Monday, 10 September 2012

Guest blog with Rowena Cory Daniells & COMPETITION CLOSED

Recharge the Creative Batteries, by Rowena Cory Daniells

Note from Nayu: Rowena's books are awesome - I've read her King Rolan's Kin trilogy. (The Kings Bastard, The Uncrowned King, The UsurperUnfortunately they aren't cheerful enough for me at the moment. I still wanted to promote her new trilogy because she's equally awesome, hence the guest post and the giveaway. I'll leave everything to Rowena now!

I once saw a piece of artwork which consisted of words made out of pots and pans, and folded washing. It read:

Why are there so few great women artists?

A couple of years ago I was chatting to a friend who lives 350 Kilometres away from me, so we only see each other about once a year. She’s a fellow writer (six published books) a little older than me and I could hear something in her voice that worried me. It was totally flat.

She had adult children who were just starting their families and there’d been complication with one of the babies, so she was helping them out. The GFC had happened and one of her sons had lost his job after buying land and starting to build a house, so she and her husband were helping them out. She had elderly relatives and because she was the only daughter, the majority of the work caring for them had fallen on her. She belonged to a writing group and was instrumental in organising a writer’s festival. She was having her own health problems. She was trying to write a book she had been excited about and knew she could get excited about again, if only she could get a day free of all other responsibilities to immerse herself in the story.

Does all this sound familiar? Her zombie-like state of waking exhaustion was similar to my own.

As we spoke I heard myself giving her really good advice (advice I should have been giving myself).

You can’t be all things to all people.

(Yet, how can you turn down your children and your parents when they need you?)

You shouldn’t do all this volunteer work for free.

(Yet it was fun and exciting - at least it had been - and it gave her a sense of achievement).

You owe it to yourself to devote more time to your writing.

This is what it came down to. Writing was what she loved and as soon as I say this, it makes her sound selfish. Of course she loved her family and by running the writer’s festival she’d provided a resource for the region. People travelled four hours to get there. (Australia is big, I mean really big).

If she had been a man there would have been no question that she should have time set aside to write but, because she was a woman, not only her creative writing, but her health was suffering.

As I gave her all this sensible advice about nurturing herself, it occurred to me that we women need to treat ourselves as we would treat our best friends. Because if we can’t be a good friend to ourselves, we aren’t being the best (insert label here) we can be.

Whether you are a creative person or not, you need a little ‘you’ time to recharge your batteries. Without it, the creative battery will run down. And this was what had happened to my friend, she’d been running on empty for so long, her batteries were flat and that was why her voice held that strange flat tone.

So I came up with a list of things to do to ‘recharge the creative batteries’.

If you feel it is time for a ‘sea change’ but you can’t get away, you can still take a mental ‘sea change’ and think about the world in a different way.

This list is written from a writer’s point of view, but you can insert the thing that you love. Can’t remember what is? Maybe it is time to go to your photo albums, open the earliest one and go through them chronologically to rediscover who you are and where you came from.

We spend so much time running on the spot to stop ourselves going backwards, we forget how we got here.

What was important to you when you were seventeen? Did you start a degree and never finish it? Did you settle for something practical rather than the degree you would have liked to do? Did you leave high school and go straight to work with the intention of travelling but the right moment never arrived?

Now is the time to honour the young you. Me, I love writing and art so my list reflects this.

But first some Little Things that you can do:
1.    play music that inspires you.
2.   Have five minutes to yourself. (When all my 6 children were 10 and under being alone was the greatest luxury there was).
3.   Go for a walk. Do something physical.
4.   Watch a favourite TV show that makes you laugh.
5.   Empty a drawer and throw away things. (It’s amazing how empowering this is).
6.   Do something nice for someone else.
7.   Plant a flowering bush right outside the door you use every day.
8.   Look up Amazing and Beautiful photographs on the internet.
9.   Find a spot in the sun and curl up with a good book, even if it is only for ten minutes.

You’ll probably have your own list of little things that give you pleasure, things that you can look forward to.

Now the Big Things:

1. Attend a convention/writers festival/gallery opening, musical theatre, symphony, the ballet, the craft markets, a quilting exhibition. Whatever it is, go somewhere, where people are passionate about what they do and it will inspire you. Surrounding yourself with positive people, will make you feel positive. Set yourself a goal to go somewhere like this once a month, even if it is only for an hour.

2. Go somewhere you have never been before. It could be a town nearby. It could be on the other side of the world. Going somewhere new makes you look at your own home with new eyes and we all need that now and then. (A few years ago I visited my great aunt in the UK. I’d never been outside Australia before, except for New Zealand, and I’ve never been away from my children for 21 days before. I came back a new person. It was like rediscovering myself).

3. Learn a new skill. Pick something that you’ve always wanted to do and enrol in a short course. A new skill will stretch your mind. You’ll meet new people. And, at the end, you’ll have a sense of achievement. (I took up the art of the Samurai sword at 42 because it was something I’d always wanted to do. It gave me an insight into Bushido the way of the Japanese warrior).

4. Even if you are a writer go see the ballet/theatre show/art gallery/orchestra/jazz concert. Feeding one creative muse doesn’t mean you switch off all the other creative areas. Writing is a compulsive mistress, but you’ll be a better writer if you expose yourself to other creative arts. For one thing, those other artists are just as crazy-dedicated as you are and you might as well support a fellow creative. For another thing, the insights that they bring to their medium will help you gain insights into yours. All art explores the human condition.

5. Find a group and get together with like-minded people who share your passion. I belong to the ROR writing group and we get together every year to 18 months to talk shop and critique our work. I know I can trust their judgment because they are just as passionate about the craft of writing as I am. In this kind of environment you aren’t someone’s mother or daughter, you are (insert name) the writer/artist/musician.

So take the time to nurture your creativity and recharge the batteries. Input must exceed output.
And lastly. Be your own best friend.

Competiton time! 

The prize:   Rowena has a copy of Besieged, book one of The Outcast Chronicles, to give-away.

 (Winner will receive Besieged only)
The competition is over, a winner will be announced soon.

Thank you Rowena for an inspiring post. No one can work all the time. Down time is important! & I'd tell my 10 year old self to be herself. What makes her unique isn't something to be ashamed of, embrace it & she'll have fun.


Sean Wright said...

Good advice. I have been thinking about Step 5. I live rurally, a long way from any other Speculative Fiction writers and I am a person that really gets inspiration and refreshment from just being around other like minded folk.

I think I have been using y isolation as an excuse though for not joining a crit group online. So in the near future it's on my list to join something similar to ROR a group where we can crit online but meet up every couple of months.

Thanks Rowena and Nayu.

Nayuleska said...

I'm glad you found Rowena's post motivating.