Monday, December 24

The Expansion of my Creative Circle


I've heard it said that taking a bath is a great way to get ideas, and I think that it must be due to the way in which you tend to unwind and clear your head while you're bathing.  Up until this morning, I had never had a flash of genius in this way.  But then, today, the circumstances were perfect.  I had just woken up.  I hadn't eaten, hadn't looked in a mirror.  My mind was still so sluggish with sleep, that as I enjoyed the warm water, I wasn't really thinking about anything in particular.  

Then it hit me.  It hit me so suddenly and was so overwhelming, being the first proper thought to cross my mind.  I hurriedly finished my bath, dressed and sat down to tell my brother all about it, before I gave it any more thought.  I see now that it was a good thing I did.  


In the past, I have regretted my tendency to lock onto an idea too quickly.  The affect of this is that what should have been a loose and flexible concept is instead concreted indelibly into my head.  I don't add to it, I don't change it, I don't stray from my circle of comfort.  My creative circle has always been so small and limiting. 

Today, I took my little spark of an idea to my brother.  He has always been a huge help to me, (ideas-wise), because he has the natural ability to push the creative circle.  Maybe it was the warm bath that loosened me up a bit, but today, I ran with him.  I refused to allow myself to squeal as my creative circle was tugged and stretched into an oval, squeezed into a square, dragged into a spiral.  

I think for the first time ever, I reached a point where I could take wild and wonderful ideas on board.  For the first time ever, I hadn't given myself the chance to concrete my ideas.  Instead, I held them lightly to the side as I raced down different avenues.  I accepted this or that suggestion, and thought it through until the craziness even made sense.  


I had recently come to the conclusion that I often denied myself the freedom to invent.  Once again, I was limited by my tiny creative circle.  Even though I was playing with the fantasy genre, I wasn't giving myself permission to be wildly imaginative.  I always wanted everything to make sense.  I was scared of the idea becoming too big to handle.  But that's what it's all about.  Ideas are dangerous, and writer's have the great opportunity to play with this fire.  

Today, a great event took place.  I have handed myself the key to my caged creativity.  

Wednesday, December 19

The Merits of Dating Girls Who Read

A while ago, I spent a few hours on the site, Stumbleupon, hoping to... well, stumble upon... something interesting.  I found this little site on which someone had posted this story, or perhaps more accurately, love letter.  Being a reader and writer myself, this sweet and simple reflection gives me so much to be happy about.  It also reminds me that our love of reading is a beautiful gift to us, that people can admire and value because of the positive influence it has in our lives.  Have a read.  I was in a soppy mood, and if you are too, it might be just what you need:
Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books.Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.
Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.
She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.
Buy her another cup of coffee.
Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.
It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.
She has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.
Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.
Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.
If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.
You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.
You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.
Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.”
Or better yet, date a girl who writes.
By: Rosemarie Urquico.  (Via  

Tuesday, December 18

The Man Running Past

I cannot apologise enough for not posting recently - my reading life, my working life and basically my life in general has been in no order for accomodating regular posting.  However, I am today dipping from a passage that I read a few weeks ago, and which I thought was something very important.  Have a read.

If one is walking along a street at night and a man who can be seen a long way off - for the street slopes uphill ahead of us and the moon is full - comes running towards us, then we shan't lay hands on him, even if he's feeble and ragged, even if someone else is running after him and shouting, but we'll let him run on.  
For it is nighttime, and we can't help it if the street does slope uphill ahead of us in the full moon, and besides, perhaps these two have organised the chase for their own amusement, perhaps they are both of them pursuing a third man, perhaps the first man is being unjustly pursued, perhaps the second man intends to kill him and we would be implicated in the murder, perhaps the two know nothing of each other and each is simply running home to bed on his own initiative, perhaps they are sleepwalkers, perhaps the first man is armed.  
And after all, haven't we a right to be tired, have we drunk so much wine?  We're glad that we can't see the second man anymore either.  
Frankz Kafka.  Meditation.  

This is a simple little reflective story from Kafkas' compilation of meditations.  I think this serves to jolt any readers into a great habit - can we consider every view, imagine every consequence and cause, and realise how other people are feeling?  I never would have imagined that this simple scenario could lead to so many strands of cause and effect.  What a mind-opening lesson to learn!  

Friday, November 23

Limejuice Creativity

She stared at the blank, white page.  As she urgently rifled through her thoughts, hoping to fill the page within the next hour, she was skeptical that she could.  Her ideas were little black ants, scurrying, nipping the backs of her hands.
            She had only just had her hair dyed orange.  She asked for the colour of Ron Weasley’s hair, but instead, it was very bright, and still dark at the ends, which was unfortunately nothing like Ron’s.  She did like it, however.  She wasn’t sure whether she still looked like herself, though, especially since she had to keep peeking into mirrors or shop window reflections to remind herself that she was no longer a brunette.  The canny, chemical smell made her even more excited to shampoo it, but the hairdresser had instructed her against this until a few days had gone by, in order to allow the colour to “set in”.  She had imagined how chirpy and cheery it would look against all her blue and green clothes, but as yet, it only managed to achieve a semi-rock-goth appearance against her vibrant clothes.  She hoped that this would change after she washed it.
            A few days ago, she had started researching publishers.  She had completed her first novel, only a month ago.  Reading made her belittle her ability, as she couldn’t refrain from constantly comparing it to this or that great author.  But her mother urged her to trust in her talent.  She knew deep inside, however much she fretted and one-sidedly argued her inadequacies, that everything that she did would help her to grow – that she was continuously growing as she fed more and more into her writing with every word she wrote.
             And she wasn’t a bad writer.  She just wasn’t published yet.  She just felt too young and too new to it all to be anything particularly exciting.  She thought a lot and enthused, (or did she complain?) to her mother about how beautifully Harry Potter was written, and how J.K. Rowling was a genius of children’s literature because she did everything right: she wrote stories that were loved by both parents and children; she created places that appealed to every imagination; wrote characters that anyone could empathise with and relate to; and coated it all with generally beautiful writing.
            She was frustrated by her inability to come up with good storylines.  Her last storyline, she felt, was extremely limited.  She wasn’t unsatisfied with it, as such, because it worked in that context.  It didn’t need to be bigger or better than it was.  But she was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to make a bigger or better storyline when she needed to.  She felt that if her creativity was a big juicy lime, she was squeezing her plot from it with her hand.  But once she had sapped her strength and juiced it as much as she was able, there was still only a little trickle of limejuice in her glass, and so much juicy pulp left which she just wasn’t strong enough to squeeeeeze out.    A huge, multi-faceted, exciting plot like Harry Potter, she didn’t think she was capable of imagining from scratch.  Her last plot, as appropriate as it was, really had no action, no big conflict, no danger.
            She wondered, after all her pondering, what she would end up actually doing. 

Copyright © 2012 by Paige E. Hadley.  All rights reserved.
No part of this work may be reproduced without prior permission of the copyright owner. 

Monday, November 19

The Power of Storytelling

I had the revelation after finishing my first book, that I can tell a story.  Now for me, this does not consist of merely entertaining readers, but of painting times, places and people from every century of history, putting them into perspective for a person sitting quietly at home, and blow that person's expectations, understanding and opinions out of the water.  

It means to be able to affect people.  The reading that you do as a child especially, shapes and moulds you into the person you grow to become, by giving you experiences and insight, friends and hardships.  As a storyteller, you have the ability to provide this learning.  Storytellers have the ability to say a thing, however small or large, however distressing or thought-provoking, that will be heard by many, but for which they cannot be persecuted.  

Not only does the story act as a shield against controversy, but the story is a vehicle for ultimate truth.  The fact is that when you hear a story, your mind does not necessarily pick out the point straight away, but might instead require moments of reflection to understand.  Metaphors, allegories, similes make things so much easier to understand, and easier to accept.  My dad visited a gallery of modern art recently, during a postmodernism exhibition.  One piece was a film in which three baby bird sock-puppets chatted with child voices about the sad event of losing their home tree to urbanisation.  Half way through the film, the audience realised suddenly that these sweet little birds that they were so content to watch in fact used the voices of children of the Stolen Generations to speak.  These voices - these truths - were taken from something entirely different and given different personas, a new story, to which an audience had a greater ability to listen.  They were not confronted with emotionally-charged accounts of horrific events, but instead listened with empathy and connection to baby birds.  Once they understood what the story was really about, they were able to now look upon the real children of the Stolen Generations with real understanding, and see them as precious, innocent, fragile young children.  

Storytelling has unrivalled power to say what cannot be said plainly - to make clearer the parts of tangled issues - to provoke every reader to observe and reflect on things they never considered before - to help each reader connect to people from whom they are divided by time and space, as well as those closest to them.  

Monday, November 5

Yes No Maybe

I am notorious for becoming suddenly passionate about a thing, going all out on it, and then losing interest.  Well, maybe not notorious exactly, for I have actually stuck to a good many things too: my cello and my (finished) book.  But when all of a sudden I realised that I would really like to own my own typewriter... I doubted myself at the same time as becoming hugely excited. 

I've always been one of those people who are annoyingly stubborn about something small and often sentimental, and then change their mind when they realise that the new way is actually better.  (Things like books, however, nothing in the world could make me read e-books.  That's not negotiable now or ever.)  However, this propensity of mine makes me wonder whether or not writing on a typewriter would be a good idea or not. 

I've found that since I've started typing my work rather than handwriting it, I have had a much better flow and control of my writing and creativity.  Sometimes I've felt that by the time my hand has finished slogging away at that sentence with that scratchy pencil, my mind has been swept too far ahead and has gone and run itself aground.  Typing has allowed me to keep up with my thought process, and also to make spontaneous decisions and changes to what I've already written.  In most contexts, my typed writing has been better than my hand-written.

However, this leads me to wonder what the effect of type-writing would be on my work.  I am very aware of the personality a typewriter has - I remember long ago my Dad quoted someone, which I automatically believed to be C.S. Lewis but probably wasn't, about the connection they formed with their typewriter, as if it was a very sweet, trotting pony whose peculiar gait he had become so fond of.  I like to harbour the idea that a typewriter would be good for my creativity, that I too would find a lovable, ambling pony within that machine, and that he and I would canter into some great adventures, each step of which would be marked by the hoofbeat of a typed letter and a ding of a chombing bit between pony teeth as we reached the end of a line.  Would it give me more freedom to play with visual literacy?  Would it give me a medium for greater connection with my writing?  Would it force me to accept what I had written, and edit later as all the writers tell you over and over that you should do? 

I don't know.  For me, the obvious answer is to give it a go.  But should I fan this passion?  Type first, edit on a computer afterwards?  Yes!  No.  Maybe...

Monday, October 29

Peter Pan

My highschool graduation is only two weeks and a half away.  At the start of the year, I dreaded it.  At the end of my third term holidays, to finish was all I wanted.  And now, only two and a half weeks from the date that has caused me so many mixed emotions, a new concern sets in.  

I am struggling to come to terms with the idea of growing up.  This is not about being scared to go to university, or about the new expectations, responsibilities, and opportunities that I'll be presented with as I grow up.  This is about me being a child.  I am not scared at all about losing my inner child or my sense of wonderment as I grow up, but I am having a sort of mid-way to mid-way-to-midlife-crisis crisis involving my status as a child.  

Frankly, I don't feel that I'm old enough to leave school, go to university, drive a car etcetera etcetera.  For goodness sake, I look exactly like I did in my preschool photo.  My chubby cheeks are hereditary (apparently) and I'll never grow out of them.  I even have the same haircut.  Last year's grade 12 students looked years older than us, and acted older too.  But when I'm feeling emotional, there is often nothing that I feel I need more than Mum's hug.  Sometimes I am in a position (most commonly connected to using public transport) where I feel I desperately need to have Dad say "it's alright, we won't miss the stop", or just take me out of that situation entirely by giving me a lift and not putting me through the torment of bussing it.  

Emotionally, I am not grown up.  I am not independent and super-confident.  I can't drive, I don't have a mobile phone, the furthest from home I've been by  myself is the shopping centre half an hour away.  I get scared on public transport, and I do need to cry to someone every now and again.  And it's alright, because I'm still so very young, and I don't have to be yet.  But if feels like ending school is the point where I have to stop being a kid.  It's not and I don't need to convince myself that it is.  Perhaps in this way, I'm far behind a lot of kids my age - kids who are desperate to ditch their homes and parents to live independent lives.  But maybe my concerns about growing up are an advantage, as I get to see the value that my family has to me for security and validation.  

Monday, October 15

Art to Understanding

Since finishing my book, (I am editing, illustrating and thinking about publication), I have found a new level of contentment, excitement, aspiration, and inspiration.  I never realised it at the time, but now reflecting on my writing process, I understand that writing, and most importantly, finishing that book was an emotional breakthrough for me.  I wasn't struggling through emotional turmoil so much as I was proving to myself that I could do it.  I could write a book.  The whole thing was completely instinctive and intrinsic.  It was as though my body knew better than I did its motives for inspiration and passion.  And now, alive and well on the other side, I have been given an overwhelming sense of confidence and identity.   

I always knew that I was a writer, but actually finishing a book that I am proud of gives it so much certainty.  I always have and always will experience a certain level of doubt and fear, but now this accomplishment has shown me that regardless of my terrors and qualms, I can write and I will write.  I was given the confidence to rise above these things, and furthermore, the concrete identity of a writer.  Of course, writer is only one of many aspects of my identity, some of which include wonderer, observer, dreamer, maker, story-teller, listener, and lover.  But now I feel that no one could possibly ever ever ever ever argue that I'm not a writer.  I am a writer.  

The burst of confidence and accomplishment has lavished me also with ideas.  If you remember, I had started keeping a Commonplace Book at Lemony Snicket's advice, and within the last few days, I have been constantly scribbling words, places, observations and thoughts.  I feel like the completion of my book has given me a pass into a new stratosphere of inspiration.  

I have already begun to discuss ideas for a new story with my mum.  The concept is deeply personal and reflective.  Mum made an observation.  She suggested that this book allows me to explore myself - my feelings and every aspect of my personality - as I experience revelation of self-awareness and love.  And that awakened me to another thought.  

How incredible is it that literature, art, dance, drama and music give those who make them a vehicle to a place of understanding.  Writing for me is a medium through which, sometimes unconsciously, I  can reflect, ask questions, vent, and problem-solve.  Perhaps I will understand myself better after it, or perhaps I will have only acknowledged the complexity and beauty of my emotional state.  Neither is better than the other.  Can you see now how people who use the arts, whether they consciously know it or not, are given a great opportunity to improve their emotional health?  It amazes me to imagine how many do not experience it.  

Friday, October 5

My Book is Finished

I have finished my book.  I typed the last word at about 12 o'clock, the 5th of October, 2012.  This is enormous.  This is immense.  This is incredible.  

My plan for the book consisted of fifteen green post-it notes on my wall.  As a final act of completion, I pulled this off.  The act was like plucking leaves from a tree.  The wall is so bare.  

As I wrote the final scene of the last chapter, my heart was racing just like it does when you're about to perform in a play or a dance recital.  The ending was heartbreaking for me.  The end scene gave me the grieving process that I knew that I would need.  I have said my goodbyes, sobbed on two different shoulders and smiled so widely it seemed my lips would snap like rubber bands.  

I am so proud of this book.  My mother says that it is timely.  I wrote a book with a sub-current of 'saying goodbye' just as I prepare to leave school and wish farewell to many people that I'll never see again.  I wrote without realising that what I was doing was making a transitional object, building a bridge into a new phase of my life.  I am proud enough of this book, this dear, personal, sacred book, for it to be my début work.  However, when I look back upon it, thirty, forty, fifty years in the future, this book will shine out to me as a part of my teenaged soul.  

It is not a foreign body to me.  It is completely and totally a part of me.  It is a diary entry, a dream, a hope, a legend, a cry, a whisper, a message in a bottle, a present state of being.  Today, this book is me.  I will grow, but that will not make it less me.  In years time, it will be me-of-the-past.  Me-of-the-future can always cherish and remember this present.  

What a joy, and what a triumph!  I reward and thank myself for this story with a cup of tea and a good cry.  The book is about stories and feelings.  This book holds the current essence of my as a writer.  I want this book to be my début.  

I don't know when I will get it published, but within the next two years, my university course in creative writing will teach me to present a literary work to a publisher.  Perhaps that will be the time for it.  Or perhaps the time is sooner.  Let us see. 

Monday, September 24

Thank Goodness for Fitzgerald

Today is F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthday, and obviously, as one of my favourite authors, he deserves a tribute.  

He was born on the 24th of September 1869, and died of a heart attack on the 21st of December, 1940.  His legacy of great American novels consists of such essential classics as The Great Gatsby, The Beautiful and Damned, This Side of Paradise, Tender is the Night and The Last Tycoon.  

For me, and for countless other readers and writers, Fitzgerald's work is inspirational.  The atmosphere of his work effortlessly transports you to the Jazz Age.  He weaves around you a palace of words that tantalises all your senses, lets you smell smokey rooms, lets you feel salty sea spray in summertime, lets you hear traffic on New York streets and silverware in French cafes, and the voices of people so absurd and marvellous that they are bigger than life.  He has taught me one of the greatest lessons - to read and write with all the senses, and yet no one can do it quite so brilliantly as he does.  

He is timeless.  I don't believe that there was ever an author from any era who so perfectly painted a picture of their time and place.  He gives colour to an era of which the only memories are black and white photographs.  As the works of Monet, Renoir, Degass and Davinci are significant to the art world, so his portraits of life, both tragic and triumphant, are to the literary world.  

So happy birthday, Francis.  Thank goodness that you lived as you did.  

Francis, Zelda and Frances Scott Fitzgerald

Saturday, September 22

Writing Advice from Lemony Snicket

In past years, I have often thought about sending a letter to Lemony Snicket.  I never did.  I couldn’t think of anything to ask specifically.  Really, all I wanted though, was some scrap of advice from a writer who is totally comfortable in himself.  A writer who is unafraid and yet childlike in honesty and wonder.   I really just wanted in his words, whatever he thought was most important for me to know.  I have an answer. 

Dear Young Writer, 
Being a writer is like being a mad scientist, because you must work alone, in a lonely room, stitching together something new out of the parts of old things you’ve found during your secret journeys.  For a writer, this means you must spend time eavesdropping on the world, writing down things you see and hear while no one is paying attention to you.  This is best done with a notebook, and the first thing you should write down in your notebook is an excuse, so if you are ever caught eavesdropping you will have a good reason why you are standing outside that door, hiding behind that tree, or standing quietly in a room where interesting things are going on, when you have been told to go to bed. 
Lemony Snicket.

(Quoted on p46 of Karen Benke’s Rip the Page: Adventures in Creative Writing 2010)

Lemony Snicket’s words were recorded in Karen Benke’s book of creative writing prompts and encouragements.  His advice does not surprise me one bit, and yet it is so significant and thrilling to hear it put into words by his famous hand.  Writers must be toilers, discoverers, wonderers, observers, recorders.  These words give me so much to think about.  There’s nothing that we can’t do straight away.  We can immediately begin to toil, discover, wonder, observe, and record.  For some, it will require a change in perspective, but for others it merely requires the will power to begin implementing these qualities.  We already have the capacity to work hard and wonder, but let’s just do it.  I now make the decision to wonder.  I mean to take this advice to heart.  

Friday, September 21

Acts of Rebellion

I've always been a good kid.  As in, I've never wagged school, never abused teachers or bullied students, I've never dared neglect my homework, my assignments are always on time, my most rebellious act in the my highschool years has been to dye my hair with a red rinse that washes out after a week.  I'm not game enough to do anything truly rebellious, but even so, I have moments that mark small victories in my journey towards a freer me.  

This week is the last week of term three.  I have had two days off.  The first day, I went to the movies with my mum.  Today, my second day off, I am going to work on my book and finish my university applications.  For me, this is a big deal.  I didn't come to the decision to accept my mother's offers to stay home lightly.  To choose to stay home, I experienced huge amounts of guilt.  I felt so morally obligated to go - to not let my best friend be a loner in last period - to fulfill the goody-two-shoes stereotype which I have so faithfully adhered to these past five years.  Taking these days off has been a victory in several ways.  Not only have I been able to break through my fear of abandoning the 'law' of school, I have also been able to rearrange my priorities and come to the revelation that I am not a stereotype.

Well, perhaps I do qualify for a few stereotypes.  But this act of rebellion serves a purpose deeper than merely breaking a stereotype in the eyes of my friends.  I first thought that the goal was to make everyone else see that I am not stereotypical - that I can be spontaneous and free and frivolous when I please.  But then I realised that I don't care so much what my friends think about me, because I know that whatever I do, they'll just accept it.  So what is the point of rebelling?  

I realised suddenly that the point was to be true to myself.  The goody-two-shoes thing was a design to fit into the system - a safety net of sorts.  While I am very naturally a studious, hard-working busy beaver, these small rebellions are a way to be true to a deeper part of me.  I didn't dye my hair to change everyone's view of me.  I dyed it only for a week because I am the sort of person who doesn't want gross regrowth or the permanent stain of a bad decision.  I dyed it red because, at heart, I just really wanted to dye it red.  

So now, I think about my days off.  I am not taking them off to show people that I am being a rebel.  I am taking them off because I am exhausted, and I want to.  I am not sticking it to the system.  I am acting upon true self.