New Podcast at last – ‘Daring to Write’

Yes, the summer is over, but you won’t find me complaining. As the nights draw in and it’s time to fire up the heating, it’s the perfect start to a new ‘term’of creativity. With that in mind, the Squatting Toad podcast is firmly back on the cultural and creative map.

In this inspiring episode, I meet author Angela Thirlwell, who give us some insight into her writing career and plenty of helpful advice for aspiring writers.

Listening to the episode again, I realise that I thanked Angela for her time, but not for her wisdom. I’ll correct that right now. Thank you, Angela, for wise words and inspiration.

Enjoy the episode and do take a look at Angela’s website here.

Soon available on iTunes, but for your delight and delectation on Podomatic, first of all, you can find it here.

And not forgetting our old friend, Soundcloud:

Happy listening and Happy Creating.

Mel

 

Bloody Work!

According to my strapline, Squatting Toad provides inspiration and podcasts for people who create in their spare time. And it does. But what if you don’t have spare time? What if your work is so stressful, you’re too worn out at the end of the day even to watch rubbish telly, let alone create anything? As far too many of us know, this happens.

In my last podcast, my interviewee Angharad, made reference to having to put her love of amateur theatre to one side when she had a stressful job. Of all the things we talked about, this haunted me the most. It was just a single comment, almost an aside, but I keep coming back to it in my head. It is why, after all, I started Squatting Toad. I had a stressful job until recently (happily I don’t now and neither does Angharad) and felt bereft as I watched people around me pursue hobbies and make things and do things, whilst I was Googling ‘funny cat videos’ and eating cake.

Now, ‘stress’, when it comes to work, can mean different things. Maybe you work in the kind of profession where any hint of weakness or inadequacy can mean a fast track to car park with a cardboard box full of your desk knick knacks.( Actually, I doubt many City bankers are reading this, but let’s suppose.) Maybe your work is so boring and repetitive and that very lack of stimulation is causing anxiety. Chronic boredom can close down your brain to new and fun ideas, as well as leaving plenty of space for full-on guilt about earning money for, well, nothing.

Mostly, let’s be frank, what causes work stress is other people. Bullying and/ or incompetent bosses head the list. Lord knows, I’ve been there and it hurts. I mean, really hurts to the point where you start to believe you have even no right to enjoy the very things outside of the working day that make life a bit more tolerable. The ‘Sunday Dread’ you feel before the start of each working work kicks in earlier and earlier to the point where Saturday’s breakfast is a depression-riddled write-off. Oh, yes.

I find now that I don’t suffer from the dread, anxiety and misery and I can look back on these times a tad more dispassionately, what is welling up now is anger. I’m angry that I still know people going to work, living the misery, and just about keeping their heads above water. And it needs to stop. Now!

Much has been written about how organisations can improve and make their workers happier and more engaged. Not a lot of what’s written, at least nothing I’ve read yet (and I’m reading a lot about this), tackles the most basic of human needs. By that I mean, respect and kindness. Why does your horrible boss think it’s remiss of him to show these basic courtesies that we are all entitled to? In most cases, it’s because he’s afraid of looking weak. And yes, sorry, I do mostly mean ‘him’, not ‘her’. This need to be ‘in charge’ and be ‘the boss of you’ and make you unhappy in the process conjures up the schoolyard of old and the bullies who nicked your sweets and made you cry. In no other field of adult life, except work, is such behaviour tolerated on such a huge scale.

Nobody, but nobody, neither the CEO or the receptionist, has the right to tote their own emotional baggage into the workplace and use it to corrode the well-being of others.

So, what can we do? Well, I, for one, am going to write about it. It’s a small contribution, but this needs to be out in the open. Why? Because we all need to feel respected and valuable for one thing, and because I want my experience to count for something. Write what you know, they say. I know that work isn’t working like it should, because I’ve lived it. It’s not just me. If you are happy in your job, living without stress, just ask around. You’ll soon see it’s not just me.

All these years in the workplace, all this reading and research I’m doing. It’s opening up something fascinating and, I hope, redemptive, for me and others.

Come on, if we’re not happy, how can we create? And that brings me full circle to what Squatting Toad is here for.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey. Watch out for posts and podcasts on this very topic, always with an eye to creativity, but also a meditation on work, which takes up so much of our lives and our energy.

In the meantime, do have a listen to my last podcast, if you haven’t already. Why not take up amateur theatre, if you need an outlet? Or listen to previous episodes about all kinds of creative endeavours from music to crafting.

PODCASTS HERE.

Enjoy.

Mel X

New Podcast (hurrah). Top Books for Creative People

Hello Friends

We all need some inspiration from time to time, either somebody to give us a motivating kick in the proverbial, or just  time out to read some wise words in a good book.

Well, embarrassment of riches time, because in today’s podcast, I bring you wise words from three good books. I’ve chosen these books because I found them inspiring, not because I was looking for some books to review. I hope you’ll invest in at least one of them (or find them in your library), and I hope you’ll agree.

Don’t worry if you don’t agree, just tell me which books have moved you and I can maybe feature them in a later episode.

Here goes on Soundcloud:

I will post iTunes and Podomatic links soonest.

Have a great, creative weekend.

Mel

Thwarted?

Hello again

You know I am working hard at being about ‘making it happen’, balancing time spent at work and domestic life with time spent on creativity.  My principal contribution in this last sphere has been my wee podcasts. Yes, the technical side has been a challenge and my last effort has dodgy sound to boot, but I keep on going, and |I keep on learning.

But then, my upload to the platform that feeds to iTunes fails, several times. I email the Helpdesk and a very nice Young Person in San Francisco uploads for me, and we are back in business. Buoyed by success, I attempt a next upload myself last night. Nothing. Try again. Still nothing.

I reflect that in earlier times I might have taken this as a sign and given up on the whole endeavour. As I write this now, I have a slightly heavy heart and worry that it will never be fixed. But, you know what, if you find something, creatively or otherwise, that makes you feel like you’re achieving, and that the end result is somehow meaningful, you’ve just got to press on. That’s no great revelation, right?  But for many of us, it’s a learnt behaviour. Not achieving, not creating, not doing something we feel is meaningful makes us dissatisfied, but that dissatisfaction is almost comforting. ‘See, I failed at that, too. It’s just not for me.’ That’s destructive and a waste of time. There’s something else I have learnt, it wasn’t innate knowledge.

What’s the lesson?

  1. Please don’t give up. I will promise not to.
  2. People can help. Sometimes what’s blocking you is not your fault, so find someone to help you out. In my case, I await more news from the Young Person in San Francisco.
  3. Being defeatist is a waste of energy.

Well, that’s three lessons. All basic stuff, but sometimes it just needs to be said, or heard, or read in someone’s short Monday morning blog. After all, that’s what Mondays are for, surely, starting a new week with optimism and cheer.

I’ll let you know how I get on. The podcasts are coming, people, make no mistake.

Happy Creative Week to all.

Mel

 

Can we take a Holiday?

It’s Easter Monday. It’s about 8pm, so the holiday weekend is all but over. But is it a holiday from creating stuff? Well, I just can’t get my mind out of ‘holiday fun and lazing around mode’. Am I wrong?

Of course, I can put it down to recharging the batteries all the better to free up my creative flow. Some people will have used the four day weekend as an opportunity for some uninterrupted creative activity, even if it’s only painting the kitchen. Not me. I was looking forward to sightseeing and walking the countryside of south west England. The weather prognosis wasn’t looking so great, but I’m certainly not put off by a bit of rain. A bit of rain? It poured down in buckets, accompanied by the horrific winds that preceded Storm Katie, so walking was pretty much off the agenda. Even a short walk yesterday to Durdle Door was the most stressful mile I’ve ever taken on, walking straight into a headwind.

Yes, it was just a mile, and I was almost defeated. That’s what’s wrong. The sense of defeat and of something unachieved. The very activities intended to recharge said batteries didn’t get ticked off the ‘to-do list’. So there’s a feeling of deflation and, yes, of something missing. Damn you, English weather. A weekend lost and I’ve got to focus on the ‘to-do’ list for the rest of this week. I actually need to read a work-related book, but I’m using this blog as a displacement activity – there’s a first!

Happily, I have lots of interviews coming up for the podcast, so watch out for those. I am genuinely thrilled to have so much great stuff in the pipeline. It’s been a while. Another writing project is making slow progress, too.

So, what have I learned this weekend? Well, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s to let myself off if I don’t create anything, even though that could be a slippery slope, the start of me always forgiving my own inactivity.  Maybe it’s that I need to press on, whatever happens. A little a day, I’m really not good at that. I have learnt that even out of adverse weather, you can occasionally get a good photo. Well, I think it’s good. It’s Lyme Regis just before sunset. Wait a minute, that was creative, right? Go me!

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I hope your Easter break, if you had one, was productive -or not, if that is what you chose. I hope also that you’re ready to tackle the challenges of the week ahead. I hope I am too.

Happy creating.

Mel

 

Networking, but Socially

Disclaimer alert, friends. This isn’t, I promise, an extended advert for the event mentioned at the end of this post. (But, if you’re in London on March 7th, do come and join us.) What I wanted to do was merely reveal some of my thought processes. Creativity unmasked, if you will.

I came to the idea of doing a podcast by asking myself two questions. What am I good at? What would I like to be doing? The answer to the first is ‘talking’, so question two more or less answered itself. In truth, I think I missed my calling to be a radio presenter, but the great thing about our digital age is that I can make that happen for myself. Of course, ‘What am I good at?’ didn’t encompass technical skills, such as editing, but I was open to learning and am still working to improve on what I have learnt in a relatively short space of time.

So, now that I’m up and running, and have written some blogs and made some episodes, I need to reach people. The obvious method is through the array of social media that abound these days. I’ve been posting on Facebook and have become a complete Twitter convert. I think it’s the shortness of it; 140 characters and no punctuation, what’s not to like? But, fun as it is, there’s something missing. So, I asked myself again, what am I good at? What is the best way I can promote myself? Well, duh, face to face, that’s how.

It can’t be just me that thinks all this ‘social’ networking can be anything but. Meeting people, talking and, crucially, listening, has still got to be the best way to promote what you do, especially if what you do best is – YOU! I find once I take myself out of the equation, and stare at a screen, aching for just one extra Twitter follower, I am in danger of ploughing a lonely furrow. I love the immediacy of the online connections, but, when someone gives me a ‘like’, I want to hear about them. It’s a bit like starting an interesting conversation at a bus stop, just as the other person’s bus arrives….and they’re gone.

So, I’m trying to get out and about. I’ve already written about Spark London’s Storytelling evening last month, and I’ll go to one of those again soon. I was at a music open mic night on Sunday, and there might well be an upcoming podcast on that. Who can say? I’m off to a huge craft fair in April. I’m hoping to take EmmaLucyMakes with me. Someone to talk to, and someone who knows what the heck we’re looking at. Crochet, anyone.

As creators, of course, we need time alone to create, but we also need to get out and talk to people. Anyone who’s sold their crafts at local fairs will tell you that. Maybe what you’ll hear from your customers, or potential customers (we are all customers, in the same way as we all have something to sell), is not what you expected, or even wanted to hear, but it’s best that you hear it. Online connections are great, and I truly value mine, but I need to be out in the world.

My next step was obvious. A networking evening. I can’t wait. I can talk about what I’ve been doing and hope people are interested, as well as hear about what they’re up to. We’ll all learn something and, I hope, have some fun. That what’s I call truly social networking. Come and join us. It’s Monday March 7th in a historic pub in London, W1. More below.

LONDON EVENT DETAILS HERE

Let’s show the world we can really network, and be truly social.

Mel

 

Did I say ‘Better than ever’?

Yep, just checked my last post and I sure did. And I am, really. Hit a bump in the road, in terms of the podcasting technology, but the great thing is, there was help available. In need of a quick solution, I emailed Andrew at Make and Break Education (http://www.makeandbreakeducation.com/), who kindly emailed straight back, even though it was Sunday. And his tip worked,so back in business.

As someone who is prone to the odd panic, what this blogging/ soon-to-be-podcasting exercise has taught me is that people want to help. The creative world is so supportive, even if you’re doing a solitary activity.

At the weekend, a couple of friends and I were riffing on what we’d like to do next creatively and it was quickly apparent that there was much we could do to help each other.

If, like me, you are no good at asking for help, just take a deep breath and get your question out there. In the worst case scenario, you end up back where you started. You certainly won’t be worse off.

If, like me, you want to make some changes in your life, make them a matter of record, with the right people of course. Maybe not your boss, for now. Talk it through with good people who have no other agenda than seeing you achieve your full potential and who knows what might happen. It might be a friend, it might be a life coach, but get it out there.

Off to cook dinner and count how many ‘good people’ I know, so I don’t get bogged down worrying about the bad ones.

Take care.

Mel

X

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

X