2B Or SSS

Those of you who read me regularly will have noticed a two week absence of my blog. Those of you who’ve been with me for any length of time will have realised I’ve been watching the tennis at Roland Garros.

I always intend to continue blogging – and shopping, and gardening, and cleaning …  but I inevitably get caught up in the excitement of it all, and anything non-essential vacates the premises for a while.

Along with all the fabulous successes, the unbearable failures and the disappearance of the ‘also-ran’s, I was struck, this year, by the continual references to the need for congruence in order to be a champion.

I first came across congruence as an idea at school. Learning about congruent triangles. Probably sounds familiar. I remember finding the experience frustrating.

On the one hand, I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why something so simple needed to be made so complex. Most of the examples of potentially congruent triangles were ragingly obvious to me. On the other hand, as a collector – and a writer – of rules, I was intrigued by the variety created to address what should have been a straightforward process.

I think my next encounter with congruence came when I was studying educational psychology. We were required to review a number of different popular types of counselling, and one of these was, of course, Rogerian. The concept of ‘being congruent’ is central to its methodology.

Again that frustration. ‘Being congruent’ was defined as being present with the client at an emotional level, not hiding or disguising one’s emotional responses to what is happening in the room. Sometimes, it was expressed as ‘being real or genuine’. I found myself increasingly inclined to ask: ‘How else could one be?’

But, apparently, other forms of therapy relied on the complete absence of personality on the part of the therapist, in the ridiculous belief that they could present a blank canvas to the client, leaving their own agenda somewhere else in the building, presumably packed neatly in a suitcase, ready to take home at the end of the day.

But also, that intrigue: Why would you want to do it that way? How does one learn to be completely devoid of emotion or opinion? And what does it feel like to be the client who is subjected to this strange modus operandi? (Believe me, I found out.)

Somewhere along the line, in amongst all the elusive overplay of technicalities, I must have decided that congruence was an invented and unhelpful idea that served no obvious function, and I put it to one side.

Until I encountered Caroline Myss, that is. You may remember I mentioned her a few weeks back. A brilliant theologian who cracked open any number of concepts for me and changed my life every time I came across her. When she started talking about congruence, I sat up and took notice.

For Caroline, the importance of congruence is aligned much more towards its dictionary definition of ‘agreement’ or ‘harmony’, and her particular interest is how one can be congruent with oneself. If, for example, one’s head and one’s heart are not congruent, then any meaningful wellbeing will be impossible.

This is hot stuff. It makes instant sense, yet it is utterly profound. In a society which commonly prefers to place priority on logic over emotion, the material over the ethereal, and financial profit over personal development or compassion, it is immediately apparent that we continue to damage ourselves, and those around us, if we try to carry out our lives as if the heart has no role to play. Not to mention the soul.

On a pragmatic level, the commentators at the French Open were pointing out that those players who were attempting to play a game that was in opposition to their character, were never going to succeed. Trying to play aggressively, for example, when you are a shy, retiring person, will only serve to build anxiety and stress, not a flowing technique.

They cited the dramatic improvement in Britain’s Kyle Edmund, as he has grown in maturity, allowing his personality to lead his strategic approach, so that all parts of his game are now congruent. Nothing jars or snags. He no longer defeats himself when he plays an opponent.

Perhaps the best, and most obvious, example is Roger Federer, who is congruence sublime when he floats across a grass court – and who, interestingly, no longer attempts to fight with the clay of Roland Garros.

And then there’s Rafa. An historic eleventh win at the tournament which he has come to claim as his own. A man so congruent on clay that the very laws of physics bow to his authority. Four thousand two hundred and six revolutions per minute on one of his forehands, for goodness’ sake!

For us, as writers – as with any artist – congruence is an essential ingredient of what we do. What is perhaps most interesting for us is that we need to be congruent to write well, but it is also writing itself that allows us to be congruent.

Maybe more thoughts to share on this … In the meantime, I’m probably going to practice what I preach for the next few weeks, as the grass court season begins. In an attempt to remain congruent with myself, I will not try to squeeze more into my day than is actually possible, and will likely put this blog aside while I relax into Queen’s, then Eastbourne, then Wimbledon … Oh bliss!

I look forward to reconnecting on the other side.

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My Story: Being Creative

It would, perhaps, be a truism to say that I learnt how to be creative by being creative. Nevertheless, that was what happened, and it remains one of the most tremendous aspects of my life. Even now, it never ceases to amaze me that when I don’t know what to write, it is by writing that I discover it.

My story has come, more or less, to present day. Certainly, to the last four or five years, when I would count myself as being truly creative. And within that time, I have discovered another favourite author whose writing has had a profound impact on my understanding of creativity, and the process of being creative.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer has written many beautiful books, but the one that has spoken the most to me – at least, to date – is a book specifically about creativity called What We Ache For. And in this amazing book, she writes, among other ideas, about the priority of three aspects of our lives, that allow us to become fully who we are and then to express that.

These aspects are spirituality, sexuality and creativity. She uses these words in a very specific way to explain her understanding of how we open ourselves to life.

Spirituality, she says, is our ability to be awake to the divine – not necessarily within an organised religion, though that can be true for some, but within the human experiences that make up our lives. Whenever we bring our full attention to a moment, we invite an experience of the holiness of it. We touch the sacredness of the ordinary.

Sexuality is a term she chooses to point to the broadest physicality of being human: ‘the inherent juiciness of life lived in physical form’. She cites the beauty of using one’s senses to interconnect with one’s surroundings, with one’s passions and with the physicality of another being.

Creativity is the term she reserves for ‘the soul-deep impulse … to go beyond the perceptions of the senses to the conception of something new’. She talks about how, when we create, we take something that already exists and make it more than it is. How someone’s observations of a small detail, for example, can change our perception of that detail, for ever. She describes the creative process as ‘the paradoxical combination of a focused intent and a willing surrender’.

It is tempting for me simply to copy huge chunks out of the book – it is so good. I find I want to share so much off the page, and even now, writing short excerpts, I am getting caught up once more in the magic she creates with her writing, the delightful phrases she uses and the exciting ideas she propagates. I want to sit and read the book again!

Her impact on me has been multi-dimensional. I have been warmed by finding someone with a similar perspective to my own, inspired to find that perspective so astonishingly elucidated, then developed beyond my imaginings, and continually bolstered and encouraged to follow her lead and discover where my own creative path may lead.

At the essence of the book is the premise I now wholly embrace, that all humans, indeed the whole of creation, is/are creative, and that whilst we sometimes think it might be appropriate to label certain activities or people as ‘creative’, and thereby to separate them from mainstream, this is actually not true.

Further, we can only discover what it means to ‘do’ creative things, if we live creatively. If we ‘are’ creative – on all levels of our being. There can be no part of our lives that is not creative, and we must learn to ‘be’ creative, consciously, so that it becomes our modus operandi – the way we do everything.

To live creatively, for me, means living from the centre of my being, expressing the truth of who I am and connecting with all that is, both within my immediate world and with the world that lies beyond that. Only when I am awake to this truth can I expect to engage successfully with that special process of creating a specific project.

My Story – Grounding Creativity

So on Friday, I tripped over a manhole cover and fell on my face. Blood dripping everywhere. Thought I’d broken my nose – or some teeth – or something. I can’t believe I got away without breaking anything …

The incident has left me weary, a trifle shaky and rather fragile. Today is the first day that I’ve begun to feel like myself again.

Getting grounded has always felt like a dangerous activity for me. My fears include getting trapped, being hurt, having to relinquish my dreams and aspirations, being required to be ‘sensible’, to cease being idealistic and to stop seeing the future in optimistic terms – to name a few.

Turns out that’s not what being grounded is actually about.

I have always tended to live in my head – whether it’s grand philosophical ideas, crazy dreams or mathematical calculations. That’s where I feel most comfortable, most at home. The problem, I have discovered, about living in your head, is that you don’t get to experience life.

For a long time, I thought that was a good thing, which is probably why I stayed there. Then I started down the creative road, as my last two blogs have explained, and I suddenly realised that whilst I have a penchant for, even a wonderful ability to, dream up brilliant designs in my head, they rarely became a reality.

Did this make me not creative? I didn’t think so, but I did struggle to understand what was going on. Until I took part in our very first Chair’s Challenge at Weavers’ Guild, some thirteen or so years ago.

For this particular exercise, we were each asked to bring along a bag of fibres and to put them into a lucky dip. Everyone then had the opportunity to pull out a different, surprise, bag and we each had one year to make a scarf of some kind with what we had.

I had pulled a bag of mixed blues, all merino. They were beautiful. My favourite colour. They were crying out to be felted – I didn’t have any competence at spinning yet. So I decided to make a set of twelve felts and to stitch into them – something I learned to do at my creative embroidery class.

But I needed content. An idea to work around. I turned to my favourite author at the time: Caroline Myss. I mentioned her last week. I’d read a stunning book by her called Sacred Contracts, which talked about the archetypes we each have within us, and how they can become our guides and our friends if we take the time to get to know them. The book was packed with thoughtful, spiritual exercises to help you do this. I couldn’t wait to get started.

Each month of that year, I took one of my archetypes, having already identified them some years previously when I first encountered the book. I spent my time working on the exercises for that archetype and expressing what I discovered in felt and stitch.

To add a rich depth to the enterprise, Caroline also helps you to place your archetypes in astrological houses. This was an entirely new concept for me, one which I stepped inside tentatively, not sure what to expect.

By the end of the year, I had twelve amazing felts, which I attached to a fabulous piece of fabric to make a completely ‘over-the-top’ scarf which could never been worn – but which I still get out of its drawer on a regular basis to remind me what I uncovered about myself.

Biggest discovery of all? I think it was what I realised about my Saboteur. This is an archetype we all have in our make-up and which Caroline describes as ‘The Guardian Of Choice’.

The Saboteur turns up when you are about to make a poor decision or to retreat from a brilliant opportunity. It’s the Saboteur that makes sure you’re not too successful, that buys into your deepest fears of survival and that keeps you from engaging with change – unless you learn to work with it/him/her by discovering your courage and intuition and letting them have free reign.

My Saboteur, apparently, lives in my tenth house: the House of Highest Potential. Well, I guess if you’re going to place it anywhere, that would be the one! It seems that my highest potential and my ability to sabotage that, are intimately related. To discover the intricacies of this relationship, I began to write my way through the exercises, then stitch about what they suggested.

Caroline describes the archetype that lives in the tenth house as ‘the indicator of how your unconscious organises your thoughts when you are faced with choices that can lead you into fulfilling your potential‘. In other words, I always made sure I would sabotage myself whenever I had a chance to manifest my potential.

And how did I do that? By staying in my head! By never actually attempting to realise my potential in the real world, my Saboteur was ensuring that I would never fail. I would never succeed either, but I certainly wouldn’t fail.

I had to learn how to start taking the risks of interacting with the real, physical world and stop only thinking about being creative. I had to get on and ‘do’ creative. And learn how to rejoice when I fell flat on my face.

The embroidery I created, which grew organically as I worked, in the manner I have described before, showed me that I had no problems at all creating ‘airy-fairy’ ideas in head. What I now had to learn was how to bring them down, to earth them, to ground them – to make them manifest. Preferably, without hitting the ground too hard.

My Story – Getting Inside Creativity

There have been many fabulous women writers who have influenced my journey into becoming a creative human being, mostly appearing precisely the moment they were needed. When I hit rock bottom and had nowhere left to go, two in particular enabled my climb out of the mire and into a more beautiful life.

One was Julia Cameron. I suspect many of you will have encountered her wonderful book The Artist’s Way. If you haven’t, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is both a way into being more creative – even if you already think of yourself as an artist – and into understanding what creativity is.

I was very lucky to have a good friend around when I was struggling who, although she lived miles away, sent me the book as a way to discover a path forward. It is written as a twelve-week self-help course. (Tough if that sounds corny; I don’t care. After the way it transformed my thinking, I’ll make no apologies.)

It’s focus is, in every chapter, about recovery. Recovering a sense of safety, recovering a sense of identity, recovering a sense of possibility … It is a book which majors in purpose and positivity by pointing the reader in the direction of honesty and responsibility about their lives, their attitudes and their actions.

It is a book full of practical suggestions as well as powerful ideas. Not least of these is the concept of ‘the morning pages’, which has become, I gather, quite a common practice since the book was published. This single act has the power to turn your life around.

‘The morning pages’ are, simply, three sides of paper written without pause, censorship or editing. Along with some very clever rules. Most important -you have to do them every day, regardless of circumstance. And next in importance, you are not allowed to go back and read them – at least, not for several weeks.

These basic principles free you up to be able to write all manner of ‘crap’ without ever having to show it to anyone, including yourself. The persistent daily practice enables you to dump all unwanted thoughts, emotions and complications on the page, so that you are empty enough to get on with being creative for the rest of your day. And it works!

Over time, it is so obvious that the pages are changing you, moving you on, that you cannot overlook the daily routine. It becomes too precious. In Julia’s case – yes, everything she writes, comes from her own recovery – it enabled her first character to appear unexpectedly on the page.

In mine, it allowed me to rant and rage about all the hurt and injustices I had suffered, and which had brought me to a place of believing I had nothing. And then, it allowed me to discover what I actually had and that I did not have to remain the person I had become just because someone had mistreated me. Slowly, over time, I became my own person.

And around the same time, someone else gave me some cassette tapes to listen to. Some recordings of Caroline Myss. One of the most extraordinary minds I have ever encountered, I fell in love with her work immediately, even though half the time, I had no idea what she was talking about. Yet! All I knew was that I had to keep listening until I did.

Now, years later, I’m so glad I did. Many of my creative endeavours have been based around her books and her ideas. Perhaps I’ll share a few next time, but the one I want to focus on here is her concept of ‘woundology’.

In short, since I’m reaching my word limit for this week, she posits that we use our wounds to make easy and lasting connections with others. We talk about our physical health, our emotional damage, about abuses and injustices done to us, about the things we never got as kids, or the respect we never get as adults … The list goes on.

Our conversations hover perpetually around our complaints, and this becomes the language we use to connect with each other, to give us status or to make us feel good about ourselves.

What Caroline points out is that, although we think this is helping, it is not. Whilst it is important to acknowledge and reconcile our wounds, staying connected to them actually inhibits our forward growth and our way into a creative life.

This was a mind-blowing concept for me when I heard her talking for the first time, and I have been exploring the ramifications ever since. But of one thing I am sure; it is only since I made the commitment to leaving my tragedies behind – on a regular basis – that I have begun to live and love the life I have, and to experience my creativity on a daily basis.

Happy thoughts, everyone.

 

My Story – Getting Creative

So here’s the thing. I believe everyone is creative. I believe every creature is creative. I believe every living thing is creative. I believe creativity is at the heart of being alive.

So why does our society make it so difficult for us as humans to express our creativity? Why does our culture label some people as creative and not others? And why does it then place these creative people in special categories with weird and wonderful assumptions about how they behave, or should behave?

And why are creative pursuits still not considered as ‘a proper job’, yet those who practise them are viewed with envy?

And why is the creative process sold as something mysterious and elusive and reserved only for these special people? And why do we believe these special people know what exactly what they are doing? And that this is a secret to which only ‘creative’ people have access?

Too many big questions here to ponder in a single blog. My purpose in listing them is more to set the agenda and to raise the issues. So this is my story of how I learnt the truth.

About twenty years ago, my life fell apart. As a consequence, my history of depression had an open door, and I fell apart as well. I completely shut down, shut off and shut up. For quite a long time. It was clear I could no longer work, and was fortunate to be offered early retirement. Very early retirement.

I was also fortunate that I qualified for something that no longer exists – Incapacity Benefit. Alongside an ill-health pension, this provided me with just enough money to live on. And also furnished an unexpected bonus. I could enrol for free classes at my local adult college – also something which no longer exists.

When I was well enough, I signed up for a class entitled Creative Embroidery. This kind of stitchery was something I’d always fancied learning how to do ‘properly’, since all previous attempts had proved I was ‘rubbish’.

I continued to be complete rubbish at the technical side of the work, but began to realise there was a huge bonus to taking this course. The tutor, an accomplished textile artist, had a vested interest in teaching us all, not just about embroidery, or even just about design. She actually taught us about creativity!

Far from the common expectation that one should have a finished product in one’s head, which one then merely transferred to the paper, canvas or cloth, she taught us how to let ideas develop, when to throw parts of our work away in order to see what was really there, and how to wait patiently for the true picture to emerge.

I was fascinated. This was not at all what I had thought creativity was. This was truly exciting. This became a procedure I could understand and participate in.

The tutor was also a weaver – in fact, in her eyes, she was primarily a weaver – and when I began to take a weaving class, as well, she was able to tell me about the importance of listening to the fibres and yarns as one worked, so that one didn’t try to force something into existence that wasn’t authentic, congruent or delightful.

This, then, was the start of my creative journey, and I shall always be grateful to my tutor, not least for her patience as I struggled my way into this new and fascinating world. I think she summed up my approach best when she said in response to my request to use black holes as a design source, ‘Let’s face it, Rosalin, you’re never going to be someone who’s happy embroidering roses.’

Enough for tonight. I’m having to write this in short bursts, in between frames of snooker – I’m watching the Quarter Finals of the World Snooker Championship. Plenty of scope for creativity here. Next week, perhaps, I’ll tell you what happened in my encounter with the singularity.

Keeping The Wolf From The Door …

Yesterday I was privileged to read an astonishingly powerful, honest and beautiful blog. It began with the story of the wolves in Yellowstone Park, and moved from there to reflections about the author’s personal and creative life – inspired by the wolf story.

There is absolutely no point in my reiterating the content of the blog since I could not begin to tell the tale with anything like the grace and fluency of its author, despite finding myself in more or less complete harmony with the sentiment, the intuition and the ideas it contained. Far better that you read it for yourself: https://therenegadepress.com/2018/03/28/fourteen-wolves/

No, my reason for mentioning it at all is to attempt a response to what I read and to reflect a little on my own journey with wolves, and how they relate to my own creativity.

I have been in love with wolves for as long as I can remember. From childhood stories of humans brought up in wolf families, to Diefenbaker in Due South and Two Socks in Dances With Wolves, and onto Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ wonderful book Women Who Run With The Wolves, these glorious creatures epitomise for me the freedom bestowed by true love.

In the wild, wolves live together in highly supportive families, yet each wolf is able to use its individuality to contribute to this structured unit, and to the pack as a whole. What a stunning model – one which humans might aspire to, I think. It is a picture that has spoken to me through many difficult times.

It has, therefore, always seemed strange to me that our modern culture fears wolves, and portrays them as ruthless beasts, suitable only for extinction. The depth of emotion that is invoked within me, even from a simple photograph of a wolf, tells me this cannot be true.

The answer to this conundrum begins to appear when I consider how the North American Indians view Wolf –  as a Power Animal and as a Medicine Animal. Wolf, you see, is regarded in that culture as the Teacher. It is Wolf who is the pathfinder, ‘the forerunner of new ideas’ as Jamie Sams describes it in her beautiful book accompanying the Medicine Cards.

Wolf’s close relationship with the moon is no accident. The moon is a symbol of our unconscious, where our deepest wisdom lies hidden until we bring it to the surface. It is Wolf that allows us to do so, teaching us the way forward by showing us the dead ends, the old ideas and the places of stagnation we have become used to, or are hiding behind.

For me, this means Wolf medicine is very close to my creativity, and my bravery to embrace it and follow where it leads. If I ignore my creativity, I will quickly become a shadow of myself, unable to interact either with the world around me or the world within me.

Yet sometimes, I know, that taking this path as a way of living a full and vibrant life, may necessitate embracing things I don’t want to see or hear, may involve letting go of things that are no longer needed, or may need me to step into what looks like an abyss.

I should not worry. Wolf has been there before and will be my guide and my guardian, if only I ask.

I don’t write lot of poetry. It’s not a medium I believe I’m particularly good at. What generally comes out when I try is often considered rather old-fashioned, so I tend to write it only for myself. But here is one such, that I can scarcely claim to have written since it arrived in my head almost in its entirety one day when I was walking my previous dogs – one of whom had the very blue eyes of a wolf.

It is a poem about some of the things in my life through which I experience creativity, about the need for good preparation and appropriate timing to allow my creativity to flourish, and about the need to surrender to the creative process when it comes calling – regardless of what is involved. Among other things!

Consummation

In early spring

A wise old wolf came knocking at my door

Trotting through the primroses

It spoke through smiling lips

“Are you in, Grandma?”

Go away. I’m not yet ready.

 

Throughout the lengthening days

As the wind and the sun took up their annual duel

I sat and sorted and teased and carded

My fine fleece

Then took the pile to my wheel

And sitting by moonlight began to spin

 

On midsummer’s day

The wise old wolf came knocking on my door

Galloping through the roses

It howled through open jaws

“Are you in, Grandma?”

Go away. I’m not done yet.

 

Throughout the hot summer days

As the flowers and the bees danced their annual duet

I stood and dipped and soaked and washed

My fine yarn

Then added to the pot all manner of things

Cochineal, beetroot, madder and blood

Then took the hanks to my tree

And sitting by moonlight watched the dyes cure

 

As autumn turned

The wise old wolf came knocking at my door

Stalking through the fallen leaves

It hissed through clenched teeth

“Are you in, Grandma?”

Go away. I’m not finished.

 

Throughout the darkening days

As the fruits and berries performed their annual duo

I sat and warped and threaded and wove

My fine-coloured yarn

Then cutting the cloth from the loom

I took the pile to my table

And sitting by moonlight began to sew

 

At winter solstice

The wise old she-wolf came

Silently padding down my garden path

Leaving her marks in the pristine snow

She whispered through my keyhole

“Are you in, Grandma?”

I lay on my bed, fingers cold as icicles

With scarcely a breath

Robed in my fine red gown

Waiting patiently

Uniformity, Anonymity and a Two-Tone Head

My last two weekends have both been marked by enthralling events. Aside from two multi-exciting Formula One races (finally!), I have also thoroughly enjoyed the last two days of the Masters Golf and the most recent meeting of my local Weavers’ Guild.

I am not what you might call a golf fan exactly, but I always make time to watch the Masters. Ever since Bubba Watson’s first win in 2012. That was one of the most thrilling sporting events I’ve ever seen. With a play-off around midnight, I seem to recall, between Bubba and his opponent, both of whom managed to land their balls in the trees on the second hole they attempted, having scored equally up to that point after four days of playing.

They was no way Bubba could win from the position he landed in. He couldn’t even see the green. But somehow he did, with some spectacular hitting. One of the things I loved about Bubba was the way he upset the commentators with his ‘unconventional’ swing. He played the game with gusto and enthusiasm, along with a complete disregard for ‘the form-book’.

I’ve watched the Masters every year since – though it has never been quite as nail-biting – seeing him win again in 2014. Along with some very classy players whom I’ve enjoyed watching immensely, I was very taken with several of this year’s entrants, and thoroughly delighted by the ultimate winner – Patrick Reed – who was not someone I ever remembered seeing before.

There’s a good reason for that. Reed has never won anything of major significance before. He’s not even come close, though he was, I understand, a major contributor to the USA team win in the Ryder Cup. Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I love a story of someone coming through the ranks unexpectedly to take a great win – that sudden surge of discovery of who they really are!

So my eye was drawn, this morning, to an article on a website sport page about this new winner, stating – apparently in astonishment – that Reed chooses his own golf clubs. Excuse me?

In my naivety, I had assumed all golf players would have the sense to do this. To pick out the drivers, the putters and the wedges that suit them best. Surely, this would be essential to them playing their optimal game.

But no. It would seem that the majority of professional golfers choose to go with the clubs made by a sole company – in exchange for an awful lot of money. This is, of course, the essence of sponsorship these days and is the norm in the sporting world.

This is also, I learned, why golfers wear hats, and not just any old hat, but a hat built to conformity and donated by their sponsor. A hat that will display their logo, and leave a strange white upper half to the face of the wearer. How do you know if someone you meet in the street is a pro-golfer? Look above their eyebrows!

So for Reed to decide to ditch a lucrative deal and to fill a ‘mixed bag’ of clubs that each worked well for him – in fact, not simply ‘well’ but ones he considered the perfect choice for his style of play – was utterly unconventional. It was described by others as ‘a big risk’. And look what happened!

Then this weekend, I went to the monthly meeting of the Weavers’ Guild, where we were privileged by receive a talk from Professor Paul Rodgers, who is a professor of design at a university in Northern England. He came to tell us about a venture he undertook just under two years ago, working with Alzheimer Scotland on a weaving project.

Paul, you see, has a particular interest in ‘how disruptive design interventions can enact positive change in health’. He and his team took their idea to a collection of Dementia Centres around Scotland, and explored the structure and design of tartans with the people accessing their resources, all people living with dementia.

They encouraged the participants to design their own tartans with the aid of acetate strips – until someone sneezed!  After that, they opted to use coloured ribbons instead. The designs were then entered on the computer where they could  be tweaked to the original designer’s satisfaction. The final designs were judged by a panel of interested experts, and a short list was drawn up to be voted on all over Scotland. The winning tartan was then woven up, first by hand, then by a commercial concern.

The professor then shared some of the positive outcomes for the people taking part in the enterprise. Not surprisingly, many of them felt valued, excited, encouraged, happy, satisfied, surprised …

What a turn up for the books! Who would have thought that enabling people to discover and express their creativity would bring about a sense of well-being, and enable accomplishment?

I want to make it clear that my sarcasm is not directed towards the professor but towards those supposedly superior beings who insist on measuring everything in financial terms. One of the fortunate outcomes of this project was a chance meeting with a ‘health economist’ who will be able to translate the positivity of the enterprise into economic terms for those less able to comprehend the benefits. Because actually the project could lead to substantial financial savings if someone with the imagination to see it employs the strategies.

So what has all this to do with writing? For me, lots of ideas spring to mind. But as I’ve written much more than I intended already, perhaps I’ll elaborate next week. In the meantime, I invite you to contemplate the words of Iain Carter, a golf correspondent for the BBC when he warns against the world of ‘uniformity, anonymity and a two-tone head’.