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Archive for March, 2010

Disciplined spontaneity

I was reading yesterday a writer’s account of how routine can help creativity. She made the point that the first essential in writing is actually to write: to put in the time and write down the words. Spontaneity, imagination, creativity don’t necessarily emerge out of nothing: they have to be worked for, and that work might require a plan. It might require discipline. I remember another writer years ago saying how he wrote his books from 9 am to 12 noon, Monday through Friday. It was a job. A routine. But from his routine emerged the energy that set off his creativity. If you want to write, but don’t know where to start, start anywhere. Just write.  Don’t do nothing.  Years ago a friend gave me a book, called The Artist’s Way, I think, that set out a series of routines to spark creativity. These included “daily words” where the artist was supposed to write a certain number of words – I think they had to be honest reflective words – each day without fail. The checklist asked: have you done your daily words? I’ve never been like that. I never followed the plan. I’ve never really been part of the programme. If I had a style, I don’t think that would be it. I will go and look again at that book.  It might do me good, after all, although for me the thing isn’t about turning on a tap that has become closed: that’s not my problem. My tap, if anything, doesn’t turn off properly. It drips. Perhaps that’s not the best analogy. Perhaps we’re looking more at a bucket. That leaks. Perhaps that’s too bleak: let’s say instead it’s a cup. It runneth over, and all the good stuff is getting away. Writing isn’t about creating stuff, it’s about catching it. Or perhaps it’s just about seeing it. Noticing it.

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On Geography

So geography is about noticing things about the world. And what you notice depends on what you are looking for, and how you look. Our aim is to see more, and to see more clearly. We want to see things that other people can see, as well as what we see ourselves. And things that people before us have seen. And the things that we are going to see.

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I have been working with an artist. She describes her work as being the care and maintenance of the web of our noticing. The paying heed of things overlooked. Exploring contemporary notions of where “wilderness” might now reside when the last bit of the world has been mapped, she has put together, amongst other things, a carefully curated collection of lost buttons, found on the street, the location and date of the discovery of each one carefully recorded. We are looking at the small moments that make up landscapes. Trying to help people to notice. To see more. For me, as a teacher, that is the coal face of my work.

Link: Miriam Burke’s website

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Thoughts from the road

We’re always on the road. Sometimes there are things to say. Sometimes it’s clear that what you have to say should go into a notebook, or into a conversation, or onto a postcard. Perhaps just to yourself. Perhaps not. Sometimes the best place just seems to be here, so that’s what this blog is for. Just for when this feels like the place to put whatever it is, while we are on the road.

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