Saturday, 5 May 2012

Balance #2

I know I wrote about the idea of balance a few weeks ago but this week I came across a wonderful quote by my mate Foucault, which said: 'I don't feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.' I love this idea, particularly as I am a woman has undergone many changes in my life regarding 'who I am'. I have been a business woman, a wife (which didn't last long), I am still a mother and now a grandmother. I have become an academic but I have always been a writer. Ever since I can remember I wrote stories. Places to escape into probably. Even that has changed, as I spoke about in my post on doing creative writing degrees, I am not the writer I thought I was. I have become a writer of young adult fiction who dabbles in short stories and a bit of poetry.

The fact that I have been a writer for most of my life should tell me something about myself. But it is something I have only just worked out (I can be a bit slow) - I need to write.  This idea was further reinforced when I saw another quote this morning which says 'writing is about being alive.' (Roselle Angwin, Writing the Bright Moment, p.15) You will know from my recent posts that I have some more major rewrites to do but I haven't been able to get to them, work has got in the way. There have been several meetings and conferences. I have pulled together the latest edition of Write4Children  and rewritten an academic book proposal, but none of this has left me time to write what I need to write. My own stuff. During this time I have been having various conversations with Jen Webb and Nicky Schmidt (check out Nicky's blog about feeling disaffected and almost feeling 'poisoned'. And though it feels a physical thing it is not, I need to answer that itch to write and to stop feeling guilty about it. Just go on do it, Ness!

But I don't think this just happens to me. I think if you have a creative bone in your body you have to ensure you  do whatever it is that makes you creative otherwise you lose balance in your life. I can see it in colleagues and good friends. I know so many in academia who are currently struggling with ill health. Often they will have to do a huge amount of academic writing rather than their own. I have watched colleagues and friends become increasingly stressed as they produce the necessary academic 'outputs' which must then be disseminated on a world-wide front and, therefore, suitably REF-able. Those in academia will understand exactly what I mean here. REF means Research Excellence Framework which is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK universities. The pressure is huge. It is worth noting that often creative outputs do not count! When they are given the chance to take a step back and start doing their own work again there is a noticeable difference, their stress levels reduce and their spirits lift. They start to smile again.

Maybe there is a lesson in this for us all and I know it is one that both Jen and Nicky agree with - it is important to find balance. To create those moments to do your own work. To stop and breathe and remember why you do what you do - for me it is what makes me who I am these days, I write because it makes me feel alive.

Seems appropriate to play one of my favourties: Goyte's 'Somebody That I used to know'


  1. I think there is another point to consider here as well, our creativity is not just about balance but also about connecting with our innermost selves, and it's about healing, irrespective of the nature of that healing, and irrespective of the nature of the creativity. I like to think of our creativity as our soul connection, flakey though that may sound to some. And the truth is, we are all creative, some just pay homage to their creativity more effectively than others - and you, Ness, definitely do that!
    May the words flow! :-) xx

    1. That is a very good point that I had forgotten. Thank you Nicky, I am really hoping they will xxx

  2. Having fallen foul of the stress/out of balance thing, I think we all need to take time for ourselves and our own writing. Just taking a breath, a moment to look inside, we find not only our creativity but our true selves. Stress and a life out of kilter takes not only our creativity away, but it weakens our sense of self too.

  3. Recently heard the quote: 'You take to make a living and you give to get a life.' The stress appears to be when making a living get in the way of life. But what if the thing you live for (eg writing) is the thing in you make your living out of?

  4. I am still not the greatest at getting this life balance right. I think it is too easy to forget we need to take that time for ourselves and our writing - I know I do. Thank you for the reminder Sue.
    Candy that is a real conundrum and I don't know the answer but totally understand what you mean. Anyone got any answers?

  5. I truly believe that the creative need is a strong and intrinsic part of survival. Ever since man was able to define himself as hunter gatherer they was also a need for expression from the first music to cave art.
    Having taught extensively in adult education, I found many people came to classes within the arts as part of recovery from life situations. Without creative release our coping mechanisms become frustrated. For people who are driven by creativity this denial of our craft is intolerable.
    Our grandparents generations were the last where creativity was part of their everyday existence. The wealthy created in search of pleasure, the poor through necessity, making and mending. Take away channels for creativity and people become dispirited and often ill.
    The creative need is not a selfish need, it is an intrinsic need that must somehow be met.
    In terms of life balance maybe the scales should be tipped further in the direction of the arts, creatives should be encouraged to do what they do best, how else can one meet best practice in teaching?
    I guess the irony is much of the world is run by left brained people trying to process the creative process. But...don't get me started, I'll be here all night.

  6. I have used writing as a coping mechanism many a time. You are so right it should never be seen as a selfish need, it is something we just have to do. Thank you for your response Nina.