If I all but predicted that 2016 would be a quiet one for me on the professional/self-development front, I guess I don’t get to complain when I turned out to be right.
While I don’t think I was necessarily any more “mindful”, as I promised myself in that oh-so-ambitious first post of last year, if the one thing I wanted was to “figure out what I want to do with my one wild and precious life” then I guess you could say I met my goals? The trouble was that in order to get there, I had to travel through what I’ve taken to calling a “creative dark night of the soul”. 2017, I’ll take you as I mean to go on: with a hefty pinch of salt, and the ability to laugh at myself.
I’ve always labelled myself as a creative person. My main skill, the thing I make my living from, involves me taking words and using them to make something that wasn’t there before. Creation, then, in its most literal sense. And I’m good at it. If there’s a thing I want to convey, no matter how complex, then I can usually do it, and do it well. But I’ve never been much of an “ideas” person: my work is usually dependent on things that already exist, be it news or criticism. And that makes it as low-risk as it gets unless you’re counting, as I do not, the guy who tweeted my work account in response to a story about academics’ post-Brexit concerns to say we should send them home.
I know that it’s not realistic to expect to be fulfilled in every aspect of your life, but team these questions with a tendency towards depression and anxiety and it’s not a tasty recipe. I have a good job that challenges me and that pays well, and I’m not short on things to do. I reached the point where I had squeezed additional roles and responsibilities into nearly every minute of my free time. But there was no overall “plan”. Around me, my friends were making art and getting book deals while I was just… exhausted. I spent most of last year chasing deadline after deadline, producing nothing I was particularly proud of just so I could say that I had done it.
Something had to change.
The idea to start a podcast sprang from Trump, of all things. When I woke up on the morning of 9th November I felt that old despair creep in, the one that’s the product of four referenda/big elections in a two-year period in which I came out on the losing “side”. Maybe it’s that this one doesn’t directly affect me as such, as a non-American and as a cisgendered white woman with her own income; maybe it’s that my listening choices have, of late, skewed increasingly political (and the “personal is” sense in particular. I want to add my voice to those out there and to hold our leaders to account, both at home and abroad. I’ve talked it through with a few people, some of whom I want to help me, and they all seem really excited about it. And then, the day before Christmas, a gift-wrapped professional quality microphone tagged for my future endeavours from my bezzer, which I guess commits me now.
The podcast is one of a number of threads which coalesced in my head during my months of soul-searching. There’s an as-yet one-line idea for a YA novel in there, which I need to expand on. There’s a strong desire to do more to support the musical and creative projects I’m passionate about, particularly in my local community/ies of Glasgow, particularly the east end; and young feministy/intersectional activist types. That means a refocusing of the content of this blog, which over the past year – admittedly my most objectively successful in my close to two decades with record-breaking pageviews, Twitter verification and shortlisting for an award among the highlights – has turned into a response to what everybody else is doing. I see brands work with “less established” bloggers (i.e. literally everyone, soz) and the FOMO kicks in: why them and not me? So I squeeze myself onto lists and blag myself invites, even though I hate crowds of strangers and own so many things it makes me sick to think about. I’m not in high school anymore and I really don’t care if people don’t like me, so I’m going to start acting like it.
All of which is by way of saying that I’d like to start this year off by introducing an ongoing collaboration with Cass Art…
Cass Art, the London-based chain with a gorgeous, bright art supply store on Glasgow’s Queen Street, have been generous supporters of this blog for a number of years now and it’s something that I’ve never completely understood. Sure, their mission statement is to “fill this town with artists” – supporting and nurturing the creative talent in every one of us – but I’m genuinely Not Great at this stuff. I’m no good with my hands, and although I spent a big chunk of my childhood drawing pictures of the horses I loved they looked more like four-legged lollipops.
However, I love the idea of crafting – hell, of anything that gets me off a computer for a while – so I’m embracing this challenge wholeheartedly. Cass Art have promised to send me art materials and challenges throughout the year as part of their #BeInspired campaign, the first of which arrived just before Christmas. I’d never heard of DAS Clay before, but theirs is a beloved air-drying modelling clay that is notable for being able to dry without cracking. As a complete beginner, though? I was more than a little nervous.
For my first challenge, Cass Art asked to see where I drew my inspiration from. It’s something I spent a big chunk of the Christmas period wrestling with – but the answer was obvious. Words. I draw my inspiration from words, and the things I read. I had an idea to create a frame from the clay, in which I could display a collage of things that I found inspirational – but figured I should start small, with an old birthday card that I’ve had in my kitchen for a year and a half as a colourful piece of daily inspiration. So I found a small IKEA frame which I decided to decorate with kitty shapes cut from the clay. I was sent a couple of blocks of coloured clay which, when mixed with the white base clay, created a marble-type effect. Why cats? I just really like cats, okay?
This is a really simple custom project that even an idiot could make – I know, because I am that idiot, and I’m really pleased with the results. After giving the clay 24 hours in which to air-dry, I’ll be able to glaze it with the DAS Vernidas professional varnish and keep it forever. And now that I know that I can work with DAS, I’m looking forward to coming up with my next project to use up the rest of my supplies.
Have you made any creative resolutions this year?
This post contains PR samples, but all views are my own and unbiased.