Lately

img_3004This post has been – literally – long time coming. The first photo in this set is from January, and somehow I feel like nothing much has happened in the interim, even if in reality the past couple of months have been busy in many ways.
I went to London when the waters (and winds) were at their highest. My two back-to-back trips were to see two marvellous women, both times at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse; first Dame Felicity Lott and then Dame Eileen Atkins. That the South Bank was putting up its finest (and that Penelope Wilton was there too) was simply a bonus.At the Blenheim Palace great park, on a fine January’s day, with an old friend. That’s her in the picture.
At the Malvern Hills. How fine, how very English, is this view?
In February, I turned 40, and the children of a friend sent me this little posy of snowdrops from their garden. I still don’t quite know how I feel about this age – or how I should feel about it. Have I done everything I would have wanted to do by now, achieved what I should have achieved? Probably not. My novel still only lives in hand-scribbled notes and few chapters on the computer. I don’t live in the Suffolk-almost-seaside-cottage I have always dreamed about. The choices I made in my thirties confirmed what I sort of knew all along – I probably will never have children, and I’m fine with that.

When I turned 30, I had no idea what in ten years’ time I’d be living in another country, or have a degree from Oxford, or that my mother would have Alzheimer’s disease, or even that I’d celebrate my 40th birthday with a completely new, different set of people from those I celebrated my 30th with. My life has changed, and I have probably changed, and who knows where I will be when I turn 50 – and that makes life interesting, right?
When in doubt, Shakespeare.
img_3435The spring is coming. I’m sure of it.

Little post on creativity

I started this post few of weeks ago, full of some sort of righteous indignation; I was working hard to build stock for a Christmas fair — handmade, Nordic-style decorations and knitted accessories, maybe some cards printed with my photos if only I had time to get them made. In the middle of all of this is I got stuck reading another blog, and took a horrible sort of derisive detour mocking the kind of people who charge £250 for a five-hour course on creative “collage treasure map” making. Supplies – glue sticks, scissors, cuttings from magazines and other scrap paper – and tea included, price exclusive of VAT and travel to somewhat remote location in the US. As we say in Finland, it’s not stupid the one who asks, but the one who pays.

This is what I originally wrote – a first paragraph after which I ran out of indignation:

“The other day I was describing the kind of lanterns I was making to decorate my table at a Christmas Fair to a friend. She replied, “you are so disgustingly creative!”, which made me rather amused. I have been thinking about creativity a lot lately, and it’s not a word I particularly identify with – it’s sort of something that I associate with Kinfolk-style hazy photos of ethereal-looking twenty-somethings holding bouquets of dried wildflowers while sporting grey knitwear and artisan jewellery.  You know, the sort of people who are all about finding inner balance and serenity and all that, while artfully arranging vintage paper goods and succulents and doing dainty crafts with twigs. It all looks beautiful, and I’m secretly jealous of all those artfully casual dinner parties for dozens of incredibly beautiful people, but I’m not sure I could ever be that sort of person. My skin probably doesn’t glow enough, and I spend far too much time at work to be able to create an illusion that I have all the time in the world to live slowly and smell the homegrown rosemary before I tuck it into the folds of handmade linen napkins. I get derisive when I hear someone say ‘you must have courage to be creative’, and have been known to mock such big words as bibliotherapy and tablescape and inspirational. YesI am one of those people.”

I think it’s quite a good bit of writing, actually (tehe), and I also think it still expresses rather well how I feel about this particular type of “creativity” as a phenomenon. It’s trendy. It adheres to a fairly specific aesthetic style. It almost demands a certain level of (bogus) spirituality, be it in the form of crazy-about-Jesus or grateful-to-something-not-sure-what-but-it-lives-in-the-wind, and it expresses itself as blurry photos of trees with overlapping inspirational quotes and slogans. Be kind. Be your best authentic self. Create.

I made a modest profit from the sales of the Christmas fair, and continue to keep tucked in my diary a check for £35 – my first ever earnings from my handicrafts (no, I’m not keeping it for all eternity, I just haven’t had time to go to the bank). I am officially a maker. I’m looking into registering my business name, and into tax codes and business accounts, and into building stock. You know, just in case. My therapist suggested that I give classes, or offer courses – as the treasure map collage course proves, that’s where the money really is. And yet, I’m still not quite sure about the whole creativity thing – it seems like an awfully big claim to make. Is my stuff good enough? Original enough? Interesting enough? Personal enough? Do I have the time and resources required? Would I lose more money than I make? Can I honestly put the price on my time I think it’s worth? Whoever said that creativity takes courage probably actually was onto something.

In my experience it takes lots of hard work more than anything else though. Willingness to take bad ideas and work on them until they are better. Practicing the same, basic skills until they are perfect. Troubleshooting. Humbleness to admit that there’s always more to learn and skills to improve. And willingness to accept that there will always be naysayers, people who just don’t see the idea of what one’s trying to do – my decorations were told to be “too simple”, “rustic”, “not Christmassy enough”, and (my favourite) “maybe if you added some crystals”. Some lessons obviously are more resonant than others. So, it is my resolution for the coming year, and for the future, to not to “live more creatively”, but to work harder and develop all my craft and skills, and to produce sometime out of them. The rest will hopefully follow.