The Imagination Interruption
What happens when you leave your creativity behind in childhood?
Once upon a time, I was a creative child then I grew up to be a frazzled urbanite. Inspiration and imagination got struck behind the brick wall that had gone up somewhere between my teens and twenties. When I was a kid my mum called me her Blue Peter girl because every week I drew inspiration from the kids’ show – the masterpiece always required Sellotape and loo rolls. Then there were projects demonstrated by Tony Hart or a how-to leaflet in the craft section of the toy shop. Any of it would be enough to get me fired up. I knew how to make things:
- masterpieces from clay, Fimo and salt dough
- watercolour and charcoal ‘artworks’
- birthday and Christmas cards
- clothes for my Barbie, hats too elaborate and flimsy for actual wear, unstarched floppy cotton handbags, satin beaded purses
- cakes (I took quality control very seriously, as ever)
- pieces of beaded jewellery for sale
- fashion designs for competitions I never won.
And how to make things up:
- plays. I was always the writer, director and general bosser. Oh, and leading lady – obviously. Luckily I had agreeable friends or so it seemed
Pretending came easily to me in:
- performances in Nativity plays, pantos, drama club
- church when I assumed a brave a persona to give a reading from the lectern that I couldn’t really reach
- my head by imagining that the characters in my favourite books were me
- Sixth Form when I was stage manager (bossing again…it’s a recurring theme) for a plays by a frustrated playwright English teacher.
There was always a gap between my vision and the final creation. It was not directly linked to the number of loo rolls Mum had saved for her Blue Peter girl, mostly it was to do with a lack of natural talent when it came to some of these creative pursuits. I knew what it was to be inspired and to imagine, even though I couldn’t articulate it then. In the gaps between the forgettable plays and A Level exams, the discovery of boys and university student nights, I grew up. That’s to say a brick wall went up between me and my imagination until my creativity fizzled away.
Then followed a decade work, travel, partying. Now I call this season of my life The Imagination Interruption. My life was about maximising time away from the office. I became the queen of squeezing every last drop out of my annual leave and weekends. I’d arrive at my desk straight from the airport after a 14-hour flight. Or rock up at 9am having left the dance floor of a local shebeen seven hours earlier. Youth and lack of seniority at work made this possible. These days I still travel and socialise often; it can take days to recover if I overdo it. And who has time for that?
Time becomes precious when there isn’t enough of it. As I climbed the career ladder work leaked into my home life more than I liked. But I hit my weekends with plans to DO more stuff, not MAKE it. Work demands were not going to make me compromise on living life to the full. Monday mornings always rolled around too soon. On my medical notes my GP wrote TATT – tired all the time – and I climbed back onto that merry-go-round of urban living in the Distraction Age. I didn’t realise that I could get off it any time I wanted. The sole activity requiring imagination during this period was reading fiction. Reading for pleasure survived the leap into adulthood and was respite from my frenetic existence. Eventually I felt I had a story to tell but when and how?
I needed to harness my inner Blue Peter girl. This time I didn’t need toilet rolls and Sellotape, just paper and pen, most importantly I needed time to: disconnect, reconnect and write. It took yet more time before I realised that this was the magic method. Follow steps one, two and three to achieve complete transformation from being a frazzled uninspired urbanite to thriving creative professional. Try it – you might knock down a wall or two while you’re at it.
Originally written on 18 January 2014