I’m Back. And Better than ever (as they say).

Squatting Toad is back! ‘And why have you been away, Mel?’you cry.

Several reasons I’ve been quiet but I have to confess to a crisis of confidence in my project. Who wants to  read about my thoughts, especially on creativity, when so much utter c**p and devestation is being wrought on the world right now? Believe me, that’s not a cry for validation from the blogosphere. I’m just telling you what’s going through my mind for I know that even five minutes spent watching any news channel must make any right-thinking person ask ‘Why? What’s the point?’ about so many aspects of life.

When I think about what’s important to me, one thing stands out – humanity. I want to be treated with humanity, and dignity, and I want to strive to treat others the same. I also want to follow this small dream to create my podcast and introduce talented people to the world. That doesn’t make me Nelson Mandela but it will make me feel I have done some small good for a small community and hopefully for myself.

Whilst in my, thankfully, non-permanent funk, I kept thinking that maybe the arts don’t matter at all, maybe the point is just to get by. But without artistic endeavours what are we?

I am lucky enough to have spent two weeks recently travelling through Namibia. For the first and, hopefully, last time on this blog, I’m going to use the word awesome. Just, truly awesome. One day we walked with cheetahs, in the company of Stefan, our guide. And for those couple of hours, I wanted to be Stefan. Imagine, every day, driving across the African bush, seeing wildlife of great beauty and magnificence and, most importantly, giving other people, like me, the chance to see it too. Added to which, he’s involved in helping to preserve the cheetahs so that future generations may also witness them. What a job! What a life!

SAM_0029There’s a cheetah in there, just look closely.

For all I know, the organisation he works for might be ridden with politics and backbiting and he might yearn for the city and a comfy 9-5. But I don’t believe that we always want exactly that which we haven’t got. So, good luck, Stefan, long may you continue to be the bringer of once-in-a-lifetime experiences for the likes of me, even if they are daily happenings for you.

So, what has all this to do with artistic endeavours? Well, the principle’s the same. You do what you do because you love it, and because it might bring something positive into someone else’s life as well as your own. And, if you can get paid to do it, that’s even nicer, but the important thing is to do it. My hubby, let’s call him Mr Toad, often sits in front of the telly saying ‘ I could have written that’. But the point is, he didn’t. Someone with maybe more hunger did write it and is reaping the rewards, both psychological and financial.

So, now, as I write, Mr Toad, is upstairs teaching himself the chords for McArthur Park on his guitar. And if he cracks that, what next? Well, he and the band (of which, more another post) are planning to launch themselves on the gig circuit in London and Oxford. I fear he may still have to be a solicitor in the meantime, but that shouldn’t diminish the joy of playing. It might yet enhance it. He gets a buzz and the audience will go away happy, at least, assuming they like musical oddities like McArthur Park. It may not be walking with cheetahs with Stefan, but it’s important for all concerned.

The last gig I went to was a couple of weekends ago, and I came away uplifted, but that’s jazz for you. (World’s finest jazz singer, Dianne Reeves, in case you were wondering  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6G7K1nIPxE. )

So, let’s be uplifted. If work is getting us down, we need to have a full life outside of it, at least until we have a new plan. Let’s talk about our plans next time, but, for now, let me leave you with these thoughts, which are churning around in my own head at the moment:

1) It’s got to be about more than the money.

2) It’s nice to be an expert at something. What might that be?

3) Make sure you can say you treated everyone well.

4) Feel the fear, and do it anyway. (Not my own words, but oh so relevant.)

Until next time.

Mel

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The other night, the lovely Duncan came round to show me how to edit my podcast. I can’t express my gratitude to him enough. In our talks, he brought up an interesting point. With people like me now able to produce their own audio products, voice or music, professional sound engineers find it hard to get work. Now we all know that the secretary is as good as gone, since we can all type our own letters and, anyway, which dinosaur sends letters these days? But, the democratisation of even producing a sound recording has meant other trained professionals having to look elsewhere for a living. The hope is that this very ease of access provides opportunities for these professionals. I cannot be the only would-be podcaster defeated by the software. It’s not easy, but just a couple of hours’ tuition and I feel so much more confident. So, if Duncan does decide to make a move into teaching keen amateurs, I’ll be posting up his details and recommending him highly.

What’s the message here? Well, there are two. Firstly, if you think there isn’t a use for what you do any more, maybe you just have to be flexible about what you do. And secondly, if you need help with your creative endeavours, there are people who can help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s made a huge difference to me.

Right, back to playing with the editing.

Happy weekend

Mel

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It’s two days nearly since my fellow UK citizens elected a new Conservative government. I voted, but not for the bunch that will now rule the country. Now, I know this isn’t supposed to be a blog about politics, it’s about personal creativity, but politics affects us all and we can’t get away from it.

Without wishing to sound trite, with what this (old) new government is likely to visit upon us in the next five years, I think creativity and the arts will play an important role in keeping so many of us sane and fulfilled. Yes, I realise it can’t alleviate poverty, but creativity can give people a voice. Already, people have blogged about their struggles, and, will, I hope continue to. What I really hope is that they cease to struggle.

A simple trip to the cinema can lift the mood for a short time. Old sitcoms found on YouTube do it for me sometimes. If I have one frustration with that, it’s the feeling that I should be creating, not just consuming. That’s among the reasons I wanted to do my podcast.

Well, I’ll just repeat my callout of last time. Do join me, if you are a creator.

 Would you like to share your creative endeavours and your motivation for them with Squatting Toad? We’ll highlight you on the blog and, hopefully (!), the podcast.

If so, please email me at imasquattingtoad@gmail.com. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can with a short questionnaire, unless you’re happy just to write something. Or just leave a comment.

Aiming to be more upbeat next time.

Mel

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Creativity? Of course, you can!

Honestly, I could scream. Here I am with a Great Idea and all ready to rock and roll. What’s stopping me? Simply, my own technophobia. Yes, a podcast is all about the content and I’m feeling confident about that, but ask me to edit it in recording software….well, you’ve come to the wrong address.

Now, in my last post I was very cagey about my theme and content, except to say that it’s about creativity. And although neither the podcast nor this blog were supposed to be about my own creative travails, this does seem germane to the topic.

What I am interested in is people’s ‘spare time’ creativity. Do you write, sing, play, craft when you’re not at the day job? Do you do it in order to escape, or is it linked with what how you earn your living? Perhaps you want to turn professional? So many musicians and comedians work the circuit in their evenings whilst holding down a full-time job. That’s real commitment.

There are estimated to be over 2,500 amateur and community theatre groups in the UK.  What’s special about these to many people must surely be the sense of community. I’m interested in finding out more.

But I don’t want the project to sound too serious or worthy. I do think it will be fun. I’ll meet some interesting people and share what they’re doing and I hope some of you reading now will get in touch and join the project and share your work. Great talent isn’t the exclusive preserve of the trained professional or the famous. If you’ve ever seen a barnstorming pub gig, you’ll know that.

I also want to share gig information, so you can see these great people for yourself, or, if they are writers, crafters or visual artists, share links to their work.

So, there you have it, my Idea.

Now I want to turn it into a reality, but that’s when I realise that I can’t just come home after a hard day at the office and get straight down to it. I need to learn some new skills. I’m using some highly recommended recording and editing software called Audacity. I think it is probably quite intuitive, but, over the weekend, it seemed to be defeating me.

With more than a whiff of anger and desperation about me, I set off for a bank holiday lunch with my friend, Maria. She’s the younger friend I mentioned in my last post. Without her social media insight, I probably wouldn’t be writing this now. So I unburdened.

Maria, thanks so much for your clarity of thought. She showed me that I needed to look at my project differently. So, the podcast might take longer, but I can still reach out to my audience and get the conversation flowing here. I see now the sense in that, but I was so down in the dumps at the thought of chucking the Great Idea. It’s still an idea that will come to fruition, and, anyway, who’s on a timetable?

SO – Question time. Would you like to share your creative endeavours and your motivation for them with Squatting Toad? We’ll highlight you on the blog and, hopefully (!), the podcast.

If so, please email me at imasquattingtoad@gmail.com. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can with a short questionnaire, unless you’re happy just to write something. Or just leave a comment.

Of course, as soon as I started to think about how to overcome my lack of skills, I quickly found another young friend to help with that. So, watch out, I may be coming to you over the airwaves  sooner than I thought.

In the meantime, happy creating and let me know about it.

Mel

Better than the day job?

If you’re new to Squatting Toad, we have a lot in common. So am I. I’m on a serious learning curve. But, don’t worry, you don’t have to be. I just hope you enjoy this.

You know when you have a Great Idea, but don’t feel you have the skill to execute it, so you just don’t bother. Well, I have nearly given up a few times and I am nowhere near my goal, but I’ve started. Here I am, writing my first ever blog. What’s my Great Idea? A podcast. Simple enough, right, you just talk. Anyone who knows me would think I’d find that a breeze. So, I talk, but to whom, and how do I record it, and how do I cut out the ‘hmms’ and the silly giggles? When I’ve made a progamme, how do people find it?  And how do I promote it? I knew I needed help, so I turned to a younger friend. I’m nearer to 50 than I want to admit (I can see you navigating away now… but stick with me), so youth trumped experience here. But what a can of worms I opened. Turns out I need a blog and a Twitter Feed and a Facebook Page. When younger, tech-savvy, talented friend mentioned YouTube videos, I thought it was time to walk just a little  before I could run.

So now I have a blog.

As you’ll see from the homepage, I have a logo and everything. So, I’ve got to do it now, haven’t I?

And, yes,it has got to be at least a welcome distraction from the day job, which is what Squatting Toad is all about. Actually, I don’t want to tell you what it’s ALL about right now, but if I had to choose one word to describe my theme it’s ‘creativity’.  What do you do in your down time? Do you write? Do you paint? Or sing? If so, this will be of interest to you.

Keeping my powder a little dry at this stage, but I hope to have the first podcasts ready for you by the end of May. And if, like me, you have an urge to create something, I think you’ll enjoy them and the inspiring people I’ve been talking to.

Hang on in there and happy creating.

Now, anyone know anything about editing?

Mel

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