What’s in this week:
- Writing, including my new & improved writing techniques
- My artist date this week, mostly enjoying botanical art online
- Creativity I’m appreciating
- COVID-19 and inequity reflections
Re-reading what I’ve written before about how to be well and avoiding burnout (Sep 2019).
Writing as healing
My new writing technique is unstoppable*
* Hat tip to My New Filing Technique is Unstoppable
Went into the long weekend feeling much better than I was a week or two ago — such a relief.
I feel so lucky that I had a 2.5 month sabbatical before starting my current job. Because that means I’ve had some recent practice at creating my own routine. Otherwise I’d be finding getting through the pandemic more difficult.
I’m finding it helpful to remember that I do have tools, techniques and skills for getting through this crisis, and to build myself up to support other folks.
Something that’s been helping me with the Achieve part of the ACE or BACE wheel is using the pomodoro method. I’ve been practising and reminding myself of how it works, as well as adding a few tweaks:
- 💿 Springtime Birds • Primeval Forest • Relaxing Nature Sounds • Pomodoro Timer 25 minutes
- Study Interval Music 25min 5min Pomodoro Snow Sounds
Fun & rewarding breaks
- POPSUGAR Fitness: amazing dance workouts, with three different levels of intensity, including low impact modifications (video below)
Fiddly little tasks
I give myself some a short timeboxed period to check emails & Slack, reply to messages etc. All those tasks that can easily suck up a lot of time or stack up into a huge pile. Doing this helps me not use pomodoros for stuff that doesn’t need it, and not get distracted when I want to focus.
Which pomodoro method? What about estimating?
Ironically, the method by the creator of the technique, Francesco Cirillo isn’t what I use or find helpful at all. It includes estimating how many pomodoros it’ll take to finish something, which is not at all helpful for me. Like, I have no idea how many pomodoros it takes to finish the draft for a book. I’ve never done that before. Even once I have each of the 4 books I’m intending to write are completely different — a collection of nature writing poetry and prose, a speculative fiction novel, a non-fiction commentary, a recipe book — there’s no reason to expect similarity in how long it takes to write these.
Instead, I use the method Dr. Barbara Oakley describes in Learning How to Learn. Namely, focusing on the process, not the product; steadily working away in focused blocks of time, punctuated by fun & rewarding breaks, until the work is done. Not worrying about the output or outcome. I feel a sense of achievement from the number of pomodoros I invest in my writing, not from the number of words I write, not from making predictions and sticking to them.
For the companion to The Artist’s Way that I’m writing, I have an outline of all the chapters, and I decide which elements are priority, just 1–3 of these not a huge list, then I start with one and work on it until it’s finished or I get stuck, then I switch to another priority element.
I find focusing on word count pressuring; and, ironically, it makes it harder to write, so it’s counter-productive. Whereas, focusing on ‘showing up to the page’ leads to more words.
I learned to just show up at the page and write down what I heard. I didn’t have to be in the “mood,” I didn’t have to take my emotional temperature. I simply wrote. No negotiations– good, bad?– none of my business.On showing up by Julia Cameron
For me, I ‘resign as the self-conscious author’ by splitting writing into two distinct activities: drafting and editing. When I’m drafting, my job is to write words down, all that matter is quantity, not quality. And I measure that quantity in time spent writing (i.e. pomodoros), not in words. When I’m editing, my job is change words, to add / edit / delete as I see fit, all that matters is quality, not quantity.
For me ‘letting creative forces work through me’ relies on active creative practices, i.e. the things I’m detailing here as my unstoppable writing technique. But, for now, that’s enough exposition on how I interpret Julia Cameron’s writing, easy for me to get carried away; after all, I do have a whole book’s worth of material to share… 😅
👩🏿🎨 Tools from The Artist’s Way
Another part of my new writing technique is actually old…
Writing a companion to The Artist’s Way got me thinking about returning to Julia’s (so-called) basic tools, namely morning pages and artist dates. So, on Saturday I started doing morning pages again at the start of each day, and on Sunday I started having artist dates again every week.
Immediately felt great to be getting so proactive with my creativity by using these practices. Really value having this long weekend to get into that, and can now see how I could sabbatical my quarantine if I weren’t doing my job during the week. And, simultaneously, I’m intending to continue doing what I can to introduce some elements of retreats, residencies and such into my life alongside my job. Redoubling my efforts.
Working to get published
So, part of my writing technique is to submit work for publication. Not done that yet, but I’ve been getting advice from published friends, compiling a list of places to submit my work and keeping an eye out for the opening of the next rounds for submissions.
My artist date meanderings through online art exhibitions
I took this as my inspiration for my artist date this week:
Choose a fantasy mentor. Take time to read their books, watch their videos, learn about their life as an artist. Let them inspire you.101 Artist’s Date Ideas
I started from a list of artists whose work I love, from a botantical art trip, in The week that started 17th February 2020.
I enjoyed looking at Yanny Petters work, visiting her Hedgerows exhibition online at the Olivier Cornet Gallery.
Some of my favourite pieces included:
- Gold leaf and native wood leaf prints on glass, featuring sycamore, hazel, elder and hawthorn. Stunning
- ‘Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter in a Hedgerow’ series featuring beautiful hawthorns throughout the seasons, especially:
- ‘Autumn in a Hedgerow’, watercolour, 2016 – 2018
- Black pencil drawings, especially:
- ‘Plum, hazel, blackthorn and ferns’, black pencil, 2019
- ‘Elder, stile, gorse, and the sheep gap’, black pencil, 2019
I’m intending to continue exploring and see if I can find more of her work online from other exhibitions. And, eventually, to visit Kew Gardens (again) and Dublin to see her work there, because her work on glass is incredible in person.
- Listened to Bach: Cello Suites album as I meandered
- Did some botanical drawing of my own, reading how to be a botanical artist and best plants to paint for beginners too
- Getting lots of ideas from/in Kew’s Inspiration for isolation by Katie Avis-Riordan
- Painted my nails
- Drank mocktails (raspberry lemonade with coconut water)
- Enjoyed the sunshine and shade in the garden
- Got distracted thinking stationery shopping would be fun; but this time it wasn’t. However, I did learn that I’m a highlighter. Which Stationery Item Are You?
Went off on a little botanical art rabbit hole exploration and learned about artists new to me.
Kelly Ratchford’s work caught my eye, and I learned it’s exhibited in London, at the Jill George Gallery, which I hadn’t come across before. They’re currently having an online exhibition, showing the work of Gro Thorsen. Which features oil paintings of solitary individuals going about day-to-day life, maybe going to work or in the office… Has a nostalgic feel to them at the moment, for me.
Jill George Gallery’s current image of the month is Homecoming by Gareth Edwards, a giclée print of something ominous and mysterious (to my eyes), but also of a treacherous storm clearing, opening up a way forward. Which feels apt and poignant.
Incidentally, thanks to that I learned that giclée (“g-clay”) is a digital printing process in which an ink-jet printer is used to produce a high-quality art print; it also refers to the print created by such a process. And the word is derived from the French verb ‘gicler’ meaning “to squirt or spray”. Love it.
Anyway, back to Kelly…
I especially appreciate her colourful pieces, in particular the ghostly and haunting depictions of ghoulish children in untitled mixed media pieces and Party Dog. Juxtaposition is the word that sprang to mind, reminding me of a poem I wrote at school with that name. And, I’m admiring this untitled one and this untitled one too.
Read about Shirley Sherwood, who curates the amazing work at the Shirley Sherwood botantical art gallery at Kew Gardens. She says, “the biggest step came when, aged 14, I was invited to stay in Pakistan for three months. My godfather was the last Governor of the North-West Frontier Province and it was an incredible opportunity for a young girl.” And I’m like, oh, hai colonialism.
The article makes no direct mention to colonialism. Which is why my spidey sense went off when I read “At Oxford in the 1960s Sherwood studied under Professor Cyril Darlington, a controversial and brilliant scientist whose work on genetics altered the understanding of evolution.” And I was like, ‘controversial’, do you mean racist? Spoiler: Yes.
First sentence I read about him begins: “Cyril Dean Darlington FRS (19 December 1903 – 26 March 1981) was an English biologist, geneticist and eugenicist…” Wait, what? Further down on Wikipedia I learned, in an essay he published in 1978, he said African people “as slaves… improved in health” and that the conditions of slavery were “more favorable than anything they had experienced in Africa”. He was opposed to the UNESCO Statement of Race, which was created after the Second World War to condemn racism.
Anyway, this is not an essay on Darlington, so I’ll stop there. But if I were writing about this dude and could only pick two adjectives to describe him, they wouldn’t be ‘controversial and brilliant’… 🙄
It was good to read about Women who transformed the world of plants and fungi too, but that’s more than enough British history for one day.