Creative Training – doin’ my brain in!

Seven pillars of creativity
Seven pillars of creativity

I spent the last two days in a freezing hall in Pontypridd, with a host of other creative people, doing our training as Creative Practitioners for the Lead Creative Schools project in Wales. I’ll be working with the Archbishop Rowan Primary School in Portskewitt this term.

I was among a load of creative people from a wide range of backgrounds, practice’s and media. We were made to play games, shaking us up into new groups all the time, making us think hard and question our own attitudes and particularly the meaning of things and the meaning of creativity.

What came across to me was the importance of an agreed vocabulary. That’s half of what the sessions were about, making sure we were all moving in the same direction with the same understanding. Quite often definitions were challenged. I found myself thinking deeply about assumptions that may well have turned into lazy prejudices over the years.

It was also fascinating to see how people worked in groups – who stood out as leaders and who stood back quietly and thought longer and quietly before adding their two pennyworth. Either way, in short, timed exercises, someone has to get things rolling.

In a room of creative people everyone got on with it and instinctively knew their jobs within each task. In a more mixed group I can imagine those who think themselves less creative would stand back much more and maybe hinder the team. The nature of the group was that we were all self-starters and happy to pitch in.

I’m surprised how tired I am today. Full-on brain work and networking, followed by a horrid drive home in the dark and wet, is very tiring.


creative attitudes schematic
creative attitudes schematic

Assessing our creative attitudes and representing them in this spider plan method, was very interesting. I found myself admitting that I’m maybe not as collaborative as I could be. But it was good to see others were the same as me – mostly artists who work on their own a lot in studios. It was also good to see that those who had high collaboration skills were lower in other areas that I thought I did well in.

It’s swings and roundabouts. But making the the hidden or denied so obvious, in a fun, non-judgmental way, does allow you to look at what might be weaknesses that can possibly be worked on – if the will is there!

Thanks to all the trainers and collaborators over the last two days.


Doodling is good for you

doodlesmlDoodling is good for you.

Doodling is good for the brain and for your creativity. As you doodle, the left hand side of the brain begins to go to sleep and all those annoying thoughts about what, where, when and how, fade away.

The the magical process begins. The right side of the brain, given time and space to be in charge, somehow come up with all the answers that the left side of the brain is demanding.

If ever you are stuck for an answer, stop trying to force it out, start doodling instead. You will be amazed!

you can buy this on Ebay


How to win the Olympics – read great stories!

Yes, that’s me – posing at the starting line of the sacred running track of Ancient Olympia, home of the original Olympic Games that started some 2500 years ago. We went there on holiday three years ago and that’s where the stories for my Olympia series began to take shape.

As I stood in the tunnel that leads out to the stadium at Olympia, I knew I was standing where the great olympians of old once stood. I could feel their energy, strength, purpose and hopes recorded in the stone of the walls

I could hear the cheers of the crowd, thronging the grassy banks and smell the smoke from hundreds of burning sacrifices. I knew what it was like to be an olympian, ready to take the stage and show the world that at, that moment, I was the best, the fastest, the strongest, the leanest and the fittest.

I suppose I have a very strong imagination! That’s why I do what I do.
I’m not sporty, nor do I watch much sport from the sidelines, but once every four years I’m gripped by the endeavours of the world’s greatest, as they push themselves to the very limits of human physicality and mental strength.

It’s the psychology of sport that really interests me. What is it that keeps the best going? What pushes them through the pain barrier again and again, just to win some stupid race?

Walking around the ruins of Ancient Olympia I realised that the Ancient Olympics were about more than just sport. They were a religious festival. The athletes weren’t only running for glory, they were running to please the gods. They put up with the pain because they knew the gods were with them and for a moment, they were their mortal representatives.

Religious fervour was their motive. Realising this gave me the key to writing the series. Olly is inspired by the stories of the gods that are told by Simonedes, his history teacher. It is the pact Olly makes with the gods that support him, that give him the mental strength to beat his arch enemy, Spiro.

This format allowed me to explore the ancient myths as well as to tell of Olly’s mental and physical efforts to be the best. As I wrote each story, I ran and wrestled, swam, threw and jumped every step of the way with Olly. After each writing session I would be quite exhausted, for I had, in my mind, been Olly and had done all the training and competing myself.

And that’s where art and sport and psychology meet. Great athletes know how to visualise their races. They go through upcoming competitions in their minds, again and again and again, imagining and rehearsing every move they should make until they know how to run the race to perfection.

No Olympic gold medal is ever one without having been won a thousand times before in the imagination of the winner.

It the exact same process I go through when writing my Olympia books. When I’m writing such a series, I go to sleep dreaming of high-jumping and wrestling and throwing discus and javelins. I wake up and carry on imagining, rehearsing and re-running the race, day after day, until it is perfect and I know that Olly is fit and ready to win. Then I sit down and write – and write and write. I write like the clappers, breathless with anticipation – can Olly really do it? Can he really win against all odds?

The first draught is often garbled and full of typos, but that’s what editing is for. I have the memory of that epic race to bask in while I polish up the text until it resembles the emotion and excitement I felt while writing as much as possible.

And that’s how those of us, who don’t get up at five in the morning to train, day in day out, win our secret olympic medals in the fantasy world of sport.

That’s also why sporty children should read and read, immersing themselves in action and fantasy books.

Any unthinking idiot can create the perfect body. Your genes bring the luck of the right physique for the competition. But it is only with imagination and visualisation that great athletes put all the physical attributes together to convince themselves that this is their time – the time to be Champion of the World, to raise that gold medal high into the air and receive the rapturous applause of the adoring crowds – the crowds who only watch and dream.