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Word Count 40: London Book Fair, the liberation of imperfection and binge watching Detectorists
Plus how using novel fonts can kickstart creativity, introduce yourself via Substack chat, and the Ambassador’s cat.
I didn’t get much writing done at all last week. I went to Brussels for the UK Innovation & Tech Show, where I was on a panel about women in tech. I’ve done a lot of these sorts of panel discussions and this was one of the best, not least because it mostly focused on what people can actually do to attract and retain women in tech roles.
However, whilst I was there I developed a pretty nasty cold, so I spent the end of last week in bed, either watching TV or asleep. My brain has been far too fuzzy to do any work on the script, but that’s just how it rolls sometimes.
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Event: London Book Fair
The London Book Fair will be held at Olympia London from 18-20 April. Although LBF used to be purely an industry event, it’s opened up more to authors over the last decade and now has Writer’s Block, which is a section focused on author services, a Writer’s Summit on 19 April at Chelsea Old Town Hall, and the Author HQ. Ticket prices are £64 for a three day pass, and the Writer’s Summit is £199 for the day.
Stop, look, listen: London Writers’ Salon #048 – Oliver Burkeman
This episode of the London Writers’ Salon podcast was so good I think I’m going to have to listen to it a second time. Matthew Trinetti and Parul Bavishi talk to Oliver Burkeman, the author of Four Thousand Weeks, a book that looks at the limitations of human life – we have on average just 4,000 weeks of it – and asks how can we stop trying to cram everything in and make the weeks we have left count?
There was too much interesting stuff in this episode to list it all, but here’s one thing that stuck with me: If you’re prone to perfectionism, you need to recognise that you’ve already failed. We all say that perfectionism is not something to aspire to, that it’s damaging and to be avoided, but we say it with our fingers crossed behind our back.
Burkeman points out that perfectionism is “fundamentally opposed to reality” because there’s no way to actually produce anything perfect. All things that exist in reality are imperfect, so accepting that you’ve already failed to be perfect liberates you to do the work you want to do.
I’ve been so poorly recently that I have spent a lot of time just watching TV, specifically, I binge-watched all three seasons of Detectorists, the delightfully bucolic comedy that was written, directed by and starred Mackenzie Crook. It’s a fascinating series to watch as a screenwriter, not least because it’s so rare to see a TV show where almost nothing happens.
The joy of it is in watching the relationships unfurl slowly in front of you, like billowing sails that very slowly sweep the story forwards. That, and the fact that you know more than the characters do about the treasure they are searching for, and you’re just willing them to find it.
But it also struck me that Detectorists is painfully accurate metaphor for writing. Andy (Crook) and his best friend Lance (Toby Jones), spend vast amounts of time walking the fields, hoping to discover a hoard of golden jewellery and coins that will change their lives. And, well, aren’t we all? We’re all hoping that this book will be the one that makes our fortune. And we’re not helped by the fact that sometimes, people do make amazing finds.
WAIW?: How novel fonts can make you more creative
Our brains crave novelty, and sometimes all that’s needed is a tiny change, like writing in a different font, to kickstart our writing. Indeed, commenter Sunday tried out this seemingly daft tactic and said that it “worked like a charm”!
New: Substack chat
I’ve enabled Substack’s chat functionality, which they’ve recently made available on their web interface as well as on their mobile apps. So if you want to say hello, you can reply to my inaugural thread and introduce yourself. Please do come and tell me a bit about yourself. It’d be great to get to know you.
Obligatory cat picture
This rather angry fellow was seen at the Residence of the Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Brussels, which I went to for a reception for the UK Innovation & Tech Show. As you might expect, the Residence is appointed beautifully, with panelling in the library that was originally made in around 1772 for the French Embassy in Vienna and installed by the previous owner, Baroness Becker-Remy.
I can, however, find no notes on whose cat modelled for this statue, nor why it was so spicy. I assume someone had just tried to give it a pill.
That’s it for this week. We are coming up to nearly 190 subscribers now, so please do mash that ‘Share’ button below or reshare this tweet. I’d love to reach that lovely round number of 200 before next week’s newsletter! Remember, in this era of diminishing social media audiences, your shares and support are more important than ever.
All the best,