Monday, 8 September 2014


Today I’m casting harsh glances at my muddle of an office, full of books, papers, ironing baskets and a very persistent cat – but I will refuse to take in these daily surroundings.

Instead I am imagining myself in a calm white creative space that is definitely not my own. At the weekend I went to a small private gallery, surrounded by farmland, where a landscape painter and a ceramic artist were holding an Open Studio event.

The paintings and prints – from the small to the very large - captured the wild movements of the weather, trees and grasses against the wide Yorkshire moors, while many of the finely detailed ceramic pieces echoed the shelled creatures and fossils found on the Yorkshire shoreline. It was an enjoyable visit, particularly – in that selfish writer way- as I came away with two aspirations.

The first was that peaceful gallery space. It was calm and "empty" - although more people were arriving as we left – but it also felt alive, particularly because one end was the painter’s studio. The gallery was a place where work happened: a good, creative space. 

Around the huge desk were paints and brushes. Ah, breathe in!  The faint scent reminded me of long-ago art-rooms in schools and college and that life-saving escape of art lessons within an academic curriculum. Being in the gallery was such a pleasure.
Heavens, why don’t writer’s studies have such beauty about them, I wonder? Right now, I want to empty my room, sort the contents, throw out the accumulated rubbish, tidy and clean until I have a simple space again.  But if I do, that’s my writing time gone and broken for far too long, and right now I can’t afford that.

The second joy was an invitation to sit and spend time with the ceramic artist’s journal. The book was full of her sketches, prints and experiments, the pages covered in samples and collages with briefest of comments alongside. 
Occasionally there were more words: short, beautifully hand-written passages. These recorded the working process: the ideas, the developments, the halts and the persistence needed so that the work moved forward, exploring again.

I valued the way the journal offered fragments of conversations with fellow artists and mentors. We all need support or sounding boards during moments of uncertainty or crisis. Thank  you, my own "writing friends".

But alas, another contrast! My personal pages are not things of beauty at all, just scatter-brained notebooks carrying cryptic clues like “p 53.Does P go on too much about this?  “ Ch. 23. Canal boats? Engine or horse? Check dates!”  “What does Zk want? Is he needed? Delete?” And so on. 

For ten seconds , I daydream. Could I, perhaps, begin to make such a wonderful journal? The answer comes promptly. No, right now I haven’t the time. My scribbled yellow “Morning Pages” will have to serve. Sometime you can, but not now.
I'd read one phrase that seemed to catch - for me - the eternal conflict between the making of any art and the too-swift passing of time. Here it is, half-remembered:

“The idea is in the head before it is in the hands.”  

Oh, the hands can take such a long time to get the work done.


  1. As I was reading your blog, Morris' devastatingly difficult words came to mind - "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." But ... who has the time to achieve and maintain such a state?

    Back to the writing - that REALLY is the thing we're meant to be doing!

  2. I posted a comment but the ether ate it. It was something wise about William Morris, though I can't remember exactly what - but I do know it ended with an exhortation to write anyway! (Meant for both of us - all of us!)

    Let's see if this disappears ...