Tuesday, 31 July 2012

How to take charge of a butterfly brain

No, NOT a brain belonging to a butterfly.

(I just had to check if butterfies even have brains. They do. "The centre of a butterfly's nervous system is the suboesophageal ganglion and is located in the insect's thorax, not its head." I know some people like that.)

The above quickly executed Google search is an example of MY butterfly brain. I'm doing one thing and a question comes into my mind at a tangent and I have to deal with that before I can carry on with the first thing...

by Patricia Katchur
...but sometimes that question leads to another question and...and...

It's good to be curious about everything, I think. I'm constantly fascinated, always learning. I'd be worried my brain would atrophy if I wasn't like that.

The down side is that sometimes it's hard to focus. Sometimes I NEED to focus, particularly when I have a number of clients all wanting me to use my brain for them at the same time.

I need to train those butterflies.

from She Walks Softly
Not easy to do without squashing them or breaking their wings.

Here's one thing I do: Listen to baroque music.A favourite is Albinoni's Oboe Concerto No 2 in D Minor

Honestly, it works. I found out that it worked by accident before I found out that baroque music's effect on the brain has been the subject of academic research.

Here's a link to a paper from Stanford University: Music moves brain to pay attention, organise events

"...music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating the event in memory."

Now, what was I meant to be doing?

Monday, 30 July 2012

Two things not to buy your wife for a wedding anniversary present


Excuse ME! I SERIOUSLY object to that image above of a couple who have been married for thirty-five years. This is what WE look like...although in this picture Peter's head is deceptively small and I now have pink and blue streaks in my hair (on purpose). Yes, and  me specially dressed for the photo opportunity in filthy jodphurs and T-shirt.

Presents not to buy for your loved one (if she's me)

One time, years and years ago a friend's husband had a star named after her. How romantic! How lovely! How adorable!

The coal scuttle I got from Peter was really a very NICE coal scuttle.

Today - a bizarre coincidence. Someone, the other day, was asking my advice, as a woman, about his marital problems. He said, and I quote, 'I even bought her a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey

I told him that I would be furious if my husband bought me a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, rather in the same way as I would be if he bought me naughty underwear. (Perhaps that's why I get coal scuttles? I have only myself to blame.)

SO - imagine my delight when I opened my present this morning!


(Peter, in fact, bought it as a joke and because he thought I should actually read something that I spent a lot of time trashing forcefully every time it was mentioned! Fair comment.)

And Peter buys me lovely presents.

But the best present of all is him.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Top tip from Charles Lindbergh: “It is the greatest shot of adrenaline to be doing what you have wanted to do so badly. You almost feel like you could fly without the plane.”

Almost but not quite.

Yesterday was A Long Day - out of bed at 5.45 a.m. back in bed at 12.45 a.m. this morning - oh, and I did quite a bit in between...

The thing was, it was such good fun and I'm now blessed with a perfect team of people to coach for the next few months. THAT'S why I managed to stay alert all day!

I can't promise the same today, in fact I might find myself starting sentences and...

by Korin Rochelle
 falling to sleep before I can fin...

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Saturday, 28 July 2012

The minimalist guide to being a good coach

Bright, shiny paintwork, plenty of seats, windows your passengers can see through and a driver who knows how to steer and stays awake.

Oh, THAT sort of coach...

It's not such a bad analogy, when all's said and done.

 Bright, shiny paintwork - a confident, empowering, inspirational exterior
Plenty of seats - compassion and comfort for all
Windows your passengers can see through - transparency 
A driver who knows how to steer and stays awake - guiding passengers on their journey,being present at all times

I think, however, I might model myself on...a cool dude coach.

Visualise yourself not dying and then be that reality
Starting today, Caroline's coachees beware...

and enjoy the ride!

Friday, 27 July 2012

The secrets of being in denial

“How 'bout a shot of truth in that denial cocktail.”

...says Jennifer Salaiz. (Blimey! I just discovered a new writing genre. Paranormal erotica. Note to self. Don't think too hard about this. Other note to self: If I created an entirely new writing genre that no-one had ever heard of, maybe one day I'd be famous and wealthy? Not to mention artistically bankrupt.)

Yes, I think I'm in denial. I now have only THIRTY SIX days to write an entire screenplay, not counting the first ten pages. The thirty six days that are much less than thirty six days, what with one thing and another.

I am seriously worried about myself because I'm not seriously worried. I'm just pootling along with my life thinking 'Yeah, yeah. Plenty of time. I can do it.'

Is this a good state to be in? I refer you to the Yerkes-Dodson Curve (Thank you, Libby, for alerting me to its existence.)

I am most certainly in the yellow phase. I am thinking I'll jump into the pink phase, completely missing out the blue one...

Ah, I detect a slight twinge of reality...

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The shocking truth about women: We are not inherently passive or peaceful. We’re not inherently anything but human.

Three cheers for Robin Morgan! (Just so you know, Robin is a she. Since the early 1960s she's been a key radical feminist member of the American Women's Movement...so, probably not a man then!)

(How's that for an image of a radical feminist that's utterly misogynistic?)

I'm not that much of a feminist. I'm not a good little stay-at-home wifey, either. I'm a human being who is passionate about equality FOR EVERYONE.

In fact, here is my soap-box:

 (Don't worry, I'm climbing down from it not climbing up)

My thoughts about all this came because I'm embarking on another seminar as coach - a Landmark Education Self-Expression And Leadership Programme. I was researching qualities of leadership on the internet, just to focus my mind ready for the training session last night.

Then I came across loads of stuff comparing men and women in the role, academic papers considering who makes the better leader.


I don't know...isn't it common sense? People who are good at leading make better leaders than people who aren't.

That's my self-evident truth for the day.

By the way...

 Can you tell?

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

How to use a new smartphone when you aren't smart

When I say 'new' I do, of course, mean Tim's cast-off phone, which is AT LEAST a few weeks old so he really HAD to upgrade. (Rather in the same way that my first skis were the splintered planks of wood that Peter no longer wanted because he had purchased some Super-Fast-Bendy-Skis-Made-Out-Of-Something-Unusual.)

I am now the proud owner of a slightly scuffed Sony Ericsson Xperia (other slightly scuffed smartphones available) - looking something like this (plus scuffs)

Don't ask me which model. (It's the slightly scuffed one) Oh, it's an X10 MiniPro.

The only trouble is...I can't seem to make it do anything. Where is the dial and the receiver so I can make a telephone call?

Unfortunately, I haven't got a manual of any description, let alone an effing one. So I can't offer any useful advice, as promised in the title.

I'd look online using my smartphone if I knew how to.

In the meantime...

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Warning: Hard work can be too much fun.

Another warning: My brain has possibly turned to jelly so read this post with a pinch of salt. Or something.

(That is to say, accept it but maintain a degree of scepticism about its truth.)

It may be the masochist in me but I loved yesterday. Impossible deadlines. Colleagues in meltdown. Me required to produce scintillating copy out of thin air.

I just have to mention that usually I buckle under this sort of pressure...

By Victor de Schwanberg
...but yesterday was SUCH GOOD FUN!

Question: Was it INHERENTLY so much good fun that I had no choice but to enjoy it a lot?


Was I actually on top of things (for a change) so that my brain managed to convert a potentially mind-blowing and stressful day into something enjoyable?

The jury's still out on that one.

My verdict?

The latter. 

Next question: What's the secret of being able to do that every day?

The answer? On a postcard, please, because I have absolutely no idea.

(Nice postcard. Shame I can't read the answer.)

Monday, 23 July 2012

5 little known things that could affect your screenwriting

Expert screenwriter Caroline Coxon's tried and tested ways concerning how not to write screenplays.

* Free gift: Bonus advice at the end of this blog, born of many years experience.

1. Spend time writing a blog about procrastination.

This is an excellent way of not writing screenplays because you feel as though you're doing something useful and you can kid yourself that it's just a preliminary writing exercise to get your brain into gear.

2. Write a To-Do List 

An absolutely foolproof way of not writing a screenplay, even if you put that task right at the top of the list, because it helps you to create previously unthought of reasons to explain why you can't get on with writing a screenplay.

3. Sharpen your pencils

This is a particularly useful way not to write screenplays if you have lots of pencils. You can pretend to yourself that you might try writing in longhand even though you always use FinalDraft on a computer. It makes you feel eco-friendly.

4. Check e-mails and Facebook page.

...but so very crucial when you're trying not to write a screenplay. There's always the chance that there might be a message from Steven Spielberg or Christopher Nolan about your last screenplay and then you won't have to bother writing another one..

5. Read through the very few pages of the screenplay that you have already written

This will definitely make you despair and vow never to attempt a feature length screenplay ever again.

Now...*As advertised above

Totally free advice from screenplay expert Caroline Coxon about how to conquer these issues:

JUST STOP IT ...and start writing your screenplay

(It didn't work for me! Why should you be any different?)

Sunday, 22 July 2012

On writing screenplays: There's nothing more important in making movies than the screenplay.

Okay, Richard Attenborough, I'll let you out now. You have just been conferred God-like status for saying that.

Well...let me look at my calendar. Hmmmmm. I have precisely 41 days to complete a screenplay of which I've only written ten pages. I know the ending. It's the 90-odd pages before that I'm unsure of.

Here's another quote about writing screenplays, this time from John Irving:

" I don't begin a novel or a screenplay until I know the ending. And I don't mean only that I have to know what happens. I mean that I have to hear the actual sentences. I have to know what atmosphere the words convey."

41 days...taking out the days when I'm working my socks off, the days when I have family staying, the days when I'm coaching on a Self-Expression and Leadership seminar up in London...

So, LESS than 41 days then.

This is what I am saying to myself: If it was a project for work, I wouldn't even blink. I'd be working crazy hours like I was for the last two weeks. SO, all I have to do is apply the same sort of pressure to myself over the screenplay deadline.


Yeah, right...
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Saturday, 21 July 2012

Working too hard - the fallout: We see things based on autopilot.

"...Our mind identifies something in a certain way, no matter what the eye sees. The eye tells you one thing and the brain tells you another." Thus said Jerry Andrus, a magician. I suppose his life's work is built on making use of that particular human default position.

Please don't tease me, Jerry. My brain simply can't cope today.

Poor little Brain Coxon has been concentrating, being ultra-efficient, hard-working and switched on for several long days now. Today was its chance for a little break.

It started winding down a little while before I was ready.

Imagine a gate with no fences...a bit like this:

Caroline Coxon, working on auto-pilot, without assistance from functional brain, began to open the gate to take the horse through...

Oh dear! Time to lie down in a darkened room, I fear.

Friday, 20 July 2012

On acknowledgement for hard work: Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy

Jacques Maritain (French Catholic Philosopher) and me could be best buddies. If only he weren't dead.

We both think gratitude is important.

I'm truly grateful for the work I do. I know how fortunate I am to be at home all day writing interesting and diverse pieces for some great clients. 

At the same time, I DO work very hard. 

Going back to yesterday, on meeting deadlines...

I actually finished the work I had to complete at half past three. I THOUGHT. Well, I DID finish it and sent it off, explaining I was catching a train to London at 5 o'clock. Hooray, I thought. I'll have time for a shower and something to eat before I go. Then the phone went... "Caroline, I know you're heading off at 5 but could you just...?"  

I worked on the train. I worked in Pret A Manger (other eating places available) while stuffing a sandwich down my face. I worked in the open-air theatre while waiting for A Midsummer's Night Dream to start. I worked in the interval, and when we got home at 12.30 a.m. I worked until 2.30 a.m. And got it done.

The thing is, I don't mind working so frantically hard for someone who appreciates it and takes time to tell me. I had an e-mail last night. Here is part of it (NOT repeated for the purposes of making me look good but to illustrate why I love what I do)

"Just wanted to say thanks – you have been absolutely bloody ace in your stoic and unstinting support throughout the course of this challenging project – I’m personally under a lot of pressure to deliver not only this tender, but three other important interim campaigns in store... 

I am grateful that your appreciation of the situation and dedication to turnaround has been so incredible. Without it, in the timelines we have been working towards, I would simply be dead in the water.

Big respect. "

This is a lesson in how to motivate co-workers. Bosses everywhere take note. (Not MINE - I'm lucky enough to work with three exceptionally switched on people who DO acknowledge hard work.)

Mind you, I'm a bit knackered today...

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Thursday, 19 July 2012

On deadlines - One of the great disadvantages of hurry is that it takes such a long time.

G.K. Chesterton looks as if most of his deadlines were concerned with how long it would take him to finish the next bottle of port. What a cheery looking gentleman!

I am NOT a cheery looking gentleman today... (Actually, I did manage to raise a laugh when I discovered I was sweating PINK DROPLETS after my riding lesson! Blame the new hair.)

I've got mountains to do and this evening I'm going to see my dear friend Libby in an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Coram's Fields in London. Come on, weather, be kind!

This morning, I decided that, rather than panic, which would make me ultra-inefficient, I'd be calm and GO FOR IT - do everything, cancel nothing and everything would be done. You CAN have it all.

So far so good...but ask me again when it's approaching 5 o'clock. See how serene I am THEN!

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