Retiring this site – January 2018

This is just a note to say that this site is now retired. I’ll leave it online for reference purposes, but it’s all over bar the singing. For more from me over the coming weeks and months, come and visit my newish site, simonjcross.com which will become home to more content as things move ahead.

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How to boost your creativity

From time to time we all run out of creative steam, and artistic inspiration. Sometimes its a creative block, some times its just weariness.

So when that happens, how do you boost your creativity? Here are nine sure fire ways to do it.

1) Do something you’ve never done before.

If you’re a writer, paint something. If you’re a painter, sing something. If you’re a singer, stitch something. If you’re a stitcher… you get the idea. By doing something out of your usual routine, you open up new neural pathways, and literally expand your mind.

2) Go skateboarding.

I’m not a good skater, but I found that when I had a creative block, getting on a skateboard, or a bike come to that, and just tearing around for a few minutes, was really helpful in clearing my mind. If you’re not a natural skater – or can’t ride a bike, try getting out in the garden and enthusiastically digging for a bit, or do some press ups – anything which will absorb your mind on a physical challenge type task.

3) Take in some high quality creative nourishment.

Go and see an exhibition, go to a gig, read a really good book, watch a film, play a game, let yourself be inspired by other people’s good work, and learn from them. Steal ideas, change them, play with them, make them become your own.

4) Be really poor.

A sure fire way to become creative is to need it, badly. The more you have to be creative, the more you will make yourself become so. Witness the way people make musical instruments from junk because they can’t afford to buy them, the way writers pour out prose because they will starve if they don’t. Look at how people in very poor countries can recycle and reuse almost anything.

5) Be really rich.

The flip side to being poor, is that you are preoccupied with the stuff of life, how to make ends meet, how to feed the kids. In some ways, artistic creativity is the preserve of the idle rich, who can afford to faff about with paints and pencils because they already know food will be on the table tonight.

6) Sit down and shut up.

Taking time out helps the mind replenish its creative juices, and the act of not thinking about a problem or a project can let new inspiration and new solutions flow to the surface.

7) Go out and have a chat.

Bounce ideas off others, listen to their thoughts, explain your problems, and hear how they deal with theirs. Few ideas get worse through being exposed to the thoughts of other creative people, and sometimes they get an awful lot better.

8) Practice, practice, practice.

If you want to be good at anything, you need to keep doing it. The more you do it, the better you will be – so just keep practicing. The same is true of creative thinking, as it is of playing the piano – you need to exercise the creative muscles in your brain, build them up, and to do that you need to ‘be being’ (present continuous) creative.

9) Drink green tea.

No particular reason – but it seems to work for me.

Answer 2 questions, and help me write 1 book

I’ve a plan – and I need your help with it.

For a while I’ve been talking about writing a book about Christian meditation, in fact I’ve already written some of it, and sent stuff off for publishers to have a look at.

But although lots of you have been interested in the idea of the book, which really comes out of some of the meditation workshops I’ve been doing over the last couple of years, and stuff prior to that too I suppose, I haven’t managed to convince any publishers to take a punt on it. I guess it is a bit of a niche publication.

So, given that I still want to produce the book, I’d like to enlist your help.

I have two potential routes to follow – 1) Publish it as an ebook – or series of mini ebooks. 2) Self publish as a ‘real book’ through crowd sourced funding.

Question 1)  Would you prefer to buy an ebook, or an ‘actual’ book?

Question 2)  If you would prefer an ‘actual’ book, would you be willing to buy your copy(ies) in advance?

Oh – you want to know more about the book? Ok – here’s a basic synopsis:

Deeper Still (working title) provides a much needed guide to a range of meditation practises found within the Christian traditions, and explains how to use different meditation techniques.

The book unpacks some of the background philosophy to these ‘types’ of meditation, and provides scripts and ideas for guided meditations, and inspiration for those who prefer something less formal.

It is a great companion for anyone interested in exploring Christian meditation, or deepening their current practise. It is based upon the idea that one size doesn’t fit all, but one size fits you.

So, if  your still interested, and your answer to question 2 is ‘yes’  I think I’d be up for attempting to get crowd funding for a publication. It would work thus: I work out the cost of producing the book, and when enough people have committed to advance purchase or donation towards the project, we get it printed up.

Either way, whether we go for a ‘real book’ or an ebook,  the fun thing about this project for me, is that I can see potential for others to have input into the creation of it – in terms of helping shape the content a bit (tell me what you want chapters on, etc etc), helping with the editing process, creating/choosing the cover image, choosing the title and so on.

The crowd sourced funding thing has worked well for numerous well known musicians, who have released albums by raising the funds in the same way. There are lots of crowd funding sites which allow you to do this with relevant security in place.

So, please let others know if you think they’d be interested, and hit me up with comments, FB comments, tweets, DM’s, email, or whatever suits you – to let me know your opinion.

And yes, thanks for asking – my other book is still available in paper and electronic format, from places like Amazon and Eden, you can read a little bit more about it here .

Turn! Turn! Turn!

The Byrds had it right, for everything there is a season.

They were right about the turning thing too.

Of course they nicked the idea from Ecclesiastes – fair play to them. Most days I’d rather listen to them sing about it, than read the book itself (shameful I know).

But there are certainly seasons in life, I’m in one right now, a season of work and busy-ness, as well as the seemingly perpetual angst over where we are going to live next – we’re getting turfed out of our new house by the landlords (Church of England) who want to install somebody else (clergyman). No the irony is not lost on me.

Anyway, for those who aren’t aware, I started working for a website called Christian.co.uk in January, I’m the news editor, although right now I’m doing more feature writing than anything else – here’s one you might enjoy if you like musical whimsy, and here’s another if you’re interested in trends in Christian spirituality.

So, what with mounting work commitments, I suppose naturally enough I fell in to a kind blogging sabbatical, particularly as the dreaded facebook (so long resisted, with such futile results) now seems to fulfil the need for short inane posts about life. However, I’ve really missed blogging – and I now have a plan to return to this blog, with regular posts on subjects which generally get no traction on short form places like Facebook.

Starting this week then, you can once again expect missives from my slightly cluttered, but nonetheless interesting, desk in the spacious study of a soon to be vacated Grimsby parsonage. What would encourage me is if you can comment, share interesting articles and so on. I appreciate I probably don’t do the same for you, but hey – I’m one dimensional.

I’m not dead – yet

For those who have noticed, I haven’t been blogging much recently.

The reasons for that are manifold, I had slowed my blogging down in the latter part of 2011 anyway. But then as the new year dawned, two new work contracts swung into place, (it’s never one thing at a time is it?) and my work life rhythms changed.

While the new work is welcome, and is to a great degree just what we needed, it has also seen me end up with a degree of existential angst, as it changes the whole structure of my day, and therefore my general way of viewing life.

That’s not to say change is necessarily bad, in fact I tend to welcome it. But change is also difficult to manage, and requires new neural pathways to develop, my brain is already well trodden.

One of the new contracts I have, which will be revealed eventually – honest – requires me to write every day, and this too has sapped the need to keep a blog as an outlet for writing.

But there are things I cant write about anywhere else, and for that reason, if that alone, I will be back blogging sometime soon, just so long as my neural pathways can cope with the new right to roam policy.

So yeah, in case you were wondering, I’m not dead.

Totally Devoted review in ‘a pinch of salt’

Reviews of my book ‘Totally Devoted’ have been a bit slow in coming in, so if you want to make me happy please write a review on your blog, facebook account, or on one of the many websites which sell the book – I’d prefer you to leave a good review, but an honest one will do 🙂

Anyway, I was very pleased to open my copy of the Anarchist magazine ‘a pinch of salt‘ – which I commend to all and any – to read Keith Hebden’s review of the book.

I wont republish it all here, but Keith has been very kind in his comments, saying:

…Cross has an often chatty style of writing that works for an internet genre-ation and is fond of extended quotes, often of several pages. Publishers don’t always like these so it’s great to see both used to good effect. The regular change of voice and pace makes the book very readable. This is also a great book for charismatic evangelicals disillusioned with institutional church but still wanting to journey on in their spirituality and in company.

Totally Devoted acts as an introduction, opportunity for reflection, and – most practically – a brochure of new monastic and religious movements in Britain…. If this book does what it could then we’ll need a second edition for all the ‘new’ New Monasticisms that subsequently appear.

Keith’s comments about my style of writing reflect the fact that I am in essence a tabloid hack – and when it came to being taught to write, it was drummed into me long and hard… ‘make it easy enough for a Sun reader, and not off putting to a Telegraph reader, and most importantly, get every cough and spit down boy, every cough and spit.’

Anyway, if you write reviews for a print or online publication (blogs included) and you want a review copy – let me know. And if you are somebody who likes the book – then please do tell other people, and leave a review somewhere.

Books books books

Although Totally Devoted has now hit the streets – it seems that a few people have had trouble with their Amazon orders – this seems to have been caused either by Amazon not registering the book properly on their system, or else its because they didnt order enough, and they have sold out already. I’d like to believe it is the latter, but its probably the former.

I’m now gagging to write another book, have been for ages, there’s a few ideas which I’ve put out there which I think would make great books. Trouble is I’m now waiting for the publishers to gauge reaction to this one – if the general consensus is that it’s flipping hopeless, then I’m not likely to get another contract, if on the other hand it wins a nobel prize, I probably shall write again.

Anyhow, I’ll let you know how and if things move along… in the meantime I hope those of you with unfulfilled Amazon orders don’t have to wait too long!