Writing, Recording and The Next Blog Post

Well, I’ve had the Big 500, that was last week so time to move on and get on with Blog #501. Things are the same for every content creator whether it’s me and my blog or Martin Scorsese and his next film. One project finishes and we move on to the next one. It’s great to put together a creative piece of work but I’ve always felt a little sadness leaving a completed blog or video behind and moving on to the next one. In fact, I wonder if it’s a feeling experienced by all creative people? In the movie The Bad and The Beautiful, Kirk Douglas plays a film producer who goes into a deep depression every time a project is finished. Was the author or the director putting his own experiences into the film?

The other day I was scanning through my diary from 2021 and I noticed in one entry I was feeling pretty pleased with myself because I had put together not one but three separate blog posts. I must have been feeling pretty creative that week because these days I often seem to be struggling for ideas.

Lately I’ve done some beta testing work for the online editing website Animoto. I put together two short video projects for them and reviewed a new facility in their software and in exchange they sent me an Amazon gift voucher. Now it just so happens that my subscription with Animoto has expired and I tried to barter the gift voucher for a discount subscription but despite my charm, which I’ve always thought was one of my great assets, they declined. Pity really because I rather like Animoto.

During my separation from them I’ve tried other online editing sites but I’ve not been totally happy so I suppose that soon I’ll just have to cough up the appropriate fees and re-join Animoto.

In the meantime I’ve been wondering what to do with my voucher. Eventually I decided it might be an idea to invest in a good microphone so I can improve the voiceovers I put together for my YouTube videos as well as my podcasts. That seems like a good excuse as any to publish a link one of my videos with an extensive voiceover. The video below has a narration based on a number of my blog posts as well as text from my book. the voiceover isn’t actually bad but a new recording might make it sound a bit more professional.

I sent off for my selected microphone and the one I chose came in a set with a telescopic arm, just like the ones you see in recording studios. Later I thought I might as well have bought the usual one with a little tripod as I don’t really have the room for the arm. I don’t have a room, a special room for writing and recording but then I don’t think a lot of writers do.

My workspace: Laptop, cup of tea, notebook and the TV remote not too far away

Recently I decided to take a short demo screenplay I had written ages ago and rewrite it as a short story. I did so and feeling fairly pleased with it decided to send it to an online magazine that was looking for just such a story. I was actually going to use the story as a blog post but I noticed in the small print that the magazine didn’t want work that had been printed elsewhere. Well, if I recorded the story as a podcast then really it wouldn’t have been printed elsewhere, would it? That was my cue to set up my new microphone and start recording. The sound quality was so much better than my previous recordings.

Not long ago I read Agatha Christie’s autobiography and in it she mentions that many people ask her where her famous novels were written. The fact is, they were written any place that was handy at the time. She didn’t have a special writing place and I wonder if writers, or indeed any writer has a particular writing place? I like to write in the dining room but then I also like to write in the lounge with the TV on in the background but the sound on mute. Sometimes I’ll write in bed or jot down ideas at my desk at work.

The interior of Dylan Thomas’ writing shed.

Dylan Thomas famously had a writing shed in the garden of his ‘house on stilts’ in Laugharne. I daresay he didn’t write everything he ever wrote in there but of course he did write there when he was at home. I visited the house once many years ago. I was really impressed with it. The national trust or some such organisation had rescued the building, saved it from sliding into the sea and reopened it as a museum. I arrived late in the day, just before they were closing up so I returned the following day for another look. The staff didn’t charge me as they remembered me having to leave prematurely and so I bought various items from their museum shop.

One place I’d like to visit would be Charles Dickens’ home; Gad’s Hill Place in Kent. Dickens spent the last 15 years of his life in the house and it was one he had seen and fallen in love with as a child when he and his father took long walks together. It must have seemed quite an achievement for him to buy the house, even in a life filled with great achievements. Dickens died in the house on June 9th, 1870 aged 58. What would Dickens make of a present-day writer’s life I wonder? Writing blogs to promote his work, tweeting Tweets, and making Facebook posts. I’m not sure he would have been impressed.

My minor problems of wondering what to write pale into insignificance when I watch the terrible news from the Ukraine. A few weeks ago, the Ukrainians had similar problems to us here in the UK. Things like getting to work on time; would the bus be late? Picking the kids up from school. What to have for tea. Now they wonder if their homes will be destroyed by bombs. Will their loved ones be safe? Only the other day I watched a newscast where a distraught woman went to a makeshift hospital with her young daughter who had been hurt in the Russian attack. Doctors fought to save her and the cameraman followed their efforts. One man, a doctor turned and began to rage at the camera. I guessed he was complaining to the cameraman for intruding but when his words were translated, he was calling for the camera man to take the video and show it to Mr Putin: let him see what he has done raged the doctor. Sadly, the young girl died.

So, here we go. My laptop has been cranked up. The Saint is playing on the TV with the sound muted. A large cup of tea is ready to be sipped. I pause for a moment to nibble on some toast and marmalade then press the button for NEW BLANK DOCUMENT and I am ready to write.


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Pandemics and Podcasts

This blog seems to come round pretty quickly, too quickly really. Looking at my stack of blog post drafts I couldn’t see one that I could really get excited about finishing. That lethargy and tedium is of course a consequence of the lockdown. The lockdown continues to plod along, bringing everything down to its slow and humdrum pace. I’ve stayed at home like most people and pretty much done a great deal of nothing. The usual highlight of the week used to be a night in a restaurant and a visit to our local pub quiz. Now it’s a trip to the shops. What will be in the special offers aisle?

The Dentist.

A really big event this week was a trip to the dentist. I’ve not had a check up for quite a while but this one was a little different. We usually spend quite a bit of time waiting in the waiting room but no, due to Covid 19 precautions we weren’t even allowed inside the building until it was time to actually see the dentist. As Liz and I actually live together it was deemed OK for us to enter the surgery together. The dentist then changed his mind and decided no, one at a time must be the norm, irrespective of living arrangements. It was me of course who was ejected and rather than sit in the cold and rain I parked my car so it was just opposite the dentist’s doors and the nurse or dental assistant could just wave me over when it was my turn.

After a quick check of my molars, the dentist decided an x ray was in order. An old filling needed replacing so a new appointment was made for that. Oh and that crown I asked about some time ago. Yes, that was the one the dentist thought was unnecessary, well now after a few months without any income, the dentist has decided yes, we can sort that out, that will be another appointment and £280 please. Of course, the private non NHS crown is much better and will blend in much better with my current set of choppers. That will be £550.

A few moments later when the dentist’s assistant handed me a whopping great bill my inner tightwad kicked in and I thought, Whoa, steady on. Let me think about that for a while.

Two Topical Events.

Sometimes I think I should try to be a little more topical on my posts and so perhaps I should mention this week’s big news, the Harry and Meghan interview. I’ve read that in the USA it went down really well making the two really popular. In the UK it went down pretty much like a lead balloon as we Brits really don’t like anyone upsetting the Queen. Meghan was whinging that her children won’t have a royal title, well the fact is, neither do any of the Queen’s other great grandchildren and if they are so upset about publicity and want to live a quiet life, why go to the USA and court the media? Of course, now they are no longer on the Royal payroll they need to make a few quid to support themselves. After all, Harry has only got the meagre ten million his mother left him so embracing the media might be a good move for him.

Personally, I think that the royals are over paid, over privileged and over here. The flip side is that like them or lump them, the Royal Family are the glue that holds the United Kingdom together. If we had a President the country would descend into chaos and be split apart. Would Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland accept an English President? Would the Scots accept a Conservative President? Perhaps the Irish would want an Irishman but then would they want a Protestant or a Catholic? The Queen is happily above all that which is probably why she has endured for so long and kept the Commonwealth and the UK together.

The really big news this week for me was actually the death of Murray Walker the famous motor sport commentator. Murray has commentated on motor sport and particularly F1 for almost as long as I can remember. Murray used to commentate on rallycross and motorcycle scrambling back in the 1970’s and I once remember him commentating on a segment of the Le Mans 24 hour race and being surprised when the broadcast cut back to the BBC sport studio and there was Murray sat at a desk in front of a monitor with his microphone. I had just assumed he was at the race track. The BBC began a regular F1 broadcast in 1978. Before that they just used to show the odd event here and there which was not good for race fans like me. Walker became the undisputed voice of the sport until he retired in 2001. Clive James once said that Murray, in his quieter moments sounded like a man with his trousers on fire, such was the high spirits and enthusiasm of his broadcasts. F1 will never be the same again.

Podcasting

What else have I done this week? Well, a long time ago I thought about starting a podcast. Now I don’t know much about them but I thought as I’ve produced more than 400 or so blog posts, (actually this epic you are now reading is my 450th post) surely a few of those might be easy enough to convert to a podcast. I mean, I could just read out a few of them into my laptop microphone, cut out a few umms and ahs, just as I do with my video narrations and Bob’s your uncle.

A good idea to start, I thought was a post with some good turns of phrase and perhaps a good theme. Now one that came to mind straight away was a post I did yonks a go about time. Yes, time. The idea occurred to me when Liz and I visited some military cemeteries in Northern France. All the places we visited had a calm and tranquil ambience. Clearly that can’t have been the case during the First World War. Then the place must have looked like a wilderness filled with craters. The sound of deadly gunfire would have been all around along with explosions from the artillery bombardments. Time must have run faster then so now to compensate, time, or so it seems to me at these quiet and peaceful memorials, runs slowly.

What made the podcast easier to produce was the fact that I had already used some of that text in a narration for a video about the military cemeteries of France. I took the sound recordings, added a little intro, the welcome to my new podcast type of stuff, cleaned up the sound in my trusty sound mixer and hey presto, I finished up with a good five minutes of me rabbiting away as a new podcast.

Anyway, after all that, I set about working out how to actually broadcast a podcast, how to actually get it live on air. I spent a fair old bit of time trying to sort it out but failed dismally and put the whole project on the back burner.

The other day however, I opened up WordPress to find a new article titled ‘How to grow Your Podcast with Anchor’ there in front of me. I logged into Anchor and found that I could actually convert my written blog posts straight into a sound recording. I had a choice of two voices, one male and the other female. I chose the male voice which had a sort of Cary Grant quality. Not actually like Cary himself but similar, sort of like a newsreader with a transatlantic kind of tone. The resulting reading wasn’t perfect. Sadly it couldn’t differentiate between ‘it’ and ‘IT’. That’s when I remembered that earlier podcast recording about military cemeteries and time.

It was really quite fun to open up Spotify and find, alongside my favourite podcasts, the new Letters from an Unknown Author. Click here to listen to the first episode.

Click here To listen on Pocketcasts or try this link with various options.


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