Thursday, 31 March 2016

March Reflections

Happy last day of March! This month has passed by in a deluge of chocolate eggs and cheery daffodils. Spring is underway at last! Here are a few bits and pieces from March I’d love to share with you…


“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” - Audrey Hepburn
This is an apt sentiment for these fresh spring days and a reminder to nourish the things we love.

The literary highlight of my month was She Came to Stay by Simone De Beauvoir. I was intimidated by the idea of De Beauvoir but I found her style very readable and so beautiful. The book tells the story of Francoise and Pierre, an intensely close artistic couple whose lives are disrupted when they invite a young woman into the relationship. It is mainly from Francoise’s perspective we experience the novel and we see her grapple with jealousy and self- hatred, desperation and cold hearted calculation. What De Beauvoir is best at is recounting female experience, and all the complexities than come with it, as well as highlighting the baser passions underlining the intellectual scene of Paris in the thirties.

One of my favourite things is finding out about other people’s creative process. I came across an essay by the poet Vicki Feaver in The Creative Writing Coursebook about her experience writing ‘Judith’, a poem inspired by the biblical heroine. She charts those moments of sudden, unexplainable inspiration as well as the workman like stages of writing where you have to just find a way of articulating what you want to say and being exact in it. I was delighted to find that she has written this short poetry workshop on capturing animals on the page.

Tolstoy said that ‘spring is the time of plans and projects’. It’s a good time to do a quarter year review on how you’re doing, how you’re working towards your goals and how you can bring a little more happiness into your life. With summer around the corner get thinking about excursions and activities you have planned for warmer days. Are there any creative projects you could start?

Three things to look forward to in April
  1. Light evenings.
  2. An Alternative April Fool’s day – doing something lovely for your favourite people to celebrate the start of the month.
  3. Walks in the rain singing ‘Little April Shower’ from Bambi. 
What did you get up to in March? What are your plans for April? Let me know in the comments below…

Monday, 14 March 2016

Writing Exercise: Objects of Affection

‘Looked at again and again half consciously by a mind thinking of something else, any object mixes itself so profoundly with the stuff of thought that it loses its actual form and recomposes itself a little differently in an ideal shape which haunts the brain when we least expect it.’
- Virginia Woolf
These writing exercises are designed to get you thinking about the links between characters and the objects they keep. They will help you to use an item to gain access into the world of your story and learn more about the figures that inhabit it. These activities can be used in conjunction with something you are already working on or as the starting point for a new idea.
  • Write a scene in which two characters are having a conversation. Introduce an object to this scene and let it play a dynamic part in the action. Is this object proof of one character’s infidelity? Is it an inherited possession of a recently deceased relative? Are the characters arguing or bonding over this object?
  • Choose a character you’re struggling with and think of an object that you feel encapsulates their qualities. What kind of character might a yo-yo, oak bureau or vintage dress tell us about?
  • Create a still life with words and hone your descriptive skills. Choose an object in your possession and describe it vividly.
  • Look at the objects you keep about you. Analyse your relationship with them. Why are you drawn to them? Comfort? Admiration? Superstition? Write down your findings.
I would love to know if these exercises worked for you - let me know in the comments!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Six Ways to Enjoy Spring

‘If Spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change.’ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Spring creeps into view silently and with subtlety. Take time to notice and relish Spring as it blooms around you in gentle triumph before the arrival of showy summer. Spring is a time of colour: pink cherry blossom and bright foiled chocolate eggs hidden in the grass. Bring colour and joy to the season with my six ways to enjoy spring!

1. Blossom, bluebells, tulips, crocuses, daffodils. Spring is a veritable festival of florals! Take a walk and seek out the bluebells. Let daffodils brighten up your home. Treat yourself to a colourful array of tulips.

2. In last week's post I shared a Julia Cameron quote about the link between seasonal change and creativity. Cameron sees our creative landscape blossoming as the trees around us do. That’s why spring is such a good time to start something new: a new project, a new routine, a new way of thinking. ‘Spring is the time of plans and projects’ according to Tolstoy. It’s also a wonderful time to stop and review how your year is going and to plan and/or congratulate yourself accordingly.

3. Do life affirming things outside. Enjoy watching the natural world transform and renew. Visit the freshly hatched ducklings and goslings. Watch the birds busy making nests in the woods and listen to their dawn chorus. And remember to capture it all on camera.

4. Have a little spring clean to de-clutter your environment and refocus your energy. Clear out your wardrobe, tidy up your workspace and take any other steps that help to make you feel refreshed and replenished. A task much easier if you imagine a host of woodland creatures assisting you, as demonstrated in Snow White.

5. Recreate the scenes of Chocolat and turn your life into a chocolate shop of delights this season. Treat yourself to an Easter egg (or two) and indulge in chocolate hot cross buns. Make some sweet treats in the kitchen. Find a plethora of ideas here.

6. Enjoy a picnic in that interim between freezing and “oh no its a wasp” type day. Cloudy lemonade, iced buns and cheese scones would do very nicely. Read a book or engage in idle chatter as you stretch out on a blanket and you have perfection.

Are you excited for spring? How will you be enjoying it? 

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

February Reflections

February went by so quickly, it seems only yesterday we were scoffing pancakes and gorging on chocolate hearts. I’m quite excited to be well into 2016 now. Here are a few things I’d like to share with you from February:
With spring just about emerging we’re involved in a moment of transition. I love how Julia Cameron draws comparisons between creativity and seasonal change:
‘When we are incubating something creatively, we follow a cycle of seasons. We begin locked in winter, when we look and feel devoid of ideas, although the ideas are there for us, simply dormant. Our wintry hearts lurch toward spring and suddenly an idea puts out a hopeful bud. The idea may be as festive as the buoyant cherry blossoms. Our idea is bright and indisputable. We blossom as the landscape does.  And then what happens? As surely as the seasons turn, our brightly budded ideas must now ripen and mature. Spring turns the corner into summer. Showy pink gives way to industrious green. Now come the long days of labour. We must work to bring forth the fruit of what we have envisioned.’ Julia Cameron
The highlight of my reading this month has been The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter. I’m hoping to write a review of this soon. It’s a beautifully written story in which the past and the present, in this case the modern day and the Victorian era, interlink to create a compelling study of memory and environment. The book’s focus is on the idea of the things we surround ourselves with and what this reveals about who we are. It’s always exciting when you find a new author and I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.
Talking of Hunter she wrote a brilliant blog about writing spaces. I think this line is so interesting: ‘The strange thing about the act of writing and the writer’s environment is the way in which the writer is both present and absent in that space – how writing imaginatively necessitates a kind of leave-taking, an untethering.’ Read the full article here.
This month lots of lovely things have been happening to some of my favourite people and I’m very excited for them. I think it’s really important to celebrate all the good things that happen for you and other people as well as the smaller, everyday things that could easily be taken for granted. Make a list today of ten great things in your life that are worth celebrating.
Three things to look forward to in March:
Pastel Colours
Spring walks
What have been some of the highlights of your February? What are you looking forward to in March?

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