Category Archives: What I think

“Why can’t you just… be a better person?”

This was an old joke between my first wife and me, when a discussion or argument that had reached the point where one person wanted to shout “Why can’t you just do what I’m telling you to do?” – the other would pull out this line and defuse the situation (obviously not foolproof as you may infer from my use of the phrase ‘first wife’).

But it’s a good question, why can’t you just be a better person? Why is personal growth so hard?

Why do we have to grow at all? Can’t we just carry on where we are? Well, no it appears not. Even the most stagnant relationships and work situations don’t last forever. We end up having to change in one way or another and we can either do it consciously or unconsciously. No scrap that, it’s not either/or, it’s a matter of degree of consciousness – my experience has been that for every epiphany as a result of conscious work on myself there are a hundred little growth spurts that I don’t recognise as such until much later on.

So what is this conscious work? It’s a kind of growing up, it’s a way of building good character, it’s dealing with the unconscious triggers that result in disturbance (/me being a dick). Most spiritual traditions and teachers have a way of doing this and for me it boils down to a few steps:

    • Admit that the disturbance is in me. Not that the outside world is perfect and I’m wrong, but that the thing causing me the most pain is not outside of me, it’s within.
    • Accepting the thing I’m doing is part of me and likely has been around for a while (ie it’s not just a product of this situation). This is tough. Who wants to admit that they’re habitually self-centred, self-righteous or dishonest?
    • Remembering that just because it’s a (perhaps quite old) habit doesn’t mean that it’s the ultimate truth about me. I am fundamentally honest and I’m mostly capable of enacting that but there are times, when I feel under pressure, that I say things that aren’t true.
    • Forgiving myself for doing it one more time and forgiving those that I’d associated with my disturbance.
    • Doing something to express that forgiveness to anyone I’ve harmed through the disturbance – this requires a couple of careful steps, one is assessing who has been harmed (it might only be me!) and the other is how to do something about it without compounding the original harm.  Finding someone else who can help you see the right path through this bit is invaluable.
    • Get on with doing something helpful and useful for someone else.
    • Rinse and repeat as required.

I’m not done, by the way, I have no illusion of my own perfection, but it helps, it really does.

Women’s work #IWD2016

I don’t work for free, that’s a firm rule.  But when Helen asked me to help with making a series of podcasts with women in tech for International Women’s Day, I said yes without hesitation.

I’m proud of the work we did today, all of us, in collaboration.  I know that you’ll get great value out of listening to the stories of the women we met and worked with.

But whatever the financial value, whatever I might have been paid ordinarily for a day like today can only represent a tiny, tiny fraction of the value of unpaid physical and emotional labour as well as financial support given to me by the women whose homes and lives I’ve shared over the years, support which continues to today.

Thank you, all of you, mother and sister, grandmothers and aunts, girlfriends and wives, I love you all.

How do you find a smell?

Often, if I’m out in town, I will catch a whiff of something nice.  Some cologne or perfume or something that transports me to a happy warm childhood place or an image of someone or something or just a feeling of rightness, a rightness that isn’t there all the time.  And I think wouldn’t it be nice to smell that more often.

But how do you find a smell?  Even if it’s a mass-produced thing that you can find behind the counter in Debenhams, how would you start?  How does this happen?  I’ve never done it.  I can remember buying after-shave perhaps once or twice in my life and then it was always pretty random.  Oh yes, that one will do.

I know there’s a vocabulary, “lemony”, “sharp”, “tweedy”, “high notes”, “musky” etc. but I’m not sure what they really mean – they can only be subjective can’t they? There’s one that reminds me of a playgroup I went to more than forty years ago – how do I communicate what that is?  I know it when I smell it but I can’t conjure it up in the same way as I can say, the smell of cut grass.  It’s just out of reach.  When I come across something I like, I want to say to someone, “what’s that smell?  How would you describe it?  Do you know what brand it is?” but that wouldn’t go down well on the Waterloo & City Line at 08.51 on a crisp Thursday in February.

 

Theatre Blogging: it’s not what it could be

I heard recently about a director having the nasty experience of inviting a journalist into rehearsals and then having an unhelpful (I haven’t read it, it’s paywalled) preview article published just before the show opens.

Yuk.

Reading about it sent me back to look at what I wrote nearly eleven years ago (!) about using blogging in theatre.  I was surprised to see what emphasis I put on buzz and PR (that was how the original question had been framed).  And it’s that angle that all the marketing people picked up. I went to see John Berry at ENO because (see the comments on the post) they were doing something like this a couple of years later.  And a year after this first post, I did a little site about the opening of Avenue Q.  It had to be done, and I’m glad I did it, but I don’t read any of the West End theatre blogs or the mainstream journalism that has taken on our blogging form but sticks to traditional writing styles of reporting and criticism.

But I was thinking about more than marketing.

What I was thinking was of a kind of collaborative production journal, where everyone contributes…  think “The Making of…” fly-on-the-wall documentary style, only on the web, and released in chunks as they happen, day by day rather than being stitched together after the show has closed.

I think this points to something much more interesting to do – about using these tools as part of the production, as part of the artistic process, to log progress and reflect on thinking and how things are emerging, for the benefit of the team themselves much more than prospective audience members and to create something bigger and longer-lasting and more networked than traditional documentation or archiving.  It’s “sources going direct”, cutting out the dependence on news organisations (and their sodding paywalls) and making our own media.

 

Audioblog 160223 – Walking by the canal thinking about @solobasssteve

Download .mp3 (7.9MB)

Walked by the canal this morning, nice and slow and easy. Reflective, as canals are and encourage us to be. Not much to do except dodge buggies, joggers and duck poo. And think about something Steve Lawson wrote on Facebook this morning.

6m 11s I pass by a jackhammer, mind your ears.
It made me realise how long I’d been talking for, so I finished.

Self Care: Things To Do

This is by no means a canonical list, but I remembered on Saturday that I had it with me and so I shared it with people.  It occurred to me that it might be useful to share here too.  I could add to it, so could you, but it’s just what came out one day when I sat down to write “Things I need to do to take care and resource myself.”

  • Go for a walk – 20 mins to 1 hr (longer on rest days)
  • Have a rest day
  • Go on holiday
  • Walk in the woods
  • Talk to someone, anyone
  • Have a nap
  • Meditate
  • Tidy up and process stuff
  • Time my work periods (25 minutes working, 5 minute doing something different)
  • Do the washing up or some laundry
  • Read for fun
  • Play a game
  • Go to unplugged/tuttle/some other coffee morning type thing
  • Forgive myself for not being perfect all the time
  • Do someone a favour
  • Stop working for free
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Listen to music
  • Play music, sing and dance around the living room

Audioblog 160220 – Why So Serious?

Download 5.7MB

I recorded this on Waterloo Station shortly after the Devoted & Disgruntled Vaults Festival Open Space on Saturday. The space was opened to discuss “Let’s stop romanticising depression and marginalising other mental illness” and I called a session called “Why So Serious?” about the issue of taking oneself too seriously, dealing with other people’s expectations, the link between adopting a serious persona and depression or burn-out.

I reported like this mainly because I’d called a session at the previous week’s space but had then spent the whole week not being able to write a report.   It’s reminded me how much I like making this format.  Expect more…