Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Walking in this World—Week 2, Day 3

Lots of things are happening on the arts campaign front.  Too much to blog about here without getting completely sidelined, but out of the exhausting hours myself and many others have been putting in, results are starting to emerge. It's satisfying, it's rewarding—I feel like we're making a difference to grassroots arts and cultural events across Scotland, and it's fuelling my optimism for the future.

I had mentoring today at the Playwrights' Studio. It's sad to think the six month period is already drawing to an end and that next month is the last session. Isabel was ready and waiting for me with a pile of feedback on the draft of the play I'd submitted; as we chatted through some of the characterisation and plot points I suddenly had an epiphany and realised how to solve one of the problems I've been having. We talked it through and concluded that it might be an exciting route to take. I'm enthused about writing the next draft and just hope I can do justice to the piece in the short space of time we have left. I can of course continue developing it after the mentoring period ends; for my own satisfaction, I would love to get it to as near a state of completion as possible.

Isabel has been a great influence on my work over the past few months, encouraging me to take risks, challenge my methods and push boundaries. I've ended up developing a new style of writing for myself, quite different to anything I've written before. I relate this to the idea of Believing Mirrors that Julia discusses in this week's chapter of Walking in this World—about how it “takes one to know one”. I'm experiencing first hand the benefit of having an established artist look at my work and say “This is what you are, or what you might be.”

This line brilliantly sums things up:
As artists, we are often grateful and indebted to those who help us know the things we know.
Looking around myself at the support, friendships and relationships I have in my life at present—writers, performers, artists—I feel blessed to be receiving so much encouragement, motivation and guidance. I am both grateful and indebted as the quote suggests, and only hope I can repay my gratitude sometime soon with a piece of work that my supporters will be proud of.

As I was leaving the studio, I took this snap in the common space looking down into the CCA bar. I love the strings of coloured bulbs and lit windows; it's always a fun place to hang out and feel inspired by creativity and art.


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Walking in this World—Week 2, Day 2

Tonight I had dinner with my friend Wilma, a fellow writer and Scots language champion. We chewed the cud over dinner and talked about our projects, our pasts and our passions. And in a funny wee twist of synchronicity discovered we were at the same playwriting workshop a few years ago back before we'd properly met!

We also spent time talking about how we'd ended up writing—how we both feel that we have to write. I thought a lot about our conversation on my way home. I have a pretty good sense of where I am at present and how I'd like my career to develop—I just need to figure out how I'm going to make some of the more difficult parts of the plan happen for me.

When I got in I sat down to complete the Identify Your Identity task. Interestingly, it asks many of the same questions that Wilma and I had chatted about earlier in the evening:  what I dreamed of doing as a child, how I was encouraged or discouraged, the things I fear might be too late for me, and the commitments I hope to make that could still take me forward. I guess I found the task a lot easier because I'd talked it through already.

I've made no secret of the fact I'm passionate about writing in Scots. Not all of my work is defined by it, but as my mither tongue it's important to me to express myself using the words and dialect I grew up with. After a guid auld blether with Wilma, I see a potential wee project on the horizon.


Monday, 5 March 2012

Walking in this World—Week 2, Day 1

Week 2 opens with this paragraph:
All of us are creative. Some of us get mirroring to know we are creative, but few of us get the mirroring to know how creative. What most of us get is the worried advice that if we are thinking about a life in the arts, we'd better plan to have 'something to fall back on.' Would they tell us that if we expressed an interesting in banking?
Talk about summarising 13 years of your life in 68 words?!

I believe it's no coincidence that I find myself addressing my work/life/art balance again right now. I have been going through a period of change for some time now, and this week in particular am addressing my plans for the coming year. I have an opportunity to study, to devote myself entirely to playwriting and theatre, and I also have new projects on the horizon. It is synchronicity, and I expect I'll get a lot of benefit out of this week's tasks.

At lunchtime I headed off on one of my daily rambles. The sun decided to visit Glasgow today; it was still chilly, but the air was crisp and the walk refreshing. I did my favourite afternoon circuit around Kelvingrove Park, pausing for 15 minutes to sit on a bench and look out over the pond with the museum and art gallery in the distance. It was quite picturesque, relaxing.

This evening I spent a couple of hours at the Playwrights' Studio editing my manuscript. I think, at long last, I've finished the first draft of a new play. Yes, it has flaws, and yes, it needs work, but it feels like an achievement to finish it all when just 8 weeks ago I wanted to scratch it and move on. It's very different to anything I've written before. Now that I have an outline I'm glad I persevered and experimented with style. I've sent it off to Isabel, my mentor, who will no doubt cast a critical and caring eye over it and give me feedback later this week.

Will it ever see the stage?

Who knows. What's more important is the fact it finally saw the page.


Sunday, 4 March 2012

Walking in this World—Week 1, Day 7

End of Week 1—Discovering a Sense of Origin

The looming deadline for my play resulted in me locking myself up for the weekend; I've done my best to avoid emails, tweets, messages and so on and buried myself under a mountain of printouts, notes and references. Progress has been slower than I hoped, but I feel like today in particular has been worth it. There's a structure there now, and the first draft's nearly done. A few more tweaks then it should be ready to face the scrutiny of my mentor.

I took a coffee break in the afternoon and sat with the sunlight streaming in through the window behind my wee Buddha statuette. I set the alarm on my Pomodoro to 15 minutes, closed my eyes and let warm sunlight wash over me as I cleared my head and did nothing. When the bell rang I felt fully refreshed, ready to start over again.

Reflecting on Week 1, it's worth reminding myself that the objective was quick simply to set out on this new journey from where you are, with who you are, at this time and this place—in other words, be yourself, and be happy with who you are. I've had a week of theatre, writing, arts campaigning, a radio interview and good friends, food and company when I could fit in some social time.

I'm more than happy to sign off with this week's mantra: ‘I am enough’.


Saturday, 3 March 2012

Walking in this World—Week 1, Day 6

Last night Debbie, Mandi and I had a great first creative cluster check in for Week 1. Despite upgrading Skype to the Premium version to try out group video calling, technology failed us once again (I'll be on to you today Skype)—but still, we got to see each other briefly and exchange a few smiley waves before embarking on a standard call to chat through our weeks.

It was interesting listening to the girls talk; we all had very different experiences of completing the tasks, but there were similar universal themes running through them. We had a bit of fun with the ‘express yourself’ task and listed our positive adjectives to describe ourselves, while the ‘do nothing’ task was initially one to put off but indulge in later. As we talked I realised that walking has become a big part of my life; it might not seem like such an exciting artistic endeavour, but my daily rambles seem to instil me with calm and give me space to think things through. As a result I don't feel as stressed as I once did.

Week 1 Discovering a Sense of Origin felt like more of a gentle introduction compared to The Artist's Way with very minimal tasks; looking ahead as we move into Week 2 Discovering a Sense of Proportion there appears to be a bit more writing and challenge ahead of us.

Before we chatted I had spent a rare night at home. I had planned to spend Friday evening having my Aritst's Date in the city, but with so many deadlines and commitments this coming week felt I was being a bit indulgent with my time. I didn't cancel completely; instead I preserved the hour I had blocked off, headed home and played one of my favourite albums while cooking one of my favourite meals from scratch—wok-fried chicken and mushroom korma with homemade Peshwari naan. It might not look terribly photogenic, but it was exceptionally tasty if I do say so myself! I lit candles and enjoyed having a full 60 minute window of time all to myself. After February being such a hectic month I'm enjoying getting back in the habit of preparing meals from scratch—it is a creative and calming process in its own right.

Despite this being the weekend, today is a day of work for me, and I expect Sunday will be too. I need to break the back of the play I've been procrastinating on and try to solve once and for all what it is that isn't working. I know there are chunks of good material in there, but for some reason I've not managed to make it all connect so far. I've also been on a bit of a decluttering mission and have eight bags of clothes that no longer fit to take to the charity drop off later on. I'm loving being fitter and healthier, but I now have a real shortage of things to wear! I've also been decluttering the sitting room and reclaimed my writing desk from beneath a mountain of paperwork. Perhaps I'll find it easier to sit there and write this weekend while watching the world go by outside.


Friday, 2 March 2012

Walking in this World—Week 1, Day 5

Express Yourself

Things you may (or may not) already know about me:
  1. I am a writer.
  2. I am a performer.
  3. I am a freelance life coach.
You'd think that by combining these 3 skills and talents I'd be pretty good at selling myself, right? The sad truth is, I'm not!

This week I've been filling in application forms galore. I need to express myself, my vision for my work and how I hope to progress my career over the coming year. It has been highly frustrating, mainly because it has involved having to talk a lot about myself to the nth degree—and when I start that level of self-analysis, I inevitably begin to question my self worth.

I forced myself to take a break from stressing and putting myself down to re-read some of the grounding statements and positive affirmations from The Artist's Way. As I did so, a postcard slid out the book; I had placed it there to mark the section about creating a collage of images. I always meant to go back and keep adding to my wee flip book of photographs of things I had achieved and things that make me happy. This particular postcard was sent to me by a playwright and friend who has long encouraged and motivated me, and on the reverse simply reads “Keep going—you're doing great!”—it finally has pride of place in my little collection. I added the flyer from my recent tour, a postcard for the exhibition I was part of earlier in the year, and a print out of a poem I'm having published in a few months.

After this, I remembered that I had one more task to complete for the week. Titled Express Yourself, it asks you to list 10 positive adjectives to describe yourself—exactly the problem I've been having with my applications this week!

Here's what I came up with:
  1. Passionate
  2. Articulate
  3. Creative
  4. Insightful
  5. Funny
  6. Intelligent
  7. Caring
  8. Accepting
  9. Loyal
  10. Enthusiastic
I immediately wondered if others consider these to be a good reflection—what do you think? Is this how I present myself to the world, whether in person or virtual? If you come up with a word or two that you think describe me better then please share; just don't forget it's the positive ones we're concentrating on for this task!

Armed with my new list of positive ways to express myself, I'm going to tackle these application forms again this weekend with renewed vigour.

We've got our first creative cluster check in tonight. I'll be video calling Debbie in London and Mandi in Melbourne to see how we've all gotten on.


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Walking in this World—Week 1, Day 4

I enjoyed four long walks today—sleep evaded me again last night, so I got up and out early to get some fresh air. There was a hint of spring around today; snowdrops and daffodils are beginning to peek through, and I snapped a photo of some outside Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. I love this time of year. It fills me with a feeling of optimism and new life, which reflected in the applications I had to complete earlier this evening. I feel energised, ready to breathe new life into my work—I feel ready to create.

I should have been off to a campaign meeting in Edinburgh tonight, but my commitments in the afternoon overran leaving no time to travel. Instead, I spent an impromptu night with my lovely friend Daniel; good food, good wine and good company was just what I needed after such a tiring and restless few days. I'm heading home to bed now and hope that after trekking over 9 miles today I'll finally get a full night's rest ahead of another productive day tomorrow.