What’s your creative process?

Knowing your creative process is really about knowing yourself. Taking the time to engage in self-reflection is a powerful way to cultivate your creativity—and to live a fulfilling, meaningful life.

From Make A Mess: Everyday Creativity

The article includes a list of questions to help you explore your creative process:

  • What is your ideal working environment? Home, library, cafe?
    Because of my pain, I have to write on my laptop which limits me to home.  That said, I did get a keyboard with my new tablet and whilst I don’t think I’ll be able to type for long it might open up public spaces.  I used to write everywhere and anywhere, back when I could write by hand.  When it comes to art and craft, because of the materials involved, at home is generally best although I have started doing a little bit of art in public.  This week for example, I did some work in my art journal using watercolour pens and a water pen whilst I was having coffee.

wp-image-1881962131jpg.jpg

  • What do you see, smell and feel in this ideal environment? Firstly, my sense of smell is awful so it’s not a sense I really notice much… There would be little details of beauty, flowers or the way the light shines on the trees.  I like the outside but I am always cold so somewhere inside with a good view would be best.  I would feel safe, safe enough to actually create and write.  There would need to be a very precise number of people – too many and I’m overwhelmed, too few and I feel like I’m under a microscope.
  • Do you need to be surrounded by inspiration? Or do you prefer super simple, even stark spaces to create? Probably somewhere in between.  Too messy and I find I get stressed and anxious, unless it’s a work in progress kind of mess where I know where everything is.  Too stark and I feel stiffled.  I have a table which has my art stuff and my laptop on.  There’s lots of materials and bits of paper and it looks a mess most of the time but I tend to know where everything is and because I live alone (and my cleaner and carers have strict instructions not to touch my table) it works.

  • Do you prefer to work in silence? Do you need a playlist or white noise? I need some noise.  Nothing too specific otherwise I get distracted by lyrics or the mood of the music.  The sound of a cafe would be good I think.  Although not a noisy cafe.  Loud noise makes me anxious and on edge.
  • Do you prefer to have deadlines? Do they motivate or paralyse you? I don’t know.  To be honest because I am an amateur artist and writer I’ve never really had deadlines.  The only deadlines I’ve really had is when I’m working on something I want to gift to someone and I tend to allow plenty of time for that.

wp-image-617911472jpg.jpg

  • Do you need weeks of lead time? I do find that I will have an idea and it will mull around in the back of my mind for a while until it becomes more concrete.  That said, I also have days where an idea comes more formed and I jump right in.
  • Do you prefer to work slowly or quickly? Maybe it depends. If it does, what does it depend onI have to work slowly because I have chronic hand pain.  A lot of my art is made up of layers.  I can do a bit, then rest, then a bit more. This is a technique I have developed to overcome my desire to keep working and then ending up not able to do anything for days…
  • What tends to distract you, to take you away from your work? Pain, low energy levels and depression are the main reasons I stop creating.  Lack of inspiration is another.  I also find I am more likely to procrastinate with writing than with art.
  • What’s your favourite part of the creative process? Getting ideas and feeling in flow.  I also love using recycled materials, rubbish, in my art.  I find delight in making books from amazon packaging or using empty sellotape rolls to print with.

wp-1482755703256.jpg

  • What challenges do you run into? Time, pain, energy, lacking inspiration…
  • What are some solutions for these challenges? For inspiration I find its creating regularly.  Creating creates creativity.  So good habits are important.  When it comes to my art journal, I tend to do a page most days but I’m careful not to insist on everyday otherwise if I miss a day I feel bad and the more days I miss the harder it is to go back.  I’m still working on solutions when it comes to writing but I schedule time into my diary and try not to procrastinate my way out of it.  I also only write for 10-20 minutes at a time.  Partly because of pain but also because otherwise I find I write a lot and then stop when I get stuck.  This means when I come back to write more, I am still stuck and it’s so much harder to then get started.  I’ve also had a few projects on the go and from the start decided they would be long term.  This means I always have something to dip into.
  • What are your least favourite ways to work? Hmm… I don’t know!  Maybe under strict instructions?  I don’t like being told what to do.  I’ve been doing an online course this year and some of the videos are giving inspiration and techniques but others have been very prescriptive, down to which supplies you use and colours.  I don’t want to make something that’s already been made…
  • When are you most energised and inspired? I don’t really know.. I guess when my pain levels are managed and my fatigue isn’t too bad…

wp-image-1028579416jpg.jpg

  • When are you in the zone? What does being in the zone feel like? What kinds of conditions help you enter your zone? Again, I don’t really know.  I think a lot depends on pain and energy levels but being surrounded by inspiring and interesting objects as well as doing things like the online wanderlust course help.  As I’ve said before, creating creates creativity.  The more you do, the more you get inspired.
  • Why do you create? I create to process things and express myself.  I create because it’s therapeutic.  I create because seeing something woven by your hands is a powerful feeling.  I create for the satisfaction of making.

A writers workout

Recently I did my second workshop with Sue Cooper.  The first was a few years ago and was writing inspired by artefacts in the Yorkshire Museum.  This one was called a writers workout and was about getting imaginations going and getting words down on paper.

She had a great selection of exercises to get us thinking and inspired.  I had a great time and was sad when I had to leave early because of pain (boo!).

The first exercise was to write for 60 seconds on a word she gave us which was a great way to start the day:

edited for spelling and grammar only

Stolen

He had stolen her dreams, her heart, her soul when he had left that day. She had always prided herself on being a strong independent woman who was more than her relationship to her man but that day, when he walked out, she realised she had succumb to him. She had let him steal her heart, her soul, her dreams, her hopes.

Roadkill

Her eyes flicked involuntarily to the corpse by the side of the motorway, a badger possibly, she couldn’t let herself look long enough to identify the rotting flesh. Her stomach heaved but she kept driving, eyes straight ahead, heart blocking out the pain.

A Vietnamese hat

A Vietnamese hat hung in the corner of the room, a reminder of a previous life, a time of travel and adventure, a time of excitement now sitting, getting dusty.  A relic of another life, a part of her that she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of yet every time she spotted it, she felt her heart sink. She would never again know the unfettered joy of discovering a new place, a new culture, new people, new food, the delight of turning a corner and finding a temple or a beautiful sandy shore. The Vietnamese hat would forever be bittersweet.

We then did an exercise where we wrote down a list of nouns and a list of adjectives and swapped them with someone else (so you have your list of nouns and someone else’s adjectives).  We then used the pairs to spark ideas.  Some were really interesting; bitter keyhole, skinny bollard, pallid wheelchair… The one I used to write about wasn’t actually that strange:

The yellow pencil

Nostalgia is a remarkable thing, triggered by the most insignificant of things. The yellow pencil that she turned over in her hands rushed her back to primary school, the smell of the electric pencil sharpener grinding the stick to a point. The simple joy of writing on a clean sheet of paper in your best handwriting with the sharpest possible pencil. She remembered sitting there, thinking as hard as a six year old can, she knew that it was important to write something really good on the first page of her new notebook.  In the end, she had given in to the pressure and simply put down her name and the date in her finest joined up lettering.

Holding it to her nose, she inhaled the strange smell of graphite and wood shavings and sighed.  How many words had it written, this pencil which was now little more than a stump?  Perhaps if she had followed her dream of becoming an author, it would have scribbled down notes for a bestseller or ideas for a children’s book.  Instead, this particular pencil, had probably scratched out shopping lists, reminders to herself and parents evening dates in her diary.

We did a range of other exercises and talked about what we’d written. all in all an excellent day!

Storytelling tarot spread 

I’ve seen writing inspiration tarot spreads on pinterest and thought they were interesting. Then a while back a friend asked if I’d do one for her.

I had a look and couldn’t settle on a particular spread, they all had strengths and weaknesses and in the end I pulled together the strengths and my knowledge of writing to make my own.

Half focuses on characters, their motivations and their relationship. The other half is based on the story arc idea with a card for each key point in the plot.

The reading I did for my friend was really interesting with some great stuff for writing I think. I hope so anyway!  I was inspired to do my own reading which turned out to be very different even though there were a couple of the same cards.

hj 220716 edited

Normally when I read for myself, I just note ideas down but when I did this reading for my friend, I used full sentences and wrote all my thoughts which turned out to be quite helpful. So I repeated this for myself (PDF).

Following this, an essential step is to actually sit down and write… I did a writers block spread for my friend as well. For me, I’m going to try and create a writing plan or routine which sees me do a little each week. I’d love to say each day but I know that my unpredictable pain and energy levels will mean I don’t achieve that. And once I’ve missed one day, it becomes very easy to miss another and so on… I’m thinking it might be worth adding to my Friday check in /week ahead planning.

If i don’t get far with a plan, then I’ll do the writers block spread for myself but I think I probably know my own blocks; lack of self discipline, lack of energy at times, wanting to get something spot on first time but mostly just not sitting down to write. I have all the excuses… Pain, brain fog, using the computer can worsen my pain, using voice recognition software is frustrating… But I have the time, I have vague ideas and the inspiration from the above spread, I just need to actually turn on my laptop and start drafting and jotting down ideas…

Wish me luck!!

I did some writing!!!

This is not proof read or anything but I’m excited at having put words on paper so I’m sharing it anyway!

I used a writing exercise which generates three words for you to use to write something.  My words were: calm, canal, wheelbarrow


“bugger…” the old man grumbled to himself as the wheelbarrow caught on a jagged rock.  It wasn’t the first time that day that he’d wondered what on earth he was doing.  He was 82 for pete’s sake and here he was fighting with a contraption that looked older than he did just so that the young lass on the boat could get her fire going.  She was pregnant.  If she wasn’t, he’d have told her to put her own back into it instead of his which creaked and groaned.  He didn’t know where the father was.  He didn’t know much about her really.  Just her name, Michelle, and that she’d pulled up on the mooring at the end of his garden three days ago.

The mooring, which by the way, was supposed to be private.  Not that he’d ever used it.  What did he need somewhere to park a boat?  He didn’t even have a car…  it was a relic he supposed, from a time when the village relied on the canal for it’s essentials.  The barges were the high street back then.  Now the water was filled with middle class holiday makers and posh folk who’d paid through the nose just to be able to refer to their own moorings.  And michelle.  Now she was different.  She actually lived on her boat, or so it seemed to him.  She had a little terrier dog, dirty brown colour but friendly enough.  He supposed that it could get lonely by herself on the boat, having nowhere to really call home.  He didn’t get the sense from her that she had much in the way of family or friends… was that because of her chosen lifestyle or was her lifestyle chosen because of the lack of personal relationships…  standing upright and stretching out his back he wondered about her.  And when she would be moving on.  It wasn’t so much that he didn’t like her but he was used to his own company and of course, he could do without the additional chores… back in his day, a man would have stuck around to see his woman give birth… he should have been the one hauling about the coal… never mind… grumbling a bit more, George resumed the task in hand.

It was a calm day on board, Michelle stretched out her legs showing them off to the warming sun.  It was late spring but it had been a harsh winter and the air was just starting to heat up at last.  She sighed to herself.  She really needed to find some answers to the thousands of worries which were swarming around in her mind…  Seeing the kind gentleman approach, she heaved herself to standing and waved a grateful hand towards him.  He’d been generous to her.  Offering help which she desperately needed but her pride wouldn’t let her ask for.  There were so many things which weren’t as easy as they had been before she’d ballooned into a walking incubator.

As had become customary, Michelle offered George a cup of tea by way of a thank you and as had become customary, he’d declined.  It was strange.  They knew nothing about each other really, they’d only met a few days ago but Michelle felt there was something very familiar about him and the way they danced their parts felt like they were an old married couple.  George lived on his own.  She knew that much from watching the house.  No one had come or gone or appeared at a window whilst she’d been there.  She could ask him but somehow that felt intrusive.  No, instead she took glances at his ring finger; no sign of a ring or tan line.  Divorced? Permanent bachelor?  Or a widower who’d never been bothered with a ring?  Not that it mattered really.  She was moving on again soon and George would become just another faceless stranger who’d shown her some kindness.

The Fool’s Journey…

Apparently the Major Arcana are said to tell the story of the Fool (card 0) and part of the Alternative Tarot Course is to look at the cards and find a story.  Here’s my, almost complete, story.  The more experienced of you will notice that I have missed the last four cards.  When I reached the Star card, it felt to me like pushing the story would be a bit like the time when I was 7 that I wrote “and they walked for a day and slept for a day and then they walked for a day and slept for a day…”.  It felt like I was trying to pull out the story just to make it longer.

NB. This is using the Wild Unknown cards which I believe have Strength and Justice in a different place to some decks.


image

The Fool starts off naïve, innocent and curious about the world.  As she starts to look around her, she meets five interesting people.  The Magician is exciting and inspires in her a sense of purpose and a need to get moving and doing.  The High Priestess tempers the Magician with her calm, collected and reflective aura.  Where the Magician is full of energy and dives into new projects, the High Priestess prefers to consider and looks within for answers.

The Empress and the Emperor make a powerful pair. Sometimes considered to be Mother Nature, the Empress is a warm woman who creates and nurtures life.  The Emperor is more of a traditional stereotypical father figure who wants to protect life.  He is more logical and mind focused where she is more focused on caring and emotions.

The final person of the five is the Hierophant.  He is a Wise Man who has spent many years reflecting and thinking about the world and is full of teachings that he enjoys sharing.  The Fool respects and admires him.

In fact, she builds strong friendships with the five people she has met, each offering a different aspect of support and as such, she experiences the union, partnership and joy of the Lovers.

After this, the Fool starts to experience the world and sets off on her path.

Setting out with the action of the Magician in mind, she is filled with purpose and adopts the strength of the Chariot.  However all adventures reach a point where decisions are required or karma unfolds.  As Justice makes itself known to the Fool, she decides it’s time to make use of her friends the High Priestess and the Hierophant.  Pulling on their reflective ability and knowledge, she learns about the Hermit, his life of solitude, self reflection and meditation.  Still overwhelmed by the looming decisions, she spends a period in solitude, reflecting and meditating on her life so far.  Her meditation leads her towards the Wheel of Fortune and she realises it is necessary to change course, to move towards her destiny.

Stepping off the easy path takes courage and strength and the path she has chosen is often unclear and unnerving, to continue on she must be patience and master her emotions so that she doesn’t lose faith and revert back to the easy path.  She also feels the Hanged Man pressing on her.  Changing course, however minor, requires letting go of a future you had envisioned, more dramatically, it can require letting go of believes, friends and security.  However this is necessary sacrifice, a necessary death.

Once she makes the sacrifice, she is able to bring closure on the old path and use the energy spent battling the path to instead move forward more easily and transform into the version of herself she felt drawn to whilst living like the Hermit.  As she does this, with the help of Temperance, she continues to heal her wounds from her old path.

As with all stories, there comes a point where the balance is knocked and negativity enters.  As she has walked on her new path, she has picked up glittering objects which have slowed her down and detracted her from her intention. She has become more focused in gathering shiny trinkets than following her path. Indeed, she has built herself a home of lures from the devil and no longer follows her path at all.

Suddenly, her home is robbed, all her shiny trinkets are stolen and she has no place to live. She is panicked and in her crisis, she turns to her five friends.  It is the hierophant who reminds her to take a step back, reflect and meditate as she had done earlier in life.  He guides her to the wisdom of the Tower.  Through doing this, she realises how off course she has become and vows to find a way back.

The crisis has forced her to look up and around her, and she now sees the shiny, glittering stars, trinkets which she cannot collect and which instead she can use to guide her.  Reassured by this, she sets out again, with hope of her new life and peace of mind that the stars will show her the way.


I just got my deck out to photograph the fool and some of the cards got stuck in the box, with the fool on top.

World Enough and Time

image

““The human mind is fed and nourished by every sight and smell and sound that we encounter, from the movement of the clouds to the shrill of the birds outside our morning window.” To enjoy that nourishment, we need to “refuse and choose,” resisting the siren call of technology whenever possible and allowing ourselves time to slow down and pay attention.”

Christian McEwan

World Enough and Time by Christian McEwan is book I have been reading, appropriately slowly, for the last couple of years.  In 2013 I went on a fantastic week long adventure to a little island off Scotland where Christian and Jan helped us to slow down, guided us to write and supported the creation of art.

“A 2008 survey in the Journal of Socio-Economics claimed that the psychologogical benefits of a friendship were equivalent to a pay-rise of eighty-five thousand pounds”

Christian McEwan, World Enough and Time

The book ‘examines the spiritual and literary underpinnings of slowness and offers inspiration, encouragement, and practical advice for anyone wishing to create time and space for the imagination to flourish’.  Full of beautiful writing and inspiring suggestions, I’ve really enjoyed taking my time reading it (yes, pain means I have to read books v v slow but I think this one in particular has benefited from that).

The book looks at ‘Hurry Sickness’, the healing power of real conversation, the value of walking, looking, learning to pause and storytelling etc.  I don’t really do book reviews so this isn’t really going to be that, more some musings inspired by the book.

image

I’ve touched on slowing down before on this blog and over on unlockingimages and whilst much of my slowing down has been forced on me by my health, there is still a lot of value in it.  I remember a sunny day, pottering around with my lovely friend who also has EDS.  We were talking about how we have to walk more slowly than we used to (I was a fast walker back in the day!) but how it means she notices flowers and sees things she’d miss otherwise.  It’s a moment that I come back to again and again.  How much more wonderful life would be if we literally stopped to smell the roses instead of rushing and pushing and stressing from place to place in an unnecessary hurry.

We live in a society which doesn’t place much value on doing things for the sake of them, rather we are all supposed to be being productive, all of the time.  Again, pain has meant this isn’t possible and has meant I can step back and question that approach.  Finding joy in little things and beauty in small moments makes for a happier life.  We can’t all have the latest <insert gadget> but we can almost all look out a window and see plants, birds, insects, stars, clouds etc (NB if you’re bed bound and can’t look out a window, could you move your bed?).

“In ancient China, when someone studied calligraphy, he did not simply copy the original.  Instead, he spread out the scroll against the wall, and stared at it for a long time.  Only when he had, as it were, incorporated it completely, did he finally pick up his brush and begin to work”

Christian McEwan, World Enough and Time

How many people reading that, are thinking what a waste of time, just get the job done?  But the beauty in the approach and the deeper connection to the work, makes it much more meaningful.  And I feel that it would teach the student so much more.

Pay attention, look closely and even the most mundane seeming thing will be transformed.  And that is your power, to take the ordinary and see it as extraordinary.  That is what artists and writers and musicians do.  And it’s something that is completely accessible to you, whatever your circumstances.  You can start now and develop a deeper awareness of your surroundings and in doing so, you can find poetry all around you.

And even better, this time you spend mulling and dreaming and pondering, is time that your mind will use to ruminate over problems and build insights and connections that are completely unrelated.  And all of it is free!

image

The book is full of wonderful insights and magical quotes and I hope I have been able to do justice with my own ponderings.  Christian herself is a very thoughful, inspiring woman and it was an honor to have her guidance for a week.


By the way, if you’re interested in spending a week slowing down on Tanera Mor with Jan and another artist, you can book onto the wonderful sounding See Sound, See Shore.  If health allowed, I’d be booking on!

a poet, anger and a banana… a writing exercise

Sometime last year, I bought a few old issues of mslexia off ebay.  I’ve got a subscription but I wanted some more to read.  The last couple I’ve looked at have had some interesting exercises to get you writing.  And as one of my projects for this year is to get back into writing, I figured I should actually give them a go rather than just thinking “oh that’s an interesting idea”…

This is the one that got me onto my computer to write.

Write a list of professions.  Come back later and write a list of emotions.  Come back later again and write a list of objects.

  profession Emotion/feeling etc object
1 poet guilt Gun
2 taxidermist Anger Spoon
3 teacher love Banana
4 Police officer Despair Door
5 Model Joy Camera
6 Journalist Excitement Pen
7 Artist Happy Painting
8 Poison taster Ashamed Screwdriver
9 Vet Courageous Tablet
10 Cook Bitter Chair
11 Editor Apathetic Marmalade
12 Taxi driver Grief Jar
13 Masseuse Overwhelmed Glasses
14 Hair dresser Anxious Window
15 Carer Peace Peach
16 Photographer Lust Plate
17 Actor pride Book
18 Miller scared Skirt
19 Ghost hunter confused horse

Then there’s different ways you can use your lists but the idea is that it’s a springboard for a couple of sentences, an idea or a vignette.

I’m choosing three numbers at random and picking one word from each column accordingly.

So 1, 2 and 3 gives  me a poet, anger and a banana…

8,9 and 7 gives me a poison taster, courageous and painting:

Everyone thought the poison taster was so brave, so courageous, risking her life each and every day for the sake of saving another. But she knew differently. It was a cop out. It was placing the risk in someone else’s hands. She felt no fear when she took that first bite or mouthful for her boss. She knew the outcome; live or die. But the second she sat at her easel and held a paintbrush in her hands, she froze. Her mind filled with anxiety, doubt, criticism. Overwhelming her, forcing her to turn away. The canvas remaining blank. A stark reminder to her of her cowardliness.

The painting remains unpainted. The poison taster poisoned.

What combinations do you get?  What stories do they tell?