Category Archives: Nigel

Inspiration Monday: Whats Inspiring Me Right Now

VW desktopFor today’s post, I thought I would bring you a little window into my creative mind.  Here are some of the things that are really getting my brain going at the moment.

This post from Kate Courageous really is causing a revolution inside my skull.  Imagine – learning to accept Nigel instead of kicking him?

Not practising enough?  Susan Piver has some interesting things to say about beating yourself up that are relevant whether you are talking about your meditation or your creative practise.

Found this lovely old post by Holly Becker on Decor8 about visual journals.  I really like this one about creating a lookbook too.

The New York Times on why handwriting matters.  Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.

The Handmade Home geniuses have their new 2015 planner out!  And yes, I am a total planner geek.  See also the fact that I have just discovered how Pinterest can feed my addiction!

I love Brainpickings.

I love iHanna’s blog, but I especially like this post – ‘Glue book where I collect happiness.’  Isn’t that a brilliant idea?  Collecting happiness between the pages of a journal.  Count me in.

This book.  I’ve lost count of how many times I have read this biography of Virginia Woolf, but right now, every time I pick it up, I am filled with a new rush of ideas, inspiration, and fixes for my novel.

I’m loving this book as well.

Well, that should keep us all going for a while.  Hope you have an inspired and creative week,

EF

 

 

 

 

 

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Inspiration Monday: Creativity is Catching

Top.BMPToday we had the pleasure of attending the opening of an art exhibition by a friend, Martin Battye FRSA.

Martin is a pal of my husband’s from the cricket club, but he is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art, and his paintings are vibrant, vigorous and exciting.  It is always a delight to get to see his work, and today’s opening was no exception.  Martin is using oil colours on paper at the moment, and his pure pigments, textures and abstract designs are fascinating.  Scattered around the gallery were also a selection of his recent sketchbooks, and for all the wonder of the major pieces, I found these the most inspiring.  They show an artist’s process, the act of creativity itself, caught as if in aspic.  They contain the genus of the bigger paintings, as well as scribbled thoughts, poignant quotes and articles cut from newspapers and magazines.

I came away aching.

I want to do that, my heart said.

It’s been so long since I used my paints, since I dared to draw.

Lately, I have been remembering the two years of my art ‘A’ level course, when I started discovering other artists, the revelation of abstract art, the earthquake of Modernist artists, architects and designers like Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, Matisse and Rothko.  I felt so excited, so fascinated by their ideas and the pared-down beauty they created.  I was never able to liberate myself from the tyranny of the figurative, though, as they had, nor from my own self-abusive perfectionism.  I couldn’t, and still can’t, make a mess, try things out, paint outside the lines.

But what would happen if I DARED?

What would happen if I could BE MY OWN HERO?

The truth is that I want to create abstract art.  I want to make paintings that please me as much as Martin’s do.  I want to have his exuberance, his extravagant variety and colour, his sense of fun.

I keep thinking of Jamie Ridler’s exhortation to not judge the art you are called upon to make.  To just do it.

So I have decided to try and find out if I can recover that sense of adventure I had went I was 18 and reading about Modern Art for the first time.  I want to know if I can finally overcome the Nigel voice in my head that says I can’t get messy or paint outside the lines.  I want to find out, one tiny baby step at a time, if I can be the artist who lives inside me, safe in the knowledge that that artist will feed the writer, and vice versa.

Inspired by Martin’s creative process, EXPLORATION is my word for March.  I’m going to explore my creativity and have some fun.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

(If you are in Norwich, do visit Mandell’s Gallery in Elm Hill to enjoy Martin Battye’s wonderful work, open Mon – Sat, 10am to 5pm.)

Happy Creating,

EF

The Frustration Monster

Rose Quartz for healing and a bear for intuition.  I keep this stone by my bed to remind me what energy I need in my life rigth now.

Rose Quartz for healing and a bear for intuition. I keep this stone by my bed to remind me what energy I need in my life right now.

Aaaaaaaargh!

Do you ever feel like that?

I’ve got a whole belly-full of OUGHTS right now, and the Frustration Monster is biting at my tail, dammit!

I’m still in the midst of bear energy, but I don’t feel calm at all.  I’ve been trying to think of a sensible post to write, but my brain is like porridge and I am not feeling very at peace with all this hibernation/intuition stuff now that its finally getting sunny and mild outside.

Yes, I’ve got a bad case of the OUGHTS.

I OUGHT to be writing something.

I OUGHT to be writing something serious.

I OUGHT to be keeping a writing notebook.

I OUGHT to be keeping a better, serious, consistent writing notebook.

I OUGHT to be making more of this website.

I OUGHT to be writing my journalling ebook.

I OUGHT to be earning money.

I OUGHT to be doing the garden/cleaning the house/washing up/ making new curtains/planting bulbs/scrubbing the bath/calling that friend I haven’t seen for ages/ doing yoga/ meditating/ making green smoothies/ feeling better by now etc. etc. etc.

Instead, I can just about manage writing in my diary some days.  I can make the supper.  I can stuff laundry in the machine and press the button.  I can do what is absolutely necessary, but not much more.

I have written this week, despite this.  I have had two days of absolute brain dump.  Verbal runs.  On Monday I wrote so hard, so fast, I actually ended up dizzy (NOTE TO SELF: remember to breath whilst typing).

Yes, I made a story of 2195 words in two hours, but I didn’t feel good about it, and not just because of the whole ‘not breathing’ thing.  It was a fanfic.  And not even a ‘Sherlock’ fanfic, but a ‘Lewis’ one. (How the hell did I develop a hierarchy of OUGHTS about fanfics, for Gods’ sakes?)  Somehow, right now, that doesn’t feel good enough.  I just couldn’t be glad that I had actually managed to write something, anything, for the first time in two months.

Hello Nigel, Hello Perfectionism.

Nothing is good enough.  Nothing is enough.  Everything is SHOULD and OUGHT.  And all those words lead to is: me beating myself up.  Which is not what bear energy is about.

Tomorrow, I intend to feel better.  Tomorrow I am going to have peace, and relax, and not care about the fact that I can’t think straight.  But today I’m going to have a pity party and throw things and be a general grump, because sometimes, you just have to get it out of your system.

I hope you aren’t being dogged by the Frustration Monster, or scrambling over mountains of SHOULDS  and OUGHTS, but if you are, please know that you aren’t alone.  And we’ll get through it.

Oh, and tell Nigel to piss off from me, will you?

Happy creating,

EF

Postcard from the Underworld

There is some weird and funky stuff going on with my energy levels at the moment.  And some strange synchronicities keep happening.  Too many to ignore.

The Universe is sending me messages.

Let me explain:

Since Christmas I’ve been struggling with low energy, pain and brain fog.  Being creative has been an uphill struggle.  Most of the time it has not been happening at all.  I mean, who has the strength to be creative when every step feels like walking on broken glass, or when it’s all you can do to keep your eyes open for an hour at a time?

Then there are the synchronicities that just keep on popping up.  Seriously, it is like the Universe is jumping about and waiving it’s arms, trying to get me to notice.

The Persephone Myth.

Bears.

Hibernation.

These stories and images keep arriving on my desk, my desktop, in magazines, on Facebook, in books and on the TV.

‘The only way out is through.’

Today, I was working with my therapist on all the OUGHTs I have piling up inside my brain.  Nigel has been shouting pretty loudly lately, so the first thing to do was to kick him firmly out of the door, SHOULDS and all.  No more SHOULDS or OUGHTS for me, at least for an afternoon!

I talked about the pain and exhaustion I’ve been experiencing, and then I mentioned the fact that bears have been on my mind lately.

‘Let’s look them up,’ says my ever-resourceful therapist.

Bears, according to Native American theology, are about intuition.  They are about being true to yourself, and trusting your instincts as you go in search of the honey of inner truth.  They are about Shamanic inner journeys, visiting the Dreamlodge, the Otherworld, about contemplation and hibernation and ultimately, rebirth.

Not far away, then, from the myth of Persephone’s journey into Hades, her sojourn in the darkness comforting the souls of the dead and learning inner wisdom, and her return to the surface world in Spring, older and wiser.

Bears are animals that hibernate.  In the depths of winter many beasts, seeds, roots and bulbs in the ground are sleeping in darkness, recharging, waiting for the surge of renewal that comes with the returning sun.

Well, you may not be into New Age symbolism, but these are ancient archetypes of the kind favoured by Jung, and it is not hard to extrapolate from these metaphors to the period of hibernation that my low energy suggests.  Human beings were once small, furry creatures that may have hibernated, and who is to say that some of us don’t still carry the imprint of that behaviour somewhere in the primitive vestiges of our primate brains. Anyone who has suffered from even the mildest symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) would certainly agree.

So here I am, dug deep in my cave, wrapped up in the comforting furry arms of my bear familiar, letting the energy of hibernation circulate around me.

It is not static energy, oh no.

I may be resting, contemplative, still, but here in my snug little fug, stories are gestating.  Sometimes we need these times of hiatus to feed our creative souls.  It is not just my exhausted body and drained mind that need rest.  My Muse needs to sleep too.  And while she sleeps, babies grow in her belly.

I have realised that pushing myself to climb out into the sun too soon will be a mistake.  All the plans and intentions, those things-I-am-not-calling-goals, will have to wait until I am ready, physically, mentally, and creatively.  I must remind myself not to rush things.  Don’t birth the babies until they are properly ‘cooked’!

Are you in a time of hibernation too?  Were you propelled into 2014 with renewed gusto, or are you like me, groping your way like a blind mole, struggling to hold your head up in the pale wintry light?

If you are the latter, try to forgive yourself.  We cannot make ourselves energetic if the juice just isn’t there, no matter how much Society nags us that it should be.  Tell your Nigel to take a hike.  Snuggle down, like me, in your burrow and nurture your bear energy.  Find out what the stillness of hibernation has to say to you, how it can nourish you for future months.  Don’t force things.  Wait it out.

Spring, with all its creative renewal, will come soon enough.

Happy hibernating,

EF

Creative Intentions for 2014: DARE and DEPTH

Getting over our emergency Christmas is proving a longer, harder effort than I had thought.  My brain is a puddle, so don’t ask me if I have written anything or created anything yet this year, because ain’t nothin’ goin’ on up there but clouds.

However.

Just occasionally, I have flashes of conscious thought.

I got into a conversation with Writerfriend on New Year’s Eve about plans for the coming year, as I mentioned previously, and it occurred to me today, while mulling that conversation over, that having a word for the year for my creative endeavours as well might be a good way forward.

Having two might be argued as cheating.  One word should fit all of my life, after all.  And yes, it fits the overview of where I want to go this year, of who I want to be.  My word represents the attitude I want to cultivate throughout the coming year.  It represents my willingness to ‘have a bash’, to move away from a fear and scarcity mindset, away from perfectionism and Nigel.

So maybe a Creative Word isn’t so much a word for the year as a Creative Intention.  A theme.  A direction in which to move.

The word I have chosen is:

DEPTH

I want to deepen my writing, explore a more multi-layered story-world, deeper characters.  I want to write an original work that displays this quality.  In short, I want to get serious.

I suppose this is an extension of the intentions I was nourishing in the Autumn of 2013.  The desire to read more quality fiction, the need to take my writing to the next level.  I am currently making a plan to help me step into this new phase.  It will involve:

  • Reading lots of new, literary fiction (luckily, Santa was kind to me on this front, with a supply of yummy new novels!)
  • Refreshing my basic writing skills
  • Reading works on writing by published authors – A L Kennedy and Paul Auster are first on my list.
  • Writing every day
  • Making better use of my writers notebook.

At present it is quite a sketchy plan, but no doubt it will firm up into clear tasks.  I don’t want it to get too firm.  I want it to evolve and morph with my needs and creative interests.  Nothing too concrete.  It is an intention, a theme, after all.

And no doubt writing blog posts here will be part of that plan, as well as a commentary on progress.

So that’s my Creative Theme/Intention/Word for the year 2014.

What about you?  What do you want to achieve?  Is there a quality you want to invoke into your creative life, or are there specific works you want to make in the coming months?  I’d love to hear about your plans in the comments section.

Happy creating,

EF

Journal Friday: Wardrobe Planning

More dashBecause I’m ill, I am not able to work, and that means everything I do has to be on a budget – energy-wise and money-wise.  As a result, planning is my friend.  If I have thought about something beforehand, it makes everything so much quicker, easier, and less worrying.  That includes clothes.

I was looking at this fantastic dressing room today, and was shocked that anyone could have that many clothes.  If I did, I’d never get dressed at all because I wouldn’t have the energy to decide what to wear.  I have a small wardrobe, partly on purpose, because cutting down options means less to worry about, but also because of money.  I just can’t afford to spend lots.

Mostly I buy my clothes from my catalogue, on a monthly payment basis, and annually, with my birthday money.  Relatives are kind enough to donate to my clothing fund every year, and I plan very carefully what I am going to spend it on.  I make sure all my big purchases colour co-ordinate, and concentrate on one core colour and two accent colours.

Currently navy is my core, and bright red and bright (lime) green are my accents.  At the moment, though, I am feeling a pull towards charcoal grey, and since I bought a dark grey sweater in the sales a few years ago, I’ve been thinking I might go in that direction a little.  Plus it seems to bring out the colour of my eyes.  (It’s really hard to work out what colours I can wear these days, as I am growing out my coloured hair and letting the grey come through.  I didn’t think this measure, taken because I just can’t be fussed with home dyeing anymore, would make such a big difference to my complexion, but it does.)

grey croppedAnyway, the way my brain is, I can’t keep all this information in my head anymore, so I have started using my journal to plan my outfits.

I have an ulterior motive here too.  I haven’t been able to get past the creative block I have with my art, and I find that if I just do a scribble in my journal, it doesn’t have to perfect.  It is just a gesture drawing with a few colours to note down information in a graphic form, and it cons Nigel into thinking what I am doing is actually not painting at all!  Clever, eh?

black hat litUsing my journal in this way is a helpful planning tool.  It helps me to work out what extras I need in addition to what I already have, and to budget for them.  It also allows me to think through how I really want to look for a particular occasion, such as a wedding.  I am also finding it is changing the way I feel about my clothes.  I’m finally at the age when I can get away with wearing very classic styles, and you can see from my sketches that there is a distinctly ‘50s vibe going on.  I’ve always been in love with Dior’s 1947 New Look, and it looks like that is where I am going.  I’m intend to grow old elegantly as well as disgracefully!

How could you use your journal to plan your life or your look?

Happy journaling,

EF

On Perfectionism (and Timing)

Carpet makers in Turkey weave a mistake into every carpet they produce - because, they say, only what God makes is perfect.

Carpet makers in Turkey weave a mistake into every carpet they produce because, they say, only what God makes is perfect.

A friend was trying to finish his novel.

‘So many grammatical errors,’ he moaned.  ‘So many mistakes.’

He worked so hard that he wept.  It would never be perfect.  It would never be good enough.

All this effort, two days before he was due to be married.

There is perfectionism, and there is timing.

Perfectionism is a disease I suffer from myself.  It has blocked me for years.  Nothing can ever be good enough.

I set my standards so high, I never fail to fail.  And then I look at what I have failed to do, and tell myself I am useless, and that I will never finish anything.  Without noticing (conveniently) that I have set myself up for the perfect fall.

I am perfect at this.

So it is with this blog.  It had to be perfect.  It had to be faultless.

Never mind that I have a serious chronic illness that regularly prevents me from leaving the house, which affects my cognitive function to the extent that at times I can neither read nor write, nor understand what is said to me.

The blog still had to be perfect.  And I had to post three times a week.  Regardless.

Regardless of my health, or looking after elderly, sick parents, or my husband’s workload, or my marriage, or the weather, or having to attend friends’ weddings, or making time for much-needed holidays, or anything else that comprises having a life.

Add in the blog and perfectionism and you have a recipe for disaster.  Or at least a very poorly blogger.

This is as insane as my friend trying to perfect his novel two days before one of the most important and stressful days of his life.  (And happiest, lest we forget.)

Sometimes, you have to sit down and recognise that perfectionism is a disease created by Nigel.  Sometimes you have to stop, and realise you haven’t been very realistic about what you can achieve.

And you have to move the bar.

Perfectionism and timing have combined to create the perfect storm in my life right now.  I have been going through a bout of severe illness, and just at the start of August, the busiest month of my year so far.  My mother is coming to stay for a week.  Friends are getting married, and babies are being welcomed into the clan.  The garden needs watering, and I have a craving to write original fiction that I have not felt in many months.  With limited energy, and limited time, I can only do so much.

Conclusion:  this blog cannot be perfect.  It only has to be good enough.

It only has to be here to encourage you, dear reader, on your own journey of writing and creative discovery.  It only has to be witness to my own creative process, as I try to navigate a way through illness and into producing a novel that will make my soul sing, and make you turn the page with delight.  It doesn’t need to be the be-all and end-all of teaching writing – there are plenty of other people who can do that so much better than me.

Here are my good enough dreams:

I want to write that novel.  I want to write an ebook on journaling for you, too.

WARNING: RIDICULOUS DREAM SHARE ALERT

I want to make a collectors’ edition of my novel, illustrated with my own art, for you to buy.  Yes, I know, it’s crazy, but it’s something that is calling me, and somehow I know I have to follow its siren song.  And you are supposed to share your creative dreams, aren’t you, to help make them happen?  So I am sharing my dream with you to give it some karmic weight.  (Yeah, I believe in this stuff.  Bear with me.)

I also want to be well, have a holiday, enjoy some quality time with my mum, have a happy marriage (i.e. see my husband occasionally), water the garden and, well, have a life, really.

And I don’t want either perfectionism or bad timing to get in the way.

So I’ll make a deal with you:

I’m going to blog twice a week, instead of three times.

Sometimes I might only manage once, but if I do, I want you to know that the time I haven’t spent writing a blog post for you has been spent either a) getting well or, b) working on a creative project like my novel.  Because the blog can’t take up all my creative energy.  That just doesn’t make sense.  The blog is not the purpose, it is secondary to the purpose.  The purpose is the writing.

There was a time, this time last year, when I thought I would never have the courage to set up this blog.  Right now, I am scared that I will never have either an ebook or a novel to offer through it.  This time next year, I hope I’ll have proved at least one of those fears wrong.  In the meantime, I am moving the goalposts, lowering the bar, and whatever other clichés you care to insert.

I hope that you will stick with me.  I hope that you will share my journey, and tell me about yours too.  I hope that we can learn this together, that we can kick Nigel into touch and fill our lives with creative joy.

Happy creating,

EF