How, you ask? When you’re outside fretting about the fact that it’s mid-April and you’re wearing a t-shirt and watering your plants because you literally haven’t had any meaningful rain in months, and everything seems gravely out of whack.

But then you see them.

Sweet, juicy tomatoes and plump cucumbers on bushes that should have given up the ghost a month ago.

Don’t get me wrong. What we’re doing to the planet is terrifying. I fluctuate between fury and a feeling of utter impotence at the inaction of the world’s leadership. And my vote in the upcoming election will be based on which party/ies offer the most compelling platform on climate issues.

But… tomatoes! In mid-Autumn!

To be served tonight with bocconcini and basil (also still growing nicely, thank you, disturbing weather – the basil, silly, not the cheese) with some lovely aged balsamic and EVOO.

Small mercies, right?

OK. So, I’m bloody loving the process of unpacking my poor library, consigned to cardboard boxes for way too many months.

Then I reached my substantial collection of art books. “ Hail, old friends!” I cried. (My children frequently accuse me of channelling someone born in the fifteenth century). But as I was setting them free, I noticed something wrong.

“What on earth could that be,” you ask? “That looks like a danged fine line up of weighty tomes… what are you carrying on about, woman?”

Well, that’s just it.

Where are all the girls?

Sure, there’s a Marina Abramovic front and center. But where are all the rest of the sisterhood?

Like so many other things, the story of art we’ve been told is a story of men, written by men.

And it’s getting a bit old.

As is my way, I’m going to tell you a little story. And then I want to ask you a question.

The people and project involved shall remain anonymous to protect the innocent. And the not-so 😇!

So, I was chatting to a friend who works in film and tv the other day (no, to those of you who know him – not my husband). This person had previewed a show that’s yet to be released, but will be with great fanfare fairly soon. Anyway, this person was utterly brutal about what they’d seen.

Now, the Meaghan of old would have most likely joined in the acerbic putdown. But the funny thing is that since I’ve started making creative products that end up in the public domain, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to rip into others’ creative output.

The process of getting something made… a book, a tv series, a film, a song, a work of visual art, a play (the list goes on)… is such a phenomenally grueling experience. It’s the equivalent of undertaking an uphill marathon on a slope covered in treacle… blindfolded…in the rain…while pulling a barrow of bricks behind you. The hurdles along the way stop many, many more creative projects than ever actually end up being seen by an audience of any kind. So those that do see light of day have been through the wringer. The more I see of the coal face, the more I marvel that anything ever gets off the ground at all.

And so, my response is to applaud the makers and celebrate their achievement. Even if what they produce is flawed or imperfect, or just not my cup of tea. There are more than enough well qualified and disinterested critics out there to pass judgement on creative works. I just don’t think I have the stomach for it anymore.

What do you think?

Should I just harden up? Or should we all look out for each other?

Case in point… a close acquaintance is currently working on the production of a high-profile tv series. A scene was written in which one of the characters has a car accident. As written, the character has some facial bruising, and makes much of the physical injury to elicit sympathy. So, it wasn’t simply a case of window dressing. It really was a manifestation of character.

But here’s the thing – budget considerations meant the facial bruising has had to be written out. ‘Why the hell would something like that make any difference’, I hear you ask (or not… but there’s no stopping me now!)

Well, firstly, there’s the two hours or so with the makeup people having said bruises applied. And then there’s the continuity question. Scenes are rarely shot in sequence. Bruises fade. So if you’re shooting three scenes in the same location on the same shooting day, but those scenes are supposed to be weeks apart from each other when the finished show is cut together, our road trauma victim will have to have the bruise reapplied three times in the one day.

Not to mention, in the edit suite in post-production, editors and directors need the flexibility to chop and change scenes if certain sequences haven’t worked out as hoped. And that means that fading bruise-guy will lock them into certain sequences because you can’t have the bruise fading, getting darker, disappearing altogether, and then reappearing again.

Moral of the story – when you see something in a tv show or in a film that seems like a strange choice… eg: how on earth did that person walk out of that accident without any facial injuries… it’s usually the result of a very careful and considered decision on the part of the production team. And you should never take what you see on screen at face value.

So, amongst other attributes, I’d describe myself as moderately intelligent, a fierce advocate for women’s rights, a reader of fine literature, and a writer. So how is it that this steaming pile is my reading material of choice in the hair salon?

Believe me, there’s no shortage of high-brow reading material here. But my hairdresser knows me well enough that when I turn up for my appointment every two months or so, this is what she has waiting for me at my chair. Yes. @nwmag @whomagazine.

I’ve spent long enough working in the smoke and mirror-lined maze that is the entertainment industry to know that the ‘gossip’ published in these rags is publicist-generated fodder. Read it with gaze locked permanently in side-eye scepticism.

Sure, I can justify it to myself with the thought that I spend every other minute of the day wrestling with serious words. So, for me, this is the equivalent of brain candy 🧠 🍬 .

But, still. My dirty little secret.

😳

Should I be ashamed?

Blurbs.

Yes, you read correctly. Blurbs.

Might seem that the writing of the novel itself is the difficult bit. Nah. It’s the blurb. (And the acknowledgments pages – another story told on another post). How to package an entire story in a handful of digestible, enticing and intriguing sentences? Nightmare.

In the film and tv world, it’s called the ‘elevator pitch’ – summing up your project and making it sound irresistible in the time it takes for the elevator doors to open, presuming you find yourself in the lift with a powerhouse producer. In publishing, it’s about distinguishing your book in a very crowded marketplace. And when you’re so invested in your story and its characters… well, let’s just say it ain’t easy.

Let’s hope the vermouth helps the words flow. Yes, you read correctly. Vermouth. The latest recruit in my campaign to introduce vintage beverages to a new generation.

Pimms, anyone?