Shaking Up Life’s Puzzle

Hurrah. Jaquie Brown has contributed to Five Quick Questions this week, with some words on the importance of injecting funny into the system, and frozen croissants into the freezer.

I’ve also added a recent Guardian gem to the Great Inspiration section, in which many famous writers each contribute ten rules for writing. Some of them talk about the importance of learning to write in the morning. Something I’ve been trying to do for years, and failing at. What I do know is when the muse strikes, like Jaquie, I feel this “surge of energy and urgency”. Maybe it’s the Gemini in me, but if I don’t spring into action immediately, I end up with a pile of cut-out pieces of material and all the trimmings, but no apron, so to speak. Too many hot potatoes to juggle in ‘real life’.

Case in point. A few months back, a story rose up in my mind that was itching to get out. It was already late at night, but I stayed up and sat with it until it was out. It had been a long time since a complete short story had formed from my fingertips and I suspect part of the reason it came was because I’d spent several months doing, well, pretty much nothing, for the first time in years. An echoey hole had formed in my brain, and when I least suspected it, creative thoughts began to drop into that space.

I must, I must...

This month, that story, just a piece of whimsy, has been published in BUST, a magazine I’ve been reading and idolising for most of its 16 years. So that makes me pretty proud. But will more stories come, as quickly as the first?

That’s a tricky question to answer. My reason for doing nothing was a death in the family. I had quit my day-job, but not for creative reasons. I wasn’t doing anything (apart from the gigs I’d already committed to). I wasn’t trying to do anything but grieve. But the fact is, the space and time I gave myself opened up new creative layers. A story came. Songs came. This was a revelation to me.

At the same time, I’ve noticed that many of my productive, talented friends (and siblings) have had incredible, often unexpected bursts of creativity and success in the wake of their deep grief, Jaquie included. (I’m sure she won’t mind my saying so. She spoke about the break she took to bake and hang out with her Mum in this article, and gave me the loveliest of welcomes to the Dead Dads Club, which includes such esteemed members as Prince Michael, Paris and Blanket.)

Intrigued by my upsurge in arty output, I cast around for thoughts on grief and creativity, and in amongst a bajillion dire links to art therapy for healing broken hearts, I found this gem on the Stress Doc’s site. It’s a pretty wacky site, heavy on soundbite psychology, but this “Grief to Creativity” article spoke to me best about the process I’ve just been, am still, going through. This “shaking up of life’s puzzle”. He writes:

How about envisioning this grief period of exhaustion – this time of seemingly lying fallow – as both underground psychic wellspring and richly stirred emotional soil?… Can the process of mourning gradually give up a vibrantly alive, colorful and creative spirit and output?

I reckon so.


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