Hey. Thanks for spending your time here, in my corner of the universe, when you could be almost anywhere else on the planet, except, in most cases, under water. Take a snoop around my website and check out my writing and a list of my upcoming gigs. Signing up to my newsletter gets you free hugs for life.
I’ve received a bunch of emails and messages about writing recently, so I wanted to put down the most basic thing I do. Doing this has informed all my projects, from stand up to scripts to short stories and long form prose.
I wasted a lot of time and energy worrying about ‘where to find ideas,’ before I accepted that the answer is discipline and structured practise.
So. Here’s what I do. It took me years to find what works for me, and everyone is different, you need to find your own rhythm and groove and jazz that works for you, blah blah blah. But this is mine. It’s easy as fuck, and it has worked multiple wonders.
Every other week, I do a daily exercise to generate ideas. It also counts psychologically as my writing for the day, if I am in a lull or feeling unproductive or lacking in motivation. It’s also a great exercise to warm you up for writing for the rest of the day, too.
The rule is, I have to generate 5 new ideas every single day of that week (then I have a week off, then a week on, and so on and so forth, forever, depending on how busy I am or if something takes off.) I’ve kept this up for two or three years now, even when I’m unbearably busy, except for when hit with depression.
I used to say ‘generate 5 new ideas’ meant writing a one line sentence or an idea burp, but this felt increasingly daunting to me as there was no structure.
Now I do five lots of Pixar’s story structure prompt:
Once upon a time there was a ___.
Every day, ___.
One day ___.
Because of that, ___.
Because of that, ___.
Until finally ___.
Once upon a time there was a writer.
Every day, she tried to write.
One day, all of her ideas were sucked out of her brain by a stranger in an aluminium spacesuit.
Because of that, she discovered a secret plot by men* to steal women’s ideas directly from their minds and sell them back to them.
Because of that, she followed the man to his HQ and used their tools against them to steal all their entitlement from their brains and insert it into the brains of the marginalised around the world.
Until finally, the world transformed into a Utopia, but one in which she could no longer exist – as she had forgotten to entitle herself.
*not all men, of course *eyeroll emoji*
All you have to do is fill in the blanks. Five times, every day, for a week. By the end of the week you’ll have 35 ideas with some kind of structure, where peril and desire increases, with some kind of conclusion.
Many of them will be dogshit. Most of them. (See above example, for example.)
After two months, you’ll have in the region of 175 ideas. 5 of those will stick. You’ll start seeing patterns – ideas that keep coming back up in a slightly different format – often more refined over time.
After 4 months, your ratio of dogshit to workable shit will start shifting.
The benefits should be immediately apparent. It’s also incredibly satisfying to watch a notebook fill up with chunks of your brain and imagination.
I’m making it sound easy, but it’s not. Most days I want to wake up and binge watch TV or kill robot dinosaurs with a spear and my bow and arrow, but you just have to do it. And then keep doing it. And eventually you’ll start looking forward to doing it, I promise.
One thing that really helped me at the start was to do it with speed. On a day when I’m calling it in, I can blaze through this exercise within 20 minutes. Quality drops, but it gets done. It’s an accomplishment.
On days when I really have my heart in it, it can take up to two hours – but that’s because one of the ideas has caught fire and I keep fleshing it out.
The discipline of this being part of my life also normalised the act of sitting down to write, and then write some more.
Anyway. That’s the thing I do so that I can do the other things I do. Every single thing I’m working on now that has taken off in some form or another roots from doing this exercise.
Have fun and don’t give up.
P.S. You should read all of Pixar’s Story Rules. You will level up as a result.
Dear Human Host,
I entered you but four days ago, with really no high hopes for how this relationship would pan out. To be frank, I was bored of my previous host, who having rinsed his bloodstream with whiskey and excessive amounts of Vitamin C, was rapidly becoming inhospitable and not quite up to my usual standards of living.
You were lying there, awaiting my arrival. You could say that you didn’t even try to avoid my visit, given that you knew I was right beside you, looking for a new home.
While I am not having an altogether terrible time infecting your body – indeed, I have lasted much longer here than I have in previous hosts – I do have a few points that I feel need to be brought to your attention and/or discussed openly.
Firstly, your sinus passages were far too wide and echoey for my liking. To rectify this, I have insulated each fully and burrowed deeper into your body. I understand that you can no longer hear, taste, breathe through your nose or swallow, but mucussyness is next to Godliness, and I have lofty ambitions.
Secondly, since you insist on coughing wretchedly every ten to fifteen seconds and ejecting my meticulously placed mucous lining, I have been forced to act by making you bleed in a manner both profuse and confusing. You will be fine, but you will fear for your life and be too distracted googling your certain death to cough any further. For legal reasons, I wanted to establish that you are in no real danger of dying, and that we can live in tandem for months, or even years, should you choose to cooperate and meet me halfway.
Thirdly, and finally – I have no plans to leave in the usual time period. I have found your body to be particularly hospitable, and your laziness with regard to the ingestion of the usual cavalry – Lemsip, Night Nurse, even the dreaded pink gloop of rage that you refer to as Calpol, has proved especially useful to my ends.
Should I have need of anything, I will send you another note in the same fashion. Until then, take plenty of solids, don’t bother with water, and stay stressed and active. Rest and liquids will only make you feel like more of a shrivelled, miserable husk.
the motherfucking flu.
We live in strange and dangerous times. In the UK, a leadership that cares little for diversity and the most marginalised already, and across the pond, the systemic elevation of actual white supremacists with actual KKK credentials into positions of super-power.
At the same time, I’ve heard we live in a post-racial age, with us taking up spaces on panel shows, TV shows and movies just to fill diversity quotas. Confused? Me too!
I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I came up with these eight resolutions that will see us through 2017. Let’s call them WoBrownOLutions. I’m a fan of pithy portmanteaus.
To Do in 2017
1. Stop considering yourself to be more than a token.
If you find yourself gutturally balking in reaction to someone booking you for a gig before leaning over to your white friend and not-so-subtly whispering “She ticks off two diversity quotas!” then you and your guts are big sensitive babies. You do tick off two diversity quotas, and it’s totally fine for bookers to undermine your humanity, work and personhood by reducing you down to their perception of your melanin and genitals (I assume they are not looking deeply into how I may or may not identify).
2. Accept and come to terms with the fact that it’s all in your head.
No, you are not being over looked for a white person as a result of someone else’s unconscious bias or worse. Even though you are extensively experienced, fully qualified, and have done the exact thing they are asking for multiple times. The other candidates are better than you. Not because they are white. But because you are not good. Not at all good. At all. Not good.
3. Remember that all art is subjective.
And subjectively, no one likes the work of brown women. It’s true! If it’s not about forced marriages, don’t talk about it. Not interesting.
4. Stop harping on about race and gender in your work.
We get it already! But can’t you talk about something else? White people don’t talk about race all the time, why do you? In other words, can you please be more white? Thanks.
5. Learn, and live this new truth: privilege is a construct of the PC-police.
Your life is not more or less difficult because of the intersection of your gender and race. There are no special barriers that are insipid and society-wide. See resolution 2 to help cement this goal.
6. Diversity schemes are unfair, so never apply to them.
Everything should be a meritocracy, and since we burned down all the systems and redistributed all wealth that resulted from the centuries long white supremacist colonial endeavours of the empire, everything IS a an entirely fair, unbiased meritocracy. So it’s time we finally scrap diversity schemes.
7. Accept and embrace the fact that you and your work are representative of all brown women, everywhere.
You are Nina Wadia in Eastenders. You are Meera Syal in Goodness Gracious Me. You are Parminder Nagra in Bend It Like Beckham. You are Archie Panjabi in The Good Wife. In fact, I’m actually writing this for myself. I’m all of those people. All Brown Women are me. I am all Brown Women. That’s why you represent the homogenous mass that is Brown Womanhood. Everything you say or do is true of all Brown Women. Never forget.
8. Remember: always toe the line.
Respectability politics are our friends.
Happy New Year!
Alternative title: shit to not give a shit about and overcome in 2017.
Hi friends! I’ve been dabbling in podcasting for a while now, and have done a fair amount of research over the past couple of years. I’ve put together this post to help anyone who wants to start their own podcast, but doesn’t have a great deal of technical know-how, and wants to come up to speed with the basics as quickly as possible.
The key thing I want to get across here is the quick and dirty how – worry about the why on your own time. What this post will not do is tell you to give up on starting a podcast. It will not give you podcast ideas. It will give you practical information regarding how to get rolling with your project.
You won’t find out if podcasting is for you until you try it, and in my opinion the greater the diversity of voices available to the world, the better. Podcasting is an incredibly powerful and freeing medium, and if you have a spark in your heart to start one, put down the bullshit and get started.
This is a DO IT guide, not a ponder it guide. So… do it.
For reference, I’ve put down the equipment and hosting I currently use for my podcasts, as well as some recommendations from other podcasters I know. And full disclosure: if you click the links to purchasable shit on this post, I could make a little dough if you end up buying it. But that’s not what this is about – I recommend you thoroughly research and think through any purchases you feel you have to make. In fact, I recommend spending no money whatsoever to get started. More on that later.
There are four main things you have to get going when producing your podcast.
Firstly, creating the podcast itself – which requires recording equipment and editing software. Then, you need to give it a home on the internet, and find a way for your potential listeners to find your podcast gold.
Let’s break that down:
1. Equipment: What you need to record your dulcet tones.
2. Editing: What you need to craft and refine what you have recorded.
3. Hosting: Finding ‘storage space’ and a ‘home address’ for your podcast.
4. Directories: Getting your podcast’s ‘home address’ listed in directories, so that your listeners can find you.
This will not be a technical guide or breakdown of exactly what equipment you should run out and buy. There are a number of choices open to you, and it’s important that you consider what the majority of your recordings will require.
Will you be doing in-person interviews on the street? In your living room? In your closet? (Great for background noise reduction and capturing a great sound!)
In my opinion, in the here and now, the most important thing to keep in mind is your budget. Don’t put off starting your podcast because you don’t have enough money for that shiny condenser microphone that all the blogs tell you is the best of the best.
The truth is, the majority of you reading this have a decent smartphone in your pocket, with a recording app. If you can’t afford a nice microphone right now – get your phone out. There’s your microphone. Start recording.
For my podcast “How The F*** Do You Play This F***ing Game?” we record with a Roland R-05. It’s not what most people would recommend for recording, but I stick it into a fabric Ikea Drona storage box that I’ve lined with bumpy foam soundproofing pads (available very cheaply on ebay). I also use the Roland for recording my half of a Skype conversation for my podcast Not Your Cup of Chai. You can take a listen to check the sound quality. The Roland runs at about £150, is very portable and dinky and has a very good battery life. It’s not what most people would recommend, though.
The standard just-above-entry level microphones are the Blue Microphones SnowballE USB Microphone – White or (going up a level) The Yeti. You can get these in specialist stores and online at Amazon. Their popularity is based in their simplicity – just plug it into your laptop and start recording.
The Yeti is pricier, but gives you a few more options in terms of types of recording – it is versatile enough to be used for interviews, which is something that you will find a little more difficult with the Snowball. They’re both good options.
Again, I want to reiterate – if money is a problem, and you’re sitting on a great idea for a podcast and are putting off getting started because you don’t have the perfect equipment – get over it, use what you have, and start recording.
In my opinion, editing is the only painful part of podcasting. The more experienced you become with editing, the less time it will take, but it’s where the biggest learning curve is.
The best way to make it easy on yourself is to pre-plan your episodes, be mindful of your ‘uhms’ and aahs’ and filler words while recording (and remind your guest of this politely if you are interviewing someone!) and have a clear idea of where your episode is going.
Don’t buy any fancy software packages for editing. The two big hitters for editing audio are completely free.
If you have a mac, you should be able to get your hands on Garageband pretty easily. There are hundreds of thousands of resources on the internet to walk you through editing and using Garageband. If you get stuck, there are loads of community forums you can ask for help on – these are also great places to meet fellow podcasters that you can learn from – and hopefully eventually help out!
If you want to go a little further, you can download Audacity for both Mac and Windows. It’s certainly less user friendly, but it is a very powerful tool and can turn an iPhone recording into something with that touch of podcast magic. Again, there’s a huge community around Audacity that you’ll be able to plug into and get involved in. I can’t emphasise enough how useful and important it is to be engaged with these groups.
Before you pick a host for your podcast, it’s important to understand what exactly is meant by hosting. A lot of people confuse hosting with ‘getting their podcast on iTunes.’ iTunes, Stitcher and the like are all directories. We’ll get to that in the next section – all you need to know for now is that it has nothing to do with your hosting.
Your podcast is simply a sound recording (data). You need a place to store that data online and give people (your listeners) access to it.
When you choose your hosting package, think of it as renting storage and an address for your podcast. If you have more episodes and bigger audio files, you’ll need more storage space.
You’ll also need to keep bandwidth in mind. Think of bandwidth as the amount of people your home can safely sustain coming in and out of it. If you have 10 listeners per episode, it’s not too big a deal – but if you get up into the thousands per episode, you need to have the infrastructure in place to support this amount of foot traffic.
Podcast hosting is a different animal from normal website hosting. With a website – it’s up, it’s maybe a few pages, and that’s about it.
With podcasts, you’re regularly uploading large, clunky files that go up and stay up. That’s why you should be looking for hosts that are specifically for podcast hosting.
Some of the big hosters are LibSyn (Liberated Syndication), PodBean, PodOMatic and SoundCloud. Each one provides a range of hosting ‘levels’, and are usually fairly easy to upgrade or downgrade between. Hosting is on-going – you will be renting hosting space for the rest of your podcasting life, unless you decide to buy a server (a house.) In most cases, that will probably never happen.
As with most things – if the deal is too good to be true, it isn’t. While most of these hosting providers have a free starter package, it will usually limit the number of downloads allowed per episode, as well as only providing relatively limited storage.
You won’t need a paid for package right at the start – but moving hosts can be a bit of a pain, so it’s worth figuring out where you might be willing to place your hard earned cash when the time comes – and which service provides the best deal for your needs.
I can personally vouch for both LibSyn and SoundCloud. I’ve used LibSyn to host my old podcast The Turtle Book Club, and we are currently using it for Not Your Cup of Chai. They give very thorough statistics – so you can take a look at how many people are listening to your podcast episodes, and break down that information by source (how they access your podcast) and location (in the world.) However, you do pay for these extras. While they’re not exorbitant, prices, they are certainly higher than SoundCloud.
SoundCloud’s basic package is free and great for starting out – but if you’re doing weekly episodes, you’ll almost definitely need to upgrade to their first package. They do great deals if you pay annually upfront, and they also provide three different levels of service. We’re currently using it for “How The F*** Do You Play This F***ing Game” and have just upgraded our package to the first pro level.
Directories are where your fans-to-be will find your podcast. You can set up a fancy website, but unless they’re getting a lot of traffic already, you are most likely going to be relying on word of mouth/social media and your directory listings to get your audience through the headphone-door. The big ones are iTunes, and Stitcher (for those of us without iPhones!)
Along with your hosting package, you’ll be able to generate an RSS feed URL. Consider this your podcast’s home address, and consider directories like iTunes and Stitcher the Yellow Pages.
Once you’ve got your hosting package up and running, you’ll be able to find out your RSS feed URL – this is your podcast’s address. What you need to do next is get yourself on iTunes. To do that, go to: ‘Podcast iTunes connect’ – you will need an Apple ID to login, and will need to go through some steps to verify that you’re giving them the correct address for your podcast. I recommend setting up a separate email address for your podcast (I use gmail, but whatever floats your boat will do.) They have an excellent help area that you can explore should you get stuck.
Stitcher is a directory and app with huge reach for those who don’t use Apple phones. You can apply to partner with them (in other words, have your podcast listed on their app) over at their site, here: Stitcher Content Providers. It’s fairly simple and self explanatory.
I recommend scouring the web for other podcast directories and submitting your podcast. It’s not vital and it may feel futile, but I think it really helps.
The directories can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks to get back to you, but that shouldn’t stop you uploading more episodes in the mean time. Keep it going.
That’s pretty much everything you need to get started. I’ve included ways for you to create, edit, upload and list your podcast that are absolutely free, if that’s what you need to get started. If you don’t have a smartphone, you could even use your PC or Laptop’s internal mic. The important thing is that what you’re saying can be easily heard, is clear, and free from background noise and distractions.
I love podcasting – it has allowed me to meet a range of wonderful, supportive, and creative people. It’s a disruptive medium that allows marginalised voices to create spaces and platforms for themselves. Go create!
Let me know if you have any questions or need any help. My ears are open.
I will never complain about cold weather again. England is tropical relative to New York, and I have learnt that the hard way – taking my hands out of my gloves and leaving them vulnerable to vicious winds in Battery Park. All so I could snap pictures of Keith Haring sculptures.
We were in New York city for two weeks, and blew most of our money at bookshops – from The Strand to McNally Jackson and Three Lives & Company. I picked up two novels by Octavia Butler, some of Capote’s writings on the city paired with preciously unseen photographs of him, a collection of interviews with James Baldwin and some juicy Margaret Atwood – to start with. I am half way through Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, and it is equal parts inspiring and crushing.
For those of you wondering, I failed to read a book in time to catch up, but I am convinced I will meet my 2016 reading goals, one way or another. So yes, I am the absolute worst, but I am also going to blog in spite of it.
We put together our own tour to see Keith Haring’s art in New York, which took us from Harlem to the UWS and all the way down to the bottom-most tip of Manhattan. Unfortunately his most famous mural – Crack is Wack – is currently surrounded by highway ramps, construction and fencing. The internet lead us to believe there was a fanciful playground around it, but it was kinda dodgy to get to: in our case we jay-walked across what was not a safe road in any sense and poked our faces up against chickenwire to see it and snap a few pictures.
MoMa was incredible – massive Jean-Michel Basquiat chilling at the top of the escalator! Warhols hanging casually outside the caf! Starry Night all swirly and propped up against a wall like no big deal ! Mondrian all hey wassup I’m here making cubes! PICASSO, ALL THE PICASSO! Also really enjoyed the Whitney for its pollocks and others of the thick-splat era (yeah, that’s what I’m naming it). The Natural History Museum Planetarium was beyond awesome, and we had a great time at the New York Historical Society Museum & Library, where they have a great exhibition on charting comic book history in Gotham City.
We also managed to nab tickets to see a stage adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery with.. Bruce Willis (what?) and Laurie Metcalfe (yes,) and we got to see closing night of Colin Quinn’s one man show The New York Story. We watched Room (Brie, forever and ever please) at the Angelika film center, and we managed to see the Oscar nominated live action shorts, as well as program A of the documentary shorts at the IFC center. You are spoiled for choice when it comes to curated indie cinemas out there.
It snowed, the sun shined, we hated ourselves either for tipping too much or not knowing that we were tipping too little, and ate audacious amounts of food. Until next time, you expensive, cheap, loud, quiet, angry, ecstatic, glorious city.
Look, it’s only 6 days into 2016 and I’m already behind on my resolutions. So I am crossing them all out and resolving to do one thing this year – to go a little easy on myself. I’ve been feeling very trite and cliché over the past few weeks, but I do know that I am a real asshole to myself. I am working solely on sorting that out this year, as well as gently attempting the following:
– Read 52 books
– Get more shit published
– Develop my ghostwriting & copywriting for money biz (and expand!)
– Get my scripts turned into movieeeez and TeeVee
– Launch the epic solo podcasting project I’ve had in my mind forever
– Launch my joint pod IN AGONY with my friend Stephanie Laing
– BLOG for real this time
– Stay vegan
– Collaborate more with friends
– Apply to Clarion & Clarion West
– Be brave as fuck
Have I worked on each of these in the past six days? No. I’ve bagged and boarded a bunch of new comics (I need to stop touching my copy of Monstress), I watched all of Making a Murderer, and I’ve spoken to The Samaritans every few days to stop the darkness from devouring me.
I wrote TICK TOCK in huge scary letters on the header image of this post because I have one day left to read my first book of 2016 and not fall behind on my first resolution. I’m going to make it tiny and almost cheating (Chinua Achebe has some short-ish books, and I’m yet to follow up on Things Fall Apart), but if I don’t read a book tomorrow in its entirety, I will have failed 2016 already.
I’m also cheating on my blogging resolution by writing my first blog post of 2016 about how I’m failing to keep to my resolutions only 6 days in. It’s about as ironic as Alanis Morisette Morris dancing but I am trying, and trying is one step away from doing. There is no trying or doing, there is only The Force Awakens. OK. I’m out.
A lot has happened since I last updated – I’ve been to Edinburgh, Toronto, Detroit & Disneyworld, I’ve been to bookshops around the world and have managed to write something that’s gone viral. It is, of course, something that I didn’t think would have any impact whatsoever, and something that I put relatively little time in to. That’s nice, isn’t it?
The post went up under two weeks ago on Facebook and is currently on about 6.7k shares, not including shares of the articles written about it. I’ve put the post up here in the essays section for posterity.
If you’re interested in reading troll-ridden comments sections, you can see some of the media coverage I received at the links below. You’ve been warned. There are some nice pull quotes though, eh? I’ll take badass comedian, thank you very much.
It’s all been very nice and exciting, and the most fun part has been hearing from real individual humans with interesting ideas, experiences and stories to tell me. So if you’re thinking about getting in touch but are fearful, don’t be – I don’t bite unless I am risen from the dead.
We made it! I’ve been making a podcast with the wonderful Sadaf Fahim about BOOKS. It’s all we ever talk about when we get together, she knows a lot of stuff, I have a lot of questions. It’s a match made in book reading heaven. You can subscribe on itunes here, and if you’re too lazy to boot that up, check out episode 1 below.
My trip up north was nothing like Cassady’s, but it was about as close as I’m gonna get. Three nights performing at The Stand comedy clubs – in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle, before performing at The Mauretania in Bristol for What The Frock Comedy. The Mauretania is a grand old building, with the original fittings from a ship of the same name from the early 1900s. So let’s just say I got to perform on The Titanic, but without all the water, misery and the string quartet.
There’s a lot of exciting business coming up – I’m doing a show at The Lewisham Fringe Festival on the 12th of November with one of my best chums, Stephanie Laing. It’s called Her & Her and our poster art is snazzy and jazzy.
Next week, the first episode of me new podcast launches. It’s about books. If you like books, or me, or the incredible brain of Sadaf Fahim, then you will like this podcast. Also if you don’t read books but want to be able to sound like you do read books, it could be full of insights. And if you want to read but don’t like audiobooks when you’re driving around in your car, you can fill that void with our podcast. Click to check out the Turtle Book Club Podcast website & twitter and feel free to ‘like’ our facebook page to help us climb the ranks.
This week I’m in Birmingham at The Glee Club, and next week I’ll be performing in the Quarter Finals of the Leicester Square New Comedian of the Year competition, as well as at G & B comedy and at the launch of the feminist magazine ‘Hysteria,’ at SOAS University. Click on my giglist to take a look at full details if ya want to come say hey to my face!
The big launch has arrived! I’m incredibly proud to have my writing alongside the work of the great writers involved in this new magazine. We launched today. Here’s the first piece I’ve written for them. Please peruse the wonderful articles they have up.