With the solstice only days away, we’re right in the middle of the darkest part of the year and also the busiest. It’s a combination that can easily lead to feeling over-stimulated and over-tired, the adrenaline of trying to get it all done matched with the lack of time we give ourselves to rest or go slowly. It’s obvious how this can affect us emotionally and physically, but how about creatively? In this blog I spend a lot of time wondering about the creative process, and how we can support our creative practices to become as full and expansive as possible. I have come to believe that December is in some ways a natural enemy to creativity, as it is a month that makes so many demands. It expects us to be dynamic and positive, giving so much energy out to others, while not really allowing time and space for us to maintain that energy. So be it. I can’t change December, it will always be this way. But I can change how I respond to these circumstances. So, instead of resisting and feeling annoyed with myself for feeling stretched and tired, I am going to go with it. I am not going to expect anything great from my creativity this month. Instead I am going to take care of it.Read More
December is a challenging month on all fronts – professional and personal – that it can be easy to get lost in all the activity and things to be done and forget to look after yourself. All this month on the blog I’m going to be taking self-care as my inspiration and looking at ways you can look after yourself a little better. I’m going to be sharing ideas for finding energy and preparing for the new year in your creative practice, and suggesting ways to support your mental wellbeing. No matter how much you’ve got going on with work and family this month, the goal is to reach January feeling fresh and ready for the new year, not exhausted and in need of recuperation.
Today I’d like to think about one of the most important elements of sustaining your creative practice: gathering.Read More
I am fascinated by creativity and am always happy to read anything that might give me better understanding about what is happening in the minds of those people I spend a lot of time with – namely highly creative people working in all sorts of disciplines (not just the obvious ‘creative’ arts jobs). I enjoyed this book because not only does it helpfully break down creativity into 10 traits (and thus makes reading it in short bursts at bedtime that much easier) but it is also based on current research in neuroscience and psychology. Because, who doesn’t love pages of notes to follow up with? (Ok, maybe not everyone, but it gives me a nice sense of being in good hands).Read More
This month’s book recommendation is something that has been on my radar for years and I’ve always had a ‘yeah, yeah, Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet – that’s got all sorts of insights into being an artist. I know I should read it, but…’ attitude towards it. Which, of course, was stupid. And I (wrongly) assumed it was quite long. So when it was recommended, again, by a newsletter I love and trust completely I was compelled (in the spirit of doing stuff now and not putting it off) to go out and buy a copy. And blow me if it isn’t a tiny wee slip of a book (52 pages) and this edition cost a whopping £1. That’s right, people, £1. There are NO MORE EXCUSES for you not to read this!
Now, this isn’t a life-changing book, because what writing can live up to the hype? But it is full of interesting ideas on living a creative life, and insights into the mind of a formidable creative force, and that’s really all I need on a grey autumn day when I don’t have a lot of energy to be focused and concentrate.
This month’s book recommendation may look like a personal development book from its title. I must admit that that's why I picked it up at first, thinking that maybe it contains the secrets to finding your passion in life (and thus will change everything). I'm sorry to say that this book may not actually help you find your passion in life, but it does show us how creating the right educational environment, and honouring the role creativity plays within society, will lead to everyone having the possibility of discovering their passion. Which is something I feel strongly about.Read More
I’m feeling stuck. It’s Tuesday evening and I need to write a blog post for Wednesday, my arbitrary, self-imposed deadline. I really don’t want to miss a week and yet I can’t think what to write. The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a struggle in terms of work/life/creative me balance. Events in my personal life are derailing most of my attempts to get work done and as for creative things… well, they’ve ground to a halt. The creative well is dry and no amount of scraping around at the bottom, hoping for something miraculous, is going to help me right now, to write this now. I need a quick fix.
I am fully aware that this is not an ideal situation. I know that I should have been topping up my creative stores with inspiring and nourishing activities, feeding my curiosity and paying attention to the little things. But we are all flawed humans, none of us is perfect, and despite knowing what we ‘should’ do, we often don’t manage it. I have a note in my diary to remind me to be kind to myself, so no berating today. Instead, what small act can I do to help? How do I unstick myself when there isn’t time to gently revive my flagging creativity? I look back.Read More
A while ago, while I was reading another book (Flourish by Martin Seligman), I took one of those online psychology tests. This one was called the Values in Action Signature Strengths test and its aim is to help you identify the things that motivate you, your passions and core values. The theory, in Positive Psychology, is that by finding ways to use your signature strengths regularly, and expanding your opportunities to use them, you will be more fulfilled in what you are doing (in work or life). It makes sense to me. If I’m not doing stuff that ticks some kind of internal boxes or allows me to use my unique skills then no wonder things don’t feel right. So, after answering about 50 questions, my top 5 signature strengths emerged as:
1. Love of learning
2. Appreciation of beauty and excellence
3. Curiosity/Interest in the world
4. Capacity to love and be loved
Nothing earth-shatteringly surprising there. But seeing some of these aspects of myself, which I probably wouldn’t have put right at the top, has helped me to realise what it is that I do well and how I want to work in the future. My top 5 has become a bit of a guiding light while I plan and reflect.
So, I know you’ll understand why I recommend this book to you this month - Curious by Ian Leslie.
A while ago, on a Saturday morning, I visited the Oxfam bookshop and walked out with three books: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, Manage your day-to-day by 99U and Quiet by Susan Cain. I read them all by the end of the weekend.
As is often the way with such trips, you cannot presume you will find what you want, but you do sometimes find what you need. I wonder if the Oxfam bookshop, or the library, is a kind of subconscious lucky dip: you take a punt and may end up with a prize. But in this case the prize is often something you have been looking for anyway.Read More
I first read this book a few years ago while I was in second year of my BA. At the time I was still uncertain of the path ahead and this book, which focuses on how to set up useful strategies for maintaining your creative drive, helped me to see that creativity is not an elusive bolt of lightning, but something that must be worked at, a skill that if you don't practise, it will be lost. Here I am three years down the line, grappling with issues in my making practice, and her words are relevant again.Read More
Ok, so you may have noticed that the book choices are becoming less about making specifically. But bear with me. This book deals with creativity and the impulse we all possess to be curious, to create. It tries to unpick the narrative that we have all inherited that creativity is mysterious and that the artistic way of life should be fraught with worry and suffering. The author believes in the paradoxes of the creative life: "Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it does not matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful priviledge". But she also believes in Big Magic. Big Magic is what happens when you live an authentic, creative life (and creative is incredibly broadly defined here), when you have the courage to honour the things that are hidden within.Read More