pushed to one side.  This must change!!

This is the same with the kids and their education. Perhaps this is a real drawback to home education. If they had gone to school then they would have had that to focus on daily and their work would have continued. It is very hard for them to settle down to study in a home that is so very changed.

I suppose I knew this was a problem for home educated kids as I have heard of other families that worked just fine up until their parents' separation and then it all fell apart. But it's not like they can start school now in light of this so I need to stay the course with home education, even if it is the last thing that they, or I, feel like doing.  Their education as younger children was autonomous - that is entirely self-directed - but now they have courses to follow and deadlines to meet. Self-direction helped them meet those deadlines before, which is not the case now. However, most people achieve things through extrinsic motivation, because they have to and this is an important life lesson. Sometimes you have to knuckle down!

So I need to kick ass on this as they can't let their education slide just because of everything that has happened.  "Life is hard" and "life moves on" are both  important lessons - no matter where you do your learning!!!

One of the things that the kids don't like is the suggestion that their old life was bad or wrong. It is their background and their foundation and I must respect that. Kids whose parents separate often feel their life before is invalidated by the separation, which is very difficult as it also invalidates part of their identity.  This is even more the case with my kids because in a very real sense it is all they have known.

Maybe in light of that, my previous post was mis-titled as 'The End of the e-Family'. I think it is perhaps more of a 're-imagining'.

Either way, it is up to me to stay the course!!

Between sleep and waking

February 15th, 2012

Between sleep and waking
I hear you turn beside me
and feel soft breath
upon my neck. Life's
overwhelming warmth
envelopes me.  Greedy,
I turn to face you,
waking myself,
destroying the dream,
and, with my eyes open,
I greet the empty
mourning of another day.


by Kathie Kingsley-Hughes

Writing through Adversity

February 8th, 2012

One of the things I want to share on here are some of the great tips that I have received from generous people about ways to get through everything that has happened recently.

Of those tips, the greatest is to write, write and write some more.

In fact I am writing around 8,000 words per day at the moment. And that's in addition to my regular writing work.  It is a phenomenal output for me and has really made me glimpse what I am capable of in terms of sheer daily word-count. All this writing reduces the 'activation energy' that is normally required to start getting words out onto the page, which makes the writing flow better all round, including my work.

Write. It helps!

The most important thing about the writing, though, is that it helps. It is a cathartic process, but a discreet one. It's all too easy to go telling all and sundry your problems and it's easy to turn into a relationship bore, which not only turns off your existing friends but also gets in the way of making new ones. More than ever during a relationship crisis it's important to get a life. Going over and over your old one will just get in the way of moving on. If you can tell most of it to the page it means your friends are still ready, willing and able to help out with the practical things and for those times when nothing short of crying on someone's shoulder will do.

The page comes in very handy. It doesn't care how much you bang on about stuff. It doesn't care whether you repeat yourself, or constantly go over old ground. It doesn't judge you. It doesn't try to advise you. It doesn't have an ego to get in the way. It doesn't care if what you say today completely contradicts what you said yesterday. It doesn't have a vested interest in the you of the past or the you of tomorrow.

Great Prep for Relationship Counselling

If you are receiving counselling your writing can be very useful in clarifying your thoughts and aiding in your homework (One thing about break-ups is not just counsellors seem to be setting me homework. I have found even total strangers telling me to read this book, or to ponder on that.)  This part of life is a learning process, or perhaps a crash course, and it seems like everyone has something to offer. Distilling all this wisdom as well as your own revelations onto the page gives you a rich repository to call when you need it.

Build yourself an Emotional Nest Egg!

What's more all this writing will come in very useful later. If you keep a blow-by-blow account of everything you're feeling and experiencing at this difficult time you will find it pays dividends not only in terms of charting your growth and giving you a perspective on your thoughts and feelings now and in the weeks to come that you wouldn't be able to recreate in retrospect, but also in terms of being a rich vein of raw life experience that you can refer to later in your writing career. In those terms, that raw tear-streaked emotional record will be worth more than gold!!

So write it down!

And good luck! Please share your comments and feedback below. I look forward to hearing from you if you found this useful - or even if you disagreed! Let me know how you get on!!


End of the e-Family

February 7th, 2012

In so many ways this is the blog post I never wanted to write. And I can honestly say I never thought I would write it.

In the middle of January Adrian told me he was leaving, suddenly, scarily, angrily. My world shattered. We have been married for 18 years and most of that was spent inside a bubble of technology.

Raised in an Internet Bubble

We home-schooled our kids who were born into our strange Internet world where they learned to use computers before they could walk. Ours was a private, intense little geek existence where the outside world didn't exist - except for the one that came in via the phone wires.

We wrote technology books, we taught online classes at ZDU and Element K (and others) and we wrote for magazines and online outlets like CNET and ZDNet, where we covered Apple press conferences like a well-oiled press room, despite being two adults and two children. Our kids didn't grow up so much hanging finger paintings on the fridge as taking screenshots of their Age of Empires villages and uploading them to their spaces, along with their latest Photoshop creations, Poser animations and home-made videos.

Our lives were downloaded, uploaded, virtualised and streamed to one other.

Adrian and I raised our kids as co-parents. No one was the main caretaker, which is an awesome thing for a man to do - provided he can stay the distance. We were building a new kind of family, all very nineties, telecommuting, distance learning, etc. When NASA ran experiments putting people into biospheres to see if they could survive the isolation of living in space on a Mars mission, we laughed at them. They had nothing on us! A lot of people were inspired by us and thought we were the coolest family in the world. Some people thought we were mad, but then we didn't give a FF what they thought. This was us, living the geek dream.  The kids were used to being there with us  24/7.  We lived and worked and played computer games and built websites and animated stuff and surfed the web and built computers and took tech apart and hacked the firmware and dropped stuff off cliffs and blew shit up.

How could all that suddenly ... end?

A lot of my time is spent in shock and disbelief now. Mostly there are questions and no answers. How did this happen? How am I supposed to look after two shattered teens who only know that strange insular Internet world? Did this really happen? The only answer is that yes  it happened. Our little office is getting emptier by the day. This was where we sat writing, programming, ripping apart technology and teaching people from around the world how to use it. Just the flotsam of old Buzz Lightyear figures and Simpsons toys that adorned the tops of monitors for decades, old floppy disks, and a hole in the carpet from where the office chairs rolled over the same spots day in, day out.  All our past is being slowly swept away.  It is tragic. Yet it seems to be a tragedy that only I am witness to. Adrian, in whatever world he has spun off to, doesn't seem to notice or feel sentiment for the end of our sad little Borg family social experiment. But I see it and all I am left with is disbelief.

Pro-blogging and the family

The pressures of tech journalism seem to make people blind to much else. And it gradually takes over your life so that things you once held dear, like love, your kids and your family, are nowhere near as important as blogging and the next big story. Basically it eats you alive. Eventually all that is left are a single-track brain and fingers to do the typing. Of all the areas of technology we ventured into, professional blogging did the most damage to us.  If you’re not careful it becomes the thing you love more than anything else. But it can’t keep you warm, can’t give you a hug, can never bring you the joy a family can. What have you got left, except page views, feedback and Google juice?

Back in the nineties, when we hacked our way into the deepest part of the tech jungle in those heady early days of the web, we saw endless possibilities, new age thinking and new ways of living. The Matrix, Star Trek TNG on first run, Internet Explorer 4 became THE biggest thing, all cascading style sheets and JavaScript and fun, fun, fun.  But time moves on and social media meant you were never truly alone anymore, and blogging meant getting the story became THE big thing. Technology almost came second in that regard. Never being away from work for a moment via mobile devices meant never really having any down time. Twitter and Facebook can make you think you have all the friends in the world yet you are still sitting there alone.  Our life was run on the iPad, organised by Google calendar, uploaded to the cloud so you never left anything behind, Facebook, iTunes, GPS, Twitter, Google maps, everything intermingled around us all like a sticky, sticky web.

Vanguard of the iGeneration

Technology, which played such a huge part in building our family and our careers, was of course integral in its demise. Find my Friends meant endless confusion over where someone was and why they were there. Facetime meant you could be apart but still be together, never away from work, never away from each other. But is a relationship really thriving via Skype and FaceTime? Just because you can see one another and talk to one another, isn't the same as sitting side-by-side, is it? Even iOS autocorrect fail played a part that fateful Saturday (with iPhone autocorrecting the word 'unreachable' to 'untraceable' in an iMessage, delivering a subtly different meaning that sparked the end of a family).

Technology screwed us over just as happily as it had created us.

Our little family were the vanguard of the iGeneration who are growing up on the web. In many ways we were a prototype for the e-family, born in the information age, and it was consumed by and driven by the pursuit of technology and whatever you could make technology do.

But now that tech is falling silent. All the ways our lives were interconnected by technology are unravelling, unfriending, unsharing, disentangling, snaking apart.

And whatever happens, whether we as a couple get back together eventually or stay apart, it's the end of an era. Two tech geeks who lived and worked in our own private tech bubble are now just two people, starting over.  That wonderful nineties dream of living in a different way, a better way, is over. And so it should be, I hear a lot of techies say, because it's 2012 now and time and tech move on. But the same can't be said of families, surely? They are fragile, living things that need protecting from the vagaries of technology. Wait! Did I just say that? Man, have I changed my tune!  But yes, while I am not blaming tech for what happened to us, ultimately I am left with the conclusion that technology is no basis for family life.

If any elements of your family life remind you of our lives, consider yourself warned.  Do something about it before it's too late.

Go outside your door, there is a world out there. Interact with it. Leave your tech behind. Find something else to talk about.  Let getting the big story go for today. There is more to life than writing and more to life than technology.

And hug your kids, your spouse, your friends.  Actually hug them! Coz ((((this)))) is not the same.

New Year’s Resolutions

January 1st, 2012

This year I've made a couple or three New Year's resolutions. They aren't usually very effective for me - the beginning of the year is a busy time so it's easy to forget your plans before you've really had a chance to begin.

This year my resolutions are to:

1. Get back into the gym as I really let that slip over the last quarter of 2011.

2. Sort out my office. It has decades of detritus from old projects, books, builds, etc etc so sorting through it just turns into a trip down memory lane - and there goes the tidying. The real solution is a new bigger office which can double as a studio. This is a project that has been on the back burner for a good few years now - time to bring it back to the boil!

3. Find some friends. No I'm not saying I don't have any friends - I have lots spread out all over the world! - it's just that none of them are local to me as I've either moved away from them or they have moved away from here. But I wonder if it isn't a type of laziness that it is easier to cultivate and maintain long distance friendships than it is to get out and meet new people??  So in 2012 I will get out there - no matter how excruciating it feels to wear my 'Be my friend' hat out into the big, wide world. Time to crash and burn!!

And here's a tip if resolutions are not your thing - Don't make New Year's Resolutions for 2012 - make them for 2013!!
In 2011 I didn't make resolutions at all. But I did have a really productive year.

Instead of resolutions I made a list of things that I wanted to have achieved by the end of 2011. And I'm happy to report that I acheived a good 90% of what I set out to do. So a good tip for anyone for whom resolutions don't really work is to think about where you'd like to be next year. That way, all is not lost if you still find yourself smoking or eating sugar or whatever well into the month of January. No need to give up, because your resolutions aren't for now - they're for the entire year. It really works too!

Make it a date to look at your list on the first day of every month to see how you're getting on!

Good luck!

And have a very happy and productive New Year!! 🙂

Do you have any New Year's resolutions (or things you want to have achieved by the end of 2012) that you'd like to share? I'd love to hear from you! 

Final Draft Security Vulnerability

December 9th, 2011

To all Final Draft users:  Screenwriting software Final Draft has been shown to have a security vulnerability which can allow your computer to be accessed remotely by an attacker using a maliciously-coded Final Draft (.FDX or .FDXT) files.

The solution to this is to download the patch provided on Final Draft's website.

Final Draft VulnerabilityThe website requires you to provide a registered customer number (which you can usually find on your CD box or by clicking Help > Customer Support). If you have not already registered you will need to supply your name and address and other details before you can download the patched version of the software.

The download sizes for Final Draft 8.0.3 are 37.2 MB (Windows) and 28.8 MB (Mac).

If you are unable to immediately download and install the patch ensure that you DO NOT OPEN any .FDX or .FDXT files  from untrusted sources. This includes opening files sent to you via email.

Some problems have been reported with logging in via the registered customer number as registered users have been unable to log in using their software's number. Keep trying as it may eventually work, otherwise contact Customer Support.

As this download is to address a highly critical security vulnerability placing the patch behind a registration wall is both an unacceptable and irresponsible action.  Customers pay a lot for Final Draft - they deserve better, especially as this vulnerability is putting their computers at risk.

Final Draft need to make the patches widely available very soon.


MA Screenwriting update

November 30th, 2011

I went to Bournemouth this month for the final residency of the MA Screenwriting course. It went very well and I had a great time.  I would say that the high points of the week for me were the Writer, Director, Actor masterclass with Jan Sargent. Working with the directors and the actors on a scene from our scripts was really educational and the actors were just amazing.

I really enjoyed the workshop we did on subtext and units of action. This was all very new to me and I must admit to feeling utterly confused to begin with. As skilled subtext ferrets Rosie Cullen (our course leader) and fellow student Marcus Condron got to work exploring the hidden subtext within our scripts I found myself wondering if I was actually looking at the same page! It was a revelation that so much could be hiding just below the surface of the words. We learned to use units of action with phrases like "I resent" and "I deny" to actions and dialogue that contained nothing like those words, but that would be the basis for an actor portraying the role. Fascinating. And really changed how I look at my own writing, with the bottom line that if I don't want the director and the actors to read it that way I need to make myself much clearer. And apart from that let the actors run with it - it's amazing what hidden treasures they'll find to bring to the performance.

The other workshop was the Openings workshop where we worked on the all-important first five pages of our scripts that are so essential, not only for grabbing interest, but also setting up the tone of the script and the audience expectations for the movie as a whole. It was a great session with Craig Batty as the tutor and the utterly stellar group were all so interesting and the feedback so useful and organic that of course we ran over time and got locked in the building. It felt a little bit like playing Doom as we wandered round the corridors in the dark looking for the exit. Luckily no zombies!

Visiting guest lecturers included Iain Farmer, who gave a really inspiring talk on Industry Practice, and author Helen Jacey, who talked about writing female characters.  It was a fascinating discussion expanding on her book "The Woman in the Story" which many of the female students read and discussed in the first year.

Overall  it was a really good week, but there were bound to be tears before the end when the realisation dawned that this was our last residential together.  Mostly my tears of course - nothing new there!!  Hopefully we will all be able to stay in touch via Facebook. A lot of new partnerships have been formed that I'm sure will see some great productions in the not-so-distant future.

So now comes the writing up. We have five months now to produce our final script projects. Mine is a psychological thriller called "Lobster Pot".

Onwards and scriptwards!

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