5 Ways to Survive a Trexit Winter

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It’s been a tough old year. As we face up to the double jeopardy of Trump and Brexit (Can we be punished twice for the same crime?) it’s hard to know how to comfort each other, to step up and do what’s right when we feel demoralised and silenced. How can we use the winter months to recover?

  1. Zone out the Noise.  Reading my social media feeds, I feel like a horse grazing in a field of rubble, stubbing my nose on shards of opinion, starved of real information or cheer. While it’s important to question untruths, we use a lot of energy consuming and reposting the same news or venting our (understandable) anger. Yes we have to grieve but then we have to get on – with the work. Take time out to recover, take stock, reflect. So we can hear our own voices again.
  2. Trust yourself.  After Brexit I felt I had got something very wrong, safe in my online bubble, sharing my values with my friends, unaware or dismissive that others felt differently. After the result I felt my voice didn’t matter, had no effect. Now I know it does but that I need to do more.
  3. Get Active. Donate, Promote, Engage. It’s relatively easy to sign an online petition, but more rewarding to volunteer time or support. Help Refugees are looking for help right now. We’re all busy but doing something yourself breaks the cycle of helplessness. Positive action is worth a thousand words.  And yet –

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  4. Keep writing. We need voices to articulate what is happening. To challenge the bluster of the far right. To expose simplistic arguments and reach people with stories that move and engage them. To give us comfort and hope, to reaffirm our true values.
  5. Support each other. Organise. Vote. Plan for a future without Trump, connected to Europe and the wider world, where prosperity for all, not fear, is what drives us. Set up an action group  like House of Cards writer @BeauWillimon if you don’t like what’s on offer. Protest in all ways, and don’t forget your greatest weapon- your heart and mind – your words and actions matter.

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Take heart. You’re not alone.  And don’t forget. There’s always chocolate…

 

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Seeing out the Old Year

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Why do we need New Year’s Eve? Or rather why do we have to party so hard that New Year’s Day is short, miasmic, a hungover non event?

It can feel overlong, that carefully organised party with too much booze that has to run til midnight. Not to play Scrooge but couldn’t we all just go to bed as usual and wake up refreshed and genuinely ready to welcome a New Year in?

Because before that we have to usher the Old Year out. We are celebrating our survival of the darkness.  In these moments we say goodbye to all that ails us, the deaths and illnesses, loneliness and departures. We forgive those that trespassed and our own petty and larger sins. We look for comfort in food and drink and each other, in one long night of the soul. For who knows how and who we will be next year and who will still survive and who be gone?

Celebrate being alive and loved and at home on a cold night.

Eat a little, drink a little and love a lot.  For tomorrow, we cleanse.

HAPPY 2015 – May you and your loved ones be healthy and hearty, and may the good things you want find you easily and keep you company throughout the year.

 

Emma x

WAITING…

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Forgive my silence. You see I’ve been working hard – and waiting – for news, an event, inspiration. How best to use this period? When it’s not quite Christmas but the world is running down and emails lie unanswered ’til New Year?

Here’s a small guide to winter living (with added Kate Bush vitamins…)

  • Rest, Recover, Repair. Like athletes at the end of the season, training doesn’t stop – it just takes another turn.  When your body gets sick on your one weekend off it’s telling you something – STAY ON THE BENCH! Eating right and resting up are an investment in your future well-being. Get well, listen to your body and take care of yourself.images-311
  • Try New Things. Yes, it’s cold outside and you don’t want to miss Strictly/The X Factor/ that online shopping delivery, but as the world of work winds down, you finally have a window in which to have some fun or at least set up some entertaining stuff for the holidays. Treat yourself!images-312
  •  Sleep. Yes we are all sleeping (or wanting to sleep) more now it’s dark and cold. Don’t fight it. This feeling we always have to be alert and at the top of our game, is a myth. Sometimes it’s good to just be quiet for a while and take comfort in family and friends.images-305
  • Don’t Dismiss the Silence. That script that refuses to find a shape on the page just needs a little more time to emerge. Don’t force it. Trust your mind to do the work – or let it play. Like a dog off the leash it will run further without you holding on tight trying to control it.
  • Believe in your capacity not just to survive the winter but to develop new shoots come Spring. Take time to relax and acknowledge what you already have. So don’t wait until Christmas to open your gifts…
  • Enjoy them now…images-316

 

 

Emma x

 

 

 

 

 

Walk Away from the Wi-Fi

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I can give it up any time I choose.

The Wi-Fi that is.  I just need to check this one email – OK, I confess, I am an internet junkie – but going offline for just a few hours a day has brought me to my senses. The search for free wi-fi can’t compete with a life that’s wi-fi free.

Four days at my sister’s in the Irish countryside was going to be a welcome internet detox.  I needed to decompress. Too many emails, social media updates and text messages were part of the problem.

Here’s what I discovered.

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To Disconnect is to Reconnect.

You cannot be fully present with the company you’re in if you’re online doing something else.  We all know this and yet like the smoker in the room we are tolerated as we drag on our devices.  We all pick up our phones the moment our dinner partner nips to the loo, in case we’ve missed something in the twenty minutes since we both sat down to eat.  Yet the company of family and friends is a real pleasure a thousand times more involving than its Facebook facsimile. Be in the room.

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Be Creative not Reactive

I have to be in my own head in order to write, I have to be present to myself and open to ideas that come from inside. I cannot do that if I am constantly taking in (useless) information off a screen. Ten out of eleven emails are not from real people  but junk, a flotsam and jetsam of PR, petitions and the dreaded Reply Alls.  After three days in the country with no e-spam clogging up my brain, I woke with a head full of ideas for my new script, eager to write them down. Of course I did that on my phone…

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Go Outside

Go for a walk somewhere green.  It relaxes you, creates mental space, and visual inspiration.  Borrow a dog if you can.  The act of walking is a form of meditation and I often work out story problems when away from my desk. Being outside takes you away from your workspace and creates room to think – but only if you turn off your phone …

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Walk Away from the Phone!

I was sleeping much better when I wasn’t online til midnight or checking my phone as soon as I woke up.  I started turning my phone off or leaving it in another room to avoid checking it.  When I did check, I hadn’t missed anything, and could deal with my small batch of emails more quickly.  I wasn’t constantly being interrupted by that inbox buzz that you answer only to find a lone email mosquito in wait.  The smartphone is a tool, not a tagging device so walk away while you still can.

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Enjoy Real Life

Drinking prosecco with my sister, playing pool with my nephew and niece, cuddling a dog or tickling a kitten are real and lovely pleasures.  Don’t downgrade your real life in favour of a virtual one.  Now I’m back in London, I still wake up and check my phone – back on the electronic hamster wheel – but I’ve resolved to jump off it more and explore my (real) world.

It’s great to feel ‘connected’ but we need to look at what that word really means – to reach out and touch.  Doesn’t that sound better than ‘going online’?

 

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BOYHOOD – Growing Up in Real Time

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Boyhood  is that most modern of movies. As self-actualisation in the Western world fast becomes our primary goal, Director Richard Linklater offers up a more innocent take on growing up. It’s real and wonderfully refreshing.

This boy is no internet-hooked, selfie taker.  His is a childhood of bikes and hiking, a lo-tech slice of real life.  A wide-eyed, silent observer of the world and his family, Mason is so quiet that it comes as a shock when he starts to articulate his own thoughts. When he does speak it is mainly to express his own uncertainty. This is no hip or cynical commentator, rather a boy lost in wonder at the beauty and sadness of the world.

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Much has been made of the innovative twelve year shooting period that follows the same young actor, Ellar Coltrane, from age six to eighteen as he grows up. Yet there are other points of difference that mark out this subtle, involving indie drama. Linklater is king of the anti-drama. There are no big events – no murders, no rapes and only a little violence. There are no good guys and no bad guys and – some would argue – not much story either.  The film moves us with a series of small but important moments in a family’s life. In the absence of the conventional dramatic climax in a scene, I found myself crying at unexpected moments, during a transitional scene, moved by reminders of my own family.

It is the most relatable of films – in that it takes the standard clichés of the coming of age movie – the ball game, the first love, the graduation, and presents them as fresh and uncontrived.  Many scenes were based on improvisation and the closeness of the on-screen family (headed up by the impressive Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) means they rub along in an utterly convincing and authentic way.

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This is a world you want to be part of. Linklater’s liberal value system eschews the obvious and embraces contradiction – the educated alcoholic, the decent army guy, the ‘flaky musician’ Dad who seeks out security. This is a loving portrait of America, land of the individual yet also home of the gun and the bible, and he embraces it all with a breadth of vision that takes your breath away.

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The scope of Boyhood’s epic time frame recalls older, Hollywood movies like Giant that tell the history of America through one extended clan. Yet Linklater’s natural, real time ‘fly on the wall’ approach also shares its DNA with the ground-breaking British documentary series Seven Up! which revisited the same children every seven years as they grew up and through adulthood.

Time in a movie is a construct. The idea that a movie unfolds over a two hour period and offers up a few moments in time is pure illusion. ‘Boyhood’ challenges this construct and offers up an alternative vision. It also makes you realise how phoney most on-screen attempts at ageing are. The shock and pleasure of seeing people age for real on camera contrasts with Hollywoods’ obsession with our actors (especially women) looking forever young. We all grow up – and we all age – and while countless films have celebrated the joys of coming of age, it is rare to see so many generations reflected in one story with such a light touch.

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There is great joy in ‘Boyhood’ and I was reminded many times of my own family while watching it. There is a sense of community we get when we watch a film that reflects our own experience. We should celebrate that.

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Work it like Wimbledon

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The Wimbledon men’s final always makes me cry. I’m sure I’m not the only one.  I am always inspired by the velocity of these athletes, their strength and application and by their powerful will to win. A career in film is a bit like being a tennis pro – years of hitting a ball against a wall for maybe one or two shots at success. So it pays to work like a Wimbledon Champion:

O – LOVE the work you do. Honour each day of training – practice your art whenever you can and relish the chance to write/direct/act on a regular basis. Honing your skills is never wasted and builds consistency – it keeps you match fit.

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15 – FIFTEEN reasons to give up are always knocking on your door. So choose to forget you lost the last game and play each moment fresh as it unfolds. My mum used to say ‘Quitters don’t win, and winners don’t quit.’  She was right, dammit.

30 – THIRTY other people want your job! and that’s just today. But so what? Use the competition to spur yourself on to your own best performance. Respect them, like them, but never forget your own determination to succeed.

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40 – FORTY years is a long time in show business, but Federer is a veteran at 32. Oh to be as gloriously at the top of my game, combining years of experience with such grace and energy! His temperament is superb whether in victory or defeat. Pacing yourself is vital. So is self-belief and knowledge.

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DEUCE – Is like starting again, another chance to get it right. I love the purity of this concept. Every point is fresh, unique, can play out in a totally different way. Yet you’re always just two points away from joy or disaster.

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ADVANTAGE – Is what you must act on – now is your chance to show them what you’re made of. You have visualised this moment a hundred times and now it’s here. All you have to do is – not f**ck it up…

GAME, SET AND CHAMPIONSHIP – Shoot for nothing less – because if you win – and reach your creative goal – then all that training, self-belief and fight pay off and you’re Golden.

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Make your own Cheerleader

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Everyone needs a cheerleader!

I’m sure many guys would agree with me though I don’t mean the all American cute’n’bendy girl kind.  I mean a friend who is always in your corner cheering you on in whatever mad enterprise you choose to take on next. They may be your partner, work colleague or friend.  I am lucky enough to have several close friends and a family who are tireless supporters of me and my hare-brained schemes.

So how do you find – and keep – your own personal cheerleader?

1)   Take chances. Fortune favours the brave. Risk taking creates its own energy and brings you unexpected allies and supporters.

2)   Admit you’re scared. Asking for moral support – as well as practical help – is the sign of a strong not a weak character.

3)   Offer help to others. Sounds obvious but supporting others is its own reward and builds friendships built on mutuality and shared interests.

4)   Join mentoring schemes and networking/support groups or create your own. Like attracts like and joining forces once a month to share successes and problems is immensely satisfying and fun.

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5)   Ask for advice and opinions. Read each other’s scripts and application forms. Involve others in your ideas, they can usually make them better!

6)   Be generous with your time. However busy you are, take a moment to listen and reply to a request for help. The favour will be repaid a hundred times.

7)   See friends not rivals. Create a community of artists just like you – they are absolutely your best support in a competitive world.

The best cheerleaders are smart, supportive, kind and often very unselfish. They’re also a little bit magic.

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I may not win the World Cup but I have the best cheerleaders a girl could wish for. Thank you. x