Creation, Not Devastation

At the end of 2014, I made a vow to myself- regardless of my social calendar, I would dedicate more time to the act of creativity in 2015. The latter part of last year was so chaotic with thirtieth birthday celebrations, including an amazing Narnia party with two of my best friends, and festive preparations, not to mention the completion of my 30 Before 30 challenge (yes, I did it…in a fashion!), that I was always too tired to summon up the energy necessary to maintain my blog and, consequently, lapsed into a creative rut.

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Of course, we all have good intentions for the year ahead- the desire to change ourselves for the better is just part of human nature-, but they often become lost somewhere in between theory and practice because, let’s be honest, life has a horrible tendency of getting in the way. Following the abysmal attacks in Paris, however, my desire to be creative has intensified. Like so many others around the globe, I often forget to appreciate how lucky I am to live in a society that allows and openly advocates freedom of expression. Though some will be scaremongered into submission by the atrocious acts committed by terrorists, the majority understand that to stop expressing their opinions through an artistic medium is to relinquish their freedom, their identity, and even, figuratively speaking, their existence. After all, the act of creation is synonymous with life – when we stop creating, we stop living.

This year, therefore, I intend to be as creative as I possibly can. Although I normally commit myself to some sort of literature related challenge, my only objectives this year are to increase my poetic and blogging output, writing more about the things that I feel passionate about, and to gain some new skills in the creative arena. After receiving a copy of my most recently published poem on my thirtieth birthday, I would really like to capitalise on last year’s successes by getting more of my work into the public sphere, but I also want to develop skills in other areas too- such as learning a particular form of dance and enhancing my sewing skills.

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Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I hope that the New Year has brought you happiness and prosperity. Although 2015 may not have started well in the context of world events, let’s summon up some positivity and begin our year as we mean to go on: by embracing the act of imaginative creation, not destruction or devastation.

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Time for a Creative Rebirth!

Sitting on Books
In the last few months, there’s been an abundance of cultural trips, copious amounts of reading, and plenty of fun…but no blogging. Although I could provide a whole string of excuses for this, the truth of the matter is simply this- when it comes to sitting down to write, I am a terrible procrastinator.

PoetryMad Hatter's Tea Party

Budapest

Some of the most exciting events of the last few months: going to Latitude; taking part in the Children’s Literature Festival at work (which included a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in the Enchanted Woods!); and a little trip to Budapest!

Daydreaming, checking Facebook/texting friends, and making more cups of tea than necessary are all large elements of my procrastination. I know I am not alone; it seems the majority of the western world indulges in the same time-wasting antics, yet that knowledge does nothing to appease my frustration at my own lack of motivation.

Strangely, however, it seems that my passion for writing has been reignited today. Besides penning a few lines of poetry, the first in quite a while, I also got the urge to write a blog post. Generally, this time of year does tend to have a transformative effect on my levels of creativity, so I can only attribute my desire to write to the gradually changing light and striking colours of the season. After being tired and devoid of creativity for the last few months, I feel as if someone’s flicked a switch and I’ve finally burst back into life!

This sudden outpouring of creativity will not result in me frantically posting numerous 30 Before 30 book reviews, however. Whilst the challenge continues- I am now on book 23 with 10 weeks to go and more optimism than I had a month ago! -, it would be difficult to catch up on documenting all of the books I’ve read through individual reviews. I will endeavour to write short reviews of each in due course, but for now I’m just pleased to be feeling motivated again!

September may be the start of the season of death, yet for some of us, it’s (hopefully!) the catalyst for creative rebirth…

Autumn Celebration!

Published Poetry: Paper Girl

The new writer 2

It’s not very often that I have the opportunity to publish two blog posts in one week, and this week has probably been busier than most! As I’ve settled down to recover from all the chaos however, I thought I’d write a short post to share my most recently published poem, which I received a copy of on Friday. Exciting times!

I’m particularly proud of this poem as it’s something I wrote for my university portfolio eight years ago, but which only got accepted for publication by The New Writer after I’d made a couple of vocabulary changes to it. I think the moral of this story is that sometimes perseverance pays!

Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Paper Girl

If I were a tree,

gnarled and shrunken with misery,

you would have felled me long ago,

slicing me into your paper girl, my rings of beauty

lost in the monotony of this:

 

 

a blank page.

 

When was it that love became a mere noun,

reiterated

time and time again

in the branches

of a tree

bearing no fruit?

In the button tin

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If your idea of heaven involves vintage fabrics, jam jars bursting with buttons, and an eclectic array of ornamental curios, you may well find it in the form of the button tin: a cosy hub of creativity located in the centre of Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

Reminiscent of your gran’s house, the button tin is the beautiful base from which Gemma, who has a degree in Fine Arts, runs sewing workshops with ‘a nostalgic twist’. As Gemma’s artistic interest lies in installations, she wanted to create a space that people could be inspired by, and used her memories of her gran’s button tin as the beginning of her own creative endeavour. Ranging from creating vintage fabric book covers to quirky whimsical mobiles and wall hangings, Gemma’s workshops aim to preserve traditional crafts, whilst incorporating history in unique, sentimental creations.

My friends and I, who had all heard of or visited the button tin previously, took part in one of these workshops on Sunday, and, as you can see from the photos, what an amazing day it was!

Button Tin 6

After introducing herself and describing how the button tin came into existence, Gemma gave us the option of making some fabric jewellery or combining text and textiles to form a wall sampler or piece of wall art. As a poet, it was immediately obvious which option I was going to choose (any opportunity to use my poetic brain!), and luckily all of my friends wanted to do the same.

At the end of a fantastic six hour workshop consisting of one-to-one tutoring; a rummage through, and use of, some gorgeous vintage fabrics, lace doilies and a button tin (of course!); plus lashings of tea and a piece of cake, these are the wonderful pieces my friends produced:

Button Tin 4the button tin Kate

The Button Tin 5

Ellen's creation

As I’m a little bit of a technophobe and we were running out of time, my very kind friend Ellen, who is a Design Technology teacher and talented seamstress, helped me to finish mine, so I can’t take full credit for it, but I was pretty pleased with the quirky apron style sampler I ended up with. Thankyou to Gemma for the inspired idea!

Close up of mine

A line taken from one of my poems.

Button Tin 1

If you fancy a trip to the button tin, would like to know more about this little haven of magic, hidden in an old building in the depths of Yorkshire, or simply need some visual inspiration, take a look at Gemma’s blog: http://gemmanemer.blogspot.co.uk. You’ll be truly enchanted.

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PS. I stupidly forgot my phone on the day, so had to steal other people’s pics (thankyou people!), or use ones I’d taken previously. As a result, I don’t have any photographic representations of the outside of the button tin in all its unique beauty.

So that’s just another reason to visit Gemma’s blog!

Kitchen Creativity

Finding inspiration in everyday life isn’t always easy. Though I am a voracious reader and frequently visit new places, endeavouring to assimilate as many social and cultural influences as possible, there are times when it seems like my mind is completely and utterly devoid of any sort of poetic thought (which is partly why I created this blog- to force me into regular acts of creativity!). At times like these, instead of waiting for inspiration to come, I actively seek out creative opportunities.

This week I made the decision to carry out a simple writing exercise as a means of ‘assisting’ my brain. Despite getting some odd looks, I raided the kitchen cupboards, collecting a few random objects, and assembled my ‘stimuli’ on the dining room table.

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As you can see from the photo above, the things I chose were mainly common objects that can be found in most homes: a tape measure; a map; a box of matches; a shell; a clove of garlic; …and a masquerade mask (which doesn’t technically belong in my kitchen, but I thought I’d make use of it anyway!). When we encounter these objects on a day-to-day basis, we don’t always think about what they might represent or how we can use them in a creative way. Sometimes, however, if you have the time and you’re that way inclined, it’s interesting to spend a few minutes thinking about them (yes, thinking about a clove of garlic is interesting!), if only to remind ourselves to be open to new possibilities and ways of looking at the world.

 The Task

In the first part of my writing exercise, I allowed myself a maximum of two minutes per item to write down ten words or phrases that immediately popped into my head when looking at/thinking about it.

Once I had completed this part of the task, I used the words/phrases as inspiration to write six unrelated haikus, one for each piece of stimulus. As haikus are very short poems, consisting of a line of 5 syllables, a line of 7 syllables, and another line of 5 syllables, I thought this would be the perfect way of exercising my poetic brain. The fact that they’re so concentrated means that every word has to be very carefully chosen to create the greatest possible impact, however, so they’re not as simple as they initially seem! This does make you more aware of phonetics though, so it can be a good poetic technique to use with children who are developing their understanding of sounds.

 These are the results:

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 Garlic- contained, wrapped, layers, delicate, bunched, skin, bulging, veined, whole, crinkly

Delicate layers

peel away, revealing skin’s

luminous wonder

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 Map- navigation, geographical, winding, belonging, travel, route, plot, guide, landmarks, streets

Belonging to time,

streets of memory wind through

this town of my mind

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Matches- strike, burn, rage, ignite, light, glow, short fuse, fuel, primitive, potential

Potential to strike.

Short fuse, ready to ignite-

fire contained in light

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Tape Measure- length, unravel, distance, height, coiled, metres, measurements, quantify, numerical, growth

Unravel metres

of yourself and we will be

at the height of love

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Mask- masquerade, disguise, all in the eyes, opulence, glitter, facade, ribboned, riches, hedonistic, decadence

Opulent disguise,

facade of glittering lives-

it’s all in the eyes

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Shell- ancient, whorls, unicorn’s horn, stick of rock, waves, textured, spiral, fairground, home, pearled

Horn of unicorn,

Textured whorls of pearled beauty-

Sea’s gift to the shore

Although I didn’t produce anything particularly great, this exercise really helped to alleviate my creative block, and rejuvenated my brain. As a result, I would definitely recommend it to anyone in need of a little creative jumpstart. Whilst it might seem like a very simple task, it can be amazingly enlightening, encouraging you to consider the nuts and bolts of everyday existence in a far more philosophical way, and heightening your awareness of words and sounds in the process.

Settling down in front of the telly/snuggling up with a good book every night might be relaxing, but, as I discovered, every so often it’s good to step outside of your usual routine and spark the creativity within…

Eating Fairy Fruit and Other Stories

To say that I have always loved reading would be a slight understatement. From the moment I entered the realm of literature, books have been my primary passion, the very air that I breathe. Coming from a family who always encouraged but never truly understood my reverence for the written word, I always felt like I was a bit of an oddity. The magnetic allure of other worlds, however, was too strong for me to care much about my difference in this one.

Of course, the older and more educated I became, the more like-minded people I met- people who had grown up on a diet of Narnia and the Famous Five, consuming stories of adventure as if they were Smarties. Like me, the world that they most enjoyed inhabiting was the one contained in their imagination. Whilst this fantastical sanctuary proved to be a source of wonder and comfort to us all as children and teenagers, it didn’t always prove to be the best preparation for the often mundane reality of adult existence.

In Neil Gaiman’s recent lecture on libraries, books and daydreaming, published in The Guardian, one sentence particularly resonated with me. Speaking of the virtues of reading, Gaiman expressed an idea that I’ve often thought:

 ‘Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in.’

The fact is, in our fast-paced and ever-changing real world, discontentment is rife. In the last few years alone, the relentless doom and gloom resulting from the recession has dominated our TV screens, causing widespread disenchantment. Unfortunately, as we are only too aware, life in the real world doesn’t automatically result in a clear-cut denouement- the ‘happy ever after’ we romanticised as children.  There are no magical cures lovingly administered by beautiful maidens (the service provided by the NHS, needless to say, doesn’t count); doorways to other lands don’t exist (at least not literally); and Mr Darcy failed to materialise at any party I’ve ever been to (to my great and utter dismay). Life is tough. And often pretty boring. But, the truth is, it doesn’t have to be.

Although my love of reading may have caused me to become a bit of a dreamer, it has also provided me with a yearning for adventure that is only satiated by actually doing exciting things. A few years ago, for example, having just spit up with my boyfriend and feeling dissatisfied with my job, I made the decision to go inter-railing for two weeks… alone. Some people might not think this is a particularly adventurous thing to do, yet it was certainly something quite liberating for me, and helped me to feel as though I was regaining some kind of control over my existence during a negative period of my life.

More recently, I made the brave/stupid (*delete as applicable) decision to quit my job in education in pursuit of a more creatively fulfilling career. Whilst my job wasn’t particularly mentally demanding, I felt perpetually devoid of energy and creativity, and knew I had to take action in order to avoid slipping into a work-induced coma for the rest of my days. With the guidance and support of a few lovely individuals, and a lot of determination and foresight on my part, I have managed to make an exciting transition from fed-up full-timer to proactive pursuer. Having already had another poem published; volunteered at a literature festival; started a blog; and been offered an unpaid internship at a theatre, I finally feel as though my life is starting to resemble the adventure I always pictured myself having.

I appreciate that not everyone has the opportunity to do such things. People with the financial responsibilities of children, mortgages, and forthcoming weddings, like many people of my generation, aren’t at liberty to quit their jobs in search of the life they want to lead. This is not what I am trying to say, however. The point that I’m making is that, regardless of circumstance, everyone has the power to alter their life to some extent; to break up the monotony of working life by indulging in something they enjoy, or following a long-held dream.

Whether you decide to take up a new hobby, plan an amazing holiday, or donate some of your time to helping others, we are all capable of taking charge of our own existence, and, ultimately, enhancing our own happiness. Life may not be always be quite as interesting outside the margins of a book, but we can at least try to live a fulfilling existence. Sometimes we just need a little imagination to make our small fantasies tangible. After all, as Einstein famously said, ‘Logic will get you from A- Z. Imagination will get you everywhere.’.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming

Abundant Autumn

For many people, the seasonal shift that starts every September is simply the gloomy precursor to short days, endless nights, and the dreaded threat of a winter cold.

Whilst most people no longer associate autumn with glorious abundance, the first chill in the air sends me into spasms of ‘fruitfulness’, my creative faculties instantly ignited by the flourish of colours in the world of the outdoors.

To celebrate the dying of the light, it’s become a bit of a tradition for a couple of my friends and I to have an autumnal picnic. As ‘autumn babies’ we all have a strange affinity with the season, and love nothing more than to don the layers for our own little feast.

This year, we may have done it a bit early. The first leaves had barely graced the grass before we were laying out our spread in the park, eagerly discussing the arrival of ‘magic in the air’. There were no trees ablaze with the fiery shades of the season; no romantic mists; no swallows gathering for epic journeys halfway across the world.

Even in the absence of these Keatsian notions however, the park had a certain quality; a charm; a sense of enchantment that made my skin tingle, and infused all of us with excitement at the prospect of the rosy glow of autumn.

And I realised: this is what I love about this time of year- the anticipation of awe. The knowledge that something magical is about to happen to the natural world. The fact that anyone can experience it.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t always need money to enjoy the world. As long as you have some degree of appreciation, imagination, and a willingness to attune your senses to the elemental magic in the air, life can be as abundant with wonder as you want it to be…

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