Dragon Fruit Surprise

Eating a dragon fruit,

with its pink scaly skin and its deep purple flesh,

not checking my phone, nor reading an article,

nor talking to another soul about this and that,

I realised that it was sweeter in the middle

than around the edges, closer to the skin;

that the sun, wind, soil, rain and sky,

and the grower and the picker,

and their long line of family and friends,

and their challenges, pains and joys,

how they perhaps picked the fruit with a smile,

or with a frown,

for maybe something was testing their mind,

and how it all went into getting this dragon fruit,

with its pink scaly skin and its deep purple flesh,

onto my plate for me to enjoy;

and I considered the bugs and the birds

that wanted so badly to get to this fruit,

to grow,

to metamorphose,

to feed their young,

to survive;

and I saw how every seed,

every single one of the tiny black seeds—

and there were hundreds of them—

contained not only a whole world of fruit,

but a whole world,

one that I am very much a part of.

Gavin

Magical Wee Free Book

I saw last night that my free book The Girl with the Green-Tinted Hair has nearly 2000 ratings on Goodreads.

I’m blown away by the reviews. I’m so pleased that this magical wee book is having such an inspiring affect on readers worldwide.

I’ve been looking for a publisher or agent to take it on board, but so far no such luck.

If you haven’t grabbed yourself a copy, please do. It’s only 8000 words in length, and is nicely split into four 2000-word chapters, each focusing on the four seasons.

Here’s the link to it on Amazon (UK)

And here’s the link to it on Amazon (US)

When you share it with your friends and family, or leave a small review or rating, you increase the chance of the book being noticed by an agent or publisher, which then increases the chance of more people reading it and being inspired by it.

I hope you enjoy it.

Peace.

Gavin

Just Get to the End

After several months of wallowing in a dry well of creativity, on the 23rd May I started a draft of my story (the one I’m commissioned to write for the Taiwanese movie director), which I would go on to finish on the 25th June (my birthday).

I finally bloody-well did it.

It’s funny how it works.

You try and you try and you try…

… and nothing comes.

And then… BOOM. Something finally sticks.

It’s like you’ve hit a vein of liquid gold, and the ideas start pouring in, and the characters start talking, saying, yes, yes, this is what we’ve been waiting for.

And then all you have to do is sit there and bleed it out.

The director only wanted a novella! It’s not like he was asking for the next War & Peace. He asked for a novella of no more than 30,000 words.

I got it to 29,000.

But I must have written over 100,000.

(This was, after all, the second version of the story he had asked for. But it’s completely different from the first version, a whole new story, with new characters, for the simple reason that it had to be, because the first version sucked.)

So I’ve written easily over 100,000 words for this one novella.

I’d start a draft, then bin it.

I’d get to 10,000 words, then bin it.

15,000, bin it.

April, and most of May, was a hellish time for me. I thought I’d never get it done. I had my pickaxe, and was attacking the ground, forever hoping I would strike lucky.

I honestly thought I’d have to go to the director, give him his money back, and tell him he’d asked the wrong guy, the wrong writer.

The clock was ticking too (and still is… the story is with my editor at the moment, and then it has to be translated into Mandarin), as there’s a whole team of people waiting.

Why?

Because the book is to be adapted into a screenplay and turned into an animation for the big screen.

Hence the pressure.

But I had to push all that aside.

I had to just write a story that I would be pleased to read as a reader.

Basically: I had to have fun.

And that’s what I started having on May 23rd.

It wasn’t easy. It never is. But it was fun.

Because I found a vein and I bled that bastard dry.

“What you say goes,” was my daily and very useful mantra.

I didn’t plan the story—I tend to write from the seat of my pants—and so every day I would end my writing session with the same question: What happens next?

And the next morning I would sit at my computer, knowing that my mind had been running over the story as I went about eating, sleeping, reading, watching movies, etc.

I would give myself most weekends off, too, which I find helps.

The day after I sent the story to my editor, I started to adapt my first book into a screenplay, as a kind of experiment. I wrote the book nearly a decade ago. It’s strange to revisit the characters. It feels as if they’ve been waiting for me.

(And between January and April I wrote and submitted a comedy stage play to the BBC. I wonder if I’ll hear anything back from them…)

Anyhow, whatever you’re working on, just get to the end. You can always go back and tighten the bolts and sand off the rust.

Just get to that blissful end.

Peace

Happy creating.

Gavin

Quote – Satish Kumar

“We are human beings, first and last. Our religion is our faith in humanity—and there can be no religion greater than that. If we come as Indians, we will meet Pakistanis. If we come as Hindus, we will meet Christians or Muslims. If we come as socialists, we will meet capitalists. If we come as human beings, we meet humans everywhere.”

Satish Kumar

From his autobiography, No Destination.

Which you, being a human, must read.

G

So, having caught the rat…

I was dozing; that place between wakefulness and sleep, where dreams come fast and easy, vivid and crisp, and sometimes disturbing.

My wife had been up, potting her plants, for a good 30 minutes, when she barged into the bedroom.

“We’ve caught one!” she yelled, and then vanished from the room.

I mumbled something nonsensical, rolled over, and dreamt of a big rat. Because I was in That Place, and when my wife said, “We’ve caught one!” I knew that that “one” meant rat.

Having had enough of my crazy rat-infested dreams, I got up and went to check on the wee fella.

There he was, with eyes like shiny black pearls, cowering in the corner of the humane trap we’d laid: a plastic tube, with tasty food (poison, actually) at the far end. To get the goodies, Roland had to stand on a switch, which then slammed shut the pair of wild-west-style doors, locking him inside.

So, technically, we hadn’t caught one; Roland caught himself… because he was hungry. So hungry he would eat succulent poison.

Speaking of succulent, that’s how we first discovered we were having rattish visitors on our balcony; we found teeth marks in our succulents—my wife’s pride and joy. Hence why she declared war on Roland and all of his friends and family, and bought poison and traps.

(Weeks ago:

Me: Don’t get poison. I don’t want a dead rat on the balcony.

Wife: No, this poison just makes them thirsty.

Me: So, what, you’re gonna give it poison and then a refreshing drink to wash it down?

Wife: No. They eat the stuff, and then they need a drink, so they go down to the sewers-

Me: Like Shredder.

Wife: Who?

Me: Never mind. Carry on.

Wife: So they go into the sewers, and die there, instead of up here.

(Meaning our balcony, which is a rooftop apartment on the 5th floor.)

Me: OK. But if we find a dead rat, you’re getting rid of it.

Wife: Yup. Sure.

Jump forward a fortnight. I’m taking the clothes out of the washing machine, and I see something at the corner of my eye. Something brown, wet, still.

Wife: Oh, my god! I’m gonna be sick! Get rid of it! Get rid of it!

(I got rid of it.)

Roland’s sister (let’s call her Rhonda) was trying to drink the water, that had accumulated from the washing machine, near the drain.

Rhonda smelt of gas.)

So now, with Roland, alive and kind of well, in our trap, I was pretty pleased.

No gas rat!

I ignored my wife’s war-like cries from behind the door (“Kill it! Kill it! Kill it!”), put the rat-in-a-trap in a bag, and took it to the local park.

I don’t mean to, like, let it have a blast on the swings or anything, but to set it free.

It took a while, but eventually he realised the doors were open, then pegged it into the nearest bush.

A happy ending for Roland.

Gavin

Writing & Fleming

I have an annoying tendency to edit and reedit as I’m writing my story.

I say it’s annoying, but in actual fact I love doing it and can’t imagine not doing it.

And that’s the problem.

It means I end up stalling at one specific point in the story for far too long, and so the story doesn’t move forward as fast as I’d like it to.

Is this an issue with being a perfectionist? Is it a crazy idea or belief that my first draft will be exposed and ridiculed, and all the doubts I had as a writer will be proven correct?

Didn’t Hemingway do this?

Didn’t he start the writing day by reading what he’d previously written, making edits as he went, and when it got too long he simply reread and edited the last 5,000 words or so—just to get into the story, to get into the mood, the vibe?

Maybe I’m trying to justify my lack of confidence as a writer.

But surely every writer has Those Doubts, right?

(And we continue to write in the face of them.)

Last night I read an article about Ian Fleming, the author best known for penning the James Bond novels.

The article includes excerpts from the book, The Man with the Golden Typewriter (which has been added to me ever-growing to-read list).

He talks about his lack of confidence:

‘I was too ashamed. No publisher would want it and if they did I would not have the face to see it in print.’ 

And the article gives an insight into how he worked…

‘I rewrote nothing and made no corrections until my book was finished,’ he said. ‘If I had looked back at what I had written the day before I might have despaired at the mistakes in grammar and style, the repetitions and the crudities. And I obstinately closed my mind to self-mockery and “what will my friends say?” I savagely hammered on until the proud day when the last page was done. The last line “The bitch is dead now” was just what I felt. I had killed the job.’

But how do you do this? How can you let a hole in the plot stay a hole? Don’t you want to fill it, correct it, perfect it, and THEN move on?

I might give it a go… just write to the end without correcting anything whatsoever.

Or maybe I won’t.

Here’s the article.

Gavin

Writing, Coffee, Gaiman

I think I’ve found a routine that works for me.

As soon as my wife leaves for work at around 9/9:30am, I fire up the laptop and work at the kitchen table until lunch time. Then I take a 15-minute walk to a cafe called Bean Works.

(They do an amazingly fruity Kenya AA… and they’ve just started doing cheesecake, lemon tarts, and tiramisus… and I’m getting sidetracked…)

So that’s where I went today. It was heaving, which was unusual, so I got a window seat, watched a few doves prancing around outside, then opened my laptop, and got to work.

I’m still writing the children’s fantasy story for the Taiwanese movie director. It’s the second version because, although he (and I) liked the first version, it needed fixing, and I didn’t know how to fix it (think of it as needing spinal surgery), so, staring my anxiety in the face, I said a massive Ah, fuck it! and started to write a completely new version.

I’m roughly 6,000 words into it.

He’s wanting it to be around 28/30k. So technically it’s a novella.

I’m taking my time with it, because that’s what he told me to do.

“Take your time,” he said.

But I’m thinking I’d get it done a lot faster, if he gave me a deadline.

… not like I’m gonna ask him for one…

Got to Bean Works at around 3pm, and after lots of typing and deleting, and deleting and typing, (and more *sigh* deleting), I left for dinner at 7pm.

(Went to a veggie buffet.)

As is my wont, I stuck in my earphones, and scrolled down my Watch Later list on YouTube, to see if anything tickled my fancy.

Something did tickle my fancy, and it was this: a superb interview with the fantastic Neil Gaiman. (I’m reading The Graveyard Book at the moment. Thoroughly enjoying it.) He’s being interviewed by Tim Ferriss.

It’s probably one of, if not thee, best interviews I’ve seen with Gaiman. Thought you might like it, too:

SUPERB NEIL GAIMAN INTERVIEW

Gavin

Do Nothing on Earth Day

A friend sent me a nice article about how we can benefit the earth, on Earth Day (today), by doing nothing.

You can read the article here.

It’s inspired by Lao Tzu’s ancient message that the wise do nothing yet nothing is left undone. (Which in Chinese is called wu wei… no-action.)

This is all well and good. I’ve been a meditator for nearly two decades. Some of my greatest, most awe-inspiring moments have been whilst sitting on my meditation cushion, and to any onlooker, I would be doing absolute zilch.

We can push and push and push for our goals to come to fruition (guilty party here), but sometimes by standing back and taking a breather, we can get more done because our approach ends up being refreshed.

That time away, that time of reflection, can help us see, perhaps, that we have been pushing in the wrong direction all along, and we need to change our course of action, to one that is more coherent to our truth.

And also, too many logs on the fire can kill the flames… we don’t want to burn ourselves out, which is always a danger when doing becomes a habit.

Having said all that, I’m beginning to feel that Lao Tzu didn’t mean that one should do nothing.

“Flowing water never grows stale,” as the saying goes (although I think I’m quoting Bruce Lee there, I’m pretty certain the saying’s from way before his time).

I think the “you” Lao Tzu was referring to is your ego, your mind-made self, the you in your head, and therefore “you” do nothing but everything gets done that needs to get done.

Why?

Because life, when “you” (your [insert your name]-ism) gets out of the way, life is free to act through you without being blocked… you being a vessel of pure awareness. 

Surely if Lao Tzu practiced wu wei in the way that many of us think about no-action, he wouldn’t have written the Tao Te Ching. 

And therefore we can say, if he did practice what he preached, which I’m sure he did, then he didn’t write that amazing book at all.

Life wrote it, using the vessel we have come to call Lao Tzu.

So, enjoy Earth Day, and by all means do nothing. But don’t take that nothing so literally.

You know, like, at least brush your teeth and have a wash. Make a nice, light lunch, too. That might be nice.

And smile. And love strangers. And allow people to believe what they want to believe. Love animals (especially dogs). And eat nice food and drink good coffee and tea. Read good books. Laugh. Smile at trees, the ocean, a stream, a leaf blowing over your head. Take care of a plant. Go to bed in good time. Watch movies that make you feel good about being here. Smile when your head hits the pillow at night – and definitely smile when your eyes open in the morning. Plant a tree. Go to the cinema alone. Book a table-for-one in a restaurant. Return a smile with a smile. Help someone who needs help. Be willing to give advice when it’s asked for. Take a flier from someone in the street, and say thank you and wish them a wonderful day.

You get the gist.

Be nice. The earth likes it when we’re nice.

G.