If I had to describe Smut Manchester 2015 in three words, those words would be community inspiring creativity. Whether it was the laid back, cozy atmosphere of The Bangkok Bar and Restaurant or the delight of spending time with Brit Babe Street Team members – some of them we were meeting for the first time. Whether it was the open Dungeon and watching the lovely Cara Sutra spank Janine Ashbless or the joy of brainstorming with, listening to, and encouraging other writers; whether it was the workshops or the readings; whether it was the opportunity to make our own floggers with Kink Craft or the delightful evening at Dr. Sketchy’s drawing the lovely performers, who posed for us, I feel as though I have been totally immersed in creativity for the past thirty hours, and I’m still buzzing from it. It’ll be days before I can actually absorb all that happened this weekend, and the really stunning thing about Smut Manchester is that technically it began at 11:00 Saturday morning and was over by 8:30 Saturday night. How such a short time can be so crammed full of creativity, community, random acts of kindness, inspiration and shenanigans totally boggles.
Victoria and Kevin Blisse continue to astound me with their gentle, contagious, enthusiasm completely underpinned by more hard work and passion than a small army could muster. It’s a total delight to have been a part of Smut from the very first Smut event in Scarborough three years ago and to have watched it grow and evolve to the majorly exciting force for erotica and all things smutty. I would like to offer a huge and very heart-felt thank you to these two lovely, fearless people. Victoria, Kev, you are my heroes!
This Saturday has convinced me that we writers need to get out more! I know! I know! We’d all rather be holed up in our ivory towers tap tapping away on our laptops. BUT the pump has to be primed and sometimes we find the Muse in the strangest places; very often we find her in community. Sometimes she’s waiting with a pencil and a sketch pad, or with a mad attempt at a group selfie that ends is hysterical giggles, or the quiet chatting together crafting one’s very own, very beautiful flogger, or the incredibly thoughtful gift of a pumpkin pie totally made from scratch. Thank you Ian Haynes! Your name is spoken in hushed and reverent tones at Grace Manor! And yes, I did, indeed, practice delayed gratification and got said pie home to share with Hubby.
But, I digress. My point is that sometimes the things that inspire most have absolutely nothing to do with writing, and yet everything to do with story. Julia Cameron in her book, The Artists Way, suggests that creativity can be cultivated by having what she calls ‘Artist’s Dates’ on a weekly basis. These are little snippets of time in which we creative folks treat ourselves to a wander through a museum, to a play, to a movie, to a dance class, to a walk, to something, anything that will get us out of our usual headspace and cause us to see things differently. A writer’s date seems completely frivolous and a waste of precious writing time, BUT, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s neither a reward, nor a holiday, but an essential part of keeping ‘creatively fit.’ With that in mind, what can I say but that Smut Manchester was one big gigantic artist’s date. And, while we all know, few things can put you farther outside your comfort zone than a date, sometimes a date can be life-changing.
I spent a good deal of Saturday comfortably outside my comfort zone, in the company of other creative folks who were equally comfortably outside their comfort zone, with all of us encouraging each other. From being put on the spot by Kay Jaybee about what I would do with a tin of pears in heavy syrup out through the back door of the Sainsbury, to making my own flogger, to my very awkward attempts at drawing at Dr. Sketchy’s in the evening, I was always a little uncomfortable and always delighted by the end results. Being outside my comfort zone inspired story ideas that I would have otherwise never managed. It’s not just the inspiration, but being gently forced outside my comfort zone seems to have left me feeling as though my whole creative self has had a relaxing, rejuvenating weekend at The Creativity Spa.
I won’t give you a blow by blow of the days events (though I do promise LOTS of piccies on Face Book over the next week or so) because even as I live them over in my own head and delight in them, I realize I would sound like an excited child telling her parents what she did on her first slumber party. What I do want to share with you, though, is what I took away — not in my head, but in those deeper, more visceral places where writers transform events into meaning and then into story.
I’m still reeling from the fact that I actually won one of the prizes at Dr Sketchy’s! (pretty sure it was a sympathy win. I was totally out of my element) I am now the very proud owner of a lovely pen and pencil artist kit that is so exquisite, I’m almost afraid to touch it. At the end of the allotted sketch time, with each awkward sketch I did, I scribbled a quick sentence underneath it of the story idea the sketch inspired. And while I sat making my flogger and watching other people make theirs, my mind was buzzing with a story. As for Kay Jaybee’s tin of pears in heavy syrup, well I reckon you’ll be seeing that in a story in the near future. Thanks, Kay!
The thing is, while most of our creative effort takes place in solitude, while we shape and refine our stories in isolation, what happens in community is a vibrant, fiery, mash-up that comes to us unexpectedly and out of nowhere from the shared experience. Sketching with a group of people, most of whom are no more comfortable with drawing than I am is commonality, and I can relax and let what happens happen because I’m not doing it alone. Doing crafty things with hands that are more comfortable on the keyboard of a laptop, while chatting and laughing and sharing the experience opens the creative floodgates in a very different way. It’s a much more gentle way, a way that doesn’t require the discipline and the focus that our day-in-day-out crafting of story does. Our encounters with the Muse in such circumstances are more playful, more laid back, and we toy with story and ideas in a way that we never can when we’re facing deadlines, when we have our heads down, still doing what we love, but so tunnel-visioned that we don’t look up to be inspired in the same way.
Smut Manchester was a beautiful chance to be inspired in playful easy ways. By being comfortably outside our comfort zone, we didn’t take ourselves so seriously and we were reminded in exquisite ways that creativity is a playful thing, and it often comes when we’re not looking for it. It often comes when we’re not looking for anything at all, actually.