It comes back time and time again this topic: getting down to writing; finding time, getting permission, clearing one’s head, finding peace, finding inspiration, finding a reason (or giving others – who don’t see why you do it – a reason). This is related, I suppose to my previous post: the wish to make, perceive and communicate something. And is, I think, why so many people that enjoy one art, have an interest in other arts.
Tess Daly has recently written and published a novel, I hear. I know nothing more than that, except she has a busy life and very young children. How did she do it?
I couldn’t have fitted enough creative time into my life to write a book when I had young children and I didn’t have to host a television show. In fact, I could barely stand up straight I was so tired all the time.
Now the children are at school I still only write when I feel safe from the risk of interruption. So, how on earth did she manage it?
I’ve come up with a shortlist of possibilities:
a) She cheated and had help writing it
b) It’s crap
c) She had time out and domestic help in order to think
d) She’s one of those amazing people that can write amid chaos and possibly with a completely unrelated buzz going on around her.
e) She is not human (or can cope on little or no sleep).
Or, f) A combination of any of the above.
I know I couldn’t have done things like that. Even when my kids were sleeping it was about making food, tidying up, washing, shopping lists, showering before they woke up again. Often one can’t even take a pee with little people about. My children were Jupiter when they were little – always the biggest responsibility in my solar system.
You see I have ‘Responsibility Planets’ that spin around me constantly. I’ve probably described this differently in past blog posts. In fact, I know I have. But it’s the same principle: there are things I know I ought to be doing, I want to be doing, I have to be doing, I could be doing, other people want me to be doing, society thinks I should be doing, things I have entrusted other people to do but I’m worrying about whether they will do them right, things I haven’t done, even things to think about in the future that I’ve already started worrying about.
Now… These responsibility planets should be arranged in order of size according to importance but for some reason in my brain they are not.
So how do I swat away that Jupiter-sized responsibility telling me, for example, my daughter’s swimming kit needs washing – even though it’s another week until she’ll be needing it? Or Saturn with it’s annoying little ‘You haven’t bought your Christmas cards yet,’ ringing out over and over again as it turns (Did you see what I did there? ;))
Well…. I tried other people’s ways, and other people’s advice, and guess what? It turns out I’m not like other people, just like other people are not like other people. But what I did spot were the things going on in the wider Internet community that I could slot into my life that suited me. So now I have a mercury-sized piece to write for my daily journal on my blipfoto and photo to take everyday; in January I will have a Mars-sized (or maybe even a Mars Bar-sized) small stone written every day (Yes, you WILL, Rachel) And here’s last year’s small stones, if you’re interested. And whenever the big planets swing out of the way, I write a flash fiction or a blog post. And that’s how I’m handling my planets at the moment. Sometimes I fly too close to the sun and I have a few days with scorched wings feeling empty and useless. (Just coming out of one of those periods now, touch wood) and then I’m back doing my best to duck and dive those great hulking responsibilities that just will not go away even when poor old Pluto (who was asked to leave the party and can now see things clearly from the outside) points out to me that fancy rings may be eye-catching but they are just fancy rings. Maybe he’s jealous, because he’s just like the iron these days, baby – completely out of the picture. Oh, and I have noticed how the vacumm cleaner gets jealous too and takes on the form of Uranus to grab my attention. But size isn’t everything…
So here’s my advice to me to help me be creative every day in some small way. Because I’m not Tess Daly, and there’s no one else weird like me so I’m guessing no one else needs this advice:
Keeping a Blipfoto Journal
Completed once-a-day in order to include a small amount of writing into every day and something to look back on for inspiration, or just a laugh, like a diary. Includes a daily photo that can be as artistic – or not – as I have time, energy or inclination for. Some of these have been atrocious, which actually was kind of fun in itself. I can end each day with the thought: ‘Today I’ve been creative in some small way,’ even when I’m ill.
Learning to roll with it
What’s important in life is a very subjective thing, and a tough one for me.
If I get a creative idea when I have just opened the dishwasher or turned on my hairdryer or started tidying the sitting room, or opened up an Excel sheet to do some bookwork, I should stop what I’m doing and go with the creative idea before it evaporates. The rest will wait. Housework is good at waiting and so is the mirror. Accountants and HMRC less so… Society has taught us to be too concerned with appearances. So: No getting taken in by fancy rings. If Saturn says, ‘Vacuum,’ Shout back ‘Schmackuum!’ (Oh no, hang on – Uranus was the vacuum, wasn’t it?)
Accepting there is no such thing as the perfect mother-slash-writer…
(…called Rachel Carter who lives in North Devon and writes this blog) But there is such a thing as fulfilment – which has positive knock-on effects in all sorts of directions. (take a breath here:) Seeing a mother who is not conforming to gender stereotypes and instead is looking at the world around her, and trying to make some sense out of it all in her own way before her brief time on this planet is over is better than watching a mother whirl around crying that she can’t keep up with everything and doesn’t see the point in it all. I get things wrong on a daily basis. I have regrets about what I have or haven’t done every day but I have less of a feeling of worthlessness now – which has got to be better to be around than Mrs. Weepy-‘get-out-your-feet-are-dirty-I-can’t-believe-you-all-treat-me-like-an-unpaid-cleaner’-Mop.
Keeping madness on the page and not out in public
Stifled creativity and years of suppressing natural needs is destructive. Forcing myself to do things time and time again and not obey the little light inside means that occasionally I had little outbursts of creative thoughts that Jo Public really isn’t interested in. I remember once, saying, ‘Sometimes I look out and see the view and sometimes all I see is dirty windows.’ Most people would rather you didn’t have weird little outbursts like that and may go around telling everyone you’re mad. But put it on a page and – hey presto! – You’re a writer!
(Unless of course, you’re a member of the Bloomsbury group and can just go around being arty farty all the time and ‘Bravo!’ing each other. Personally, I’d rather be able to watch Come Dine With Me occasionally and not worry about academic snobbery or keeping up a continuous persona)
Find a non-obligatory, non-judgemental, fear-free way of communicating creatively
Being part of the Friday Flash, once-a-week flash fiction community is great and – if it works for you – so are short story competitions, sending stuff to magazines, etc. But I like to throw some thoughts and words around without fear of being judged, or clashing with someone’s taste. Different opinions are often just that and can stunt creative freedom. Occasionally, the feedback I get on my stories can be unwelcome when I’m not in the mood, and I write differently when I am not paralysed by the burden of fear. I believe I write better when it’s just me being me. So getting involved in something like small stones. (See January’s A River of Stones) is a great experience, freedom, practice, discipline, for finding an individual way of looking at the world. And I think that’s important. We do all have our own individual way of looking at the world and it should flourish and not be confused by expectation, or clouded by received thoughts handed down by others. I’m guessing most people haven’t even found theirs. It’s a shame because we can all find an artist within if we give our imaginations a chance. The world would be a far better place if people used their imaginations a bit more, instead of blindly repeating stuff other people say or do without thought or good reason. Some people work really hard just to make lots of money. I find that soulless, pointless and vulgar and instead work really hard just to make sense. Oooh… Hello… I’m going off on the wrong spaceship…
So, there you have it – I mean, there I have it – my top themes for me: Regularity, acceptance, freedom, sanity (– or doing it to stop me going mad and being hell to be around), and planet-sized stereotypical conventions and guilt ducking (I must find a snappier way of expressing that one). I still hear the housework calling because I hate clutter and find tidiness, light and open spaces more inspiring than a house full of pointless piles of crap (can you hear it getting to me?) but I have to fight my perfectionist Virgo and even hide her ‘to do’ list if necessary.
Star signs are supposed to be all about how the planets are lined up when we were born.