Breathe more deeply

Aren't they pretty. So many times I've thought about these colours and what they mean.

Aren’t they pretty? So many times I’ve thought about the significance of these colours and what they mean.

For a very long time (years now) I have been taking one shiny little green and yellow capsule before bed every night. A simple act designed to help me not-want-to-throw-stuff-at-other-stuff so much. Depression – though I am not sure I really want to call it that, because that word just doesn’t feel real to me for some reason – has bothered me from time to time ever since I was a kid, but back then it was just called ‘moodiness’.

On a good day I am a perfectly balanced and normal human being. I can laugh and dance and feel joy as keenly as the next person. I have lots of good days. But on a bad day I am disorientated, confused, lost, tearful, sad, irritable, angry.

A handful of times it’s been more or less impossible to function. I’ve stood rooted to a single spot in a busy supermarket completely paralyzed and unable to speak, because I didn’t understand what was going on in my head and felt scared to move in case I was forced to interact with another human being. That day I almost walked out into traffic. That was the worst day. Most bad days don’t get anywhere near that bad because I keep my family close and they give me all the love and support I need to stay on the pavement.

I haven’t had a bad day in ages. The pills have worked. They’ve worked well, but sometimes I have felt a bit… numb. The lower register of emotions hasn’t been as apparent, but neither have the upper ones. I haven’t cried at a wedding, or a birth, or at Eastenders, or cried at all, it seems, for an eternity. Recently my lovely Gramps died and I knew I felt very sad, but it was a bit like straining to listen to someone speaking from inside a soundproof booth. You know someone is saying something, you can see their lips moving, you just can’t quite make out the words. It’s like that dream you have sometimes when you go to run or punch someone but your limbs won’t move and when they do finally stir it’s like you’re dragging them through quicksand. Solid air.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not coming out against Antidepressants – I believe they’re useful and necessary in a lot of cases, but there is a price to be paid for pharmaceutically-imposed tranquility and I was no longer sure I wanted to pay it.

So last week, at the advice of a doctor, I started phasing out the drugs. Quite suddenly things began to feel more raw, more alive again. I shifted gears. I’ve found myself saying things and posting things on social media that, in retrospect, sound like the ramblings of a frazzled and cranky old cat lady. It’s quite possible that this post is one of those things. This is NOT ideal because I rely on my ability to communicate for my living. But, and this is a big but, I figure I’d rather live as a flawed and slightly damaged human being than as a fabulous and shiny, wipe-clean robot. I need to find a way to embrace this weird and inconvenient element of my identity and learn to work with it rather than drug it into submission. Maybe it’s all about yoga and meditation, perhaps it’s about CBT and crochet (which, by the way, I’ve always found extremely helpful), perhaps I just need to breath more deeply. I’ll let you know how it goes. xx

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5 Ways to Maximize Your Creativity

'I dunno what to draw' Pablo howled like a wounded dog 'I am in a glass case of emotion.' Pablo could be well intense sometimes.

‘I dunno what to  Goddamn draw!!!’ Pablo howled like a wounded dog ‘I am in a glass case of emotion!!!’ Pablo could be well intense sometimes.

I’m taking a little break from making at the moment. It’s nothing serious. I am just having a breather before starting my next big project. To tell you the truth I tend to feel a bit twitchy when I’m not engaged in some form of craft or another, but I know that my creative levels peak and trough. I’m in a bit of a trough just now, and it got me thinking about how I go about maintaining, and maximizing my creativity. So, I’ve compiled this little list of tips. Here goes:

1. Be generous with your ideas.

You know those kids at school who deliberately shielded their artwork from everyone else in the room just in case one of their classmates became so intoxicated by their raw talent  that they couldn’t help but rip them off? I’m willing to bet that not one of those kids ever went on to create or invent anything particularly good.  Never treat your latest flash of inspiration as if it’s the last train home on Christmas Eve. Treat ideas like they’re ten-a-penny and soon they will be, unless of course you’ve come up with a design for like, a supersonic death ray that runs off paper shreddings – then maybe you might want to keep it on the down-low.

2. Limit the amount of time you spend looking at other people’s stuff.

There is nothing wrong with Ravelry, or Pinterest or Instructables or any other website where you might legitimately find examples of lots of other people’s work. In fact, I love all of them and I look at them often. All I’m saying is that you can easily spend so much time looking at other people’s work that you forget where your style begins and everything else finishes. When I get to feeling that my stuff is all rubbish, you know that ‘I’m going to build a great big bonfire and set light to everything in my stash box’ feeling, it’s usually because I’ve spent far too much time flicking from pin board to pin board comparing myself to everyone else.  Don’t do it. The less you look at what everyone else is doing the more likely you are to make something completely unique and special. Go for a walk on the beach, go to the library and find a book on birds of the British Isles – look at lots of other types of art, but NOT stuff within your own discipline.

3. Always keep a notebook – take one everywhere.

I don’t know about you but my ideas come to me in the weirdest of places, usually very late at night. I always have a notebook to hand where I can jot things down. It’s not a pretty notebook  – I’m usually scribbling in the dark – but it does the job. And I can always revisit old notebooks when I need inspiration.

This is a page from one of my sketchbooks. I was drinking tea out of a bowl in a posh French bakery.

This is a page from one of my sketchbooks. I was drinking tea out of a bowl in a posh French bakery.

4. Don’t spend a lot on materials.

I have learned from bitter experience that if I go out and buy a load of posh yarn for a specific project, I will never end up using it . It gives me the fear, frankly.  This is why the vast majority of my projects use nothing but the cheapest garish double knit yarn. A, because I really like the challenge of making something pretty from very basic stuff and B, because when I haven’t spent a lot on my materials I am less worried about making mistakes and that means I try things I wouldn’t otherwise have a go at. I hate the idea of spending  fifty odd quid on top-notch stuff, but maybe you feel differently. I’d love to know if you agree or not.

5.  Spend time hanging out with other creative people, especially productive ones.

It doesn’t matter whether they’re textile types, musicians, photographers, painters or printmakers; creative people from all walks of life speak the same language. They understand what drives you and can offer advice and inspiration and, if they are being positive and productive it WILL rub off on you. Don’t ask me why, it just will. My creative friends are special to me. I talk to them about my work, especially when I feel something isn’t going as it should – that’s when they really come into their own. If you don’t have any creative mates, find some. That’s what evening classes are for (that, and copping off with middle-aged divorcees called Marc)

So there you have it, my 5 top tips. I could have gone on and on tbh. Do you fervently disagree with any of them? Do you have any of your own to add? I’d love to get your take on this!