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How I write by John-Paul Flintoff

Top UK author, lifecoach and social entrepreneur J-P Flintoff writes this way:

"I used to spend a long time dreaming about how I intended to write something before I wrote it. I might do that at a table, with a cup of tea, or lying in bed in the morning, after everybody else had got up. But one day - after years working as a journalist, cranking the words out under pressure of deadlines - I realised that, in practice, I never wrote the way I had dreamed I would write. I often wrote something entirely different. I also realised that it was more fun that way - to have no idea what I was going to write until I wrote it. In the process, by actually writing, I learned my own mind. And I concluded that dreaming-about-writing was a waste of time. From then on, I decided only to write when I was writing, and to apply the same approach to other things to. Don't think about something if you can actually DO it. This has saved me an awful lot of time, and made me very productive. I have also, since then, been better able to a) enjoy my cup of tea as a cup of tea and b) get up at the same time as everybody else, and have breakfast together." John-Paul Flintoff, author of How To Change The World


perpetual motion in life

In 1150 the Hindu astronomer Bhaskara mentions a perpetual motion machine made with mercury and slats that contain and direct its motion. In the 1200AD Arabic manuscript of Ridwan there are six perpetual motion machines described and illustrated. By 1235 the idea had travelled as far as Europe, and we went crazy about them. Making perpetual motion machines became a widespread fashion, a sort of mechanical and legitimate parallel to alchemy. By the by, all kinds of developments were made in gearing and levers- but most of all in precision. It was the gradual increase in precision that led to accurate clocks and measurement and the successful mechanisation of cloth manufacture, armaments and wind, water and ultimately steam power. The childish and captivating dream of perpetual motion- an endless quest format – succeeded in supplying us with machines far more incredible, and certainly far more useful, than the original concept. The Greeks had already discovered steam power – Hero’s engine – but without precision transmission it was useless except as a toy- and toys only captivate us for a while. Perpetual motion supplies a far more compelling story- something miraculous and free, forever just out of sight.

In parallel with this introduction there have been esoteric ideas introduced by Arab writers that work like the perpetual motion machine. They engage and intrigue and set in motion an endless quest, and the ultimate effect on refining and extending human potential is far greater, and more life affirming and astonishing, than the magic and seeming miracles initially promised. 


one way to progress

For various reasons Captain Cooke did not think particularly highly of the research that showed the anti-scurvy qualities of limes and lemons. It was obviously ahead of its time. But he knew there was a problem. What he did was to combine all the anecdotal evidence available, all the cures that seemed to work, and enforce them rigorously- sauerkraut, lemons, fresh meat and vegetables, clean dry clothes and bedding- and it worked- not a single man went down with scurvy on his ships.

If we suffer an ailment or problem try everything that seems to limit it in some way. This is like the strategy for making the boat go faster. You don’t need a reason- if it works- use it.

Later you may come up with a good scientific explanation, or, you may not.


passion or money? Take a cross-over path

You hear it all the time- especially on self-help blogs- go after what you are passionate about and money will, right, but what if you're skint?

I have said similar stuff- my solution, for myself, was to work for money at weekends or downtimes and use my primetime- the day- to do my own thing.

But what if you have a family to support? You can't do that easily working a couple of nights.

You need to be both self-supporting and also, preferably, on what I call a cross-over path.

If you earn your bread at a call centre and spend your free time doing what you are passionate about the passion will probably fizzle out. You'll be so pissed off you'll want to spend your downtime doing other stuff.

A cross-over path is one that earns money, reasonable amounts, but allows you to cross over more and more to what really interests you. Journalism is a good cross-over path to writing and film making. Think of activities that are congruent with your ultimate ideal way of earning a living/spending your days. Take a long term approach. Look for other people who are doing what you want to do and see what cross-over path they used.



the simple and the subtle

Broadly speaking, formal, ‘public’, or, if you like, ‘modern’, life presents things as significant the louder more shocking and in your face they are; it also presents things that are super complicated as being more significant than that which is very simple. 

But I wonder if the opposite is true: that life is better appreciated by looking for, and showing a preference for, the simple and by being better attuned to the subtle.

When people start aikido they quickly get into very complicated discussions about foot placement and angles and such like. The real masters tend to say the same things again and again: it’s all about stance, for example. After a while you realise it isn’t the actual words that matter so much as the importance you attach to them (if that makes sense). The better you get at aikido the more importance you attach to something seemingly very simple that is ignored by a beginner who prefers more complicated (an by implication, truer) explanations.

Becoming more aware, building awareness builds an appreciation of subtleties. All wine tasters know this. Having the courage to stick with the simple also helps. I wonder if a preference for over-complication is a dry intellectual substitute for subtlety.


Arabeye Media Monitoring

I have been most impressed with this new service reporting on arab social media and focusing on somewhat overlooked news


New Statestman review of Prank book

This came out this week in the New Statesman...somehow I never get around to saying how much I love public pranks- Virginia Woolf dressing as an Abyssinian Prince and visiting a Royal Navy battleship comes to mind, as does Jaroslav Hasek sending fake science reports full of learned references to the Czech version of Nature. Private pranks are practical jokes...which aren't as much fun for some reason..maybe because the crime is never victimless- or the victim is us- or the joker is a self-righteous git...not sure, anyway here is the article:

Click here

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