Coming Undone & Rethinking your Creative Mojo!

spool thread, connectivity, coming undone, writers block, creative slump. creativity. writing

I think that every creative person goes through intermittent periods in their life when they look at the daunting blank of the canvas before them and feel utterly paralysed. I’m sorta still there now. I’ve been there over the last two weeks!

Very often I’ve thought that being unable to write must mean a cessation of your creativity,  a time when you’ve genuinely got nothing to say, no narrative left to create anymore. I’ve read more oftten and on more varied platforms than I care to list that this is when you should step back, do other things you love till you feel fired again to go birth thoughts and ideas and clothe them with the frivolity of wit and feel ready to set them free, unrestrained….

I’m passionate about a lot of things and am usually someone who has ideas, a lot of them..most of which I know might never lend themselves to more than a paragraph in print! They’d probably end up dividing the world into two sides of an argument (very Tolkienesque, I know) and in my writer’s fantasy, everyone would fire up their laptops just as they’re hit with a new post notification and in a 90 second ad capsule, converge on my post with cups of cocoa and carefully considered teas!

*Ahem* Uncanny just how much of a resemblance that bears to real life! ;P

Over the last week, I’ve had to rethink my inertia when it comes to my creativity and realise that it’s not that I have nothing left to say but that everything that I do want to say seems raw and painful. (For those of you who regularly read me, you know I’m moving…again! ) I see myself standing at the brink of another big change, a few more strange roads, a new house to call mine and make a home of. Children to settle into a new school and new friends – whose lives we must weave ourselves into gently, without disturbing their established ecology! Sure, there is a rush of excitement, a chance to start afresh – new beginnings are positive too! But largely, I’ve lost my voice to the call of this challenge, to leaving behind old friends, laughter, the security of an established life… again!

spool thread, connectivity, coming undone, writers block, creative slump. creativity. writing

I so often hear about writers/bloggers who swear by keeping a diary with them to note down ideas, sentences, inspiration for them to revisit later and heaven knows I’ve tried that, and like all things in the bag of a mum of two young girls, it finally ends up littered with cookie crumbs, the home of softening, last flakes of a bag of crisps, dampened by used wet wipes after ballet and swimming. And the once-gorgeous Moleskine begins it’s adagio into the seventh circle of hell!

I’ve recently had a few days of turning up at my desk and blankly staring at a screen before I decide to arbitrarily scan Twitter (I’m not much of a Tweeter/Twitterer (?) so my peppered interaction is often the result of an extraordinary delightful day or quite likely the converse) and then going on to browse sales I would never succumb to! :) I’ve also realised that looking for inspiration to break out of a slump is generally not to be found on Twitter (Pinterest, maybe- for some), but Twitter made me want to run and hide! The one thing you don’t need is to see how well everyone’s doing the one thing that seems to have bid you so long. If you’d take my advice, stay off all social media for a day or two if you don’t feel like the “King of the World” when it comes to your creativity!

 

spool thread, connectivity, coming undone, writers block, creative slump. creativity. writing

In all my searching and thinking, the one thing I realised was that there wasn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Here’s what worked for me and I hope will help you in some small measure.

  • I read. I went back to parts of old books that I’ve loved and that’ve meant something to me over the years (the kind that have paragraphs you want to highlight, or if you’re a complete saddo like I am, do highlight so you can come back to it sometime!) I re-read them and smiled, cried, felt inspired to create again, to write how reading that made me feel.
  • I’m a bit obsessed with music so I made a playlist and listened to music that’s new to me, that I don’t have any real history with. I also listened to music I have a deep history with and the both of them helped get the groove back, I decided I’d engage every sense I can till I know I can face the empty screen again and know that I have something to deliver. I owe myself to deliver on the one thing I love doing most.
  • That’s another thing that helped, making a commitment to myself to get over this creative slump! It’s daunting when your entire being is racked with self doubt. You stand convinced that there is no place or use for your thoughts, your contribution is negligible if at all, and everyone, including your next door ‘tweenager ‘ probably says it better than you! The self negation is extreme at times! (Helped knowing that Coleridge felt it too, and Susan Sontag – one of my favourite authors). Telling yourself that you understand that you need a break, but you’re going to be back by a certain date has more of an impact than you can imagine. Choicelessness is often a great way to get things done 😉
  • Sometimes your mind won’t let you write something that it feels is unauthentic, especially if you’ve got “real” issues on your mind. Creative people know intrinsically what they want to say and if you can’t for whatever reason address that -maybe the story isn’t even yours to tell – you find it impossibe to settle for the second best that you feel “allowed” to write. Take some time off to make peace with whatever you’ve got to shelve for the moment. Maybe write it on paper or on a Word Doc and after it’s out of you, either click delete or save it if you think you might like to read what you felt. I wrote to a friend I trust with all my heart. It was raw, it was real, and most importantly, it was dead honest. And even before I got a reply, I was better and could miraculously compartmentalize again. There are things that we would love to write about, “blogging gold” as a more accomplished blogger called it- but for myriad reasons, we never will. That’s just part and parcel of our creative journey, and rightfully so! Don’t be afraid to change your plan, if one idea won’t play out, work on another. Plan B doesn’t have to signify a lesser alternative. Don’t force it, you’ll end up with something you’d be embarassed about in time to come. Trust me, I’ve been there 😉
  • Cook, bake, craft…whatever you enjoy that’s removed from your writing. Finish something. I’m usually guilty of being very harsh on myself because I’ve left so much unfinished in my life – half started projects that I’ve tired of or lost enthusiasm for; a half written second story! Taking something to it’s logical end makes me feel, somewhere subconsciously that I will /can come through on things! My writing will not be another bullet point on my unfinished list!

There’s a good reason that you feel what you do when you’re all clogged up in your head – it’s a call to learn to trust yourself, be gentle and kind to you. Your subconscious is trying to say something by being uncooperative! You won’t find your answers by incessantly searching Google, you won’t find YOUR fix in a random list that might work for 7/10 people. The biggest favour you can do yourself is realise that maybe it’s time to shut that laptop, mute that smartphone and finally listen to the you that you’ve been so desperately searching for!

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Mozart’s “The Marriage Of Figaro” is essentially a classical Rom-Com!

Mozart, Marriage of Figara, Libretto, Opera, Arts, The English National Opera

Who amongst us hasn’t enjoyed a good tear-jerker from time to time- be it a book, a rom-com, or an incessantly far flung soap-opera? The idea of watching a drama unfold, invoking the senses with fear and pity, valour and prudence; being able to walk in the same shoes and feel the resonance of emotion and experience in your own lives is hardly what one would call a modern phenomenon. In fact, neither is the censorship of such a necessarily modern one! From as far back as the ancient worlds and Greek and Roman tragedies, philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle wrote about the power of the performing arts. Plato, in an effort to censor art claimed that certain forms of music were rightly associated with certain states of mind (who can argue with that? for really, there isn’t any place for Leonard Cohen on the dance floor now, is there?! And trust me, listening to ”Summer Beats 2013′ in a 19thC cafe in Bologna is just so wrong)!

Aristotle was probably the one who first made the crucial connection between music, poetry and lofty thought and perhaps suggested that drama ought to have a more moral purpose rather than remain mere entertainment. This then went on to be the theoretical backbone of the new art of “opera”,  (latin for “a body of work”, a synergy of all the widely acclaimed artforms) Perfected during the renaissance in Italy, this new “trend” quickly found acceptance in other individual and distinctive schools in a number of European countries. Through the proper projection of the emotions of pity and fear, carried on by skilled artists, the audience would undergo a moral cleansing, a catharsis, a coming away feeling elated and unburdened – (something that we still seek through the relentless energy of feel-good, happy-ending films)!

The Marriage of Figaro_ENO_ 2011_Mary Bevan_Credit Sarah Lee,
Mary Bevan in The Marriage of Figaro. Pic credits © Sarah Lee

Opera clearly had a moral purpose, and in time would go on to have a political one too! Enter Mozart with his “The Marriage of Figaro”, a brilliantly woven comedy of human relations, which has held it’s relevance through the last 200 years as a social and political situational drama. Seeing that the story is foregrounded at the time of the French Revolution, Figaro’s brazen-faced affront of his master Count Almaviva’s authority can also be seen as the triumph of the proletariat’s decision of challenging rigidly established aristocracy!

Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” is the tumultuous tale of the events of one crazy day as Figaro, the Count’s valet, tries to wed Susanna, the Countess’s maid, before the philandering Count can get to her first. Mozart’s glorious music with his librettist Lorenzo da Ponte gives “opera buffa” (comic opera – where stock characters, comic and cunning servants, angry and penny-pinching fathers, passionate lovers, lustful daughters and bragging soldiers found their place after it’s more sombre “opera seria”) an enduring historical context. Fiona Shaw’s buzzing production at The English National Opera “sees its plot of sexual intrigue, mistaken identities and unexpected revelations unravel with clock-like precision within the confines of a maze-like household in which the servants are perfectly capable of thwarting their masters at every time.”

As I might have at some point said to my post-graduate students, Figaro, like all masterpieces is a wonderful story of adventure – replete with plot and counter-plot, danger and disguise, intrigue and mystery! Not for the sexually prudish either – it showcases a wide sexual canvas ranging from the naïveté  in the love of young Cherubino, who would like to emulate the Count’s prowess but is denied the means; the mundanity of Susanna and the raw lust of Count Almaviva. Completing the picture is the elevated resilience and forgiveness of the Countess. A winsome yarn that touches on social manner and political reform; it’s enduring charm being its lasting relevance in holding up a mirror to society and human poignancy and doing so with a punchy, bold humour! An achingly full-blooded synthesis of all the other arts – drama, vocal and orchestral music, dance, light and design!

In The English National Opera production of The Marriage of Figaro, David Stout and Mary Bevan star as the wily servants Figaro and Susanna, with Benedict Nelson as Count Almaviva and Sarah-Jane Brandon as the wronged Countess! Conductor Jaime Martin returns to ENO following his debut last year in Rossini’s Barber of Seville.

You can find more information about the shows, ticket prices and timings on the official website of The English National Opera!

(*Disclaimer : This is a sponsored post for The English National Opera)

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ENO


 

The Goodness of Organic Children!

Green People, Organic Children, Organic lifestyle

I’ve always believed that in sticking as close to nature’s goodness as we realistically can – we remain the safest! Yet, that is an ideal, not an absolute and in no way at all do I claim to be any sort of green, organic activist! I am however, the mother of a six year-old who seems to be reactive to a whole lot of things commonly found around us. Rayna is six and has had childhood asthma since she was about 9 months old. If you’re one of my regular readers, you know I’m quite keen on photography, and we have a family tradition of making an autumn album every year. This is a photograph from a few years back that came at a great price to me :

Autumn leaves, teepee, mini boden clothing - This pic was taken by Daniel Simm
Rayna with the autumn leaves! – This pic was taken by Daniel Simm

Right after we came back from the park, Rayna was covered in a very prominent rash that became worse over the next few hours and we had an emergency call to make sure her little three year old body wasn’t going into some form of  anaphylactic shock. After an ardous investigation, we were told that she’d had a very strong reaction to plant allergens that are present on leaves, barks etc, and her eczematic symptoms would gradually wear off in a few weeks. We were told to use nothing but water on her skin and since then, we’ve only used medicated, absolutely lack lustre products on her. While her sister gets to use loads of colourful and funky bath products, Rayna’s forbidden it all…not very nice to be constantly reminded that you’re different, is it?!

A week back, I got a lovely email from Green People asking me if I would review some of their products and after hearing about Rayna, they very kindly sent us a hamper to try on her. Now, to begin with, I held my breath – but after I read what their website said and the fact that the company’s been started by someone whose child suffered eczematic reactions allayed a lot of my fears!

Green People, Organic Children, Organic lifestyle
Green People Organic Children Range!

So, these are the things we tested out thoroughly, (I used them too ;P ) so my opinions are very grounded in actual experience :

Children’s Berry Smoothie Shampoo and Children’s Berry Smoothie Conditioner – Our verdict – We absolutely loved it! The smell is amazing and girly in a very age-appropriate way… plus they worked tangle-free wonders on my older daughter’s very thick hair too (You can see them both in this post, running around modelling Mini Boden with their very different hair). One is poker straight and gets greasy fast, the other is frizzy-haired and dry,  just like mommy! 😉 So to get a set of hair products that works for both is great! I totally fell in love with them :)

Children’s Sun Lotion SPF 25 – “Organic Children Scent Free Sun Lotion SPF25 is made without parabens, alcohol (ethyl alcohol, ethanol), lanolin, methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone, phthalates, artificial perfumes, petrochemicals and colourants to bring you the purest children’s sun lotion that nature can offer.” The company also claims that SPF 25 is more than sufficient cover and we don’t need more. I think the texture of this beat anything I’ve used from other brands, however, sunscreen being sunscreen, it’s got that slight sheen which had to be rubbed in nicely into our darker skin so as to not glow ultraviolet! ;P It’s suitable for children who may be prone to eczema or psoriasis too! They have it in a small “try-me” size before you bite the bullet on the big one! ;P

Aloe Vera After Sun Lotion :  Whilst this lotion was fabulous on my older daughter with normal skin, I felt Rayna needed something a more hydrating/thicker/greasier (?) But given that most of you might be parents of children who aren’t as sensitive as her, it would be churlish of me to rate this lower :) It’s worked a treat on me and I love the natural scent, plus I’m a huge believer in what aloe vera has to offer. Those with a child that needs that extra bit might want to test this out first…

 

Green People, Organic Children, Organic lifestyle , flowers, pastel, summer, wildflower
Soft. Gentle. Natural.

Mandarin and Aloe Vera Toothpaste: If I could use this sweet, mandarin flavoured toothpaste, I would! :) Made with essential oils of Myrrh which protects against bacterial growth and other such causes of tooth-trouble- I think it’s a great product! If you, like me have been troubled by the flouride controversy – to use or not to use?! Here’s what sold it to me -this is  100% natural – free from SLS and fluoride !

Sticky Hand Sanitiser – Promises to naturally sanitise sticky fingers, faces, toys and high chairs! I must admit, I’m a bit of the hand-washing enthusiast ;P Not always the greatest idea if your children already have dry skin. I used to carry moisturiser and massage their hands etc when we travelled, but I felt this did the job very gently. This is what it offers :

  • Cleans dirt, grime and germs with a squirt
  • No need for water so perfect for days out
  • Mum can use it too after every nappy change
  • Tea Tree extract for added antiseptic properties
  • A great ‘eco buy’ for families as you get up to 200 squirts per bottle

 

Green People, Organic Children, Organic lifestyle
Green People, Organic Children Range!

I’ve used a lot of products, even leading organic brands but if you’re buying personal care products for children, I totally and unflinchingly recommend the Green People Organic Children range! The ownership and fun that accompanied the natural goodness was something I can’t put a price tag on – my little baby Rayna (she’ll always be my little baby, my youngest!) said to me ‘Look mummy, my skin isn’t itchy and I smell like a berry!” Rahel (the older) is chuffed to bits with all the beautifully packaged “only-for-them” bits in the bathroom! Thank you Green People, it’s been a lovely bath-week on you! x

 

*Disclaimer : This is a sponsored post, and I was given this hamper for my participation! All opinions, stories, anecdotes and ramblings are authentically mine! :)*

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