Early hours and I after a while of distracting and avoiding I finally embarked on some creative activity, believing I had little time, not sure where to start, I rushed and produced something I am not particularly pleased with, but feel content in the knowledge that I spent creative time, enjoyed the dipping of the brush, the watery paint running down brown paper taped to the wall, finding its path around the line of the oil pastel earlier applied, the time to myself, music setting the tone, birdsong rising, sky lightening, silhouettes coming into focus. This is the best time of the day… the time I usually miss… the stillness and the quiet arrival of morning.
I have been reflecting on my journey over the past four weeks. Of how this little blog has developed and grown. Of how from nothing, I have created something, taught myself things I had been frightened of, and how in such a brief period, that seemed so long, I have gone from a sense of urgent activity to a calmer, more natural productivity, which is what I was originally aiming for, but lost for a while along the way. I realise too, that art was my aim, that I wanted to draw, paint, make, create, but that in becoming an artist I am finding my voice again and what has surprised me is that I often prefer to paint my pictures with words, rather than a brush. This is something I did as a teenager, freely, regularly, always carrying a notebook, doing the odd sketch here, a little drawing there, but writing, always writing. I had forgotten the importance words held for me, but am reminded now, as I find myself returning to my old ways… my patterns of napping early then waking and working into the early hours… patterns that worked well for me as a student, but may need some adjustment now, as a parent. But what is different is sharing… the words are out there, though rarely read at present, they are not tucked away in a little book in a pocket, a bag or a drawer, they are there for the world, if it wishes. There are some strange, vain and slightly uncomfortable feelings attached to this… to this sharing… and I am still not entirely comfortable with it, not yet at ease with opening my heart, making myself vulnerable, but there seems to be some need to do so… some desire to be understood. I know I am not the the only one who often feels alone, wishes to connect, to be heard, appreciated, validated.
I think also there is a desire to create as a way to understand myself, to problem solve from within, to open up a new conversation and find a fresh way forward. It is something I was resistant to at first. An open-ended beginning did not seem to be a clever way of achieving things, surely we need goals, aims, deadlines to do this. But to be open to play, to do things purely for pleasure, to give yourself permission to take off in whichever direction you choose, to explore, experiment, step off the path and down a dusty dirt track to who knows where is deeply liberating. And surprisingly, it has also been the way to finding a clearer path. Not judging, just going with the flow, playing every day, was key to this 30 Day Challenge, a programme devised by John Williams and Selina Barker to inspire creative individuals to put their passions at the forefront of their lives for one month and see where it leads. And the outcome is often not what one expects. Many of the 200 people embarking on this challenge found that around half way through the month, they wanted answers, wanted progress, a clear way forward, but then discovered that it is only when you let go of these expectations and just let things flow that the answers present themselves and something slowly becomes clear. In giving myself the freedom to express thoughts and ideas in this playful way, taking the pressure off and injecting the fun back in, I found my own way forward. My breakthrough came whilst enjoying a play day at home. Immersed in art, music on, I realised that I was so happy, doing what felt natural to me, painting, printing, making art, and that only one thing was missing… having someone there to share it with. So I decided to offer art workshops here at home. Within a three days of posting details of my first workshop on the web, it was full. That workshop will be held here tomorrow evening. I am both excited and nervous in equal measure. This, I believe is the perfect combination… the excitement being surely what one would wish to feel about any fun thing that they have chosen to do… and the nerves reminding me that this is something very important to me, something I care about, something I want it to go well.
As this 30 Day Challenge draws to a close and I near the end of this particular journey, another is beginning. I find it hard to explain the joy of watching people make things happen, change their lives, live their dreams, see them come alive, shine. It may sound pie in the sky, but for many of those who took this challenge, change is the reality, however big or small, it is always significant.
I had the pleasure of meeting some of the other challengers last Wednesday when we gathered together at the Royal Festival Hall to exchange stories face to face. One man had ridden the underground for the first time since the London bombings to be there. This stuff is changing lives. One challenger is sharing his music with the world… a small step for some, but a big leap for one who has previously thrown everything he has created away. Some are telling their stories in blogs or books and others are finding new ways of keeping old traditions alive or distributing the knowledge of their elders. New websites, businesses, destinies and passions are emerging.
I do not know my next destination… and this time, I do not wish to know. I want to enjoy the journey one step at a time, take in all the details, meet new friends along the way… revel in the joy of the unexpected.
30 Day Challenge Meet-up at the Royal Festival Hall, May 23, 2012. Photograph: Barry Pitman