Cultivating Creativity

I was one of 7 nervous faces sitting round a kitchen table. There were notebooks of varying shapes and sizes and a random assortment of pens. I have arrived at a creative writing course to learn how to “Banish the Blank Page”.

I’m not writing this post to announce my forthcoming literary masterpiece, but to share my unexpected learnings from the day.

Observation is the key to creativity in any discipline (whether music, art or literature). Inspiration comes from getting out there and finding it, of tuning in to your environment to see the beauty there. You can’t think anything into creation.

Practice is everything. If you want to write, find time in your day to write (and there is enough time). It doesn’t have to be a long time. Most of the exercises we did were no longer than 15 minutes but by consistent practice, your writing will improve and you will get better at finding the time. To quote Marcel Moyse from “De le Sonorite”, his method for developing flute playing: “It is all a question of time, patience and intelligent work”

Don’t try and make it perfect. It’s rare that the first draft of anything is the final offering, but there always has to be a first draft. Experiment and see what happens, enjoy the evolution and build up a back catalogue of outtakes to mark your improvement.

Seek feedback from other people. We are our own worst critic and it’s unlikely that you will say anything favourable about your own work. If you can find a tutor or a trusted circle of friends (This is known as workshopping in the literary world.) you will get some fair feedback. Learn to be a critic – this isn’t to belittle your or your competitors’ efforts, but to learn from them: why does that phrase work? Why don’t I believe in that character?

At the end of the day do I find myself transformed into a creative writer? Probably not, at least not right now and not without a lot more practice.

So was the day wasted? No, everything I learnt can be applied to help me move forward in doing my dreams.

Finding like-minded people, seeking inspiration and trying things out are all the ingredients for success. Giving something a go takes away that nervous face, replacing it with a confident smile.

Leave a comment if you’ve had a similar experience of trying something new, or practising till you get it right. 

I attended “Banish the Blank Page” with Melanie Whipman, You can find out about her and other creative writing courses here.

I could never…busk

What a gem!  It’s the (late) summer of 2016 and I was eating lunch outside with a choice of the riverside, or a shady bench in the town centre.  I chose the latter and found myself parked up next to David Hamer who happened to be setting up his french horn for a bit of busking. Here’s a snippet of my lunchtime musical accompaniment:


Nothing unusual about that, until you realise that David is 13, plays in the National Children’s Orchestras and, as it turns out has some pretty wise words for anyone . I checked with mum, Fiona, before having a quick chat with him about his approach to busking, being nervous and just getting on with things.

I was totally inspired by this chance meeting and agree wholeheartedly with those words of advice: it doesn’t matter if people judge you, you’ll probably never see them again. Inspired enough for me to busk?  Well, I could never do that…

I could never…play the bass flute

I’ve played the flute since I was at school but it was only a couple of years ago that I discovered there was more to flute playing than the “normal” flute that most people are familiar with.  With a glorious mellow tone, there is the alto flute (bigger than a regular C flute) and a bass flute (even bigger than the alto flute).

Within my flute group I volunteered to play the bass flute for a piece.  How hard can it be for someone who is an experienced flautist?  Harder than it looks is the answer! After a couple of attempts, I consigned my bass flute playing to a nice cupboard  that I didn’t have to think about it and other people can do it.

However, it bugged me.  I wanted to do it, but for about a year I haven’t gone near it.  Something I thought I could never do.

On a flute retreat in beautiful Cornwall, I had an opportunity to sort this thing out once and for all.  In the penultimate session: ensemble playing here was my chance.

I’m hoping that this explains even if you think that someone is confident in what they’re doing, they may not feel the same.

Take a look at my video (password: doinglife) to see how I got on, and for some tips on doing something you thought you could never do.