creativity

Simon Armitage, videopoem, video, poem, travel, poetry

Making poetry from the ordinary: Travel

Proof positive that when you’re writing a powerful poem, its shape can be something as simple as a twist on an everyday voice/situation, or the banal pauses between events. And yes, it can include humour.  And it can be great in a video.

(Video by Faber & Faber to illustrate poem “Thank you for Waiting)

Creative Takeaway Prompt

Do you have a very ordinary, boring situation/conversation/speech which you hear everyday?  Take that form and write it so that you make it talk about something else, something you feel passionately about.  Increase the strength of your words at the end to the extreme.  (As Simon Armitage does, in this video).

Advanced – time how long you think it will take you to read your poem, allowing an extra 5-10 seconds. Have a friend video you on a mobile phone in that banal situation, then do a voiceover of yourself reading the poem.  Finally, have the courage to put it on Youtube and publicise it in social media (this could be as simple as your personal Facebook page or Twitter.)

More video work – look at your written poems so far – is there one whose atmosphere could be videoed in a setting which reinforces the message?

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How Lyrics work – by Carly Simon

The now-defunct online magazine, Doubletake, printed a short but very good article on lyric writing, by Carly Simon, the hugely popular song writer.

Amazingly, at one point she was so discouraged about her apparent lack of success with songwriting, that she decided to give up on that career.  However, on her ferry trip home, a song from George Gershwin kept playing on the jukebox – and she found herself writing a poem in response, asking George how it was for him in his life and work.

As if he could hear me, I asked questions: “Did you buy your house in the country? Did you wait for something that never came? Did you die still waiting for your train?” Every time I asked a question, the refrain “Embrace me, my sweet, embraceable you, embrace me, you irreplaceable you” kept hitting, and as it kept hitting, I repeated it in my letter. It became a quoted chorus in a bed of my questions and observations. At the end of the letter, I vowed to go home and sit at the piano and try to write songs again. “In honor of you, George, in honor of you . . .”

This eventually became her song “In honor of you, George”.  The whole article on songwriting is still here to be read – and worth reading if you write lyrics.  (Thank you, Doubletake, for leaving it online.)

Creative Takeaways

  • If you’re feeling like giving up because no one ‘gets’ you or your art – just keep on going – pushing though discouragement has been an experience for pretty much every achiever (with the possible exception of child prodigies)
  • When you’re stuck and lyrics won’t come – write a response to someone who intrigues you, ask them questions.  This automatically gives you a starting point.

Going back to Carly, one of the recurring questions asked about her was who she wrote her big hit ‘You’re so vain” about?  Here’s the final answer….

Art = “a fresh seeing”

If you know anyone who loves Matisse’s cutouts but says “I’m scared to make art” or “I dread old age”, show them this video.  Eunice Parsons is a vibrant, working collagist in her 90s. She works with huge pieces of paper, ripping them and rearranging them carefully into new, eye-popping pictures. (Note: she made this video at age 90)

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Advice to novel writers

Just what we need for November, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – or whenever the decision to first draft a novel strikes – some very useful writing tips recorded online.  BBC World Service radio has made available an entire series called “Writing Time” – each episode a 13 minute recording.

Topics covered include:

  • advice for aspiring writers
  • how to start writing a novel
  • developing characters
  • setting (how to decide where to set your book)
  • establishing voice (how to find your own distinctive voice)
  • dialogue
  • endings
  • how to find an agent

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Creativity and Spirituality

Erwin McManus wrote the book “The Artisan Soul” – when asked to sign it, he often writes “Dream. Risk.  Create.”

Today, I’ve been energised by his short inspirational video here.

“Creativity takes incredible courage – to live out your most creative self, to live out the core essence of who you are as a human being, the dreams that truly consume you and must be expressed and lived by you – that takes tremendous courage because it’ll push against what other people want for you

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still from the Artisan Soul video

“What I love about the word ‘artisan’ is that artisan bread is really very primal – you get rid of all the artificial ingredients… and you just get down to simple things like flour.  when you go back to the simplicity and the beauty of it, something extraordinary begins to happen – it becomes authentic, it becomes real and healthy and whole”

It probably helps that I love the visual work done by the videomaker Travis Reed and his Work of the People studio.  There’s thought-provoking and eye-inspiring words and visuals.

Enough speaking, energise is the word – I’m off to make and create.

Starting points: Creative Prompts…..

If you’re anything like me, then a warmup exercise helps encourage making.  If you’re stuck looking at a blank mind/screen/easel/page, if you look online, you will find  websites offering free daily prompts (many of them designed for writers).  A prompt is a word or phrase which you use as a starting point – what does it make you think of?  Then go and make something with that thought.  It may, of course, lead to further ideas and end up totally unrecognisable from the beginning prompt.

Sketchbook Skool deliver online course and provide very good, free prompts.  They are given for inspiring a daily drawing. But of course you can use the same word to generate a beginning idea for a poem, a short story, an animation, a new font, a sketch, a print, a song, an album cover, a film script, a doodle, a dress, a stage set, a collage, an embroidery…. whatever floats your boat.  In fact, if you like doodling boat designs – use the word for that!

What can I do with just one word?

Let’s work through an example.  Today’s sketchbook skool example is “turn”…..

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Creativity healing

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detail: photo by Marvin Lynchard, of soldier using art therapy

Just read an excellent article on the website theconversation.com about how creativity is a natural way for the brain to help process trauma.  Trauma by its nature is overwhelming – so the brain cannot deal with and store what is happening in the usual way.  With normal events, memories are stored using words:

 

“This makes it easy to recall and describe memories from the past. However, because traumatic events are processed when under extreme distress they cannot be properly assembled together and remembered as a coherent narrative, and so are stored in non-declarative memory, which operates unconsciously and is not processed in words.”

Creative arts have been observed to be helpful in particular situations: creative writing with refugees, drama with soldiers and photography with mental health of HIV/Aids affected women.

What do the creative arts offer?

  • help to people to remember and process the events
  • help the recaller distance himself/herself a little from the trauma to creatively share the experience with others
  • may help reconnect cultures divided by violence (e.g. drama)
  • it is often nonverbal, so aids those who struggle to find words for their emotional reactions
  • help without drugs and medicinal side-effects
  • an accompaniment to word-based listening, where appropriate

The article I read was mostly about the works/writings of Professor Bessel Van der Volk and his book “The Body keeps the Score”.  Catch the article, written by Senior Lecturer in Abnormal/Clinical Psychology, Bath Spa University at:

http://bit.ly/2qUAnXH