ABOVE: During my residency at Canada Water Theatre under the mentorship of Haley McGee. This ended up being the putting together of a new solo stage show called Behind the Beat (Photograph by Nick Wright)
During the pandemic, I and a small group of friends committed to working through The Artist’s Way, a 12-week course devised by Julia Cameron. I first heard about it via incredible improviser and polymath Hannah Marshall. For anyone wanting to get more in touch with their creativity or unblock aspects of their life, I heartily recommend this book.
I have always loved writing but it’s not something I afford myself the time to do, but one of the things you commit to in The Artist’s Way is what’s called Morning Pages, and this is three pages of free writing pretty much first thing every morning. I kept this habit up for nearly two years and now have dozens of notebooks of writing. The process is designed to clear your head of all the neurosis and mundane crap that gets in the way of being creative. I now use this technique as a way of journaling and getting in touch with what I’m feeling or with what’s going on beneath the conscious surface. It also really helped me connect with what I was attracted to creatively and brought about my DYCP application.
I find I do things better when I am accountable and working with others, so having a peer group (known in Cameron’s terms as a Sacred Circle) meant we could support each other and stay on track working through the book. We met online every week for the 12 weeks of the course and ended up keeping our weekly meeting going for several months after we finished.
For me the course helped me with many obstacles. Often when faced with a large struggle or hurdle, I find myself stopping in one way or another. (There are five fear responses, which Haley taught me about. Most of us know about Fight or Flight, but the other three are Freeze, Play Dead and Submit). I now understand I am most used to the latter three sneaky ones, so it was good to know about them!). The other consistent thing that you commit to is called the Artist Date, and this is something that you do, in solitude, purely for yourself, for a few hours each week, that is just something fun and nourishing, literally in whatever way you want. It is INCREDIBLE how hard it is to commit to this. Finally there are different tasks and challenges each week that you are invited to undertake.
Through the Artist’s Way (and nearly six years of therapy) I have become much more aware of my inner critic and the ways in which I can hold myself back. It is all about dreaming big and giving yourself permission to do big and small things for your own pleasure and growth (something I also learnt from Philippe Gaulier in a very different and very practical way). This process of self discovery gave me the determination and clarity I needed to apply for the DYCP. It was the first time I had applied directly to the Arts Council and it was incredibly daunting and I faced many internal and external hurdles. If you want to know more about this or are thinking of applying, feel free to get in touch and you can also download my application and others through the White Pube here.
Finding a referee
I was extremely honest about where I was at and I planned things I wanted to do, not what I thought I should, or that I thought would get me the funding. I also asked Jez Matthews to be my reference. Jez is practically a national treasure in the British Jazz world, but he’s not got a grand title and doesn’t have affiliations with big arts organisations. He’s an independent grassroots promoter, with a core of volunteers, putting on Jazz at the Lescar, a weekly gig in Sheffield that promotes Jazz and Improvised Music. I asked him because he knows my work, he’s incredibly supportive of it, and he epitomises the reason why I strive to make and keep making art. A nice reminder that it’s not a self indulgent process, and that we have the power to move and inspire people as artists. He feels like a true supporter of my work and not someone doing me a favour writing a reference, if that makes sense. Reaching out to him felt like an important step.
It’s quite new to me to have set out a plan and actually realised it. I’m used to things morphing and changing or running out of steam. Paradoxically, not having focused on outcomes has led to me crystalising certain projects and ideas and it’s really useful thinking of this chapter ending. I’m writing this last paragraph in the evening during my residency at Access Space in Sheffield. I’m excited to see what materialising out of these deepening few years…