A.B.W… Always Be Writing

Wed 18 Oct 2017

Question: What do you do when you’ve hit a block and you’ve run out of things to write.

Answer: Write something.

One of my favourite plays/films is David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, and one of my favourite scenes in it is the Alec Baldwin scene (to use the film as reference).  He’s the big shot from head office who comes to berate the real estate sales team for their poor results.  “Always. Be. Closing.” he yells at them, over and over again.  It’s a great scene, in a fantastic film, and if you’ve not seen it I highly recommend.

And, as you can probably tell from the title of this post and my badly photoshopped image above, I’ve adapted it slightly to come up with my own mantra.

Having committed to taking part in this year’s NaNoWriMo, I’ve thrown myself into turmoil over the past few days, after I discovered more notes on yet another idea that I came up with in the dim and distant past, that I’d quite like to have a go at again to see if I can turn it into something.  I now have two ideas for novels and I can’t decide which one to run with, having spent those tumultuous past few days working up ideas, characters, scenes, scenarios, sub-plot ideas, back stories, etc etc etc, for each of the ideas.  I’m not sure what works and what doesn’t anymore, or even if either of the ideas is any good.

In short, I’ve hit a block with both of them.

So today I turned to a different, ongoing project in order to get things flowing again – and thankfully, it seems to have done the trick.

I run, and write for, Shakespeare Does… which provides unique, personalised, handcrafted items, perfect for lovers of literature and ideal as gifts. Framed Nursery Rhymes, Birthday and Seasonal Greetings, Anniversary Celebrations, all re-written in the style of a Shakespearean Sonnet. 

Leading up to Christmas we’ll be selling at a number of Christmas Fayres (as well as from the website), and a new product we’ve decided to try is greetings cards.  Today I wrote two brand new pieces – We Wish You A Merry

Christmas and Jingle Bells – in the style of a 14-line Shakespearean sonnet.  Take a look at them here – and contact us through the Shakespeare Does website if you’d like to order some.

Of course, a looming print deadline helped the process – doesn’t it always?! – but, just as any writer worth their salt will tell you, just because you’re temporarily drained on one project (or more), don’t let that prevent you from getting on with something else.  Or, if need be, starting something completely new.

Always. Be. Writing…

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Inspiration strikes – and it can for you too!

Tue 3rd October 2017

It’s been a year of ups and downs.  More downs than ups, if I’m honest.  There’s been a dearth of work as an actor (“Tell us about it,” say most other actors reading this!), and my writing projects (few and far between) have been at best frustrating, at worst very costly.  Add into the mix a handful of personal private issues – some still ongoing – and it’s safe to say that I was marking down 2017 as my very own Annus Horibilus.

But today I turned a corner.

Indulging in one of the most satisfying and popular forms of procrastination for a writer, today I decided to tidy, sort out, and completely rearrange my office.  I work at the top of our house in the loft space.  It’s a large, light and airy space, in which I sit at my Ikea desk surrounded by filing cabinets, shelves full of files, drawers full of stationery, a white board, wall planners, piles of newspapers and writing magazines, and boxes and boxes stacked on top of each other full of I don’t know what.  It also has one corner – my ‘relaxing corner’ – in which therre sits a futon and coffee table, a pile of boxes of biscuits, and an inflatable Mr Bump. He’s always been my favourite Mr Man since childhood, and I find the sight of him relaxing, somehow.  I’ve even got a little soft Beanie Mr Bump sitting on my desk.

Anyway…

Disappointed and frustrated at yet another slow, uninspired days work this morning, I decided put my time to use reogranising my space.  Doing something active and useful should get the creative juices flowing again, I thought.  And in a way it did.

Going through old files on one of the shelves, sitting cross-legged on the floor and trying to decipher my writing from years ago, I discovered some notes I’d scribbled down on a piece of A4 in a pub in Tooting Broadway in 2009.  It was for an idea for a YA novel, and I was surprised at how detailed and fully formed the notes seemed to be.  It immediately brought back the memory of the idea I’d had and how I wanted to tell the story, and as I read over the scribbled-on A4 paper – and the subsequent notes I’d made about it later – I noticed something.  I was starting to feel excited about this idea again, about telling this story.  I was starting to feel… could it be?…  Yes – inspired!

A few nights ago I was out for dinner with some friends, and was telling a fellow writer in the group about NaNoWriMo.  She had an idea for a story she wanted to write, and I suggested she use the discipline of NaNoWriMo to at least get something down on paper (or rather, laptop) this Novemeber, even if it was just a first draft.  She said it was a good idea, and thanked me for the suggestion.  Now, three days later, I’ve got a new surge of energy.  I’m excited about writing again, as my mind is whizzing with ideas, new plot lines, different ways to bring my nearly ten year old story up to date – which I’m determined to do myself in this year’s NaNoWriMo.

I’ve never before partaken in the month-long novel writing frenzy, even though I signed up to it a few years ago.  But 2017 will be the year I commit.  The year I sit down at my desk every single day, upload my word count to the NaNoWriMo website, and come out the end of it with a completed novel – even if it is a first draft.  And I won’t feel the need to be distracted by the task of tidying my surroundings either.

So if you are a writer, and you’re struggling a bit at the moment, I hope I’ve been able to inspire you, even just a little bit.  As today has shown me, inspiration can come anywhere, at any time.  Maybe this piece is yours.  That’s my message as I draw to a close: trust that inspiration will come, and keep an eye out for it doing so.  And, of course, never throw away any notes or scraps of paper.

Oh – and make sure you tidy your shelves every once in a while.

Work starts on brand new script for September production

Thursday 19 January 2017

After a non-stop 5 months working as an actor in Seriously Dead and Jack and the Beanstalk, I’m now putting on my writer’s hat again.

Today I had a meeting with Jeff Brown from BBC’s Look North, who has written a one-act one-man play, Cornered, about an ex-Sunderland AFC player (based on Jeff’s experiences as a sports journalist/reporter over the past couple of decades.)  I first saw Jeff read an excerpt from the piece at a scratch night, and immediately offered to produce it under my company Cranked Anvil.  It’s all systems go, and we have set a date for a number of performances in various venues around Sunderland in September this year.

We will present it as part of a double-bill of one act plays based around the football club, and I am now starting work on the companion piece.  It’s working title is ‘Wise Men Say’ (if you ever go to a Sunderland match you’ll hear the fans singing it loud and proud on the terraces) and it will be a humerous but heartfelt homage to the club and its fans.

After the success we had a couple of years ago with our production of I Left My Heart In Roker Park, and with 2017 being the 20th anniversary of the Stadium of Light AND the 25th anniversary of Sunderland’s last FA Cup final appearance, Cornered / Wise Men Say is likely to be the hottest ticket in Sunderland this year!

Shakespeare adaptations win in North East Theatre awards

July 2016

This has been a very busy year so far, with three adaptations of Shakespeare plays under my belt. (Plus directing and performing in them too.)

Romeo + Juliet, Hamlet, and Henry V all received excellent reviews and superb audience feedback.

The icing on the cake has been that my production of Romeo + Juliet was awarded Best Shakespeare by the North East Theatre Guide. This couldn’t have been achieved without the hard work and support of everyone involved, so thank you to all the cast and crew at Craned Anvil, and all the venues we played at, for making this season of Shakespeare such a success.  As an extra added bonus, my Henry V was placed third!

Sunderland’s SAFC Museum opening

Thursday 17 March 2016

I was approached recently by Michael Ganley, lifelong Sunderland AFC fan and owner of the Sunderland Fans Museum, to write a piece and perform it at tonight’s official opening of his new space in the city’s library.

SAFC Fans Museum is a private collection that Michael has ammased over the years – at huge personal expense – and is an unrivalled collection of SAFC memorabilia.  He has everything, from old programmes right up to the actual boardroom table from the old Roker Park, Kevin Phillips’ Golden Boot, and even Ian Porterfield’s tracksuit from the 1973 FA Cup Final.  (All of which you will appreciate the true magnitude of if you’re a Sunderland fan!)

The launch was a huge success, with many city dignitaries and VIPs attending, along with ex-SAFC players from the 1973 Cup winning side.

The monologue I wrote and performed was geared towards taking a longer piece into local schools, and focussing on the educational side that Michael wants to set up in conjuction with his fans museum.  It proved a huge success, and I look forward to working on the project with him further in the future.

Filmed by the BBC

Thursday 17 March 2016

I’m currently adapting 3 Shakespeare scripts which we’re producing this year with Cranked Anvil, as part of the Shakespeare400 celebrations.

The first of our productions is Romeo and Juliet, and today I was interviewed by Dawn Thewlis, for BBC Look North and Radio Newcastle, to talk about my adaptation.

It’s gained a lot of interest because of the very local and contemporary spin I’m putting on it: the fueding Montagues and Capulets are transported to modern-day South Shields where their deep distrust and dislike for each other comes from being supporters of rival football teams, Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United.

Welcome to Paul & Nessa’s Happy Hour!

Tuesday 28 July 2015

I’ve been writing and performing sketch comedy on stage for as long as I can remember – professionally since 2010 when I founded sketch comedy group Don’t Trust Salmon.

Today saw a new medium for my sketches, as the first radio edition of Paul & Nessa’s Happy Hour was broadcast live on Spark FM.

The show is produced by my company Cranked Anvil, and was conceived, written and performed by myself and Nessa Karon.

You can listen to today’s and all future episodes on the Cranked Anvil website here.