Blog

The Secret Weapon

Writing can be a lonely business. 

Not to mention demotivating, when - as sometimes happens - the words won't come, not to mention the ideas, energy or faith. 

However!

There is a secret weapon to splat the darkness of those doubts in a pure comic book instant kapow! moment. 

Festivals, fairs and gatherings! Like the wonderful Winchester Writers' Festival, from which I have just returned, a little jaded, but utterly uplifted.

What a weekend. A mere blog couldn't capture it - I'd need books, and neither of us, you nor I, have the... Read more

No Man Left Behind

This is a tough blog to write, because, to be frank, I’m not sure I’ve got the words to do the subject justice.

But I’ll give it a try, as it’s such an important issue.

We’ve all used the words touched, moved and humbled for remarkable experiences, but this week I got absolutely swept up, crashed down, and emotionally spun dried.

I went to an event called No Man Left Behind, which was about mental health amongst men.

As you no doubt know, there’s a big issue with this, with suicide rates – particularly among younger men – worryingly high,... Read more

The Best of Bosses, The Worst of Bosses

Since moving to Cambridge, I've had a new boss.

And this guy is both the best and worst I've ever known. So demanding, but capable of great understanding, too.

Yep, you got it. The new boss is myself. And it's been fascinating finding out more about him. 

He can be mean to the extent that he sometimes leaves me groaning. For example - 

I'm teaching a course on how to deal with pressure in two weeks' time. It's one I've done before, and it went well enough. 

But the boss, being the guy he is, insisted I looked at it... Read more

Social and Anti Social Media

Social media is such a divisive subject. 

No one disputes it can offer a great opportunity for writers and businesses of all kinds. 

It's the first time in history they've had the chance to potentially reach millions of people directly with a message, and all for free. 

But, as ever in life, there's a but.

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I've been spending a fair bit of time with social media recently - teaching it as part of the excellent Learning at Work Week, as above - and also on a blog tour for my new book. 

Something which often comes... Read more

Pride and Passion

Pride and passion - who doesn't love those joyous twins? - and I've had the delight of dancing with them for much of this week. 

I've been working with Pint of Science week, a series of talks in pubs by leading scientists, about their work. 

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I've heard about everything from the tininess of DNA replication to the huge violence of the fires of the sun, with artificial intelligence, stem cells, viruses, superbugs and so much more as well.

Some might find science a turn off, but no way; not done like this. 

Because apart from the... Read more

The Luck Garden

More than a few times in life I've been told... you're lucky. 

Working for the BBC, being an author, travelling, teaching, meeting extraordinary people, going to amazing places, witnessing remarkable events. 

I was blessing my good fortune this week when I was in a workshop, held outside in the garden of part of Cambridge University, talking with and listening to some wonderfully talented people. 

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It's true, I've had my share of luck in life. 

Although anyone born into a developed country, with decent health, good schools and teachers, and parents who love them and want... Read more

Philanthropy, Pound Notes and Passions

I imagine most of us would - if we had millions of pounds - give a little of our riches away to causes we care about 

But for me, philanthropy is about much more than just money. 

Which makes it open, in some form, to just about everyone. 

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I had a wonderful time this week in Somerset, doing an aspiration and inspiration event for a hundred or so highly talented school students.

Above is part of a fascinating - and highly entertaining - demonstration of how magic has influenced science over the centuries. 

I was working... Read more

Assumptions and Surprises

As a rule, I like surprises -

So long as they're not the big spider in the bed, aliens with a vendetta visitation, sudden summons to judgement day, or even worse... pub running out of beer type. 

Surprises are particularly something writers seek to spring, whether with characters or stories, because they make for memorable books. 

And as a rule, I don't like assumptions.

I know I shouldn't make them, tell myself not to, but I do; as, I imagine, do most of us. 

Because it's a human failing, right? 

But in favour of assumptions - they often lead to... Read more

The Variety of Voices

I've been playing with voices for my new book, and (1) enjoying it enormously, but also (2) reflecting how it's something we all do in life. 

I'm not sure if my narrator is going to be. Abrupt. And terse. Really uptight. And jagged. 

Or much more relaxed, flowing and gentle, florid and feeling, elegant and eloquent. 

But then, we all adapt our voices according to our needs. 

I was with Cambridge University this week, trying to encourage more state school students from my dear south west to apply. 

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And I noticed how my voice changed... Read more

The Ideas Jail

I like a metaphor as much as a duck likes bread (see what I did there? Oh, I'm on form today. Watch out!)

The reason for such chirpiness? Trumpet fanfare on standby...

I've had an idea. 

Now don't be unkind and say - is that it? Big deal. What's he on about now, etc?

Firstly, ideas are the most precious of commodities, for a writer and just about everyone else.

All creativity, innovation, exploration, discovery, understanding and so many other wonderful journeys start with the idea. 

Secondly, I rather like this idea. Actually, that's very British understatement.

I love it. 

... Read more