Tag Archives: creativity

Mind-Altering Circumstances

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Hello, reader!  How are you?  Take a seat.  Don’t mind the mess, I’m still unpacking.  Would you like a coffee?

I recently discovered that many forms of urban wildlife like to visit my garden, and in my naive, not-a-real-Londoner state I was delighted.  “I’m living in The Animals of Farthing Wood!” I thought.  (Except that time I saw a squirrel eating a potato waffle – pictured above – which was just baffling.)

Well, waking up this morning to discover that said wildlife had seen fit to POO on the patio made me rethink my position.  I have spent the last hour Googling how to deter foxes, with mixed success.  According to this nice pest control man, “young male urine” will do the trick.  Excuse me, but a) gross and b) I live with my sister.  How on EARTH are we supposed to ask our next young male visitor to oblige us with that particular type of pesticide?  It’s just not happening.

Anyway, vulpine poo problems aside, this last week or so has demonstrated to me that changing your mind is an inevitable part of life.  It doesn’t even take an unwelcome surprise (as it were) to create the change: as we experience life, we discover that our feelings about the world change accordingly.  This is a good thing, because it shows that we are not closed-minded people, but it’s also a bit disorientating, because our opinions form an integral part of who we are.  Here are some of the things I think we worry about too much in terms of where we stand:

The Career Conundrum
I won’t lie to you: pursuing a writing career is hands down the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and this is coming from someone who’s been to Hackney at night time.  Sometimes our choice of job or pursuit of passion leaves us feeling a bit lost, and we start to wonder whether we’ve made the right decisions.  This week I genuinely started to panic about the writing thing, and even though it’s sort-of on the wane now, it was weird how unappealing my lifelong passion started to look.
I really don’t believe that it is ever too late to change your mind about what you want to do.  I have a friend who is doing a degree course at the age of 26 (and getting insanely high marks as well, the jammy madam).  A lot of people I know – especially those lovely creative types – are constantly turning their hands to all sorts of endeavours, and it makes them much more rounded and fascinating people.  Society tells us that we must introduce ourselves with our job titles, as though our careers defined us.  They don’t, even though they do take up a lot of our time.  It’s not worth wasting time worrying about what your job title sounds like when the main thing is to be happy.  If you change your mind about what you want to do, that’s your business.  As far as I’m concerned, you should be allowed to introduce yourself as Grand High Master of the Universe for all that your job title actually matters.

The Marriage and Kids Debate
“I definitely want to get married one day.”  “I want lots of kids, but not marriage.”  “I would never have a church wedding.”  We’ve all had these conversations, haven’t we?  Especially once you hit my age, lots of people start to seriously consider what the long-term landscape of their personal lives is going to be.  At this point, particularly if you have a serious boy/girlfriend, it becomes very important to be completely honest with yourself about what you really want.  You may have spent your entire life saying that you categorically MUST be married by a certain age or have a minimum number of children, but of all things your vision of familial happiness has to be allowed to change.  It’s nice to have a hypothetical idea of what you want, but you have to be able to adapt to what your heart tells you as you get older.  At sixteen you may have been adamant that marriage was not for you, but if you meet the man/woman of your dreams at twenty-six and you change your mind, don’t fight it.  Your past self had no idea what life had in store for you, so why does s/he get to dictate your decisions now?

The Really Big Issues
It is a truly excellent thing to have an informed opinion about Syria, Scottish independence, euthanasia and how we can persuade David Cameron’s home planet to take him back.  The key word in that sentence is “informed” – new information and updates about all of these issues appear on a daily basis, and if situations change we are supposed to readjust our views accordingly.  It takes a much more intelligent and honest person to change their mind about huge political problems than it does to stick to narrow-minded guns.  Consistency is all very well and good, but have you noticed that the news is not consistent?  It changes every day, in fact.  We need to keep up, otherwise we’ll end up like those eejits who think that gay marriage causes hurricanes or whatever.

The main thing to remember is that changing our minds once doesn’t mean we’ll never change them back, or that we won’t form a new opinion entirely.  My writing worries will go, I’m sure, as soon I get stuck into my next play.  If they don’t, I could always retrain as an accountant or something.

Ok, that will NEVER happen.  But the point is that we can and should keep our options (and minds) open.

Have a stupendously enjoyable Thursday.

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A Kick in the Right Direction

Hello, reader!  How are you?

When Mario and I were in Paris, we saw this sign outside Notre Dame:

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We were surprised and amused to discover that, even in the beautiful capital of France, people needed to know how to cycle to London.  (We realised later that it probably had something to do with the Tour de France, but at the time it seemed very random.)  Cycling to the city of drizzle and pigeons seemed like a mammoth task from our location in the sunshine outside a famous cathedral, and yet it would appear that people wanted to do it.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with two friends of mine who are of the creative ilk.  One of them in particular is a woman of many talents: she designs vintage dresses, she is a director and actor, and she is full of ideas for exciting performance projects.  Like most people who want to make stuff, she is hindered by the usual concerns: time, money, finding a rehearsal space, money, finding the right actors, and did I mention money?  Not only is there not a lot of it about, but funding applications are about as easy to navigate as an underground labyrinth when you don’t have a torch (or a very good sense of direction).

Red tape gets in the way of a lot of projects.  I am assured that when this friend of mine rules the world, there will be no more red tape: it will all be pink, blue and possibly green.  (I also put in a request for it to be sparkly, which is under consideration.)  With many creative projects, the best way forward is make a good to do list.  Breaking things down into manageable steps is a good way to get cracking on making stuff happen.  For example, I am taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe with Empty Photo Theatre this summer, and the tasks that that project will involve make for a hell of a to do list – four A4 pages, in fact.  But looking at the individual jobs in a list helps me not to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the entire project, and I’m also very lucky to have excellent friends and colleagues to support me.

The same sort of idea applies to writing.  I remember someone telling me once that the best way to check whether the story you want to tell is a good one is to break it down into shorter and shorter synopses until you can sum it up in one sentence.  I tend to do that the other way around: I try to come up with a one-sentence summary for a script idea, and then flesh it out until I have the entire storyline set down.  The process is different, but the purpose is the same: writing an entire play is much less worrying when I know exactly what’s going to happen.

When my red tape-hindered friend and I were discussing her ideas yesterday, we managed to break them down into small steps that she felt more positive about being able to achieve.  I would imagine that any project can be broken down and made less daunting in this way, even a Presidential election campaign, or cycling from Paris to London.

The main thing about starting a huge project is to make sure that somebody who is rooting for you is there to give you a kick in the right direction.  A problem shared may or may not be a problem halved, but an idea shared is definitely an idea started.  By the way, if your dream is to cycle from Paris to London, the kick in the right direction is probably best left metaphorical.

Enjoy your Thursday!

Stuff I’m Definitely Going to Teach My Kids

Hello, reader!  I hope you know that by getting this far on a Monday you are a champion.  Mondays are rubbish, and you are clearly owning this one already.  Good for you.

Yesterday I wrote a blog about stuff we the mid-twenties team are too old to do now, and my house mate Ash wrote a brilliant response about stuff she knows she shouldn’t do, but still does: take a look at it here.  Ash and I both have birthdays around the corner, which could explain why we have ageing and childhood on our minds.  As Ash points out in her blog post, when you’re younger your birthdays are milestones of opportunity – you can drive now, you can drink now, you can drink in America now – but as the milestones go by you start to look back and see what you can’t (or shouldn’t) do anymore.

It might seem a bit rich for two girls in their mid-twenties to make grand, tragic statements about the perils of ageing, so my apologies to anyone who thinks that we’re drama queens.  I can only defend us by saying that a) we are so recently past the last “good” milestone that we are still adjusting to the idea of birthdays being bad, and b) we are drama queens.  We have our own tiaras and everything.

Today I have decided to take a more positive approach about this loss-of-childhood thing: I have thought about what kind of childhood I will want my kids to have, and what kind of lessons I most want them to learn.

1) How to Bake
My mum is wonderful for many reasons, but I think one of my favourite things about her is that she taught us all how to bake.  I can whip up a sponge cake in half an hour (including cooking time.  That’s right.  Don’t hate me ’cause you ain’t me) because many years ago my mum took the time to show me, and to have fun with her daughter as well as teach her a great life skill.  Baking is one of the few loopholes that allows grown-ups to behave like kids: you can make a mess, you can make incredibly unhealthy but yummy food, and you can decorate the crap out of said food with glitter and icing.
Baking also results in being able to feed people nice things.  It’s probably the Irish genes coming through, but I love making people birthday cakes, biscuits and what have you.  Ash (who is, if anything, even more obsessed with baking than I am) would agree with me that one of the greatest joys in life is giving people cake.  Such a simple activity results in so much joy.  I want my children to have fun learning to bake, and to spend the rest of their lives using that skill to make themselves and other people happy.

2) Creativity is a Super Power
Speaking of my mum and baking, I have to take this opportunity to say that the woman makes INCREDIBLE cakes.  Kids’ cakes, wedding cakes, beautiful cupcakes arranged in a weird tower thingy: you name it, she can do it.  Look at these:600133_10151800790980083_1127455735_n photo (5)646_112469255082_353_n

The woman made a DINOSAUR CAKE, for crying out loud.  That is the closest thing to a super power that anyone could have, in my opinion.  She passed her amazing artistic abilities down to us in varying degrees, but the most active artist among us is my brother, who paints stuff like this:

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It makes me sick that he can paint so well, and I can’t even draw stick people.  These are just two examples of the kind of creativity that makes my jaw drop, but my life is full of people who excel at singing, acting, writing, dancing and all manner of other things.  I want my children to understand that having a creative outlet is a wonderful thing that allows you to process all kinds of thoughts, emotions and impulses, and that creativity in others is something to love and respect.  Which leads me neatly onto my next lesson…

3) Respect
This is a big one, and it covers all sorts of things.  If I ever have a daughter, I want her to respect herself.  I want her to ignore global media’s insistence that women are supposed to be as thin, tall and beautiful as possible.  If I have a son, I want him to respect himself too.  I want him to shun masculine stereotypes and just be himself, not what society tells him to be.  I want my kids to respect their family, their friends and their colleagues.  I hope that my children will understand from an early age that it is not acceptable to take their stress out on other people, and that every person they meet deserves to be spoken to politely and listened to attentively.  They will say “please” and “thank you”, they will not judge others based on race, religion, sexual preference or appearance, and I’ll be damned if they ever do the unthinkable and jump a queue.

4) Learning is for Life, not just for Christmas
My family is full of people who learn like it’s going out of fashion.  As far as I’m concerned, my maternal grandfather knew everything there was to know, and he instilled a passion in me for knowledge and understanding.  Similarly, I have absolutely no idea how my dad’s head can contain all of the information that it does, or how he has had the time to acquire so much knowledge.  My eldest sister is passionate about travel, and she loves exploring far-away places and learning about their cultures.  This also ties in with my genetic predisposition to read everything I can, which I sincerely hope my children inherit.  Life is a long and fascinating process of discovery, and I want my kids to love learning.  Curiosity may have killed the cat, but wanting to understand the world we live in is a wonderful trait, and I prefer dogs to cats anyway.

5) Passion
If my genes are anything to go by, my children will be stubborn, impulsive and in all likelihood addicted to coffee by the time they’re sixteen.  They will probably be very sociable and prone to excessive sarcasm.  That’s all fine.  They will also, I hope, have dreams and ambitions.  I want them to have the commitment and energy to pursue their passions, and to encourage others to do the same.  I also want them to love people whole-heartedly, and to avoid the commitment-phobic, “we don’t want to put a label on it”, casual relationships that dominate my generation.  I don’t know how things will have changed in the dating world by the time my kids are of age to fancy people, but if they have the self-respect and ability to love that I want them to, then they will know better than to accept sub-standard relationships and undefined entanglements.  If that fails, then hopefully the future father of my children will have a shovel at the ready to discourage would-be unsuitable suitors.

There are loads of other little bits and pieces that I want to teach my children, such as how to ride a bicycle and where babies come from, but these five lessons represent my future parenting priorities.  I also realise that this blog has essentially been a vehicle for me to extol the virtues of my lovely family, but I don’t think that’s surprising given that they are the people who shaped my childhood.  I owe them a lot, and I can’t wait for my future children to meet them.

Have a cracking Monday!