Reading and Writing, Writing and Reading

A few weeks ago, when I was in the thick of my separation and wondering how I was going to get through the rest of 2020, I made a commitment to myself to designate October as a creative retreat month. I’m not going anywhere, but I am protecting my time to retreat from the world and outside commitments in order to focus on my creative practice.

Due to circumstances, I’ve allowed things to get lost in transition. Focusing on what brings me joy, like reading and writing and creating haven’t been top of my list for ages, it feels. So protecting October, my favourite month of the year, my birth month, as time and space to re-engage with my creative projects and start some new ones felt right for me.

Only a few days into October, and I was inspired in a poetry workshop to attempt #thesealychallenge. This challenge is to read thirty-one poetry books or chapbooks in the thirty-one days of August. I know it’s October but I’m coming late to the party. But I feel this is just what I need to relight my fire, put pen to paper and write poetry.

So far this month, I’ve read 5 poetry collections and chapbooks. What I’m doing while reading is also collecting words, single words which I like the sound of, or I find are being used in new and usual ways. Words that stir my interest and create a reaction.

What this reading is doing is inspiring me to write again. So from just reading other people’s work, immersing myself in the world of poetry again, I’ve created 6 new poems. So I’m going all the way this time, and trying for 31 poems by the end of the month; 31 poems in 31 days.

This has already gotten me through a block, a fear that was starting to take hold of me that I might be only able to write while in crisis, while in an unhappy state. But by producing something over the last few days, I’ve now put that fear to rest. I’m back, reading and writing, writing and reading.

March Reading

March has come to an end. Even though it’s felt like the longest month from hell, someone on twitter mentioned 36 years and 9 months in length, my reading hasn’t been as steady as I’d like.

Please excuse me if my mind has been otherwise occupied. If news bulletins and articles and live updates were in book form then this month I would have consumed thousands of volumes as I seemed to have taken up residence at The Guardian news website. It is constantly on refresh. I’m taking care of myself though by having days when I do not consume the news, I stay away from social media and literally inhale positive, feel good art and literature and music. I highly recommend it during these troubling times. anyway, on to what I have read.

Completed March readings include:

1. Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, poems by Jake Skeets

2. Swims by Elizabeth Jane Burnett

3. There are more beautiful things than Beyonce by Morgan Parker

4. Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson

5. Splinters are Children of Wood by Leia Penina Wilson

6. Life without Diabetes – Roy Taylor

7. Fleshing Out the Narrative – Marielle S. Smith

 

Ongoing March reading include;

1. The Last Wolf – Jim Crumley

2. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

3. Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore – Patrick Barkham

4. Blue Mind by Wallace J Nichols

5. The Northumbrians by Dan Jackson

6. 8 Master Lessons of Nature – by Gary Ferguson

Broken Wing

Walking back from the woods, I find you, a couple of spruce pine cones, squashed, into shapes that reminds me of a broken wing; feathers bent back at an awkward angle, tawny like an eagle or an owl.

My breath catches at the thought of death and destruction, of an imaginary bird, landlocked without the aid of one wing.

My heart somersaults at such a striking thought that’s followed quickly upon by feelings of blame lying at our feet.

January Reading

I didn’t set out into 2020 with a reading goal. I didn’t set any numbers but I did say I wanted to read more. Vague I know. And not the ‘proper’ way to set goals that you want to succeed at but at the time it was enough for me. And it’s been working.

January saw me curled up with actual books and the iPad sporting the kindle a lot more times than I felt I did at the back end of 2019. Could I say the whole of 2019? I’m not sure. Maybe my memory fails me here.

But the reading habit, the muscle memory of turning off all distractions and getting lost in a good book, fiction, non-fiction even poetry, seems weak in relation to the last couple of years to be honest.

Hopefully, with January now behind us, I can say that the drought is over as I hurtled through a number of books this month. I’m pretty proud of my numbers but also about how expanded I feel in terms of ideas and language and joy. The joy of reading has paid a long overdue visit and I want it to continue. So look forward to a monthly round up of books read each month. You might even find a book you’re interested in reading along the way.

I’ll list the books read and then give a review or details about just one of the books, as if I did it for all of them read this month, we’ll be here all day and come on, it’s the weekend.

Completed January books include:

1. Eat and Run- My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness – Scott Jurek ( started in December and completed at the beginning of January)

2. Turned Out Nice AgainOne Living with the Weather– Richard Mabey

3. Heavenfield – LJ Ross

4. Angel – LJ Ross

5. High Force – LJ Ross

6. Cragside – LJ Ross

7. Dark Skies – LJ Ross

8. Seven Bridges – LJ Ross

Ongoing January reading include;

1. The Last Wolf – Jim Crumley

2. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

3. Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore – Patrick Barkham

4. Blogging Basics For Authors – Nina Amir

Book review in the next post. Thanks.

Practicing Lines

Spending my time creating colour combinations to smooth across just a small journal, A5 in fact. Not a lot of space to cover, not a lot of room to freak me out. And it’s working. This week I’m practicing lines.

That long narrow mark or band which is so simple but so effective. It can be used is so many different ways and I’m enjoying the exploration.

Hanging out in my artist journal is a luxury but such a necessity. It’s here that confidence is built, experiments made and boundaries pushed.

Hope to share some of this weeks creations later on. Until then follow this line _________

Putting things into perspective

Not even two week gone yet since I’ve had surgery on my spine and there’s a voice in my head saying you should be doing more. You should be further along in your recovery.

I didn’t sleep well last night, if at all. So I’m going through my day being super critical and super negative in my outlook. Today, I can do no good. Nothing right.

Before I allow myself to wallow any further or spiral downwards any further, I need to shift my energy.

I get creative. I’ll be sharing a new series over the weekend but for now not only getting into the creative flow helped but also considering what I’ve already achieved this year, helped in an upward swing in my thinking, self-reflection.

This year saw me complete not one, not two, but three ‘100 day projects’. This has never been the case before. I’ve never been able to complete one #100dayprojects before never mind three!

So what was different this year in my approach, my thinking, my practice?

I’m not sure if I can pin it down to one thing as I do believe it was a combination of things, such as timing, tasks, enjoyment, accountability to self etc. But I think the main reason came down to my perspective. I set the challenges, I chose the focus, the timeframes, the mediums. I was in control but more importantly I was doing it all for me. I wasn’t completing a daily piece of art for anyone else, for their approval or appreciation. I was doing it for me and how it made me feel while doing it.

Stuff the end product it was all about the process and how for that time I set aside to create all self-criticism and doubts and fears were turned way down low, to nearly a whisper.

So I’m taking this process and applying it again when the self-criticism and doubts and fears rear their ugly heads during my recovery stage. I’m getting creative, luxuriating in the flow because here I happy and at peace and in the flow.

Book-making

While laid up for a while ( and that’s another story), I’m spending my time being creative. This is the only way to keep me sane and to keep my mind and hands occupied as my body feels the pain.

This is the first book I’ve made, after a few years of not making any books. It may look shabby and wonky and still a bit plain, especially the cover. But I love it. I’m so proud of my creation.

Hand-made junk journals are the way the go. Expect to see more as well as see how this one develops as I start to fill it up with text and images.

I feel a Christmas themed one calling …

The Goddess Series is going on show!

I recently got this photograph from the #100daysofthegoddessandlove series enlarged and printed onto photo board.

I sat for a few days with her in my living room exhibited on a black metal easel. I would sit and just look at her. I would say to anyone passing, I made that. I was blown away by how beautiful my work looked. And it didn’t bother me if no one else loved it/ her it was enough that I did. I’m proud of my creation. I look at her and smile. I feel a deep swell of love for her. But really it’s for myself and my achievements. I don’t need anyone else to tell me I’m ‘doing good’. External validation is not sort or needed.

I didn’t make this physical piece of art to sit in my sitting room though. I’m preparing for an exhibition of prints; prints of the Goddess.

I’ve been invited to exhibit this series at a special fund raising event for a charity which is close to my heart, with which I’ve been developing a relationship with over the last couple of years.

The Angelou Centre, Newcastle, is a unique Black-led space dedicated to supporting and uplifting Black, Asian and ethnic minority women across the North East region of England. This centre offers a holistic approach to improving the lives of these women, some who are very vulnerable and are suffering. At a national level, the Angelou Centre strives to make sure these women’s voices are represented and heard, especially in relation to the issues that they face every day.

The Angelou Centre is celebrating 25 years this year and are organising an inspiring fund raising event to mark the occasion. It seems fitting that the Goddess should make an appearance at this special event because she is so very good at teaching myself and others what it really means to love and care for ourselves. There will be music and dancing, food and spoken word. I will be performing my poetry and reciting ‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou. Such an honour.

I’m looking forward to the event but also nervous as I will be exposed in more ways than one on the evening. But I know in my gut that I’m so ready for this.

Friday 25 October, at the Grand Hotel, Gosforth Park. More details can be found here. See if you can come along. It’s for a great cause.

Art Journal Play

When things get overwhelming, I take to colour. I think this is the reason I love Autumn so much. The myriad of colours; crimson, pumpkin, golden and umber. See what I did there? I elevated my vocabulary as sometimes I can be lazy and just use the obvious.

Anyhow. Back to the colour fields. Playing with colour fills my pot. Shifts my energy. And makes me happy. A simple task but well worth the effort.

Lately, I’ve started new journals. Square journals. Altered books. Notebooks. Any blank page I can fill with colour I will. I share some of the results here to inspire you to play. To let go and just lose yourself in the process. Forget the result. Forget perfection. And surrender to the joy of play.