Smoke on the water, fire in the sky…

No matter what we get out of this

I know, I know we’ll never forget

Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky

Deep Purple – Songwriters: Ian Gillian, Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover.

I was listening to this song the other day. Actually I was trying to learn the bass line – a bit tricky – and no, the bass doesn’t play the riff at the start. But that’s another story. What this song made me think about is that writing, or indeed any creative pursuit, isn’t always about the end product. It’s about the process of creating.

Some writers like editing. Some like taking a messy structure – a confused mess with a troubled middle or dodgy beginning and hacking away at it until it resembles something smooth and polished. Others relish line editing. Taking each paragraph of prose and getting every apostrophe, comma and word to work perfectly, efficiently.

I don’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I do get some kind of perverse pleasure out of putting commas in the right place and making sure all my inverted commas are curly enough but nothing ever beats the flow and magic of that first draft.

Many faiths find something special in creativity. Druids call it ‘Awen’. Its symbol is three divine rays of light pouring down. That’s how that first rush of creating feels to me. Inspiration seems to come out of somewhere bigger than ourselves.

Sometimes, as I have found recently, as writers or creative people, we can get bogged down with the ‘job’. We actually say ‘the magic has gone out of it’ and that’s what it certainly feels like. Another story to edit for someone else. Another chapter that needs to get rewritten by the end of the month. Another synopsis that must be just right for the agent.

Somewhere along the way we lose sight of what it is we enjoyed in the first place. The simple flow of words, bringing characters to life that suddenly take on a life of their own, losing ourselves in places that only exist in our imagination.

This is the magic. The smoke on the water and fire in the sky. This is what it’s all about.

So, next time, before you fire up your laptop, open up a notebook and free your creativity for a while. Write whatever comes into your head. Find that joyful, playful place. Enjoy.

That’s what I intend to do before starting work on my next longer piece of work.

I think you’ll find that as a result, when you come back to the work you have on your to do list, it’ll feel looser, more inspired, more creative.

Still stuck? Here’s some ideas that me and Estelle Kerabin-Connolly use in our workshops with people to help them reconnect with their creativity:

  • Take yourself on an ‘Artist’s date’ (based on Julia Cameron’s book ‘The Artist’s Way’). This is a lone venture. It might feel indulgent and a bit silly but trust us, it works. It might be a visit to an art gallery, an afternoon rummaging in a second hand bookshop for treasures, listening to some new music with headphones on, a visit to a stately home, a walk by the beach – whatever floats your boat.
  • Do what Julia Cameron calls ‘morning pages’. I’m not a morning person and luckily they don’t have to be done in the morning. Three longhand A4 pages a day. Steam of consciousness. If you don’t know what to write, write ‘I don’t know what to write.’ Keep it up for at least two weeks without fail. Don’t read back what you’ve written. Turn off your inner editor.
  • If you had five imaginary lives to lead, what would they be? Go – write them down now without thinking. Turn off the internal editor. Nothing is too crazy. Circus trapeze poet? Tree-house dwelling song writer? No problem. When you’ve got your list, look for what ways you can live just a little of that life. I can’t join the circus and run away right now but I could do a circus skills workshop (yes -such things exist!) You could use these as a basis for your artist dates.

Happy Creating x

By the way – me and Estelle will be doing more workshops in January. Watch this space!

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