The Creative Library

Annie Talvé and Dr Sally Gray presented a workshop at Dandenong Library that I attended. The Creative Library builds on the work they presented in their 2014 report Creative Communities: The cultural benefits of Victoria’s public libraries. This report can be found on the Public Libraries Victoria Network website.

A room full of library professionals enjoyed a fun and informative day “thinking with our hearts, heads and feet” led by Annie and Sally. We challenged our presumptions, analysed our actions, and debated about our work.

As a designer in my early years, and a lover of art, design and all creative endeavours, no one needs to remind me that ‘everyone is creative’. My attitudes are creative. I always think outside the box. Flexibility of thought is an asset in all we do in this life.

Annie runs Project SiSu which “is a creative consulting practice specialising in tackling organisational transitions and framing the benefits of culture in all its varied forms”.

I recall attending a workshop led by Annie at Waurn Ponds Library several years ago. She was then embarking on her research for the resulting Creative Communities report. The New Nirvana on her website sums up the conversations from those workshops.

National Library Week 2015

National Library Week has been a busy week for me where I have seen months of planning come to fruition. Our author event was a success with a lovely discussion around the topic of this year’s theme ‘imagine’.

Seven authors were asked questions posed by poet Andrea Louise Thomas. These authors were a diverse group and this added richness to the discussion. The authors were: Garry Disher; Greg Hill; Rose Inserra; Judy Taylor; Brita Lee; Leigh Van der Horst; and Susan Berg.

Andrea Louise Thomas expertly led the conversation asking questions tailored to suit each author’s unique approach. Andrea is a poet, arts editor of Mint magazine, proof reader, and poetry slam finalist. So a very well qualified person to lead this discussion.

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Susan Berg offered a heroic and painful true story about losing her whole family in a boating accident in which she was the only survivor. The tragedy many years past, her story is about how her life has unfolded since that awful day.

Leigh Van der Horst is a new author with a book about the grief following her mother’s death. A common theme by coincidence, but it was interesting to hear about different approaches to writing about this deeply life-changing experience. The resulting published manuscripts also show this different approach to a similar life experience.

Garry Disher is a credible writer of crime fiction and his substantial body of successful works shone through in his answers that provided insight, generosity, and the humble spirit of a true craftsman.

Judy Taylor is new to the writing scene and her self-published diary of grief after her mother’s death is raw and personal. She gave advice based on her experience of the self-publishing process.

Greg Hill is a ghostwriter who brings life to other people’s true stories. He spoke with knowledge and depth about the writing process.

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Brita Lee writes science fiction. The Panopticon Deception is the first published of a trilogy. Her passion and excitement for writing was obvious as she described how she lets the story reveal itself to her as she writes.

Rose Inserra writes children’s non-fiction and her latest non-fiction publication is about dreams. As a teacher of the writing craft she is well qualified to talk about the topic. She is warm, intelligent, and an engaging speaker.

The audience seemed happy and satisfied with one lady telling me, “I go to these types of events all the time, and this was the best one ever.” Sigh!

Instagram Magic

A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Who said that I wonder? A quick and dirty Google search tells me that it is attributed to Frederick R. Barnard who published a piece in 1921, commending the effectiveness of graphics in advertising. Imagine what he would have to say in this connected multimedia world.

This is a picture of me and a friend at the age of about three.

Carlina and Susan 1963

Carlina and Susan 1963

I am the one crying. The other cherub is clearly enjoying the moment. I remember this incident and why I was crying. I didn’t want my photo taken. I didn’t know what having my “photo taken” meant. I didn’t like being forced to have this done. The photographer was the father of the happy girl, our neighbour, a school principal, and a huge bear of a man, of whom I was frightened. So it was a traumatic experience for me as a small child and I remember it well.

I have never liked having my photo taken since. I am not photogenic, nor fit the popular notion of what is attractive. So I don’t take many #selfies. And I don’t often post them to social media. I prefer to be at the other end of the camera lens.

On Instagram I am @queuingforbliss. This nom de plume originated in my pursuit to find beauty in my life. This began with a blog I created titled French Accent where I was trying to define what that pursuit for beauty really meant for me. It led to a trip to Europe in 2008 with my husband. We would queue gladly and expectantly to see master works of art and architecture: Michelangelo’s Statue of David in Florence Italy; Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at Le Louvre in Paris; the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome; Le Tour Eiffel; and much much more. And I remember sitting in the town square in Beaune France cocooned in a cloud of bliss, feeling like I was in love, realising I had indeed found my bliss. Back in Australia the challenge for me has always been to find that je ne sais quoi here at home. My quest is a daily one that persists. Instagram helps.

I love Instagram. I love the immediacy of being able to see moments around our world as they happen and through the eyes of others. I appreciate the transient nature of this experience. There is no need to archive. I love that it represents a snapshot of our world moment by moment and we get to share that with everyone. I don’t see the point of locking down this social media tool as a private domain. The joy is in the shared experience.

I have always responded well to visual stimulation. Like many people I love colour and beauty. I love this Earth. I love detail, patterns, texture, art, landscapes, still-life images, shapes, and design. I don’t mind if the image has been enhanced with filters or other software applications. The detail is in the eye of the creator of the image, and if it is an image that stimulates further artistic creativity, then that is a perfectly reasonable aspect of this creative stimulation that Instagram inspires.

Some people have a natural eye for detail and capture excellent snapshots. Others have a gift for photography and some earn a living as photographers and it is good to see those on Instagram too. And while I enjoy following National Geographic @natgeo@nasa and other organisations, it is the everyperson daily snaps that seem to carry the most interest for me. I don’t like sales on Instagram or personal promotion, and if it is a key component of the content then I will unfollow that person.

Instagram offers food for the soul.

Some of the Instagrammers I love to follow (in no particular order) are:

Review of 2014

As I sat at the beach on the first day of 2015 I felt real peace. As soon as I became aware of this unique feeling I tried to identify why. I had just been for a swim in the ocean followed by a walk with Archie the dog, and I was waiting for my husband to return from his run. The sea was calm but the sky was overcast and grey. No jet skis or boats were out yet. A slight breeze blew the sand dune grasses making the little cottontail grass heads flick back and forth happily. Archie sat quietly near me watching other people and their dogs. I felt happy but tired from dancing the night before until after midnight greeting the New Year at a local venue with some friends. 2014 had been a difficult year and many of the difficult hurdles were now behind me; completed with mixed results.

Last year I was inspired by the ladies on the Up For A Chat podcast to do some forward planning after listening to their episode #40 Manifesting Matisse. I followed their idea to write out a “wish-list” of 32 items on a single piece of paper that is divided into 32 squares (by folding the sheet of paper).

Here are my 32 items with the results at the end of the year – with only four actions that I did not start:

Activity Result
1 Get a new job Found a great job
2 Design a new house House design completed
3 Sell parent’s house Parent’s house sold and settled
4 Execute the Will Will execution finalised
5 Drink no alcohol Alcohol free period for 6 months
6 Paleo diet Consistently trying
7 Eat no wheat Ate less wheat
8 Photo archive Started
9 Exercise regularly Regularly but not enough
10 Write my blog 20 blog posts
11 Create a new blog Did not do
12 Build new house Still waiting for planning approval to begin
13 Learn digital SLR photography Started
14 Start writing a book Did not do
15 Do yoga Weekly sessions with gap mid-year
16 Meditate Regular but not daily
17 Walk Regular but not daily
18 Walk the Peninsula trails Walked many of the Peninsula trails
19 Visit Peninsula art galleries Visited some art galleries
20 Cycle every week Cycled most fortnightly Saturday mornings
21 Read 20 books Read 38 books
22 Garden new block Obtained formal landscape plan for block
23 Learn French Did not do
24 Paint Did a few water colour sketches
25 Start sketch book Started a sketch book
26 Whole 30 Did the Whole 30 eating program
27 Be positive Consistently moved towards positive thoughts
28 Be kind Consistently tried to be kind to everyone I met
29 Learn online Did not undertake an online learning course
30 Go to ALIA conference Yes
31 Write letters to friends Yes
32 Family dinners Yes

 Here is what didn’t go well:

  • We continue to jump through hoops trying to comply with the ridiculously convoluted and slow planning process of the local Council in order to obtain permission to begin to build a new house.
  • Our family relationships have deteriorated in the aftermath of my parent’s departure from this earthly plane; despite honourable intentions and repeated and prolonged efforts to make amends and be kind and positive.
  • Dealing with the possessions of my parents was a huge undertaking that took time, energy, help from my brother and husband, and a respectful attitude.

Here is what went well:

  • My parent’s house sold extremely quickly, making it easy to move on with our own lives.
  • We moved into a new townhouse near the beach in a place we love.
  • I have a perfect new job with great colleagues.
  • Being involved with reading lists for book clubs.
  • Our new house design is brilliant.
  • Regular yoga and cycling.
  • Time spent with some great friends – new and old.
  • I continue to enjoy listening to some great podcasts here, and elsewhere that provides me with some important information and inspires me to keep on track with my efforts.
  • My favourite movie of the year was Inter Stellar – a rare masterpiece in my opinion.
  • I read some interesting books (here are the two I rated 5-star):

So I have once again taken a sheet of paper and folded it into 32 squares, then listed my 32 things, and pasted it into the back of my journal. So come what may 2015…

Paris Letters

Janice Macleod, the author of the book Paris Letters, inspired me to try my hand at a bit of drawing once again. She makes a living selling her letters online. These letters are hand written and illustrated with simple pen and water colour sketches. And of course this all began in Paris.

I love using Instagram to share beautiful photos of our world and so I thought I could begin by copying some of the photos I had already taken. I love this one of cherries in a glass bowl for it’s cheery Christmassy feel. Here is the original photo taken by me, and my sketch. And this I used for Christmas cards this year.

Christmas cherries 2014

Christmas cherries 2014

Pretty pictures

Like so many of us, I love art. I love to look at artworks created by artistic souls. I appreciate the creative process and the results of that pursuit. My first academic study was Art & Design. I have drawn and painted my share of artworks, but don’t call myself an artist.

I am lucky that in today’s libraries art is considered an authentic way to showcase the creativity of those in our community. The last public library service I worked in had a successful and inclusive local community art program that invited and encouraged anyone to submit works into the program. The library became a gallery that showcased new works every three months. Beginning artists had a place to try out their talent and successful pieces were often sold to art appreciators.

I am lucky again in my position at the public library where I now work, as I currently look after the Art for Loan Program. This program differs in that artists can include their works in the program and people who join the program can loan artworks and take them home to enjoy for 2 months. Then change them over for other works. The library again becomes a gallery where artworks are showcased and we all get to enjoy the creative efforts; and pretty pictures.

archibald_proze_showToday I visited the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery to see this year’s entrants for the Archibald Prize. It was busy with many other interested people keen to see these works. My favourite was the work by Anh Do of his father Tam Do. I didn’t realize Anh Do has this amazing artistic ability. I love the thick rough swathes of paint. The bold ‘unreal’ colours expertly and yet roughly placed to give form and light to the portrait. This photo of a postcard does not do it justice. The other portrait I loved was by Qiang Zhang of Yang Li. It shows a similar approach with bold thick imprecise brush strokes that give form to a large headshot.

My husband loved the portrait of Nick Cave, Citizen Kave by James Powditch. It intentionally looks like a movie poster and suggests a great movie with a cast to excite movie-lovers: Johnny Cash; Debbie Harry; Robert Mitchum; Tom Waits; and others.

Show some emotion

Feel” is April’s theme for the National Year of Reading. I will approach this topic from the viewpoint of getting in touch with ones emotions.

One of the most powerful and effective ways that I have found to get in touch with my emotions is through the act of creative writing and journal writing.

Here is the list of books that helped me and I can wholeheartedly recommend them to you:

The note that holds you

The world is so loud. Keep falling. I’ll find you.”

Kate Bush~ what can you say? She is a creative artistic genius. She listens to and expresses her own creative heart. She is unique. Some people love her while many don’t.

She is one of the very few artists that I will buy without having listened to the music. I trust her implicitly and respect her creative choices without doubt. I don’t love every piece she creates but I am always won over by most of what she produces.

Her new album 50 Words For Snow is melancholy, understated and enchanting. A surprise duet featuring Elton John Snowed In At Wheeler Street is a sure winner. You can see much of her work here

Snowflake is sung by Albert McInstoch who is Kate Bush’s son. His choir-like vocals are amazing and send shivers up my spine.

As an art student I remember “dancing” and “singing” Wuthering Heights in a field of green as another student captured it on video. No music though and I am no singer or dancer but it gave us some laughs.

She has a gift for melancholy tones and sustaining the note that holds you. The unresolved motif has the ability to transfix your attention making you wait and listen wanting more, holding on for what comes next. There are also recurring images in her lyrics: rope; under water; women rising; on the roof; an old woman, and the spiritual world interlaced with elements of domesticity.

Her music sways you with a gentle lull then startles you awake with discordant surprise.

I loved her previous album Aerial too. Sea of Honey seduces and encapsulates your senses with reassuring warmth. By contrast 50 Words for Snow evokes a chilly winter’s theme. I will need to listen to this again when our Summer is over.

Your thoughts

You think too much.” This has been said to me many times over the years. I disagree. I think most people don’t think enough. I value thinking as our most powerful tool for self-development and actualisation.

I admire people who commit their whole life pursuing one train of thought trying to work something out: scientists and mathematicians for example. Einstein is one of my heroes, but I guess I am not alone there. The Dalai Lama is another unique and remarkable person intent on making positive change for us all through applied thought.

In our own small lives we can make grand improvements simply by applying our thoughts. Many mistakenly believe they are thinking when they are merely reacting. A day spent in constant stimulation and consequent reaction to the words of others is a day wasted in my opinion. Anxiety and worry is not productive thinking. Automatic thought patterns repeated time and time again, year after year, are not beneficial, locks us into repeated behaviours, and deepens the tangled crevasses in our brain.

Have you experienced those “light-bulb moments”? Often these are the impetus that moves us out of our former patterns of thoughts.  Like an electron jumping out to a larger orbit of a nucleus, our world expands.

As a design student I learnt lateral thinking, creative thinking, thinking outside the box; but these do not come naturally. Most of us stay inside the box, unaware of our own individual power to do more. We might react, complain and worry but nothing more.

There is so much helpful advice available that is practical in teaching your brain into new ways of functioning. Edward de Bono’s books are a great place to start: Lateral Thinking and SixThinking Hats are easy to read, understand and apply. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is more complex but new gems of understanding can be found each time it is read.

Intentional thought is an interesting concept approached from various angles by different people. Meditation books tell us about “the gap” when emptying our minds, and the power of dropping our intentions into this gap. James Redfield illustrated “intention” in his colourful The Celestine Prophecy. The Law of Attraction has been given dubious attention by some authors, and yet the thinking methodology is a true gift for those who choose to add it to their box of thinking tools.

If you wish to really challenge thought, existence, purpose, reality, then A Course in Miracles may be the one for you. Or for a lighter, fun-filled parable about thought and reality try Illusions by Richard Bach. (The undisputed Top of My Best Ever Reads List)

Feeling bad? Then apply your mind to the problem. Is it physiological? Perhaps environmental? Don’t just feel bad and react badly. Step back and think. There is a way forward and it is up to you.

Of course, not-thinking can be a valuable and necessary respite from our busy days. Emptying our minds of rubbish allows the new positive brain activity to continue afresh. It has been documented somewhere (?) that repetitive physical movement is the perfect activity that empties the mind and allows the fresh ideas to appear: walking, swimming, running, exercising, dancing, and cycling.

So switch off the TV and your computer, get off your arse, go for a walk, empty your brain, then ask yourself, “Why am I thinking this way?” Then apply your amazing natural ability to think your way forward in creating the life you really want and deserve.

But it is not a “one-stop-shop”. It is a daily practice and commitment. Some days we will do better at it than others. Fortunately these days reminders and prompts are readily available online from the blogs of great thinkers, or by connecting via social networking tools to discussions on these topics. For example: http://twitter.com/ACIM_lessons and http://twitter.com/Edward_deBono and http://twitter.com/DalaiLama

Why write

Why write at all? I find I am asking myself this question often these days. How about you?

Writing blogs has become so popular that it is almost impossible to search for information online without getting any blogposts in your search result; even if you try to be clever and refine your search to prevent them. Someone should invent a search engine that can do this – if they haven’t already. If you know of one, let me know.

I love reading blog posts. I find them, in general, to be creative and inspirational. I enjoy reading the ideas of others. The short expression of an idea seems to be enough. If the post is too long I fall victim to #tl:dr (too long: didn’t read).

In fact my time is so full of activity that I have no time to read blogs. My Reader is full of unread posts and I only seem to be steered to read a blogpost via twitter, and even then it requires a clever hook to get me to click on the link. I’d prefer to read people’s blogs but I have to attend to the barrage of emails I receive. Please spare me the email telling me the photocopier in a distant office has a large job – I don’t care and resent the effort required on my part having to delete it.

So why do we write at all? *to communicate *to share *to educate *to change * to amuse *to record *to understand *to create *to set guidelines *to try to make money *to promote *to develop *to learn *to express *to discover *to question *to connect *to ask *to vent *to coerce *to be read *to practice *to improve *to perfect *to explore *to inform *to make people feel…

Solar by Ian McEwan put me in a foul mood last weekend. I hated it. I loathed the main character. I was disappointed with the pathetic inclusion of the scientific concepts. I hated the style of moving the story forward whilst simultaneously backtracking to fill the narrative of the character. I hated the way the story moved on quickly from one scene to the next with no break (or chapter) to indicate this change in the flow. I persisted because I have loved other works by Ian McEwan. Saturday is one of my favourite books. By the end of Solar I despised the main character and felt depressed and uninspired. I expect that loathing the character was the point. Was this the aim of Mr. McEwan? Then don’t bother. I prefer to read literature that is interesting, uplifting, generous, teaches me something, inspirational, innovative, intriging, challenging, clever, or beautiful.

I realise writing a book is a completely different experience compared to writing a short idea or essay for a blog. And reading books too is a completely different experience that requires some commitment. Asking the question “why write?” applies here too though, perhaps more so. What do you want to be your legacy as a writer?

Julia Cameron wrote The Artists Way some time ago now and by following her prescribed three month program, it instilled in me the practice of writing “morning pages”. I think she has inspired many people to do this. So I use the morning pages as first stream-of-consciousness venting. It has had a profound effect on my wellbeing. It is a useful tool to be able to write any junk without concern for being correct in any way. It helps me sort out my thoughts and gets rid of the neurotic junk. I record my dreams sometimes. I plan. I vent. I try to understand. Writing for my blogs is more considered and I try to pick topics to explore and share that I think may interest others. But I keep asking myself why I bother – why any of us bother at all.