Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Spaces between Writing

In a recent blog, I mentioned that I was in a minor panic after suddenly realising that I needed to make a story character costume for World Book Day. But I may have given the wrong impression, because I actually love being up to my elbows in papier maché! Or dirt! Or paint! Or cake-mix!

In the spaces between writing, I like to make stuff.

I moved house a couple of years ago and no longer have a garden. I was always more of an enthusiastic rather than knowledgeable or skilled gardener, but I when I wasn’t writing (or teaching or growing babies), I loved mowing the lawn, planting seeds or even scratching the weeds from between the bricks that edged the patio. These days, arranging the odd vase of flowers, cutting a sprig of thyme or re-potting the occasional plant for our pavement garden is the closest I get to that sort of creative energy. It’s a lot less work, of course, and I console myself with the thought that I still get to appreciate nature every time I go for a walk.

I’m not being self-deprecating here, but I'm not exactly a great cook either. I'm never going to win Masterchef or the Great British Bake-Off, but I am still occasionally inspired to move away from the computer and find the time and space to make sloe gin or bake the odd batch of scones – usually when there’s no chocolate in the house.

I also draw and paint and make collage and, er... life-sized puppets:

I guess some people might argue that all this is just procrastination, but I think this sort of activity... this sort of creativity lifts my soul and feeds back into my writing.  I know I’m not alone. After seeing my kitchen sink full of sodden, shredded paper, one friend and fellow author secretly confided in me about her passion for knitting and cross-stitch. Another has brazenly blogged about drawing and painting. You know who you are!


  1. Well I think your puppets (and your pots) are brilliant. It's an interesting question this, because as a child I drew obsessively. But I genuinely have no talent for it and now, can never seem to think of what I should draw. And have no technical ability at all, in any case. Do think the satisfaction in these things comes from the same creative well spring though..

  2. Ha ha! Love this Malaika... brazenly blogged about drawing and painting... now I wonder :) I agree completely - it's not procrastination at all, these things give us time to go to some other creative place and I think this nurtures our writing in turn... that's my excuse anyway!

  3. Hi Malaika,

    I kind of had the opposite experience to you in that I've never had my own garden, not until two years ago, and that is one of the reasons why I am loving every single day of it now. I always made use of what space there was in the places I lived (flats, bedsits, shared houses)) and if there wasn't any would have a few pots indoors at least.

    But there is something so fundamental about soil, and the process of growing something that enhances life, especially in those moments of actually getting soil under your fingernails. It is a humble thing to do in some ways - you are acknowledging on a conscious level the passing of time and the impermanence of things.

    I've always felt you either are creative or you're not, and that those that are invariably tend to be creative in several ways. I bet there is not a single world famous actor who isn't also an exceptionally gifted painter, or poet, or marine biologist... whatever takes their fancy, basically.

    I do believe we are all creative deep down, but I'm really only referring to people that have consciously acknowledged that that is what they are and do.

    Be creative and enjoy what you do. That's my moto :o)

    sorry if I woffled... my brains gone gooey.

  4. I love the puppets too - they're awesome! And these things are definitely not procrastination! If I write, write, write and do nothing else in between, I start to feel stale and tired. Doing other stuff – I play the piano, garden (although I seem to grow mostly weeds!), draw and make sporadic attempts at things like crocheting and sewing – gives me much-needed breathing space, which benefits my writing hugely.