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.

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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

Creative Mothers Series – Single Mum Speaks

Welcome to the thirteenth issue in the Creative Mothers Series –  a guest series for people to share their thoughts and experiences of the impact of parenthood on their creativity.

This will be the last post in the series for a few months, but I look forward to sharing more in the Autumn. Please do get in touch using the details on my contact page if you would like to take part with your thoughts. And you can find more information about the series including the other twelve posts here

Now onto today’s post, and I’m delighted to welcome Min from Single Mum Speaks. Her blog has long been a favourite of mine – her honesty, wry humour and eloquence makes each post a compelling read. 

In this piece Min shares with us the place creativity has always had in her life and the significance of that creativity for her now. These are thoughts that really resonate with me, as I’m sure they will with lots of people…

 

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Creative Mothers Series – ScandiMummy

Welcome to Creative Mothers – a fortnightly series of guest blogs for people to reflect on the impact of parenthood on their experience of personal creativity. If you would like to take part with your thoughts, please take a look at the Creative Mothers page and do get in touch.

Today I welcome Nadia from ScandiMummy to the Creative Mothers series. Her blog has got to be one of the most stylish little pockets of the Internet I’ve had the pleasure of being invited into.

Here Nadia shares her history in the creative industries and how she has channelled that creativity now – along with some inspirations and challenges that I’m sure a lot of us can relate to.

It’s a wonderful read that for me hits the nail on the head with my experiences in creative industries – namely the, more often than not, lack of creative control and the incompatibility of large parts of the industry with parenthood. Not that it’s all bad but maybe in lots of ways blogging is better…!? 

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Creative Mothers Series – The Squirmy Popple

Welcome to Creative Mothers – a fortnightly series of guest blogs for people to reflect on the impact of parenthood on their experience of personal creativity. If you would like to take part with your thoughts, please take a look at the Creative Mothers page and do get in touch.

Today we meet Katie from The Squirmy Popple – when I read her blog posts I can’t help but think ‘has she done this writing lark before?’. Well, actually yes, she has…

In this post Katie shares with us how she has changed the way she writes (and what she writes) in order to keep her creativity alight as she transitioned from life pre-parenthood to life as a parent. 

 

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Creative Mothers Series – Babies, Biscuits and Booze

Welcome to the Creative Mothers series – a fortnightly series of guest blogs for people to reflect on the impact of parenthood on their experience of personal creativity. If you would like to take part with your thoughts, please take a look at the Creative Mothers page and do get in touch.

This week I’m delighted to welcome Ellen from Babies, Biscuits and Booze. One of my favourite new bloggers on the blogging block, I think Ellen has a beautiful way with words – balancing real humour and thoughtfulness in her ponderings on parenthood. 

Today Ellen shares the place writing has occupied in her life over the years – from private diaries, and personal letters to a public blog. I find her enjoyment and positivity for what writing and creating can bring to an individual infectious…. 

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Creative Mothers Series – Beta Mummy

Welcome to the Creative Mothers series – a fortnightly series of guest blogs for people to reflect on the impact of parenthood on their experience of personal creativity. If you would like to take part with your thoughts, please take a look at the Creative Mothers page and do get in touch.

Over the last couple of months, I have giggled, chortled and laughed out loud (as the kids say, do they still say that!?) at the Adventures of Beta Mummy. I am delighted to welcome said Beta Mummy to the Creative Mothers series today as she slightly nervously steps out from behind her doodles to stand next to them and share with us her personal story of creativity.   

If this series has taught me anything (and actually it has taught me a lot!) it’s that creativity is diverse and can arise from almost any situation to bring a mostly positive effect on our lives and on our exploration of identity.

Happy events can spur us, personal illness can inspire us, the need to break a daily routine can encourage us, unexpected challenges can redirect us, and heartbreak? Well it’s time to hand over to Beta Mummy for that one…
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Creative Mothers Series – Michelle Crosby

Welcome to the Creative Mothers series – a fortnightly series of guest blogs for people to reflect on the impact of parenthood on their experience of personal creativity. If you would like to take part with your thoughts, please take a look at the Creative Mothers page and do get in touch.

Today Michelle, who blogs at www.alittlehelpwouldbenice.blogspot.co.uk, shares her thoughts about the place creativity has in her life now. She tells a tale of creativity lived once, lost and rediscovered.  I think her story will resonate widely.

It doesn’t sound as though Michelle’s had the easiest ride, through life-changes and anxiety, yet her words are positively stirring! A call to arms for us to be proud of our identity but to recognise the need for that identity to be shaped by ourselves... Continue reading