Creative prompt: Offerings #2

I saw these jugs early in one morning, while I was taking Baby Magpie off to nursery. I stopped to take the picture on the way home, and by the evening they were gone. In my post last week I wrote about the offerings members of my local community make to each other. When I saw these jugs I felt that this could be an offering of a different kind. I remember my aunt making wine in jugs like these when I was a child, and have watched the bubbles rise and collect in the top of the jug as various kinds of fruit fermented.

For me these jugs felt much more like an offering of a mystical or spiritual kind. Perhaps these jugs held an offering of wine for the local street gods who reside over our community, or an offering of mead to the ancient spirits of the land that lies below the streets tarmacked pavements. It makes me wonder what those street gods, or those ancient spirits may be like, and what they may think of us.

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Creative prompt: Offerings #1

In the area we live in there is a tradition of people leaving things they no longer need outside of their houses, on the pavement, in the hope that they will find new homes. Baby Magpie and I were walking to the swimming pool when we saw these twin chests of draws, and the tantalisingly open bag of toys on the top. We stopped for a moment to pick a toy and then went on our way, leaving the rest for some other lucky soul.

I like the spirit behind this tradition, in which people offer things to each other in a relatively anonymous way. Of course it is a convenient way to get rid of things, but there is also a generosity to it. The person offering the gift cannot always know who will receive it, friend or foe.

It feels like a silent form of communication within a community. ‘I no longer need this thing, but maybe you do. We would like for this object, which has been useful to us, to be useful to someone else now. We will not waste its potential and send it to landfill.’ It stands in contrast to the silence communications of the fly tippers (of which unfortunately we also have a strong local tradition), which feels much more to me to be ‘we don’t need this junk anymore, someone else can deal with it.’

When I see these objects I sometimes wonder if they may be the start of a story, or a relationship between two people. Perhaps someone else, seeing that bag of toys, would have lingered long enough to meet the person who made this offering as they dashed to the shops, and said hello.

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Creative prompt: Broken strings.

I walked past this broken tennis racket a number of times, and each time I thought ‘that’s not what I’m looking for’. But I began to feel more and more intrigued as I noticed the racket had moved each time I saw it. The first time I saw it, it was in a dark corner under an overhanging building where I would not have been able to get a good shot. But slowly it seemed it inch more and more out onto the pavement, as if creeping into the light, maybe wanting to be seen.

When I finally decided to stop and take a photo, it had manged to move several hundred meters down the street, and was almost in the middle of the pavement, right in my path. I felt as is it was asking me to take the photo, so I did stop and get out my phone.

The way the strings curve and wind against each other, and the way the frame, although broken, still sits in almost it’s original form is both beautiful and sad to me, as if the shape of it tries to suggest better days that are now past.

Once I had taken my photo, I did not see the racket again, as if satisfied, it melted away. Of course it is just a broken old object laying on the pavement, and someone has probably thrown it in the bin. But there was something about this episode that spoke to me, as if the racket wanted to be seen, and to be documented, to say ‘I existed’. I think there is something in this sentiment that we as humans can relate to.

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

My toddler is a scientist: experimentation and the creative process.

A few weeks ago my son learned to walk. Like every other skill he has picked up, the process involved a lot of trail, and a lot of error. There were plenty of missteps and a few little falls here and there, but it didn’t take him long to get the hang of it. Now he likes to spend his days charging around, while we spend our trying to keep up with him.

Over the last year it has been his gift to us to hang out with him while he learns to do new things. I am sure all parents think their children are clever, and I am no exception to this rule, but it has been one of the most delightful surprises of parenthood to be able to see this unfold. He is the epitome of a little scientist. Touching. Tasting. Moving things about. Trying one thing, seeing it fail, trying it again with adaptations, before moving on to the next option.

The other morning we were eating breakfast together and it occurred to me that this process is also the process that underpins good art. Trying one thing, adapting it, trying the next. I am one of those odd people who trained in the sciences, but is drawn instinctively to the arts. In my mind there has never been a huge distance between the core process involved in doing science, and the one that underpins the making of art. Watching my child develop has reinforced this for me in the most profound way.

Now he has walking mostly under control, we’ve moved on to putting blocks together in new and interesting patterns. For him, inspiration appears everywhere. We aren’t quite up to building yet, but that too will happen in time. I can’t wait to see what he will experiment with next.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Sunday Funday: Creative Prompt

It’s Sunday, time to have some creative fun. For this week’s creative prompt I’ve chosen this photo of a path leading into the woods.

Writers, artists, doodlers and storytellers, have some fun with this image. Post your ideas in the comments below, or turn it into a post on your own blog and let me know.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Pick up the baby: dealing with writers block when looking after a small person

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I have set myself the inadvisable task of trying to finish (and publish, or find a publisher for!) my novel this year while I am on maternity leave and also looking after a tiny person.

So far things have actually gone quite well, in that I’ve managed to finish a first draft of my novel. However it has been completed while I am in a sleep deprived daze, and so I am sure that there is lots of work to do now to make it readable.

One of the things I found early on was that when I did have those moments to myself in which I could write, I found it very difficult to get words down. I have previously blogged about some of the strategies I was trying out here, which included writing everyday, and having a (sort of) plan of what I would write. As I now have a finished first draft, I can say that they have worked ok.

The thing I didn’t write about in that post is what helps when those things fail. There have definitely been moments where I had a bit of time, and I knew what content I needed, but somehow the words wouldn’t come. In this situation I found that the best thing to do was actually to walk away, and pick up the baby. Or do the washing up. Or fold his cloth nappies. Something like that.

I think for me, just doing something different and physical like playing with the baby, paying attention to all the new little things he was doing instead of working on a sentence was actually a great way of giving my conscious brain a break. Often after a little bit of time I would find that my subconscious mind had worked through what ever sentence I was having trouble with, and something good enough for a first draft would pop into my mind.

Sometimes the only way to moving forwards with an idea is to step away from it.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Finding stillness, living in the present, and looking after a baby

Here in the UK we’ve been in ‘lock down’ for nine weeks (I think, I have lost count). In the Magpie household we entered lock down with a two and a bit week old baby to look after, and little real idea about how to do that. While this may sound like it is a difficult situation, I think that it has in fact been a real blessing.

Babies grow and change really fast. Everyday brings a new skill, a new sound, a new facial expression. In the last few weeks we have had new smiles and a whole new range of babbling sounds, each seeming to have their own meaning. While many others who are enduring lock down at the moment see the same thing everyday, for us each day brings a new challenge, and a new surprise.

One thing I have really appreciated while looking after a young baby during lockdown in how he forces us to be present in the moment. Everything is literally new to him. He see the light coming through the window, or touches the cat’s fur for the first time, and if we are paying attention we have the privilege of seeing these moments with him.

Some evenings are of course very stressful, if he cries and we are unsure what will help him feel better. Some nights truly are sleepless. However, I still can’t get over our luck, and often look at him and think, with surprise yet again, that he is so very beautiful. It reminds me of the principle of mindfulness, just to sit in the moment and allow ourselves to see things as if they are new.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

A thing I’ve been listening to, and you should listen to too: Scroobius Pip and Distraction Pieces Podcast

So while I’ve been getting steadily more and more pregnant I’ve been finding it a bit difficult to do things. However, that has meant that I have had a lot more time on my hands to sit in the bath and listen to podcasts. I came across the Distraction Pieces Podcast almost by accident as I saw that Neil Gaiman was doing an interview with the host, Scroobius Pip and I thought I would have a listen.

I’d actually been aware of Scroobius Pip for quite some time after a friend put me onto his spoken word poetry and music a number of years ago (which you should also check out). I have seen him perform live and he was great. It was also at one of his gigs where I came across Kate Tempest and her amazing work so I have many reasons to like what he does.

I started off by listening to his interview with Neil Gaiman and have been hooked ever since. He has an extensive back catalogue to get through, which I will look forwards to during those late night feeding sessions. If you want to know why you should give him a go I think that for me the thing I really, really love about his podcasts and that is that he is so human. He has interviewed a whole bunch of very interesting creative types, and when he meets someone who excites him for interview, you can tell them that he is really excited. When he thinks something is important he speaks with real passion about that. He also has a stammer, and I really love that this is sometimes present in his interviews, and that he will talk about that openly rather than avoid the subject. I have found the interviews that I have listened to so far really thought provoking, and often inspiring. If you have not heard of him yet you are in for a treat.

If you take a look at his back catalogue and don’t know where to start I would particularly recommend an episode from late 2019 called #293 Stammer Special, with Natalie, Owen and George. For some reason I can’t directly link to the episode but I do recommend that you take the time to look for it.

He has a website here for all of his collected stuff.

If you are into Patreon, which I am, you can support him here.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Reasons to be greatful #8 – autumn sunshine

It’s been a bit quiet over here recently. I’ve been trying to manage some pretty rubbish fatigue, which I think may be linked to my on going efforts to try to balance out my hormones and manage my PCOS through changes to my diet and exercise. At the moment it feels a bit like trying to deal with infertility strips out many of life’s pleasures. At least the kind of pleasures that you put in your mouth. I’ve almost stopped boozing completely (and I was a very British drinker), coffee is on its way out and cakes and chocolate have to go too.

But there is an upside. Autumn is here, bringing with it some light, crisp days that make everything beautiful.

This is also the season of rich red colours. Turning leaves and ripening berries abound. And delicate mushrooms too.

Last weekend I was in the Cotswolds with my parents and my fiance. We were able to get out into the woods for the afternoon, to stumble through the leaves and catch a few hours of that delicate warm sunshine.

Some people I know find autumn and winter a depressing time. The light is fading. The leaves fall and begin to decay. Personally I love autumn and winter. Creatively, I find much more to be inspired by in autumn, than I do in the heavy hot days of summer. I feel it is a time of creative and natural renewal. The falling leaves create a thick and rich mulch in preparation for next year’s green shoots. I am greatful for the fresh cool air and crisp bright sunshine of autumn in the British country side.

I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.

Friday fun

I wanted to share a quick pic of these origami elephants that I made last week for my boyfriend’s birthday. My normal creative MO is cutting paper, but I didn’t start there. Several years ago I became interested in paper art forms through trying my hand at origami. I really loved the elegance of the forms you can create through simply folding paper.

I moved on to paper cutting after seeing an exhibition in the Tate Modern by Matisse. His late work included very large organic shapes cut from large vibrantly coloured pieces of paper. To begin with I was interested in the different silhouettes I could create using bold and contrasting colours. More recently I have been exploring different textures and patterns, including using cloth that has been coated in PVA glue. My practice continues to evolve.

But now and again I try my hand at origami again to make my brain work differently. It’s more like art as a puzzle for me as I still need to follow other people’s patterns. The elephants here were folded from this lovely pattern at spruce crafts.

I also make art. You can things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying.