A Big To Do… and Other Moments of Helpful Procrastination.

I have a confession to make. My time management sucks.  There… I said it. I have finally admitted what people have been saying to me in response to my assertion – complaints if you like – that I don’t have time to do… well… any number of things that I might have to, need to, or want to do. So, what can I do about it?

In actuality, in working through this issue to try and understand my objection, and to try and answer that question, I’ve discovered that I’m not as bad as all that at time management, what I lack is the ability to manage interruptions – and there are many of those, both of my own and of others’ making.

It was suggested that I start to make lists, and to have a schedule to follow, and as a fully paid up, bona fide member of the ‘anti-list’ ‘anti-schedule’ club, this sent me into an immediate tail spin. I gnashed my teeth, I pushed again the very idea of having a ‘to do’ list, I even questioned – without receiving an answer, I might add – why having a ‘to do’ list felt like a failure… and guess what…?  I still didn’t manage to get stuff done – imagine that!

So I bit the bullet, admitted that it was probably a good idea to at least try and use a list to help with managing the things I needed and wanted to do. It was a modest list… because I didn’t want to overload either the list, or myself. Already, I felt overwhelmed at the number of things that needed to be done. My first list had just six things on it.  I actually accomplished five of those and the sixth wasn’t done only because it was replaced by a different activity. It could be said to be true that I had made a big ‘to do’ out of having or needing a ‘to do list.’

All Joking aside, I’m still not entirely comfortable with it.  I can feel my overzealous inner critic sitting in the back of my head just rubbing their hands, waiting for the day when I have less than most of the items on the daily list crossed off.  Just waiting to jump on me and tell me how useless I am, that I can’t even get five or six things finished.

In addition, though I have only done two days of lists, (edit: by the time I finished this post, it has been four lists), only one item on each list not an errand or a ‘chore’ (in the sense of the word that we give to our kids when we say, “do your chores and then you can…”)

This leads me to a question: how can I be present for the important people in my life if I can’t even be present for myself? I think that was at the core of my objections to making lists in the first place, but therein lies the biggest irony of all considering my objections were because I’d have a list full of chores and nothing for myself.  I write the list.

You may ask yourself: why is that ironic? It’s ironic because what essentially I have realized is that making a list is actually helpful in making sure that I do something, at least one – maybe two – things for myself each and every day.  I can use the list to help restore a sense of balance in my life. Who knew! Here I was, making a “big to do about nothing,” when actually that ‘nothing’ turned out to be a something… and a really helpful something at that.

On another, slightly different, but equally important tangent – you’ll hear many many writers complain that their biggest fault/sin, their biggest downfall is procrastination.  Writers are the masters of procrastination. There seems to be some kind of writerly ADHD, where we sit with a blank (or if we’re lucky, a partly worked on) page, and suddenly… “Oooh, the internet… shiny!” or “Oooh, I was going to start that load of laundry, wasn’t I?” or any one of a million other thoughts and distractions that pop into our brains.  Well… it may not be the perfect solution, but… make a list!

Let the first act of procrastination in the day be to make a list of all the chores and personal activities that you want to do, and make sure you specifically add at least one entry onto your list that directs you to a writing task. That sets up a commitment to yourself, that you will write; you will make progress on that story, that blog post, that novel… whatever project you have in hand, and make a habit of helpful procrastination.

Funny how life, and life’s paths lead you to consider things your wouldn’t ordinarily have done… and that such things turn out to be helpful.  Funnier still, to me, that I, as a member of the anti-list club, have not only found lists to be helpful (so far), but I’m now advocating them as one way, in a repertoire of ways, of avoiding becoming entrapped by procrastination. Less amusing, I’m sure, will be all the people out there that will tell me, “I told you so.” Oh, I’m just poised with my tongue half poked out already, (in playful jest), at such people.

…but schedules…? That’s another kettle of fish, altogether.

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Thorns In the Garden of Roses

October 27th’s episode of ABC’s Once Upon A Time, entitled Beauty brought the series-long back and forth that is Rumbelle’s relationship to its ‘final conclusion.’ We saw them live out their life together, happily, blissfully peaceful and so obviously deeply, truly in love with one another, with – at last – nothing to get in their way. Nothing, that is, save old age and the natural progression of life. Belle aged, and Rumple didn’t, because he is immortal, thanks to being the Dark One, and the associated power of the dagger that bears his name.

The acting was superb, as we have come to expect from Robert Carlyle and Emilie deRavin, the episode itself was very sweet and loving, showing Rumple and Belle happier together than they have ever been, and in that respect was somewhat of a comfort for those rooting for the Rumbelle ‘ship that we’ve come to love, thanks in no small part to the onscreen chemistry between Carlyle and deRavin, who cannot be faulted at all, for anything in this episode. This is to be stressed, because in the end, Belle succumbs to her mortality, passing peacefully, and happy to have spent a life with the man she loves eternally, telling him, “You see? You let me go once before and we found our way back to each other. You will find your way back to me again. I promise.”

And therein lies the problem.

Many viewer, and certainly many within the Rumbelle communities have expressed their deep concern that, having let Belle go, Rumple is left alone and grieving, with a new quest – one which Once Upon A Time showrunners have described as, ‘The most important quest of his entire life,’ – to rid himself of the dagger in order to become mortal again and be reunited with Belle in the afterlife.  In other words, Rumple is now on a quest to find a way to end his life.

Are the writers and producers of the show trying to say that it’s all right to take your own life in order to be with someone you love? If they are, that’s definitely not okay. Did they simply not see that this is the message that they are giving to viewers who might be in similar and vulnerable emotional states, and now find justification for their suicidal thoughts in the events at the end of, (and presumably after), Beauty – That it’s okay, because that’s what Rumple’s going to do now, right?  That’s how he gets his part of Rumbelle’s ‘happy ending.’

I want to stress – to really make it clear here – that in no way is the responsibility for that message being given anything to do with the actors whose superb work gave us all the warmth and happiness that we shared with Belle and Rumple during the course of the series and this episode specifically.  No, the blame, the ones truly responsible for such a message are the writers, producers and showrunners, and the network executives who paid no attention to the subtext left by that scene and reinforced at the ending of the episode.

As an educator, I must be 100 percent aware of the message and influence that my words and actions could have on the impressionable minds for which I have a duty of care. Should we not hope for the same thoughtfulness from those who create our arts and contribute to our culture? In a society where ten year olds can steal their parent’s car and take it for a joy ride because that is what they do on their favorite video game; where those accused and convicted of committing crimes of violence and terror are reported as having among their possessions – and presumably therefore had played – violent first person shooter games, and where what we watch is rated according to content to warn against something we might not wish to see, should we not expect a certain degree of sensitivity and forethought from the writers and producers of a primetime, family show that is presented as being about hope?  Is the message then that we should hope to die in order to join our lost loved ones, as is Rumple’s only hope now of reunion with the woman he loves who is ‘waiting for him’?

As I write this, I have reached out to ABC for clarification. I will be surprised if I receive a response in a timely manner, if at all. The best ‘solution’ to this problem that we can hope for, as it stands, is that Rumple will find a way to become mortal, but will live for Belle, according to how she would have wanted him to live until the natural ending of his life – an ending that is not hastened in any way, but it is not up to us to correct the problem of the highly inappropriate message.

If you are reading this, and feeling the kind of hopelessness that leads you to feel the only course left to you is to end your life, or if you know someone who is suffering from extreme depression and having thoughts of suicide, please know you are NOT alone. Please reach out to someone for help.

The numbers for the Suicide Prevention hotlines around the world can be found on this web page http://ibpf.org/resource/list-international-suicide-hotlines

Contacts for the USA and UK are listed here:

USA: 1-800-273-8255  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

UK: 0845-7909090 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/getting-help/

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Sneaky Peek

I’m not going to do this every time…  but I guess I’m happy and surprised at how much I actually got written last week, so in honor of that, here’s a quick, sneak peek at where the stranded colonists find themselves in the first few chapters.

“Time to atmosphere: sixteen minutes, forty-five seconds.”

Lin staggered as a wave of dizziness assaulted him, and reached out a hand to steady himself against the back of a chair as he lurched across the bridge.

“Tactical confirms, Commander.”  Hunt’s voice sounded stronger and steadier than a man rudely awoken from Stasis Sleep had any right to sound.

He glanced at his crewman under the deep red of the tactical lighting conditions.  The shadows made the other man’s ordinarily sculptured features look gaunt and drawn, belying the officer’s wellbeing.  Hunt looked up then, and his serious expression softened as he met Lin’s gaze.  Lin experienced a brief, shared understanding of how lousy he felt and offered the man a wan half-smile, and a curt nod.

Lindsay Derby had woken to a flashing red light on the panel of his LiSSSC.  He was disoriented; nauseous from the time spent in an almost complete state of suspended animation – Stasis Sleep.  Standard waking called for a good meal followed by a carefully monitored hour or two in the ship’s gym, but the emergency lighting, and the voice of the ship’s System, that had moved like a rolling echo through ZHACC’s empty corridors, attested that this had been anything but a standard waking.

It doesn’t look good – the ship is in a bad way and they are close – way too close – to a planet that they really shouldn’t be even on their radar.  How did that happen?

Nikolai Rhostov – Kolya to many that knew him – leaned against the glass of the observation lounge that overlooked the isolation area below. It had started already, and that made him think they were cutting it damn fine, unless they meant to have these people in stasis for years before the expedition launch. Every day there were three, maybe four more people brought to the facility below, given the recommended treatments for people that were about to be put on ice for the next… however long it took, and plugged into the boxes that would be where they would spend the entire journey to their destination.

It was his own, personal ritual: to go there, watch over the induction of the many souls for which he would be singularly responsible during that time. His mind anyway – his brain – once he was given The Treatment.

The second chapter looks back to what had happened before the colonists left the Sol system to head to their new destination. The big question, what is this treatment, and where did it come from?

Memories spiraled like powder-winged moths toward self-sacrifice against the burning in his psyche.  Their sudden immolation, brilliant and painful, coated his mind with the sharpness of bitter frustration.  He couldn’t wake; he didn’t sleep; he knew nothing of himself but that there was change, inside… outside… he was nothing but difference.

All right, son… just relax…just feel a sharp scratch and—

Sharp scratch… terrible whirling… sounds like a throbbing, mechanical heartbeat… rasping, scraping… being skinned from the inside out; blood boiling, synapses burning, fusing…

Chapter three, and we’re back in the ‘future’ which is really the present for our colonists, and Kolya wakes after the crash – in part still lost in memory.

Abandon ship… Emergency Protocol Seven…

“…all able crew report to…” Lindsay’s lips felt dry and cracked as he mumbled the words out of his memory.

“Easy, Lin, easy.”

A woman’s voice began to penetrate the confusion.  She was familiar, and yet the remembrance of exactly who she was escaped him as surely as did full consciousness.  He should know her, but something…

It was the eyes. The vision of them dominated his senses, narrow vertical slits of dark within lavender, a starburst of additional darkness expanding as they looked on him.  He could see little of the rest of a face but the slender chisel of a nose.  Someone leaned toward him as he tried to move and he felt the press of a hand against his shoulder.

Kolya’s not the only one having a hard time waking after the splashdown. Lin Derby, the expedition commander seems to be experiencing strange visions, and a good deal of confusion too… just what’s going on, and who is the strange being  that distracts him from his reality?

It was coming on dawn, or at least he thought it was.  The hours seemed to be passing ceaselessly as Kishan worked to try and pull the fragment of message down onto the Portable Interface and so far he wasn’t having much joy. As he worked through the night, the pod’s primary system faded out to an empty green screen with a blinking cursor.  He ran diagnostics, and all they showed him was that there was no reason for the computer to fail.  It was powered, undamaged…

“So why don’t you just work, you temperamental heap of crap!”

Kishan’s fingers flew ceaselessly over the console, trying to force binary grafts, to breathe life into the only remaining piece of ZHACC that might hold any value to this makeshift colony’s efforts in survival.

Meanwhile Kishan, the System Engineer, is busy trying to get the computer interface back up and running to discover what might have happened to cause the accident.  Seems like he’s not having much luck.

After all that, (and the few curves thrown to me during the writing of those chapters) I went back to my process of outlining.  I know where I’m going (barring additional curves) I’m just not sure quite how I’ll get there, and I still need a bigger piece of paper.

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A Bigger Piece of Paper

The week just coming to a close was spring break. Perfect opportunity for me to sit down and catch up with all the writing that I need to do.  Well… okay, so it didn’t quite work out that way, but I had some time each day; was able to put out the next chapter of the work of Middle Earth Fan Fiction that I’m working on; post to Livejournal, and keep up with some Twitter and Facebook posting. Perfect.

Today, though suffering the after effects of a disturbed night, I took a look – a serious, good hard look, at the steps in the process of outlining for Use’ara’s Harm, which will be the first story in the series. I want to start putting the pieces together – it was one of the goals I had for this week – get a coherent outline and start writing in earnest. I very quickly came to the conclusion that I’m going to need a bigger piece of paper.

Probably makes no sense to people in this day and age… computers and all.  Here I am after all typing into a blog, through the internet on my computer.

True enough.

I looked back through years and years of posts on Livejournal for an entry I had written – back in 2008 as it happens, that explained my process. I wanted to see if it would work for the Use’ara series the way it did back then, and without giving away too much, (I’m sure I could explain the whole process if demand called for it), here’s an image to kind of demonstrate that – yes – I’m definitely going to need a bigger piece of paper.


That is a standard sized sheet of paper, and formed the basis of the outline of a story that was probably a third of the size that I anticipate Use’ara’s Harm will be. Kolya’s story, for example, navigates three distinct periods in time in UH, likely to take up a lot of the Mind Map. Then there’s the expedition (the humans) thread, and the Use’ara Native Peoples (The Usea and the Raeo), all of whom to fit onto one little sheet…?

A word about those native peoples… it feels strange to have come over eight years in the making of this universe and its multiple dimensions and to have finally settled upon names for what are essentially my ‘good guys’ and my ‘bad guys’ – though it might be better to call them by less binary absolutes… especially as the Raeo are – in some form or another – beings that our human characters have already met, but… (in the words of the Great Professor River Song,) “Spoilers!”

What’s adding to the feeling of needing a bigger piece of paper, is the decision I made to pull some core material from other works I had ongoing, because I felt they would fit better in this one – spinning a few things on their heads in the process – and feeling the need to make something common place in Science Fiction, the notion of instantaneous travel, (teleports, portals etc), somehow new again. I don’t think that’s going to be entirely possible. Someone once said of music that there are only so many ways you can put a finite series of notes together to make a tune… it seems that there are also only a finite number of ways to dismantle someone’s atoms and put them back together in another place than the original… I have to admit, it’s been – still is in some respects – a sticking point for me.

Still, one of those, ‘cross that bridge when you come to it’ moments, and I don’t want to let it hold me back any more.  Whether my method of insta-travel remains teleport or becomes dimension gates, or something else entirely remains to be seen. First things first. I need an outline.

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“Don’t go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

(Quotation: Ralph Waldo Emerson.)

Those of you that follow this blog may recall that in the last update, and I hang my head in shame when I confess that this was way back in October of 2014, I expressed the thought that I could now see where Use’ara was taking me and that,

“…the glimmer of a light at the end of a tunnel that may not be an oncoming dragon, but something at least as powerful, and deadly. I’m excited again, but daunted, because if it felt huge before, it feels even bigger now, and somehow to have far more… gravitas…”

Well, that gravitas became a depth that just would not be rushed and turned out to involve a lot of thought and reworking and re-directing of almost the entire structure of Thirteen Stars which has taken a very long time to unravel all the tangled and frayed threads.

Part of why it’s taken so long to get to where I am now ready – I think – to start outlining and then writing is all ‘real life’ matters. Another part of why has involved other projects that are also underway, but always, Use’ara has been pulling me back to the many hours spent percolating the depths and intricacies of the word, the galaxy and the dimensions within those two – and dimensions are something that will come to play an… important role in the lives of those now making their way on Use’ara.

And I’m excited!

I’m excited about the turn and the direction that Use’ara has taken. I’m excited to say that I have finally managed to get both of my websites updated, and I’m also excited to say the least to announce my participation as a creator on Patreon.

If you’ve never heard of Patreon check it out here. Most often used by creators of music and videos, art and comic script/graphic novels, it’s a crowdfunding platform where artist and performers’ supporters (patrons) are rewarded by greater involvement directly with the artist/creator during the process of creation.

Patreon first came to my attention through the involvement of someone who’s become one of my most favorite-of-all-times musicians, a man called Peter Hollens. Seriously, follow this guy, he’s awesome and I’m listening to him as I write this post!

So I went over to Patreon to see what it was all about, and after umming and ahing about it for several weeks – because if you click the filter for writers on their sidebar I think you get four or maybe five creators that come up – I decided that just because few writers choose to be involved, doesn’t mean it couldn’t work and so I thought I’d try it out. If you’d like to go see my profile there, become a patron or even simply just follow me there as you do here – (as you know I try to have original content on each aspect of my writers’ platform) – I’d be happy to have you aboard, and you can find me by following the link below.

Other news:

You may have noticed an overhaul of this website and blog too, to include pages for Butterfly Raven, which if you have an interest in the paranormal, you might be interested in following, as work on this project is also progressing. Also included is a page for Life After: Awakening which is a novel series for young people currently under development, with strong environmental and tolerance themes.

I also have a new post on Medium, and if you didn’t know I wrote there, please jump on over and have a look. Similarly if you didn’t know about my little corner of Livejournal, you can head on over there too and check things out. I’ll be working on a little something for my journal there very soon. Links for everything I’ve talked about here appear below. As always I’ll try to answer any comments and questions and in the meantime, stay happy, healthy and know you are appreciated.


Find Eirian on Patreon


Find Eirian on Medium


Eirian’s Website







Find Peter Hollens on Patreon

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“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”

(Quotation – Charles Darwin)

Change is good, right?

One of the big cliches in life is that embracing the unknown is a frightening thing. It’s probably a cliche because actually it’s very true. That is after all one of the ways something becomes a cliche in the first place. There have been a lot of changes in my life since my last blog post, and many unknowns to embrace… much fear, and pushing and pulling (internally) a lot of which I didn’t even realize, or certainly not acknowledge, until I was thinking about it, usually while in the shower, over the past few days.

I’ve moved home permanently, not just to a different city, or county, or state, but to a different country. Exciting – but terrifying too. Sure, I have a wonderful support system of people I can go to with all my stupid questions: how do I do…? Where do I go to…? And generally they forgive me all the stupid questions because – love. It’s really quite astounding how much ‘letting go’ in order to move on to where you want to be, is both a welcome relief and a wrench to the heart. It’s also very hard to explain. It’s like – cutting apron strings that tie you to the past – to where you’ve come from.

As a permanent resident of the US now, I have a green card, I also have a social security number. That was when the first snipping of the strings really registered. For 46 years I’d lived with a National Insurance number (the UK equivalent of an SSN) made up of letters and numbers which I could (still can) rattle off at a moment’s notice. All of a sudden I find myself with a new number that I have to look up every time I need it. It’s not unwelcome, but it is different, and strange. *snip* The next slice came just very recently with the acquisition of a US/NC drivers’ license to replace my UK driving licence, yes the difference in spelling is deliberate which is another thing – to embrace the Z and toss out the U, and other subtle changes in all thing concerning literacy.

As I write, the image comes to my mind from the movie Fellowship of the Ring in which Sam and Frodo are tramping across fields, and suddenly Sam stops walking.

“This is it,” says he, and Frodo turns back to face him.
“This is what?”
“If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”

It’s both true and as far from the truth as could be, for me at least, because, I’m far from home, the home where I was born, but I’m closer to home than I’ve ever been – the home that is my home now: where I want to be. What is home, after all, but a state of being, not a place at all. Of course, like Samwise, there are many, many more steps still for me to take, that I have to take – steps masquerading as ‘red tape’ and unhelpful ‘red tape’ at that… but such is the challenge, such is the measure of my ability to adapt to change, I suppose.

All this has meant that writing, and progress on Use’ara has been… well, slow to pretty much non-existent. The reasons for this are manifold and varied, not least of which that I had stalled, and stalled badly, come up against walls I couldn’t see a way over, or around, and certainly not through… my own personal bear hunt. Another reason involved another ‘change,’ the embracing of another ‘unknown.’ Having said for a long time that I didn’t write a particular genre of novel, mostly because during my earlier attempts at experimenting with that style I didn’t believe it was for me. In going through my files, I discovered the digital manuscript, looked it over with eyes having 20 odd years more experience and decided, yes – I probably could do something with it, and set about a massive edit, the creation of a nom de plume, (for no other reason that to avoid confusion while writing in different genres), and finally the publication, through Amazon Kindle, of the resulting novel… a scary foray into the world of Romance, as Linden S Barclay.

And yet…

Deep in the darker recesses of my mind Use’ara still turns about Her crooked axis, the retrovirus still silently eats away at Her writer’s DNA, subsuming her, changing her, molding her… and the characters, but sending them down deeper, darker and different pathways, until what is emerging is a much more ‘mature’ – and I don’t mean that in the sense of intended readership, but an internal maturity of the world, and characters themselves – and, I hope, accessible onward journey or revelation, struggle and yes… Thirteen Stars.

I had stalled, but now I believe I see a way forward, the glimmer of a light at the end of a tunnel that may not be an oncoming dragon, but something at least as powerful, and deadly. I’m excited again, but daunted, because if it felt huge before, it feels even bigger now, and somehow to have far more… gravitas, for want of a better word.

Now all I have to do is find a way to clone myself to have enough hours in the day to do all the things on my ever lengthening ‘to do’ list.

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‘ Some colors exist in dreams that are not present in the waking spectrum.’ – Writers’ Block, Creativity and Dreaming

(Quotation – Terri Guillemets)

I miss dreaming – more accurately, I miss being able to remember the dreams I have had.

I spent a good many years teaching myself to remember the dreams I’d had and used to keep a diary of them. It was part of the training for a spiritual discipline/path I walk. A fairly simple process, keep a diary in which you write down the dreams you remember… giving youself permission to remember and slowly, over time, you remember more, and over even more time it is possible to be able to teach yourself to dream lucidly. That, I miss most of all, because therein sits the heart of my creativity.

It’s a conundrum – an issue at present and one which I don’t know how to get around – that for the sake of creativity I need quiet in order to let my mind wander and play with kernels of ideas that might spring to mind, but… not at the time I’m writing. When I’m writing I can have all kinds of noise and hubub (and often do), or, if I need a sharper focus I’ll put on an appropriate piece of music while I write. No, my mind needs the quiet at that time when I’m getting ready to sleep, and to dream, so that my unconscious mind can play with ideas without the interference of my conscious mind. My conscious mind does the work later, once all of the ‘not-thinking’ has been done.

I know this isn’t the case for all people that write. Many that write need to have quiet (even silence) in which to work… with no distractions, and many use noise and being ‘busy’ to prevent their minds chewing the daily cud (or crud), and constantly worrying over things that might be on their minds. That doesn’t work for me, if anything it has the reverse effect.

My issue is that right now, I’m suffering from the old cliche of ‘writer’s block. I’m majorly blocked at the moment because that quiet in preparation for dreaming, and ‘daydreaming’ at other times when I could just switch off and let my mind wander are just not happening, and hasn’t been happening for quite some time. At first I thought I’d be able to find a way to adjust, find a work around, however you want to put it, because I’ve made so many other changes, so many other adjustments, that this is just one more, right? Wrong. The more time passes, the more I’m realising that it’s one step too far for me, as much as I don’t want to admit defeat and in the wake of that, the more fractured my creativity is becoming. I am, as a result, becoming more frustrated and ‘dis-eased’ – certainly unhappy with the way things are, and locked in a spiral of increasing frustration that just increases the inability to adjust, the blockage in my creativity, and the generative part of my writing process. Worst of all, I don’t know what to do about it without imposing my needs upon others.

As an example of my issue, it’s been four days of trying and I still haven’t managed to make any headway in tweaking an outline that needs adjusting, I sit and stare at the open file that contains the outline, and nothing presents itself, because the generative side of the process is stalled, isn’t happening.

Interestingly enough, there was a segment on GMA this morning in which they were talking about the four most common mistakes parents make with toddlers, and the second thing they said was that it was a mistake to keep toddlers busy every single minute of every day. That they need times that look as if they are ‘bored’ during which their minds can wander, and their creativity develop, and I sat staring at the screen then thinking – YES! That’s me! That’s me exactly. I need that. I need that. I don’t need to be kept busy the whole time, doing something every minute of every day, because if it looks to you like I’m doing nothing – or I’m ‘idle’ or whatever, chances are actually I’m hard at work just letting my mind play. That’s being to me – that’s creativity in action.

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