Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Tackling writer's block

Image via charleshelfin.com

A very talented freelance feature writer that I first met back when were both trainee journalists emailed me this morning in a writer's block induced panic, asking for my advice on how to beat it. She's more than capable of getting past the block without my help and is a proper writer (I was one of those once but now I'm a web editor which mostly involves moving things other people have written around a screen, chasing contributions from bloggers and lots of scary budget meetings), but sometimes you just need a bit of reassurance from someone who understands what it's like. She said my response made her feel a bit better, so I thought I'd put it up here on the off-chance someone else might find it useful, funny or at least make them feel a bit better about themsleves because they are more organised/normal than me.

"OK, what I always do when I have writers block is faff around all day THINKING about the subject – this usually involves doing laundry, trawling blogs, walking in the park, spending hours on facebook, taking pointless bus journeys, going to the bank, etc... carry a notebook with me at all times and jot down the odd sentence (most of which I will be unable to read when I come back to them, but it will remind me what I was thinking about).
"Then when it starts to get dark I go out and buy a pack of 20 marlborough lights, a giant bag of maltesers and a couple of cartons or orange juice. Then I sit down and brain fart on my keyboard – write and write and write. "When it stops flowing I have a cigarette outside in the garden or take a juice and malteser break. At about 5am I do an edit.
"In all, during the course of a 24 hour day I will probably spend about 4-5 hours actually sitting in front of my computer attempting to write.
"Then I send it to my mum who reads it while I have a shower, tells me its fine, I look for reasons to disagree with her and then do another edit to correct all the things I found.
"Mostly, this technique is about giving yourself plenty of space away from the computer to organise your thoughts and being very close to deadline when you write so you can’t spend too much time agonising over it because you’ve just got to get it done.
"This is how I got a first at uni and how I got my first piece published in the Evening Standard. However, it is also how I failed to get onto a masters course at Cambridge.
"I have no idea if it would work for anyone else and it would probably be very risky  to try it out for the first time so close to an important deadline. Also, I strongly advise you not to do the cigarettes bit – it’s how I started smoking again. 
"The bit in bold is the important bit – you may be able to think of your own way of doing it."

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Some things just need to be said

We are all guilty. I think I suffer from a kind of keyboard specific dyspraxia as well. 
This and other charming letterpress prints (I psrticularly enjoyed the one from the Trekkies to the Twilight fans and the stationery/stationary canvas bag) available from Sapling Press on Etsy

Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Margaret Howell Sample Sale March/April 2011

I am not going to offer a lengthy explanation for my prolonged absence from this blog. All I will say is that I got a new, very demanding full-time job as a web editor (a real, proper editor which is a terribly grown up thing to be) and there was also some other stuff taking up all my spare brain space. Mostly I was spending my alone time in the evenings watching the same episodes of Family Guy over and over again because everything else felt like too much effort.
I didn't have the energy or inclination to spend hours reading pointless, repetitive articles on the fashion industry or reports on the latest fashion shows, most of which were boring anyway, and the blog began to feel like a weight around my neck rather than something satisfying and fun.
It's not as bad as it sounds, I promsie, I am just preternaturally lazy and couldn't handle being so busy. 
So anyway, now I am back. But not fully. I don't want this blog to feel like a burden again, so don't expect any consistancy in the posting regime. And it probably won't just be about clothes anymore, although I'm making no promises.
In the meantime, though, here's a gift from me to you - the Maragaret Howell sample sale invitation. This has become pretty much the only regular sample sale I frequent. It's not full of amazing bargains, but it is good for seriously useful things for your wardrobe that also make you feel like you've treated yourself.

Monday, 28 March 2011

How to dress for a protest

My family have always been politically minded, from my grandparents right-leaning zionist generation, to my parents CND/anti-apartheid/anti-nazi campaigning, right through to my own light dabblings in socialist ideology (very short-lived).
I've been going to protests since I was tiny, strapped onto my dad's back in a brown corduroy sling or holding mum's hand dressed in Osh Kosh dungarees, so it was lovely to see so many families with young kids at the protest in London on March 26.
However, protesting seems to have become more risky as police tactics have changed. When I was little it seemed like the police were there to protect us from any violence, so when a group of skin heads started throwing rocks at us on an Anti-Nazi league March they were swiftly dealt with and we carried on in peace. Perhaps as a child I was sheltered from any other nastiness, certainly old-school protestors I later met while working for another anti-racism organisation would suggest so. But these days the police are the people I am scared of. Not because they are bad people - but because I am terrified of being kettled. Kettling escalates an angry mood and catches innocent peaceful protestors up in the aggravated swirl of masked teenagers looking to cause damage and antagonise the police into doing something stupid. Being held for an indefinite amount of time is scary and also I don't like peeing in public.

Thus, my mother and I have, over the past few years, been considering a new sartorial approach to protest that we thought would help us avoid any trouble. On Saturday, we put it to the test. No more dungarees, definitely no corduroy (not that I have considered either of these a sensible choice for clothing since an unfortunate lilac denim-cut-off dungarees moment when I was 13) - no face paint, no jeans, no slogan t-shirts of any sort. In fact any clothes that make you look like you might possibly be a protestor are banned unless they can be easily removed and compacted into a handbag or covered with a shawl.
And thus it was that I went along to the cuts protest in polka dot high heels, matching red lipstick, an APC coat and a satin YSL pencil skirt (ebay's finest).

(taken by my mum in nice hotel toilets in Mayfair, five minutes after leaving the protest route)

No-one was anything but polite to me. One woman stopped me and said she admired my commitment, coming on a march in heels. A masked teenager, fresh from smashing the windows at Lloyds, actually stopped and apologised for crashing into me as he ran towards the Ritz. A riot policeman told me under his breath exactly what the next police move was going to be so that I could get out of the way and not get crushed. In fact every policeman either of us spoke to was nothing but friendly, helpful and polite despite the abuse being hurled at many of them. We even managed to walk straight off the march into a very nice hotel to use the loo without anyone batting an eyelid.
After five hours the heels did start to hurt a little. But I still managed to run with the riot police as they poured onto Piccadilly from Old Bond Street and take some decent pictures, although I had to hitch the pencil skirt up above my knees to keep up.

Yes, some people would say that there is an ideological conflict in wearing designer clothing to an anti-cuts protest (even if the entire outfit actually cost me under £50). Those are probably the same people who thought smashing the windows of the Ritz was a good idea. But I think their point is moot. The middle classes - a number of whom would take a trip to Fortnum and Masons for birthday ice creams or Christmas presents, or the Ritz for tea for Grandma's birthday, and who are collectively the biggest consumer group for fashion in the UK - are seriously affected by these cuts. Almost all of them rely in some way on a state-funded service, be it the NHS, state schooling, libraries, sport centres, child care or benefits. Very few of them have the money to pay off their children's university debts, let alone the new fees. Yes, this may seem trivial compared to the loss of a disability allowance or a newly-jobless single mother with no support (although being disabled or a single mother doesn't make you automatically working class or poor despite what some newspapers seem to think), but the point is that these cuts affect almost everyone. And even the more comfortable and straight-laced members of the middle classes are angry. They're just a bit too nice to throw eggs full of paint at the Royal Academy. For now.

Some other outfits from the protest:

And my favourite message of the day: