Saturday, 18 February 2012

Touching base with your creative side

Many of us will understand this scenario - you are so busy trying to keep on top of your work/life that it is always at the cost of your writing time. You make these promises to yourself that you will write every day whatever happens and then feel guilty when you fail miserably. It is not because you don't want to, it is because there are not enough hours in the day or that you just haven't got that spare bit of energy. I have been feeling like that a lot. Many of you know I am trying to rewrite my PhD novel for a publisher but between meetings, lecture giving and prep and marking I am finding I just don't have a moment to breathe and I was risking missing my 'chance'. I felt I was losing touch with my creative side - not great for a creative writing lecturer - but then I found a solution. No, it hasn't given me more time to write but it did remind me why I write and how passionate I feel about it.

All it took was one late afternoon and an evening. Firstly, I met up with a great friend from Australia and we talked and laughed and drank herbal tea (in my case, latte in hers) then we talked and laughed a bit more over a couple of glasses of Prosecco. It was refreshing and uplifting - the talking not the Prosecco. We are both writers and we understand the dilemma as we are both academics too. I felt soothed and encouraged by the encounter. It was ok to feel the way I did. I was still a writer.

We then trundled up to an event at the University where Patricia Duncker, who is Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of Manchester and a wonderful writer, was going to give a lecture entitled 'Choosing English.' She also happens to be a good friend of said Australian. It was thrilling to watch them both physically bounce at seeing each other again.

What a wonderful and inspiring lecture it was too. She gave a truly engaging lecture full of anecdotes that just lifted the spirits even further. Patricia spoke of how, when at school in Jamaica, she was told 'women don't write' despite being asked to write compositions and that poetry was more important than prose. The former of which she was expected to memorise reams of. There was a great tale of how she had no idea what a daffodil was or how amazing 'a host, of golden daffodils' could possibly look like. It was only when she came to school in the UK that she understood. Her enthusiasm about her subject was infectious and my love of words continued to be re-ignited.

I read, and loved, Patricia's book Hallucinating Foucault in the summer. Her latest book, The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge was shortlisted for The CWA Gold Dagger Award 2010 and The Green Carnation Prize 2011, and is currently on my 'to read' pile. The picture above was painted by Alessandra Pirovano and were inspired by Patricia Duncker's novel James Miranda Barry. Creativity breeds creativity.

This perfect evening was rounded off by the showing of a short film entitled Love at First Sight, which was in part funded by the Wellcome Trust People Award. The film stars John Hurt and Phyllida Law and was written by Julian Unthank (who just happens to lecture at the University of Winchester!). It was an outstanding piece of work and so moving. I could fully understand why it was Oscar short listed and BAFTA long listed plus winning numerous other prizes. It was so powerful because of its simplicity. But we all know the more simple something looks the harder it is to achieve.

What I took from this evening was the need to take time to reconnect with your creative side and to remember why you do what you do. You are a writer after all...

JW and I parted with songs and bubbles of happiness in our hearts as we headed back from a delightful evening to the reality of academe but with a promise to ourselves to keep finding  the time to write, which is where I am off to now, whilst listening to a bit of Ed Sheeran


  1. Wonderful post, Ness, and a very timely reminder! Thank you for sharing your brilliant evening! xx

  2. Actually as I was writing it I was thinking of you too as I know that it has been just as hard for you to find time to write. we need to remember we are still writers whatever is happening around us xxx

  3. It is blog posts like this that uplift me! Although my circumstances are different I can completely understand how you feel. On the rare occasions I manage to make it along to an SCBWI event and get the chance to chat to fellow creative types I get a similar buzz and sense of recognition. I almost feel that I was with you and your friends, thanks Ness.

  4. Thank you Amanda. You are so right, it did make me realise how important it is to stay connected with other creative types. For a start they don't think you are weird. I have yet to make it to a SCBWI event (other than the conference) and I am sure I will feel the same as you when I manage to get there. Maybe one day we will manage to get to one together!

    1. Yes, it would be nice to meet you in the real world. I am not able to go to SCBWI conferences but am trying to get to evening events and book launches - perhaps I'll meet you at yours :-)