The Ebb & Flow of Creativity – #21daysof Writing – day 8

This topic comes from Annette Hill, fellow @lndconnect aficionado & Director of Workforce Development at Hospice Care.

“Ebb and Flow are two phases of the tide or any similar movement of water. The Ebb is the outgoing phase, when the tide drains away from the shore; and the flow is the incoming phase when water rises again.” ( Wikipedia)

So.. that sounds about right when I think about my “creativity”

In the ebb –it’s not accessible, it’s fading, draining away. Generally that happens when I’ve not been in touch with it for a while – haven’t written or knitted or drawn out stupid doodly-map things that help me “see” a situation. In the ebb, I feel that loss – a disconnect with something, a bit of joie de vivre fading out. I sometimes try a thing – a blog, a scarf, a project – but I’m sort of unfit & can’t quite do the distance…. In ebb, I’m less free, relaxed, more intense about stupid things. I used to not really notice the ebb- state… basically because I hadn’t fully allowed or enabled the flow.

I would notice the flow of creativity when it arrived. I couldn’t not. It woke me up, some nights. Demanding to be exercised, like a excited puppy. I even blogged at the time about noticing the manic and the mellow.

In full flow it is not to be held in my brain or my body – it needs out. Typed out, written out, sketched out, talked out….whatever. It’s just not to be contained neatly. It wants to spill and boil, grow, spread…My creativity is messy and daft, when I try to be neat and serious. It’s risky and edge-walking, when I want to be safe and secure.

As a result it is a vital part of my wellbeing – my mental health, my emotional health… physically, it lifts me and challenges me, but writing means I have to get up and move too….I’m only just beginning to understand how vital creative outlets are… and how, if we don’t have any at all, things can get bad for us…. when I think about my 20’s and how anxious I was – my focus was on relationships and career and travelling and fighting my body & hair for more perfection ( I gave that battle up. To paraphrase Caitlin Moran, “the thing about fighting yourself is, even when you win, you lose”)  – what I wasn’t doing was writing. I’m very egalitarian in my definition of “creativity” – you can find it in cooking, gardening, dancing, coding, accounting – whatever it is that feeds your soul and gives you some semblance of deep satisfaction… the making of a thing, the creation of something.. we are wired to create… I”m not sure I knew that, when I was younger…

These days, my relationship with my creative muscles is somewhat more equal. Where once it would elbow its way in, demanding space, as some part of my brain worked away on whatever mad scheme or blog or facilitated day design or worry that requires attention… like a hostile takeover…. These days, I’m learning to invite it to arrive too – the deal is I  “show up” at my desk or laptop and it comes along too. That it and I both have work to do.  If I catch the flow, it is undeniable and can feel confounding, big. It’s demanding, and impatient – I am, at times, a secretary on dictation: “catch this, would you?”

See  Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED tallk where she articulates this much more thoroughly

So I’m playing with the notion of encouraging flow & reducing the ebb. I’m not Canute. I’m not going to try to reverse any tides… but as try to write every day for 21  days on whatever may come….I can see that the more I talk to it and access it,  the more it becomes a trusted friend, a confidant, a something beloved and precious.

It’s annoying and inconvenient at times… but beloved.

 

Reflection

I had a lot more to say on this one. I was going to get political – about the lack of resources for art and music – but I don’t know enough about all that and the politics might be a distraction. These 21 days, trying to flex my style – trying to be conscious of tone and topic… it has opened up a different part of my creative process ( if I can be so pompous). The want to show up and be disciplined, to practice and attend fully to the writing, as I said I would, not just dash something off means I have to make time and energy for the writing. And I’m happy to. And it’s been more challenging to do that, at times, than access the words… its an interesting challenge.

What Could We Learn from Our Pets?  #21daysofWriting – Day 7

This was a topic chosen by Kez Smith & I hope touches something close to most of our hearts.

If you are joining now.. this is a #21daysofWriting Challenge I’ve set myself – topics crowdsourced by good people in my network.

—-

Our pets.

They come in all shapes and sizes, Furry, Hairy, Fluffy, Shelled, Scaled, Finned, Combed….. Some say we look like our pets. When I look at my slightly overweight, middle-aged black Labrador, snoring peacefully beside me, covered in grey hair with really bad bad breath…I hope this isn’t so.

But what do we learn from our non-human buddies? What life lessons do they bestow upon us with their presence?  Based on previous pet-experience, here are two suggestions:

Point 1: Death is inevitable

Yes. I thought I’d start straight on a cheery note.

This lesson is brought to you, courtesy of 2 goldfish, won at the Aberystwyth Fair one night some time in the mid 1980’s.  The terrible truth of this story is I can’t remember the names of said fish (In my head it is Finbar & Fishbar, but I know these were the names of my brother’s goldfish, later in life).

I remember winning them at something akin to a coconut shy (again – details sketchy on this one) and bringing them home, carefully holding the clear plastic bag in the back of the car. Either my Dad or my big brother warned me the fish were unlikely to survive the night. I was determined. These fish would live until I was old – like, maybe even 17. These fish would be kept alive with love.

That first night, the fish swam in a Pyrex bowl usually saved for cooking stuff in the new microwave. I was concerned about this… that they might end up in the fridge or zapped accidentally, but they were still there the next day. Alive.

They were pretty and orange. “Why do they call them gold?” I asked – I still don’t think I know, now I think of it. No matter. To me my orange-goldfish were perfect.

After school that day, mum took me to a pet shop (I’d never been to a pet shop) where the fish were bought a proper bowl, gravel, food and the wee man gave me instructions for looking after fish. The need to clean the bowl and top-up the water carefully was verbally underlined. Don’t worry, Good Sir.  I am keeping these fish alive and happy.

On returning home, the fish were transported gently into their new aquatic surroundings – with Mum adding a special prize of two fairly large white coral chunks which had previously been ornamenting the bathroom. Happy fish. New landscape. All was well.

The fish survived for months. And months. And months. It became a talking point with visitors – the fairground fish faring well. Our fairground fish were not the dying kind. They kind of grew and we got a bigger bowl…My fish-for-life plan was working.

Until, that was, I returned home from school one day to feed the fish, as usual. There they were, floating on the surface, pale and un-orange. Surprisingly white in death. Both fish. Gone. Both. On one day. One must have died of heartbreak when the first one died. My plan for old-age fish died with them. I was devastated.

The fish were given a proper burial, in the back garden. I made a little cross out of lollipop sticks and the white coral was placed on top as a sort of marker. Sad times.

The end of that particular fish-tale you’d think…only….it turns out my fish did not collectively and naturally meet their maker, as I had assumed.

The fish had, indeed, been alive for months. And in that time the white coral chunks had grown slimy and greener and greener. My lovely mum decided this wasn’t a good look and reasoned it was probably not good for the fish, so she took the coral out and gave it a damn good bleaching…. Not fully realising that coral is porous. So when, even after rinsing it through a few times, she put it back in the water….

Two bleached fish.

Point 2: They don’t speak your language

Around the same time, my Dad decided we needed a working sheepdog. We were living on the Welsh Agricultural College’s sheep farm in mid-Wales. Dad lectured there & ran the working farm. A little dairy, a little arable, but mainly it was the flock of a few hundred ewes that occupied us. We had a full-time Shepherd, Bertie – who was wee, barrel chested and dark. A serious man of few words. He spoke Welsh as his first language, English as a halting second. Bert trialled sheepdogs Nationally. He was a man who knew his stuff. To my knowledge, Dad consulted Bert about the sheepdog purchase, then went off somewhere to Powys, bringing back a 9 month old, semi-trained, skinny black-white and tan Collie.

Choosing to acknowledge our Scottish roots, we named him Jock.

We had high hopes for Jock – he came from a proud lineage of working dogs. Dad commenced training with the dog with gusto… but after 10 days or so, he admitted the dog confounded him. One Saturday morning, as I pulled on my wellies, Dad said we were going to pick up Bertie in the Truck to “See what can be done with Jock.”

Jock was in the back of the pickup as we drove, face fully into the wind, trying to bite the air as it passed him. My father was unimpressed “look at that daft mutt.”

It seemed we had been sold a pup. Literally.

20 minutes later, I’m standing on the field gate, beside Bert the Shepherd, who was leaning on his crook, flat cap pulled firmly on, Pipe in mouth, watching Dad and the dog.

The dog split the flock. He ran left, enthusiastically, when right would have worked better. He lay down only after several screams. Jock-the-Dog was, indeed, hopeless.

I said so to Bert. Confidently repeating Dad’s assertion that  “This dog is no use”

Bert sighed. Shook his head. Took his pipe out of his mouth and said darkly: “It might not be the dog, Julie fach”.

I looked on at the scene anew.

My father, increasingly agitated. Shouting louder, gesticulating more.

The dog LOVING every moment of running about with sheep – the sheer joy on his face, utterly unconcerned by the yelling Scotsman.

Eventually, Bert could take no more. He shouted Dad back and went into the field.

He called Hopeless Jock over, knelt down beside the dog and seemed to talk to him.

After a minute or so, he stood, full-shepherd, crook slightly out and began running the dog.

Of course, it worked perfectly. The dog dropping, running, shifting direction as bid. Whistles and shouts, calm instructions man-to-dog…. One flock, neatly rounded.

Bert walked calmly back, broad chested and slightly bandy-legged, Dog at his side. As was his way, he stopped without saying anything & started stuffing his pipe.

After a moment or so, he lit the pipe, took a puff or two and looked at my Dad.

“I think I know the problem, Bill.”

My Dad looked up

“This dog. He came from Powys, right?”

Dad nods

Bert starts to Chuckle….

“He don’t speak English…. Mae’r ci yn siarad Cymraeg”

I didn’t understand.

He chuckled again

“The dog speaks Welsh.”

——-

Reflection

It took a while to find what I wanted to write. The title invited an element of “expert”

What Could We Learn From Our Petssounds like something requiring something Proper.

I spent a couple of hours trying to write properly… racking my brains for something intelligent and wise to say.. and in the end, it was stories from my childhood that really resonated… the Goldfish tale and the, frankly daft, notion that a dog might “speak” Welsh. Both are true stories –blurred by memory and my brothers will doubtless tell me I’ve made stuff up… creative license? But when I started writing these tales, it flowed more easily, it was fun – I remembered more deeply than I expected to….

I also felt dodgy putting Welsh words in the tale of Jock – the endearment fachinstead of the formal version of little, bach. Google Translated “The Dog Speaks Welsh” and for any Welsh speakers ( Mark Hendy & Kate Graham, I particularly have you in mind) I may have added something comedy or true or awful in trusting a search engine…

Both stories still make me giggle… so I guess that’s been part of the pleasure of sharing.

Colour – #21daysofWriting – Day 6

Day 6’s topic comes from the brilliant, creative Christine Locher Second foray into fiction, with a flash of colour, I hope

———

Scotland – 1920 ish

Isla sits on the end of the bed, breath held, no sense of how long she has been sitting there, waiting. Hands on her lap. Feet resting on the floorboards. The clock on the mantle ticks solidly. Everything is still and very very quiet.

She becomes aware that she is cold; and with that comes a sense that she needs to move. So she does. She smooths the skirt of her dress, the fabric soft beneath her fingertips, and slowly rises.

She stands for a second, no clear sense of direction, and catches the image of her face in the mirror above the fireplace. “I am pale” she thinks. She regards her dark hair, curled and pinned. Her blue eyes and prominent nose. Her mouth and the angles of her jawline. She sees dark circles and an unsmiling mouth, a gauntness that makes her look older. She tries to smile, but her nerves stop her eyes from catching the feeling. She turns away, her spirit stubbornly refusing to spiral downward.

Today is the day.

She is ready.

She looks down at the dress. A fine thing. An expensive thing. Beautifully fitted and perfect for the occasion.

She takes a deep breath and goes to seek the others.

 

The men have gathered in the kitchen.

The bottle of whisky on the table, dram glasses gathered around it, belies the fact that it is morning.

They stand, suited, smart, hands in pockets, glass in hand or leaning on the sideboard. Some sit at the table. There is talking, gesturing, fiddling with pocket watches or cigarettes or pipes. A shaft of low winter sun strikes through the gloom, dust motes and smoke moving through it.

She enters the room quietly.

Her father has his back to her. Uncle sees her, nudges Father and nods toward her.

Father turns, expectant, arms opening to greet her as he turns. He takes in the vision of his daughter.  He looks at her for a few seconds, staring. His arms drop.

“What’s this?” He says, quietly.

She doesn’t respond

“Isla?” Still quiet. Ominous. “What the hell is the meaning of this?”

She still says nothing, aware that the room is now silent; that all the men are looking her way; that the moment she knew would come is now here. For all she’d prepared for it, she now feels woefully under equipped and afraid.

She opens her lips to say something… but her tongue is thick and her mouth dry.

Father is standing facing her directly, still across the room. His eyes have ignited – cold fury shining from them.

“Answer me, damn you, girl. What the bloody hell is going on?”

 

“There’s no need to swear at the lassie, Gregor.” – A voice behind her. Mother.

She watches her father shift his position, less certain what to do in the face of his wife.  “Agnes. She’s wearing… she’s wearing…” He gestures at his daughter, unable to finish.

“Red, Gregor. Our daughter is wearing Red.”

He considers this for a second.

“What the bloody hell is she doing wearing red?” He explodes, “It’s a funeral for Christ’s sake, no a…. a… hoor’s convention”

Agnes stands beside her daughter, long black coat buttoned up, the cold from outside still radiating from her. She takes Isla’s hand.

“Isla, my lass. Tell your father why you are wearing red.”

She hesitates. Looks at her mother. Mother nods, gently encouraging. Eyes still on Father.

“It was Robert’s favourite dress, father. He bought it for me. In Paris”

Father looks at her, incredulous. “What?” his contempt is searing.

She takes a deep breath. “This is the last dress Robert bought me. He loved this dress. I told him I would wear it to the funeral”

Father looks between Isla and his wife, trying to take it in. “No. Absolutely No.”

“Gregor…”

“No. No. No. What will people say, Agnes? The Minister? What will the Minister make of it? I forbid it! No daughter of mine goes to her husband’s funeral dressed like that!!”

“Gregor..”

“Hush, wife. I’ll not hear it! I forbid this, understand?”

He rounds on Isla “What possessed you, girl? What are you thinking? A Red Dress, Isla? Paris you say? It looks like he bought it for a…. Tart. Get up the stairs and put on proper mourning attire, or I’ll thrash you like…..”

“THAT IS ENOUGH” her Mother thunders.

Isla doesn’t move. The men seem frozen, too. Only the smoke in the light-shaft moves.

Gregor looks stunned for a split second, then recovers. He puts his whisky glass down, purposefully. The silence is agonising. He moves toward them, menacingly.

“Speak to me like that, would you? In front of all these people?” He hisses, quietly.

Isla is terrified. She bows her head, quivering. Her mothers hand squeezes hers and releases.

Agnes pulls herself to her full height, still smaller than he, and stands between him and his daughter.

“Aye. I would.”

“Who the hell do you think you are?”

She says nothing. Holds her ground. Dares him silently.

In the silence, in the safety of her mother, Isla thinks about the Red Dress. About Robert, returned from the war unlike so many of his brethren. About how he had passed through Paris on his return home. About how her had greeted her, victorious, with the dress. About how he had not seen her for over a year and when she put it on, he looked at her like she was made of purest gold. About the times she’d worn it since. About the promise she made to him, as he lay, riddled with TB. About her fury with God himself that He would return her Man and take her Man in such a fashion. About the bairn growing in her belly that meant this dress would not fit weeks from now…she takes strength from her anger, her grief, her dress.

She steps out from behind her mother and stares him down.

Gregor is taken aback under the eyes of his child. He’s never seen her thus. His own eyes glare back at him, defiant.

“I’m wearing the dress father.”

He shakes his head, enraged.

She restates “I’m wearing the dress to Robert’s funeral and that is the end of it. No man will stop me. Not you. Not the Minister.”

He considers his position. Looks at his wife.

“Are you proud of yersel, Agnes? You’ve raised a bloody Pankhurst bitch”

He spits on the floor.

Agnes simply unbuttons her coat, the crimson velvet beneath revealing itself to her husband.

“Aye. I’m proud.”

 

 

 

Reflection

I loved writing this. Just loved it.

I hung out with the notion of “colour” for a few days – debating how to frame it. the name fuchsia blue? The colours of emotion? what to choose what to choose….

At some point on Sunday night I thought about a red dress and the scandal of it… that was a hook for other things.. how it once would have been more scandalous (therefore age the thing) how the outrage needs to be placed somehow (funeral? wedding? although in lots of cultures, colours at weddings and funerals are essential). It began in Wales, with the father outraged in a Welsh accent ( you’ll see why tomorrow) and moved home to Scotland, where I understand the tone and texture of the language.

It wasn’t particularly planned.. the crimson reveal happened after I’d written Agnes was wearing a coat… it kind of came together by playing it through – what felt real or not…

What If? -#21daysofWriting – Day 5

 

This topic came from Alison Monkhouse, who I know through the Shindig and some really good conversations.

——-

 

What if things got simpler?

If the preparing of a piece of toast

was a work of art.

If the bread was sawn with a beloved bread knife,

handle familiar and weighty,

and the noise of steel-on-crust,

the feel of the vibration of knife-teeth as they bit,

was a pleasure?

What if the smell of the fresh-cut slice

and the mouth watering reaction to the glory of it

was gratifying enough to make you sigh?

What if the toaster was a contained furnace,

a miracle of engineering and research and design

a machine of fiery transformation to be revered?

What if the ready Pop

was better than any champagne cork

and the searing touch of freshly-charred bread,

pulled from the furnace, delivered to the plate,

reminded us of how much heat we can take

if we know there’s reward.

 

 

Note from J:

I stopped. Poetry is HARD and I think I’m trying too hard.. attempting to be clever and overly- contriving something. It started as fun to write – some sort of crazy over-blown ode. But then the line it opened with “what if things got simpler?” suddenly didn’t seem to hold any more…and I sort of lost faith….

I wanted to do stuff about toppings and butter – frankly some of that sounded rude – and it’s been… Of everything I’ve written in the past 5 days – this was the one I fidgeted and fiddled with most. It’s the one that feels like I’m defeated.

I don’t dislike it, horribly..and I have as I promised I would  written with heart and what I can muster…but it’s feeling clunky and awkward. It needs to be done, for now.

Also – I chose & created the images before I’ve written the stuff – and the image is a proper “what if..” road-less-travelled type image.. whereas the “poem” is tiny minutiae…

So… I’ve stopped.  I could be here until midnight trying to make it better or “right” or I could call it, stop now and get back on the horse tomorrow, a bit saddle sore, but more refreshed.

Yes. That’s my choice, for today

Trust #21daysofWriting – Day 4

This one is inspired by the very marvellous Kathryn Sheridan – whose work is focussed on “credibility consulting, assessing credibility and building credibility”

———-

This one has been surprisingly difficult and sprawlly… but here goes:

Part of me wants to write about Trust in a work context. 

Part of me doesn’t even know where to begin.

For a long time, I didn’t trust myself, so writing about this stuff is weird.

I think I do now, more or less…. It’s an ongoing relationship…not always easy… but I know, mostly, how to re-build trust with myself when I arse up these days. I know for certain Life’s better when I do.

I look back on the early days of fuchsiablue and I know I felt hollow; under pressure to be successful … trying to seem good.. and fundamentally, elementally hollow. I knew the basics. I flew by the seat of my pants, which was fun..and exhausting. I was surface and a bit shiny.. meaning when anyone knocked me, I was fairly quickly tarnished and damaged. Those who know me from back in the day know how it was for me. A lot of worrying, rictus grin where a daft one would have been better, a bit bubbly, a bit caustic…

I see that same look I used to have in others, sometimes. Typically it’s when folk have just left 20 years of working in X and they are setting up by themselves.. there’s a brittle fragility to some, faking it ‘til they make it… determined… sometimes a little desperate…lots of shiny, surface stuff happening. I don’t mean that in a mocking sense. I just see it. Lots of affirming public proclamations. Mild private panic behind the eyes. Oh. I know that look.

It makes perfect sense. In this context, Some of the things you trust and rely on don’t exist anymore. That Trusted Internal Reputation. That Trusted Title, showing your Trusted Status. That Trusted Salary. This is Organisational currency.. and we can be wealthy within that… but it tends to flatline outside of Organisational Systems. That which was professionally meaningful is socially a bit more “meh”… it’s a kicker… and unless you face into that – the loss, the doubt, the possibility of different – and have a good old look at what’s kicking – it can take you down.

In my coaching life I’ve met variations of this Identity Arrest. Those returning to work after a health episode, for example, feeling changed & suddenly less invulnerable. Their place of work has been fairly static – their personal journey, transformative. It’s disconcerting. Sometimes they no longer trust themselves.. to be well, to be energised, to function, to be as they now are. Sometimes they no longer trust the organisation. Sometimes both are true and fair. The work here, I think, is to build trust in the new self… getting the person to know and understand themselves as they now are – being less fearful, getting familiar with themselves again. The story running can be one of fear: “I might break” 

Yeah. You might. But we are here, now. You didn’t. You haven’t. Trust that. Work within the new world bandwidth.

We talk about “building” trust because it is just that – small incremental moments. Big risks and small ones. Action. Trial and error. Realisation. Putting stuff into practice in our own way… over and over.

I think this is where Belief comes in. It’s integral part of trust, in my view. If you don’t believe in an outcome, a future, a person, Trusting it or them is slightly fantastical. If I don’t believe I can shift my perspective, if I allow my stubbornness to write the story – if I haven’t got my heart in it, then I’m half-in and suspicious… and things are rarely peachy from that place. When you are trying things out, taking risks, building a picture, it’s wholeheartedness, red-blooded “give it a go”, blind faith and courage that allows you to see how far you really can stretch – and somewhere along the line, you realise you trust yourself to do stuff. 

The good news is you can outsource Belief. A good Mentor, friend etc can hold the belief for you for a while – willing you on, believing in your potential, your fabulousness, your talent, your ability. It only works for a while – it be can exhausted – but if you are willing to take on a pinch of that belief…and then a spoonful, then a ladle-load, then a bucket load, then embody it…. You find you trust yourself, in time.

My way to a place of reasonable self-trust was long and circuitous. I don’t learn quickly. I’m mule-stubborn at times. I used to want everything fast, so lost patience rapidly. At the core, though, I was in a state that some part of me knew sucked and I wanted…no, I needed to be more secure…because the state of constant self-doubt was paralysing and miserable. I went seeking something deeper, more stable and rooted…That’s why it’s about “Personal Development” ….Oh. I have to develop my Person?Yup – and the person I needed to develop was one I trusted.

Listening to Random People #21daysof writing – Day 3

This is day 3 of the #21daysofwriting Challenge

Thanks to Sarah Sniderman for the topic.. I don’t think this was entirely what you had in mind… but I thought I’d try a little fiction.

“Liam? Do you have something to say?”

Oh shit… his face has done something. An hour of sitting here, carefully keeping it all blank, purposefully not paying attention, yet looking like he was. Quietly laughing at this bunch of saddos. Thinking about his PlayStation game and the YouTube video he’d watched last night. About football. About what to wear to that club he and his mates were aiming for at the weekend. He’d nearly made it.. another 45 minutes or so and he would have been free for another week.

And now Evan, that weirdo hipster twat who carries a stupid man-bag and puts his coffee in a stupid recycle cup, has noticed him. 

“Me? Nah.” 

“It’s just…when Aisha spoke then…. You looked like there was something going on for you.”

He tries not to shoot daggers at Evan. Tries to smooth his face flat. Keeps looking at the centre of the circle.

“Nah.” He says, defiantly.

But everything’s spilling outward.

She spoke of her big brother. Aisha. Was that her name? There’s something about the way she told the story – something about her voice, about her. The rest of them are angry or stuffed grief-full, or they have given up and are just shells -empty, blank. Some come every week because they can’t believe what’s happened and are trying to..what? Fix it? Feel? Whatever.

Story after story. Stab after stab. Death after Death. Wringing hands over a thing that is done. Over. Walk Away. Wailing, sobbing, stuttering, fury… Like an endless f-ing repeat every week. Pointless.

It does his head in. He knows all this shit. They have nothing new to say.

But she…. She has ……Dignity. The word surprises him as he thinks it.

It’s a word he thinks of when he thinks of his Granma – his Granma with ferocious eyes and a wicked deep laugh. He can hear her saying: “Always conduct yourself with dignity, boy – for yourself and others. Straight back. Firm feet. Heart in the middle. Head without heat”

She would say it when he was little, sometimes sitting at the kitchen table, smoking a B&H, looking across at him like she could see through him. Sometimes, holding his face in her hands, her eyes sparking, her voice kind.

She would say it when he was in trouble or nearly in trouble.

She said it a lot.

He’d never really got what she meant.

Until Aisha.

“I don’t want my brother to be dead. But he is.”

She’s been coming for 3 weeks. This is the first time she has spoken.

Liam’s barely noticed her before – a Teenage Grief-Bag in the midst of a bunch of Adult Grief-Bags. He’d clocked that she wasn’t Fit and moved on.

She sits straight in the orange plastic chair, somehow taking up way more space than her skinny frame should. She is still as she speaks. Head up. Defiant. Not bent by this. 

Her voice is calm, clear. She leaves a silence.

Liam tries to drag his thoughts out of the room back to the weekend ahead…..but she is undeniable.

She brims with tears as she recounts her story. Brother stabbed. Wrong boy in the wrong place. The impact. The ripples. The tears magnify her eyes –pools of liquid colour that catch the crappy fluorescent lights and turn them into something alive and magnificent.

She brims, but she doesn’t tip over. No sobbing. No weeping. Steady. Containing a galaxy of emotion perfectly. He’s in awe of the power within this skinny thing. He can barely look at her. He can’t drag his eyes away.

She has moved so her hands are on her knees, she is still upright, but leaning slightly forward. Liam realises he too is leaning in. He adjusts himself back slowly, tries again to disengage.

She takes one hand off her knee, wipes the snot from her nose with the back of her hand and keeps going, without apology. Those liquid, lit eyes focussed on the middle-distance. The air around her seems to crackle.

She seeks no vengeance. No retribution. She seeks understanding. Compassion. Strength.

“What can we do to help the boys who stabbed my brother?”

Liam feels his throat constrict – it’s like she’s asking him directly – his belly knots, acidic and thick. She speaks with clarity – Her story, voice strong, even when it waivers – even when, at the end, she whispers “I miss him. Every hour.”

Then she just sit there. In silence.

And the rest of them – the ones who normally offer a hug or a tissue – sit in silence too.

Evan says something and Liam wants to slap him. Just shut UP, man. You can’t follow that.

“Liam? Do you have something to say?”

“Me? Nah.”

What the hell can he say? He reaches to find words, but none are there other than: Fuck.

He is physically molten – feet shifting, belly knotted, mouth dry, throat tightening, pulse racing. What just happened?

“It’s just…when Aisha spoke then…. You looked like there was something going on for you.”

“Nah”.  

He can’t look at her. He can’t look anywhere, but at the floor. 

Evan says it might be time for a break. the Grief-Bags begin to stand and move around. Liam can’t move for a second, pinned by the weight of something. 

He glances over and she has four or five people around her, making her tea, patting her shoulders. She is tiny.

Straight back. Firm feet. Heart in the middle. Head without heat…. Dignity

Alright Granma, he thinks, annoyed. I hear you.

He stands and moves toward the tiny girl. All lanky 6 foot plus of him.

He’s uncertain, hesitant.

She turns as if she were expecting him. The Grief-Bags also turn

All eyes on him.

He says  “It was me.”

Her face crumples for a second, questions and shock run rapidly.

He realises what he’s said, horrified and stammers “I mean… not your brother.. I didn’t stab your brother or nothing.. but I did that. Stab. I killed someone…”

She looks confused.

Evan steps in:

“Alright Liam, that’s good. This is a good step.”

Evan hands him a mug of pale tea. Liam takes it, automatically

“Shall we sit back down, everyone?”

My Relationship with my Trusted Bike – #21daysofwriting – Day 2

Thank you to the lovely Mike Collins for this topic area – many of my bike miles have been racked up joyfully with you.

In 2000 my then-boyfriend convinced me to buy a mountain bike. 

We lived in Jersey & I’d been pottering about on an old, borrowed red thing which regularly locked brakes or discarded its chain. I had, for the first time in my life, an actual salary. The island is beautiful and has many places to explore. Project Mountain Bike began.

He researched it. Thoroughly. Regaling me with tales of suspension and light-weight frames, of multiple gearings and the difference between block brakes and discs. I paid a modicum amount of attention – asking questions as I cooked.. eventually rolling my eyes after being shown the 105thpicture of Some Bloody Bike… I couldn’t get overly excited.

I only really got what the fuss was about when I went to the shop. My hypothetical Bike – so far only dreamed up or seen online – became a 3D tactile, tangible actuality. Some technical stuff sort-of mattered (I’d pretty much had the “two wheels, a frame & some brakes. How hard does it need to be?” Mentality. I still can’t get geeked out by much of the Spec stuff)

To my boyfriend’s annoyance, pretty much all research went out the window as number of things went awry in the face of reality.

Firstly, the man in the shop saw I was.. let’s say “physically more substantial” …than many of the “ladies” who sought mountain bikes. I’m quite tall. I’m broad. I’ve got fairly long legs & a long back – so I’d need a bigger frame than most non-men bikes would offer me. This had not been part of the research.

Also –  as previously stated – I didn’t give a toss about the brakes or the suspension ( I learned to re-think that particular lesson about 3 years later, rattling down a mountain at speed in New Zealand, after a helicopter ride to the snow-capped top….Ooh: Full Sus bikes are a THING), so I was pretty firm on the budget I was prepared to spend. 

And I wanted something that could be sustained – substantial, scratch-able, beautiful, but fit for purpose. I couldn’t bear some stupidly priced racehorse of a thing, super-fast but so desirable I’d spend my life unable to leave it locked outside the pub for fear of it being bike-napped.

But I suddenly “got” that I was going to buy a bike. My enthusiasm spiked. I must have cycled 10 or 12 around the block, testing gears and weight, bouncing about… this is what my research looks like, I realise now.

So it was that a shiny black Scott Tampico, Made for Men, got bought and has been in my life ever since.

That bike and I have done countless miles.

It’s been up hill, down mountain, through cities. Along the way I’ve been thrown off it, fallen off it, crashed it and learned how to maintain it. It is hopelessly unfashionable now – heavy, block-braked, the fork locking mechanism is dreadful… but I love it.

I loved it even more when, in 2012, I committed to do a sprint triathlon and foolishly went out to buy a road bike. Skinny tyred, skitterish thing – light and pretty, quick as the wind, but bloody lethal on Edinburgh pot-holes. Each practice ride was a dangerous game.. the high-pressure tyres punctured often… it was too expensive to easily leave outside the supermarket without 4 heavy locks….. I’d come back to my hulking tank of a Mountain bike, which took road ruts like a steam iron through crinkles and I’d be grateful.

In 2013 I had to learn how to maintain it. My boyfriend had become my ex-husband and I realised he’d held the bike knowledge. I hadn’t ever really set it up my bike or looked after it. He had. All the maintenance paraphernalia – the Muc Off, the non-claggy oil stuff, the wheel removal– most of that hadn’t really sunk in. Absence brings opportunity. I took myself off to a bike maintenance class or two… even got a blog out of it.. and my Mountain Bike became something I valued even more – because I understood it in an entirely different way.

And so my relationship with my trusted bike is one of a long and enduring friendship. Roads travelled, miles clocked up and being willing to understand the mechanics of it for that friendship to continue. One day…maybe soon.. I will need or want to buy a new Bike… but I’m not selling the other one for anyone.

Reflection

The Book I Want to Write #21daysofWriting

Thanks to Martyn Clark for the topic

The book I want to write is a long way off. In my head it’s “yet to arrive”.. and of course, it’s not going to arrive, fully ready and publishable, it’s going to take work. It will, in stages, be awful and off-beam. It will be heart-made and contain delicious words – words like unctuous and sizzle, discombobulate and scrumptious; words like agony and ecstasy, like magic, spell-bound and love. 

It will be expressive, full-throated and not everyone’s cup of earl grey.

And as I write all of that.. part of me thinks: Book? Me? Really? the way I use my words? And this way? That’s not proper.

Oh. To be improper.

And of course, such a thing won’t actually “arrive” at all – I’ll have to go find it. The creation of any book, be it fiction or fact, business or sci-fi, cookery or computing, is an act of exertion. Passive speculation doesn’t create pages. Imagination alone does not forge a narrative. Anyone who has published something out in the world has worked that thing to the bone (from fiction to PhD to the “Bloody Annual Report”).  It takes care. Commitment. It takes, I suspect,  research, practice and editing. For me, I also suspect it takes cups of tea and long walks…. Patient friends & family and many pairs of warm socks. 

Such a thing takes self-management, discipline and focus… oh..and a topic.

The #21DaysofWriting challenge I’ve set myself really isn’t about writing a book – it’s about practicing in the foothills before having a hack at a mountain – and perhaps a book or some semblance of something book-y or bookish might tumble from all of this. Or perhaps not. Perhaps my path is to write often. Perhaps mine is a voice of vignettes. Maybe I’m a columnist. Maybe I’m a blogger, not a “Proper Author”. Maybe I’m afraid & I just need to get off my arse and start… oh hold on… maybe I have…

None of that really matters, at this point. What matters at this point is I write. And I write about different things and different thoughts. That I accept the words and topics put before me and I turn those into readable nuggets. This challenge is about that only, for now. For now I’ll be patient and focus on what is in front of me. In 14 or 16 or 21 days from now I might be asking: What next? But for now it is simply: What now?

I set myself a thing. Let me find the joy & the beauty in the thing for now.

I digress. 

The book I want to write? Has something about power in it – not formal, forced power.. not the power of being able to beat another down – literally or intellectually…  but the power of connecting, of yielding…relational, convening power. The power of encouragement. The power in seeing a situation as it is – not as it ought to be – and bearing that enough to see through it without outrage. The emotion that the act of bearing can generate on the other side of outrage.

And something about the feminine – curves and sensuality, gorgeousness and intimacy. Quietly owning a space utterly, in the face of being silenced. The power of creation, the ability to speak out with heart about injustice, stupidity, lack-of-connection…watching the puff and the jostling and the small daily offences that add up to wanting to numb-out and run away.. finding the heart and the wisdom, the patience and the energy to stick with and stay.

Such a book has no clear narrative, I suspect – no neat arc. Chapters might kill it… or they may contain the content enough to hold it all together….I guess the job of a writer is to find that stuff.

But in the coming days – when you look at a book – any book ( and maybe the annual report) think about the sheer will and commitment that has gone in to the bringing of that book into being.

#21daysofWriting

Reflective note:

Blimey. That was a bit more of a Start than I intended.

Biggest fear is my clients will now think I’m slightly unhinged, refuse to work with me etc. High expression. Loaded words. I’m colouring outside the lines more than I intended.

It wasn’t easy to write, in some respects…mostly because I was worried what folk would think.

I also think I might want to lighten up…

It’s going to be more of a challenge to publish it – might hit the button and run… 

21 Days of Writing – topics

Right then. I put a shout out on Monday for topic areas as I begin a #21daysofWriting Challenge – starting on 10th May this month until the 31st.

The list of topics ( and those who requested them) are below – I’ve tried to capture everyone & have contacted anyone who missed the 21. The point of this is more about trying to write daily, well-ish and with difference.. the topic areas will hopefully inspire some good stuff….and I’m open to the possibility of tat, too.

At the end of each “piece” I’ll do a wee “writer note” to say how it was for me to write that day.

If you join me for any part, or all of, the 21 days, I’m eternally grateful…and no pressure. This could be seen to be a vanity project… and for me it means something much much more.

So. Have a look at what the coming days have in store:

TopicAsked for by
1The book I want to writeMartyn Clark
2My relationship with my trusted bikeMike Collins
3Better Listening to Random PeopleSarah Sniderman
4TrustKathryn Sheridan @Kathrynsheridan
5What ifAlison Monkhouse
6ColourChristine Locher
7What could we learn from our pets Kez Smith @Hr_Kez
8The ebb and flow of creativityAnnette Hill
9The shift/ day I will never forget@vicki_mallows
10ProcrastinationMichelle Parry -Slater @MIPS1608
11I am from/ Voice/ The FearLesley Moorhouse
12Bees & ButterfliesFiona McBride @fionaMcBride
13I don’t know what to writeJames Wilson @Jw_consults
14Finding your voice@ChayneDaisy ( Gina Chapman)
15The Power of Music@MarkCatchlove
16Exploring the outdoors for facilitationRuth Dawson @ruphusDebelius
17Redundant Apostrophes and how they’ve changed the world@Liz_Kentish
18LoveNeil Baker @NeilBaker
19Dreaming the ImpossibleKrystyna Gadd
20Nature is in dire straits, how do we communicate this to others?Jacqueline d’arth
21ChopsticksAnne-Marie Garner
22Day 22Rhona Graham

I’ll see you on Friday #21DaysofWriting

21 Day Writing Challenge

I haven’t blogged since December.

I knew it had been a while, but I hadn’t realised it has been so long…. And when I look at 2018, it was hardly a bumper year for my writing on the blog. That has made me sad – I get a real kick out of blogging and my fuchsiablue voice – it was hard fought for, personally, to publish and “speak” – to show myself and share in that way… why, then, would I stop?

I am writing, of course – mainly personal stuff, not formed for public consumption – raw, rough and reflective – to figure out a situation, a puzzle. To hear myself clearly.

But something is shifting.

Last year I very nearly got to that writer retreat I’ve been so-long promising myself and have been so-scared to do. Since 2012, Blogging has given me confidence – folk being really kind about what they read, about what I wrote – people recommending and complimenting…it’s been good for my soul.. so the possibility of “taking seriously” that I could write started to hold some weight. What if… what if…..?

In the end, Work kicked in and I “postponed” the retreat, telling myself it was always there, I could always do it “another time” – classic avoidance, I realise now. I could have chosen writing over Work.. I didn’t. 

And slowly I’ve come to see how afraid I am of going to the retreat (now re-booked for August) – because what if… what if I’m not a writer? What if everyone is better than me? What if I fail? What if I hate it? The simple act of application means I’ve asked myself to start applying. 

And I’ve loved my relationship with my words and the writing process….what if I arse that up? What if I lose confidence? It’s so comfortable and cosy where I am….

But there has been a wee whisper…A little voice going: What More?

What I’m realising is I’m “naturally” (whatever that means) able to articulate stuff – for myself, for others… but that doesn’t mean I’m a writer – I have no craft, little practice beyond the drills I’m so familiar with. I haven’t tried to stretch myself, particularly. I have this voice, which I worked hard to find and share..and I stopped challenging myself shortly after locating it. I didn’t push myself or try much different. I found a thing. It was more-than-enough that I blogged. That in itself was beyond anything my 20-something self could ever have imagined.

I stuck with that…. which means I might be stuck with that.

It’s a slow process, with me. I lack discipline a lot around my writing, if I’m honest. I put my energy into work and life.. and writing is there, quietly waiting when I need to understand a thing or hear a thing – like the most patient and wise friend – but it’s not something I’m terribly… serious about.. I’ve taken for granted that I can pick up a pen or open a new Word Doc and just fill up the page with stuff – that I can access my head and my heart without vast amounts of anguish  – that for years I’ve been doing just that and actually, I’m fairly well practiced at it now.

And that’s becoming unsatisfying.

Today I’m going to my darling friend Anne-Marie Garner’s book launch. She has been writing Knot, Albert stories for her children (my gorgeous Godson & his beautiful little sister) since they were tiny. She has put in monumental effort to craft those stories, get them published, get merchandise and websites – I have watched her with awe and pride…and a little pang of envy. 

She, who says she isn’t a writer, absolutely is and has. 

I, who would claim affiliation with writing, absolutely haven’t. 

Yeh… I’ve got to face into my own nonsense on this one.

So… I’m off to a writer retreat in August. No excuses. Nothing short of natural disaster will prevent it. I’m utterly, white-knuckle terrified.. and that’s OK.

In the run in to August, I’ve reconnected with Natalie Goldberg’s work. Her wild-mind writing techniques are familiar in my work on the Facilitation Shindig and with coaching clients. This time round working with her thinking, I’m paying more attention to her craft, trying to write in different voices, from different angles, practicing stretching my tone, pace, broadening my vision.

And so it is with this I’m asking for a little help. If I leave myself to my own training regime, I’ll do a variation of what I believe I can do and the true stretch might not happen. So I’m going to try a thing.

I’m committing to some discipline and practice – 21 days of writing. 

No fewer than 600 words, no more than 1500.

I’ll publish whatever I write, no matter what I think of it – but I’m committing to write the best I can on the topic – no half measures, I might not like what I publish, but I have to have put my heart into it.

And so to you , dear reader, I’m asking for topics areas or scenarios – what would you have me write on?

I’m looking for 21 subject matters – I’ll start on Friday 10thMay, finish on Friday 31stMay. I’ll try to write daily – if I’m on a roll, I might write a couple & feed them in of different days – this is about me practicing different “drills” and trying out different subject matters or voices.

I’m going to use the #21daysofWriting hashtag – which is already partially established on Twitter.

You can tweet suggestions or DM me on Linkedin/ email me julie@fuchsiablue.com

It could be a glorious disaster or great fun, hair-pullingly frustrating or cathartic – it might well be all of the above, but let’s see…