Wednesday, 28 November 2012

When you get to 80 years old, what do you want to have done in your life?

I don’t equate my life with my work. 

I recently had the (mis)fortune to overhear a conversation in which a girl was complaining about her colleague.  The colleague had said: ‘Work is not my life,’ having booked time off at Christmas.  The girl had responded incredulously, not understanding how he could think that when work enables the payment of rent, food and other necessities. 

Whilst the girl had a point, she misunderstood the point.   Her colleague wanted time off to see his family, and enjoy Christmas; that is where his ‘life’ is.  I feel very sorry, really, for people who don’t have a life outside of work.  If all we’re living for is to go to work and pay the bills, that seems soulless to me.  (I think, ultimately, the girl was simply bitter because she hadn’t been able to get time off, but that’s not really relevant.)

I think we all need something to live for – some purpose that keeps us going.  In my lowest times, one of the things I focus on is my desire to write at least one novel in my life.  It helps me to ‘keep on keeping on’, as they say.

I gave up a job about a month ago, even though I had a lot of fun there and it was (sort of) related to the career in Communications I think I’d like.  But it was too stressful: I didn’t have the energy to work on things I consider to be my ‘life’.  

Since starting my new, purely administrative role, my days are less fun, admittedly, but I am not coming home stressed and depressed, too tired to work on my dreams.  The reason my blog has been quiet, for example, is because I’m finishing off my album and I’ve been making progress on my non-fiction book.

If you want to do the things you really want to do in your life, but can’t seem to find the time or energy , maybe it’s time to consider changing something so you don’t get to 80 years old, filled with regret about the things you’ll wish you’d done.

Friday, 16 November 2012


I love Converse but, unless I can
get assurances on their ethics,
I may have to give them up.
I came across an article yesterday about a clothing brand and its ethics.

The article was of particular interest to me as, last weekend, I was challenged about the clothes I buy and how they are made.  I was made aware (again) of the terrible pay and conditions many workers endure in places like China, Indonesia and Cambodia in order to produce the clothes I get from the High Street.

As a result, I've decided to try and buy more ethical clothing.  The trouble is, I don’t have a lot of money to buy clothes with and most ‘Fair-Trade’ labels are out of my price range.  This leaves me with foraging in charity shops, which I don’t mind but, as I am an exceptionally tall man, I can rarely find my size.

So, I took to the internet.  Because that’s what we do these days when we have a problem.

Searching for ethical clothing brands, I did find some, although many didn’t cater to my size (particular in the footwear department) or, more often, taste.  But then I came across the article I mentioned.  It appeared in the Guardian in April, and you can read it here.

I realise the article is a few months old, but it was the first I’d heard about H&M’s plans to be more ethical.  The article points out H&M can’t really claim to be that ethical, but it also notes it’s a step in the right direction. 

And, reading H&M’s own website, it does seem as though they are trying.  Which brings me to my point:

If H&M are positioning themselves as an ethical choice, and they start to do well, won’t other retailers begin to follow suit?  (No pun intended.) 

If the ball starts rolling in this direction, and it’s what consumers want (displayed by them voting with their wallets), slowly we might see High Street fashion becoming more ethical, in the same way the coffee industry is so much better these days as a result of Fair-Trade products being a) readily available and b) chosen.

I know it’s not a perfect solution: In an ideal world, everyone would earn a fair wage, under fair conditions, immediately.  But, sadly, it’s not a perfect world and these things take time.

It’s a small step on a long road but, for someone like me who can’t afford to buy expensive Fair-Trade brands, it’s better than nothing.  So, for now, I’ll be visiting H&M more often*.

And, the more people who make a commitment to being ethical, who take the time even just to think about this as an issue, and be more deliberate about the stores they buy things from, the faster we might see big, positive changes in this industry.

You in?

*If anyone can direct me to articles on why I shouldn’t shop at H&M (perhaps their ethical practice codes are in fact a sham?), or any affordable ethical clothing stores, I’d be grateful.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Creating for the sake of creating.

I almost had a blog-post written tonight, but I decided it wasn't good enough.  (Ironic, really, considering it was about being creative for the sake of it, and not because others will like it...)

Instead, here's something I said to a writer-friend of mine the other day:

'Write because you have something you want to say, 
not because people might or might not read it.' 
- Martin Flett

Be creative, in whatever way you want to be; don't worry about what other people will think of your work. 

And anyway, if you create in order to please others, wouldn't that be selling out?  

I know I don't want to do that.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Who are we when we're online?

Is who we appear to be on the various social networks who we actually are?  Or do you, like me, try to appear to be cooler/deeper/funnier?

I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about what I do and don’t say online. 

I always try to say things ‘on message’ – stuff about being the best we can be, about being creative, and being positive.  I feel as though I have my own ‘brand' and I don’t want to let it down by posting something too personal, or too negative. 

I even worry about how things might appear to a prospective publisher in the future: will my website put them off?  What about my music?  Does it show I’m too unfocused, dabbling in too many media?  And what of this blog?  Would they think I was putting too much of myself ‘out there’, displaying too many weaknesses, or talking about things a fiction-writer has no business commenting on?

Every Facebook status or Tweet is deliberated over, and I have deleted within minutes many posts that, in hindsight, I feel are not appropriate for the person I want to appear to be.

And that’s the point: I (and I suspect I am not alone) project a particular persona online and this even spills over into ‘real life’ as well

Some people say we should be authentic and not hide our ‘true selves’; people who matter will accept us as we are and those that don’t aren’t worth it. 

But I’m not in that school of thought.  I believe it’s okay to want to be different, to want to be ‘better’.  And I believe the best way to become what you want to be is to start acting like that until it becomes natural. 

Don't get me wrong, I don’t think anyone should be coerced into being different; if you’re happy with who you are then crack on and be it. 

Otherwise, be the person you want to be.  Twitter and Facebook might be a small start...

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

What’s getting in the way of your life’s goals?

Life is full of things we can do.  I often feel like I have too many things I want to do!  There just isn’t enough time.

Recently, I cancelled my TV licence.  People are often surprised to hear I don’t watch much television, but I don’t.  I honestly don’t know how people have time to keep up with soap operas, or The X Factor, or Strictly.  There are too many other things to do: I’ve got an album to record, this blog to write, Bambi and The Chopper to work on, my novel and a non-fiction project to do.  My Open Uni course will start again soon, too.

And that’s all without even mentioning recreation: games, reading, or cinema trips.  TV doesn’t really get a look-in so I’ll save myself £13 a month, thank you very much.

I’m not saying TV is bad, or other things we may enjoy, such as the X-Box/Playstation/baking/whatever – it’s good to have down-time sometimes and, if TV is your thing, fine.  But if it’s getting in the way of your life’s goals, then it’s time to re-think.

I’ve said before: All those things you want to do with your life?  They’ll never get done unless you actually do them.

I read a fantastic blog-post today by Don Miller about ‘Being your own President’ and making a plan for your life, rather than letting someone else decide how it’s going to turn out.  It has re-motivated me to continue with the things I want to achieve.

I really encourage you to do the same.  Who knows?  Maybe it’s even time to cancel that TV licence...