Recycling, Repetition and Plagiarism.

Political cartoonist Bill Day is in a bit of hot water over an accusation on plagiarism, and some slightly less hot water over accusations of recycling. This has opened up an interesting debate about reuse of images. The aspect that interests me the most is Day’s use of the same image to serve different points on several different occasions. This is a tool that a daily cartoonist can exploit much more easily than a writer, but it does make me wonder why this isn’t something we see more often in fiction. Why, for example, do you not see writers creating the same narratives, and the same characters, but in the service of different points? I can imagine many books where a change of ending, introduction of new characters or even a move to a new setting could radically alter the theme of the story.

On a side note, when I have dabbled in cartooning, I have been guilty of serial repetition with almost no changes. Here is a cartoon that I have drawn no less than twenty times, for different audiences, because the joke still makes me laugh.

adopted worm

Whatever Happened to the Short Blog Post?

tl;drI have started and abandoned many blogs over the years. This current blog is easily the most successful, no doubt because it is a personal blog intended to promote my writing and communicate with my readers, rather than a venture in its own right. So long as I keep writing, I will always have something to blog about. It is also a good little repository for my Fiction Friday pieces, which would otherwise be hidden away on a hard drive somewhere. I try to update it once a week with something interesting (the hardest bit) and it ticks along quite nicely without too much manipulation from me.

However, I have observed that I don’t really feel comfortable using this blog for small updates. The kind of blog posts that used to be the most common, quick updates on days out, nice meals cooked, all that trivial but charming material seems to have been filtered down to 140 characters and dropped on twitter. That’s not much of a surprise, twitter is a much better medium for the small observation, the trivial and the tangent. Unfortunately, the effect on me seems to be that I am reluctant to update my blog unless I have some lengthy and insightful, rather than something brief and interesting. I find myself straining to write great, inspirational blog posts when I should be working on my stories. And unfortunately, inspirational blog posts aren’t really my forte so the result is always something of a damp squib.

With that in mind, I have decided to take back my blog for the short, the snappy and the concise.

That is all.

Why you need to be your own boss.

CatInMirror

I’m not really a businessman. I’m a little reluctant to talk too much about self publishing and my writing career in those sort of self-help tracts you see on a lot of blogs because I’m not in the “guru” trade. My attention is, for the most part, on telling stories. But, occasionally there are thing we like to communicate because they might be helpful, or enlightening, or just for the hell of it. I talked previously about how writing became my day job without my noticing, now I’d like to write a little about being your own boss.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was to be my own boss. I didn’t listen. Now I’m a year into my writing career, not much has changed in the day to day of my life but for the first time I feel like things are on the up and up. I understand that advice a little better; I feel like I’m my own boss, and it makes all the difference in the world.

Be your own boss is one of those annoying pieces of advice that’s hard to understand until you’ve taken it. Like “just cheer up” and “try not to get stressed,” it seems like a fortune cookie saying from someone with no real experience of the problem. It incorporates other well worn bits of advice like “take responsibility for your life” and “manage your time better” then rolls them up into one dense little concept that becomes impenetrable from the outside.

I thought it was bad advice.

But when I look back at 2012 and see the little things I achieved add up to bigger things, the differences I made in my outlook and the greater control taken over my life, I understand it a little better. Being your own boss, even if you’re working a dead end job, crippled by debt and only get five minutes of free time a day means trying to own your life. Trying to own your problems, to own your future and your career and all those massive things that seem so huge and out of control.

For me, being my own boss was as little as breaking down my big ambitions into small daily tasks, and as big as learning to trust my own judgement. For you, being your own boss might mean something completely different. The cliché is so unappealing, that only you can change your own life, because we all know the truth is so much more complicated than that. Only you can run your own life, but there’s so much life to run and you are so very, very complicated. But in the end you have to own that responsibility, because nobody else will.

So, that’s why you need to be your own boss. I can’t tell you how, after all, you’re the boss, but here are a few thoughts. If you feel like your life is drifting past without your participation, take charge, make a change and shake things up. If you feel like your days are stagnant, start a project or take up a hobby. If your problems are financial, make a fiscal plan and stick do it. They don’t have to be massive endeavours either, little actions done regularly become big actions.

What’s important is that at the end of the day/week/month/year you can say you carried yourself, and the tangled web that is your life, a little bit further.

Fifty

50pFifty posts. The blog has had Fifty Posts. There are as many posts as the infamous Shades of Grey, if you can believe it.

This might not seem like a landmark to you because, well, you are not me. (In case you hadn’t noticed.) But this is a big number for me because this blog is an important part of both my career and my life. It is my main method of communication with the world, it is where I get the chance to talk about my books, my career and sometimes (gasp) myself in more than 140 characters. Furthermore, it is doing quite a bit better than my attempts at blogging in the past have done, so I’m quite proud if it. With that in mind, I’m going to use this post to be selfish and do a bit of self promotion.

My name is Owen Adams, I am a writer living in the UK. My books are available on the Kindle store if you would like to buy them, and if you like this blog then I would be delighted if you followed me on twitter. I’m online there far too much and always interested in conversation.

Iron Man

With all the talk about gender issues bouncing around lately, I’ve been thinking about this little story from my childhood that I’d like to share. 

ironI hate being asked what I want for my birthday. Or Christmas. Or any event for that matter. This is partly because I am a grown man now and don’t feel the same inclination to exploit holidays for personal gain that I once did. It is also because my brain is a troublemaker and will happily spend most of the year thinking of colourful trinkets it would like, only to forget them when put on the spot. What do you want for Christmas? is one of those questions I never have a good answer to. Fortunately, the older you get the less people ask.

This wasn’t always the case.  I remember clearly the first present that I really wanted. I must have  been about three or four. I don’t remember what the occasion was, birthday or Christmas, and I don’t remember which parent asked me. But I remember my answer. I wanted an iron and an ironing board.

It’s funny how things can make complete sense as a child and seem so strange when you look back upon them. I don’t remember being particularly interested the real iron back then (or the ironing board) but I remember the palpable desire for an iron of my own. It seemed to fill my every waking moment, the need for an iron, and the fear that I would never have an iron. I’m sure my parents laughed it off, no doubt amused at their toddler son and his request to be furnished with the most dull of domestic appliances on this special occasion (whatever it may be). Still, my desire for an iron did not fade and I’m sure I pushed the matter from that point on.

When your parents aren’t together, extra effort must go into organising Christmas/Birthdays. I don’t remember a time when my parents were together, so perhaps I underestimated the logistics.  I’m still a bit unclear on the details, but I’m pretty sure they’d gone their separate ways before I was born. My Mum had five other kids by the time I arrived and so she was a very busy full time parent, my Dad was (and still is) a retired joiner. They weren’t together, but when I was little they always seemed to co-operate on all the right things. It wasn’t until I got older that I realised they didn’t really get along. Like a lot of kids, I lived with my Mum through the week, only seeing my Dad on weekends. I have been told since that this must have been very hard for me. This is a sentiment I have never really understood. It was what it was, it was my life and it was as regular and normal to me as any other part of my life. Though, I do remember telling the other kids with glee, that I had two houses which was obviously superior to their insignificant one house. I was practically in high school before I realised just how hard up my family was.

That next trip to my Dad’s was different though. I don’t remember any other presents I got that year, but I will never forget the thrill when I opened my iron. It was made of blue and metallic plastic, a realistic replica of a real household iron and you could fill the water tank and spray just like the real thing! To my toddler eyes it was the best toy iron in the world, but nothing could beat the next present. To accompany the iron my dad had built a child sized ironing board. He’d made it out of wood. It had folding legs with a catch to keep it stood upright. It was varnished and equipped with an ironing board cover made from an old pair of curtains, and on the underside was my name. It was written in thick felt tip, in the clean, clear writing that I will always associate with my Dad. I played with it all night and all of the next day too until it was time to go back to Mum’s. For a weekend I had all I wanted in the world.

As I mentioned, my Dad was retired before I was born. He was always older than most Dads, but he never felt it until the last few years. Perhaps I didn’t see it until I moved out and went away to University. He’s doing well for his age, but he can be forgetful, and it’s often harder to have the long, winding conversations that we used to, particularly when we disagree. He has his share of outdated ideas I now, my Dad, and he has his little prejudices that I want to argue out with him but can’t. Instead, I always try to respect my Dad for the important things he taught me. That all people deserve respect, that violence solves nothing, that everyone should have equal rights regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation. But most of all I respect my Dad because he was born in 1926, in a poor working class community, with few educational opportunities and grew in to a man who saw no problem spending an afternoon in his shed, making an ironing board for his four year old son.

Years later I asked him if he remembered buying me the toy iron.

“Of course,” he said. “I drove all over town trying to find a toy iron that wasn’t pink.”

I was a little surprised and asked if that was because I was a boy. “No, I’d have got you the same one if you were a girl.

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“You wanted one that looked like a real iron.”

So, that was 2012?

The Collected Corks of January 2nd.
The Collected Corks of January 2nd.

One of the satisfying things about the New Year is being allowed to indulge in a little pointless naval gazing. It is a chance to talk about the last twelve months positively, regardless of what they contain, and dwell a little in introspection while safe in the knowledge that you have successfully traversed another year on the Earth. A new year is a chance for people to enjoy a little perspective on their lives, to distance themselves from the daily grind and look at all they have achieved. And I think that’s something we all need once in a while.

With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the good things I achieved this year, and some things I’d like to achieve in the year to come.

2012 was the year I became a writer. I wrote the first story I was happy enough to send out into the world, Christmas Past. Starting in the ancient past of December 2011, but finished in January. This was my first step into self publishing and writing as a career. Sometimes it feels like a very small achievement, but I think it is significant nonetheless. Recently I followed this up with my second story, Time Trial, which is another little step forward that I’m very proud of. Most recently I participated in, and completed, National Novel Writing Month 2012. The first draft of my very first novel sits awaiting a much needed second look as we speak.

In 2013 I would like to match, and hopefully exceed, these contributions. My hope is to keep writing, but complete pieces for publication sooner and more often. I hope to end 2013 with at least another two short stories released in to the world, as well as publishing a novella I have been working with for some time. I am also planning on completing another novel for NaNoWriMo in 2013.

If I have any regret for 2012, it is that I did not keep up pace with my work throughout the year. Too often I let projects fall behind, or became distracted. In 2013 I’d like to stay more focused on my goals and try to keep more plates spinning at once.

And those are all my thoughts for the 1st of January, 2013. Feel free to share your own in the comments.