Why fiction writers are strange …

We fiction writers may look normal, sound normal, act normal and many of us may even have normal day jobs. But we often are less normal than we appear, and not infrequently we live in a world suspended between reality and fiction that is far from normal.

After covering more serious topics, it’s time for a lighter post. My last post on creativity and death was a strange subject which got me to thinking about how we writers are strange. I will unashamedly narrow in on fiction writing today, since as I write fiction, I feel I can speak with some authority on our oddities and foibles.

We fiction writers are strange because:

Copyright: Image by StockUnlimited

  • We invest phenomenal amounts of time conjuring up something from nothing.
  • And then more time again on another kind of magic, re-reading, correcting, tweaking, moving commas, etc.
  • Both of these often for no guaranteed income.
  • Most of us sneak writing into snatched moments circa dawn, when the baby sleeps, in the car while the kids do sports training, after dinner, in the wee hours and/or on weekends.
  • We can jump eras, continents and even galaxies, sometimes several times in one writing session.
  • It is not uncommon to find some of us in last night’s PJs at dinner time (Confession: I wear a t-shirt and trackie pants to bed so it’s not so obvious if someone knocks at the door).
  • I know you’ve read jokes about it: seriously concerning Internet search histories.
  • Many of us babble about our imaginary friends well into our adulthood and as if they are real.
  • The number of voices we can “speak” in is positively disturbing.
  • I bet I’m not the only writer who wishes I could speak words with the impact of the dialogue that I write (especially on the fourth edit when it is parred down to the glistening, quintessential elements).

Copyright: Image by StockUnlimited

  • We notice the world in exquisite and sensuous detail despite spending much of our lives in a fictional world. We can describe the eye-stinging, acrid smoke of a fire starting so vividly you can smell it, but be so involved in our writing that we would probably be oblivious if one were to start, or convey the sound of raindrops pattering on a variety of roof materials, but not notice it was raining, or invoke every nuance on the palate of a delicious dish, while our own fridge and pantry may be bare.
  • We can take what might seem and insignificant moment to others, and change it to having profound meaning.
  • Every story is not just interesting, but also potentially a future scene.
  • We can consort all day with a vast array of interesting characters and yet not see another person.
  • We “kill our darlings”, not without pain, then we celebrate how good it was that we knocked off a character.
  • Some of us create new names and sometimes whole new identities, not just for our characters, but possibly also for ourselves as writers. Some even have several pen-names/identities to hide behind.

Are there any writerly oddities you’d like to add?

I’m certain there will be many worthy additions! If you feel bold enough to publically share any, please feel free to comment below. Happy also to hear about the odd habits of non-writerly creatives.

Thanks for reading this post! Some of my other posts include:

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+.

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© 2016 Jacquie Garton-Smith

 

13 valuable creative lessons inspired by gardening

I’ve been getting my hands dirty in the garden recently and pondering the overlap between two of the activities I love – gardening and writing – although I think the analogies are true for creativity generally. This ties in well with this year’s blog theme of what we can learn about creativity from the world around us.

So what can we learn about creativity from gardening?

(with pix from our garden a labour of love!)

Herbs © 2014 Jacquie Garton-SmithHerbs © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Timing is important

You must do what needs to be done when the time is right. In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert writes eloquently about creative ideas passing if you don’t take them up. No point sowing your seeds in the wrong season, although you needn’t lie idle either …

  1. Prepare your ground

Gardeners won’t need to be convinced of the benefits of fertile soil and a fertile mind is a great start for creatives (for some ideas, see Learning from the creative inspiration around us)

Retic going in © 2013 Jacquie Garton-SmithRetic going in © 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Prepare your plot

I’m not saying you must strictly plot your story, although that works for some. What we do need to do is set up a supportive environment – where the gardener may set up a sprinkler system, a raised garden bed, supports for creepers or fence off an area, so a creative must establish what’s needed to support their creative work and put it into place.

  1. Plant your seeds

If you don’t get your seeds in the soil, they won’t grow. What we plant is nothing like what we end up with – and so it is for us creatives. Just start with your idea and see what grows. If your ideas come to you at inconvenient times, make a note of them so you have them for when the season is right. If procrastination is your problem, The power of naming procrastination may help.

Plum tree terrace viewed lengthwise © 2004 Jacquie Garton-SmithPlumtree terrace viewed lengthwise © 2004 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Nourish your seedlings

As our plants need regular water and periodic fertiliser (some more than others!), so our creative ideas need encouragement. And too much love can have its issues – much as overwatering or over-fertilising is unwise, try not to overwrite, overpaint or over-torture your creative idea. Just get it out and let it grow.

  1. Protect new growth

Those precious shoots do need protection from all kinds of insults. Where our shrubs may need protection from pests and diseases, heat and drought, frost, wind and storms, animal attack, so sometimes we need to protect our fledgling creative work from self-doubt and wrong turns, mistakes (they are okay – they can take you in new directions), the opinions of others (this can be particularly destructive on early work which, let’s face it, will always need to evolve) and withering enthusiasm, interruptions and excuses. If finding the time to be creative is a challenge, check out When push comes to shove – juggling priorities in a time-poor world.

Plum tree terrace viewed ten years later front on © 2014 Jacquie Garton-SmithPlumtree terrace ten years later (front on) © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Train into the direction or shape you want

Many plants benefit from encouragement in the right direction. I’ve been known to laboriously and repeatedly twist creeper shoots around supporting structures or fences and to hang part-filled bottles to tree branches to train them where I want them to go. I commissioned several garden designers to draw up plans for our garden, none of whom could see their way around the easiest and cheapest way to what I wanted, before one encouraged to me to design it myself (and gave me great advice which helped us achieve it and more). We creatives do need to be open to the journey our creative work wants to take us on and there are times we need to take charge of our project and direct it where we want it to go. You’ll know when you have the vision you need to do this.

  1. Fear not a good pruning

It took me a long time to learn to prune with confidence in the garden and (surprise, surprise) also in editing. If unsure, start gently, review and then trim a bit more, and repeat again and again until done. Luckily in writing and many other creative pursuits, the benefits of a healthy prune can usually be seen instantly in your shining work where in the garden, it can look seriously brutal until the plant reshoots. But it must be done for a better result.

Cornelia Weeping Rose © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith Cornelia Weeping Rose © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Try new things

I do like a fairly traditional garden which goes very well with our 1914 home, but trying new things can be great fun in the garden, be it new varieties, different combinations or new techniques. I’m a sucker for new varieties of plants. Some work, some don’t but that’s part of the fun. New combinations of plants can really freshen up a garden bed. And I like to keep abreast of new approaches to gardening. Worm farming was very new when I started and has been a fabulous addition to our garden, reducing our use of conventional fertilisers to nearly nothing and using up most of our kitchen waste to boot. What does all of this have to do with creativity? Try weaving some new and different approaches into your creative project and see if they sing. If they don’t, see 8 …

  1. Fads come and go but the basics never fail you

The “right way” of doing things is often the best. Whether it’s the basic gardening skills or techniques, solid equipment or the old favourite plants, they will carry your garden to achieve its full potential whatever the trends. As will good artistic/musical/dance/writing/culinary/(insert your creative passion here) techniques, materials and equipment. And you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune or study at university to develop these.

Rosebuds © 2014 Jacquie Garton-SmithRosebuds © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Celebrate every beautiful moment

Yes, that empty plot that’s been dug over, soil built up with seeds planted and watered in may not look like your dream garden but it’s a huge achievement in itself. Same with that early painting, sketch or tune, or draft storyline or scene. Enjoy every stage of the process. You deserve it.

  1. Know when to yank out your plant (or even the whole garden bed) and start afresh

It can be heartbreaking but also liberating – why struggle on with something that is not going to deliver or is past its use-by. You do need to be sure it’s not that periodic falling in and out of love with our creative work that naturally happens, but when the time comes to free yourself up for something better, celebrate that stage too.

 Cherry Tomatoes finishing © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith
Cherry Tomatoes finishing © 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith
  1. Lying fallow

Paddocks benefit from fallow periods – do we? I think so and I’ve written about my experience with this in Is it a dreadful mistake to take a break from writing?

 

I’m sure the list could go on …

Do you have any gardening/creativity analogies to add?

Have you found one or more to be particularly useful?

Please feel free to comment below.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+.

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© 2016 Jacquie Garton-Smith (text and all images)

Embracing Creative Input from Others

If you want people to read your writing, it is inevitable that people will actually have to read your writing … Stating the obvious, I know, and yet so often we write in isolation, perfecting every comma of a manuscript no one has seen.

And yet the process of seeking feedback, while infinitely valuable, can leave us feeling vulnerable, exposed to our creative core. And while feedback can be gold, working out what to take on board and how, and what is less important (or even misguided) is crucial to delivering a work of creative integrity, a unique expression of its creator.

While feedback can be gold, working out what to take on board and how, and what is less important (or even misguided) is crucial to delivering a work of creative integrity, a unique expression of its creator.

This little bird hiding in her nest in our plum tree reminds me of what we creatives often do ... © 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith

This little bird hiding in her nest in our plum tree reminds me of what we creatives often do …
© 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith

I have been extremely lucky while writing and editing my current WIP to have been encouraged and supported by both gifted writers and avid readers who have been so very generous with their time, kind, patient, insightful, astute, intelligent and sincere.

Keeping in mind my own positive experience, I have been reflecting on what has worked for me during the (quite frankly terrifying but also exciting) experience of opening my WIP up to input from others, and indeed, making the most of feedback offered on any venture or project.

Taking on board creative feedback:

  1. Be open to both positive and negative feedback.

    I have a habit (as many of us do) of focusing on what didn’t work so well, to the point of not hearing what people thought was good. What does work is equally valuable so that you know what the strengths are, so that you can bring them out further, and so you know what not to lose and why … especially if conflicting opinions arise. Even neutral feedback can be worth attention to improve your WIP.

  2. Be curious (not defensive).

    Even accurate and constructive comments can be crushingly disappointing. Listen carefully and ask questions so that you can better understand the feedback.

            Do you know what made you feel that way?
            Can you put your finger on why?
            Do you have any idea what might work better?
            How do you suggest I approach it differently?

  3. Look for underlying issues.

    Sometimes feedback doesn’t totally gel because the problem is a symptom of another issue. I find this particularly when I am offered solutions that don’t sit right. (see 2 – if you have fully explored the feedback you will have a better chance of working out what needs to be resolved.)

  4. Especially listen to repeated themes.

    One person might be wrong, but if you hear something similar from multiple people, that is a strong sign you need to pay close attention. Be open to the different ways this feedback may manifest in variations on the theme.

  5. Let advice percolate.

    The tendency is often to rush in excitedly to fix things. All good for a straight-forward fix.

    But for more major changes, think them over, sleep on the suggestions (more than once if needed) and re-visit the feedback. Let your subconscious do some of the work. If still unsure, ask more questions to further clarify or run past other reviewers what they think.

  6. Be excited.

    Having the gift of another’s perspective to help guide you is incredibly precious. (For more on excitement as a strategy in writing see my post “Is excitement a new strategy for writers?”

  7. Give it a go.

    Even if you aren’t sure, test it out. For example, for writing:

    • Copy and paste a chapter into a new document and have a play – liberally delete, add to or switch around.
    • Print that section, mark up the problem areas and scrawl over it with your ideas.
    • Pick up a pen and scribble out a new version for fun.

No harm done if it was better before, you can go back to your earlier version more confident that you have explored other options. But you may be blown away by what you discover.

  1. Seek further feedback on changes.

    The pendulum can swing too far the other way. Or maybe one change creates or exposes another problem. Or maybe you didn’t quite nail it.

  2. Log all feedback.

    As your WIP evolves, it can be useful to revisit feedback on earlier versions to see if on reconsideration and after further gestation, you come up with additional ideas.

    Also keep old versions of your WIP in case you change your mind and want to reinstate something or even just revisit to remind yourself. An accomplished writer friend, Louise Allan , suggests keeping deleted scenes in case you decide to repurpose them into another body of work – what a great idea!

  3. Identify when to dismiss feedback.

    The ideas above are geared towards working with feedback from people who have valuable insights. Sometimes you will decide well-intended feedback doesn’t gel and that’s okay. It is your creative work, not theirs.

    If feedback (invited or otherwise) is destructive, it can be excruciating, especially if from someone you care(d) about or trust(ed).

    DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT DESTROY YOUR WORK. And DO NOT let negative feedback destroy you.

    You will still need to deal with your own reaction to the feedback and may still find some of these tips helpful in gleaning something useful from what they have said, or in evaluating their feedback to determine that it is not helpful.

    And it is all the more important to be open to the feedback of those who can offer valuable input, as this will give you perspective when faced with those who shoot down your creative development.

 

Without exploring the logistics of who to ask for feedback, when or how, these are some of my reflections on strategies that have helped me to handle feedback.

Do you think any of these tips are (or might be) helpful?

Do you have any other useful tips that you’d like to share?

Please feel free to comment below.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+.

Disclaimer

© 2016 Jacquie Garton-Smith

Is it a dreadful mistake to take a break from writing?

I took a break from my main fiction project recently. Having finished the umpteenth round of editing on my second novel, I decided a few weeks separation was needed before I re-read it with fresher eyes and decided which aspects needed to be re-tackled.

While I let my novel lie fallow, I reflected on the place of “not writing” on that body of work. Although I took a break from creative writing, I think this experience could apply to taking a break from other creative pursuits.

Downtime high def

 

At first, it was strange. I constantly felt guilty that I wasn’t writing or editing my novel, and had to remind myself this was a deliberate choice. Of course, ideas usually come to mind after intense editing, and when they did, I just noted them down for action later. Oddly much of this time I was idea-dry, but there were a few valuable bursts of inspiration initially and more insights as time passed.

I did still do some writing but nowhere near as much as usual and certainly not every day; sometimes days went by without writing. I wrote stream-of-consciousness “pages” on a fairly regular basis, I snuck in some editing on some of my short stories and I wrote regularly for my medical jobs. I even contemplated making a start on my next novel, for which ideas are brewing. I chose not to because, while I also hold down three jobs, I find it difficult to swap between working on different novels. I like being in the flow for one novel at a time. I tend to want to give my project as much of my attention as I can (around my other commitments). I can pause for non-fiction writing or sometimes a short story, but to start another novel didn’t feel right. For the same reason, I chose not to look again at my first novel.

Once I got used to the pattern, I enjoyed having more time to do other things. More time for catching up with friends and family, exercise, reading, gardening and knocking off some of those chores that sit perennially on one of my lists but must be done at some stage – great to be without the added pressure of those jobs achieved. I went on a holiday with my family and for once wasn’t wondering if I could juggle my time to squeeze in some work on my writing.

© 2015 Jacquie Garton-Smith

Exploring near Bermagui, NSW – October 2015

The real challenge to my “taking a break” philosophy came as I restarted editing, while also catching up at work on my return from leave. Unexpectedly I had to devote more time to family and my writing break turned out to be longer than I had planned.

The reflection I had done during my time-out meant I was already at peace with myself on not writing when the occasion arises. Quietly accepting, without guilt or frustration, that it would be a little longer freed me to do what I needed to with a clear conscience.

In the meantime, my head feels clearer, my ideas-and-to-fix list has grown considerably longer and I am excited about the next round of rewriting and editing. (You will see from my previous post why I am excited about being excited!)

Many opinion pieces extol that we writers must keep writing every day, no matter what is going on around us. Maybe that is the right choice for some, but it isn’t the case for everyone. I have read a few posts that acknowledge the importance of a break and to those authors, I thank you.

Life has ebbs and flows. Some prudently placed downtime can be well worth the investment.

What has been your experience of taking a break from writing?

Any advice to those considering a writing break?

I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences – please share them in the comments.

Thanks for reading this post! Some of my other posts include:

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+.

Disclaimer

© 2015 Jacquie Garton-Smith

What are the synergies between mindfulness and creativity?

Mindfulness is a popular topic at the moment. Research demonstrates positive effects on mental health, such as this meta-analysis by Hofmann et al., 2010, and supports benefits for physical health parameters, including cardiovascular health in this study by Loucks et al., 2014.

I have posted before about the intersection between health and creativity.

So what about mindfulness and creativity?

P1020115 (2)

Firstly, what is mindfulness?

Hofmann et al., 2010 describe mindfulness as

“a process that leads to a mental state characterized by nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment experience, including one’s sensations, thoughts, bodily states, consciousness, and the environment, while encouraging openness, curiosity, and acceptance (Bishop et al., 2004Kabat-Zinn, 2003;Melbourne Academic Mindfulness Interest Group, 2006). Bishop and colleagues (2004) distinguished two components of mindfulness, one that involves self-regulation of attention and one that involves an orientation toward the present moment characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance.”

Simply put, being mindful is allowing yourself to be aware of and non-judgmentally experience the moment.

What does the research tell us about mindfulness and creativity?

Studies and articles have mostly focused on how mindfulness meditation can benefit creativity and/or creative thinking in the broader sense.

If you wish to explore the psychology, theories include that mindfulness may enhance creativity by reducing cognitive rigidity (Greenberg, Reiner, and Meiran, 2012) and facilitating divergent thinking/reducing convergent thinking (Capurso, Fabbro and Crescentini, 2013).

George Hofmann writes in his post on How Mindfulness Can Help Your Creativity:

“Researchers at the Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition of Leiden University in the Netherlands found a tremendous impact of focused-attention (mindfulness) and open-monitoring meditation (observing without judging) on creativity

“First, Open-Minded meditation induces a control state that promotes divergent thinking, a style of thinking that allows many new ideas of being generated. Second, Focused Attention meditation does not sustain convergent thinking, the process of generating one possible solution to a particular problem.” Meditation may equal more ideas.”

Or for a good post on how mindfulness can boost creativity, this post from the Mindfulness Workbook For Dummies may inspire you. I especially agree with the tip about not having to meditate to be mindful. (I confess I am not very good at just sitting and meditating.)

I can easily understand how quietening your thoughts can reduce distraction and open your mind to creative possibilities.

But can creative pursuits help you achieve a state of mindfulness?

I couldn’t find any research on whether being creative can help you be mindful. (If you know of any, please point me in the right direction by posting a comment!)

So this is unapologetically not scientific, but my personal experience is that I need to be creative to be mindful.

By expressing my creativity I can access a deeper level of mindfulness. In fact when I manage to silence my internal critic and create in the moment, I achieve a state of mindfulness purer than that I have managed with mindfulness meditation and more satisfying creative work to boot.

Creativity and mindfulness are synergistic, not a linear relationship with one facilitating the other.

This description of mindfulness in drawing from The Centre for Mindfulness Studies comes close to how I feel when I write in the moment.

I don’t just need to be mindful to boost creativity; at least some of us need to be creative to enhance our mindfulness.

What is your experience of mindfulness and creativity?

I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences – please share them in the comments.

Thanks for reading this post! Some of my other related posts include Where health and creativity intersect and The healing power of creativity.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+.

Disclaimer

© 2015 Jacquie Garton-Smith

When push comes to shove – juggling priorities in a time-poor world

I’ve had to make a conscious choice about my writing in recent months. Write? Yes, absolutely! But I’ve needed to prioritise which writing to focus my time on. The truth is I enjoy researching and writing blog posts. But in an already tightly scheduled life, every minute I spent preparing posts was time I was stealing from work on my novels.

work-life-creative balance

“We’re all busy!” I hear you cry. Indeed we are.

“You must post on a regular schedule,” many blogs proclaim. Indeed in an ideal world that is probably true.

“Blogging will make you a better writer …” Writing regularly will make you a better writer. Variety is good and blogging is but one great way to do this. Most importantly we must be writing.

“It doesn’t take long …” I have found that depends on the topic – some fly onto the page, others need a lot more thought.

I started blogging in 2013 and my fiction writing slowed down. Dramatically. Since I’ve taken a deliberate break from blogging, I re-found my momentum. I’ve been more focused and writing with greater clarity. I’ve finished the first draft of my second work-in-progress, completed a couple of rounds of editing on my first novel and gone back to do one on my second. This stage, although exciting, requires a major investment of time and emotional energy. As for most writers, juggling writing, family, work (I have three part-time jobs all of which I love), the usual chores and a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise can be challenging. What I have come to realise is it isn’t just about the time. It is also about the mental space to develop ideas and let them percolate; to process and, at times, stand back to gain perspective. To recharge the emotional energy bank. And to deal with the other challenges that life throws our way, especially if prone to be more of an intuitive type. Sometimes we just need to say “Enough!” I applaud you if you are doing it all and managing well and I thank those of you who have shared that you couldn’t. I came to the point that I had to accept my own limitations. As a GP, I’m constantly talking up work-life balance. Writing is a tricky one because it is as much a passion as an occupation. So maybe it’s more of a work-life-creative balance. If the need to prioritise strikes a chord, how might you do so?

  • What must you do? These are things that have to be given your attention (warning: do not let negotiable items slip in here). I put them at the top because I know they distract me if I don’t work out a plan to do them. Sometimes it’s best to do them asap to liberate yourself, otherwise scheduling time to do them later can free you to fit in regular time for other pursuits …
  • What do you most want to do? You may know immediately or you may have to reflect on this. There can be more than one but it can’t be everything … anything that isn’t a burning desire should go into the next category.
  • What’s negotiable? Being a fan of writing down what I need/want to get done to release them from my brain without fear of forgetting, I usually have a longish list. Sometimes something gets to promoted to one of the categories above, others slowly get ploughed through when I have a free minute, am too tired to write or need a short break from something else. They do get done but in my own time and not in competition with the more important items.
  • What you have achieved? Acknowledging what you have done is energising. Even crossing something off a list is satisfying, or even better, starting a new list because one has most items completed. Big achievements need even more celebration.
  • REVIEW your priorities regularly. You can shuffle them and sometimes they need adjustment to meet life’s demands.

Why am I writing a post now?  I’ve come to a natural hiatus, needing to take a step back for some distance before more editing and with ideas for my next novel gestating (yep you guessed it – in the form of a list of ideas!). Writing this popped up in my most-want-to-do category this week and here we are …

How about you? Have you had to prioritise your creativity?

What happened? What did you find useful?

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email. You can also follow me on  Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+ .

Disclaimer

© 2014 Jacquie Garton-Smith

The healing power of creativity

The research demonstrating the health benefits of being creative was touched upon in my last post. We could continue to talk science but for me it is very personal story.

During the mid to late 1990s, my family experienced the losses of a number of loved ones mostly due to cancer. I was lucky in lots of ways. I have a loving husband and family. I had a few years of my career as a doctor under my belt, I worked with people who were supportive and I had worked previously with a palliative care team. I was well-armed to process information about what was happening and to help my family. It did get me to wondering how people manage to navigate the health system without a health professional background but perhaps that’s a topic for another time.

wings-2-edited

Photo by Mia Holton

I ran between work, which I still found rewarding, and my role as a caring relative, always wishing I had found more time to spend with my loved one before they got sick. As each illness took its course, both difficult and precious times were shared, everybody made a significant contribution and we were brought closer as a family.

Life goes on. You pull yourself together and do the needful. Days and then weeks and months pass in a blur. But grieving is painful and I couldn’t stay numb forever. In the dark days that followed one of our losses, a dear and wise friend Dionne Lew suggested that I write and told me about “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I was surprised that she even thought of me as a writer as I had focused so completely on my career that I had not written fiction since high school. In fact I had read few novels since school as all my reading time was spent on medical journals.

I took her advice and wrote, at first tentatively, and gradually found that I got my right arm and my life back. Allowing myself to write let me process things differently, even when I was writing fiction. I strongly believe that when you write, you won’t go anywhere that you aren’t ready to go. Writing helped me to move on. I am also fascinated by how reading fiction, which is something I now do regularly, can help us to access our emotions, learn and better understand ourselves in a way that direct examination of our own lives might not allow. And the benefits don’t end with the written word. I also found that I enjoy painting and have found gardening to be another creative outlet.

Interestingly over the last decade I have noticed that when I don’t find the time for creative writing, I suffer terrifying nightmares. Not the kind of things I want to share or would ever write about even in fiction. It is like the creative urge is coiled up somewhere in my subconscious and needs to be given an opportunity to come out. I trudge back to my computer, start typing and they stop.

How has being creative helped you?

What are the consequences for you if you are not creative?

How you might make a change that promotes creativity and health?

I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to share your thoughts on creativity and health.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email. You can also follow me on  Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+ .

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© 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith  (Photo by Mia Holton)