Special Projects Newsletter | August 2021

To You, From North London

Never Really Start Anything

The thought of writing a book can be overwhelming. Where to start? What to include? What to leave out? How long should it be? When to write it? For how long at a stretch? In what order? When to take a break?

These are all questions without answers, until the thing is done. Only then might you be able to look back and say:

  1. With the scene in the playground.
  2. School life.
  3. Home life.
  4. Two-hundred and fifty-six pages (approx).
  5. Odd weekends, occasional holidays, over a couple of years.
  6. About five hours, sometimes, but sometimes barely an hour.
  7. In fragments, whenever something comes to mind.
  8. Not really an issue.

These particular answers apply to my own first book. Your answers would be different. But the point is: don’t wait for answers before you get started.

And here’s a thought that should encourage you: we’re never really starting anything, because we’ve started already. From the moment we’re born, we’re reacting to something; and in our creative work the thing we’re reacting to is our material.

Allow me to explain: my first book was a memoir about going to a particular inner-London secondary school. I used to tell people stories about my time there, and they’d say, “Gosh, you should write a book about it.” And I’d laugh politely, taking that as a compliment.

In my wildest dreams, I wondered if I should write a book about it. And I started typing. But I see now that I wasn’t “starting the book” because that had started already when I told people those stories.

And those stories began taking shape at the moment the events occurred, as my mind attempted to make sense of them. Writing simply makes this clearer, and allows me to polish things up.

I’m a big fan of the idea that the things we already have, the things we take for granted, perhaps even despise, and wish we didn’t have – like some of my school experiences – contain gold dust. Of course, to find the gold dust we need to take the time to look again at what we have, and (re)discover its tremendous value.

Having written a few books now, I tend to start new ones by doing an audit of what I already have in that subject area that might come in useful. It reminds me that I’m not really starting: I’ve started already. And that allows me to be excited about what else I might add, and discover along the way.

In this month’s Livestream, I showed how I attempt to put material into book format as soon as possible.

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The publisher of my next book has asked me to deliver some more pictures of London landscapes, which I like to call Londscapes.

Recently, I put out a call for suggestions, asking people to name a place in London that is special to them (and say why). I have tackled a few of them, and have several more to do. Most are public, some private.

View of the City from Hampstead Heath (left) and Caroline’s Garden, With Bees

Some will almost certainly work for the book, others won’t. I’m grateful for them all.

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Better Speaker in 30 Days

As promised, I’m running an interactive course on public speaking – the first for nearly a year and the first since publication of A Modest Book About How To Make An Adequate Speech.

There will be practical exercises, a community to share encouragement and five interactive sessions, as follows:

  • Saturday 16 Oct, 1pm UK
  • Saturday 23 Oct, 1pm UK
  • Saturday 30 Oct, 1pm UK
  • Saturday 6 Nov, 1pm UK
  • Saturday 12 Nov, 1pm UK

I know that time won’t work for people in distant time zones, so if you’re interested please let me know (no commitment) and I’ll see if I can find a work-around.

This isn’t a place for hard-sell. So I’ll just say this: I believe that we all have a voice, something to say, and some kind of audience. If you say nothing – well, you can be sure your audience will hear nothing.

This course will help take your self-expression up a level, whether that means improving the talks you already do brilliantly, or starting from scratch.

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Upcoming Livestreams

5 Oct 2021 12.30pm to 1.15pm | 7pm to 7.45pm (UK times)
Click here for the Zoom link

9 Nov 2021 12.30pm to 1.15pm | 7pm to 7.45pm (UK times)
Click here for the Zoom link

14 Dec 2021 12.30pm to 1.15pm | 7pm to 7.45pm (UK times)
Click here for the Zoom link

Please Note: The times have changed.

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Office Hours Calendar

Newcomers, old-timers: I love to meet members, say hello, and talk about anything you like. I’ve created a Calendly page just for Special Projects members so that you can book a one-to-one with me.

It was my great pleasure to do that twice in July. In one session, we played around with words and images in order to find a new name for the member’s business. Another member discussed a book he’s in the middle of writing – a book that’s much needed, for an excellent publisher, with a tight deadline.

I’m unsure how long I’ll be able to do this as the membership grows, but there should be enough slots to go round, for now, if you don’t book more than one session in advance.

The Calendly page is here. It should be fairly straightforward, but if you have any problems please let me know.

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Thank you for reading.
Please tell me if there’s anything that stands out, or just say hello.
Send me an email