Spring Writing

IMG_3794

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live in a coastal city with the sea only steps away. It is something I longed for as a child and although I long for more sun as an adult, the west coast archipelago of Sweden is undoubtedly something to be treasured.

IMG_3799

Its riches for me come in the form of stories. How easy it is to set the imagination adrift whilst sitting on the rocky shore gathering a hot cup of tea into my hands. Those beaches of rock, more like walruses lazing about after a good meal! The blustery winds that catch my breath until it all settles once again. The sunset of surprising colours!

IMG_3804I’ve been working on story ideas for my new novel while my latest work of fiction is out there trying to find its way across the North Sea. My hope is that it will settle into the right hands so that one day readers will be taken away to 1917 maritime Canada and a lost girl from the Borough of Lambeth during WWII, yet still be connected to the present. Three storylines weave in and out of each other like tapestry woven over generations—each silk thread knotted until the next colour is introduced. When you step back, the whole picture is revealed.

IMG_3801

My new novel will also be set in a few places, rugged in their geography (by the sea, of course) and historical. I’ve been debating whether to bring Scandinavia into this one in some form, since I have lived here for nearly twenty years and know it rather well. The possibilities are intriguing to me.

IMG_3797

Yet as I watch two (skator) magpies building a nest in my raggedy old apple tree, those possibilities become clearer. I am fascinated by the birds’ ingenuity, vision and communication skills. They’re not bothered by the dreary weather today. They do what they need to do to get the job done. They targeted my apple tree, my ugly yet beloved tree in which my children’s swing still hangs beneath and decided that it would be the perfect home for a new baby. So, I shall go to the seaside for my cup of tea where my inspiration lies, build my new story and make it a home.

IMG_3795  IMG_3802  IMG_3807

IMG_3800

Wishing you a happy spring with wonderful reading and writing!

Susan

Advertisements

A Source of Inspiration

danielle-2

I’m afraid Nicholas Sparks was teasing when he said that he grew an idea tree in his garden. Ideas can be painful to conceive yet plentiful if you know where to look. They all start with inspiration. The question is, what inspires you? More to the point, how do you get inspired to start your next project as a writer when your last is sitting in the hands of fate? Yes, nature is inspiring. The sun certainly has a profound affect on me, my energy, my enthusiasm, my drive. Likewise the sea.

But it’s those dreary days of grey on grey as the Scandinavian autumn darkness swells into the landscape that I find inspiration elsewhere – mainly through people. Over the last couple of years, perhaps none has inspired me more than artist, Danielle van Schooneveld. I’ve known Danielle for years but never knew the talent she possessed, the talent she was harnessing quietly in her own way, in her own time.   Perhaps I’ve been living in a box until now, not realizing that she’s been painting all along, the way I have been writing all these years, but only recently sharing my work and taking risks.
danielle-3

Danielle has clearly worked hard to achieve the success that is now gracing her life—an art degree, exhibitions and churning out one painting after another. Though I watch this rise in her career from afar (since we are living in different countries), and celebrate her achievement through social media along with all of her friends, I feel directly affected by her work. I have always been partial to paintings of children and have a number of framed Nancy Noel prints from years past.

I am not an art critic. All I can express is how Danielle’s work affects me. Apart from the obvious, her incredible talent, how thoughtful her portraits are, her portrayal of people, there is something calming in her work, something raw. Perhaps it’s her use of colour. Perhaps it’s in knowing the calm, elegant person that Danielle is. What she achieves is not only a breathtaking finished product, but making one see the value of persistence, the importance of honing one’s talents and driving them forward to create a more fulfilling life.

danielle6As a writer, I can see a story begin to unravel as I look at her paintings. They cannot help but intrigue me. In the top painting, at least five stories scramble over each other to get my attention. A slew of questions instantly formulates. What is the little girl looking at? Her reflection? A fish? Something glittery caught between two rocks under the surface? How did it get there? What is it? Did she drop it? Was it her mother’s? Where is her mother? Is she still alive? Are the girls sisters? Twins perhaps? The questions and answers can grow dark, mysterious or be the seed to a loving, family saga. What the painting affords a writer is possibility. Regardless of the artist’s intention or what inspired the painting, everyone is likely to see something different. The feelings generated are likely to vary as well. In any case, Danielle’s painting above provides a starting point. It is incredible how quickly a web of ideas grows based on that starting point or seed. For that, I am grateful. SONY DSC

All the pieces seem to be fitting together nicely for Danielle, but while traveling the creative road myself, especially the last couple of years, I am under no disillusionment that it’s been a smooth ride. The painstaking work involved in creating her pieces, accompanied by the skill needed to market oneself in this incredibly competitive world and the uncertainties it bestows, requires agility, thick skin and exceptional talent. Danielle possesses these qualities and is carving out her future one painting at a time. I am excited to see where it heads.

In the meantime, if she doesn’t mind, I will use Danielle as a source of inspiration while delving into my next project. Sometimes all a writer needs is a painting.

danielle-kerssemakers

Please visit Danielle:

Website http://www.kunstinzicht.nl/portfolio/werk/daniellevanschooneveld/index.html

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/daniellevanschooneveld

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/dvanschooneveld/

Honouring Our Creative Selves

I found myself at a dinner party last night talking to two very creative men. One who has followed his artistic passion and developed an outstanding career in exterior car design. The other is a physician, whose personal passion lies in music and has submitted several of his songs to Melodifestivalen over the years. The conversation drew me back to my earliest passion and made me question, Where did that little girl go?

creativity-takes-courage

From as early as I can remember, I was drawing floor plans. Not just a handful of floor plans, but reams and reams of floor plans. They were stuffed in draws and under the bed. I sat in front of the television drawing floor plans. I drew floor plans on rainy days at the cottage. Floor plans were part of my every day life at a ripe old age of eight or younger. I simply cannot remember. Paper was always needed and well used. I was building floor plans with books for my Barbies to live in, filling the basement floor, always changing the design. At eleven years old, I submitted my first project at school on architecture and started designing corporate building floor plans. In high school, I took drafting, a year-long project that culminated in my first completed house design, model and all and ready for building.

So what happened? I know that rowing dominated my time through my teens and early twenties and satisfied all of those worldly dreams that crept into my life the more I competed. I was hooked. I loved crossing the finish line first. Rowing was an addiction and I couldn’t get enough of it. Yet a little further past the finish line, beyond the stands and well into the forgotten banks down river, if I squinted just so, I could still see my little creative self cheering me on.

She’s still there, a little weathered perhaps from popping out of the reeds for visits over the years, but she’s there.

Through my career in teaching, I’ve always done my best to tap into my creative side in the hope of bringing out those unique nuances that make each student special. Despite the intrinsic rewards of helping to develop others’ creativity, a part of me yearned for more, to be true to that side of me that was born creative. I wanted no boundaries, or at least as few as possible. I wanted the vision that I’d dreamed of as a little architect in the making. I was a designer then. Looking back over the years, I realize I’ve always been one. I just wanted to be fully creative again. But did it have to be in designing buildings?

Our creative selves might manifest in unexpected ways throughout our careers and personal lives, but they need to be honoured and given a chance. It is creating something from nothing that can give us some of the greatest joy in life. Where would this world be without music and art after all? Whatever steers us in another direction, I believe a part of us will always want to find that forgotten or neglected path again. It will nag us until we do something about it. For those who wait until it is too late, I am certain regret is painful. I believe we need to listen to that little person we were once, tugging at our sleeve.

creative-ppl-color-1

At university, I wrote a children’s book on the side and showed one of my professors. Her words have never escaped me. “You should do something with this one day,” she said. It was her earnest expression that triggered something inside me. She was the first person to validate my writing apart from my high school German teacher who was apparently taken aback when I translated and illustrated The Night Before Christmas for fun. But alas, this story was my design, my creation and there was something remarkable in that realization—that I could write.

I had always enjoyed talking. Anyone who knows me knows this well. Then something grew in the sweet storytelling after I tucked my children in bed at night. I reveled in the stories. They would choose the characters and setting and I would create a story, every night for years, a different story for each of our two children. Soon that rolled into writing down stories on my own then reading those stories to them. Stories were coming out of the woodwork and the kids couldn’t get enough of them. I adore those memories. Now they’ve grown up, young adults in the making.

The designer in me is adjusting to those life changes as I write novels now, creating something again from nothing. Only that nothing is far from empty. I am one of the lucky ones to have grown creatively, even though I couldn’t see it fully at the time. It is through all of these life experiences that I have built a foundation on which to generate new stories. A close-knit family, friends, travel and education have all played a role in keeping that little creative me cheering from the riverbank.

I may not design houses for a living, but I’m finally giving my creative me a voice. I am a writer. I am a storyteller. It took me many years to believe that was true, many, many stories to believe in myself as a writer. I’m thrilled to be nearing the final leg of a new novel, at least the first draft. Honouring the commitment I made to writing this novel is precisely the reason I haven’t posted recently on my blog.  At first I felt guilty about that, until I not only saw how much more productive I had become, I felt better about myself and my work.

It’s not the end of the world if we acknowledge our creative selves later in life, having built a career in another field altogether. Once we do, though, once we let it out the gates, free to run as it will, be prepared for a never-ending journey, but one that feels right. If we don’t honour our creative selves, our lives become a series of short breaths. And don’t most of us really want to breathe deeply, and take in life to its fullest?

Photo Source 1

Photo Source 2