Looking back over the past few months , something which seems noticeably missing on this blog is anything much I have written about my new book Conscious Creativity , apart from a post I put together about the ‘Conscious Creativity’ scent I created and then painted.
Most of 2018 was totally consumed with the writing of it and then the subsequent promoting of it: I ploughed all my focus and energy into those directions because, apart from anything else, this was the only book I was ever going to write. ‘Conscious Creativity’ is about seeing the world in a different way; offering easy techniques to unlock doors of perception as well as exercises to engage the senses. There was something almost autobiographical in writing it; it’s basically a manual of how I work, how I see and experience life and how I like to use what is right under my nose to constantly inspire me. I wanted to explode the myth that creativity is just for the arty. I want everyone to realise their enormous creative potential and I want everyone to connect to their inner abstract and acknowledge that all the unspoken stuff going on in our heads is something to be embraced rather than ignored. Creativity is often pared right back in our teens, almost to the point of disbelieving it’s existence. Therefore if we limit creative conversations and dismiss, for example, what colour a number feels like, what shape a a neat whisky tastes like, or what a scent sounds like, we will undoubtedly be limiting our growth in all areas. And so I wrote a book ( because I was asked to ) about personal creativity; how to connect to and value your ideas, instincts and senses. How to accept getting things wrong, how to experiment and how to experience the world in ways which feed your creativity and secure your foundations.
Last year was both nerve-wracking and stressful, exhilarating and exciting, and even though I’m sure my son and partner would have preferred me to have been a little less hyper, I wouldn’t have changed any of it. It was an experience I never imagined I’d have…particularly because I am not a writer and have never had any ambitions in that direction. I have had plenty of ambitions in many different areas, but not in writing. Writing takes SO long; it’s all about describing things rather than looking at things, getting the grammar right, making words make sense, and getting a point across. There’s no running at a canvas with a dripping paint brush, there’s no paint splats all over the floor and no acrylic-drizzled trainers. There’s just the constant tippitey-tap of the keyboard, the clunk of desperate deletion, and a slightly achey shoulder. And you can’t hang a finished piece of writing on the wall to feel the glow of it’s colour on your face. You can’t take a chapter to the framers and you can’t stare at an article and feel something innate simply by looking at it. With writing you have to open the computer, distance yourself from distraction, and go off into some other world. I understand that lots of people love writing, but I am not one of them; it feels awkward and as if I’m in new territory, emotionally and creatively, which I’m completely unfamiliar with. I think as a consequence of this unfamiliarity, last year meant that I wasn’t able to keep on top of all my nice little organisational systems which I’d forged for myself pre book. This year, copious amounts of photographs still lurk uncategorised, my computer and iphone storage is bulging at its Apple core, and yet I have been defiantly ignoring everything that needs to be done to fix it all…
For the last 6 weeks I’ve been teaching and encouraging a group of students in my online class to explore more fully the concepts and chapters I write about in my book. I hear myself advising students to ‘Do the things you don’t feel comfortable doing’…We all need to explore the ugly places, look at the dark shadows; the ones lurking in street corners as well as the ones hiding inside your deeper self. To discover what it is you don’t like and why you don’t like it is a crucial juxtaposition to all that you find easy and attractive. These sorts of investigations, difficult as they often are to face, have the potential to ripen and develop into wonderful personal projects. This is the way to new discoveries and I really feel that seeing new things, hearing new sounds, tasting new foods and totally engaging with your senses is the most authentic way to grow creatively…However, as I am fundamentally a sensory person; a person with synaesthesia and a person obsessed with abstract images, colours, smells and tastes, I am becoming increasingly aware that I keep avoiding, and even dismissing, the fact that the written word plays a huge part in all this.
I wrote my book not only pretending that I was an author, but also, I think, pretending that it wasn’t writing at all; it was just chatting, like an encouraging teacher might chat. The words which I had to tippitey-tap out on the computer were an inconvenience to overcome in order to get people doing stuff. To get people out of their heads, away from reading the words and away from thinking that because it’s been read it’s been done. Even as I’m writing this the words are getting on my nerves and I have the dread sense that I’m repeating myself. Working out the words gets in the way of how I feel and getting in the way of the shapes I want to express. I have to conjure words in my head and arrange them on this screen, rather than mixing paints on a palette and daubing un-interpretable marks on a canvas. To share my thoughts with you I must converse in this universal, wordy way.
I feel like I’ve fought against writing and reading all my life; words are black and white and have regular shapes, they are not Bismuth Yellow, Quinacridone Crimson and amorphous…but now here I am on my blog writing probably more words in this one post than have appeared on my blog in the past 3 years!
Do I have a point? Well, yes, sort of…I think so… ‘Do the things you don’t feel comfortable doing’... It’s my own phrase and a phrase which has been sitting rather awkwardly on my shoulder recently.
In tandem with my online class students, I will go out myself and do lots of the homework exercises I set because I like to be able to talk about fresh and personal experiences in my Live sessions. I also genuinely love doing them; it feels like a treat and I often feel completely inspired afterwards. I do try to experience places and things which are out of my norm, ugly or strange, but this way of working is where I really feel creatively comfortable.
‘Do the things you don’t feel comfortable doing’…Well, I don’t feel at all comfortable writing loads of words. I feel like I’m betraying the person I’ve told everyone I am for the last 25 years! I also tell people that the exercises in my book are there to help you grow in any discipline across the board, not just painting and photography. So why then I am I so reticent to acknowledge my writing ( nb. I deleted the word ’embracing in favour of ‘acknowledge’ as it felt much less affectionate…that kind of says it all! ). The answer is ‘I really don’t know’, but I do feel that the time has come to consciously explore these unchartered wordy waters, just to see what happens and to see where it takes me. I can’t exclude pictures from this new territory; that would just be a terrifying step too far at the moment, but I do want to try and at least play with some of my own advice. I don’t want to be hiding behind my words like some self-satisfied creative guru, I want to move forward; I want to mean what I say.
“Creativity is about discovering your own ways of working, your own unique practice, and growing the confidence needed to accept that. It’s not about learning how to create something like everyone else, it’s about learning how to acknowledge the true value of what you do.” – Conscious Creativity, Introduction, Page 9
( The photographs below are an assortment from the book launch, the book press workshops, various stills of the book and experiments from various chapters…the cider was gifted by Wyld Wood Organic Cider, the Kombucha by Old Tree Brewery, Brighton, Chocolates and Tea and Cake from Fortnum and Mason, Flower installations by Kate Langdale Florist, Scent from The Experimental Perfume Club and the Venue and food from The Regency Townhouse, Brighton and Paul Couchman )
( photo above taken by Julia Smith from www.humphreyandgrace.co.uk ) ‘Conscious Creativity’ was released last November and is now being stocked all over the country and online as well as in Foyles, The Tate Modern, Anthropologie, Waterstones and The National Gallery. It is currently in its 5th printing.