Closing The Chapter Of November

November has been a funny old month, full of a jumble of occasions, tough moments and travelling back and forth between my family home and University. So, in a bid to get my mind around everything that has happened in the last 30 days and document these events for my own memory, I thought I would do a post to close this month’s chapter.

Opening-up and being assessed

November brought with it more than its fair share of mental and emotional hardships. The weight became a lot for my mind to bear, so I reached out to different people for help. Although I didn’t always get the results I wanted or needed from these attempts, at least I know that I took responsibility for my own mental health again this month and didn’t completely close myself down, no matter how strong the temptation to do so was. I continued attempting to adjust to my new medication this month which prompted me to write a post about the stigma around taking medication for your mental health. Finding the right medication can be a long, confusing and winding road which I’m not convinced I have fully travelled yet, so this month was about me assessing the impact my meds were having on me and the extent to which they have been effective.

 

Deadlines crept-up on me

I handed-in my first two proper essays of my second year at University. One minute their deadline dates seemed in the far distance, then suddenly they were upon me and I felt woefully unequipped to tackle them. Whilst there are many ways I could have better approached these assignments (essentially giving myself more time to do them!) I’m proud that I managed to give them a good go whilst juggling some of the heavy mental health-related things which were swirling in my life.

 

Back and forth

The train journey between where I live at University and my family home has become a habitual presence in my life over the course of this past month. Due to birthdays and appointments, I have been needing to be present at home quite frequently. Each time I go back there, I gain a new appreciation for how much I miss the simple things which come with being home. The town I grew-up in makes me feel nostalgic these days with every corner prompting memories from my childhood to flash in front of me, whereas before I only held a seething resentment for the (admittedly very much imperfect) place.

 

Birthdays at every corner!

There was a grand total of six birthdays within my family during November. First of all, it was my Godmother’s 31st birthday then her sister’s 22nd. It’s crazy to think of them as being at these ages, it makes me wonder where all those years went between them being the girls I once saw them as and the confident young women they now are. Then, there was a 17th birthday in the family, another milestone that I cannot quite believe has crept-up so quickly, especially when I remember going around to said boy’s house when we were nothing more than tiny tots. Then, both of my brothers and my grandma had their birthdays. My grandma turned 91 whilst still holding herself with the youth, energy and wit of  someone years younger. Also, she is nothing less than a flipping style icon to be honest; that woman knows how to put together an outfit!

 

Fantastic Beasts, The Crimes of Grindelwald

It takes a lot to get me excited about a film because I’m not particularly a movie fan considering that I usually find it boring to sit through over an hour of watching something. However, JK Rowling’s wizarding world has a place in my heart that I cannot even attempt to explain or summarise, so the second Fantastic Beasts film had been a date in my calendar for quite a while. I went to see it in the cinema (a very rare occurrence for me) and I was blown-away by the spectacle of it. I genuinely believe the people who work on the visual effects of those films must be near geniuses! As we re-visited Hogwarts, I felt a very real tug on my heartstrings and the phrase ‘Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home’ played in my mind.

 

I can’t say that I’m always proud of myself

My attendance this month at University has been patchy at best. When my anxiety in particular rears its head in its customary vicious fashion, I struggle to even open the door of my flat let alone take a step outside of it into the danger of the wider world. Therefore, my attendance at seminars and lectures took a hit. The thought of sitting through a class whilst destructive thoughts raged within me and words stuck in my throat was, at times, too much for me to bear. I couldn’t pretend that I was ‘well’ when, in reality, I was feeling at the complete mercy of mental health. However, for the classes I did manage to attend, especially in the last week of this month, I can be pleased that I pushed myself to regain some control over my academic life and didn’t let my lack of attendance spiral out of control too far.

 

So, it is now December. Who knows what this month will throw at me or you, yes you, reading this. However, I’m immensely grateful for whoever will be here to read the following instalments on this blog and follow my somewhat volatile ramblings as I relay my thoughts, feelings and emotions. To anyone who has commented or given me a like this month, I am so, so grateful to you! You have no idea what a boost those such things can give to my day when I am feeling low or anxious or anything in between.

 

If you want to hear me ramble on everyday follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature !

 

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BIG MAGIC

Yesterday evening I finished reading ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert and I feel lucky to have read a book that connected so profoundly with my own state of mind, my own needs and my own perspective. It reminded of a fact which I have forgotten since studying at University; that creating art can be fun. University puts so much emphasis on masterpieces and the genius of those who make it into the literary canon that I have forgotten the nuances of creative experience. This book reminded me not to put so much pressure on myself, I do not have to write pieces for the express purpose of them being profound or important, instead I can create and write for the joy of it.

Here are five of the most important lessons that I took from ‘Big Magic’:

1. Do not be fearful of your art, be playful and curious with it

I think that most people who create anything go through periods where they are too scared to pick up a pen, a paint brush or whatever their implement of choice because they are worried about the outcome. Either they are scared of people laughing at what they have created, they fear that they will feel let down by their own efforts or that they will not find any inspiration to engage with. Firstly, Gilbert reminds us that the act of just focusing on creating art in whatever form is a human victory in itself and if someone laughs at you for it then you can feel sorry for them for completely missing the point of a creative existence. Secondly, being self-critical is okay in small doses but once in a while we should give ourselves a pat on the back for just exercising our creative energies whether we created something we loved or not because at least we are teaching ourselves and bettering our creativity during the process. Thirdly, inspiration comes in many forms, sometimes it is clear and easy to decipher, at other times it seems to hide from us and we have to tease out it’s content bit by bit through being open and determined to find that next creative spark.

2. Do not take yourself too seriously, your art will suffer if your ego takes control

“How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation”

Something about this quote from the book really resonated with me. When I am going through patches where I feel that my creativity has dried-up and I am just producing inane drivel I feel so frustrated and angry at creativity, I blame it for leaving me adrift. However, there is no point on sitting around aimlessly waiting for a lightning bolt of genius to hit you and gift you the bulk of a novel on a silver platter. Equally there is no point in refusing to create in these dry patches because you believe that you have too much self-respect to create something anything less than greatness – that is your ego talking. Keep creating just for the sheer hell of it, this is your life and if you feel a calling to live your life creatively then you have to ride the rough with the smooth and keep exercising those creative energies whilst keeping the faith that the incomparable feeling of inspiration will visit you again when both you and it are ready.

3. You do not have to go through pain or misery to produce good and profound art

Creating should be fun, however this is never a point which is emphasised within the arts. Instead, I have been lectured numerous times on the individual pains which the great writers went through to write their famous works. It is almost like we are taught that creating has to be a form of purgatory, we cannot enjoy it, instead it must be torture and it has to be agony to produce whatever it is that we want to. There is a myth that any profound art must come from a place of darkness where a person has struggled against hatred of the creative process to bring their idea into reality. I know that creativity can sometimes be frustrating but why can’t it also be fun? Why can’t I be playful with my inspiration and ideas rather than have to permanently suffer because of them? 

4. The Earth will not stop spinning if your creation is not perfect

“while it’s definitely true that failure and criticism will bruise my precious ego, the fate of nations does not depend on my precious ego.”

Sometimes we can be paralysed by the fear that what we have created is not good enough and so we will do nothing with it. I have fallen into this trap many times, the notion that if I am not writing with the intention of producing a master piece or something profound and original then I shouldn’t write at all. However, if I take a step back I can see how ridiculous this is! Who the hell has the authority to decide what a masterpiece is anyway? I can create because I love to and to hell with anyone who says that the imperfections in my writing make it stupid and pointless, the imperfections they see in my writing are probably what makes it distinct and mine anyway. Plus, nothing dramatic is going to happen if I produce something which is nearer the crappy end of the scale rather than the genius end. Sure, it will be disappointing and I will be sad about it but then the world goes on and I will take what I need to from that experience and move on because no big seismic shift will occur in the world because I produced a story with blatant plot holes and grammatical errors.

5. Creativity should be cherished

“I am referring to the supernatural, the mystical, the inexplicable, the surreal, the divine, the transcendent, the otherworldly. Because the truth is, I believe that creativity is a force of enchantment – not entirely human in its origins.”

As you can see from the quote, Gilbert talks and thinks about creativity in a reverential way. She speaks about it like it is a force which is outside of our understanding, unpredictable and totally, divinely, beautiful. I believe this too. I cannot explain creativity or inspiration, its ebbs and its flows. Sometimes it shines its full grace on me and I feel completely immersed in the magical feeling of imagination, purpose and art. Other times its a little trickier to place and I have to pursue inspiration with a renewed sense of determination. Either way, creativity is a hard idea to pinpoint precisely because of its unknown nature. People who live a creative life place their trust and faith in a force which can seem like it is playing them at times; teasing them with an idea just outside of their grasp. However, the way creativity can light-up our lives and bring us out of the usual routine of things surely means that it should be cherished, respected and revered.