I recently returned from a wonderful Writers Weekend workshop at Old Joe’s Kaia in the lush Schoemanskloof Valley. Writing can be quite a lonely experience. I have been working through Allaboutwriting’s Creative Writing course for the last couple of years (way longer than you are supposed to take to finish it!) They have been incredibly patient with me. I cannot always get up to Johannesburg to attend their workshops and decided that I would try and get Mohammed to come to the mountain instead. Literally the Old Joe’s Kaia mountain. As Robin Sharma says, No Ask, No Get. So I asked. And I got. After many emails back and forth between Trish Urquhart of Allaboutwriting, Melissa Adey of Old Joe’s Kaia and myself, 15 eager participants arrived for a weekend of writing and fine dining. One cannot write on an empty stomach after all. The weather lent itself to the weekend with rain, mist and drizzle which naturally necessitated opening some very good bottles of red wine (also known as the writer’s tools!) Old Joe’s was the perfect venue to let those creative juices flow and while the team tempted our tastebuds with one great dish after another, Allaboutwriting helped us to hone our writing talents.
What I came to realize as the weekend progressed, was the importance of writing regularly. It really doesn’t do to pick up a pen every few weeks and expect to develop your writing skills. But what interested me most was how hyper-critical we are about our creative endeavours. It really is very challenging to expose your writing to a group of complete strangers. Especially when some of those strangers are published authors. There were a couple of times when I just couldn’t. My attempts really were so feeble that there was no way I was going to inflict them upon the group, not to mention embarrassing myself. As kind as the facilitators Richard Beynon and Jo-Anne Richards were, I just could not bring myself to speak out loud what I had written. Others apologized profusely before they even started reading, about just how bad their writing was. In reality it wasn’t. We all commented on the fact that we were all given the same scenario to write about and every single one was different. Yes there were some that were great and some that needed improvement, the difference came in between those who wrote regularly and for a living and those (like me) who don’t. I learnt how important it is to pay attention to the craft of writing, for a craft it most certainly is. One that I am enjoying more and more as I become more intimate with its finer nuances.
There was a similar experience when I participated in 6 weeks of mixed media art classes at our local craft store with 2 friends. For one of them, the whole thing was excruciating, and that’s putting it mildly! She hated it. So much for art being relaxing, it was extremely stressful for her and she could not wait to be finished. My other friend however, a naturally creative soul, had fun. Her creative juices overflowed. I was somewhere in between. Fortunately I am at the age where I can put my insecurities aside. I don’t consider myself creative when it comes to drawing and art, but I still love it and I am prepared to give it a go. I think that’s an age thing, you get to the point where you think “what the hell, I’ll give it a go.”
The third incident was during our weekly Spiritual growth course, when the facilitator announced that we needed to do some drawing as homework. There were gasps of horror all around and plaintive cries of “I can’t draw!”.
I do the same at dance class – now that’s an insecurity I have not yet been able to get a handle on. I constantly feel like I have two left feet and my co-ordination seriously sucks! We are so stuck in the “I must get it right” syndrome that we forget to let go and just have fun. But I am working on letting go and slowly but surely my NIA dance classes are becoming more pleasurable as I learn to allow my body to move as it wants to and stop worrying about what I look like! (Fortunately there no mirrors so that helps).
Our creativity comes from the very depth of our being. Why are we so hard on ourselves about something that is uniquely ours? We go to one class, or write one thing and expect to be experts. The result of my writing weekend was that I am determined to become a master at my craft, in my own unique way. And that takes commitment and regular practice. Comparisons ARE odious. Embrace your unique self, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Our creative energy is an important part of who we are and we ignore it at our peril. Your own creativity may shine through art, music, writing or talents like dance, sewing or cooking.
So, I finished my clock, I did my drawings for my growth group and I am writing almost every day. All of it feeds my soul no matter how “good” or “bad” anyone else thinks it may be. At the end of the day, that is the most important thing of all.
Until next time, be brave, have a go at the one creative thing you always wanted to try.
Just for the fun of it!