January - Creative Bravery, China and Dinosaurs
1993. The world premiere of Jurassic Park. And the year two souls collided. Me trying to punch my way out of my mother’s womb at the sound of a T-Rex mauling its victims. I suppose the soul of the beast must have transcended the cinema screen and by means of osmosis, fused with foetus in the amniotic sack. And here I am. A prehistoric woman living in the modern world.
This paragraph has been sitting on my computer for a long time. My creative ideas do that. They emerge with excitement and energy and then they just sit there, hidden and full of potential but little motivation to move from the sofa and be seen. Although…is that me or the idea?
So, this New Year I decided to tackle the well-known ‘January blues’. I was determined not to get them. I think I’ve been successful. The antidote was exercise (a bit) and creative thinking (the most).
And so I resolve to share more of my creative voice in 2019. I spent most of last year waiting for the right moment- stalling for no real reason and the only real creating I did was that of excuses about why the world wasn’t ready (it’s not like it’s waiting with bated breathe) to hear of my strange inner world. I always say to myself there are too many people like me already doing it. It’s true and on top of that there are more interesting stories out there from people who haven’t shared their voice yet or have been prevented from doing so. I believe that creativity and the possibility of flourishing creatively is something that all of us should be able to realise and achieve. However, I think I’ve been doing a lot of taking my voice out of the theatrical equation (I can’t pretend I don’t talk a lot in general) for fear of being self-centred but mostly for fear of failure. Failure to please. Failure to inspire. Failure to take off. At the time it meant I chose not to create at all. Towards the very end of last year, I found I just went to work and did my job talked a lot about inspiring creativity- often in others- and just sort of made my way through it all without really engaging on a more personal level. At times it was like wading through heavy mud. But I’ll allow myself that. We all know creative motivation comes in waves and with that so does the opportune moment to pick yourself up and move forward.
This thought reminds me of a section in a book called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert which I believe I have mentioned previously on this blog. She writes about the notion that ideas travel about and find consciousness to attach themselves to; they are sentient beings of their own and rest for a while with a human that takes their fancy. It’s up to us to hold onto them or they will eventually detach and travel off elsewhere looking for another human to fulfil them and bring them to life.
Skip forward two weeks and I’m finishing this blog off whilst in China delivering a project with 80 children in Suzhou just outside Shanghai. It’s a hugely varied place; driving in a taxi passed tower blocks that grew denser in quantity as we approached the city centre of Shanghai before boarding another train to the next city made up of ancient historical old town and fresh clean cut modern city that looks like it was built on Sims. It’s hard not to be in awe of the slightly dystopian feel of the sprawling outskirts of Chinese urban life and then the colourful wonderful pockets and the sounds and smells in the side streets. Sometimes there’s nothing like shaking up your creativity like being somewhere completely different to home and leaning into the difference – expecting to be surprised, moved, alarmed, humoured and all the other things in between. In the work space, it certainly puts a direct spotlight on the nature of creating theatre because not only is it being translated (so you must choose your words and expression carefully) but also because you are seeing it through the lense of another culture and another worldview. In fact the current project is a piece in development looking at integrating and understanding young people with Autism and how they can learn and thrive alongside ‘mainstream’ individuals; the nature of the work is almost revolutionary in China. I will always value the experience of making work for the benefit of a wider community and for the self-efficacy of others- it is something I see as incredibly valuable, inspiring and really- an essential facet of being a professional theatre-maker. So this is a project that, in many ways, isn’t a focus at all on my personal creative journey but it evokes something. It stokes a fire that needs to keep burning to place value on my independent voice in other ways.
But as for the souls that collided in 1993 in cinema in Enfield, well that pairing is ready to be less apologetic- fierce as the T-Rex and reflective and observational as the suspicious little girl who it inhabited. You might be pleased to hear this paragraph has finally been lifted from the ether of my laptop and that I am now breathing some life into it. Hopefully this is the beginning of practising more creative bravery; taking more action and being less passive (although I’ll credit myself with the fact that the current work I’m doing in China is certainly not passive). The sense of play and the sense of anticipation I get from the idea of pursuing these endeavours is evidence enough that with a little thought and time set aside whatever is imagined can be achieved.