Category Archives: Self Esteem and Literature

Giving Fanny Fear the Finger – Part One!

Conjuring up an image of Fanny Fear is important.

Gosh, that sounds downright rude but unfortunately, that is how we have to behave towards Fanny Fear.  Fanny is short for Frances or Francis, it all depends whether your shoulder blade troll is male or female.  My Fanny Fear is female, she has an extended chin which ends at a point and hunched over shoulders as she is always bent over whispering in my ear with a harsh, hissing voice.  Therefore, I will be referring to Fanny Fear as “she” throughout this post.  However, if you have a male Fanny Fear, please feel free to change the pronoun to “he”.  Fanny Fear infiltrates all aspects of our lives.  However, in this post I want to concentrate on how this shapeshifter stops us from writing, acting, filming or painting.

 

Let’s start at the beginning.  Fanny Fear will appear in all disguises to actually prevent you from being creative.  Fanny Fear will appear in your mind dressed as your spouse, your school friends, your mother or your work colleagues.  Fanny Fear is an accomplished mistress of disguise.  You’ve been to see a wonderful film or read a book which gave you shivers down your spine.  It has created a spark in your mind, you have an idea for a poem, short story, novel, film or painting.  Hey, this feels good – you feel uplifted, a shadow starts to cover the feeling.  You listen, can you hear something?  You realise it’s the most popular girl/ boy in the school grinning at you in your head.  All the followers appear and they are laughing.  A feeling of darkness blots out your happy, uplifted feeling as you realise they are all mocking your creative work.  Your shoulders hunch and you slump – better not risk it.

The Nine Muses from Greek mythology. The Sarcophagus at The Louvre.

You get to 45 and are still getting ideas for stories and other creative things – not as many as you used to do because you bat them away like pesky flies.  One day, that creative feeling comes over you again with a renewed strength, it makes you feel good, you want to write your idea down.  You’re a grown up now, you don’t need to worry about your school mates making you look stupid.  You imagine telling your wife/ husband that you’re going to write.  You see them in your head bursting out laughing and saying “what are you wasting your time for, you’ll never get a publisher.”  The dark shadow returns and you give it one last go – you imagine telling your mother.  In your mind, she smiles and says “that’s nice dear – did you get my tablets?”

Okay, that is a worst case scenario with Fanny Fear.  However, I had to do this to point out how Fanny Fear operates.  Fanny Fear is not other people; Fanny Fear is how we imagine other people are going to react concerning our creativity.

A woman searches for inspiration – William Adolphe Bouguereau.

Fanny Fear feeds on the fear of being mocked.  She sits like a piece of fungus in the back of your mind.  Each time she whispers in your ear and conjures up images in your head and you allow it, she grows and flourishes.  She is the plague of creative people.  The good news is that Fanny Fear can be controlled.

In the first instance, I want you to give Fanny Fear, who might simply be a hissing voice, a pain in your stomach or a dark shadow who looms down on you, a face and body.  It is important that you make Fanny Fear as exaggerated as possible, because that is what she is queen of, exaggeration. Okay, we have this troll fixed in your mind, can you see her?  Take her in, look her over slowly –make sure that you recognise her.  It is important that you attach the look to the dark shadowy feeling, pain in your stomach, or whatever she gives you.  Give her a new name if you like.  That is step one, recognising Fanny Fear, once you have given her a look and a name – if you think of her every time you start imagining people mocking the fact that you are being creative – the horrible feeling which is associated with this instantly lessens.

The next bit becomes easier with awareness.  Be alert because Fanny Fear sneaks up on you at all times.  If you are reading a book and stop to think of the wonderful way with language the writer has; Fanny Fear might quietly whisper “Of course, you will never be able to write like that.”  Stop!  Mentally grab the troll by the ear and face up to it.  Tell the piece of fungus, in your mind, that you are working on your writing and one day will be an accomplished writer.  It then helps to mentally give the creature a swift boot up the backside and imagine it flying through the air.  The more you do this on a regular basis, the less Fanny Fear will visit you.

Once you get Fanny Fear under control – give yourself permission to write, act, film, paint etc…  Tell yourself out loud, write it down.  You have permission to write, act, film or paint.

Okay, so what are you wasting time here for?  Get out there and give Fanny Fear some wellie and then get creating!

Have a wonderful time.

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Filed under Creative Writing, For Teens, Inspiration and Us, Self Esteem and Literature

Turning Teenagers On To Shakespeare – David Tennant and Catherine Tate.

English: Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Strat...

English: Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Will (the fourteen year old) and I are exploring comedy in Shakespeare this summer.  To begin with we are watching three different versions of “Much Ado About Nothing.” We viewed the one which was staged at the Wyndham Theatre last July on Digital Theatre, a few days ago.

David Tennant at Stratford upon Avon. This ima...

David Tennant at Stratford upon Avon. This image has been cropped from the original image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The title of this post is Turning Teenagers Onto Shakespeare.  The reason for the title is that I believe that this version of “Much Ado About Nothing”, will get your teenager loving Shakespeare.  It might not seem important for teenagers to enjoy Shakespeare but it is on the curriculum and studying something which you enjoy is a whole lot better than having to put up with a subject which you detest.  I highly recommend buying a download of this and watching it with your teenager.  It is excellent. I have no association with Digital Theatre whatsoever, this post is written purely from the Loony Literature point of view of encouraging others to enjoy literature.  In this post I explain why I believe teenagers will enjoy it.

Catherine Tate 2006

Catherine Tate 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why would teenagers like this version of “Much Ado About Nothing”?  For a start, David Tennant plays Benedick and Catherine Tate is Beatrice.  At first glance, this can seem like a couple of very popular television actors from Doctor Who being hired to draw the crowds in.  However, I have to say that David Tennant is an accomplished Shakespearean actor. (His Hamlet is inspirational.)  He is so loved by the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) that £5,000 has been raised so that one of the seats in the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon is to be named after him.   Catherine Tate has done a fair bit of theatre also and has appeared in Goldoni’s “A Servant to Two Masters”, for the RSC.

Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy about love winning out in the end.  When we add that its main theme is deception then it starts to sound interesting.  This interpretation is set in 1980’s Gibraltar.  Most of the chaps are navy officers and are in a post Falklands party mood.  The plot is set around two couples. We have Hero and Claudio who are getting married but there is skulduggery afoot and Claudio is wrongly led to believe that Hero has been unfaithful to him. He makes a public spectacle of her at their wedding.   Also, we have Beatrice and Benedick who seem to be constantly sparring.  Benedick’s navy chums decide to bamboozle the pair of them into falling in love.

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing (Photo credit: psd)

Josie Rourke directed this and she deserves the heartiest slap on the back for getting it right.  By this, I mean taking the text and utilising it fully to demonstrate how approachable and contemporary Shakespeare can be.   Tennant is a master of comedy.  He gets covered in paint whilst eavesdropping which sounds rather clownish.  It isn’t.  It is done so well that we can’t help but hoot with laughter.  In Benedick’s monologues, there are moments when Tennant’s  whole persona cries out that he is having the time of his life and that is infectious – we as an audience feel that way too.

David Garrick (another David) as Benedick in 1770.

Catherine Tate plays Beatrice as a “don’t mess with me” type of gal.  I loved it.  The reason for this is that today’s girls will be able to identify with her.  It is often hard for teenagers  (I am speaking here as an ex teenager) to get to grips with the way women have been forced to be historically.  As a teenager, I would often have problems truly sympathising, let alone empathising,  with women in literature for the way in which they acted.  I wanted them to speak out and to act more.  I could turn blue at times urging some of them on to get more agency.   Sometimes I found them impossible to identify with.  It was only through years of both literary study and historical study that I could come to understand them and their motives.  So watching Tate as Beatrice truly felt like a breakthrough in getting  more teenage girls to identify with Shakespeare’s female characters.

When we are in our teens, because of raging hormones, we can often feel truly unattractive.  It seems as if everybody in the world is fancied by someone, except us.  We turn to fiction and film and often it is the handsomest, bravest hero who gets the chocolate box looking girl.  It can be soul destroying and do nothing for our confidence.  This performance of Much Ado About Nothing is the champion of the plain best friend.  Benedick dresses in drag and gets covered in paint –he certainly is no-one’s dark, silent hero.  Beatrice dresses as a man for a party and ends up flying in the air with the grace of a fairy elephant.  She is no gorgeous femme fatale or pale interesting type.  Yet she gets the boy.  The message is simply be yourself, no matter how clumsy and plain you feel , one day, someone will love you for you.  What teenager could resist that?

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (Photo credit: Newton Free Library)

 

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Filed under Education, For children, For Teens, Inspiration and Us, Literary Criticism, Self Esteem and Literature, Shakespeare Diary

The Show Must Go On – Teens Are So Amazing.

London

London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be in the audience at one of the venues where The National Theatre’s Connections Festival was taking place.  The Connections Festival is the nation’s leading theatre festival for young actors.  The National Theatre commissions new plays to be written and drama groups all over the country get to do their thing in well -known theatres.  The grand prize is to perform at The National Theatre in London.

The group my son is involved with were all very excited about performing.  The principle of the school is an inspiring and charismatic young woman who truly gets the best out of them.  She was due to have her first baby but the baby wasn’t due until a couple of weeks after the performance.  All was well and truly organised, they had rehearsed until they dropped and they were ready to break a leg.  It is only on television in sitcoms that people go into labour at the crucial moment – actually that is not true.  The principle went into labour on the day of the show.  The show was a musical with a huge cast, it could have all fallen to pieces.  This comes to my point about teens – they carried on and sang and acted their hearts out.  I thought my heart would burst with pride, not only for my son but for every kid in that performance.  To say they blew me away would be an understatement.

The next play was about to begin.  The actors were on the stage – some were lying down flat on their stomachs, others were crouched up like snails.  The lights went on and we waited.  The lights went off and we thought it was for dramatic effect.  After sitting for a long time whilst the lights went on and off, I was beginning to think that it was one of those pieces which is truly out of the box.  However, the stage manager came and announced that there was something wrong with the lighting and they were working on it.  During this time, the actors, all in their teens, had to stay in those awful positions and not move.  We waited and waited and the audience started shuffling their bottoms in their seats but the teenagers stayed as still as if they were made of marble.  I really was impressed because their nerves must have been getting to them with a packed theatre all looking on.  Eventually, the lights were sorted and they just got on with performing, no fuss, nothing.  Well let’s face it folks – the show must go on!

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Filed under Education, For Teens, Inspiration and Us, Self Esteem and Literature

How Dare You Think You Will Enjoy Great Literature!

The theme in my life this week has been self -esteem, or rather lack of it.  It seems that there is an epidemic going on.  I don’t know whether it is always there or I am noticing it more since I am on the last legs of Mulgrave Castle, a romantic mystery which has self- esteem as its theme.   Of course, lack of self -esteem comes in many guises.  The one I want to focus upon in this article is how other people can make you believe that you do not have the right to enjoy great literature.

Menabilly. Hidden by the woodland, Menabilly w...

Menabilly. Hidden by the woodland, Menabilly was the home of Daphne du Maurier, and the inspiration for Manderley in "Rebecca". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lack of self-esteem is universal, so much so that writers like Daphne Du Maurier have used it as a plot device.   In Rebecca, the main character who tellingly is never named, cannot believe that she has been rescued from being a paid companion by the older, attractive, handsome Maxim de Winter.  The whole of this wonderful, psychological drama hangs on the fact that the new Mrs de Winter has low self -esteem.  In fiction, that is fine.  In reality, it is not.  In Rebecca, we see obnoxious characters like Mrs Van Hopper chiselling away at her paid companion’s sense of self to make sure that she stays underfoot.  In reality, I get told by people how, when they were children,  grown-ups told them that writers like Shakespeare and Dickens were too difficult for them.  Let me catch my breath a moment whilst I let out an exasperated sigh.

Title page of the First Folio, by William shag...

Title page of the First Folio, by William shagsper, with copper engraving of the author by Martin Droeshout. Image courtesy of the Elizabeth Club and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl/oneITEM.asp?pid=2018031&iid=1071364&srchtype= (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have said it before and I will say it again – most people, if properly introduced and grounded in Literature will enjoy it at some level.  A case, in hand, I took a lesson about “The Laboratory”, a poem by Victorian writer Robert Browning to a mixed group of adults.  In the audience were three male fire fighters, two of whom were positive Victorian poetry was most definitely not for them.   After the lesson, the two fire fighters who were sure that they would just switch off from this stuffy old nonsense, said that they had actually enjoyed it.  The general consensus of the group was that if they had had that lesson whilst at school, they would all see Literature differently.  I was lucky that I had great English teachers.  As the years have gone by, it has slowly dawned on me how many people either were not taught writers like Shakespeare or it was offered in an unhelpful way.  This leads me to ask – why is there a sense of elitism with writers like Shakespeare?  After all, let’s think back, Shakespeare wrote and performed his plays mostly for the Joe Bloggs and Fanny Rumble’s of the sixteenth century.  Okay, so he performed in front of Elizabeth I, but mostly it was in front of ordinary people like me.  So, I say to you, whoever you may be, LITERATURE IS FOR YOU.

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Filed under Education, Self Esteem and Literature