As we teeter on the verge of restored freedoms in the UK tomorrow, I offer some reflections of mine as a Friday Creative during Quarantine. I share these with you whether you need a tool as a flagging fiction-writer, frustrated photographer, anarchic artist or weary workaholic. Do let me know if it helps you along!
1. Enquire or Overlook
Yesterday, I drove along a back road of scruffy urban streets called ‘The Holmes’. Kerbs were skirted by scantily clad and curious spectators, craning their necks. All eyes were following the course of a wiry shaven-headed man, making a jaunty escape from the scene.
There must have been a fight in the street outside Aldi. His retreating scratched and bloodied skull bobbed up and down like a scarlet balloon in my windscreen mirror. Where was he going? How far would he walk in that state? Had he been the provocateur or the unfortunate victim? How badly was his skull smarting or aching? Would his salt-metallic tasting blood be licked away quickly enough from his swollen lips before he could rinse his battered head in cool water? Why had no one called an ambulance?
2. Empathise or Criticise
Are you one of those sensitive types who squirms or startles whilst watching an engaging film?
A shot is fired – and you’re clutching the equivalent of the injured victim on your own body part?
I am a person who loses concentration and drifts off into my own thoughts all too easily. A personality test told me recently of my risk of blurring emotional boundaries as one who naturally mirrors others’ emotions. Someone else, highly qualified to do, so clearly identified me as an empath. So, when I was reading ‘The Creative Writing Coursebook’ one evening last week, these words fired out at me typical of the fictional bullet to my heart.
“it’s empathy, I’d say, that sets an imagination free” (Maureen Freely)
In that phrase is a secret to creativity.
It is not selfish, it is other-centred – and therefore easily stirred.
Surely, as a writer, if I can hang onto empathy as my catalyst, I cannot go far wrong.
Just imagine, putting yourself in the shoes of a character you scarcely have anything in common with? There is infinite material at hand.
Writer’s block? Absolutely not.
But any word-flow must be useful from impression to suggestion.
The real block is being able to believe it will be useful. This is the creative’s real battle. Not with subject matter but with object approval. And yet, to do this for the sheer joy of it is any artist’s finest accomplishment. There has never been a better time for the sheer joy of creating and communicating to meet with the deepest need to be understood. Never better. We have turbulent societal shifts at play, reconfiguring our understanding of work, school, childhood, worship and friendship, celebration and solitude.
There’s someone for everyone, goes the saying.
And so too, must there be something expressed for every something inexplicably felt.
As a writer I believe there must be a phrase to capture every yearning.
3. Choose or Lose
Right now, I am at the crossroads of choosing to pursue and refine a certain natural gift or style or just to dabble with it as a past-time.
Should I take what might seem a laborious detour in learning the art and craft of creative writing? Risking painful consciousness-raising of incompetence as I deconstruct everything under the spotlight of analysis and self-awareness, I fear I may lose something in the process. Yet I need to be able to produce consistently good work most of the time. My work will only ever be a past-time if it is not fresh, sharply discerning and anticipatory.
Risking fallout, misunderstanding or offence is the only way we really tap into our own and others’ true selves and thereby recognise one another without guards, masks or visors of conformity or anonymity.
4. Commit or Procrastinate
We all need to believe we can find the right ‘each other’.
As a writer, I need to find the best course in self-growth, the right readers or listeners – the right niche.
Please take a moment to answer below, the questions I’d like to pose to you as a creative or consumer
– ‘What is the purpose of writing?’
– ‘Why do you write or why do you read?’
– And, ‘what makes either of these worthwhile pursuits?’
Readers, writers, subscribers – can I provoke you to help me come up with a list of what creating or writing aims to fulfil?
5. Act or React
In my writing I know there are one or two challenges I must face, to take me to a higher level.
I would agree with my mentor, my problem is not writer’s block. There are no lack of ideas or needs to address.
Nor is it self-discipline. Writing for me is a life-giving habit so embedded, without it I feel sluggish, tired and blunt. (My husband woke to find a pen in the bed between us one morning this week). Doesn’t that say it all?
No, my tasks at hand are,
- To learn to effectively harness the marketing machine for my publications and really help the right readers discover them
- To invest in honing and developing my craft – making intentional improvement by better understanding rules of language, literary style, genre and grammatical or technical skill.
Next week I have an exciting announcement about my latest product hitting the market – so keep tuned (There’s a clue).
And do comment below with your thoughts in answer to those questions. Thank you!