Are You Being Served? Still? #mondayblogs #BBC #Comedy

are you

 

 

 

 

 

Timeless would not even begin to roughly describe this masterpiece of British Comedy. This great old classic still stands as a terrific example of fine writing and acting.

My introduction to this great classic was through a close friend and his Dad. They explained to me at length the concept of the series, set in a department store which had some similar traits as that of a long-gone store that was once the centerpiece of our hometown’s downtown. A store that sold quality goods at reasonable prices. A place where the tradespeople who sold them knew where, how and who each item came from.

Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft had drawn upon their life-experiences of working in the retail clothing trade in the UK.  The cast was said to have portrayed loosely based versions of actual people in the business. My Grandmother who was also a fan of the show, insisted that she was served at retail locations by people who had similar characteristics as some of the characters from this show.

I am sure she was not the only one.

Lloyd and Croft were taking sitcom writing to newer levels and in some instances a bit further than levels already set higher by the Monty Python crew. Their brilliant use of double entendres and the mystery of the true orientation of Mr. Humphries (John Inman), were just two examples of what made this show great.

As I referenced earlier, the show’s best quality is the fact that it is known for being timeless. Fans can watch a majority of the episodes as if they are watching them again for the very first time. The jokes still seem fresh and the writing continues to teach something to those aspiring to work in the business. It is a classic Britcom with so much to offer the viewing public. It continues to find new fans thanks to re-airings on public television and with several clips being made available online.

Towards the end of this show’s run it became evident that some of the ideas were quite a bit over-the-top.  Elaborate musical and dance numbers combined with ideas that may have seemed a bit rushed likely may have spelled the end of the series.

A boxed-set of the series has been available for sometime and it is a worthy investment for any fan of comedy. The special that accompanies the set contains interviews with Lloyd, Croft and the entire cast. It is an interesting look into an interesting show that I know will be shown again through Public Television for generations to come.

Finding Your Writer Voice #mondayblogs #amwriting

writing fountain penSo many people who are new to our business are often all-consumed just with the goal of finding out what their writer voice is. They want to quickly establish their own identity on the screen and printed page.

I am learning the hard way just as every single one of us should. I am learning by constantly learning. Part of that learning is drawing upon whatever influences are around them so they can continue to be motivated to work. Even working itself can be a positive influence.

It does not matter for a second what side of the business you are in. If you identify yourself as a fiction writer, you may be influenced by a musician whose voice is unique.

I write content for website pages as part of my freelance practice. Sometimes I can draw upon the influence of some of the great journalists in history who worked hard to communicate information to people. If it is my content going up on these pages, I want readers to understand it and have the client be pleased with the end results.

When you combine all of your influences and the things that inspire you, that is how the writer begins to define their solo writing voice. You can break the craft down to four core fundamentals in order to get yourself to work. Regardless of what the freelance job requirement might be, the kind of story you want to tell, or the kind of brainstorm list you might be scribbling on that page of scrap notebook beside you.

Inspiration, learning, re-learning and application.

Part of that learning may be taking a step back and going towards inspiration. You might pick up a book by your favourite author and see if there is something in their words that can help you transpose your own in a better way. It’s taking that inspired moment, learning from it, re-learning it to ensure you are getting what you want from it then applying it to the craft & trade.

Remember to learn from others around you. Through Social Media you can connect with others in the business and learn from them. Read content that they might post. Maybe the work of colleagues can drive some further inspiration and learning. For me, usually once a week (but often more) I am inspired by a piece that a colleague may have written for a site, or even a message on Facebook or Twitter that might catch my attention.

The word trade is a great one to work in. Everyone wants to rush to develop their own solo voices as writers. Since learning should be a constant thing, I say slow down. Have a cup of decaf. It will come to you.

All in good time.

@WriterDann

 

Confirmation Classes

church

How I loathed every second of it. I sat in one of the rows at church listening to the supposed truths about a book that I was reading, that made no sense.

Here I was in the 9th grade with a worked image of someone who thought for themselves, being forced to sit through lectures of awkward preparatory nonsense about a book I could barely understand.

It was confirmation classes at an Anglican Church. At this young age I still believed in all of the scientifically unproven things that church was teaching. I was even reading the New Testament to try to make sense of it, and because I was told reading it would bring me good fortunes. On reflection, I was really daft to think that reading this book was somehow a gateway to a better understanding of human condition.

I was starting to question things around this point. I was questioning why we needed to be there to go through these motions to confirm our acceptance to the church. Our attendance all through our younger days was not enough? By attending these classes and getting an invisible passing grade from a bishop, we would then be permitted to have a sip of cheap communion wine on a Sunday from a cup that was a breeding ground for germs.  I often wished I had started to question things like that more.

I felt like I was dragged there. In retrospect I was. I was angry that even though I considered myself a Christian at the time, that I had to be part of a stupid few classes and then a silly ritual that somehow granted us extra-special status in Church.

During the night of the confirmation ceremony, I remember dressing up in a horrid suit combo that was either a size too large or too small for my already awkward frame. I remember my mother taking photos, my Dad coming to the service with a friggin camera of his own and my Grandparents attending and “renewing their confirmations”.

It was dreadful. No matter how nice the Bishop and the Reverend were as people. I sat in the front row of the church with a cousin singing a famous line from Black Sabbath’s “NIB”, hoping to get a few parishioners riled up.

“My name is Lucifer, please take my hand.”

It did not work. Those within earshot ignored us completely. Although they probably thought we were completely mad.

 

So I went through the motions. Became confirmed and was allowed a sip of wine on the odd Sunday that I would go to church.

One of the main things that I feel religion teaches is all-out fear.  To be afraid of things in life that are perfectly normal. To assume faith is the answer, when there is no other possible answer.

When I wanted to question, I should have done it. It might have led me to question other things when I was much younger.

And perhaps set me spiritually free and clear.

 

 

Shelving Ideas. Freelance #Writer Reflections #amwriting #mondayblogs

 

writing fountain pen

Ideas sometimes will not make it to a state of end product. Every writer is guilty of feeling the guilt of a supposed failed idea.

But no ideas are really failed ideas. They can be stored away for another day with a possibility of return. The importance of getting an idea down should be more important than whether it will get finished. Part of the fun of writing work is revisiting those old ideas. I’ve written multiple times about how I will visit some old notebooks where vast amounts of journalistic poetic verse were written. Sometimes I can look at a piece of writing and remember where I was when I wrote it and what I might have been going through at that particular time.

An incredible trip down memory lane.

Some time ago I listened to an interview where one of my favourite writers spoke about how a novel that he never ended up publishing.  He had “tried to write a novel” and finished it before giving it to some people to read. The beta readers of his novel thought the book was funny and engaging. Despite the positives, many readers offered up criticism that the author felt was fatal to the project. So he never ended up publishing the book. Even so, he emphasized that he had fun working on the project and was fine with the outcome.

The reason I share these thoughts is that I recently decided to shelve an idea that I have been working on for nearly two years. I’ve always wanted to write a novel myself with the intention of shopping it to a major publisher instead of releasing it under my own label.

Without getting into the overall exact specifics of the idea I can tell you it is a novel of very original thinking. I hit a nice home-run once before coming up with an original book idea which became Planned UnParenthood – Creating A Life Without Procreating. So I figured an original novel with an original story would work well too. The characters are ones that anyone can easily relate to. The story-line is a very original one that has rarely been explored in Canadian literature, let alone other genres for that matter.

So with all of this brimming confidence, you might ask why I would even think about putting this idea away? Be it permanently or temporarily?

Because it became too personal. A small number of experiences during the last year, were part of the original outline.

As I continued to write dialogue, I felt the personal touch on the story was becoming too personal. Some of what was already written were scenes and stories that were similar to some experiences I dealt with over the course of the last year.

Writing has always been for me not just about making a living with creativity. It remains to be an exercise in health. When I am working, I feel like a better person overall. Despite this, I was growing uncomfortable with the direction this novel was taking. Maybe it is a direction that I will need to take through to the end page someday.

Now is not the time. When I look at the novel idea and reflect on the events of the last year, I can summarize that I have stories to tell. In due course maybe I will tell those stories. Maybe later. There are other stories I want to tell.

The idea is still a workable idea and maybe one day I will pick it up again. If I do not, I am perfectly fine with it.

My preferred focus right now is on the great joys that this business constantly provides. To write great content for clients whose trust I have worked hard to earn. To write more material for the comedy universe that has constantly brought me such great laughter and joy in the best and worst times. To reflect on what I continue to learn and share it with a great audience of readers.

To live and live well within the business of words.

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media Bankruptcy #Mondayblogs #socialmedia #twitter #facebook

Social Media

 

You probably know someone. Maybe more than one someone, who is all too-consumed with what turns up on their Social Media feeds. I caught myself almost slipping into that trap. Thankfully I managed to find a place far and away from losing myself to it.

Social Media has proven overall to be a positive tool for maintaining and establishing connections. For business, Social Media is keeping clients informed, and just keeping them around through engagement.

I believe firmly that Social Media has also proven to be the downfall for many individuals and business. There are individuals who live and breathe every second of their lives by their Facebook news content. Businesses who have less active or inactive Social Media accounts will raise questions about credibility and commitment to service.  No engagement means no advertisement, and no revenue.

At what point should an individual file for Social Media Bankruptcy?

  • People who start to constantly worry about missing birthdays for everyone on their Facebook list.
  •  People whose workdays are easily interrupted by their addictive need to check the feed.

At what point should a business file for Social Media Bankruptcy?

  • When engagement with readers & customers has slowed down or stopped completely.
  • When management of those accounts has become difficult.  Note – At this point a business needs to consider hiring someone to manage these accounts. Social Media Teams exist in many major businesses. Some of these accounts (many airlines for example) are monitored 24 hours all year round.

Then it is time to wipe the slate clean. Take a step back. Look at everything closer to you than the computer screen. Refresh. 

Artists and others who might run their business activities as a sole proprietorship need to keep readers and clients engaged as well. But taking that break is certainly just as important. Businesses should take note of this as well. If you are maintaining a very active feed for yourself as an artist, writer, small business or whatever it may be, let people know you are going to be away. It is fine to take the break without filing for all-out Social Media Bankruptcy.

Writers take note. Social Media can become an easy distraction especially for those in our business. I am guilty of it, and many of you reading this are probably guilty of it as well.

You are free to take the next 2 minutes to go to your Facebook & Twitter accounts and check what it is there. Just come back and read on further when you are done….

I suppose we could argue that if you are turning that distracting use around for a research purpose then you can easily forgive yourself. Good ideas can come from anywhere and that can include a Social Media news feed.

To conclude, I would also suggest that everyone look at what they are using for Social Media and determine if they need to use every single option available. I have told businesses and a few colleagues that at the very least they should have Facebook and Twitter. In my opinion these remain the two best programs for engaging readers and maintaining personal and business connections.

If you know someone who might be over-using, or a business that is under-utilizing Social Media, hopefully something I have written here can offer them a refreshing perspective.

Credit must be given where credit is due. The idea of Social Media Bankruptcy was directly inspired by an episode of IFC’s “Portlandia”. Brilliantly funny. I humbly thank them all for it.  

 

 

 

Are you a #Netflix #TV Show Binge-Watcher? #mondayblogs

tv

It is very easy to make your monthly Netflix subscription pay for itself. I was rather elated when it announced it was coming to Canada. The very second we received the email saying it was up and running, our account was set up and rolling.

Sure the chief complaint from Netflix Canada users is that the content is certainly not as wide-ranging as American Netflix. Most users know now that this is because of the difference in licensing agreements. Most users also know the tricks to accessing the American Netflix feed. Although truthfully I do not have it set up for this at home.

One of my chief complaints about television in general over the last few years has been the lackluster amount of good quality programming. Reality television has certainly taken over since the early part of the 2000’s. TLC is no longer a channel that is actually about learning. The way they are going it is only a matter of time before they have three separate shows about psychic cake-bakers or something along those lines.

Slowly but surely I am finding quality shows to watch again thanks to Netflix. It is great to pick out old movies and finally see so many that were on my list of must-sees. Equally glorious is the amount of old favourite shows that have turned up and are worth watching for nostalgia purposes. When I have discovered an old show that has turned up on Netflix, or in the case of Portlandia a new one, usually this translates into binge-watching an entire series over a short period of time. As I write this, Portlandia is a few months away from heading into season five. However, season four is a week away from finally getting to Netflix. I have deliberately stayed away from finding it online or reading about what critics have said about the fourth season so I can enjoy the experience from a fresh perspective. It is my favourite show on television right now and arguably the best comedy to air since Seinfeld.

Even with the odd binge-watching of television in my life, the amount of tv I watch is still much less than most people. If I were to factor in my movie watching then it might add up to a more average number of hours, but watching films is something different altogether.

Binge-watching a show on Netflix has helped me in a rather tremendous way. It has forced me to think more about relaxing. Getting back to a state of calm enjoyment on a day. It requires me to actually sit still for a period of time.

Which can be difficult to do for a person who rarely stops

Many times while watching a show I spend moments learning from the writing. It actually enhances the television viewing experience for me because I can learn something while relaxing.

I am willing to bet that the number of people who find binge-watching on Netflix to be relaxing would total most of the subscriber base.

As the service continues to grow, hopefully Netflix will move quicker on getting more license clearances so the content available can reach well beyond the current amount of content. If television continues to generate improved ideas, then there could be more shows worth binge-watching in the very near future.

Fundamental Disagreements #mondayblogs #childfree

book Cover

Recently I was asked how could I fundamentally disagree with the idea of procreation.

I never once have said that I ever disagree with the idea of procreation. I disagree with discouraging anyone who wishes to never have children.

I disagree with the mentality that somehow biology is destiny. That we all are here to keep life going. I am thankfully busy enough with my own life that bringing another life into my own is just not something I intend to do.

I disagree with all forms of government that punish those who elect to never have children by offering little to nothing in the way of tax incentives. This puts people on unequal ground in the eyes of elected officials. In Canada, the majority of parents enjoy significant tax advantages over those with no children.

I disagree with the whole concept of the village raising the child. It should be the parent that raises the child. It should be the parent that teaches children to think for themselves and that as long as they are not hurting others, they can contribute well to society.

I disagree with property owners paying education taxes for children that I do not have.  I further disagree that how in many municipalities, people are forced to choose between paying those education taxes into the public system or a system that is run by one of the most corrupt organizations in history. Here’s a hint, it’s headed by a Pope….

But….

I agree that more education is needed about what it is like to choose life as someone who does not want children.

I agree that it is time for more people to accept that families in the LGBT community can be just as good parents (and in many cases, probably better) as any heterosexual couples.

I agree that teaching children to think for themselves freely, to question everything and that being a parent is not a requirement of being in adult, is perfectly fine.

And finally,

I agree that the stigma attached to those who are making what really is a rational and personal choice is fading, with more and more people feeling open about living a life as a non-parent.