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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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?

Banishing the Blues

Last week, I felt as if the dark days of winter had manifested themselves across my face.

Besides having dry skin, an eruption of spots, and dark circles under my eyes, a glance in the mirror at work one day revealed what I had already suspected- that I was wearing a perpetual grimace. Despite all my best intentions, I’d once again succumbed to the dreariness of January and allowed myself to feel as if the apocalypse was imminent. Like so many people throughout the northern hemisphere, I was experiencing a serious case of the January blues.

After a few days in hibernation mode, I felt that it was time to force myself into some action. Although getting plenty of rest can be a good thing, I’m the type of person who thrives on positivity, creativity…and a project. So, in addition to my 30 Before 30 reading challenge, I decided to start a Positivity Project. To be honest, it’s not so much a project- rather a short list of things to do in an effort to help me maintain my sanity until winter is over, and endeavour to embrace some metaphorical sunshine. It’s all quite obvious, but as it seems to be working, I thought I’d share it…

           The Positivity Project

           1. Visit a new place

January can be a difficult month to visit somewhere new; generally it’s the time when we have the least amount of money, and are most reluctant to enter the outside world due to our tendency to slip into ‘snuggle’ mode.

Travelling to a previously unexplored place really lifts my spirits though; it reminds me that there’s an exciting world outside of my mundane existence, and the change in scenery energises me in a way that nothing much else can. Last weekend, I visited two new places: Lincoln, a quaint city with an amazing cathedral and castle, and Penistone, a lovely little town in Yorkshire with some cute cafes and plenty of countryside. Though they were very different experiences, both contributed to a much more positive mood; clearly I just needed to escape!

Lincoln Cathedral Lincoln Castle

            2. Plan things to look forward to

Generally, nothing much happens in January- everyone’s waiting for their bank balance to recover from Christmas and/or for spring to blossom. Planning things to look forward to is, therefore, a necessary way of ensuring you don’t descend into craziness. Without the prospect of future fun, how are you supposed to endure the seemingly endless bleakness?

Focusing on the fact that I have numerous 30th birthdays, a hen do, a wedding, and some potential trips away on the horizon has definitely made me feel much brighter. It may be a bit monotonous at the moment, but it’s definitely going to be an eventful year overall.

     3. Spend time with people who make you happy

It’s pretty obvious, but sometimes we become so immersed in our own misery that we forget that the simple answers are often the best.

Catching up with the people who make me smile, including some friends that I haven’t seen for months, has been conducive to a much happier state of mind over the last week. Though it’s easy just to cancel in favour of an early night/a day at home at this time of year, we can’t allow SAD to win!

4. Get creative

What works for me is not necessarily always going to be effective for others, but as a creative type, I find that a session of focused creativity every once in a while really enhances my spirits. Last year, I started a Craft Club with a friend in a conscious attempt to be creative more regularly and try to develop new skills. Whilst I’m definitely not the world’s best seamstress (and believe me, there have been some disasters!), getting creative with my sewing machine allows me to indulge a passion and feel like I’ve achieved something (providing it goes to plan!). To banish the January blues this week, I customised a bag. It was a simple task, but it instantly brightened my mood.

Customised bagCustomised Bag 2

5. Be positive!

So many people don’t actually realise that the language they use is really negative. Until I had some professional coaching, I’d never noticed that I was constantly saying things like ‘no’, ‘don’t’, ‘won’t’ and ‘shouldn’t’- words that, ultimately, have a detrimental impact on our state of mind.

Anyone who’s ever read Danny Wallace’s Yes Man (one of the funniest things I’ve ever read) will understand the power of ‘yes’. Being positive opens your eyes to new experiences and can have a magnetic effect on the people you meet. I appreciate that many people don’t believe in the effects of positive thinking (and even find it annoying), but relatively new research does show that happiness and health are linked, therefore the more positive you are, the more likely it is that you’ll live through many more days of January…oh joy of joys!

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you’re enjoying a positive January!

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