Facebook Like Button

Saturday, 19 January 2019

The Mystery of Creativity Solved :)

                                         Being Creative (Women)

A piece on the Mystery of Creativity, by Debbie Taylor, in Mslexia’s 2018 diary, struck several chords with me; enough to make me wonder if I could finally join the (official creative person) club. I’ve always felt unable to call myself creative or writer or artist because I haven’t made it (professionally) yet.

But Debbie’s article reviews fascinating research into the creative personality; research aimed at ascertaining where creativity comes from because, traditionally, we believed it was beyond conscious control. Like Muse visiting writers in the night...

I’ve borrowed a handful of pertinent points for this blog-post.

Researchers found that writers’ creativity was more of an attitude than an attribute. Rather an approach to work than their gene allocation.

A longitudinal study in 1957, by psychologist Ravenna Helson, following creative women until old age and examining commonalties, found subjects were, markedly more tomboyish as children… and somewhat less sociable [than their matched peers.] They were unconventional, introspective and anxious.

Incidentally - as a child - I played bow and arrow with my brother, built dens in high trees, and battled to pretend deaths with sticks for knives. When not making mud-pies, I sat on the swing at the end of our garden, dreaming alone. Always thinking, often worrying, my mother called me Lizzy Dripping. As soon as I could change my appearance, I did it differently to others.

The study found creative women liked to mull things over and come to their own conclusions, often differing from those around them – producing sometimes rather prickly social personae.

(I can be prickly as a hedge pig.)

Later in life, the most creatively-productive subjects were far more persistent, ambitious, independent, confident, and socially skilled, and had been so from early childhood.

(It’s not all about me, then.)

Debbie’s article states successful creatives refused to close their options. As children, they were independent rebels; as adults… resisted the domestic pigeonhole, struggling to combine creative work with family responsibilities.

The downside? Creative fulfilment was accompanied by anxiety, stress and guilt.

(Tell me about it.)

Debbie asks if a certain amount of stress is necessary to produce the creative personality. She cites from Mark Runco and Steven Pritzker’s Encyclopedia of Creativity, wherein 28% of exceptionally creative people…had lost a parent as a child, compared with just 8% of ‘ordinary’ people.’

I lost my dad when I was six. How can such tragedy forge creativity?                 

The suggestion is that misfortunes of this magnitude jolt a child [from] its normal patterns of thought and behaviour and force it to consider alternatives. Thereby developing the characteristic openness of the creative personality.

Elaborating on this, I’ve read that creativity and diverse thinking are associated with wider neural connections, meaning a person with such interlaced networks will naturally generate more unique ideas, (above brains with lesser links.)  

Debbie’s article continues: those who weather the storm go on to become fulfilled, albeit troubled, creative individuals.    

Crazy facePsychologists have developed a three-pronged theory of creativity: First - A-class skill and knowledge in the field of creative endeavour. Applied to writing this means honing your craft until it’s second nature, reading widely, researching your subject. The second prong is ‘cognitive style’… how one approaches a particular activity. Creative ‘cognitive styles’ are enquiring and flexible; imbued with the independence of mind found in all the surveys of creative people. The third prong (my personal favourite) is motivation: the determination and passion, often bordering on obsession, of the true artist.

(Crazed obsession, I can relate to.)

Hans Eysenck emphasized the vital importance of knowledge, skill and persistence. And ‘ego strength’ which is all that stands between the artist and the mental health system.


Debbie’s captivating piece – penned for Mslexia writers – delved much deeper in than this, I’ve borrowed relevant snippets. Interesting, no?

So, now, Dear Creative, wipe up your tears, take your snazzy label and go produce the goods.


                                                            Facebook page

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

A double waste of time

I've come to the conclusion I mishandle time, due to faulty logic and a weird brain. When I don't want to do anything, I check my to-do list. I have a rule whereby I must do AT LEAST TWO things off the list daily. On idle days I'll choose something like: "Tell Rick about the work Christmas meal" and "Water house-plants"
And meet my criteria in under a minute.
Then I can think about painting... but I can't paint when I should be writing. I'm not writing because my sciatica is worse when I sit, (so I mostly write in bed.) I therefore take my to-do list into the summerhouse to decide what I should do next.
I sit in the sun and read the list (short and long-term) and stare out of the window, wanting to lie down and read my book or paint a brand new cow; but I can't do these things because they're weekend things, and not on the fucking list.
It's only Wednesday. Yawn.
I have no energy for gardening or other physically demanding tasks today. So I sit and drink my coffee, stare at the sheep in the field that I'd also like to paint, feel guilty about what I'm not doing and just do nothing at all.
Just me?

Monday, 8 October 2018

Penguin Random House #WriteNowLive event in Nottingham 2018

The third anniversary of my stroke is probably a good time to celebrate the fact that I might be getting closer to being published :)

This is a snapshot of the third and final Penguin WriteNow event for under-represented writers 2018. And I was one of the 150 writers/illustrators, shortlisted from 1780, to attend WriteNow events in London, Liverpool and up here in Nottingham.

This pictorial snifter gives a flavour of WriteNow's brilliance. We learnt about publishing and contracts; heard from authors and agents; received in depth guidance on querying and synopses. We all had a twenty-minute one-to-one with a Penguin editor - with the chance of being shortlisted, further, as a Penguin mentee.

(I didn't jump this last fence, btw, but received excellent feedback, made invaluable contacts, and was amongst the top 10% of WriteNow Talent, as calculated by my husband :) 


Okay, I have no picture of Roo Hocking but she's one of last year's WriteNow mentees. She told us about her year-long experience and showered us with inspiration.

"What you're making is good"

"There is something quite magical about being taken seriously"

"Today is for you and you deserve it"

And, actually, we were constantly being reminded that simply being here was a huge achievement in itself - proven by the quality of our writing/artwork. 

We were assured that this WriteNow accolade was a reputable badge that would be taken seriously by the publishing community. 

And, in fact, I spoke to someone who'd been getting full manuscript requests since she'd added WriteNow 2018 to her writing CV :)

So we'll see what happens next...

I jotted down some nutshell writing tips from author Rowan Coleman...

"Main thing is to write the best book you can"

"Ensure you're paid for what you do. Remember your work is valuable"

Rowan told us that her process of writing was, "mostly based on panic and despair" :)

"I write because I'm not qualified to do anything else. Believe in the importance of telling stories

This is the wonderful Molly Crawford - Penguin Random House editor, with whom I had my massively positive one-to-one :) 

Illustrator Dapo Adeola entertainingly spoke about his (familiar-sounding) approach to work:

"A long stressful process of trial and error"

I learnt stuff  while I was there too. But, here's another amusing snippet instead... 

The warm and hilarious Journalist Tom Rasmussen said:

"Sometimes I write naked in bed. If someone is in the house I write in cafes"

"I write because I could never afford therapy"

Picture book author Abie Longstaff had loads of advice, like:

"Don't get it right, get it written

(This was about getting bogged down with editing your first draft, if I remember rightly.)

Abie said, on writing, "A story that itches, I have to write or I start dreaming about it"

I really related to what writer Mahsuda Snaith said:

"I couldn't not write. I need to write, it's how I express myself"

The promise of goody bags stacked up in the foyer :)

Tasty lunch :) 

Laura Mahadevan (one of my table-mates) was chuffed to inadvertently end up with two cups of tea :)

And a sneaky Selfie in the pub afterwards, ensuring that the Penguin bag is IN ;)

Doggy bags were stuffed with BOOKS, would you believe?

On a final and more serious note, I've learned that there are deeper holes in publishing, where writers/artists from under-represented communities should be, than first I thought. And this has been the case for far too long.

I heard from Lgbtq+ groups who grew up not finding relatable material to read.

I learnt that these communities are under-represented, not just as published writers, but as employees within publishing too, which explains why less Lgbtq+ books are taken on in the first place.

So it's a snarly vicious circle. 

But I've learned it's slowly getting better.

And publishers like Penguin - with their #WriteNowLive scheme - are one of the best examples, striving to redress this imbalance.

(They didn't tell me to say that, btw, I read it in an article beforehand, lol)

But thank you, WriteNow.

Disclaimer: lots of talented people said lots of clever things at this event. What I scribbled down in notes were mostly funny bits - I'm drawn to humour like a bat to a cave. So please know that this is an incomplete and undoubtedly unbalanced sketch, for entertainment purposes first and foremost. 

Monday, 27 August 2018

Juggling arts : /

I haven't posted for a while because I'm trying to juggle my arts

Not to be confused with juggling my arse, which I almost wrote in error

Like most writers, I struggle to keep my mind on the task. I procrastinate, get distracted. I don't like working for nothing. Life gets in the way. You know what I mean.

It took a long time for me to realise 'the arts' was the way for me, the pointlessness of me trying to understand statistical analysis

Being creative is hard because you have to motivate yourself, be creative in your 'spare' time. Creatives have a reputation for being self-destructive, self-absorbed, depressive hermits, who sometimes drink too much. (My interpretation)

All of this can interfere with the task in hand

I've failed to write my novel this year because I started painting again

Writing is hard. Writing and painting is harder. Writing is a time-gobbling, protracted habit that sucks at ones life like a leech 

Painting is different. It's not so intense. Your physicality is looser. I'm less crumpled-up and stiff when painting; I feel light and energetic, airy and free...

Even if I don't look it 😼

Painting is immediate compared to writing. Yielding tangible, visual results in seconds; which is highly seductive, especially after a lifetime of being holed-up in a chair, bleeding through the eyes to produce vaguely useful prose for nothing

  Don't get me wrong, I have a love-hate relationship with writing. We don't see eye-to-eye at times :)

So, to force myself to juggle arts, I started entering more literary things... 

Competitions, magazines, odd enterprises like De Montford Literature. I got a couple of snippets in Mslexia recently. I then applied to WriteNow - part of Penguin Random House 

And managed to jump their first hurdle

So I'll be attending a workshop in Nottingham in a month's time. I'm pretty chuffed :) :)

This made me write, as I had to polish 6,000 words from my novel-not-currently-in-progress

And this little success boosted my confidence because, apparently, I'm one of 150 writers to get through from over 1700 applicants :)

So maybe I'm doing something right?

Maybe I am juggling my arse after all...

Please keep in touch :)