Professional Development

Some years ago, a mixed group of writers, artists, craftspeople - myself included - attended a series of business development workshops laid on by - I dimly remember, it was a long time ago - Scottish Enterprise. They were fun days and opportunity to do a little networking with like minded people was very welcome. The problem was that the sessions were aimed at developing creativity. And when we talked about it afterwards over the excellent free lunches, we all agreed that developing creativity was not what we needed. Creativity, we had in spades. What we didn't have, however, was the ability to take our undoubted skills and talents and use them in a commercial setting. The buzz word according to Blogger is 'monetise'. And let's face it, people who work in what have come to be called the 'Creative Industries' have little idea of monetising their own expertise.
Last week, on the advice of a friend, I booked a two hour Professional Development session with the Cultural Enterprise Office in Glasgow. At the end of the afternoon I staggered into a cafe with my head fairly buzzing with ideas and insights. I had been challenged, I had been inspired, and I had been forced to look at my working life from a dozen perspectives that might not have occurred to me.
The session consisted of exactly what was lacking in those earlier workshops - the creativity was taken for granted. Instead, the advisor focussed on where I consider myself to be, where I want to be and how I might get there. She acted as a facilitator. I did most of the talking but she asked difficult questions, challenging my perceptions of what I did and what I might be able to do, offering inspirational suggestions, not about the work itself, so much as about ways of organising my time, ways of getting to where I want to be, ways of 'seeing' who I am and what I do. Most of the time she was prompting me to think differently and it was very exhilarating.
Frankly, the session threw up so many exciting ideas and insights that I'm still thinking about it all. I can't speak too highly of this organisation, or my advisor. It was exactly what I needed. It remains to be seen whether I can act upon the findings over the coming months and years - but I'm certainly going to give it a go.

Sandbox Games and the Non-Linear Story

There's a fascinating post on my son's blog at passion4games which is all to do with those games that have nonlinear stories - as he says, writing for such games is difficult, because they have 'numerous branching storylines' - the player enters the world of the game, but doesn't follow the story through in a linear fashion - instead the player explores a whole new world. As he says, this is an experience that other media can't provide - not even the book - although the potential for such interactive books may be there in the future, with the advent of e-readers.
On the other hand, would such books have any appeal to most readers? Or is such a structure very much something which is better realised through this new and fascinating medium of the complex and intensely creative world of video games - a world which is, moreover, developing all the time.
And isn't this something that - sooner or later - we as writers are going to have to address, a new medium that we ignore at our peril. It seems to me that most people of a certain age still assume that video games are the province of geeks who sit alone in their rooms writing code. But the new games are nothing less than artforms in their own right. And if we want to see video games developing in even more creative ways in the future, then as writers, we surely have to get involved.

Brow Well on the Solway

I've a longish piece about Brow Well on the Solway in this week's Scottish Review. It's an evocation of the place - and its connection with the last few weeks in the life of Robert Burns. It's a little visited site, but one I've always loved. This online magazine, incidentally, goes from strength to strength and has a superb, elegantly acidic piece about the Swine Flu panic by editor Kenneth Roy. Sign up to have regular issues delivered into your mailbox.

The Boy was Back in Town

Went up to Glasgow last week, to the King's Theatre to see Marti Pellow in the Witches of Eastwick. We were a mixed and hilarious bunch of friends, twelve of us, all ages, the youngest only seventeen - women, of course. In fact, the audience was predominantly female, although with a fair scattering of the weaker sex who had obviously been encouraged there by their better halves. The ushers had that bemused look that young men assume when confronted by large groups of ultra confident women intent on enjoying themselves - trying for faintly superior but achieving faintly scared.
It was completely brilliant: cast and production both - which is no mean feat when the songs themselves are not madly memorable. It didn't seem to matter because the whole show is hugely entertaining - and as thoroughly naughty as anything you're likely to see.
It was a polished production in every sense, not least because the boy was back in town in the shape of Clydebank born Marti Pellow, sexy as ever - and not just singing like an angel, but acting up a storm as well. I knew what he was capable of, having seen a clip of his fine Billy Flynn in Chicago, but I suspect it still came as a surprise to some of the audience. They came because he's well loved here - but they left, blown away by admiration for the performance as well as the man.
Funniest part of the whole night was when devilish Daryl Van Horn kisses one of the 'witches'. There arose from somewhere in the front rows, a loud cry that was something between envy, anguish, and despair, a fierce amalgam of all three. It was funny because it so accurately reflected what most of us were feeling!
Nicest part of the night was the applause at the end and the genuine smile on Pellow's face. The boy was back in town, and the affection was palpable.