Connect-ability inability


I rely on my phone far too much. Even with my endeavours of recent months to develop more sustainable online/offline habits (meaning much less online), I’m still far too over dependent on the phone when I’m out and about and especially when I’m abroad.

In the past this has meant having to seek out free wifi spots to avoid bankruptcy from data roaming charges. And in the past this has meant lurking in cafes overdosing on espressos unless it’s one of those establishments where you can linger for hours with one empty cup.

But I haven’t been able to do that this week. My training regime since new year has gone so well that I don’t want to reintroduce undesirable habits by tapping on the phone every time I sit down. And besides, whenever I have had connection, I’ve been working seriously hard on the laptop having been recently prompted to get my online presence and online artwork properly and logically organized.

The result has been that I have been unable to communicate whilst on the move to any large extent with any form of social media for quite a few days.

I have a stack of photos on the phone I’ve been unable to upload to the blog, feed to Facebook or tweet to the world. It’s driving me mad.

And all because even if I’m prepared to risk roaming charges for the little time it takes, my 3G connection is so impossibly slow these days that I’m ready to chuck the phone in the nearest canal with frustration.

There was a golden era a few years ago when free wifi was literally freely available everywhere before everyone began coding or charging. I could jam my laptop in a corner anywhere and pick up all sorts of connection possibilities without even paying for a coffee. And in those days, 3G worked like a dream too.

Progress backwards. Addicted to a device I can hardly use at the moment.

So this morning I’m breaking my own rules about tapping in cafes. Up with the lark, out with the street cleaners, in search of early morning espresso AND wifi just to post this and explain my AWOL of this past week.

Normal service to be resumed next Monday.

Slow Progress


Christine Hohlbaum’s Power of Slow made a deep impression on me at the start of the year, and I have been trying to practice Slow ever since. It’s time for a progress report.

It’s not been easy, but I’m getting there. My main challenge was to increase the length of time I can sit in one place and read one item without checking on my phone or social media updates. I decided this had to happen in a structured way, so after all my other morning routines (morning pages, dog walk, breakfast, laundry, dishwasher, evening meal etc. etc) the next stop for the day is a favourite quiet (because as yet undiscovered by pushchair groups) local café to read in peace for an hour. Sometimes I leave my phone at home, but increasingly I have it with me and discipline myself to not take it out of my bag.

Once I have perfected this skill of absorbed reading, uninterrupted even by the mere thought of checking my phone, I will set myself a new challenge.

Slow progress on slow.

More Slow


It’s only been a few days since I began trying to embrace <a href="http://Slow“, but I see signs of improvement already. Just being more mindful of what I’m doing is making a big difference, but it helps too, I think, to be in January with spring on the horizon and beautiful frosty morning walks and runs.

The big challenge, as I noted yesterday, is to establish when and how much online time I have.

The “givens” for the morning of each day (and I have found this last year that if I get my mornings right the rest of the day flows nicely with no sense of wasted time and energy) are morning pages, dog walk, breakfast and household bits n’ bobs (such as dishwasher, washing, family meal and anti-procrastination calls, emails, etc.) Much of this routine has been encouraged by the whole Flylady lark.

After that, depending on work commitments, it’s either straight to the studio or go and read work related stuff in a nice cafe.

In the past, from this point on, I would be extremely susceptible to the beckoning mobile device. No opportunity would be missed to check mail, messages and tweets. Dealing legitimately with texts and phone calls would make it impossible to put the phone down without further updates. Any necessary Internet searches for art materials or information would segue into a quick scan and check up.

Even at the earlier stages of the day, I would not be immune. I might sensibly check my calendar and to do list and emails over breakfast, but I’d be unlikely then not to get distracted by links and other enticements.

Anyway. The rules I have made so far include a quick check of calendar and emails (only really to read Flylady for inspiration and encouragement) after morning pages or over breakfast. Then I do not look at the devices until morning coffee, strictly limited to 15 minutes. My main serious read comes after lunch when I need a break from work. That’s limited too, and I have even set a timer. This is, you understand, serious stuff. Then nothing again until dead time in the evening whilst making tea.

I am “allowed” to do quick checks in other dead time points of the day such as a car wash, waiting to pick up a child, or in a queue.

And if I need Internet or email access for work, I do it but only on strict condition I come straight back out of the device avoiding links and the call of the cyberspace siren.

I feel better already. I’ve certainly been more focussed on work. It’s helped that I’ve had an entertaining and delightful series of evenings out to concerts, films, a seminar and so on. So I’m feeling culturally fulfilled and feeling I’m making the most of what life is all about.

And I’m avoiding novels for the time being because my current inability to sit and concentrate on a novel I think will not be improved at this stage of fragile resistance.

Give it a few more days. We shall see.

Slow Allure


Over the last few days I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to the power of Slow. I was led to Christine Hohlbaum’s blog by another great blogger, Lisa Rivero whose Writing Life always has something of interest.

Basically, the power of slow is all about gaining time in life by behaving more mindfully, more in tune with how life should be, more calmly and more thoughtfully. Since I have been plagued for eighteen months now (ever since I properly discovered online life and social media in general) by ever less time to achieve what I want to achieve creatively, I had to get the book and read what Hohlbaum has to say.

I’ve not suddenly become aware of how technology distorts and upsets life. Long ago I gave up tv: particularly serials and soaps. Anything, in fact, which might make me not do something else. Even with catch up tv these days, you never get time to catch up.

And even before that, working as a lawyer in the City, I watched during the 1980s and early 1990s as telex was superseded by fax and fax was superseded by email and two or three travelling working drafts for a deal became innumerable word processed drafts before completion and the working day became 24 hours.

So it’s fair to say I’ve had strategies in place for two decades to limit the sinister and pervasive adverse influences of technology on my life, but nothing prepared me for the assault of social media.

For the whole of 2011, I was on a mission to try and manage a productive daily routine including social media communication and review of the vast amount of wonderfully informative and valuable material landing on my various devices from Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds and emails. Frankly, I failed.

I have found the digital creep insidiously worrying. It doesn’t help that I love blogging and I use digital media in my work. It is really hard for me to switch off and limit use. It is particularly hard because I don’t want to switch off and limit use. Life in many ways is richer and funnier and more enjoyable as a result of social media.

So of course it’s all a question of balance and determining what is reasonable time to spend flicking through, actively engaging and how often during the day I should open up the beckoning app.

Having decided that, the next challenge is to develop the new habit. Hohlbaum’s book has some great ideas on this, and I have made copious hard copy notes using a real pen. I felt it important to read the book with my full engaged attention: after all, the reason I have reached crisis point is that I am finding it ever more difficult to just sit and read books without looking at my phone every five seconds.

Enough is enough. And to tackle my professional digital dilemmas, I am running a blog project which consciously eschews digital safety nets and easy effect. Click on the #adailyselfreflection link if you would like too know more about this.

I will be reviewing progress in a few weeks. Watch this space.

Sorting Social Media? Think Again

Another article on how to survive social media as an artist. I grabbed it with glee, speed-read it, and heaved a sigh of resignation. I know all the theory. Oh, I’m so good on theory. Please let me read about everything I don’t know so I can avoid doing anything else.

First, the sensible advice. Schedule a limited time for dealing with twitter, Facebook et al. But no, no, no. It’s all or nothing with me. I can’t do limited. If I could do limited, I wouldn’t have a problem. I have addictive tendencies best dealt with by abstinence.

Establishing routines? I have tried and failed miserably for the whole of 2011. I don’t care to think about it. I am supposed to be up at six, tearing round the park, writing pages and the blogs before I have starting scrambling eggs. Time was supposed to be critical. But nothing in my life happens at the designated hour if it involves just me and no one else. I am as adept at blogging at the end of the day as I am at any other time. I am tapping this out as I wait for the sink to fill with hot water. This was not part of today’s plan. I got distracted by the promising Tweet leading me to the promising article  just as I planned to wash the dishes.

I am networked to the hilt. And I fear joining Google+. If it combines the ‘best’ of Twitter and Facebook, it will clearly end up being even less containable. And I’d still have to ‘do’ Fb and Twitter pending the whole world joining Google+.

I struggle on. One day I will resolve it all and happen upon the universal solution to my life and what a day that will be.

And if you are struggling, and have been living on Mars, and haven’t read any survival articles, you could look at Artonomy’s.

Early Memory

Early memories. Nothing more guaranteed to start a debate in our family groupings. For a start, there’s always someone who doesn’t believe someone else’s Earliest Memory. Disproving the recollection by whatever legal means possible prompts a big fight usually ending in tears. The earlier the memory, the more likely it is that it won’t be believed.

“Oh, someone told you that!” It’s true that suggestion is a powerful tool, and in many cases, a memory may well be an implanted account.

But when you are convinced of the integrity of your mind, that sort of response is as bad as telling someone they are lying. It means you aren’t believed, and there are few things in life worse than not being believed.

I know this to be true because I am one of those people with a very early memory. I was 21 months old. A year and three-quarters old, if that makes it sound more believable. I can even give it a precise date: 21st November 1961, although obviously at the time I had no real concept of time or dates. I was standing at the top of a staircase in the house we lived in wearing a pair of red tartan trousers. That detail is very important, because no one else can remember the clothes I was wearing the day my sister was born. So I cling on to that little piece of information with grim determination, because it’s my evidence, my proof, that I remembered this scene, and it wasn’t recounted to me.

I stood at the top of the stairs and called down to my father who must have just come through the front door home from work. I called down “I’ve got a baby sister”.  And that’s the memory. Nothing else.

But I’ve had to fight over the years to keep ownership of this fragmentary recollection. I don’t remember when I first recounted it to anyone else. But for as long as I can recall discussing it, I have been challenged about it. With a lawyer’s mind, I can adduce various elements such as the red tartan to support its authenticity. But the very nature of the account makes it an unlikely story to be ‘told’. It isn’t really a story at all. I stood on a top step and called out to my father that I had a baby sister.

When I saw The Daily Post’s suggestion for today, I didn’t feel terribly inspired. I felt rather bored by the idea of telling the world my earliest memory. But in view of the passion with which I have defended it, I think my reluctance stemmed from years of not being believed, and always ending up in defensive mode. Over 50 years on, I’m clearly still in defensive mode!

Yes Man? No, Man.



One of my least favourite actors is Jim Carrey. It’s a bit of an irrational dislike, as such dislikes often are, but the odd thing here is that I think he has made some remarkably good thought-provoking films under that veneer of goofy idiocy. One example is Yes Man, a story about a man who commits himself to saying ‘yes’ to everything for a year. I loved this film, because I thought the underlying concept was brilliant. We all miss out on some pretty amazing experiences in life through not saying yes enough, through not being spontaneous enough, and after seeing the film I have to admit to trying to say yes to stuff a bit more often, particularly to the types of things I would normally run a mile from.

Of course, it backfires from time to time. Saying yes to ten pin bowling hasn’t really enhanced my life (hate the sweaty hire shoes) and shopping expeditions for men’s clothes don’t get any more interesting over the years. Conversely, I enjoyed my visit to the health farm place a couple of months ago, and I’ve been to some excellent events on the spur of the moment over this last year.

But sometimes saying yes becomes too much. It’s one thing to say yes to new opportunities and experiences, but it’s quite another matter to say yes to silly humdrum administrative stuff without thinking. Even worse is saying yes to new work when really you are too busy to carry out existing obligations. Over the last year, I have been in the happy position of being asked to show/exhibit/participate in events far more than I have experienced rejection. Just as soon as I had honed my positive-response-to-rejection-skills, exciting opportunities began to pop up all over the place, and I answered yes to everything. I was excited, flattered, enthused and inspired in equal measure, and so far -just – the plates remain spinning.

After some thought, though, I realise what I need is to become ‘No’ Woman for a bit. Well, selectively of course. I could start with ‘no’ to absolutely every aspect of the house. Some might say I’m quite proficient at that already, but I would argue there’s always room for improvement here. I could do with saying ‘no’ to every evening function for a fortnight, and every daytime social meet. I could switch off all mobile devices for a period. I could pretend I was uncontactable and away on holiday in some remote jungle.

What would it be like? Would I dare I even try? It seems the ultimate anti-social act in the 21st century to cut oneself off from the outside world, but just occasionally, I find it an immensely appealing prospect.

Spinning on a Sixpence

Welcome to Chaos

Today I am not going to write about whether gardening is art; that delight is saved for a day next week. Instead I want to welcome all my new subscribers, and thank each and every visitor to this blog over the last 17 hours or so for taking the time to visit, ‘like’ and comment. I am hugely appreciative, and grateful to you all!

If I have learned nothing else these past five months with my daily blogging commitments, I have at least realised the importance of being able to spin on a sixpence (remember them?) and respond rapidly and intuitively to changes of circumstance and plan.

My Big Plan for May has been one of creative survival. With 54 drawings and accompanying text to make for a July book deadline, 16 large projection images to design for an amateur dramatics production for mid-June, and work in exhibitions in July and September, I have morphed and merged unattractively with my laptop and graphics tablet and been welded to my chair for weeks.

Add in to the chaotic mix exam fever with three children, and it’s not surprising the only cups we can find are buried under mounds of textbooks and paper, sporting a fetching film of green mould. Each mealtime (if anyone has had chance to buy food, never mind cook it) is preceded by a hunt for crockery only to find it is still dirty in the dishwasher because no one has had time to press the switch.

My long-suffering spouse suggested the other day I “give up the unimportant stuff”. I stopped gazing at pixels long enough to give the suggestion the time it deserved, and a millisecond later told him he had no idea. He said I needed to focus on the priorities, like the house.

“The house?” I squeaked. The only certainty for me was that the house was not, and has never been, the priority. He asked me how much time I spend blogging, tweeting, reading online. Not enough, I said, and regular readers will understand why. He persisted in doing a silly calculation which purported to show I spend at least 12 hours a week writing my blogs. I harrumphed with derision and went back to my screen, but it did set me thinking. I wondered what it would be like to just say to the world: That’s it, folks. I have other, more important things to do. How would I feel? And I realised that all this activity has given me a real voice for the first time ever, and it would be nonsensical to stop. A No Brainer, as they say.

And then yesterday I arrived home to find my inbox exploding with unread messages from WordPress. I realised instantly what must have happened, and needless to say spent the whole evening enjoyably reading all the comments my post had prompted. There are so many, I haven’t been able to reply in the way I would wish, but I am again properly engaged with the online world: so thank you all once more.

Social Media Loser

A Structure for Improvisation 2011 © Gillian Holding

A Structure for Improvisation 2011 © Gillian Holding

It’s official. I am a Twitter failure, a social media loser. On any view of things, coming across the name ‘Ryan Giggs’ through the voice of a BBC Radio 4 news announcer is not really indicative of social media success. I can offer a heap of excuses, but honesty compels me to admit that I am currently doing the equivalent of shouting out to no-one in particular in cyberspace and not doing a terribly good job of listening. When the anonymous-footballer-scandal story first hit, I intermittently had a peek at Twitter to see if the ‘What’s Trending Now’ threads shed any light on the matter, but nothing was trending about Mr Giggs at those particular moments in time. I wasn’t interested enough to try searching properly; I was just a bit intrigued about the nonsense of the whole thing.

Ryan Giggs’ shenanigans are one thing. But I seem to be missing other far more important items, and that is rather more worrying. I caught an item of the radio this morning about structured reality shows, which are the buzz topic within social media these days.  Given my post yesterday on Beatrice Gibson’s work, it naturally grabbed my attention, and was certainly a worthwhile insight into the concept of ‘reality’ albeit this time in the context of media entertainment; particularly digital tv.  I can’t deny that I was slightly cross with myself that I hadn’t heard of any of the more recent programmes discussed. Despite all my online exchanges, I am truly living in some sort of unbelievable black-out zone which is more than a bit embarrassing.

The Only Way Is Essex is, it seems, a Bafta award-winning ‘reality’ show in which the characters are ‘real’, playing themselves with all their own emotions, but set up in a structure within which they speak their unscripted lines.  Some people have complained that it misrepresents Essex, but I suppose that begs the question “what is Essex?” and who on earth dares to try and answer that? In fact, it all leads back into the whole loop of what is real, and what is not, and life just gets more and more complicated.

Structured reality; manipulated reality: however it’s viewed, it seems it has huge entertainment value and has grabbed the attention of a lot of people out there. I find the whole concept intriguing from the creativity aspect. Structure as a platform for creativity has a long history. At the Pavilion event earlier this week, another work Beatrice Gibson discussed was her new venture with Will Holder, based on The Tiger’s Eye, a text-based music score written by Cornelius Cardew in the 1960s. Cardew wanted the musicians performing the work to take on a co-authorship role through their improvised performance responses to the score.  But in the 24 hour world of entertainment demanded by the public of the 21st century, I suppose that it is the way shows such as The Only Way Is Essex have been able to take advantage of the real-time immediacy possibilities of social media which makes them so compelling.

What next?

Your Images, Facebook, Your Rights….

Well, you can take the girl out of the law, but you can’t take the law out of the girl. Or woman. Or whatever. And my slumbering legal antennae have twitched recently on hearing comments to the effect that when you post your photos on Facebook, you “lose all your rights” to them to Facebook. This alleged surrender of rights was suggested to be buried in the small print of the terms and conditions.

I’m sure most kids using Facebook to post pics of their social lives aren’t bothered either way about this, but with so many artists now using Facebook as a showcase for work, I decided I needed to take a closer look. I found it hard to believe I had unwittingly in some way signed away all my rights in connection with my own work. So I asked leading international intellectual property law specialists and IP law firm of the year Kempner & Partners what they thought. Here’s what they said:

“Facebook’s written policy, expressed in its terms, seems quite clear: users retain ownership of all the content they post and simply grant Facebook a licence to use it. The licence ends when you delete the content or your account, unless your content has been shared with others and they have not deleted it.

But what about when someone takes the content off of Facebook? According to Facebook’s terms:

“When you publish content or information using the “everyone” setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information…”

That’s pretty loose language. It suggests that you grant a licence to everyone in the world to reuse anything you have posted! In reality, we doubt it has that much effect; in our view, the term is unlikely to be interpreted as allowing what would otherwise be an infringement of copyright. The term probably prevents you from taking action against Facebook if a third party infringes your copyright, but we very much doubt that the third party itself could rely on the term as a defence (not least because Facebook’s terms expressly do not confer any third party rights).

In conclusion, then, our view is that you probably will be able to prevent someone from copying elsewhere work you have posted on Facebook.

I’m happy.

Coincidentally this morning as I was sitting to write further on this, I heard the announcement of the Hargreaves report on copyright law, which  it seems has made recommendations about how people can best enforce copyright to their own work online and protect their ideas. I haven’t looked at that report, but no doubt there will be plenty moe on this topic in the months to come.

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