Find your creative space

Write hard and clear about what hurts.
— Earnest Hemingway

I'm a big advocate for having spaces to write. It doesn’t matter where it is, whether it's in a safe little nook in your bedroom, legs tangled in books on the couch, or my favourite place of all, in a humble café with a warm greeting from the barista. The point is, if you find your creative place to write, you can begin to unravel your thoughts that have been caught in your mind. It is when you begin to put words onto paper, that you realise just how much you yearn to find a creative space that you can claim as your own. This space right here, for instance, has quickly become my place to untangle my mind and make sense of this crazy thing called life.

Before I even began constructing my new blog, that would soon become my safe haven, I had to give myself permission to write again. Recreating my blog should really be no biggie at all, but as past experiences would have it, it’s challenging being vulnerable and open to a world that continually tells us not to. And there are plenty of those people out there who say “Sure, write whatever you like – but it can’t be about this… or this.. or this…”. 

And so I had a lot of inner work to do before kick-starting my blog. Would I be writing solely about photography? Would I leave out that part I call, my life? The messy, the ugly, and the beautifulness of it all? And then what would I really accomplish, aside from posting pretty pictures of people and pretending my life is as whimsical as it appears?  With all these questions weighing heavy on my mind, I came back to this quote from Earnest Hemingway. ‘Write hard and clear about what hurts.’ I’m trying, Earnest, I really am.   

I always try to write authentically, letting my truths spill out onto paper, but immediately after I try to clean it back up again. I can’t seem to ever get it right. What clarifies as too honest? A few years ago, my literature professor once told me that the best way to write, is to tune in with your feelings and listen to your creative core. “And don’t censor yourself, even if it’s a subject that make you squirm in your seat. Focus on how YOU feel about the subject, not what other people think.” I still haven’t forgotten those words, all this time later. And whenever I pick up a pen to write in my journal, I try remembering these words.

Above all, I am proud that I still write, still find a voice, and I’m still here fighting for that. It hasn't been easy finding a place where I can speak openly. Nevertheless, this is my creative space, and mine alone. I have found, from past experiences, that there is nothing more torturous than facing your demons but having nowhere to release them. It’s no different to an artist that needs a canvas to paint their story.

Which brings me to my next main thoughts -


Own your story.

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Thank you, Anne Lamott, for putting my thoughts into words. Take risks. Maybe there’ll be people who won’t understand you, or maybe you might be unliked for it, but at least you’ll be true to yourself.  I imagine writing to be a lot like walking into a deep, dark tunnel and finding something completely unexpected. Maybe what you find scares you a little, and if it does – good. That’s when you know you’re being real. Give yourself permission to own your story, because that is true bravery.  


Get messy.

Let’s face it, life can be messy, unpredictable, and a little crazy at times. If I write anything that feels “too perfect”, it’s as though I’ve just bleached my bathroom and cleaned up anything that is too dirty to be seen. And it’s the same with writing. The messier your writing is, for all of life’s imperfections, the more interesting it will be to read. And the more people will be able to relate to you. Perfectionism is the oppressor for great writing, in my opinion. Of all the books I have read, I am most drawn to writers such as Elizabeth Gilbert, whose novel 'Eat Pray Love' has been continuously criticised as being 'faux travel writing'. And yet, why is it that millions of women all around the world relate to her story - a desperation to escape a loveless marriage and escape across an ocean to find herself? Or, lose herself? When an author writes with such honesty, that we find ourselves crying with them, or laughing along with them, we feel more alive than ever. Writing should be messy, realistic, raw, and sometimes even a little painful. That's how we know we're being honest with ourselves and others.


Find your creative space (but don’t be afraid to write anywhere).

The greatest pieces of writing have come from finding a wonderful, creative space. Think of J.K Rowling for instance, who wrote the infamous Harry Potter series in The Elephant House Café, overlooking Edinburgh castle. She had found a quirky little café in a quiet corner to make sense of all her thoughts and let the inspiration take over. However, the little seed that had blossomed into seven novels came from an unusual kind of place. The magical world of Harry Potter came from scrawling on napkins during a delayed train travelling from Manchester to London’s Kings Cross. I find this even more incredible than writing in a quiet café, because if you’ve ever tried to write amongst bustling people, it’s extremely difficult. Not impossible, however. So, don’t be afraid to write down your ideas even if you’ve got a million other things to do - have a notebook handy. You never know where inspiration will come from!


Make time for magic.

Even if that means you set ten alarms for 6am, and force yourself to crawl out of bed. Do it. Get your coffee machine going, open up the blinds, and play some music while you carry about your morning routine. If you’re not a morning person (like me), don’t fret. Some of the greatest writers out there have admitted they don’t always wake up feeling inspired, or confident, but they made time for writing at some point in their day. Or night. If you procrastinate as much as I do, you may find yourself hunched over your laptop at 2am eating the last remanent of the cookie jar. As long as you found the time to take the leap and create magic, that’s a day well accomplished in my opinion!


Share your magic.

What’s stopping you? Or who? Sometimes when I’ve finished writing, and finally I’ve created some magic, I pause and wonder if I should share it or not. I imagine how I’d feel at 80 years old, and written all these soul-wrenching pieces that never were shared with anyone. Yes, I actually imagine myself as an old lady (ha!) and think about what I’d like to have achieved when I reach the age I can barely write, I know in my heart sharing IS the right thing to do. Sharing your writing literally decreases isolation and connects you to those who also face the same challenges, and even helps attract empathetic, compassionate people as well. As Anne Lamott summarises, "writing is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong."