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Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Imagination in the Flesh

This past year has been insanely busy for me, and it’s not likely to let up much until the middle of next year. This is not a complaint. At the moment I have more to write than I have time for, and the deadlines that are already tight, I push and pare down to make even tighter so I can write even more. A friend of mine would have called this situation a golden monkey wrench. It’s an amazing place to be, but also quite terrifying. By the end of the year I will have written four full-length novels and a novella, and all of what I’ve written, I’m very proud of. What’s already published is doing well. All in all it’s been a banner year and, possibly, the hardest year of my life.

I live in my head most of the time, like most fiction writers do, and the writing schedule has kept me in my head more this year than ever before. Coming off the successful launch of Riding the Ether and Grace Marshall’s successful launch of An Executive Decision, and with the demand for the second novel in the Executive Decisions Trilogy ASAP, I’ve had to rethink my situation and find a way back into my body.

That probably sounds insane for someone who writes erotic romance, but I would bet I’m not the only one who has to fight the huge disconnect between the mental and the physical. Fiction doesn’t demand physicality. Whole worlds can be created and peopled without a writer ever leaving the comfort of her writing space. The place of the imagination is outrageously fertile and none of us will ever live long enough to explore it to its full depth. In essence, we can go there and never leave.

I’ve started going to the gym twice a week, even working with a personal trainer from time to time to force the issue. A big part of the reason for that is just to maintain my health. But it’s also to help prepare for the Wainwright Memorial walk, which will be the most challenging walk we’ve ever done. We planned to do it last May, but writing happened far more intensely than I had anticipated, so we postponed it for a year.

Every time I head off to the gym, my mind rebels with an endless list of reasons why I should stay home and work. There are deadlines, there are mountains of PR, there are readings, talks. How the hell can I waste my time sweating it out at the gym? But I go, and I sweat and I push myself for an hour. And strangely, the world changes.

I walked home along the canal a few days ago after a particularly hard work out (I think my personal trainer might be a bit of a sadistJ) The water of the canal was like glass. Only the wake of two mallards sliced through the mirror image of a clear sky with a double V that seemed to go on forever behind them. I was struck by how brilliant everything was, how clear everything seemed all of a sudden. I was struck by how much more physical, how much more real the world around me felt.

That day I managed seven thousand words on the novel, seven thousand good words. That day I thought a lot about that boundless place of imagination that stretches out in all directions inside every writer. I realise the less time I spend in my body, the more I confine myself to the tourist routes in my imagination. The less time I spend in my body, the less I’m able to head off track into the wild places, into the deep places where story take shapes and textures and tones I couldn’t have imagined if I hadn’t spent that time in the flesh, as it were. This is not something I didn’t know. This is something that’s always been central to my work and who I am, and yet, it’s amazingly easy to forget, to neglect, to overlook.

That same weekend we worked in the allotment, clearing weeds, digging, making things ready for spring planting. The smell of damp earth, the bronze and gold of the trees against the exhibitionist blue of the sky, the stoop and bend and press and shove of my body kept me in the moment, kept me in the flesh, kept me present from one breath to the next.

It isn’t always sex, thought it can be at times. It’s just being there, at home, in the flesh. It’s just knowing, even if I don’t understand why, that there is a connection between the blood and bone and flesh of me, between the way the physical me moves and breathes and interacts with the rest of what’s concrete, and with the vast realm of the imagination spread before me always new, always wild, always inviting. And never completely safe. The wildest places, the most dangerous places are off the beaten path of the imagination, and at least for me, those areas, those untouched, primordial areas are most accessable when I’m most in my body.

 

Shay Briscoe: Artist in Transition

Shay Briscoe and his powerful interpretation of the love spell threesome near the end of BTR

I’m very excited to welcome the talented Shay Briscoe to my site today. Shay is one of the three lovely artists who gave me a very special gift for the launch of my latest novel, Body Temperature and Rising. Shay, along with Fuschia Ayling (who was my guest recently) and Jess Pritchard (who will hopefully be my guest in the near future) volunteered to illustrate three scenes from my novel, three scenes that I planned to read at the launch party. At the time they were exhibiting some of their work at Sh! Portobello. I was elated with their offer, and my guests and I were totally enthralled with the end result! It is a total pleasure to have Shay on my site today to tell us a bit about himself and to share a little of his wonderful work with us. Welcome, Shay!

Body Book

KD: Have you always known you wanted to be an artist?

SB: I only really got into art around three years ago, upon meeting the lovely Fuschia Ayling and realising that I don’t have to be a good painter to be a good artist. I was a chef for a long time before I started making art, though I knew that cheffing was not the career I wanted. When I discovered my passion for art at the age of twenty-one, I finally knew what I wanted to do with my life!

KD: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Shay.

SB:I grew up in Gloucestershire in a large family. When I was eighteen I began coming

Tapestry Close-up

to terms with the fact that I was transgender and slowly took steps to become the boy I should have been born as. I currently study fine art at Kingston University, and I am engaged to fellow artist Fuschia Ayling. I have a very nice ferret called Floppy, and I have serious love for dinosaurs, Greek mythology, playing stupid games on my laptop, cats, trivia and deep sea creatures. It may not come as a surprise after reading this that I have Asperger Syndrome.

KD: Why did you choose to make sexuality the central theme in your artwork?

SB: I don’t think that it was really a choice – it seemed natural for my artwork to center upon something so significant in my life. Making work about my gender is very therapeutic for me. It lets me get out all the stresses of living in a body that doesn’t feel like my own. And also, it means I can hopefully educate others about people like me, against whom there is still a lot of prejudice. Sex is something that we all experience, so it is something that everybody can relate to in some way.

KD: Where do you get your inspiration?

SB:My inspiration comes from everything around me. Random images from the internet, new

Tapestry

stationary, lines from books, funny shaped leaves, television adverts, labels from clothes, children’s toys, song lyrics, going to exhibitions, gawping out of the window, packaging, smells, tastes, textures, so many things! The world in general is a very inspirational place.

KD: What’s the hardest thing about being an artist?

SB: The days where all your creativity seems to have disappeared and you feel like it’ll never come back. That, and the worry that I’ll never make enough money to live!

KD: Who inspires you as an artist?

Anderson and Tim

SB: My favourite artists are Egon Schiele and Yayoi Kusama, I take a lot of inspiration from both. Also, when I read the books of Neil Gaiman (Neverwhere, The Eternals, American Gods) and Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (The Edge Chronicles), I get a massive urge to get into the studio!

KD: What is the best thing about being an artist?

SB: Being able to do whatever I want and it counting as work! I love that I am allowed to create literally anything, and discover new ways of doing things that I hadn’t thought of before. I like being able to express what I feel inside in ways that I couldn’t using just words.

KD: What are you working on now?

SB: I’m currently developing an idea which will involve a book and possibly a film. I don’t want to say too much yet, but hopefully it will be a success! I’m also making a couple of condom packet pillows, which I’m enjoying greatly.

KD: Future plans?

SB: I want to continue exploring the subjects of gender and sexuality and how they impact upon my life. Further on into the future, my ambition is to return to my love of street culture and open a shop that sells t shirts, designer toys and accessories that I make myself, along with pieces from other artists. Hopefully as well as the shop I’ll be able to exhibit my work in galleries… That’s the long term plan anyway!

Thank you, Shay, for sharing a little of yourself and your work with us, and very best of luck in all that you do!

 

Where you can find Shay:

http://shaybriscoe.blogspot.co.uk/?zx=961855511b547a2f

 

Artist Fuschia Ayling talks Sexuality and Creativity

Fuschia and me at the BTR launch

I’m sure you’ve already seen the pictures of the paintings and heard me rave about the fabulous artists who each volunteered to illustrate a different excerpt of my novel, Body Temperature and Rising, for my launch party a couple of weeks ago. As I’ve gotten to know these very talented young artists and seen a bit more of their work, I knew I had to have them on my site and give my readers the chance to get to know them a little better and have a look at a few images of their wonderful work.

Fuschia’s stunning scene depicting voyeuristic bliss on the fells from BTR

The very talented Fuschia Ayling is my guest today. Fuscia chose the opening scene of Body Temperature and Rising to paint, and on her blog, teased us all with sneak peeks of the work in progress. I’ve been following her blog ever since just to see what she gets up to. Welcome Fuschia! It’s a pleasure to have you on A Hopeful Romantic.

KD: Fuschia, have you always known you’ve wanted to be artists? What inspired the choice?

Fuschia:I have always been driven creatively, ever since I was a very small child – I suppose I was always happiest when I was up to my elbows in paint, mud or playdough. When I was small my father owned a gallery and studio in St. Ives, and his success and talent as an artist – along with my immersion in the Cornish art scene – meant that I was given all the encouragement I needed to continue exploring my interest. As I grew up I continued to enjoy expressing myself visually, but I

‘My Not So Secret Garden’

viewed it more as therapy – there were always things which I couldn’t explain to others, things that I could only really exorcise in my journals. I studied Art and Design at college and then took an extra couple of years to really develop my work and distance myself still further from what seems to be a very Cornish expectation – that as an artist one should paint landscapes and seascapes to order. I am thankful that being an artist is a viable career option – I can basically devote my life to healing what is, unfortunately, a slightly damaged brain.

KD: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

“Bang Bang” is to do with sexual experience and confusion, the way all the things that we experience leave traces, tangled and in some ways unable to be separated. It is also to do with my feelings for my own body, my femininity, my role as a woman – as explored through the use of embroidery.

Fuschia: I am 20 years old, currently studying at Kingston University for a BA in Fine Art. My work is always confessional, often sexual and sometimes a little shocking. My work deals with my own personal experiences and opinions, and in that way it is like an ever growing and expanding diary of my life. I often deal with issues that, although still current, are perhaps best described as scars from childhood. I have been called a feminist artist, although this isn’t a label I particularly identify with, I think my work deals with what could be deemed “Feminine Issues” merely because I am by gender a woman. I enjoy writing, drawing, sewing and painting – I like to mix and match materials and processes.

KD: Why did you choose to make sexuality the central theme in your artwork?

Fuschia:I suppose sexuality is a central theme in my work because it is a central theme in life – sex

‘Open Wide’

is, after all, the reason why we are all here. I am very interested by human nature, especially when it comes to sex, and I think that this interest fuels part of my obsession. Like many people I have issues with my own sexuality, I find that exploring these unspoken things in my work comes naturally to me. I have produced a lot of work in the past about being a rape victim, and I probably will continue to do so in the future, it is something which I kept secret and shamefully hidden for so long that having the freedom to express it, to work through it and to, hopefully, help other people in similar positions to myself is hugely healing to me. I think also that in my work I wanted to make a distinction between sex and rape, because rape is not sex but it is violence and sex is something beautiful – no matter how hard you’re fucking it is always consensual. Sex is wonderful – I want to celebrate that.

KD: Where to you get your inspiration?

Fuschia:I am inspired predominantly by my own history, but also materially – by patterns, colours, chance events. I am really interested in

surface decoration, the little details which make up the skin of an object. I also have a fascination with craft – embroidery, needlework, knitting, upholstery, beading – things which were traditionally a woman’s work, I enjoy bringing a new vitality to them when they are placed in an altogether different context – For me, a cross stitch of a pretty house is impressive, but a cross stitch of a vagina is sheer brilliance.

‘My Cunt is a Crime Scene’

KD: What’s the hardest thing about being an artist?

Fuschia: I think that, for me, the hardest thing about being an artist is also one of the best things – Being self led. On the one hand the freedom is wonderful, the ability to just get up one day and say “Today I shall make a wall-hanging entirely out of cotton wool…” – that is a fabulous feeling when you have total monopoly over your practice. On the other hand, however, is awful days of total creative block, despondency, failure… It is about having the ability to be your own critic, but also to know when to stop beating yourself up over your short-comings.

KD: Who inspires you, as an artist?

Fuschia: In the art world my greatest influence has to be Tracey Emin, I discovered her work aged 14 and have been in love ever since. I admire her ability to let the viewer in but still keep hold of the reigns. For me she is somebody who is very real, very human and also very good at what she does. I also admire Sarah Lucas, Elke Krystufek, Nan Goldin, Annette Messager, Ana Mendieta and Francesco Clemente among others. I have also been inspired greatly by the work of author Mervyn Peake. I would also like to take this oportunity to say a big thank you to Sarah Berry for her ongoing support!

KD: What are you working on now?

Fuschia: I am currently working on a project which is far more feminine in appearance, I have become really interested in floral prints and patterns. I have just completed part of this – a large square painting titled “My Not So Secret Garden”, which was inspired by my unease with the common pornographic pose which involves spreading ones pussy lips with ones fingers, I was interested in the dual meaning of the gesture – whether it was an invitation, a sign of vulnerability in exposing our softness – or whether it could be an aggressive gesture, a blatant display of sexuality as something threatening. By combining the image with soft floral shapes and pastel colours I am trying to play with the connotations the familiar pose has…It is work in progress!

KD: What are you working on now?

Fuschia: I am very excited at the moment about our (The Vagina Atelier) nomination for the Erotic Award’s Erotic Artist of the Year, and the possibilities for making new contacts. I am looking forward to seeing what the future brings…

Fuschia’s blog: http:/www.fuschiaayling.blogspot.com

Thank you, Fuschia for giving us a chance to get to know you a little better and to sample a little bit of you stunning art. It’s been a real pleasure you to have you! I wish you all the best in your creative pursuits.

 

Occupy Mind Street

The other day, I overheard someone say, ‘my mind is occupied.’ And I had one of those ‘Aha’ moments that happen when I suddenly see meaning in a word, meaning that’s always been there, but somehow I missed. Then Friday night, while channel surfing over a bottle of wine and some chocolate, Raymond and I happened upon the 1998 film, Fallen, starring Denzel Washington. Fallen is a film about a demon who occupies people for his malevolent agenda and passes himself on from person to person by touch. And there it was again, that amazing concept of occupation.  Okay, in the case of a nasty demon, the word used is usually possession, but the two words are synonymous in many ways.

I suppose with the occupation of Wall Street and all of the other occupations going on, and with high unemployment causing the loss of occupation, the word was already in my mind in an unconscious sort of way. But I’ve never really thought about what it means to have my mind occupied. What happens when my mind is occupied, and who’s doing the occupying? Surely the occupied mind implies that someone is there other than me, someone who has taken up residence and is now in the driver’s seat, focusing me, perhaps in a way that my unoccupied mind would not be able to focus.

Socrates spoke of the inner voice, what he called the daemon, the ‘inner oracle’ that guided him. For the Greeks, the daemon was an entity somewhere between mortal and god. In his Dark Materials Trilogy, Phillip Pullman manifests those inner oracles in the outer world and embodies his daemons in animal form.

Carl Jung believed each of us is two different entities, two different selves. He believed there was our public persona, the part of us we show to the world, and there was the mysterious, hidden realm of the second self, the self that was more at home with the mystical, more connected with the divine. For Jung, the life journey was one of integrating those two selves.

I can’t help thinking that Socrates’s daemon, Jung’s second self could be just other names for the writer’s muse.

That brings me back to ‘occupy.’ Even in the free online dictionary, all the definitions for ‘occupy’ gave me more food for thought about the occupied mind.

As I think about the unoccupied mind – if there even is such a thing, I think about the blank piece of paper or the blank monitor we writers face each time we settle in to write a story. There’s a passivity implied before occupation can happen, an emptiness. The dictionary defines ‘occupy’ as seizing possession of and maintaining control over. Our word ‘occupy’ comes from the Latin, occupare, to seize. There’s no denying that conquest is implied. A country must be ripe for the takeover, weak, unable to defend itself. There has to be a void to fill. To me, it make sense that a mind must also reach some point of passivity to be ripe for the takeover.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the mind is blank before it’s occupied. More than likely the mind was already occupied, or preoccupied.  When we’re ripe for the takeover, does the occupier come in and sweep out the detritus, the tyrants of busy-ness and lethargy, the sludge of self-doubt and procrastination? Is it a peaceful coup or a violent uprising? And how does the way the occupation of the mind come about effect what we, as writers, create when the occupier comes in, does a proper housecleaning, and takes over the controls?

An occupied mind is a beautiful thing to behold, even more beautiful to experience. And at those times when I’m fully taken over, I’m truly beside myself, watching with amazement while the occupier guides me.

When that happens then word, ‘occupy,’ takes on a new, active meaning. I become engaged, employed, with my full concentration on a task, and that task involves the writing of a story. Since I can’t really skirt the spiritual implications while talking about daemons and muses and the Self with a capital ‘S’, it seems appropriate to bring in that lovely word, ‘vocation,’ because vocation and occupation are so beautifully linked. Vocation, according to the dictionary, is a regular occupation, especially one for which a person is particularly suited or qualified. It is an inclination, as if in response to a summons, to undertake a certain kind of work, a calling.

An inclination, as if in response to a summons definitely sounds like a close encounter with the Muse to me. And it’s that close encounter that brings me to the final definition of occupy; to dwell or reside in, to hold or fill. The world I create, the characters I populate it with and the conflict I thrust upon those characters now all come rushing in en mass to fill up, to dwell in, to reside in my occupied mind, along with the Muse/Daemon/Self, who is at the controls. That, I would say, is a fully occupied mind, and every writer’s wet dream.

I could go on and on about the implications of occupation and vocation and daemons and the Self and Muses in the driver’s seat, but my mind is really occupied with a novella at the moment. So if you’ll excuse me, I really need to get back there so I won’t miss anything because the occupation is just now getting really good and really messy.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s All About Sex … and Creativity

Sex and creativity are often seen by dictators as subversive activities.  —Erica Jong

My husband knows I’m always looking for interesting articles about sex. He sent me one the other day about masturbation as a treatment for restless leg syndrome (It’s orgasm that actually seems to help. The means is optional.) This led us to an impromptu  discussion of all of the other benefits of sex. Sex is a good sleep aid, sex can help with weight loss, sex can improve skin, hair and nails, just to name a few. There was even a recent article in Psychology Today about semen as an anti-depressant. The jury, however, is still out on whether sex is an aid or a deterrent to creativity.

 For the naysayers, abstinence has long been touted as a way to focus sexual energy for creative purposes. On the other hand, a study at the University of Newcastle-on-Tyne and the Open University showed that professional poets and artists had almost twice as many sex partners as other people. The study also showed that the number of sex partners increased as creative output went up. The conclusion drawn was that the more creative you are, the more sex partners you were likely to have.

 I’m sure that’s a simplification, but I wonder which came first: the sex or the creativity? Is it the creative force that makes us horny, or is it being horny that makes us creative? My guess is that every writer, poet or artist would answer that question differently. However, I don’t think there’s any denying the close connection between the creative force and sexuality. Nor do I think that’s particularly surprising. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Freud was right. It IS all about sex. But I wonder whether we really understand just what sex is all about.

 Yes, the basic biology is obvious, but we humans haven’t had sex simply to procreate in a very long time now. We’ve evolved to want, to expect, even to need more from the sex act than just the next generation. Perhaps that goes hand-in- hand with our cultural evolution, what sets us apart from our animal cousins — at least in our own eyes. For humans, all things seem to have evolved two meanings. First there is the concrete realm in which we’re born, nurtured, thrive, reproduce and die. But we develop another level of meaning when we no longer have to use all of our energy just to survive. When starvation is no longer an issue, food and its preparation and presentation become art. When keeping out the cold is no longer an issue, clothing becomes fashion, and magazines tell us how we can be walking galleries for the art of clothing. When finding shelter from the elements is no longer necessary, our very homes become an artistic expression of ourselves. In a world where all our basic needs have evolved more than one meaning, the artistic expression becomes as important as the function.

 But all of these necessities are mundane. Sex is not. For our ancestors, sex was the magic by which two people become three. Today sex is the magic by which two people become one, or by which one person becomes more herself or himself. On one hand procreation has given way to re-creation,  but on the other hand, how can an act that has evolved from the very need to create the next generation be rooted in anything but creativity?

 How can the process of creating be anything but sexual? Writing a story is a penetrative act resulting in something larger, something much more alive than the words on the page, than the idea conceived. That’s heady stuff. That’s the writer in full rut. It’s intimate, it’s messy, it’s rough and tumble, it’s voyeurism and exhibitionism and full-on heat. If it isn’t, then there hardly seems to be a point.

 That being said, anyone who has had good sex, lingering sex in which time seemed no longer to exist, will recall that what mattered was the wonder of the act itself, the amazing intimacy with the other. Any writer or artist knows that experience up close and personal. At some point the creative act itself becomes the sum total of existence. The writer’s world shrinks to and expands out from that act, and the end no longer matters.

 So how did I get from masturbation for restless leg syndrome to once more worshiping at the altar of the Divine Creative Sexual Force? Well I suppose it’s all just a part of the journey isn’t it? And besides, where else would I go with it?

 What’s Happening

Speaking of creativity, I spent a lovely day the 2nd of April with the Sweet ‘N Sexy Divas on their great sight talking about writing not being a means to an end. The conversation was great, and the Divas rock. I highly recommend a visit to their site.

Today I’m with the fabulous Tonya Kinzer talking about the writing process and pushing the envelope.  I always have a great time talking with other writers and hearing what works for them. The woman gardens and drinks red wine! I think those fine traits speak for themselves. Stop in and say hi.

Family Friendly Working Ezine had a fabulous interview with Xcite Book’s fearless leader, Hazel Cushion, this week . The woman is amazing on every level and the article is great. Plus it quotes moi. I’m very pleased to be apart of Xcite.

The week has been about clearing the decks, getting blog posts, promo stuff and short stories off the table so I can start in full-tilt on Lakeland Heatwave next week, and I’m more than ready to get down to a little Lakeland fun.

In other news, there have been two very long, very delicious walks on my home turf, both resulting in some serious encounters with the Muse. And the portable greenhouses are bursting at the seam with seedlings waiting to go in the beds. Both beds now have peas and cauliflower planted.  Creative work is dirty work:)

Wishing everyone almost too much of a good thing!

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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