A List of Alphabetical Advice 

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 “If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”
Marcus Aurelius

Emily Craven gifted me the little Typo journal above for Christmas in 2013. We have been writing in it every day since January 2014, responding to the journal prompts and the other prompts we’ve added to avoid the repetition of prompts like: ________ is a total babe.

Instagram and Twitter chronicle our our daily adventures and sometimes we’re lucky to have someone play along at home. We’ve been blessed this year to have Typo’s social media person on board with us.

AUGUST A to Z

August has a cluster of prompts (brain child of Em) to create an alphabetical list of advice. Rob Cook joined  and it was one of the most interactive and fun set of prompts we’ve done. I missed out on writing them last year (it was the precursor to The Churn) so I’m looking forward to next year when I’ll be able to do a compare and contrast.

For now, advice a la 2016.

Always be your most authentic self.

Behave with kindness and integrity.

Care of yourself IS a priority.

Devote time, energy and focus to the pursuits you love.

Evolve. Evolve-evolve-evolve.

Focus on the present; nothing can be done about the past and the future takes care of itself.

Go after your dreams; passion is your ally.

Hope keeps the glass half-full.

Innovate. Innovate-innovate-innovate.

Judge no-one, especially yourself.

Keep the faith, especially when despair threatens to swallow you.

Listen to your favourite songs in the shower.

Meditate. Appreciate. Invigorate.

Never give up. It you can’t be your own cheer squad let your friends shake the pompoms for you.

Open to adventure, curiosity and absurdity.

Perfection is only found in imperfection.

Quiet time is essential – however or wherever you find it.

Rest. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Bodies get old and tired.

Sing. Loudly. Offkey. For your own pleasure. Because you can.

Time travel will enrich your life.

Utilise your inherent skills and talents. This is how dreams bloom.

Voraciousness is not a sin. Celebrate your hungers.

Wing it. Sometimes the best plans, best ideas come together in motion.

X marks the spot. Know where your inner treasure is buried.

You are both your best friend and worst enemy. Choose wisely.

Zebras; because sometimes its good to be black and white.

If you were to collect your advice for life in an A-Z, how would it read?

 

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Art As Therapy

In the last 24 hours the odd itchy bites on my back have developed into shingles. At the moment they are not particularly painful (insanely itchy, yes) but enough discomfort to warrant some kind of escapism.

I decided that I’d sit and make Kim a postcard. It’s been a long time since a hand created card was added to the postcardia project. I’d had a hankering for a while to do some more paper weaving.

One thing lead to another and I ended up with something that was part art, part poetry, part bibliomancy and part correspondence. It’s a little Japanese, a little Italian-Cuban, a little suburban Australian.   
It’s as pure an example of magic as I can think of. If you consider the equation for magic as posited by Barbara Moore in the Steampunk Tarot: Magic = will + skill + connection. (Something specific was definitely being channelled through in the words!! ) It also looks kind of pretty too. 

Today is the start of what could potentially be a long and painful illness. So perhaps this might be the first of many magic little paper squares to appear here. Even if illness doesn’t have me seeking respite in creation, I don’t think this is the last of these squares I’ll make!

Rediscovering Creativity Through The Eyes of a Child

GomaWe spent the afternoon at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), soaking up the 7th Triennial Asia Pacific Exhibition. There were stunning pieces and plenty of my kind of art: visual feasts that challenge social, political, economic and cultural mores. We ooo-ed and ahhh-ed in all the right places (the right places being different for all of us) and moved with the best kind of questioning wonder and amazement through the paintings and sculptures, the installations and masks, the short films and photographs.

But the most fun the four of us had at the exhibition was producing our own art it in the dedicated kids’ area: masks based on Hahan’s work, crazy family photos from Kazakhstan, Parastou Forouhar’s zoomorphic calligraphy animations*. We adults got into it more than than Mr D.

It reminded me of what Julia Cameron says in The Artist Way, that we produce some of our best creative works before we reach primary school. That we are at our creative peak at kindergarten!

Junking Notions of High Art

Society delineates between ‘high art’ and ‘low art’, ‘art’ and ‘craft’, ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’, ‘commericial’ and ‘cottage’. All arbitrary terms created by someone who wanted to sell something to someone and make a little extra dosh. And don’t get me started on elitism.

The thing with ‘high art’ though–whether it be a professional theatrical or dancing production, a gallery showing, scoring that illusive commercial deal for a book or album– the creation of ‘high art’ is beyond the reach of most of us. And it’s marketed as being beyond us… it is art made by experts, highly trained professionals who have dedicated their life’s work to doing what they do. Not nufties like you and me.

It didn’t start of that way for us though. As kids we are oblivious to this tripe! The older we get, the more we understand this dichotomy between ‘high’ and ‘low’, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (we see it in all forms of artistic pursuits—think the age old argument between literary fiction and genre fiction—high and low art!) and the more we feel separate from it.

We see it in the way ‘talented’ kids are singled out and nurtured, to the exclusion of others. We learn creative success is earned by a lucky few, and is not intended for everyone. Creativity is an exclusive club not meant for us.

What kids create is often seen as ‘junk’ or disposable (outside of their adoring parents and family members/close friends) in comparison to the ‘high art’ adults make. But childlike creativity is accessible, fulfilling and available to all (regardless of age) to engage with and enjoy. That’s priceless. Not junk!

A Life Time Ago

The best thing about my kindergarten was the old red telephone box in the playground (yes, I was raised on healthy Dr Who, just like my son!). When I wasn’t inside making phone calls or flying away to faraway lands, I was painting and playing in the coloured water trough, typing things on the typewriter. I loved glitter, the more the merrier (and I still have a soft spot for it now, especially when its going on someone else’s floor!)

I remember I made a magenta leather bookmark for my father, weaving leather strap through holes punched in along the sides. Dad used it for years and years and years. I also remember a dried flower collage on a cork coaster… it hung on the wall for years and years too.

Reclaim The Childlike Wonderment

childlikewonderThe pure joy of a child’s creativity is well within everyone’s reach. What we have to do is step up and embrace being kids again. It’s the best antidote to exclusivity of ‘high art’; to feeling beyond, frozen out.

We were all creative at kindergarten—cut and pasted, nailed, sewed, weaved, painted, constructed, coloured-in, sang, danced, played instruments, dressed up and put our dreams into motion through play.

Some of my most treasured moments are not on a stage in front of a paying audience but in a lounge room or front lawn in a semi-organised concert with my cousin and my sister. I remember many holidays dancing on a platform in our potato packing shed with just the dust and rats looking on (I can still remember several dance moves from the Footloose number we did!). And other holidays with my Nanna and Pa, making smiley faces on Marie biscuits from smarties, orange segment lollies and icing.

I wrote notes to Willy Wagtails on the back of gum leaves at my cousin’s and weighed them down with pebbles atop fence post so they wouldn’t blow away. I sang loudly in the toilet (my parents joked it was the acoustics) and when I got older, in the shower (they may have been right about the acoustics of small spaces!). From scraps of material I sewed Barbie clothes. I knitted jumpers for dolls from wool I scavenged.

My love of colouring-in lasted long past its age-appropriate used-by-date. The last colouring book I owned was of Ewoks during the summer of my last year at primary school in 1985.

As a teenager I bound my book reviews as tiny books with staples and gaffa tape, accompanied by hand drawn covers. All my assignments had colourful borders–one on my family history had a stone paved border that after page three didn’t seem like such a good idea, but I kept going with it. I sketched Wendy James and Patrick Swayze when I wasn’t scribbling stories. I skipped out on classic piano music to play jazz standards and old show tunes from organ books I borrowed from my Grandma. My friend Kim and I performed Chicago’s “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” for a school arts day. For drama a drew detailed character mock ups to accompany the scripts I’d written.

But the older I got, the more the other creative pursuits petered off until I was left with dancing and writing. Then just writing. Then nothing.

There’s No Secret Password

We make excuses for not doing the things we want to do. The things we know will make our heart sing; bring lightness and variety into the otherwise dull, monotony of life.

There’s all the excuses under the sun by the time we’re adults, not to be creative: I’m tone deaf; I can’t draw a stick figure; I have two left feet; I burn water. But as a four-year-old did any of that matter to you?

You sang loudly and off key, knowing only ever fourth word, but did it with gusto. You splashed paint on a piece of white paper or smooshed it between your fingers and smiled proudly when your folks unpegged it to take home at the end of the day. You danced the hokey pokey and it didn’t matter which was left of right. You poured pink water into weird shaped containers and created fountains and rivers, you formed up the best mud pies in the world with no thought to if it was under done or over cooked or if anyone else liked it but you.

As adults we need to embrace our inner child and re-approach creativity with the open-minded wonder of a four-year-old who doesn’t care what others think, who has all the time in the world to be absorbed and dissolved in colour, sound, movement and all degrees of imagination.

We need to step away from the awareness of  skill, experience, status, money, critical acclaim or any other of the external accruements that attach themselves to creative endeavours beyond childhood. It’s time to get back to basics: the simple act of doing something creative for the sheer enjoyment of it.

So, what did you really enjoy doing as a kid? Now go out and rediscover the joy all over again.

* Yes, that’s the goat I designed with the computer program!

Extended Reading: For more great reflections and ideas on rediscovering creativity dip into Adam Byatt’s three part serial:

  1. Reflection: Why Did you Stop Being Creative
  2. Resurrection – When To Shut Down a Creative Life (And When To Resurrect It)
  3. Recreation: Becoming A Creative Person Again