Wednesday, April 18

a creative mind

My first year of school consisted of daily sobbing episodes during maths, where my teacher would take me out to the toilets to calm me down. I seemed to live there with those toilet rolls and brick walls. Writing stories and imagining non-realities were the things that gave me joy. My astute parents asked me whether I’d rather take gymnastics classes or ballet lessons. Next thing I knew I was wearing little ballet slippers, a pink leotard, and learning to stand in first position with my tail tucked in. There commenced my passionate love affair with dancing. I didn’t just dance in the studio; I danced down the hall way, up the street, in front of my mirror, and all the way back to my next class.
At ballet, age 14

I was captivated by the magic of the stage, the expression, the poise, the other-worldliness of the art form. It made me feel ecstatic and free. The exquisite beauty of ballet minimised the pain – the grating of my raw toe on sandpaper Pointe shoe, the sting of mentholated spirits on a fresh wound and the exacting military regime of class. I felt alive when I was dreaming of being a ballerina, and working towards those fantasies.
I'm second from the left - a ballet concert

 And if I wasn’t commentating about my make-believe life at a full-time ballet school, I was spending time with my black horse. There aren’t photos of him because my parents couldn’t afford him, but he was beautiful. So were the fairies I cared for, I wish you could have known them.
My parents always said I lived from one excitement to another. It’s true. I was always looking forwards, hoping for something...I was never quite here in the mundane present. Practicalities bored me to tears. The sensible and functional were my ‘off switch’. But why is it important to peel potatoes faster? Why can’t I daydream? Why should I wear runners on this walk when they look so hideous? Aesthetics won every argument. I spiced up my real life with forays into different eras and lifestyles. I perpetually relived scenes of myself as a boarding school student in the early 1900s, or a princess, or an actress. I fantasised that a movie director would one day walk down the street and see in me the exact face he had pictured for his next film – and little me would launch my glamorous screen career, Audrey Hepburn the 2nd. Every book that I read, ballet that I watched, film that I saw was an invitation to venture into a new life or idea, and then imagine it while I played my flute or danced.

But I shouldn’t be writing in the past tense! I’m giving the illusion that I have grown out of these ‘childish’ dreams and moved onto maturity. The thing is, while Ben is away studying the physics of x-ray machines, I am at home hosting TV shows, coping with life as an Edwardian lady, and generally steering clear of concentrating on the dishes, or the vacuuming. Or else it’s writing a blog post in my head, planning my soap making or collage projects, wondering what it would be like to have a disabled child... Is it any wonder that I grate my knuckles, drop glasses, and spill nail polish, just as I did when I was young? “Concentrate on the task at hand,” was something my mum used to repeat to me day after day. If I concentrated really, really hard on the recipe I was making, it was sure to be a failure. And if I let myself day dream, it was sure to be a failure. So I decided it was best to go with the most enjoyable option, to pass the time and numb the boredom. I honestly thought I’d grow out of it because I hadn’t met an adult like me, but I become more doubtful by the day. I have these terrifying visions of my future daughter catching me in the kitchen saying,
“It was such a privilege to work with everyone on this film. Yes, it is hard juggling my acting career and family, but we make it work...blah, blah, blah.”
She might think I’m mad. Or maybe she’ll ask me what I’m imagining, and tell me that she is a poodle for the day?
My imagination was never looked down on at home, isn’t it considered healthy and essential for all children? Once when I was about 14 I told a young guy about some of the things that I think about. He was concerned, genuinely worried about my mental state. That day I learnt that it’s fine to make believe as a child, but do not admit to it when an adolescent (let alone an adult!) I should have reminded him that I was created by a creative and totally sane God. When does that beautiful and crucial part of a child become worryingly eccentric? I’ve never ever heard a ‘grown up’ friend talk about their creative thoughts. But I know, and am whole heartedly convinced that I am not the only one. If choreographer’s weren’t lost in the stories in their heads, they couldn’t write the ballets they do, nor could authors, or painters or musicians – they dream, they have to dream to create.
When I am inspired or passionate or fired up about something, it’s inextinguishable. It burns so intensely inside. I have to hop out of bed at midnight to write an idea down, I have to listen to a piece of music ten times over to relive the thrill of the emotion, I can’t help but jump up and down, and up and down with excitement. I don’t believe this is something to grow out of, to restrain and curb. I’m grateful that despite the strong pull of gravity and reality, so much stronger now that I have so little strength, I can still soar. And I’m grateful for all the writers, and ballerinas, and composers, and painters who’ve gone before, for their creativity and dreams. I hope the day comes where I can contribute to the arts in some small way, and keep the fire burning.

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” 


Bernard Shaw

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