Making Creativity Happen (Part 3)

What a deceptive, cheating person I am. I reel you in with a promise of more inspiration and all you get is my latest podcast. Shame on me.

Well, fret not, it is inspirational. It’s a bit of a summary of things I’ve written here before, and things I’ve discovered on my journey. Good stuff and, I truly believe, worth some repetition. There’s new stuff here too, and a plug for previous podcasts. I know, no shame. Enjoy on Soundcloud and do tell your friends. And tell me how you are getting on.

Happy Creating.



Everything Flows – Making creativity happen (Part 1)

There’s a beautiful little bookshop in Madrid called Panta Rhei. It’s run by a lovely lady called Ingrid and I recommend a visit next time you’re that way.

I have a scant knowledge of Spanish, but even I can spot some imported words when I see them,as you may have done. The phrase panta rhei means ‘everything flows’ in ancient Greek. I’ve also seen it translated as ‘everything changes’ and it was coined by philospher Heraclitus, who lived in Ephesus in the 6th century BC. Now, I know once I stray into the area of Greek philosophy, I’m going to get a headache, especially with Heraclitus, who seems to contradict himself all over the place. Underpinning his philosophy, though, is this idea of nothing being as constant as change. That’s quite unsettling, isn’t it?

Constancy is comforting, even when what is constant isn’t very pleasant. If you hate your job, it’s easy to convince yourself to stick it out anyway, on the basis of ‘better the devil you know’. Some people even argue themselves into staying in unhappy relationships for the same reason.

What has all this to do with creativity? Maybe nothing, if you and I interpret Heraclitus differently. Surely, though, if change is happening anyway, we should all be part of that change,taking control, innovating and improving. Otherwise, won’t we be left standing whilst change pushed forward by others swirls around, and past, us?  Once again, that leads us to our old friends, fear and self-doubt.

If these two beasts are ever-present, we are going to have to make our changes in spite of them. We are going to have to start something, be it a novel, poem, painting or song, in spite of our doubts. If you think I say this, because I have the magic formula to overcome all doubt, I’m afraid I have to disappoint you. I’ve been banging on for ages about how I’m going to do a sewing course. Have I done one yet? No, I haven’t. Why? Because it’s maybe a bit scary. Even going to the craft fair was scary (see previous post) and all I did was buy things! Those things are still in a carrier bag in a corner, by the way. I can see them looking at me, mocking.


I’ve talked before about making a ‘To Do’ list of things you want to achieve, but now it’s time to make another list, a sort of ‘Why I can’t’ list. What are the reasons that hold you back? Here are some of mine, and if you think some look ridiculous, well, they do. That’s the point. When you actually look at your fears and self-doubts in the cold light of day, it’s easier to apply a bit of logic as to why and how you can overcome them. I truly believe that they won’t ever fully go away, but we can learn to live with them. We can even, if we want, shout at them and tell them to politely take a hike because we’re busy creating.

Here goes:

  • I might be deluded about my own ability.
  • Everyone will laugh at me. (Rich coming from someone who once harboured comedic ambitions!)
  • I won’t have time until the weekend.
  • I’m having a busy weekend.
  • I bet someone’s already thought of this.
  • I bet someone’s already done this better than I can.

Well, that’s enough about me.

Now, you have a go. Make the list as long or as short as you want, just make it honest. Read it, then put it away. Next time you feel doubt or fear about your creativity, look at the list again. Recognise what’s in it and carry on creating.

Don’t forget, if you put something you’ve created out there, somebody won’t like it. It’s not personal, it’s just statistics. We can’t all like everything. I find Mozart a bore. (Don’t write in, I know he’s a genius.)

And get yourself to Madrid some time, soak up the culture and go and see Ingrid in her shop.

Happy creating.



Can we take a Holiday?

It’s Easter Monday. It’s about 8pm, so the holiday weekend is all but over. But is it a holiday from creating stuff? Well, I just can’t get my mind out of ‘holiday fun and lazing around mode’. Am I wrong?

Of course, I can put it down to recharging the batteries all the better to free up my creative flow. Some people will have used the four day weekend as an opportunity for some uninterrupted creative activity, even if it’s only painting the kitchen. Not me. I was looking forward to sightseeing and walking the countryside of south west England. The weather prognosis wasn’t looking so great, but I’m certainly not put off by a bit of rain. A bit of rain? It poured down in buckets, accompanied by the horrific winds that preceded Storm Katie, so walking was pretty much off the agenda. Even a short walk yesterday to Durdle Door was the most stressful mile I’ve ever taken on, walking straight into a headwind.

Yes, it was just a mile, and I was almost defeated. That’s what’s wrong. The sense of defeat and of something unachieved. The very activities intended to recharge said batteries didn’t get ticked off the ‘to-do list’. So there’s a feeling of deflation and, yes, of something missing. Damn you, English weather. A weekend lost and I’ve got to focus on the ‘to-do’ list for the rest of this week. I actually need to read a work-related book, but I’m using this blog as a displacement activity – there’s a first!

Happily, I have lots of interviews coming up for the podcast, so watch out for those. I am genuinely thrilled to have so much great stuff in the pipeline. It’s been a while. Another writing project is making slow progress, too.

So, what have I learned this weekend? Well, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s to let myself off if I don’t create anything, even though that could be a slippery slope, the start of me always forgiving my own inactivity.  Maybe it’s that I need to press on, whatever happens. A little a day, I’m really not good at that. I have learnt that even out of adverse weather, you can occasionally get a good photo. Well, I think it’s good. It’s Lyme Regis just before sunset. Wait a minute, that was creative, right? Go me!



I hope your Easter break, if you had one, was productive -or not, if that is what you chose. I hope also that you’re ready to tackle the challenges of the week ahead. I hope I am too.

Happy creating.



Get it on the To-Do List.

I was congratulating a friend on the prolificness (is that a word?) of her recent blog posts. Secretly I was chastising myself for my own silence, both literally and figuratively, as I haven’t podcasted for a wee while either. She replied that she’d had a bit of a bad week at work and creating the posts was a real help. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this from a friend, that their creative endeavours actually help them out of a funk. My own heroine, dear Dorothy Parker, created her best work when miserable. I may have mentioned that before, partly to remind myself that being a bit down doesn’t mean you should stop the important and fun stuff, even if it is hard.

Ernest Hemingway said ‘If you want to be a writer, and you don’t, then you aren’t’. Or words to that effect. In other words, whatever else is going in your life, you should be writing (substitute ‘singing’, ‘crafting’ etc., as appropriate). How many times have I said, ‘Just go for it’?, yet here am I, the one so busy, I can’t find time to type a few words? And the more I don’t, the more I don’t. It’s like not phoning a friend you haven’t phoned for ages, because you haven’t phoned them for ages. The longer you leave it, the harder it gets.

So, here comes the advice bit – not from some kind of guru, but from someone who, like most of us, knows what they should be doing, but isn’t quite getting there.

Creating is fun, right, but it’s also work. You wouldn’t bunk off work just because you were a bit down, or a bit busy. Would you? Really? Well, I won’t tell your boss, this time. To get through the working day, you don’t just sit down and improvise your tasks from 9-5, you have a to-do list, or some recognised method of knowing how the day might pan out.

Apply this to your creative life. Get a to-do list. Mine says ‘ Write blog post’, followed by a list of people to contact about interviews for the podcast, followed by  some work on a writing project I’m doing with a friend.  As I cross one thing off, I’ll add another. If I don’t do this, I know I’m going to end up losing time again. Yes, creativity is a magical thing, but it also requires a measure of discipline, especially if you’re not in the mood, or tired, or Happy Valley is on the TV. (Heavens, wasn’t it marvellous?)

Maybe you’re more tech-savvy than me and prefer to set reminders on your phone. Also a good idea, in fact anything that works. This is our time, we mustn’t waste it. Set aside at least some every day to create, even if it’s only fifteen minutes. A friend of mine swears by the Morning Papers exercise, and it has a lot of supporters. I am going to try it…some day. For now, I’m at one with my to-do list and the satisfaction of crossing things off. A job, if not well done, at least done.

Happy creating, and I’ll put you guys on the list for …very soon!






The Infuriating ‘i’ Word

I’m at home today, with the worst head cold I’ve had in years, feeling sorry for myself. So, that might be why I’m also at ‘peak’ belligerence. Seriously, enough is enough. Yes, I like a nice cliche and a hackneyed expression as much as the next person (inserts notional smiley face), but it’s time to pick up the red pen and strip the word ‘iconic’ from the language. There’s a call to arms coming, so I do hope you’ll join me. Why must everything be ‘iconic’ and is something of less value if it isn’t? Here are just a few recent examples, some from people who ought to know better:


If you’ve ever had the misfortune to watch the Wheeler Dealers TV show, you’ll know it’s also liberally peppered with the offending word.

2) Hinduja Group Formally Acquires Iconic London Building

A headline from yesterday’s NDTV about the purchase of Churchill’s old war office at 57, Whitehall. Bear in mind, most people don’t even know this building  and couldn’t point to it on a map. But, according to Visit London, the city is home to some of the world’s most…you guessed it… iconic buildings in the world.

3) Here’s a photo I took at the National Theatre on Monday night:


Disappointing, I felt, in a building full of some of the most brilliant, creative minds we have. Alice is Wonderland is so many things, unique, witty, entertaining, meaningful and, yes, important.

4) My God, there’s even an iconic estate agent. Thank you, Norwich.

I have no objection to the word itself, just to its overuse and the fact that it has been rendered so meaningless.

Here’s how the online Oxford Dictionary defines ‘iconic’

1)Relating to or of the nature of an icon:he became an iconic figure for directors around the world

2)Of a classical Greek statue) depicting a victorious athlete in a conventional style.

Interestingly, here’s the definition from the online Cambridge dictionary:
Very ​famous or ​popular, ​especially being ​considered to ​representparticularopinions or a ​particulartime:John Lennon ​gained iconic ​statusfollowing his ​death.
It seems the boffins at Cambridge are more up to date on usage, though it pains me to admit that they are nearer to the mark, as  their definition gives us all carte blanche to label anyone or anything famous as ‘iconic’. We have such a rich language, and so many words to choose from. This ‘iconic’ trend is fairly new, so what did we use before? Let’s go back to ‘seminal’, ‘ideal’, ‘representative’ and, yes, ‘important’.
So, are you with me? Will you join me in this campaign to expunge the ‘i’ word, or at least put it back where it belongs, as a very special word, only to be used to describe the most…um…’totemic’ of people, places and things?
Civil disobedience. Switch off Wheeler Dealers, deface posters, and write in the strongest words to the editor of The Times.
Together we can make this happen, people. I’ve even created a hashtag. #iconicballs. Use it with pride.
And why Bette Davis? Well, she is, isn’t she? A true icon, properly iconic, and I just love this image.
Back with you when my head is clearer.