Creative Mothers Project

In January 2016 I launched the Creative Mothers series on occupation: (m)other. It was a platform for people to share their thoughts about the impact of motherhood on personal creativity. I loved receiving the responses, so varied and thoughtful in their reflections.

I knew when I started the collection that I wanted to do more with the idea, take it somewhere…that vague and comfortable potential empty space of ‘somewhere’. However I paused the online series while I was pregnant with my second child; the pause growing into a two-year absence as the demands of young children took over everything else. But I didn’t let go of the core ideas of the series. Instead they swirled and developed, straining to grow faster than my time or energy could accommodate.

Over the past few months it has become clear to me that the time to define the somewhere of this is nearing and a project needs building. Continue reading

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Just Write

I think I’ve got writer’s block…although that sounds a bit pretentious and like I consider myself a writer, which is actually more accurately starting to get to the nub of the problem because I don’t. Consider myself a writer that is. Really I think I’m having a more all-encompassing creative crisis. Because obviously that sounds far less pretentious…

I’ve lost the motivation to publish anything on my blog (and yes I get the irony of that feeling and this post). I’m frustrated with all the sharing. There’s so much sharing – twitter, facebook, instagram, linkies. Everyone is sharing everything and it’s all just too noisy. I have also recently completely shrugged off the cloak of blog anonymity that I have carefully worn for almost three years and so now I find myself frustrated by writing TO share. Everything I write now needs to be written with various potential readers in mind. It’s trapping and I wistfully gaze back to my days of writing into a void.

I’m frustrated with how I write. The way everything I write at the moment sounds the same. Variation is not my friend. My short sentences, lists, subclauses…ellipsis. Slightly cringey form, like the teenage me trying too hard to move people.

But that’s the other thing about my writing. It may well be articulate, I do believe I can express an idea eloquently, sometimes entertain and even make the odd odd person laugh BUT I don’t move people. Not profoundly. I write just for fun and, mostly, just for me. I write about the everyday, I write about silly things…I have never invited my readers to suspend their disbelief and accompany me on a real yarn of a story.

Because anyway what stories have I got inside me? I’m just not sure if I’ve got any. On the odd occasion ideas might float up like bubbles, and, like bubbles, they pop as I try to catch them. The rest stay sealed; vacuum-wrapped in the deep freeze of my untroubled and bland middle-class soul.

How depressing.

But the good news is that becoming a mother changed that for a time. It gave me a glimpse of deep creativity. The utter implosion of ‘life as you once knew it’, the befriending of a new identity and the primitive horticultural mindset required to respond to new life collided in me. From it I felt a profound need to create and words were my tools.

But then the sparks of the collision died down and soon they became buried in school reports, stay and plays, doctors appointments, and many more of life’s practical banalities. And that identity – a timeless, creative and fierce maternal power – became tainted by society’s belittling of care and the whisper that feminist power is not feminist enough, or powerful enough, if it’s used to look after your own children.

I’m scared to completely lose sight of that creative being though – the writer that could be. So I thought I’d start taking my writing a bit more seriously, stop writing ‘just for fun’; maybe make a go of being that writer. I’m currently studying for a diploma at the London School of Journalism. I’m enjoying it – I’m learning a new way of writing and I dare say it will be useful. But the new way of writing I’m learning is formulaic. I’m learning a set of rules and applying them to a bundle of words – no more than 30 per sentence and not too hyperbolic, mind. The thrill I get from completing an assignment is akin to the satisfaction of finishing a jigsaw puzzle rather than any great creative epiphany.

Maybe I’ll find creativity at work – I’m ready to start working again and I work in the arts sector, so maybe… Two joys of working in the arts is that you are surrounded by like-minded wonderfully creative people and you are relatively close to artistic happenings. But actually working in the arts in a project management sense can be incredibly uncreative. It’s an administrative job where you are not the maker, the artist. Normally someone much more talented, or occasionally just  someone more confident and determined, is that.

So what now? How do I get past this writers block, this creative crisis!? What is the actual point of this meandering navel-gazing blog post?

Well actually I just wanted to write something/anything and this is what I know at this moment. And so perhaps that’s the point, or a point anyway. I need to remember to write, write about what I know and write frequently.

Who really cares if I’m not creative enough? If I’m bland? Who cares if my poems are crap and my blog posts boring? I feel grumpy and unproductive when I don’t write. I feel stagnant and frustrated when I don’t write.

So I will write. I will write past this block and I will write for me.

Meet me in…Southampton!

Southampton. What does that conjure up for you? A city of docks and industry on the south coast? A premiership (just) football team? An international cruiseliner port? A bomb-ravaged city with a civic rebuild and a copycat town centre high street? A claim to fame that Tinie Tempah went to Southampton but not Scunthorpe?

Ok you’re probably nodding (or youtubing Pass Out because it was THE comedy song of summer 2011. For some. Ahem) but what if I also said vast green spaces, amazing arts venues, ambition, creativity, history, confidence…would you be nodding along then? Because you should be.

Continue reading

The Other Mother

My son has another mother. There I said it. Well actually he HAD another mother. She lived long ago and she is no longer alive.

Shame, she sounded fun…

Took my son to loads of places, watched all the best films, owns the entire Julia Donaldson collection not just 95% of it. Lived in a castle, with a moat no less. Had another child as well; an older brother for my son. I don’t know much about him or if there was another parent around, but the mother? Yep I know a lot about her. Continue reading

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My son turned four in August last year. Five weeks later he joined a merry band of fellow four year olds and started school. Full time and five days a week.

We are now fixed on ‘school time’. Not something I have a problem with actually. Of course the pricing out of the holiday market is a bit rubbish. The mercenary society we live in can collectively and crassly shout supply and demand all they like – it’s still a bit rubbish.

Otherwise the new timetable provides a pretty good structure to our week. My favourite moment being this one right now when all three of the family are on drop-off and I get thirty minutes to breathe at the start of each day.

Most important of all is my son. He seems so happy. He has a wildly sociable nature and is thriving in the exuberant games and social politics of Year R. He enjoys school, he enjoys being part of something and he LOVES learning. Continue reading

Belonging to a Book Group

There’s something very special about being ‘part’ of something. Work, family, blogging, school gate chatter – it can all give you that potent sense of belonging. I think it is more of a driver for people’s ambitions and hobbies than we think.

I have often mentioned my monthly book group…a longterm hobby that has become one of the cornerstones of my life here and definitely a place I feel I belong.

I moved to Southampton just over 10 years ago and in my first week, alongside scouring eBay and charity shops for chairs/plates/mugs, I also emailed the City Library enquiring about reading groups. I was duly provided with the list of groups – Saturday, library; Monday, seminar room; Wednesday, WINE BAR…

And so three weeks later found me embarking on my first meeting – Book: The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney. Location: Wine Bar. Nerves: moderate. Attendees: eight. Room Temperature: freezing. Drink: tea (see room temperature). Names remembered: two.

Let me whisk you forward ten years. TEN years. We became nomadic for a short time during a noisy World Cup one year before making our final home in the library. The temperature is now comfortable, the wine is plentiful. We still number about eight people most months, with some new voices gained and some masterful voices sadly lost.

We have sat together as a group in whatever machination over 120 times. We have therefore individually, but somehow together, entered over 120 different worlds…we have each sat at the same lavish Russian restaurant, wandered around the same Victorian factory, stared at ayslyum walls, hidden in African villages, scarpered from shacks. Together we’ve met queens, doctors, dictators, mothers, fathers, slaves, criminals, witches and, yes, zombies.

And through these worlds we have shared parts of our own worlds and developed bonds that in some cases have led to actions with life-altering consequences.

I have discovered the unique joy of a collective reading experience – how, after time, you find yourself reading with all of you and a bit of other people too. How when there’s something pressing to say about the book, it’s ok because you will have the opportunity to say it and you’re saying it to people who’ve read it too. How you can feel something so wildly different to the person sat next to you about the same character, plot or even sentence and that’s ok, more than ok…sometimes hilarious.

In short I love my book group. And to save this post from being an entirely self-indulgent piece to say just that, I offer the following observations:

Libraries are amazing places – all those worlds to visit. And if we don’t use our libraries we’ll lose them. We may lose them anyway so go before it’s too late.

Extraordinary people, interesting people can be found everywhere.

Read! Read together. Even if it’s just with one other person. It’s simple but remarkable.

If you’re wondering about joining something, anything, do it. You can always leave, but maybe you’ll find somewhere you belong…

Blackand white drawing of a pile of books

Still Writing

Still writing – as in ‘I’m still writing’ or the ‘writing is still’? Completely stopped more like…this has been less of a blog break and more of a blog abandonment.

And on that note – Hello!

Um. Well, this is awkward.

Hello!! Is anyone out there!!? Helloooo!!!

Ah well.

So this was supposed to be my ‘out of office’ post. I think it has taken so long to write that it is fast turning into my ‘I’m a little bit back’ post.

I would love to say that I’m back from a series of immensely exciting adventures that have taken the place of blogging but I’d be lying.

Mother and son sat on hill looking out to shoreline/cliffs and sea. Orangey soil and hills. Mother in black and boy in blue.
Travelling the world! Or the Isle of Wight anyway…

Instead I was too tired to write in the evenings and too tired to get up early in the mornings to write. I then got out of the habit and, shock horror, I didn’t mind and I didn’t miss my blog. I enjoyed the break from it all and being out of the game (which I wasn’t very good at anyway) of social media is particularly refreshing.

But then I really did mind and really did miss it and so it’s time to restart the habit. I’m a little rusty so you’ll have to bear with me.

What I missed most was putting words down somewhere solid. Consistently over the year I’ve been reminded of one of my Creative Mothers contributors, Claire from Art and Soul. In her piece she gives tips for finding time to write…she reminds us that you can ‘write’ anywhere; that writing in your head still counts as writing. I love that idea, I’m sure most people who have a penchant for the written word find themselves writing constantly – I compose my absolute best pieces in the car, in the shower and before I go to sleep at night (the last one being slightly annoying).

So yes I’m still writing. I’m just now hoping to put more of it down on the virtual paper we call blogs. And I think that using over 350 words to simply say ‘hello, I’m back’ is an interesting start – but it’s ok ,the next post I’ve got coming is AMAZING. I wrote it when I was washing my hair this morning…

 

A Day Out With Thomas

Thomas the Tank Engine…the stuff that obsessions are made of. Well, actually not in our household. We have never been struck with the Thomas bug. It’s not that we don’t like him, there’s a certain fondness certainly – it’s just that he has never inspired the sort of all-consuming passion in my son that windmills, fire engines and bin lorries have. Adding to this slight ambivalence is a mild to moderate fear of very loud noises – station platforms have been known to send him into quite the frightened tailspin.

So you may think that it was with a certain sadism that I gleefully accepted the Watercress Line’s invitation to A Day Out With Thomas

Man and boy walking through train station onto platform
What horror looms ahead my boy!?

Continue reading

18 Million Things – New Year 2017

I use this blog sometimes just for me – a place to remember some of the things that make me smile about my son. These posts are a bit soppy and they are definitely not going to change the world so please don’t feel obliged to linger on this one (unless you’re my husband).

Not that I’ve written one like this in blooming ages…partly because there’s been a few millions things that haven’t made me smile so much recently and partly because I had a break and a new baby and all that jazz.

So my fast-growing-but-you’ll-always-be-my-baby three and a half year old, there are at least 18 million things I love about you and they include: Continue reading