Do you ever have that feeling when you are talking with strangers or people you know, and you are mildly bored? You go through the merry-go-round of basic questions, make small talk and are left feeling kind of bland. I realised lately that the conversations I enjoy most are the ones about people’s stories and dreams, their ‘crazy’ ideas or the creative projects they mention in passing with a sheepish grin, things that may seem random or unimportant on the surface.
I love seeing how people’s faces light up when asked a follow-up question about it, and feeling how my curiosity is piqued, like I’ve landed on a precious nugget of information, a vein of gold leading me to a more interesting aspect of the person. One of the reasons I enjoy these chats so much is that they open up the door of possibility for everyone listening. They are a powerful reminder of the importance of doing things just to feed our soul, sometimes with no specific reason other than to feel ourselves come alive, out of pure curiosity to see what it would be like and where it might lead…
So I want to explore the inner workings of these types of endeavours with people around me, who, when an idea tugs at their sleeve, decide to show up and simply give it a go, despite the unknown and the fear that may lurk. This new series will be called WHAT LIGHTS YOU UP? and I’m excited to share my first interview next week!
For my birthday, I received a book of poetry from my Mum, called Two green parrots by Australian poet Anne M Carson. It’s a lovely gift, which my Mum took the time to dedicate to me, that short handwritten note in biro at the front making it so much more personal.
I really enjoy picking it this small volume and reading one or two poems here and there, little stories that draw me back Down Under for a few minutes as I visualise the scene from my memories with sight, smells and sounds.
I especially like her poems about birds. For me the sound of waking up in Australia is amazing, the birds are so much louder than here in Europe and their cries are completely different. Just hearing them in a movie will bring me right back to where I grew up as a child. Here is a little extract to give you a sense of how beautifully the poet expresses it:
“Wattle birds wake up raucous.
They don’t murmur their way into day
or carol the growing light.
They ram their voices into the first chink
that opens between dark and dawn, staking claims.
Voice as a lever, they wrench morning open for themselves.”
Extract from: Wattle Birds, Kew
This inspires me deeply to practise writing about daily scenes around me, playing with words to capture life going on all around me. Merci Maman for this wonderful gift:)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #139
Last weekend I got to spend quality time with one of my sisters and with different friends, people who I had seen recently and not so recently, catching up and talking about all sorts of things, enjoying good food and good talks about our lives, how the world is and how we’d like it to be…
As an introvert I find myself both drained and recharged from such interactions. Aferwards I feel tired and have a deep need to have time to myself, where I usually just potter around the flat, read, journal or do nothing, and basically in that quiet space I’m processing all we discussed and the emotions of being together. I feel deeply grateful to have such fun and inspiring people around me, who take me as I am, who I can laugh and be real with and who encourage me to step even deeper into what lights me up.
If you are looking for an uplifting and beautifully made documentary, I highly recommend going to the cinema to see The Biggest Little Farm on a large screen. The story-telling is fantastic, taking spectators along on the journey and showing through stunning imagery how ecosystems work and how all of nature is interconnected.
Seeing the beauty of a deeply healthy farm made me wonder how we strayed so far away from a system that can regulate itself, and this film is an inspiring example of how nature can bounce back relatively quickly given the right conditions. And if all that is not enough… there are adorable piglets!
At work, in the past few weeks I’ve read a couple of poems I wrote, out loud, in front of colleagues. If someone had told me a year ago that future me would do that, I would never have believed it. Until February 2019 I had never really written a poem (except maybe in school, but I can’t remember it). But while taking my creative writing course, a poem suddenly became a format that was less daunting, a possible option in my repertoire like an email or a powerpoint presentation.
As I am moving to my new position at work, I’m changing teams and with new beginnings come goodbyes. I felt a calling to write poems, a voice whispering that it would be good to celebrate the precious collaboration with my colleagues before moving on to a new project. I’m not one to make a speech, but reading aloud some silly rhymes, strangely enough didn’t sound like such a bad idea.
Those poems were not deep, but writing them was a way for me to process the experience and express my gratitude for my awesome colleagues. In the midst of burnout, I repeatedly felt that the working environment lacks creativity and surprise, everything so grey and serious with meetings, deadlines and KPIs, so I’ve decided I don’t care what people think, I’ll be the change I want to see in the world.
Because if someone else read out a poem during our team meeting I would appreciate their vulnerability and it would make my heart sing. And I remind myself that in a few months time no one will remember the imperfect rhymes, but I hope that anchored in the moment as I read out those lines, routine was gently shaken and a sliver of creative possibility opened up for everyone listening.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #128
In the spirit of trying to channel inspiration for my writing, I have been making a conscious effort to be more observant of what goes on around me. I am easily overwhelmed when there are too many stimuli and living in a busy city means that there are constantly a million things vying for my attention, as well as the need to be careful of traffic, so most of the time I feel like I am blocking out a lot of my surroundings.
However, I do find opportunities to practice noticing things, like sitting in cafés and people-watching, going for walks in my neighbourhood which is rather quiet or just staring out of the window of the tram. Lately I’ve started jotting down what I see. Nothing fancy, just the date and a few words to remember the details of the scene which can maybe serve as inspiration for my next poem or story.
Here are some recent examples that caught my attention:
- a little boy on a bike wearing a t-shirt, blue shorts and a ski mask, pedalling wildly on the sidewalk
- a gaggle of geese patiently crossing a busy street, head held high and unphased as cars stop to let them pass, and people on the terrasses of cafes watching the spectacle in amusement
- delightful blossoms fallen off a tree onto the pavement, forming a pink carpet in different stages of decomposition
Has any particular scene caught your eye lately? I’d love to hear about it!
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #121
Last night Paolo and I went to see People, Places & Things, a play about an actress struggling with addiction. The acting was superb, the stage set-up and lighting very clever and the play is so well written and paced that I sat on the edge of my seat for the full two and a half hours.
I feel gratitude about this experience unfolds in different layers. I am deeply grateful that the playwright and the Theatergroep Oostpool dare to address these hard topics, to break the taboo and raise awareness around addiction, the havok it wreaks in families’ lives and the incredibly tough process of recovery.
In preparation for the play the cast invited a doctor from a rehab clinic to ask him questions and understand addiction and recovery better, in order to more acurately and respectfully be able to portray the characters’ struggles. I am grateful for their sensitivity and effort in research which delivered a realistic insight so the audience could feel to a certain extent what it can feel like.
I was also deeply moved by how this play bears witness to the question we all grapple with of how to live our lives in these ever-changing times where things are often precarious, and how manage stay in the present moment in the face of uncertainty.
Just a few words today about the joy of some quiet time over the weekend, spent sitting on the sofa with a coffee and my laptop, conjuring up my next writing assignment. Starting with a blank page and an image in my mind of a beach scene, engrossed in the challenge of creating a patient third person narrator and some lyrical language, I was completely absorbed and in the flow, so much so that I nearly felt like I should brush the sand off my legs when I was done for the day:)
‘Improving my writing skills’ started popping up regularly on my dream lists last year, so in January I decided to treat myself and use these quiet winter months to follow an 8-week creative writing course.
It is a very fun and interactive class, and it works like this:
- We read in detail a 2 page extract from a published writer, analysing the type of narrator, tone, mood and techniques. Then our homework for the next class consists in writing a 2-page double-spaced piece inspired by the extract. The goal is to try out the techniques that made the extract successful. I love reading, but I hadn’t looked at a text in such detail since I was in high-school. It’s fascinating to see the craft used to have an effect on the reader and how words can take us into another world in no time.
- We critique the piece written by each student. Though this sounds daunting and it is definitely outside my confort zone, it is actually really interesting both when you are critiquing and being critiqued. It’s fascinating to see in real-time how people react to something I’ve written and get feedback from fellow students and the teacher. It helps to see what people liked or didn’t resonate with. I also really love reading what other students have come up with based on the same instructions, the outcomes are so wildly different and amazingly creative.
So each week lately I’ve been spending several hours on my assignment, and I’m enjoying the challenge so much, regularly finding myself in flow. Based on the guidelines, I start getting ideas, jot them down, improve the wording and then it is like a puzzle to manage to rearrange the parts, putting them together so the story flows somewhat logically.
Though it is challenging to stick to just two pages, it’s fun to see how in so little space it’s possible to create a small world, stretching myself to find solutions and iron out the creases as the idea becomes more concrete in my head. The great thing is that having only one week between classes, I just need to squeeze writing time into my schedule and get on with it. Of course my inner critic makes regular appearances but I reassure it that these are ‘just exercises’, so no need to worry;)
The set-up is constructive because it’s a great way just to get something on paper regularly, it doesn’t need to be perfect because with feedback from the others you leave the class with concrete points to improve your piece. This course is definitely one of the most fun things I’ve done lately!
Sometimes ideas about what to write here come seemingly out of nowhere, and I list them sacredly in my Little Prince moleskine notebook to return to when I’m out of inspiration. Some days, the photos lead me to the content of the text. On others, I’m processing events from day to day life and writing helps to bring clarity on how I feel.
But today I’ve got nothing! Or to be more exact, I’ve been channeling what I have to my weekly assignment for the creative writing course I’m taking. It seems that while toiling on those two double-spaced A4 pages of fiction that need to be ready by tomorrow, I must have emptied the well, pulling up more buckets of ideas and energy than my brain had time to refill.
So today I leave you simply with this picture, taken after a rain-shower during one of my walks in the neighbourhood last Autumn. I hope that many drops of water, gleaned from everyday observations and rest (and a still-to-be-planned Artist Date), will fill my inspiration well again soon:)