Surgery, personal obsessions, and artist dates: three things this month

charisse-kenion-502626-unsplash (1)Here’s my new more-or-less monthly update: sharing three things – a person, idea, story, event or something else – that have grabbed me and that I think people should know about.

Not exactly brain surgery

Another day, another phone interview. This one stood out though: over a fairly crackly phone line – from an echoing meeting room in central London to a Bangalore hospital – Devi Shetty told me he’d just finished a heart operation and seen around 60 patients that day. “It’s energising”, the 60-something year-old told me. “Where else do you get to interact with that many people?” Continue reading “Surgery, personal obsessions, and artist dates: three things this month”

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“It’s done and it sucks”: learning from your last creative project

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From Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon

Before I get into the next project — and before descending too far down the inevitable path of hopelessness/doubt/boredom as illustrated by Austin Kleon — I’m trying to keep in mind the stuff I learned from the last one.

The last project turned into a 40-minute film, ‘Unladylike’, about women and girls who box. It was the first time I’d made a documentary and the first time I’d worked with my two co-filmmakers.

The real lesson was that doing something like that is possible, if you’re prepared to put the hours in. But there were some more specific things I learned — things that could apply to other types of project, too:  Continue reading ““It’s done and it sucks”: learning from your last creative project”

Europe’s hottest hub

IMG_6985aAfter ten years abroad, my friend Débora moved back to her hometown, Lisbon, last year. People there sometimes ask why she came back. Surely there are so many more opportunities abroad?

Sometimes Débora wonders why, too. After Bonn, Leipzig, Brussels, Geneva and London, it’s taking a while to adjust to the laid-back Portuguese attitude to planning, the open-ended work meetings and the buses that don’t turn up. Not to mention eating dinner so late.

It’s not only the reverse culture shock; for many returning to Portugal, there’s also a financial one, in a country where the minimum monthly wage is under EUR 600. Continue reading “Europe’s hottest hub”

Write better #3: Build muscle

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Sound advice from Chinese T-shirts

“Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time…. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”

That reassurance is from the late journalist and teacher William Zinsser, whose book ‘On Writing Well’ I just read. It’s an excellent guide, mixing the micro (such as why you should rarely use an exclamation mark; or why most adverbs are unnecessary), the techniques (how to construct a strong opening; how to adapt quotes yet stay true to your interviewee), and the principles (putting your own voice into your writing; homing in on ‘one corner’ of your subject). First published in 1976, it’s bang-on relevant today.

Non-writers often assume that good writers find their work easy, as Zinsser reminds us. They don’t. Continue reading “Write better #3: Build muscle”

Screen-agers

A portable pastime

At a panel discussion last month about young people and technology, the most telling moment came towards the end, when someone in the audience raised her hand. She worked for an organisation that recruits numerous young volunteers, she told us, and one of the questions they always ask at interviews is: “What are your hobbies?”. For the first time not long ago, a 16-year-old girl had responded: “Going on my phone”.

There was a collective, sharp intake of breath among the audience, most of us of generations who remember life before the Internet. We may be just as attached to endless scrolling, and just as afflicted by powernoia as adolescents; but unlike them, we automatically think that’s a bad thing.

Maybe we’re judging too quickly. Continue reading “Screen-agers”