Saturday, July 10th, 2010
Below is my blog about my books, thoughts and advice on how to Go Creative! (see also #gocreative on Twitter) and first glimpses of new stories and poems.
Here is also where I post advance copies, free giveaways and signed books.
Comments are invited in the GUESTBOOK.
Monday, December 16th, 2013
Dimensions of Mind. You have three:
1. Surface (Ego) Mind.
2. Deep (Emotional/Imaginative) Mind.
3. Beyond (Inspirational) Mind.
Your creative intelligence encompasses all three dimensions but become more creative invariably means choosing to develop the third more fully.
Doing so is a matter of another D word: Daring. In this context, the courage to create. As Rollo May said, in his classic of that name, “Human freedom involves our capacity to pause between the stimulus and response and, in that pause, to choose the one response toward which we wish to throw our weight.
The capacity to create ourselves, based upon this freedom, is inseparable from consciousness or self-awareness.”
And it requires courage. The courage to acknowledge ourselves and tell the truth. The courage to be wrong and to fail. The courage to pick ourselves back up and go through the whole cycle all over again.
There’s courage involved if you want
to become truth. There is a broken-
open place in a lover. Where are
those qualities of bravery and sharp
compassion in this group? What’s the
use of old and frozen thought? I want
a howling hurt. This is not a treasury
where gold is stored; this is for copper.
We alchemists look for talent that
can heat up and change. Lukewarm
won’t do. Halfhearted holding back,
well-enough getting by? Not here.
Sunday, December 15th, 2013
The social order is also the topic of the next poem but here gender is the dispossessor. Jesus, like every other human who ever lived was, in the words of the great Adrienne Rich, “of woman born” and Rich’s “Translations” speaks of the politics of female love and despair love as experienced one Christmas day, on 25 December 1972.
That the male betrayal which ignites the female epiphany of the poem happens on the traditional day of family loving and giving is essential to the message of the poem. Rich’s father was jewish, her mother a southern US protestant, and she was raised christian. Though the day is Christmas, the only concession to tradition is a little ivy. Though the scene is domestic — women fill an oven, bake bread, stir rice, iron a shirt, make a phone call — the atmosphere is harshly cold and and lonely.
At the time of writing, Rich was coming to repudiate the choice society wants us all to make “between ‘love’ – womanly, maternal love, altruistic love – a love defined and ruled by the weight of an entire culture, and ‘egotism’ – a force directed by men into creation, achievement, ambition, often at the expense of others…. We know now that the alternatives are false ones – that the word ‘love’ is itself in need of re-vision.”
This poem, in which Rich imagines three women united in needy, female love — love baked and watched and worn — depicts in chilling depths this choice that is no choice. The women think their “way of sorrow” is individual, personal, but Rich’s short poem brings into living, breathing expression the great feminist insight that the personal is political. So centred are they on this man they both think they love, they fail to see that other is also a loving sister, and fail to hear how their stories speak of, and could speak to, each other.
December 25, 1972
You show me the poems of some woman
my age, or younger
translated from your language
Certain words occur: enemy, oven, sorrow
enough to let me know
she’s a woman of my time
with Love, our subject:
we’ve trained it like ivy to our walls
baked it like bread in our ovens
worn it like lead on our ankles
watched it through binoculars as if
it were a helicopter
bringing food to our famine
or the satellite
of a hostile power
I begin to see that woman
doing things: stirring rice
ironing a skirt
typing a manuscript till dawn
trying to make a call
from a phone-booth
The phone rings endlessly
in a man’s bedroom
she hears him telling someone else
Never mind. She’ll get tired.
hears him telling her story to her sister
who becomes her enemy
and will in her own way
light her own way to sorrow
ignorant of the fact this way of grief
is shared, unnecessary
~ Adrienne Rich’s “Translations” was written on Christmas Day 1972 and first published in Diving Into The Wreck.
For more poems, by WB Yeats, Adrienne Rich, Thomas Hardy, TS Eliot and others, you can purchase Poetry For Chistmas at your local Amazon store HERE. http://authl.it/w6
Friday, December 13th, 2013
Last Week: Go Creative With… Patti Smith
Ten Thoughts on creating from Pamela Travers, author of Mary Poppins
- The Unknown — our beautiful Anglo-Saxon word, intimate, reverberant, profound, not so much to be understood as stood under while it rains upon us — that is something I could live with and, indeed, have revered, cherished, and tried to serve for many a year and day.
- Call it the Unknown and one can conceive of the creative process as being a next door neighbor to it.
- C.S Lewis, in a letter to a friend, says, “There is only one Creator and we merely mix the elements he gives us” — a statement less simple than it seems. For that “mere mixing” while making it impossible for us to say “I myself am the maker”, also shows us our essential place in the process.
- Elements among elements we [creature creators] are there to shape, order, define, and in doing this we, reciprocally, are defined and shaped and ordered. The potter, molding the receptive clay, is himself being molded.
- Stories [creations] are like birds flying, here and gone in a moment.
- With that word “creative”, when applied to any human endeavour, we stand under a mystery.
- From time to time that mystery, as if it were a sun, sends down upon one head or another, a sudden shaft of light — by grace one feels, rather than deserving — for it always comes as something given, free, unsought, unexpected.
- There are no answers, only questions.
- It is useless, possibly even profane, to ask for explanations.
- Somehow, somewhere, the Unknown is known, perhaps – who can say? – to the wild bee!
[Adapted from "The Interviewer" in Creators on Creating: Awakening and Cultivating the Imaginative Mind. Frank Barron, et. al.1997. See Ms Travers, rather poorly represented, in the new Tom Hanks & Emma Thompson movie, Saving Mr Banks.]
Next Week: Go Creative With…Sebastian Faulks
Monday, December 9th, 2013
Last time: B is for Being.
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford.
Think of something you can’t do. Not something impossible for you, not a physical inability, but some small thing that you feel you can’t do, something you’d actually quite like to do. [If nothing jumps to mind, you might want to F-R-E-E-Write about this].
For even the most creative and dynamic person, there is always something else, something new. That is the creative energy of life, constantly unfolding in new combinations and manifestations.
The creative and a dynamic among us will probably have no problem thinking of another new creation they’d like to make. It’s those of us who’ve got used to accepting our lot in life that find it more difficult.
Don’t proceed to the next paragraph until you’ve got it: something small you’d like to create in your life – but you can’t.
Switch Your Thinking
Got it? Good. Also get a pen and paper and try this Switch Your Thinking Exercise.
Instead of saying to yourself that you can’t do this paying, say to yourself that you can. You can, you really can, if you really want to. Here’s how:
- Write down the reasons that are jumping to mind but why you can’t. List them all, under two categories: A) Practical/physical Limits. e.g. time, money, other people, energy, health, other resources and B) Emotional/feeling Limits. e.g. fear, anxiety, nervousness, weakness, emotional fatigue, lack of concentration…
- When you have listed all the reasons, add one more, in each of the two categories.
- Now F-R-E-E-Write three pages on the following topic: What would happen if I did do this thing, if I did make this thing a reality in my world?
- at the end of the free writing session, ask yourself do you still want this thing? Answer yourself in writing.
If the answer is no: Repeat the whole process above, 1 to 4, until you find something where the answer is yes. remember, if this feels like too much trouble that what you are developing here is your creative capacity. This is worth your time and effort.
If the answer is yes: Go back to the list and see do the limits in List A actually stop me? Or am I allowing myself to be stopped because of something in B?
Most limits are mental. And embedded in every creative desire are the abilities to make it happen, if we know how to get beyond our own nay-saying, self-sabotaging fear and access the vast open pool of creative possibility beyond.
Stay tuned, because next time: D is for Daring.
Sunday, December 8th, 2013
Yeats’s near contemporary, TS Eliot, also pictures Christmas through the lens of the magi, though his are more human, more physical, occupying a poem full of the mundane details of travel: snow, lack of decent shelter, cursing camel-men, hostile cities and towns, dirty and overcharging villagers, exhaustion and confusion and questioning if “this was all folly”.
But then one morning “at dawn”, it is all worthwhile as they come down into a temperate valley and find what they sought. Written in 1927 shortly after his conversion to Anglican-Catholicism, Eliot has his magus surprised by the consequences of a significant birth. Before this, he “had seen birth and death,/But had thought they were different.” What his journey, the physical one, and the political and religious one that followed, taught him was that creation always has destruction embedded within.
Overall, what the magi found and its consequences, a new way of seeing and believing, was, “(you might say) satisfactory”. Surely this word, in this poem on the same subject, is an answer to Yeats’s “unsatisfied ones”
For though Eliot’s magus claims satisfaction, and would do it all again, yet he is still cut off, for his way, the old way, was on the losing side as the new “alien people clutching their gods” saw off “the old dispensation” that favoured him and his kind.
Having journeyed so far, seen too much birth and the death and agony it unleashes, he would be glad of another death, and the implied new birth, that would follow.
‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
~ T.S.Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi,” the first in a series of poems later grouped as the Ariel Poems, was published in 1927.
For more poems, by WB Yeats, Adrienne Rich, Thomas Hardy, TS Eliot and others, you can purchase Poetry For Chistmas at your local Amazon store HERE. http://authl.it/w6
Friday, December 6th, 2013
Last Week: Go Creative With… Charles Dickens
Creativity is a habit and cultivating good creative work means cultivating good creative habits. But what about the bad ones? Don’t you need the sex ‘n’
drugs to make the rock ‘n’ roll?
No, says one of the greatest rockers of them all, Patti Smith, in Interview Magazine. “I’ve seen a lot of people go down because they attach a harmful substance to their creative process. A lot of it is purely habitual. They don’t need it, but they think they do, so it becomes entrenched.
“Coffee was part of my process. I used to drink like 14 cups a day… Now, if I want to go to a cafe and write and to drink coffee for two hours, I just order them. I don’t drink them.
“What I do is order an americano and a pot of water and I keep diluting it — because it’s not the coffee, it’s the habit.
“A lot is just aesthetic. It’s the feeling of how cool I feel with my coffee…”
What habits feed your aesthetic, your process?
Next Week: Go Creative With… PL Travers
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
So… sat me down with a soya latte around 11, as is my wont, and the browsing material this morning was The Bookseller’s “100 Most Influential People in Publishing”. I was enjoying the read when I suddenly found myself nearly spitting out my coffee.
For there, on the page of Rs, (alphabetical order) was… me?
Sharing space with the likes of Charlie Redmayne, CEO of Harper Collins; Amanda Ridout, Head of Zeus, and a certain Ms Rowling.
It was for the work done by The Alliance of Independent Authors, of course.
I’m still stunned, but also of course, so chuffed. This is a real recognition of the dedication and determination of the ALLi team — Nerys Hudson, Karen Lotter, Philip Lynch, Geraldine Somerset and Debbie Young — and our volunteers and our amazing advisors.
And, of course, the ALLi members: that exceptionally fine band of writers and their exceptionally fine books.
All our hard work and our support of each other has won this recognition by the premier books trade magazine that author-publishing is now an important part of the industry.
And that the Alliance is now , in The Bookseller’s words, the “key voice for self-published writers”.
If you haven’t joined us yet, maybe now’s the time?
Monday, December 2nd, 2013
“When Doing becomes infused with the timeless quality of Being, that is success
~ Eckhart Tolle.
Begin with being.
“Being” creative has two modes but from the outside we only see the second one, the “doing” mode. We see the artist painting the canvas, the cook stirring the pot, the gardener trimming the hedge, the businessman dealing with customers.
That doing mode kicks in during Stage Four, the Composition stage of the creative process. Before that, there are three, equally crucial but invisible stages: Intention, Incubation and Investigation of memory and imagination. These arise from the “being” mode.
So what is creative being? It’s the nothingness without which nothing can be. Consider a page of writing. Between the words and letters is space. The words always get much more of our attention but both words and space are necessary to meaning. A page with only marks on it is all black. Unreadable. Meaningless. The more space around the words, the more meaningful they generally are, one of the reasons a page of poetry is more eloquent than, say, a page of legalese.
It’s the same with life. We have the content of our lives – the thoughts, feelings, events, experiences, stuff, people. The “thingness” of life, if you like. This we notice. But also always there is the ”no-thingness”. It too is necessary.
Nothing is what makes everything.
Conscious creativity needs us to take notice of this nothingness, this space that lies around us and within us. It is our creative intelligence and when we waken to it, we enter the timeless present. (It works vice versa, too: the more deeply we move into the present moment we are in, the more our creative intelligence is activated).
This is the creative zone and here is where we begin to really see, and to really know, drawing on capacities that are deeper than our conventional, analytical mind. This is the paradox of creative intelligence. By focussing on nothingness, thingness manifests.
“We reclaim a form of perception that was once common to all people and cultures, and which is innate in every infant born into this world ” says Stephen Harvard Buhner, author of Ensouling Language. ”The conscious mind begins to move into the background, and the statistical mentality begins to be left behind…”
We’ve gone creative.
Sunday, December 1st, 2013
Poetry for Christmas. Now available on Amazon
The “god-shaped question” is the subject of W.B. Yeats’ poem about The Magi, the three men variously called kings or wise men who came to Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’s birth to pay homage to a new saviour. For Yeats, they are trapped forever in that posture of searching for that which they can revere.
He pictures them “in their stiff, painted clothes… pale [and] unsatisfied…their eyes still fixed,” caught in an eternal seeking that will never find what it is looking for.
In this short poem, he projects onto the wise men his own inability to find consolation in the “other plane” to which he devoted his life, which remains always trembling before him, tantalisingly elusive, behind the veil.
His kings, undernourished and unconvinced by the “turbulence” of the story of Bethlehem and Calvary, their “eyes still fixed”, must pace the heavens too, perpetually unsatisfied.
Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.
For more poems by WB Yeats, Adrienne Rich, Thomas Hardy, TS Eliot and others, you can purchase Poetry For Christmas at your local Amazon store HERE: http://authl.it/w6
Friday, November 29th, 2013
Last Week: Go Creative With… Teddy Roosevelt
The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.
Next Week: Go Creative With… Patti Smith