Category Archives: What to do when life gets in the way

Deep Breath

The view from my bedroom window.

The view from my bedroom window.

Samhain is past, and we are well into the Mourning Moon, a time of releasing the old, and accepting our own power. Here in rural South Norfolk, we’ve had soggy and unseasonably mild weather, which has lately meant long days of grey skies and continual downpours. The last of the trees to shed their leaves, the oaks, have begun their brown weeping. The landscape is smudged khaki and brown and yellow, the edges blurred by autumn mists.
A fortnight has passed since my last post, a space during which I have been trying to recover a little of my strength, and some of my thinking capacity. The first week was one of complete surrender. After it, I felt more rested than I had in a whole year, I think.
The second was more tense, punctuated by a day-long dash to Oxford and back, to take the elders to the doctors for important assessment and treatment. Seven hours in a car, split in half by four hours of pushing a wheelchair and repeating myself every ten minutes, was enough to exhaust almost all the good will my body and I had built up between us. Since then I have been lost in a hormonal, anxiety-ridden mist, feeling OUGHTS and SHOULDS mounting up like an impending avalanche over my head. Add to that the impending doom of the Christmas season, and life-changing news from several friends, and I’m not sure I’ve come out of this much recharged.
Let’s just say, this has been a time of reassessment and reflection.
While I have come a long way in my year of ‘DARE’, I’m not sure that I can face another action word year. After ‘REVOLUTIONARY’ (2013) and ‘DARE’ (2014), I’ve attracted way too much change into my life for comfort, and I think I need a rest, thank you, Mrs Universe. I’ve decided that next year, I need a gentler world to ease my way. ‘BALANCE’ or ‘NURTURE’, perhaps. Or even just ‘EASE’. A reminder to be kinder with myself, something that, like most women, I find difficult to allow myself to do.
Tectonic shifts are happening in my creative life too. The relief I felt at giving myself a rest from blogging caused a delicious upsurge in other creative outlets. I immediately went off and made the back door curtain I’d been meaning to sew for the last six years. I’ve been hand-quilting a Christmas stocking for my guide-daughter too, which is enormously satisfying. I hope I manage to get it finished in time. Being able to sew again feels fantastic, although I had a few scary moments trying to remember how to thread my sewing machine!
I’ve decided I need to be using my journaling practise in a much more systematic way, too. I want to try a lot more guided journaling, by which I mean journaling from prompts rather than the simple stream-of-consciousness method I have always used. I’m feeling the need for more deep self-exploration, and I want to use my creativity as an integral part of the work I do with my Gestalt counsellor on a weekly basis to effect this.
I haven’t stopped writing, in the meantime, even though I haven’t been blogging. I’ve got two big fanfics on the go at the moment, great sprawling things that seem to be growing every time I look at them. My head is full of scenes stored up to be written out. That’s not a brilliant way of writing, especially when my head is so blurry. The other day, I sat down to write a scene, only to realise that of the two emotional points I wanted the characters to thrash out, I could only remember one.
A bit not good.
The result was some serious re-evaluation of my notebooking habits, which I still haven’t resolved, but hope to share with you soon.
As well as putting some conscious intention into my reading habits, I’ve been contemplating a new original writing project too. In the wake of the In/Famous Engagement, and the storm that followed it, I came to the conclusion that I needed to get away from fanfiction. And yes, I know I’ve been saying this for ages, but sometimes it takes a big event to push us to make real changes. So much is shifting in my life right now, and I want to move on to something fresh. I don’t think I’m going to be able to give up writing fanfics, nor do I honestly want to, but there is an idea knocking at my door, scratching at the wood like the ghost of Cathy in ‘Wuthering Heights’, and it won’t go away. As I used to say to my school friends:

‘I think I’ve got a story coming on’.

And finally, I’ve got some ideas for non-fiction that I want to have a go at. I think the phrase is ‘watch this space’.
Thank you, dear readers, for sticking with me through this break, and throughout this bumpy year. While I know it is only going to get bumpier for a while, I’m grateful that you are with me, listening to my ramblings. It is good to know I’m not shouting into the unresponsive darkness.
Happy creating,
EF

The Benefits of Giving Up

The Cumberbatch

Gratuitous Cumberbatch photo. Just because I felt like it!

Dear Reader,

I want to tell you about why its sometimes a really good idea to give up.

You weren’t expecting that, were you?

In my last post, I wrote about the folly of trying.  Of pushing ourselves beyond endurance, and as a result, being unable to achieve the things we want.

That post was an example of me writing my own permission slip.  That day, I took my own advice.  I gave up trying.  I spent a lot of time just lying around.  I felt terrible, so why do anything else? I simply surrendered to what my body was trying to tell me.  Which was, in essence, ‘STOP’.

So far, so good.

The next day, I woke up at 8.30am, earlier than I am normally able to do, and in addition, woke with a clear head.

I grabbed my laptop and opened it up.

And I wrote.

I wrote all day.

In between spells of writing, I stripped the bed, put clean sheets on, did three loads of washing, tidied the kitchen, ironed some fresh pillowcases, made some long overdue phonecalls, and cooked a lovely supper for Husband and myself. I got so much done!

By close of play, i.e.11pm, I had written (get this) 6470 words.  Thats 27 pages.

The most I have ever written in one day.

(Round of applause, please.)

And all because I had given myself some much-needed space.

This is why you must learn to stop.  Yes, it is important to write every day.  Little and often is imperative.  Regular practise for any art form is necessary.

And there will be days when you sit down at your desk or in your studio and think:  ‘I really don’t want to do this today.’  And when you start, the brush strokes will be ugly or the words will come out like lumps of lead.  And then you will get going and things will flow and it will be alright.  (In fact it will be better than alright.  Because all the pain and depression you may have been struggling with will fly away, and creating will heal you.)  That is the point of any practise.

I am not saying you should only write when you feel like it.

What I am saying is that you must recognise that there are some days when your body is leeched to a husk, when your brain is too full or too empty to do anything but be.  Those are the days when you need to be gentle with yourself.  To put away the expectations.  And you will know those days.  The days of crisis.  The days when Life just steps in and pulls the carpet from under you.

If, like me, you live with chronic illness, working out which those days are becomes a little harder.  After 17 years, I am getting better at it, but I’m still not great.

The important thing to remember is that when you release the pressure on yourself, the result is often magic.

Its very Zen to say: let go of perfectionism, let go of expectations, but its easier said than done.  We all carry expectations from society, our upbringing, our peers and ourselves.  Letting them go is a daily practise in itself.  I am reminded however of an old saying I once heard:

“Let go, and Let God.”

Once we stop trying, once we stop tensing up and forcing things, the creativity flows through us freely onto the page or the canvas or the keyboard.  When we are free to make crap art, we learn.  And invariably, in my experience at least, when we give ourselves permission to make crap, what comes out is pure gold.

So here I am, in the aftermath of this great day of writing, assessing what I have learnt, what I can take with me from this experience.  I don’t know if what I wrote yesterday was gold or dross.  Chances are it will be about 50/50.  I don’t really care.  To be frank, it was fun.  It was an enormous relief just to spread my wings and fly without judging myself at all.

And I’m looking forward to doing it again just as soon as I can.

Happy creating,

EF

 

The Folly of Trying

My counsellor told me a story:

A man was asked at a conference to come up onto the stage, where the speaker had set a single chair in the centre.

‘Try to pick up the chair ,’ the speaker said.

The man picked up the chair.

‘No, you’re not getting it,’ the speaker said.  ‘Try to pick up the chair.’

The man picked up the chair again.

‘No, you’re still not getting it.  TRY to pick up the chair.’

The man put his hands on the chair and then, in a flash of inspiration, he understood.

Because TRYING to pick up the chair is not the same as picking up the chair.

If you TRY, you never actually achieve the action.  You just TRY.

Or, as the venerable Yoda said, in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’:

Try not.  Do.  Do or do not.  There is no try.

(I had that on my door at college.  I don’t think I understood it then.  Now I do, I really, really do.)

This wisdom has really been banging on my door today, as I struggle with a cold, coming on the back of a bad spell of IBS and ME/CFS.  I am busy TRYING.  Trying to get better.  Trying to feel well. Trying to cope with the housework. Trying to write.

Sometimes you have to recognise the wisdom of ‘Do or Do Not.’

Lately, I worry that this blog has become more about illness and less about creativity.  More about my TRYING experience.  But I think it really is an important lesson to learn for creative people.  We push ourselves and push ourselves, driven by expectations and perfectionism and Gods-know what demons we have inside us, deftly planted there, no doubt, by our loving parents. We dance the dance of the OUGHT-hogs.  The SHOULDS.  We are so busy forcing meaning into our lives as creatives, as Eric Maisel ill-advised (IMHO), that we pulverise our souls and our bodies into gibbering wrecks, terrorised by all the goals we fail to achieve and the standards we are incapable to meeting.  Books about how to write invariably advise the student that they have to write every day, no matter what.  I don’t think thats healthy or, frankly, practical.  Of course, it helps if you can.  A lot.  But seriously, who can write when their child has been up all night vomiting, or they have just received a redundancy notice?

Sometimes you have to treat yourself with loving kindness.  Sometimes you have to lower your expectations, and maybe even give in to the avalanche that Life has dumped on your head.  I have been talking to several friends who are all struggling with ill health this week, recovering from cancer treatment or at the end of a difficult pregnancy, or even in bereavement, and I truly believe that this is something all of us needed to hear.

Sometimes you are allowed to stop trying.

Sometimes its good to stop trying.

And then, when you have given yourself a break, a rest, a time of wound-licking, you can get up and go and do what it is you need to do.

MInd you, I have probably just proved myself wrong by writing this blog post, because I’ve spent the last six hours lying in bed groaning, absolutely convinced that I couldn’t write anything today.  So there you go.  Take from that what you will.  Just promise me something?

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Happy Creating,

EF

 

Back to ‘Normal Life’?

Andrew Gormley sculpture on top of Blackwells Art shop in Broad Street, Oxford.

Andrew Gormley sculpture on top of Blackwells Art shop in Broad Street, Oxford.

I woke this morning to a blustery wind and the last dregs of ex- Hurricane Bertha outside the window. The sun has begun its long journey down towards the horizon, and the shadows around the hems of the trees are getting darker and longer. There is a dampness in the air that speaks of autumn on its way, that last frantic dash towards the end of summer before the urge to buy pencils and sign up for new courses presses in on us.

I’m back from a week-long trek around the country, visiting parents and doing family duty, and this morning, Jennifer Louden’s blog post about ‘Re-Entry’ popped up on my dash. It could not have been more perfectly timed.

We’ve been away, but it was not what one might call a ‘holiday’. I feel weird and disjointed now we are back, and I’ve realised I need not only to take time to recover from the business of travelling, but also to carefully consider my ‘Re-Entry’ into normal life.

Right now, I’m not even sure what ‘Normal Life’ looks like anymore.

There is a lot of emotional stuff to process from our time away, and plenty of new ideas and inspirations too.

We’ve reached the second half of the year now, and I am feeling the need to reassess my plans and intentions, to consider where I want life to take me in the coming months. Where am I going? What should my priorities be? Can I even remember the working systems I had set up before I left?

The beach where I grew up.

The beach where I grew up.

So I am giving myself time to go through the process of resuming my life, and allowing myself to visualise what this life can be. I’m trying to ignore all the headlong manias for starting new regimes.

You know the thing, the:

‘Now I’m back, I can start that new “diet/exercise regime/ meditation practise/ decluttering/ redecorating/ making my life look like other people’s I see in magazines because I’m not good enough as I am”’

Time to sit down with my journal and write through to what I really want. To decide what the next achievable step is. To remember how my creativity works.

And I am kind of at peace with that. I’m okay with needing time to gently settle back into my world. I know that the words I haven’t had time to write in the last week, the stories that I haven’t been able to visualise while I’ve been away, immersed in caring for others, will return, if I give them the chance. I will settle. I just have to have faith. And I’m happy to wait, and rest, until they condense into a cloud of meaning under my ribs.

If you are just back from your holiday, and struggling to reintegrate into your life, or just about to leave, and concerned about having the Post- Holiday Blues when you get back, grant yourself compassionate ‘Re-Entry’ time. Don’t push yourself too hard to resume. Allow yourself the chance to process the experience you have had, to allow the images and experiences to percolate through your mind. These transitional times are sometimes uncomfortable. Don’t fight it. Give yourself a break.

Happy reintegration,

EF

Tales from my Weekend

Capture the moment.

Capture the moment.

Dear friends,

I’m sorry you didn’t get a post from me yesterday.   I was doing my elder-care weekend.  Once a month, or sometimes twice a month, depending on circumstances, we trek across the country to care for Husband’s mother and aunt (who live together). This time I made a few notes in my writers notebook, thinking they might be useful starters for writing exercises:

  • A weekend of fabulous sunsets and endlessly varied cloudscapes.
  • A red kite swooped down into the garden to scavenge the chicken bones left over from Sunday dinner, as I perched on the back step a few feet away, reading the newspaper.
  • Learning to manoevre a wheelchair –  its a lot more difficult than you think, especially inside supposedly  ‘disabled’ toilets.  And garden centres.  Note to self – the aisles are always narrower than you think.  Especially round the orchids.  Perhaps they just want to capture you there, so you’ll spend more money, I don’t know.
  • I lost my mother-in-law in Sainsburys.  She walked off.  She has dementia.  Now I can imagine  just how terrifying it is to lose a child in a supermarket. (We found her again in the end.)  Note to self: find a way to attach mother-in-law to aunt-in-law’s wheelchair at all times.
  • A wheelchair is a heavy thing:  discuss.
  • A kind lady came up to us and said hello.  Just because.  People can be friendly just for the sake of it.  The world is not such a scary place as we think.
  • Old ladies want to feel pretty too.  Aunt-in-law asked me to spray her with scent from an old bottle of Guy LaRoche that she had tucked away, so she would feel confident when she saw the doctor.
  • A friend’s dog escaped and she snapped her achilles tendon whilst chasing after it.  Just before her impending annual holiday and her daughter’s graduation.
  • My niece’s husband teaches Wittgenstein to his year 12 students.  I think he is brave.
  • Coming home, the sky was full of a just-past-full moon, an orange disc slashed with shards of inky night cloud.
  • Bacon.  No, you don’t need to know anymore.  Bacon is all you need to think about.
  • Hugs.  Hugs make everything better.  Even if you’ve heard the story about the man walking into the plate glass window 18 times in the last ten minutes, hugs always help.

My thanks to Phoebe and Sam Grassby, Mike and Debbie Bracken, Betsy, Maria, Dr Finnegan and the unknown lady who came up to us in Sainsburys, Kidlington, for making the world a better place.

Happy creating,

EF

Easter 2014: The Pictures

The Archangel Gabriel by Philip Jackson (2009), South Harting Church, Hampshire.

The Archangel Gabriel by Philip Jackson (2009), South Harting Church, Hampshire.

WARNING: PICTURE-HEAVY POST!

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that I have been absent for a week.  Caring for Elderly relatives again, I’m afraid.  It was a tough week, and I expected to come home utterly emptied out, but weirdly, because we managed to get out and about, and had a couple of days with friends in Sussex in the middle of it all, I somehow to managed to recharge my creative batteries.  I’ve come home feeling more ready to write and make and decorate than I have in months.  This is a HUGE relief.

I am here to tell you that despite everything, it is possible to feel and get creative.

So here are some pics and a little video of some of some highlights of a week spent between Hampshire, Sussex and Oxford.

Beautiful blossoms in the service station car park where we stoppped for lunch on our first journey.

Beautiful blossoms in the service station car park where we stoppped for lunch on our first journey.

Sunshine on the Hamble River.

Sunshine on the Hamble River.

Uppark House, National Trust, always a favourite visit for my mum, and such a beautiful building.  Its hard to believe it was gutted in a fire a few years ago and has been fully restored.

Uppark House, National Trust, always a favourite visit for my mum, and such a beautiful building. Its hard to believe it was gutted in a fire a few years ago and has been fully restored.

A sofa carved from a whole tree trunk, found in an Arundel shop.  looks comfy, doesn't it?

A sofa carved from a whole tree trunk, found in an Arundel shop. looks comfy, doesn’t it?

Gorgeous Italian nougat at the Piazza Italia event in Horsham

Gorgeous Italian nougat at the Piazza Italia event in Horsham

Stunning sculpture of the Archangel Gabriel by Philip Jackson (2009) suspended before the North transept window of The Church of St Mary and St Gabriel, South Harting.

Stunning sculpture of the Archangel Gabriel by Philip Jackson (2009) suspended before the North transept window of The Church of St Mary and St Gabriel, South Harting.  Shades of Dr Who?

A quick peek at the kitchen garden of Hinton Ampner, also National Trust, where we stopped for a quick lunch on the way to Oxford.

A quick peek at the kitchen garden of Hinton Ampner, also National Trust, where we stopped for a quick lunch on the way to Oxford.

I was going to upload some footage of the Parade of 100 Ferraris at Horsham’s Piazza Italia event, but the format is apparently unacceptable, so I’ll just have to tell you that the best part was the revving of those meaty engines!

Anyway, the point is that you have to get out to feed your muse.  So this week, in the aftermath of a busy Easter, why not take half an hour to get out and walk around with your camera, and just look at what is around you.

Happy Creating,

EF

 

 

 

 

 

Journal Friday: Core Practices

Diary Pile 2I’ve been experiencing something of a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ lately, a deep, dark journey into the Underworld.  Being creative has been a distant dream.  The only space or energy available has just been for survival.  That said, I’ve realised that there are three core practices that have helped, and continue to help me keep (relatively) sane.

Core practices are those habits you keep going, no matter what.  Activities that keep your engine running even when there is no energy, space or time for anything else.  You keep up these habits through the times of joy and abundance, and those of despair, desolation and drought.  They help sustain you, and keep you in a state of awakened readiness for when the next shower of inspiration comes.  They are part of the minimum requirements that you need to function as a happy, healthy human being.  They are different for everybody, so yours might vary from mine, but they will give you the same comforting, nurturing continuity in your life.

I started thinking about this idea the other day, when I heard Jamie Ridler talking about them in her recent podcast.  The core practices she sites are Movement, Meditation and Morning Pages.  Morning Pages are a practice popularised by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way, and I’ve written a little about them here.  Cameron herself would probably site Morning Pages, Walking and the Artist Date as her core practices.

If I had to name mine, the three things that have kept me going in recent days against the tide of despair, I would say they are yoga, meditation and journalling.

Yoga helps me to keep grounded inside my body.  Even when I am very ill and have little energy, a single pose can help.  Yoga eases the chronic pain I live with, and gives me a sense of achievement.  I like doing it outside in the garden in the summer, but usually my yoga mat gets spread out on my study floor.  I light a candle, ask for a blessing on my practice, and do a few asanas.  I also enjoy doing a few poses before bed at night, as this helps calm me from the day’s stresses, but also helps counteract the tension my body builds up during the night.  If you fancy having a go, you might find this website helpful.

Meditation is something I am trying to do.  I’ve been trying to do it for years.  It occurs to me now that maybe thats the whole point.  Even when you get good at it, you are still battling the butterfly nature of your mind as it dances about between the shopping list and the peerless beauty of Benedict Cumberbatch’s mouth, or something similar!  Lately, I’ve had quite a bit of success with the Insight Timer app on my smartphone, and I also like Susan Piver’s free meditation instruction sessions – ten minutes out of your day for such huge benefits has to be worth a try.  When I get it right, when I manage to concentrate on my breath even for just a tiny bit, I experience a sense of peace, achievement and oneness.  I’ve tried Vipassana body awareness meditations by Jon Kabat-Zinn too, and they are really good.

Journalling.  Do I really need to add much about this?  I’ve been writing continually on this blog about journalling practise since I started a year ago, explaining the benefits and the pleasures of keeping a diary.  I’ve been doing it for 40 years this year (erch!  Is it really that long?), and I can tell you that it has saved my life more than once.  Check out my other Journal Friday posts to find out more.

Journal Exercise:

Get out your journal and take a little time to ground yourself.  Take a few breaths and be present within your body.  Then think about your life.  What are some of the things you do regularly that sustain you emotionally, physically, spiritually.  Spend some time writing about them, about why they help you, why you do them, how they nourish you.

If you have trouble zeroing in on one, two or three things you do in this way, try thinking about your minimum requirements for a happy life.  What do you go nuts without?  When your life gets a bit haywire and you find you feel out of control, what are the things that have slipped?  It might be anything from drinking enough water and eating fruit daily to spending time with friends and family, walking the dog or reading a good book.  Make a list of the things that you know you need in your life to sustain your wellbeing.

As always, don’t get too draconian about either of these exercises.  Remember these are not the things you think you OUGHT to be doing, or what your friends are doing, although they may be things you might like to try, but haven’t yet.  Take time to explore.  Be gentle and compassionate with yourself.  And if you can’t identify anything yet, allow the answers to evolve over time.  Gently ask them to come to you.  Ask yourself what you need in your life right now, and enjoy your discoveries.

Happy Creating,

EF

 

Outflow: KBO

Footprints Ardnave 1Today I forgot to post.

I forgot to even think about posting.

It has only just occurred to me, at 9.40pm, and the thought followed hard on the heels of this realisation that this is what my life has been for the last three months.

I’m in survival mode.

I’m just keeping my head above water, just managing to stay afloat.

Sometimes that is how life is, and to be honest, maybe I needed this time of stillness and reflection.  Not that I do much reflection when I am that ill because my ability to think is severely compromised.  It is hard to think about creative plans, or plot bunnies, or even what the next meal is going to be, when you are so tired that you can’t read, write, watch telly or organise a series of logical actions because your brain can’t process.

I’m not saying this to engage your pity.  I’m saying it to be honest, and because being honest is good.  With myself and with you.

This is what the Creative Life looks like.

It is messy and inconsistent and spasmodic.  Sometimes it is filled with elation, and at other times, disappointment.  But it is what it is, and that is why we keep doing it.

I started this year with the word DARE.  So far, as I think I have said before, DARE has become DAREing to keep going, stay alive, and do things I’ve never done before, like basic nursing activities.  Nursing doesn’t usually come within the scope of my definition of creativity, but its definitely under the DARE heading!  So I have extended my skillset, been creative in finding practical adjustments that help, and learnt a lot more about my limits.

Now I have to learn a bit of patience, which is not my greatest virtue.

I’m losing two weeks out of four from my creative cycle because of the time it takes to organise, undertake and recover from our caring visits to Husband’s elderly parents.  I need to find a way to handle the gash this necessary commitment is cutting into my creative time, as well as how it affects me health-wise.  I need to either find a way to drop in and out of my creative mindset more quickly and easily, or to accept that the ease of adjustment I crave simply is not going to happen, and be at peace with that.  Whichever happens, I need to make the most of the time that I do have.  Otherwise I am going to be very miserable, and be unable to meet the intentions I am hoping for this year.

Sometimes creativity means being realistic. It means learning to do different, in order to take account of how things really are.  Because:

“Life is what happens when you are making other plans.”

(John Lennon)

Living a creative life is not always easy, but it is hugely rewarding.

I refuse to give up hope that I am going to achieve what I want to, that I am going to make some wonderful things and have some wonderful experiences.  Life gets in the way.  Shit happens.  The only thing to do is to find a way to keep going.  Or as Winston Churchill often put it, KBO (“Keep Buggering On”).

Happy Creating,

EF

 

 

Inspiration Monday: A Day Out

The Scallop by Maggi Hambling, Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

The Scallop by Maggi Hambling, Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

Warning:  This post has lots of pictures!

Its a lesson my mother taught me.  After my father died when I was 13, she used to take me away.  Just for the day.  Somewhere.  She would ring the school and say I was sick and we would run away somewhere.  Salisbury.  Portsmouth.  Winchester.  Even the Isle of Wight.  Somewhere that was within a day’s drive.  Anywhere that was not home, not full of memories and sadness.  It recharged our batteries, gave us the time to talk about what we had lost, and grow closer.  I have very fond memories of those stolen days.

Running away is a lesson that I have brought into my adult life.  Now, when things get a bit much, when we need to recharge, escape, or just rememebr who we are, Husband and I run away.  This weekend, we ran away to Aldeburgh in Suffolk, which is about an hour’s drive from home.  It is the town famous for its links with composer Benjamin Britten, and the music festival he set up.  It is also the seat of a number of literary festivals, and the setting for MR James’s haunting ghost story, ‘A Warning to the Curious’.  Fishing vessels work from the shingle shore, and you can buy fish straight from the boats, as well as smoked from the new smokehouse. (I recommend their smoked prawns with garlic dip, eaten straight from the packet on the beach, yum!)

Fisherman's shack where you can buy excellent fish caught fresh that morning, or crab, lobster and various local shellfish in season.

Fisherman’s shack where you can buy excellent fish caught fresh that morning, or crab, lobster and various local shellfish in season.

Since I am trying to get back into the swing of taking photographs again, I took my camera, and here are some of the results.  I hope they get your creative juices flowing.

And if you are lacking in Inspiration this week, why not plan a day to run away and just be.

Fishing boats hauled up ont he shingle shore.

Fishing boats hauled up on the shingle shore.  Is that the figure of Willam Ager running along the strand?

DSCI3684

Dead seedheads by the coastal path.

Old fishing boat on the shingle in the mist.

Old fishing boat on the shingle in the mist.

The Scallop by Maggie Hambling, a local Suffolk-based artist.

The Scallop by Maggie Hambling, a local Suffolk-based artist.

The Scallop is a memorial to composer Benjamin Britten, who lived in Aldeburgh.  The words are from his opera, Peter Grimes.

The Scallop is a memorial to composer Benjamin Britten, who lived in Aldeburgh. The words are from his opera, Peter Grimes:  ‘I hear those voices that will not be drowned.’  (Are these also the voices of creativity, calling us?)

Approached from the Thorpeness (north) side, the Scallop is said to look like a knight riding a charger.

Approached from the Thorpeness side, the Scallop is said to look like a knight riding a charger.

Utterly mad cow wallpaper found in The Crown Inn, Framlongham on the way home!

Utterly mad cow wallpaper found in The Crown Inn, Framlingham on the way home!

Happy Creating!   EF

Welcome to 2014!

Writer Friend asked me yesterday what my creative plans for the coming year were. (He means to finish the last draft of his novel to his agent’s satisfaction.  Good luck to him, I say.)

Me?  Well, I just stared at him with my lower jaw on my chest.

Plans?  Creativity?  Ideas?  Hell, even original thought?  I beg your pardon?

Let me explain:  Mother-in-law (henceforward referred to as Mother) lives with Aunt-in-law (henceforward referred to as Aunt).  Mother has dementia.  Aunt is profoundly disabled by arthritis.  Aunt is Mother’s carer.  Just before Christmas, Aunt fell on the stairs and was rushed to hospital with suspected broken neck. Cue care crisis.  Luckily, neck was not broken. Result, however, was several days in hospital for Aunt, meaning Mother had no carer.  Husband and I, and rest of family, rushed the three and a half hour drive to take over care.  Aunt comes out of hospital, still needing 24-hour care.

Its a mess.

The upshot of all this is that we spent Christmas nursing, so effectively Christmas didn’t happen.  For ten days, my brain was occupied thusly: 90% firefighting care/nursing issues, 10% ‘ohmygodhowarewegoingtogetthroughthis???????’

We made it home in time to spend an exhausted New Year’s Eve with dear friends, and to stare blankly at the telly for the Sherlock Series Three Episode One premier last night. (Don’t ask me for an opinion, I haven’t got one yet.  I’ll tell you when I get my brain back.)

I haven’t had an original thought to spare for myself for nearly a fortnight.

So the plans I had for writing a jolly, upbeat, ‘these are my creative plans for 2014’ post for you today are wrecked.  I don’t have any plans because I haven’t had time to think about them.  Of course, I will write one, eventually, when my brain is less bombed, and when I have recovered from the bone-deep exhaustion that only an ME sufferer faced with such an emergency can experience.

Why am I telling you all this?  (Apart from to apologise for not writing something you didn’t even know I was going to write?)

Because this is a real-life demonstration of the philosophy this blog was established to promote.

In a minute, I will put away my laptop and excavate my desk from under the heaps of clutter that accumulated there in the chaos before Christmas.  And then I will open my journal, and pick up my pen, and press the nib to the paper.

And then I will find my way back to myself.

Somewhere, buried under the rubble of the last two weeks, is my soul.  My mind.  My creativity.  And my pen will make a line, a track that will lead me back to my soul, my mind, my creativity.

This is why writing is important.  Whether we write a journal or a story, a play or a poem, that line of ink leads us home to ourselves, over and over again.  And if we follow that inky trail, we will never be lost, no matter how difficult and hopeless things seem.

Happy New Year,

With Best Wishes,

EF