Monday, 20 August 2012

Powering Down

The first draft of this post was written with pen and paper. It wasn't out of choice but necessity - at the time I was experiencing a power cut.

These days, power cuts are rare (we use to get them quite frequently), but they're also annoying, yet exciting. They're annoying because they have a knack of occurring just when you don't want them to (not that anyone 'wants' a power cut), such as when you want to be connected to the Internet to write a blog posting (whilst the laptop may have a battery, the router, connecting you to the Internet, doesn't).

They can be exciting, though, because they force you to work differently. (I can still make a pot of tea by boiling water on the gas hob, IF I have some matches to light the gas!)

So, because I was powered down, I took myself away from my desk, collected my pen and notepad and went for my usual walk. About half way around, down a quiet country lane, is a wooden bench, where I sat down.

Out came my pen and notebook. Just at that moment, two article ideas popped into my head. I jotted them down and then began expanding one, to produce an outline.

I also took some time out, jotting down my observations from this viewpoint. It's an exercise I like to undertake every so often, but I don't get the chance to do this as often as I'd like. I like to focus on the smaller details of life: the red-tailed bumble bee that searched several dandelion flowers for nectar, by landing on them and going around each flowerhead in an anti-clockwise direction. (Why? Does this mean bumble bees are left and right-handed like us, albeit that they don't have hands ... but you get my drift!) And then there were the two buzzards, flying above Wenlock Edge, mewing and calling, twisting and soaring, as if the mother was teaching the juvenile life skills. You never know when small observations like this will come in handy for future ideas, or writing.

And then I realised that this experience would make an ideal blog posting - so I penned my basic outline, before finishing my walk.

When I arrived back home the power was back on. (It was probably restored the minute I stepped out the front door to do my walk!) But I don't mind. The exercise of powering down had still been productive. I'd still achieved what I'd set out to achieve before the power cut (drafting my blog post); the power cut had merely forced me to go about it in a different way. But it also generated a couple of other article ideas.

So next time you get a power cut, don't curse. Use it as an opportunity to think and work differently. Alternatively, why wait for a power cut? Simply power down yourself, once in a while. Who knows where it may lead?

Good luck.


  1. Hi Simon,
    Just to say thanks for your info. re. Best of British. I'd had an article accepted by the editor ages ago but had no E-mails etc as to when it would finally appear. Then lo and behold, a cheque for £20--no covering note, nothing! And the address of the publishing co. was unfamiliar too. There was a tiny BOB in the corner so guessed it was from them. Your info confirmed it. Hopefully I'll get a complimentary copy as well!
    Another thanks. You won't remember me but I've been to Caerleon on several occasions and attended your 'writing for magazines' courses. Your advice,editors like '10 reasons why---' prompted me to write about my home city '10 Reasons Why Nottingham is Still Queen'. Again it took a long time but was finally published in This England(2012 Spring edition).
    Best wishes Maureen Kishtaini
    PS My BOB article is 'If you're the social, come in.'

  2. Hi Maureen,

    Good to hear from you. Congratulations on your success! (Sometimes it can be worth the wait!) I hope this inspires you to write some more!

    Best wishes,


  3. The occasional power outage may be good for the soul and the muse, but in places where they occur day in day out, one can be hard-pressed to be productive. Unless the power cut, itself, becomes the subject.

  4. A change is as good as a rest as they say and working with paper and pencil (as when out and about) can be stimulating as you say. Always best if you have chosen that method though.

    As a subscriber I can tell Margaret that her piece was in the July Best of British and an interesting read it was too. Sadly the magazine has never sent contributor copies although under the old publisher they did offer a reduced rate copy. I, too, have been on the receiving end of a cheque with no other covering slip or email to tell me of impending publication so the message seems to be if submitting to this title, keep an eye out for the magazine and check for yourself.

  5. I'm a paper and pen girl and enjoy the versatility this allows me. I love to write on the beach and don't dare take my laptop to those sandy beaches. I enjoyed your post Simon :-)

  6. Interesting post and I totally agree that sometimes doing something in a different way can make you more productive. I recently had to pop into town and, as a bit of an afterthought, took my notepad and a book I'm researching from, with me. Having got the shopping bits done, I then went into a cafe and revived myself with a cup of tea - and ended up making far more notes in that time than I had at home without the usual household distractions.
    I also agree with your commenter about how regular power outtages can be frustrating. Years ago, I did some travelling with my husbannd for his work, mostly in India. The power was pretty erratic but I just adjusted my methods by writing by hand, and using the computer when I could - making sure I saved regularly. I would also suggest anyone travelling in such places uses a surge protector plug as they can be prone to power spikes.

  7. Tell Fren Fru - yes, when power cuts are a daily occurrence, as they are in some places in the world, it must be immensely frustrating. It can't be compared to them, but there was one winter where were were having power cuts every time it rained, which was immensely frustrating - although it does teach you good back up habits of saving everything frequently, because you'd never know when you were likely to lose everything!