In April I wrote that I was starting an interlude. My time off would not be rest between playing but some well deserved playtime between years of hard work. I am now three quarters of the way through my sabbatical and have discovered I quite enjoy playing. And oddly enough, I have realised this with the help of workshops and courses!
For most people courses conjure up the opposite of playing. They may suggest an arduous route to a qualification and the promise of a job, or compulsory continuing development to tick an HR box. But for this workaholic, arts and crafts workshops, online photography courses and written workbooks have reminded me how I used to play as a child.
As a little girl I was very good at amusing myself, was highly inquisitive and spent hours making things. From a very young age my imagination was fuelled by the wireless, and the spoken word of Radio 4 in particular, and by shelves upon shelves of books and as a result, my mind would wander across time and geography conjuring up stories of its own. My constructive nature was also evident in the things I fashioned out of a few scraps of left-overs. I would come up with whole storyboards populated by paper dolls made from magazine cuttings and old wrapping paper, and thanks to the odds and ends of fabric and yarn in my mum’s sewing box, I clothed my dolls and bears as well as those of my siblings.
Although this instinct to create and tell stories was curbed for years, it reared its head two years ago when I started writing creatively again. And the “courses” during my interlude have tapped into all those old instincts as if it were only yesterday!
Apart from my millinery courses, which have sparked a fire all of their own and deserve a separate post, two “courses” in particular stick out.
At the start of the year I picked up a camera for the first time in many years. My photos were snapshots of things that struck me, made me smile, were quirky… but most of all, of stimuli that stoked my writer’s eye. This snapping of inconsequential moments took on new proportions with every photography course I did and soon I was hooked. So much so that I signed up to the charmingly named e-course You are Your Own Muse.
Storytelling through self-portraiture could have been intimidating were it not for the delightful Vivienne McMaster’s playful approach, enthusiastic encouragement and laymen’s technical explanations as well as the inspiring work and generosity of spirit of my fellow muses. In week two of this six-week course, something clicked in my brain. I embraced light, photo walks and digital editing tools but most of all I discovered uninhibited playing again. Through catching sun rays, seeing everyday objects as props and even dancing with unicorns I realised that I am not only a weaver of written tales, I am also a visual storyteller.
Unleashing silly wishes
My sabbatical has also coincided with me “reading” Julia Cameron’s classic The Artist’s Way. This book, structured as a course of at least 12-weeks, explores how to fuel your creativity, whatever your profession, art or métier. Daily morning pages and weekly artist’s dates are the corner stone of the course with additional weekly reading and exercises.
One exercise, quite early in the course, involved writing a list of five silly things I have always wanted to do but never have done. We are not talking big dreams and ventures here, just silly little things that are completely achievable. The workaholic in me sat up with a jolt when I realised I could not even come up with five. After much consideration I produced a rather sad list of two:
- wading in the sea; and
- riding on an old-fashioned carousel.
Ten weeks on the list leapt from two to four. I was wandering in St James’s Park, camera in hand for an impromptu muse photo walk and as I turned the bend in the path along the pond, just before the wrought iron bridge, I spotted the old-fashioned deck chairs. Now, I have always wanted to sit in a park on a deck chair and watch the world go by. So this week I did. I walked over to a fine pair of chairs: a classic green and white striped one and a Miro-esque modern number. Once installed, I noticed the daisies stretched out in front of me and remembered the daisy chains I made as a child. Intuitively, I bent over and picked daisies and by the time the deck chair attendant dispensed a ticket in exchange for a small fare, I was wearing a double crown of daisies in my hair.
In five weeks I shall return to work, swapping deck chairs for a desk chair and photo walks for metro journeys. But the girl who likes making things and weaving stories is most definitely here to stay!