Thursday, 24 March 2016

Torn between two loves: a question and a confession - Liz Kessler

WARNING: this blog contains gratuitous use of my photographs, scattered throughout the text for no reason other than to share my passion. Their relationship with the words is at best tenuous, but the photos are keen to be seen and have pushed their way onto the blog, despite my best efforts to hold them back. 

I’m at that stage again. The very, very beginning of writing a new book. So early on that it’s not even really the beginning. The pre-beginning, let’s call it. The part where the winter of planting seeds and trusting that growth is taking place underground is beginning to give way to the spring of possibilities; where colour is creeping out and tiny shoots are beginning to show. It’s rather like the change of season in the outside world. In my garden, daffodils and crocuses are coming up. In my creative life, I’m reaching for my notebook to jot down random scattered ideas that pop up when I least expect it. Tiny ideas creeping over the horizon like the hint of a new day.

As well as being a time of possibility and hope, of fresh beginnings and new paths to explore, I also find this quite a scary time. The new growth is so delicate and so vulnerable, I’m not sure it will survive. This is the part of the process where I have to keep the faith, and the part where I am most likely to ask myself on a daily basis if I really will be able to write another book.

And this time, I have a new problem. I have a new question. And a confession.

My question is: where does creativity come from, and can it run out? Is creativity like money, and we need to use it with care, investing it wisely, spending it carefully, always conscious of the possibility of losing the lot? Or is it like love, where the more open we become to it, the greater our capacity for a never-ending flow? 

And this is where my confession comes in. You see, I think I might have started being unfaithful. I have a new creative love, and I’m worried that my writing might see it as a threat and decide to leave me.

The new love is photography. It’s kind of crept up on me. (We tried to stop it, honest – but it just happened, you know how it is.)

In the old days, my writing was the thing that kept me sane. It still is – I don’t think that will ever change. Writing is part of who I am and is the thing that helps me make sense of the world. It is a bit like meditation or religion – it is magical and if it was taken away from me forever, that would honestly feel like taking away air or water or, I don’t know, chocolate or something.

But yes, I admit it. My eyes have begun to wander. I have started to feel that way about photography too. I look at my camera and I feel a kind of longing for us to do wonderful things together. I wake up early and want to go out and photograph the sunrise; I go away for a weekend’s photography course (will this get it out of my system or just make me want it more?) and spend the whole of the following week desperate to upload my photos and share them with friends. I have recently had my first photograph commissioned for a magazine. I have even started to think about the possibility of putting on an exhibition, maybe making actual money from it. This isn’t a fling – there are real feelings involved.

And yes, all of this scares me. Me and writing are a marriage of nearly two decades. (Four decades if you count my early poems, but I’m talking about full time commitment.) It’s perhaps understandable that others come along and catch your eye after that long together. But can I love them both? Can I share my commitment between two passions like this?

I just don’t know if I’m allowed. You see, if I’m honest, the thing that bothers me is that these early stages with my new book are proving to be a bit stubborn. I have pages and pages of scribbled ideas in my notebook, hundreds of random thoughts – but they all seem to trail away into dark, unfathomable chasms or dead ends. And I’m wondering if I’m blocking up the path with my camera.

Which brings me back to my question. Where does creativity come from, and can it run out? (And yes, I do realise that, actually, this is two questions. I’m taking liberties to make a point. I’m a writer; we do that.) And if you’ll allow me to mix my metaphors a bit (we do that, too) let’s add a well to the dark chasms. So how does it work? Do you go up to the well and get your allocation of creativity handed out to you to use as you like, and if so am I spilling it all out on my sunsets and rocks? 

Or when you fetch your pail, if you use it carefully, with love and passion and commitment, are you actually pouring water back into the well, thus refilling it more and more with every act?

When I sit on a cliff top as the day ends, my camera poised as the sun slowly edges down from the sky, does the peace and joy that I feel enhance the creativity within me, giving me more to offer to my books, or does it elbow my writing out of the way, telling it that I no longer have the same need and desire for it that I once had?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. I know that I don’t want a divorce. I want to figure it out. I think that the three of us can work together, possibly creating something even more beautiful than I can do with just one of them alone. But we have to tread carefully. If I want my new book to open up to me, then I have to show it that I have not left it. I have to sit on a cliff top as the sun sets with my notebook, not just my camera. I have to write about what I’m seeing and hearing and feeling, not just want to photograph it. I have to be willing to explore the chasms further, to enter the darkness with my words, not just turn round and photograph the light. 

If I do these things, I have a feeling the well will soon be overflowing.

All photos taken (by me) on a Photography Workshop with Carla Regler. 
Check out Carla's website Here
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Sue Purkiss said...

No idea about the questions re creativity, but clearly, you have to keep on taking photos - they're beautiful!

hilary said...

I don't know either. I recognise the beginning a new book part because I'm in it, and it's like wandering round the brink of a very large hole, trying to collect enough pebbles to fill it in.

However, your photographs are absolutely gorgeous- that wave- superb. Would it be possible to put the two together? A photographing heroine with her actual work in the book?

Or is that daft altogether?

Liz Kessler said...

Ooooh Hilary, now there's an idea to mull over...

Anonymous said...

I think it's probably more like love - you have one child, you give it all the love you have, but when the next child comes along you love them just the same. The love just expands to encompass the new arrival. Creativity is boundless - or at least, too big for me to comprehend. Each act of creation doesn't use up the creativity, but expands it. Which isn't to say that the creative process always runs smoothly of course...

Jenny Alexander said...

I love Hilary's idea :) I don't think love has any limits, Liz - whether it's for creative ventures, friends, children - it grows to accommodate new arrivals. And your photographs are amazing!

Linda Strachan said...

I completely understand, Liz.
With me it is painting. I love to paint and I love writing, but I have found that while I am writing I cannot really paint and vice versa. I think, for me and this may be just a personal thing, but it is as if the creative energy is used in one direction or the other. So when I am writing I don't paint and when I am painting I don't write.

I agree with Jenny, I don't think love has any limits but I also think you need to let go of any guilt and do whatever you feel drawn to at any particular time.

If you are pushing yourself to do one or other and feeling guilty about it, you won't be happy either way, and it is a waste of energy. But there is no reason to do one exclusively, just take a bit of time out and do exactly what you want.

I love your writing, but your photographs are also quite beautiful.

Whatever you do, let your heart decide and enjoy it. Life is too short for regrets.

Sintesa said...

amazing beach scenery.. I like that

Stroppy Author said...

I think perhaps it's more like time than like money or love. You can only have it at the right pace, but you can use it - wisely or not - as you see fit. So perhaps you can't pig out on creativity in lots of directions at once, but have to expend it as it trickles in and that might mean sharing between your two loves. Who knows? But just keep going with both as you're so good at them!

hilary said...

Yes, do mull, Liz! It would be such a good structure. A 'saw this and thought of you' kind of structure. And if the pictures couldn't be put in with the text they could be snapshots all over the cover for the reader to discover.

i can write other people's books much more easily than my own! I am absolutely stuck on the latest.

Debra said...

I go through creative phases. I get obsessed about painting or print making or photography, quilt making, etc. I want to work on that one thing for a year or more before I go back to one of the other creative activities I enjoy. If I want to really do a good job I like to focus on that one thing. I miss my other creative outlets, but I do find when I go back to an old favorite that I get really excited. I feel a fresh new energy for what I'm working on. Maybe enjoying photography for a while will give you a fresh new love of writing.

Kate Maryon said...

Life is the creative force of the universe, it's source streaming through substance, appearing as this... and this... and this. So have no fear, lovely one, creativity is itself appearing, not ours to own or claim, but an endless stream constantly shaping and re-shaping, forming and disappearing. Photo... story... doesn't matter, it's all Love appearing as life. Follow your passions. ������

C.J.Busby said...

I think I agree with Anne and Linda - the 'dreaming' creative bit of your brain can only really concentrate on one thing at a time. Sitting on the cliff top letting your thoughts wander, rather than framing the view and thinking about shutter speeds... But the book is clearly bubbling away there in the background, and if you don't stress about it too much, it will come up to the surface at some point and grab hold of you, and then it's the photography that will suffer and end up in second place for a bit. I don't see why they can't alternate!