May 24, 2021

5: Ideas about ideas!


Due to recent events we’ve had to swap our episodes around a bit. So this week we’re using our experience as advertising creatives to discuss creativity and where ideas come from. Then we take a long hard look into the future and begrudgingly welcome the unstoppable rise of our, soon to become, robot overlords

Useful links
TED talk on creativity - https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_harford_a_powerful_way_to_unleash_your_natural_creativity

The Creative Penn Podcast. (12th Feb) episode https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2021/02/12/the-artist-in-the-machine/
'Sunspring' short Sci-fi film: https://youtu.be/LY7x2Ihqjmc

Write your own story/get AI to write one for you here
shortlyAI.com

Music by Dano Songs
Transcript

hello everybody it's ours again hello once again with feeling john like you want to be here like the people listening want to be here come on let's just let's live in that world of make-believe as if somebody's where they want to be hello everyone oh wow nice to see you all i was doing it like it was sounded a bit like a kids show that didn't it more like the headmaster at school do you remember when or headmaster or headmistress when you're at primary school and you go good morning good morning such good morning everyone once again lifeless good morning and then they put some hymns on the overhead projector that's it and off we go you'd have a good old sing song mr nichols gets his guitar out plays his chord of course the most hilarious thing that could possibly happen in assembly was when someone put the words on the overhead projector the wrong way oh deary me oh the fun we used to have ayako my lord what does that mean backwards that's good quality analog fun right there you don't get the kids won't get that these days it'll just be the they don't understand the digital white screen just won't turn on that's it yeah harmless unless the teacher's accidentally been watching inappropriate material and that pops on i guess that would be yeah on the overhead projector yeah our holographic teacher was out of phase this morning mummy

anyway this week we were we promised everyone and we do keep our promises yeah that we'd have a chat about um creativity and where ideas come from and that kind of yeah yes yeah we did actually set that up in the last list and we should know about that really having what we're working on we should know what we've done in the previous podcast we were there you should also know about creativity and come up with ideas because that was our job for a long time supposed to be something wrong with jobs for many years well right then let's talk about creativity and writing it's kind of what the podcast's supposed to be about isn't it yeah i think i mentioned previously i'd done given some training about creativity to a few different like media organizations and what have you instead yes and um one of the bits i loved in it was um so you'd have these people around the table and be a mix of how creative they were depending you know what jobs they worked in some were actual creatives others were sort of sales people and what have you um and i always loved asking the question of getting them to write on a piece of paper at the start of the i was a bit like a bit like darren brown germaine doing the magic in an envelope yeah and then get them to write down on a piece of paper where they have their best ideas where do ideas come together what are they doing when they do it and then um later on about halfway through i'd say right i bet you've all well dave and john write on a piece of imaginary paper okay where you have your best ideas okay see whether you're typical or not literally our location yes your literal location okay okay you want like i don't need coordinates or anything like no gps stuff just just generally three random words general thing and then i go around the group and say right anyone that didn't write in the bath in the shower walking the dog driving to work put your hand up and there'd be often no one that would put their hand up yeah because those are those were the top ones yeah what were yours too i was going to say um in in bed in the morning or on the toilet right of course you were i was going to say walking the dog but um our dog's dead which probably explains why i haven't stopped walking yeah i know i've just been because that's going to be disturbing you're just dragging around that'd be weird you've got to let it go man that's true that's true say goodbye i suppose you have any problems having to pick the poop after yourself no just just one one big bag just imagine some kid coming up to you can i stroke him i would best you don't yeah does he bite i'm imagining taxidermied with those like funny with the wheels

come on teddy but yeah so that's where people have their ideas and the the then i go on to talk about how it's the subconscious and conscious working together most of the subconscious doing all the heavy lifting and when you're in that kind of zone that kind of relaxed you're allowing the connection between conscious and subconscious because a lot of the time when you're in your normal life it's your conscious brain that's doing all the work yeah but your subconscious brain is massive it's like this absolute monster of a computer yeah big spongy thing in the back of your head and it's that thing you know when you drive somewhere and you think oh however not crashed because the last 20 minutes i've been completely unaware of driving yeah yeah and that's that's your massive subconscious brain doing doing its job yeah and your conscious brain is just this bit of the front that just kind of looks after your little daily taste yeah i often think when you can get those two to to kind of flow together and get in the zone that's what people talk about being in the zone yeah yeah that's when you get your ideas and for people that aren't training themselves to be creative so when we used to do it we used to do it in an office with all kinds of stuff going on around us and what have you yeah and being able to put yourself in that zone is a real skill i think probably yeah um despite what's going on around rather than having to wait for this natural organic time yeah which is when you're switching off in the bath or when you're having a poo john yeah i mean obviously that's yeah it's interesting isn't it because i think that's i think that's very true it's interesting how sometimes to not have a deadline not have any pressure on you you can you know make those creative associations but sometimes if you've got like an extreme deadline it's like that can be quite powerful as well yeah i can't like somewhere in the middle is not that useful but if you have a deadline you've got to come up with an idea right now that that sometimes works quite well i think i think that works because it can help you take your sort of filter off because there's your own brain your brain is very good at like stopping your own ideas you get halfway through having an idea and you tell yourself no that's not very good rather than like allowing yourself to explore it and that's true that that's your conscious brain again coming in with your conscious brains like the policeman yeah yeah i'll tell you how ridiculous your subconscious is being that's ridiculous that sort of uh deadline just like doesn't give you the time to to worry too much about whether your idea is any good you've just got to get the first idea yeah you don't sense it yeah in the same way i was thinking particularly tommy of the uh the time we had to write some pfds are you going to say that that was such a fun day someone walked into the room said so uh we've got the meeting in half an hour i think i looked up and went oh yeah oh yeah the meeting what the um from memory you played very very cool dfds oh yes the dfds meeting yes and uh we had to write uh tommy and i wrote some a lot of scripts we wrote loads of script we wrote like three campaigns creative lady dot protest too much wasn't it we kind of really really laid it on thick and we've had this other idea and another idea the worst thing was do you remember the client the guy he's such a nice guy and at the end he almost like took us to one side and said can i just say thank you so much for all the work you've put

it was like you guys you two should be on tv that was amazing i'm thinking yeah you think that because we've realized that we've cobbled together these ideas that if we put everything we've got into the performance of them and the presentation of them we might get away with it you know i don't know if the common factor in this might be john because we had a very similar experience do you remember i doubt that do you remember the um i think it was called smart risk or something like that it was this canadian group oh no i don't remember you don't because you you had no recollection of it at any point you didn't do anything john dave did all the work last minute because you forgot i was there encouraging people yes take risks but make sure you're only taking smart risks and all that yeah that rings

john was going to do some stuff for that day but he didn't get time for his morning poo so exactly yeah yes so the sales exec rang us up and went right can you tell me these ideas that you've got and i went what a german a and it's like well i'm on my way there now they're they're coming now so we did the same thing and we i think we a similar thing we came up with like three or four campaigns of just outstanding quality um but nothing ever came of any of it and it was it was all a bit of a blur the whole day we just rattled out these things read them to someone they went that's brilliant and then we never heard anything of it ever again and everyone went to the pub it's quite exhilarating yeah that sounds like most days although i do remember that i'd remember specifically one day where we'd reach the end of our creative idea making powers where we just reached a point where we everything had turned to sludge and uh we had a ridiculous amount of work to do and we were piling through all of it and we were being creative right up to a point and then it just went off the edge and it was a moment where we thought yeah time to go home now because it was for um it was a road safety campaign and i this was this is your idea john uh you you sat there and you you like had this epiphany and you went wait a minute wait a minute what about a girl she's been sat in front of a mirror and she's just spent two hours putting her face on and now because of a car accident her face has literally come off

yeah no we need to go home now we need to go

her face she's been in a car accident and now her face has come off all that makeup wasted the brilliant thing but with that with that being radio as well you would have to listen

you're going to show it with some nice cgi or some clever makeup or something like that yeah no you'd be explaining it don't work on radio yeah there's a few so where do you think you get your ideas from guys when when you're doing your writing when you come up with a story i think it's it's just a sort of i think what you have to do or what i have to do is put all the information that i need because we've talked about getting a brief right before all the information you need put it in there um and then don't try for a while just do something else and yeah it will all percolate through your sort of subconscious brain and eventually it'll split something out um the hard part is getting it to do it when you want it to i think i i recently watched a ted lecture about creativity and uh the guy was talking about the key things that creative people have in common and it's interesting you say that because i the thing that they do is they switch between tasks quite frequently so ideally what you that the situation you want to be in is when you've sort of done your research like you were just saying dave you've kind of done all your research and then you you have to sort of be prepared to walk away from it and just leave it but the the more tasks that you have go on going on the more projects that you have going on the more chance or the more likely that you'll have a really good idea yeah this moving a little bit towards monkeys and typewriters it is but it's sort of true isn't it and actually i think when i work like that when i'm reading lots of different books and i tend to read like three or four books at the same time like simultaneously

that would be quite that that would mean you'd need four eyes and they'd all need help held open with those things like on the clockwork orange but i'll usually have i'll have one book like in the downstairs toilet like book of short stories or something i'll have one book in bed and i'll have one book in the living room and then if i'm just you know i've got time i'll just sit and but there's something about that and having lots of different hobbies as well then just the more stimulus that you that's very true that's a big big part of creativity i guess you're exercising different parts of your brain aren't you that's it exactly and at some point you make these connections between things that have no relevance to each other but there's something about them that that connects or you know creative people have a massive ability to take in the outside world yeah that's i think that's probably true yeah in the training thing i do i like i liken it to johnny five from short circuit of course you do yeah yeah right no he's input isn't that hard oh i see yeah he just wants to know everything and that's how he builds his world and that's how he gets his ideas and stuff there's a darren brown um bit where he does his usual misdirection we're saying how amazing it is because he's going to get these two um london creatives to kind of do what he wants he sets them a brief for this pet cemetery and then gives them a couple of days yep and then comes back and says right what have you done and he unveils his and it's all very similar and what have you and in those days and in the trip to the office and everything like that he's been planting all these different things on the way signs in shops and kids with t-shirts on walking across the road in front of the taxi that he's got they sent for them and stuff like that and he makes it like he kind of frames it as wow i can even do this to these creative people yeah and actually that's a brilliant framing of it because it's the opposite way around yeah yeah because they're exactly the people that would be absorbing all these little different bits if you got someone that wasn't naturally creative they'd just be sitting in the taxi on twitter yeah i don't know it makes me worry because i'm not i don't think that i am particular i don't think i take in much of the world around me at all i kind of worry about being on darren brown and get having completely the wrong thing and him going i put all these t-shirts in front of you didn't you see like no i didn't a bloody spot really angry darren brown there was a man with two heads walked past you i don't see it i was thinking about something else but maybe you do see it dave that's the point it's your subconscious that's doing it that's the powerful bit i don't know i am quite unobservant or at least my other art says i'm observant so david are you are you playing on your phone are you looking at twitter or something or are you just are you just sort of gazing into space no i think i just walk in a dead dog john joey he's not he's not gonna he's actually not ticking many boxes on the observant thing he's been walking a dead dog for the last three years he's got to drag him up but um i no i don't know i just think i live i just think i live in a dream world a lot of the time and i don't notice things like like helen will often say like we'll meet somebody and she'll say um oh how were they and i'll say yeah they were fine she said what don't you think they looked a bit like seemed all right and then she'll say you know he's got an eye missing or something like that i didn't i didn't notice that like did you not see that he's got his arms in a cast no no no i didn't see that so i don't know if i just i think maybe i'm so creative i've gone past noticing the outside world it's all gone subconscious yep just passes me by

one of the things this guy said um one of the last things he says in the ted lecture the guy that was talking about before i have to look up his name can't remember who he was uh he says put down your phone let's call him ted ted danson yeah does he do more yeah he says put down your phone and uh and it's a really obvious one isn't it but how much of the day do you think you spend did you miss the end of the lecture though well i was literally watching on my phone it did make me feel a little bit guilty but um what percentage of the day have you ever looked at your um screen time thing on your phone and actually looked at how long you spend on your phone i just ignore that god no i don't no i'd rather not you need to do it it's really quite fascinating because uh it's disturbing how much time we waste yeah i think it's but it's all part of that waiting for some waiting for something to happen waiting for inspiration because i was thinking about that um i can't remember if we talked about it before but this this idea of like doing things or going to places specifically in order to create ideas so going somewhere as like an idea generator and it's part of that i think with social media is that you can like you can just be scrolling through endless reams of nothing in the vague expectation that at some point something will happen that will spark something else i think it has the opposite effect doesn't it the phone yeah yeah yeah it does but it doesn't stop you searching does it that's the truth you still keep thinking yeah it's it's like a drug isn't it the next hits just around the corner yeah there's some good content yeah so tommy uh have you got any top tips for uh creativity one of the ones that i always find interesting is the idea of doing things differently is that people get in little roots of what they do and it kind of it can stifle your creativity so even just something like in the olden days when people used to not work from home what yeah traveling traveling a different way to work yeah because you see different things and you're forcing yourself to experience something yeah rather than going into autopilot yeah and it does make you see things again yeah yeah yeah yeah i'm not sure whether it's trainable really the idea of hyper observing the outside world and i'm putting all these bits in well you've mentioned before tom that you you're quite cynical about the idea that anybody can be taught to do to be a writer or to be creative i think i think there's an amount of same with anything whether it's playing football or musical instruments you can teach up to a point but talent exists as a natural formation in people's brains for whatever the structure there that exists or doesn't that makes it easier or harder for people the combinations of the two and you can but i think that also affects your enjoyment doesn't it yes exactly a lot of people don't massively enjoy writing or creating art or whatever and so why why they ever practice it and get better at it yeah but i think also as well when people you know people who don't class themselves as being creative say things like oh i don't know where you get your ideas from i couldn't do that in you know thinking well suggesting that we just have ideas all the time um but it doesn't work like that i think i probably have ideas the same rate as everyone else it's just maybe i can do something with them i don't know well i think one of the things to talk about in the training is how um because you'll always get you ask people right put your hands up if you think you're creative and yeah you get a 50 50 split in a room and guaranteed you know any accountants or anyone that will say they're not creative but creativity is a human quality humans are evolved to be problem solvers yeah that that's that's how we've got to where we are so in absolutely everyone yeah there's there is a core of of creative ability and especially when you're a kid yeah and it will vary obviously you know there's different things and it and it manifests itself like imagine yeah exactly the imagination or the ability to imagine something is what makes us who we are in it you know do you sit down to think of an idea for something to write how often do you do that versus having a little idea in your head i do do that i do try and sort of there's been occasions i think it's really healthy to do that i think it's easy not to do that yeah but i'd expect ideas to land it's hard isn't it when you when you sit down and go right i'm gonna i'm gonna do this i'm gonna come up with a new idea we have talked before about how suddenly you just hit like a seam it's a bit like mining in it you're sort of struggling for ideas and then you hit something and then all of a sudden you just fly and you can't get stuff down quickly enough like when i was writing anything for you i was i had like one episode for ages and i was like right i'm gonna write six because that's what a sitcom is supposed to be and i couldn't think of what to do with the others and then one day just something happened and within 20 minutes i had all six episodes mapped out like every bit of the plot for everyone just sort of suddenly arrived all at once and just went and how long uh how long was the sort of thinking about it until that happened oh about about 10 years yeah so you had yeah you've done all the groundwork that's the point isn't it i guess yeah but but i think it's like it just hadn't got anywhere it wasn't like i had bits of ideas floating about i just i had like nothing no i think sometimes there's there's got to be a trigger or a catalyst isn't it to kind of all the stuff floating around there but it just needs something to yeah the lightning conductor i think you're right maybe like the ideas must they must have all been in there somewhere it all must have existed in my head but i just there was nothing to tie it all together and sometimes it is just the act of sitting down in front of a laptop yeah and just having that empty screen and going oh yeah [ __ ] you know you just sort of need to write any old tosh yeah yeah you know i mean even if it's absolute garbage it'll just get you going yeah it comes back to that's the oldest advice isn't it just just right but it's amazing how often that that sort of thing happens in the sort of ten minutes before i'm supposed to be leaving to go somewhere i can be sick i can be sitting down all day and nothing and then i think right i've got to go and pick my kid up in 10 minutes and then suddenly he's going oh my god i've just written war and peace maybe that's your maybe that's your zone maybe it is yeah when you're conscious and subconscious because you've got nothing else to do maybe it's maybe it's that one time where you know when you've got that kind of 10 minutes well i can't do anything i can't start anything because i'm leaving the house in ten minutes maybe maybe that don't have a night that's maybe if i think don't have an idea now that's when the ideas come don't have an idea because i've got time to do anything with it oh for christ's sake now i've had an idea

have you guys ever heard of gpt3 generative pre-trained transformer third generation some of the stuff it's quite early doesn't it i've heard i was just no i was just thinking about you talking about uh you know it's a it's a human thing creativity but there's this but it's basically uh i say basically i'm making it sound like i know what i'm talking about you're really not john you're really not but it's basically a very complicated thing it's an artificial neural network right right so it's basically ai it was been trained on yes like billions of words and phrases yes but it's all been harvested from the internet so you can imagine what it's what it's learning but what's interesting about it is you can use it for writing articles yeah fiction writing it's basically a fiction writing robot and i think the jury's out on whether it's actually any good or not but uh but it's it's an interesting thing i was listening to a podcast about it which i recommend there's a good tom scott video on youtube about it actually where he gets the ai to come up with a theme for that particular right and it is really interesting it is it's fascinating it's very uncanny valley sort of thing where it's so close something missing it's just something yeah just something slightly odd about it yeah but it's getting better and better every year like noticeably better so what you're saying is we really should finish these books now seriously

you just press a button and you've got a novel it's quite it's quite upsetting i mean it's you could just put your idea in yeah that's it so you can still have the idea yeah yeah do all the writing at the moment it totally it needs cues it can't just you know go off on its own but then you want to feed something ultimately you could just plug that into your own brain and you could write your own book for yourself so put this little chip into your brain and just go right ah today i want to read a book about sausages and this ai chip will write a book and read it to you inside your own mind especially for you and you could even be the hero in it if we just invented the movie total recall i think we might yeah yeah it's uh it's interesting stuff isn't it well they mentioned they mentioned on the podcast the um a short film that was written by uh i don't know if it was like an earlier less clever version of gpt3 but it's basically it's basically the yeah it's basically the technology that's available in smartphones but what they did is they trained it on sci-fi shorts uh short films right and the machine then spat out a script uh called sunspring which was then made into a sci-fi short film and entered for like a film festival but it came apparently it came in the top 10 films that year and i thought god i've got to see this like it's got to be quite good right if it's you know yeah high up would you like to hear some of it yeah yeah yeah so it's a it's a sci-fi film festival i think and uh this is just a bit like from the middle so uh

what are you doing i don't want to be honest with you you don't have to be a doctor i'm not sure i don't know what you're talking about i want to see you too what do you mean i'm sure you wouldn't even touch me i don't know what you're talking about principal is completely constructed of the same time it's all about you to be true you didn't even watch the movie with the rest of the bass i don't know i don't care i know it's a consequence whatever you need to know about the presence of the story i'm a little bit of a boy on the floor it's horrible isn't it it's like am i drawing it's like no but it's just like distilling movies and stories down into their sort of basic parts isn't it and then yeah it's like it's like so formulaic uh it's unbelievable i mean it literally doesn't make sense either no it doesn't make sense but they're kind of you could change you could if you've got a human into change each line based on the sort of you know the sort of feeling of that line i mean it's like um it's like like friends isn't it friends is like uh there's a basic formula to an episode of friends so like you'd have this incident would happen here and then joey would say something and then chandler would say something and you could just you know lift that line out and put a new line in but the structure stays the same that's kind of the same thing isn't it but just a robot's doing it yeah that's horrible it is and actually if you think about it most stories are formula yeah you know they are a formula so it doesn't seem that uh unlikely that a machine will eventually be able to create a reasonable story i mean the guy that was on this uh podcast that was talking about a guy called uh he was called arthur miller arthur i miller he's a professor at ucl right his latest book is about creativity right okay i am arthur miller and uh i am a playwright

and uh he was he was basically saying it's not a case of if uh computers become conscious but it's just a case of when yeah yeah which is quite terrifying yeah but they will he's saying you know they will be able to write engaging novels that it does get noticeably better every year and it's still pretty bad i was thinking we should have a go with that that could be a little task there's uh what to to build an ai machine and that sounds a bit out of mind from scratch um no online there is a little uh in fact just let me see if i can find

it

we're sorry no one's available to continue the podcast right now thank you for holding all our podcast hosts are busy at the moment please hold and we'll get back to you as soon as possible while john searches the entire internet

it's called shortly ai.com okay if you go on there you can uh write a story in fact should we let's go let's give it a go now all right yeah sure give me your title give me a title what should we come up with is it are we going to stay in space i quite like that space theme okay yeah sci-fi so it's uh the title of a short sci-fi sci-fi short story dead dogs can't fly dead dogs can't fly yeah nice and we just start writing right okay i think there is a there is an option to put like uh a rough story in and then it will start writing but we can just go from nothing all right uh so we need a couple of sentences to start to start it off right i think dead dogs can't fly should be about an old semi-retired pilot space pilot yep yeah coming back for one last mission yeah but he's just he's actually this is sci-fi isn't it so he's actually dead um and they want to resuscitate him just long enough for him to fly what's his name rex gold finch that's probably disgusting they want to bring him back from the dead for one last mission they're gonna have to build part he's gonna have to be part robert so the only way to save all living things from robots is to bring back someone from the dead so what do we start with rex gold finches titanium fingers this finger here we go again here we go again the damage you could do with the titanium finger john pressed the large button red button on the control panel okay what's next give me one more sentence we need some peril we need some peril you can yeah suddenly he felt the i should call it spaceship we've got a spaceship so he knows what we're talking about suddenly he felt the spaceship lurch can it lurch it can lurch why not lurch sideways uh one more one more sentence uh yeah so we're attacking i have to be dead he said not now oh yeah that's nice yeah that's that's the bit okay do your worst buddy right for me okay oh it's off okay why do i have to be dead he said to himself the hurtling spaceship now slowly drifted like a leaf in a breeze his once proud sights and guns now lay submerged under the surface of the sea rex had had much pride in his ship it had been his greatest achievement and his last he built it out he built it out of heavy titanium it had the latest gadgets he'd traveled the solar systems from a young age somewhere along the line however he'd forgotten his dream and came to embrace death now he had awoken in perpetual pain bloody yeah that's what it looks like yeah okay that's yeah how long would we have taken to do that i mean it made some sense it's important a bit where it said it had all the gadgets and i just had this like a coffee maker tin opener

mr frosty but other than that i'm in i'm on board yeah uh click publish just just send that straight to amazon yeah that's what i mean

there's something there can you imagine a time where you just sort of you can say right i'm an author so you send amazon two sentences and amazon publishes a book and other people buy it yeah two really amazing sentences amazon self writes a book and then sells it for 99 people do you think then there'd be like a in the future though there'd be factions wouldn't that yeah the real authors and then the cedars yeah they'd just send the seed of it they'd be like ugh you're just a seed you're not proper arthur just a cedar

but then yeah the year was 2043. the author wars were still ongoing i wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the real books and the fake ones but let's call them the replicant books yes and then there'd be special detectives whose job it would be through them and try and work out yeah we could get harrison ford so like basically blade run a book set in a library yes exactly yeah i mean at least the at least the robot's ideas were new we just keep coming up with old science fiction movies and try to repurpose them

task for next week is to come up with those amazing first two sentences and uh but put in a story and it should we stick to sci-fi we're gonna do no we should do different genres uh each oh yeah so dave you you do a romance yeah okay uh tommy you take a spin yeah yeah spy genre and john you should do um you should do a war book okay war stories historical war book or yeah i think so yeah uh-huh yeah okay here's an idea though what do you think of this right so you write write your first two sentences of your book right and then input them into the ai machine and then don't look at it but write the next few sentences and see like the difference between what you wrote consequences yeah so the difference between what you wrote and what the ai machine wrote for you going head to head with a computer that is blatantly more creative and clever than that that's the peril isn't it you know and then we have to guess yes which was which is we can be harrison ford in our own blade runner thing so we have to see if you read out two paragraphs from a book and we have to guess which is the real one and which is the robot one that's good you can call it robot wars robot words robot robot wards we need our listeners to do the same we need we need our listeners to go to shortly ai.com and do the same thing uh and where do they send it betty well funny you should ask they could look us up uh on twitter uh at failingwriters or could the email as well yeah they could i would get in there they could send us an email to failingwriterspodcast gmail.com um so yeah send us send us your your genuine paragraph couple of paragraphs of a book and then the ai version as well have you ever um when you were young um thought you'd invented something that you later found out to exist already sure you can't think of anything do you have an example i did it reminded me earlier on um at one point i remember i must have been about um maybe 10 11 and i thought i'd invented ambient music

this brilliant idea for just like really like beats but just with like sounds of the outside world and stuff okay so you may you may have actually come up with it before anyway i think it was already done did you put any money into the didn't it was just a scheme i just remember very vividly just just fleeting i did it the other day as well when i saw some pigeons in the garden and then i thought pigeons are like dinosaurs aren't they uh birds birds are like dinosaurs and then whoa imagine if you could just bring back dinosaurs and you'd have a hole stop it subconscious that's stupid it's already been done interestingly michael michael crichton was the uh was one of the examples in that ted lecture that i was talking about before was he there we go that he for years he was interested in lots of different things he was writing novels but he also trained as a doctor michael crichton and he uh he also wrote non-fiction about various subjects like computers and about art and uh and that basically was all the groundwork for for the ideas for one of the most successful the commercially successful tv all these different bits together you've got to have a life haven't you which is probably where i struggle you've got to have a life yeah they say they don't write about what you know yeah so the more stuff you know the more you can write yeah yeah if you don't know anything if you don't do anything then yeah you're not going to come up with ideas are you not going to put anything together you've got to meet up writing something that just takes place like in one room which is i can't stand films like that where they're just just in one place i can't watch them no i can't think of many what about 12 angry men good movie all takes place in one room but at least they're all different different different people aren't they that's the other thing you've got to you've got to go and you've got to have relationships or at least meet different people in order to get ideas for characters and that sort of thing so yeah anything where it's all in like panic room or something like that where it's all in one place it's an instant turn off or if it's underwater yeah what if what if it's just on the water that's a 50 50 that depends on the but yeah underwater nah one place nah humphrey october no chance now on bbc one the multi-award-winning film that literally everybody loves sounds good an oscar-winning action adventure oh brilliant yes this is it set in a single room what oh no no no no next here on channel 4 it's time for come dine with me oh yes my favorite underwater special what are you kidding me oh sod this i'm gonna have a nice relaxing bath instead what you mean like in a little room tom underwater all right sarcastic tv channel announced a break in the fourth wall fine good point see we've learned something about tom see there's there's a character element isn't there somebody who will not have anything to do with one place that's it there's a character trait a quirk although tom doesn't like going out very much which is weird isn't it yeah that's why i need to live vicariously through watching things that have lots of different places in i've got a question for you tommy yeah so we're talking about stimulus and uh this isn't going to involve your favorite you've talked before about the fact that you don't really read books which is going to come probably as a bit of a shock to the listeners i'm guessing no i don't i never have obviously that means that your ideas don't come from books but well i'm just some kind of genius that pauses for me who's gonna ask you where do they come from i don't know i was always a bit scared that if you read stuff then you'll end up accidentally stealing other people's ideas as well i think you do but not there's necessarily anything wrong with the light you say that's kind of how things develop yeah but you can get you can get pulled into thinking in a particular style from reading particular books um or i i found that like uh there was like one summer i remember reading the lord of the rings and then uh everything i said was like somebody smoked somebody else or go back to whence you came and that sort of thing that doesn't really work um and then i read the load of robert rankin books and i started talking in a particular style after that and i like it's it's easy to let that bleed into what you're writing as well rather than just having your own voice it's quite nice to experiment though isn't it do you know what i mean yeah yeah it sort of helps you hone your craft if you've got a sense of how other people speak yeah i think maybe it's one of those other things to sort of absorb and then give it a bit of time to allow it to slip into the subconscious and then you find your own voice yeah yeah i was going to ask you tommy what what stops you from reading um i just don't generally find it that enjoyable i like reading non-fiction books i mean you're talking to a guy here who went for an interview i don't know if you've heard of a university called cambridge um a little bit full of themselves uh they're not full of you and it turned out no well i went for an interview for doing the english literature of course did you read before that particular no and uh so i went into this interview with this old professor fella and sat in his chambers or whatever you call them and we sat down let's take it take a seat over there young man and we started having a chat about things and then he said uh so um what's what's your favorite book it's like so i just said uh whatever the one we had to read in gcse english which he will have known was a gcse like exactly he was like catcher in the rye or something like that i think i did actually say to him i don't well i don't i don't really read books was there ever a point you were thinking what am i doing here yes i mean it was it was i was kind of the the sixth farmer went to was very keen on keeping its oxbridge so they encouraged a lot of people yeah anyone that showed any level of promise whatsoever was like right come on then we'll put you in the system i don't really want to it's just not my sort of thing yeah but sometimes i i had a similar i didn't have an interview at a prestigious place like that but i had i said the completely the wrong thing uh at a university interview in uh bournemouth i think it was i went down there for this interview and i was like in the same group as what was that guy was it called barry gary bethel gary buschel used to write for the sun big beard gary bush gary bushel his daughter was uh sort of going in for her interview after me and i remember going in thinking um yeah i feel quite good i feel this is my sort of place i could get on all right here i'm you know i'm quite well educated i know these things and the interview went all right and then he said at the end um in that same sort of you know high brow university lecture away so what would you say is your your sort of favorite film or the best movie of all time andy i thought he maybe wanted me to say like citizen kane or some sort of foreign art house movie and i went um i like uh the italian job uh he said he said why i just like that bit at the end where the bus nearly falls off cliff and uh i didn't get in there so sometimes you know reading or watching the wrong things can be as bad as as uh you know not doing anything because just admitting to a campaign professor that you know yeah did you have that thing where you saw him like get his pencil and just rub out your name just a big cross i think i was already walking out the room yeah yeah the the whole the whole reading uh reading book things i it does surprise me that you don't enjoy reading tommy because just because you're very good with words and you enjoy words and i would have i would have assumed yeah that you enjoy kind of you know as an extension of that witnessing other people being good at you know performing that craft it's an interesting uh maybe you just haven't found your book or your your writer maybe maybe i'm i'm not going to find it by well if you don't think stuff am i but yeah yeah i've just bought two books for the first time in a long time bought two books uh specifically for the purposes of this podcast so again this is helping to you know get things going yeah we talked about uh we're giving tommy a task aren't we we're starting with tommy i have yes well done what is that book tom yeah we're going to make tommy read a book the book is uh take off your pants by libby hawker outline your books for faster better writing cool so what was our because we we're setting this tab what's our plan with this now i just thought it would be interesting i was just mainly just to get tom to read a book

but we want tom to read the book and then talk exactly do it do a little book report and yeah help us outline a book you're going to you're going to save us the effort of reading the book tom basically outline the book about outside yes

yeah yeah just strip it down eventually we'll just get to a single word and then you can put that in an ai machine and it will generate an entire book about outlining books so yeah i reckon in a three or four months time i mean yeah it's got quite big writing but it is just a short book yeah a couple of weeks yeah so a couple of weeks time yeah exactly by the end of summer something like that maybe certainly before christmas i would say i'd be surprised if it's a fact book so uh yeah it is isn't it so technically it should be all right reading it yeah i shall read it i will i bloody will that was joey won't it so do you have an i'm sorry so to those sorry john i was just going to say to somebody who does read who are your who your favorite writers what's your biggest sort of inspiration my favorite writers well i i think that the writers that had the sort of biggest influence on me wanting to write um probably kurt vonnegut i reckon when i was younger my dad lent me um breakfast of champions and i it actually isn't i don't think it's that brilliant a book actually but i really like the style of it and then i ended up just sort of piling through all the kurt vonnegut's i had a bit of a sort of literary crush on him i think and then uh but i still i still go back to them i still read them but slaughterhouse five was always my favorite it's just uh it's just brilliant it's the sort of oh my god can you read a book more than oh yeah you have to i think you have to to really get it to understand it see i can't i can't watch things bear in mind tom i've gotten terrible memory well that's true so actually it's quite important you could probably read it once and just remember it but i i have to go back to it a couple of times but yeah slaughterhouse five is brilliant highly recommend that i think you'd like that tommy it's just the weirdest sort of amalgam it's a war memoir but also a science fiction novel is it underwater it's not set under water and it's set in different places and even in different languages there's a lot going for that different times and places wow but he's just got a lovely style he's got this sort of quiet um like it's not laugh out loud funny but it's sort of like a drollness you know he's just got this way of observing the world like uh yeah that's it yeah yeah he's very good yeah if there was a laugh to exemplify what you're trying to say there would that be that it's probably not selling it to be fair but yeah he's very good you know you know how good comedy um is very good at sort of looking scance at things and seeing the absurdity in the world the things that you've always sort of taken taken for granted you think you know you're always considered normal but then you kind of step back and look at humanity and you look at what all our preoccupations are and how just how messed up everything is and that's what he does really well but he's also he's got he's very kind and very honest he's got this way of looking at the world which is just very lovely so yeah that's mine it's a good name as well isn't it vonnegut is it's a proper writer's name that's like a yeah sounds like a proper person the other thing that i remember reading that really sort of blew me away i reckon i was about 16 when i read it was um hemingway's for whom the bell tolls i read when i was 16 but there's one scene in it where where he makes love to uh not him their character whatever his name is jordan or something makes love to maria and that it just absolutely blew my mind because it doesn't actually describe anything like figuratively if you know what i mean it's all just written in this sort of splurge and it's about as close as you'll come our [ __ ] being the operative word is about as close as you'll come to uh you know the actual act uh just by just by putting some words together and i do remember thinking if you can if you can impart that feeling with just like a stream of words then you can literally say anything in a book you know and make it powerful and interesting i mean yeah i might post that actually i'll post that little that little bit i don't think i think if you guys i think if i tried to read it out it'd just sound a bit silly and pretentious but you had something about the act of reading it but it is yeah share it on it it's amazing share it online it on our social media what is that at failing writers that's right anyway what about you ty what about you uh badly sorry are you of the books that you've read what have you been your favorite been the ones that made you go bloody oh that's good i wish i could write like that you know what i've yeah i wish i could write

i was a big fan of like a big red truck that was and then the big yellow truck came out and i thought i can't get any better than this and then the big green truck and then i wasn't homing i was gonna do the green truck think of these things what sort of idea generator is he using um i know i was a big fan of like lord of the rings as a teenager that sort of was yeah sort of big book that i read and sort of really got into and then but i've always like oh i've always been a big fan of comedy and i think the the book that's made me laugh out loud more than anything else um was called the anti-pope by robert rankin and i've got lots of robert rankin books and uh they're mostly really good he started with the brentford trilogy and there's just there's just a scene in that where um these two guys pooley and o'malley uh go to this pub called the flying swan um and they're trying to save the world whilst getting uh ludicrously drunk every night which is exactly my sort of thing and there's just this scene where the neville the part-time barman has um has got this fancy dress night going on at the flying swan and there's a barbecue at the back and everyone turns up in the same costume and it just everything goes wrong and it's brilliant it's just so it's like a proper british fight in a way yeah it is a fun it sounds like it doesn't but with this sort of science fiction stuff going on in the background as well it's just it's just the one thing that i've read and actually had to stop reading because i was laughing so much and uh i can still go back to it and read that bit in particular and just just piss me off i can i can see how that was an influence on you definitely yeah yeah but i i sort of i love that but like that's another one where i i read a lot of robert rankin and then i found myself i tried to write something and i was basically writing a robert rankin book i thought this is not that's not how it works i'm supposed to write my own book not like a version of of him um so i had to sort of but yeah it was weird because somebody else read it and pointed that out to me i was like this doesn't this doesn't sound like you know this sounds like somebody else wrote this like i also think that's that's okay isn't it like if you love something then it's okay to if you love something you can steal it and try and pass it around stealing it are you i don't i don't buy that really no i think it's it's good and important isn't it to try and write in different voices and styles and yeah like i said it sort of you know they all as the years go by all amalgamates into because you are like you know a product of everything that you've ever heard or read or seen or whatever so it's just you know assimilating it isn't it but yeah i'm also a big fan of uh like comic books oh yeah as it happens uh i like looking at pictures what are you talking about like graphic novel when i was when i was a kid my older brother used to get we had a subscription to 2000 ad so uh my dad paid for it so he would read it first and then sean would read it and then i'd read it um and yeah sort of uh judge dredd that sort of thing um but the guy who wrote that is probably my favorite writer of all time which is john wagner um just ridiculously prolific so he invented all these characters and some of these strips have been running for like 30 plus years and he still writes for them um and he wrote the movie um a history of violence have you seen that no no viggo morton yeah yeah yeah um it's just brilliant and it's you know that all these other people have come and gone working on that strip over the years but the john wagner stuff is still uh the best and you can tell one of his strips after all these years he's kind of like the stan lee of british comics i suppose um yeah john wagner cool personal recommendation will you post those recommendations just so cause i'll forget them maybe i sh maybe i should maybe i'll try to remember myself um yeah so me and you john we can post some of our favorite writers and john uh tom can just you know uh i'll just i'll read my take my pants off read them yeah i don't think you have to read it with your pants off not sure that's a good job

i thought you had to do everything about it taking your pants off probably should publish an apology for the delivery i thought it was right um but so the one thing we haven't asked is whether we've actually written anything at all anyhow have we all been avoiding the question that's the uh that might be more to the point because i've written very little i've written a little tiny bit i've been tweaking around the edges i wouldn't have been from me writing i've been trying to two-hour slots john they've been filled with podcast stuff it's really to stop the [ __ ] but i've been trying to get into this thing of like okay don't stop thinking that you need to have these two hours just if you've got 10 minutes try and fit something into those 10 minutes um but i do i think that can depend on like what you're actually trying to write as well because i've been working on this particular chapter where i'm trying to even when i describe it it sounds a bit corny but i'm trying to pull all these different threads of different bits of story together and the best way i can think of doing it is like a sort of dream sort of fevered dream sequence of somebody who's like you know dying um but it's quite hard to sort of get into that dreamy zone and write something in like you know five five or ten minutes well yeah because well it's difficult anyway isn't it because you've got to write it slightly disconnected yeah but then expect people to be able to read it because it'll make some sense of it yeah yeah try it back up to make sense still it feels like a sort of on dodgy ground i don't know if it's actually going to work but um i feel i kind of figure it's in my mind it's the best way to get this particular bit of the story across but then i found myself wasting time doing stuff so there's a bit where they go past a quarry and then because i sort of made the decision to base the book in a real place with real place names then i started thinking oh but there isn't an actual quarry in this particular bit does that matter then i started looking at names of real and i spent about an hour researching disused quarries of the area i think by the time you've actually finished the novel there is a chance that just natural erosion

but it's weird like the things that i think about like of all the of all the things that are wrong with this book the idea that someone would be reading it and go huh where is this quarry though i'm not reading any more of this rubbish this limestone this is a sandstone area there will always be one person though to be fair yeah yeah just imagine the review one star as a geologist well i think we should all make a little promise to each other that next week's podcast our first question will be what we've been writing yeah the answer won't be to be fair on this i mean i know it's easy to justify but it has been a particularly busy week hasn't it but you're right tommy back on it yeah yep

so for next week we need to um talk to the computers and uh irreversibly bring us all closer to the singularity that will end the human race yep um and put some sentences into an ai bot and god let's god let's hope they're crap compared to our life yeah better than a robot right yeah yeah yes and uh and once again we should probably we should probably implore and plead to our listeners to do the same thing yes anyone fancy having a go see if you can uh fool us with ai or not new

we'll put all the details up on our socials at failing writers and then we'd like to see what you've got to offer quite enjoyed it someone farted on me halfway through two stars

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