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
A couple of weeks ago I talked about the impulse to save things and the damaging effect this can have when it comes to saving ideas or holding back in your creative practice.
In writing that post I realised that there is another impulse, closely linked to the impulse to save and to hold in, and that’s the impulse to give. Much in the same way that we might censor ourselves by not acting on the desire to create something, we can also hold ourselves back by not giving enough outwards. It feels like the saving and the giving are two sides of the same coin. That when the natural rhythm of the year comes back towards winter and we instinctively begin to gather inwards, to hibernate, that’s also when we can tend to shut ourselves off from other people.Read More
It’s almost half way through November and the challenge of NaNoWriMo. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’m using it mainly as a way to get into the habit of writing daily, and in a more focused way, rather than trying to get the first draft of a novel down (my writing is non-fiction anyway so that’s another deviation from the path…) And I should say that things are going pretty well. I’ve found time every day to write, even if that’s only to get a quick 500 words down in between other things. What is most heartening is to see the gradual accumulation of words, a bank of ideas that might develop into other things, later.
Anyway, it dawned on me that I have no way of categorising or indexing all this writing. Which isn’t such a problem for the daily free-writing (which is mostly just stream-of-consciousness stuff out of my head) but for the focused pieces, where I’m starting to draw out ideas I may want to work on later, well – I need a plan!Read More
It is often around this time of year that I feel a slight shift, as the daylight is in short supply and winter feels close at my back. I notice that I switch from feeling full of energy for being outside, and doing things, to wanting to hibernate. I resist this temptation for as long as possible, but experience tells me that I will eventually succumb and it will be hard to muster the motivation for more than the bare essentials of living and working. Luckily the weather here in London at the moment is incredibly mild and the sun, when it’s out, is still golden and glorious, so I don’t need much encouragement to be out in the world. But I can feel it, waiting. And it’s got me thinking about this tendency to draw in, to hold on to things, to save stuff.
I don’t think anyone would argue with the impulse to squirrel ourselves away in winter, to stay cosy and enjoy the benefits of central heating and twinkly lights. But, what about when that desire to curl up starts to permeate into other areas of your life, like your work or your creative practice? What then? Where is the balance between healthy, natural protective behaviour (like retreating in winter) and things that don’t help at all?Read More
November is NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – and people all over the world will be making the commitment to themselves, and their writing, to sit down each day and write. The aim is to write around 1600 words a day, every day, and to end the month with the first draft of a novel. Ta da!
Well, it will probably be a pretty ropey first draft, but that’s not the point. The point is to do it. To get started, to show up, to build a habit and to launch yourself towards something you’ve always dreamed of doing. It’s a cliché that so many people want to write books, but how many people actually do? There’s even a term for it - the ‘someday’ writer - as in ‘someday I’ll write that book…’. I think the person who started NaNoWriMo realised something crucial about creativity: that it’s something we need to work on every day if we’re ever going to achieve the things we want for it.
This November I’ve decided to play along with NaNoWriMo, but as I am contrary I’m not aiming for the first draft of a novel, I’m using the structure to get myself into the writing habit. For too long I’ve been saying I’m going to give some proper attention to my creative practice, but it always ends up being sporadic and a bit fair weather. Not anymore. Next month I am going to show up and write whether I feel in the mood or not, whether I am inspired or not. Because, lately I have begun to realise that it is the act of showing up that is the most important element of our creative practices. It’s not the finished work, it’s not the moment of inspiration, it is doing the work you need to do come rain or shine.Read More
Once we’ve started on our creative journeys things aren’t necessarily easy. It can be tempting to think that just because you’ve finished your BA or MA things will slot into place, that just because you’ve found the material or technique/process that excites you, the work will be made easily, that just because you’ve made the work it will find its audience. We know it’s not that simple. There are so many things that can get in the way. In this post I’m going to be looking at one of those internal barriers to a creative life running smoothly – fear – and seeing if the words of other creative people can help us to find a way to live with the fear and to find the courage to create in the way we need to.
Fear is a part of the creative life. Who doesn’t feel slightly afraid when they start a new body of work, accept a commission, take part in a big show or exhibition, talk about their work in public? The low-level anxiety that comes with the thoughts ‘can I do this?’ or ‘surely this time they’ll realise I can’t do this?’. Luckily this low-level anxiety tends to get swept away in the action of doing the work, soon we’re too far in it to be worried. But what of the fear that permeates your creative life, that causes you to feel reluctant to start on the big work, those secret big dreams you have for your own practice? How do we deal with that, because it’s that insidious fear, that lurks waiting for quiet moments to pounce, that will really kill dead your biggest ambitions for yourself.Read More
In last week’s blog post I recommended Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, a short book of advice from one established artist to another at the beginning of his journey. There are many threads within his letters, but Rilke, in particular, seems to advocate cultivating inner strength and a sense of purpose that can only come from yourself, not from others:
Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist. Then assume this fate and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking after the rewards that may come from outside. For he who creates must be a world of his own and find everything within himself and in the natural world that he has elected to follow.
I have been thinking about this notion, of gaining inner strength and through that reconnecting with the purpose to your creativity. I don’t think I know any creative person who does not have doubts about what they do. Sometimes it is only in small ways, when a particular piece of work isn’t working, other times it can be far-reaching when a crossroads is reached and the inevitable ‘what am I doing with my life?’ question appears. These doubts are natural. So, if we accept that, what can be done when we feel them? How do we find a way through the worries and out of the other side, to a place where we can continue?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.
September is the time of year for getting back to things (work, school, the routine of our daily lives) after the summer break. The French call this time of year La Rentrée – the return – and it affects everyone, not just workers and students. I like to think of this time of year as the Creative Return – where we can harness this feeling of beginning, to look forward to the rest of the year and prepare, to be ready to meet whatever opportunities or challenges we may come to.
This month, on the blog, I’ll be taking the theme of the Creative Return to focus on 4 elements: Values, the Big Picture, Reflection and Looking Forwards, with the aim of helping you remind yourself of your Why, to feel inspired about your work, to reflect on past successes and to set a course ahead. I’ll be asking you questions that get to the heart of each element and offering places you can gain additional inspiration or chances for reflection. Last week we looked at the Reflection, this week we’ll finish by Looking Forwards:Read More