Begin Again – the creative process

 

It’s that time of year when the promise of light is in the air. For those of us who have been sat in the darkness for too long – this one is for you.

Hacking through bracken, words are tar and feathers – dense. I don’t see the features on anyone’s faces. Words hang in rusted barbed wire around necks of the bodies they are attached to. Dragging themselves along pavements. Day after grey day.

Sharp edged arrow words. Put things away properly. Sit up straighter. Only wear clean clothes. Don’t get too dirty. Don’t swear. Quieten down. Don’t – just don’t. Words written on my face in spit stink – invisible ink. I’m stained on the inside with congealed blood that doesn’t flow quite right.

Don’t speak up. Keep the words in.

Don’t stand out.

Speak when you’re spoken too.

Keep your mouth shut.

Shut it.

Keep the lid on.

Don’t let anything out.

Don’t break things.

Makes me want to do things that I shouldn’t. Makes me want to shout and scream and tip things over, pour paint on the floor – rip my clothes, feel fear on purpose as a way of gaining some kind of control. Does that make sense? And when I can’t feel anything and I find myself in the company of strangers that want me to organise myself, have the right clip board, or a different face or proper hair, or a proper thing to say, or a quieter laugh, or just be quieter and don’t laugh. That’s when things get messy. In my head. That’s when I have to shrink in order to grow fast, it’s like I have to crouch down small in a pretend game of hide and seek and then build my energy, build it and build it and build it until I can hide no longer and everything just bursts out.

Rip and pour and create in a whirlwind of not knowing what comes next because there is no actual order. There is no supposed to and right and wrong in this crazy fucked up world that we live in. It just is. It just is. And without starting from a place of mess I don’t know how anything could actually begin. Rip up all instructions and burn them, stand in the glow of the fire and wait until I know what to do next. If nothing comes, I’ll draw with the ash from the embers and spit into the dirt on the ground and that will be my fresh start. Because anything else is a lie. And if nothing else on this else earth holds true, I know I can tell the truth and start at the beginning.

And you?

What will you do when the words you bear on your back begin to squash you flat?

What do you do?

Put the children in bed and cry? Drink until you forget?

What do you do?

Burn things, make fires, read yourself into another world, change your hair, your clothes, your food. Or does everything stay the same? Roll in soft cotton duvets and drink tea until you cannot contain any more liquid. Stare at screens until the scene in front of you sleeps.

All these things and more.

Put away sharp objects and dance in spilt ink, tracing your footsteps to the next place.

All these things and more.

These words will go and days will pass.

You just are. You will find your truth and begin. Begin again.

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What Does Home Mean To You?

Home is a place where I navigate un-chartered territory, hiding from my darkest dusty corners and celebrating my sparkliest eye catching glitters. It’s the place where I can safely go into my chrysalis and emerge as a butterfly, before sharing that self with the rest of the world. My home is an ocean that creates its own storms, and provides me with the calmest waters, from which to drink deep. All this is contained between my four walls, a seemingly ordinary place, in an unremarkable street. If you zoomed out on Google earth, my home is lost on the second click, gobbled up by bigger spaces or taller buildings. Just gone.

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Being Human – shining a light on disability and humanity.

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Every Friday, I put on an invisibility cloak and head off to a cafe in the centre of Bristol. Surrounding myself with the most honest, brave and open hearted people I have ever met. Whatever my week has been like, wherever my head has wandered off to since the previous Friday, I leave that building grounded and inspired. In the company of this group I get to see humanity unveiled. I see people stripped bare to their true nature. I view the general public being ignorant, kind, predatory, open-minded and most of all completely themselves, with their simple interactions. Cafe staff have an open purse offered to them. One of our group may visit as Elvis, or Dr.Who; spontaneous singing and smiling has been known to occur. Cafe dwellers get to witness laughter. Guaranteed. Regular laughter, eye contact and a shared sense of belonging.

I’m not an advocate for disability issues. Human issues are what interest me. You can’t possibly speak for a diverse group of people.”
Aimee Mullins

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Ordinary Heroes

This year everything has changed, I am seeking a renewal of faith, the people I once turned to are now gone. I have an urge to hold onto what was, when I know that I cannot. My hands open and close, reaching out for a tangible fact to hold onto. I simply end up grasping faded light and playing with shadows, I’m left sat in the dark, wishing I could get up and turn the lights on, but I can’t. I’ve forgotten where the switch is. At these times I reach out my hands and see who wants to hold them. I’ve been asking friends, fellow students, neighbours, work colleagues, what is a personal hero? My husband wrote:-

A hero, as a concept it’s very compelling – the individual that will endure hardships and terror to save others from oppression or some other manner of adversity. The hero that possesses skills and/ or resources that are rare amongst the hero’s peers. For me my heroes are the ones that can articulate big ideas, noble ideals, those that communicate in such an effective way as to bring positive change to their communities, to inspire and shine light of truth and clarity in places where others are happy to scrabble in the dark. For me the heroes are of the pen and not the sword, from Gandhi to Noam Chomsky.’ Tom MacCallum

I asked, writer Stuart Wakefield who is your personal hero?

James Dean and Marlon Brando might have been heralded as the faces of the new wave of acting, but, for me, it was Montgomery Clift. Witness any close-up shot of Clift and you’ll see a lot going on in his eyes. You can see what he’s thinking without him saying a word. That was ground-breaking at the time. Clift was a hugely popular actor, sizzling on screen with Elizabeth Taylor in several movies. But there was an ongoing struggle with illness and sexuality that I think informed his style, too. Clift knew what physical and emotional suffering felt like and was able to project that through the camera and onto film.  – Stuart.

Too many of my personal heroes have left this world in the last few months, Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Robin Williams and Rick Mayall to name a few. I still see them in their books and films around me. I feel blessed I’ve lived a life where I have witnessed their creations. I’ve spoken with my friends, family and colleagues about this, it’s a shared conversation. I’m seeing community projects popping up all over the place, ‘what super hero are you’, ‘who are your heroes’, we are a community searching for guidance. I’m reminded once more that it’s too easy to dine at the  media table and worship the rough diamonds that have been polished too brightly, by the cameras that created them. Is that to cynical? There are times when all I can do is rest on the truth of other people’s creativity, in those times my life path is held safe in those hands that dared to be bold. I lean on old quotes and trust.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W.B. Yeats

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Top Tips for Freelancers

I’m at that point again, when everything and nothing are equally possible. As a freelance artist and a mother, this time of year utterly floors me. I swing from knowing doors are opening for me and contracts are being signed, to crying, wailing and looking at job adverts – I know I need to keep the freelancer faith. In August I stay home with my children, flirting with the odd piece of work. My skills become buried under litres of wine, sunshine and young laughter. I’ve grown so comfortable with my own languishing this summer that I’ve forgotten what I do.

The air has changed, its damp and I can’t dry any clothes. Homes are cleared of children, they march back along the streets in line, with their uniforms on. Shop keepers grow fat on the profits of stationary, new shoes and the angst of parents.

I can’t quite reach myself. The silence I have craved for the past six weeks of the school holidays is deafening. Loneliness floats around the edges of my existence, I don’t know if it’s mine to claim or an innocent bystander.

I search through the dust on my furniture, knowing the past me, the working me, is there somewhere. If I move enough things and create the right amount of vacant space, I could re-construct myself. Under a paper-work pile I find fragments of my future. Shards of ideas get stuck, splintered in my feet, but I refuse to pull them out. I’d rather wait until they infect me into action.

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