Solitude and Solidarity: Creative Artists Need ’Em Both

By Jari Chevalier Henry James once told the journalist Morton Fullerton that the “essential loneliness” of his life constituted his “deepest” aspect. If you are a creative artist, everything you do…

Source: Solitude and Solidarity: Creative Artists Need ’Em Both

Write like nobody’s reading

I recently put together a submission as a part of an application for a writing job. The process was a fairly straightforward one; write about something that inspires you and influences your practice. I opted to write about my current favourite magazine, Boat, as the theme and quality of writing always buoys me up 😉

However, a couple of weeks after I sent it off, I received a reply telling me it wasn’t quite what they were looking for.

Apart from the specifics of what was missing (insight and personal reflection should have been on the agenda) I realised I had once again fallen into a familiar mindset. It seems that lately, whenever I write, I become bent on just finishing the thing and getting it out there. I’m constantly rushing, whether it’s a short story or otherwise and find I often cut short the writing process just so I can say I’ve got something done.

Inevitably, the result is a finished piece, but hardly my best so it’s no surprise I’m not getting the answer I would like. In truth, I’m struggling a little with my identity as a writer. As time goes by, thoughts of ‘making it’ seem more fantastical than ever. Couple that with my mid-thirties fast approaching and the uncomfortable question keeps niggling away – is it make or break time? (Or just broke?) It seems as though the more I reach for it and the tighter my grasp, the further away a reality of accomplishment and satisfaction becomes.

So, for nobody but myself I rewrote the piece as if nobody is going to read it. Nothing to gain, just the truth according to myself. Hence, I’ve discovered a motto that I’m going to take forward this year and hopefully a different way of working; Write like nobody’s reading. Fitzgerald said something similar, but I can’t recall the quote. If anyone knows it, please tell me!

Q+A

How’s your dad?
He’s telling me how good he feels, before I’ve even got in the door. He’s saying how he’s been out in the garden digging up the Gunnera. He’s saying how he has a few aches and pains, but nothing too serious and then he’s patting my mum on the back when she tells him to stop talking about himself all the time.

How’s your dad?
He’s playing us another track by Iggy Pop as he drives us to the restaurant. He’s turning it up loud and we’re sitting there, giving in.

How’s your dad?
He’s making me laugh. He’s coming out with things that would earn anyone else a slap. He’s saying he can’t help it. My mum is rolling her eyes, but even she’s smiling.

How’s your dad? He’s telling this woman that he should have gone months ago. He’s saying how important it is to count your blessings and how grateful he is to still be able to get around. He’s telling her he’s got tumours everywhere. He’s not stopping.

How’s your dad?
He’s in pain all of a sudden. He’s asking if we can go and we are waving to the waitress for the bill. He’s pacing around now, over to the fire exit and back, trying to take his mind off of it. The waitress isn’t coming.

How’s your dad?
He’s lying down. We had to go to the emergency pharmacist to get him some Diazepam. We’re in the kitchen drinking herbal tea and mum’s trying to hide the red rings around her eyes.

How’s your dad?
He’s complaining that the eggs my mum cooked aren’t right. He’s refusing to eat. He’s in one of those moods.

How’s your dad?
He’s sitting in the old cane chair in the garage. Smoke is wafting around him. He’s making one of his lists that never gets done.

How’s your dad?
He’s going on a shamanic journey with the next door neighbour. He met his spirit guide who came to him in the form of a crow. He’s hoping to meet again for some kind of conversation. He’s moving to the next level.

How’s your dad?
He’s dressed up for a party nextdoor. He’s wearing the orange and blue trousers that he wore to see Iggy. He reckons the chemo is working.

How’s your dad?
He’s talking about the blackbirds again. He thinks it’s the same one that always comes up the garden path to greet him. He reckons the bees are on his wavelength too.

How’s your dad?
He’s spent the day on the sofa. He’s talking quietly with his eyes closed and grunting as he moves the hot water bottle round to a new ache. He’s nodded off.

How’s your dad?
He’s feeling weak. His face has turned yellow. He’s in these pyjamas that show off his stick-thin legs. He’s discussing personal arrangements with the nurse. He’s holding my hand very tight.

How’s your dad?
He’s alright now.

I wrote bits of this while my dad was ill. It’s just over a year ago that he passed away, so I thought I would put it out there.

All roots lead upwards – part one

Following a satisfyingly high-speed train journey from Lake Como to Florence, we begun the second part of our holiday in Italy. The first had involved the baptism of my 8 month old daughter and all the preparation, organising (and socialising!) had left us in need of a break. What better place to do it than in Tuscany!

Taking a local train out of Florence we arrived at the rural outpost of Sant’ Allero where the owner of our accommodation picked us up.  A five-minute drive brought us to Agriturismo Petrognano, a converted farmhouse in the hills of Tuscany where we were to stay for the next four nights. The place was idyllic and incredibly peaceful, not least because, being out of season, we were the only guests on site. 100 hectares to ourselves not to mention a swimming pool…

The first day we spent exploring the area’s fields and olive groves, which threw up the occasional surprise such as wild roe and an extremely aggressive cockerel (!) Then we treated ourselves to a four course dinner cooked by the host, Christiano, with cold meats, a pasta dish and meat platter followed strawberries and Chantilly cream.

The next day was the main event; a visit to the city of Florence. We took the train in and set about exploring the streets. The cathedral was the principal sight as we left the station and was probably one of the most impressive buildings in the city. But with queues around the block to see inside, this was no way to spend a day and with my mums original 1960’s map as our guide, we roamed the elegant streets.

Not long afterwards, however, we fell victim to a powerful thunderstorm, which had everyone, tourists and Firenzians alike, running for the coffee shops. A large ice-cream later and a barrage of street-sellers trying to flog us cheap umbrellas, we headed for a series of steps that rose up to Piazza De Michelangelo. It turned out that not only did this bring us to an unprecedented view of Florence, but also to a great area full of restaurants and local shops virtually devoid of tourists (all too busy walking over the nearby Pontevecchio).

On top of that, the sun came out, making the climb and the view all the more worthwhile.

Of sand and sea salt

I don’t normally write about personal things on here, but I feel that this place deserves a mention for a few reasons.

Treen (or Pednevounder in Cornish) is a majestic, granite carved beach tucked away in the farthest reaches of West Cornwall. I started going there before I was born, carried in my mother’s womb as she and my dad chanced on the place during a hike around the Southwest coast path. From then on I’ve visited almost every year of my life, drawn by the raw power of the landscape and the spirited Atlantic ocean.

Even if he didn’t tell us his wish to be scattered there, we probably would have done it anyway. So last weekend, we took the long road down to Treen and gave my dad up to the sea from the tops of the cliffs.

I hope you enjoy the views as much as he does.