As some of you may know by now, I made a flying visit to Brazil earlier this month. A year or so ago, I made an intoxicated promise and well, I don’t really like to break even drunken promises.

That is why I put ” Writing the word ‘Courage’ on Ipanema beach” as one of my challenges.  It was short, sweet and incredibly needed. In fact, the trip turned out to be quite well timed, in terms of increasing stress-levels and melancholic reflections. See, I am very aware that I have not finished all 12 challenges and with only six days until the New Year I doubt very much that it will happen. This would bother me,  because even though I always insisted that this project was a detour, a sideline as life happened: I like to finish the things I start. This can be a great trait or just a bit stressful and unfortunately I always seem to lean a little to the latter…

What better place to take a break than the country in which they seem to live life in a completely different pace than the rest of the world. Let me introduce you to ‘Brazil time’. Whether it is getting ready to go out, waiting for the bus, indicating distances, or making plans for the day: everything has an element of ‘more or less’ to it. Examples: “Are you nearly ready?” “Yes, more or less” ” Will the bus be here soon?” “Yes, more or less” “Is it close/far/walkable.” “Yes, more or less.” Enfin…

As I didn’t speak Portuguese and Rio is not super English, I was glad to have a personal guide in the form of my dear friend. As she took care of directions, places and times I suddenly felt all tension slip away from me. Nothing to worry about, no place to be, and with only two things that I wanted to see in five days the goals were reachable, even in Brazil time.

Screen shot 2012-12-24 at 16.26.55So I had time to make some observations:

    1. Sandy beaches like caster sugar do exist.
    2. Flaunt your body, body hang-ups are for losers.
    3. Be an appreciative audience of point 2. Even if you are out with your spouse/partner, guess it is the   ol’ adage “Don’t mind where he gets hungry, as long as he comes home to eat.”
    4. Point 2 and 3 do not justify eating my face.
    5. Use sunscreen. Even when cloudy.
    6. There is no point in time planning when traffic dictates your speed.
    7. Point 6 really is a metaphor for life.
    8. Friends in every place, shape, form and point of life are priceless.
    9. Birthdays are awesome.
    10. Really: do use sunscreen. It saves you a lot of peeling.

Bonus: Buy and wear gorgeous underwear. It just improves point 2, 6, 9 and 10.

Now I’m back home for the holidays, I know I still have five challenges to meet. However, there is no panic, it’s ok: it will happen, more or less… in Brazil time.

Happy Holidays everyone! x

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November 1st, I’m half way through my Three Musketeer book and like so many things in life it’s an ongoing project. I consider the October Project a success as I consciously refocused on the fledgling career:

I attended a workshop and discovered the pragmatic side to my creativity. My believe that in order for any message/ cause to come across, it should resonate with its audience. Entertainment (as in engagement) is key to any art form and perhaps even activism.

I read and worked with a book called Business Model You, and stopped halfway. All diagrams, self-reflection exercises and quizzes I came to one conclusion: I know what I want. Even the plan on how to get there I kind of already know: I just need to commit to the idea and the fact it will take time.

This month the goal of a creative career got a whole extra dimension for me, with the controversy over the RSC’s casting of the Orphan of Zhao. There are many people who have already written about this issue  more eloquently than I ever can aspire to: in-depth writings you can find here by Broderick Chow, here by Gabby Wong and here by Anna Chen. In short, what the issue highlights is the lack of visibility of East Asian actors on stage and lack of none stereotypical roles. As much as I forget about this at times, I am of EA descent as they say and my experience of life up til now, I’d describe as non-stereo typical. Just by writing I could perhaps contribute a little bit to positive change.

by jennicreatives.com

Already knowing what you want to do and what you are aiming for, is a huge leap forward. All the decisions you make from then on, should lead you to your goal. The problem with writing, especially creative writing, is that you never know how long it will take before you can make a career out of it. If it happens at all. (Posthumous careers are overrated!) I need money to live and I would love to make it by doing something I love. (That is writing, the other thing would be deemed illegal…)

If anything, this month has shown me that it is all very well to talk the talk, sometimes one needs to walk the walk. In my case this means writing. Lots of writing. Plays, screenplays, radio plays, reviews, articles anything to perfect the skill.  There are a whole lot of channels out there, looking for stuff but I just need to write it and send it. That is how basic it is.

Whether it will lead somewhere is of course another issue but I start November with a new commitment: if the writing career never takes off ( and I’m going to give myself another 70 years for this and then it might be time to find another hobby.) it should never be for my lack of trying.

It really just boils down to one thing: Just. Do. It.

Running half marathon with my sister – Tick!

PS: As she saw the clock on the finish line going to 2 hour 19min, my very cool sister suddenly shouted:”2:20! Let’s go for 2:20!” And started to accelerate towards the finish. After keeping up with her for 13miles, it was just easier to kick in the sprint than to explain that this was 2:20 from the very start of the race, which was a few (indeed 12) min before we started… God love her.

In the words of the late, the great Michael Jackson: “This is it!” One more sleep before the race, and a long one too as we are given an extra hour leaving British Summer Time.

Having spent most of my week in bed with the flu, do I feel ready? Probably not. Does that matter? Probably not.

Because tomorrow, come rain or shine ( probably rain) I will be starting at the O2 with my very cool sister. She actually has a real job, saving lives and has been training in her hours after work and in her free weekends. We decided not to run for a charity, just for ourselves: and she doesn’t even like running that much. She only signed up because I asked her to join me: because I needed a project to cling on to in my unorganised life; a life which at that point in time didn’t even have a proper postal address. So she used hers and last week the runners pack arrived there: timing chip, wristband and the optimistically short-sleeved shirt with starting number printed on the front. To be shown at all times.

Yesterday the rain and the cold came for real: my parents’ flight was delayed because of snow.

This morning my very cool sister suggested a long sleeve shirt underneath shirt option after tomorrow’s forecasted rain and wind. After initial hesitation (last-minute change, can’t cope!)  I just tried on: it was the best idea ever.

Did I mention she doesn’t even like running that much?

She’ll be there. She’ll be running –  so tomorrow, rain, snow, gales, full-blown fevers: I shall be running too.

As part of this October project, I went to a Case For Optimism meeting yesterday. In a previous post I expressed my concerns about it sounding a little “hippy-dippy” and I’ll honestly say I stepped outside my comfort zone yesterday.

Now, a few disclaimers first:

Firstly, I have a postgrad a Master degree in this hippy shit as some would brand it. I’m a pro at breathing exercises and the fact that I am this publicly reflecting on my work/career is still a trace of my alma mater’s reflective practitioner philosophy: I could wallpaper a family home and their garage with my reflections on this stuff.

Secondly, I wrote my thesis on “the importance of entertainment for the efficacy of sociopolitical theatre”, which was awarded with a first. (Not that it matters but I thought I’d  squeeze that in there…) So I’m aware of possible creative responses to social/political issues and no matter where life has taken me since graduation: it is still something I very strongly believe in.

Back to matter in hand: the case for optimism workshop. They explain what they do on their website:

Case for Optimism events are spaces for cultural leaders and arts practitioners and those wanting to deepen their creative response to the interlinked challenges of the ongoing financial crisis, the end of the oil age and climate change.  They are designed for people who want to find how they personally and collectively can respond best through their work.

As a writer, I went along for more the personal than the collective aspect. It was held in the ArtsAdmin building in a  theatre studio: so I did notice some people without shoes but there were chairs in front of the projector for a Zero Carbon Britain presentation by the Centre of Alternative Technology. So far so good.

At first I was thrown by the man playing the flute but then he made a very solid case about the alarming state of the world’s fossil fuels and how this all intertwines with the dwindling economy. Helpfully he suggested a change in cultural/political attitude was needed: apparently the technology for more sustainable energy already exists, it’s just that the world’s monetary resources are prioritised elsewhere and for it to be a political issue – it needs to be society’s concern first.

Insightful and a quandary to get your teeth in.

But then: 4 steps of ‘your journey’ to this workshop, imagining a sustainable future, all concluded in an unsatisfactory group brainstorm. On posters around the room categorised from “Food and Growing”, ” Education” to ” Transport” and “Wellbeing, we had to write down ideas. Now, call me pragmatic but EVERYONE VEGETARIAN-NO MORE FARMS!  is going to be tricky to implement on a grander scale.

There was one exercise from which a tangible idea could have formed, a project which could instigate some change and I ended up in a group that drew a chalk circle. Among inspired ideas of shared spaces to work, an opportunity for children to cook and eat together, a business venture that rented out roller coasters to adults, cooking classes that passed on dying arts like preserving to make the most of seasonal food – we had a chalk circle. Based on a psychology theory of Carl Jung.

My goal to find a bridge between ideas and the society it concerns by listening to their problems,  was translated by the group (who ironically all claimed to have the goal of listening) into a metaphysical space. Here people could retract to ask questions and use it as a compass to find answers. Again, sceptical me but I doubt 80-yr old Mrs Jones from number four, who is struggling to pay for heating this winter will retract to this metaphysical circle for an extra blanket. Later a group-member confided in me, she found defying the rules of the exercise quite thrilling. I also noticed she placed her name sticker not on the usual place of the chest but on the hem of her shirt: what a rebel.

I’m not sure what I expected of the afternoon, it did indeed state ‘cultural leaders and arts practitioners’  not ‘policy makers and business executives’: I felt some frustration that while I was pushed out of my comfort zone,  most of them were too comfy in theirs.

One of the closing questions asked was whether a Case for Optimism had thought about expanding their workshops to others, not so like-minded people, (“Houses of Parliament!” someone joked) The answer? No, because they would wait to be invited. Hm, I think the PM might be busy washing his hair underneath his wasteful power shower.

In any case, the person who asked the question got my attention enough to bee-line to him for a much-needed debrief in the nearest pub. I’m afraid to say I missed the performance scheduled at the end of the day, because I was too busy envying my new conversation partner’s pint over my (19 days down, 9 more to go!) non-alcoholic coke. That’s the drink not the drug: what a rebel.

12 days to go until the half marathon challenge. The lurgies are still about and the weather outside gets windier and wetter. This late in the game I decided to invest in a warmer running tights, as fit-levels can really not drop any further. Went for a test run just now and experienced wind tunnels underneath bridges and sweeping side winds on the open parts of my route. There is nothing as frustrating as running against the wind in the last couple of kilometers, while a group of semi pro looking runners speeds past you the other way…

Anyway I made it. I had to lie on the floor afterwards but I made it. Thus re-established that if necessary, bar actual loss of limb or an unfortunate bout of the Ebola virus,  I’ll run this race on sheer will power alone.

 

First things first: I have a baby nephew! One week old today! Hoorah!  After decades of fabulous female offspring: welcome to the world little man, you’re going to have an amazing time! I cannot wait to meet you 🙂

It’s been a good week, despite a bout of man-flu aka the common cold which got eased by a surprise text message from a friend. I probably hadn’t seen her for nearly a year, so had to check whether her joyous invite was indeed for me. It was.

She is one of those rare people who has the ability to team creative with commercial, or let’s say business, she’s not selling her soul. She seems to keep her integrity well through the many projects she does and more importantly she seems to be enjoying herself. This is something to aspire too, so apart from the usual catching up, we spoke about my desire to take this writing-marlarkey to a new level.

I see myself having two choices:

A) Find a way in to a creative enterprise and get to know the ropes and work towards my own writing.

B) Find a more commercial writing position and …

No wait, actually writing it down like this makes it very clear. In a perfect world I’d prefer Option A,  I would prefer a non-perfect job in a perfect environment for growth.

Actually maybe creative enterprise is too generic. I would like to find a role in an enterprise that reflects my values and my passions.  During our catch-up my friend asked whether I could define what I value, what I stand for if you like, I didn’t know what to reply. “Encouraging people who want change” seemed like such a naff thing to say. “Inspire optimism that life is what you make of it” made me reach for a bucket… So incredibly cheesey…but kind of true.

You see,  this is my litmus test for life choices: every time I have to make a life decision, I wonder about my gorgeous nieces and now little nephew… “What choice would I want them to make?” I wish the best possible life for them, so why not for me? It is not about choosing the easy path or avoid disappointments, hell I would have chosen something else by now,  but simultaneously let’s not make ourselves suffer because of some warped sense of martyrdom.

My lovely friend was an amazing soundboard and the next day she returned to me with this: http://caseforoptimism.org.uk/  People who look for a creative response to the troubles of our times,  creative support during transformation. It does sound a bit hippy-dippy to me too yes, but this blog does have the subtitle: my own way to deal with the global doom and gloom. By a co-incidence there’s an event next week just around the corner from me… Hm, I’ll attend on Thursday and report back.

To Be Continued…