Either side of the inspiring talk, A Space to Write, I found myself wandering alone in Fowey through narrow streets and tentative showers. The town was quiet, and as soon as I moved from the quayside and the tangle of small shops and cafes, it grew quieter still. What cars there were moved slowly and softly; forced to creep along because the streets ARE very narrow. Almost every person had a dog. Such a lot of dogs in Fowey. The rain was light yet the drops were heavy: falling softly and slowly – individually making their passage from the clouds, each one a specific experience. Oh, a splash onto my hair; a ripple in a puddle; a trickle down a window pane… The pastel-painted house facades were water-washed and candy-coloured and bore names to do with the sea and the town, and some had shiny brass plaques: Harbour Master. Tiny businesses squeezed themselves between homes: doors to interior cafes and boat-building spaces, water craft lessons. Many backed on to the water. What goes on behind these doors, I wondered.
I was feeling uplifted by the talk; uplifted by the realization that I have a sense of the geography of the town; uplifted by the awareness that my heart was awake to the delights of these streets. It has been sleeping for these past few days and I have missed it. I realised that it’s in my heart that I feel happiness and wonder; joy and mystery; gratitude. We think of the heart as the repository for love but no, it’s a wellspring for much more.
The panel at the talk on this rainy afternoon was asked about how they get their ideas and how the ideas are translated onto the page. The answers were varied. Patrick Gale responded immediately: he sees the stories for his novels in pictures: as scenes from a film. Jane Darke described her ideas as coming from her hand: she picks up a pen and she writes; she has no prior conception of what will emerge. Jane acknowledges that her hand is connected to her brain but in the writing process, for her the connection is not a conscious one. Bert Biscoe explained that he always begins with a blank page. And sometimes it stays blank for some while. He told a story about how it’s the tiniest seemingly insignificant things that spark the idea: perhaps the smallest thing that he observed the day before. He drives past an open gate and reverses back: what can he see? Often, said Bert, there are tiny, ordinary things that happen all the time which can become extra-ordinary things if we take time to notice them. These can hold the kernel for a poem. Jon Cleave agreed with him but emphasized that for him it’s the ordinary rather than the extra-ordinary which sparks his creativity. Snatches of conversation in a shop, on a bus… All agreed that public transport is a very fertile space!
These variations in sources of stimuli intrigued me as I wandered the streets, making my way to the ferry. Two described physical internal sources and two draw from external sources. The latter use humour in their work and are performers as well as writers: extroverts rather than introverts. And Jane Darke is primarily a painter: her creativity is realised through the skill of her hand… These were the thoughts I mulled upon whilst absorbing the quiet peace of the rain in a forgotten part of town and relishing the flutter in my heart.
And it occurred to me, still wandering in the rain with my heart quietly singing, that here is the repository of my creativity: it flows from my heart. If I write well – what passes as well for me – if I write in a way that generates a response in me, and hopefully in others, then what they are reading has come from my heart. That very personal, private source somehow comes through in the words: is picked up, identified, appreciated. And it’s a reinforcing process: when my heart is awake and I write from that aliveness not only are the words authentic and heartfelt and genuine, but they in turn stoke the heart’s fires. And the stronger that flame burns the more alive I feel, the more joy I feel, the creative I feel, the more the passion burns.
For me, creativity abides in the heart.