Ysella Sims

Letting story speak

Writing notes

My favourite hours of the day, now that spring is in full swing, are the ones which bookend it – the early hour with a cup of tea in my hand roaming around the garden as the dew soaks my shoes, feeling held by the clarity of birdsong and early light, the quiet before the world stirs, the cream-bellied swoop of the swallows. I potter about planting, pulling, noticing, watering, revelling in the feeling of renewal. I may be going over, but the garden is starting again. I love the end hours when the sounds and demands of the day recede and I can sit in my shed surrounded by books and the potential for words, mulling and scribbling in a notebook.

‘… capitalism can make you feel that unless you’re producing something brilliant, shiny and saleable, then you’re not an artist.’

Maria Bowler

The excellent Maria Bowler in her weekly shot of creative courage, points out that capitalism can make you feel that unless you’re producing something brilliant, shiny and saleable, then you’re not an artist. But, she says, art is a practice, not a commodity. And a practice is just that, not a performance with an evaluation and a finish point. So I’m going to heed her words and practice. In a similar vein Austin Kleon’s inspiring Show your Work, reminds us that most of what we create we’ll throw out, but that the practice is key.

The published book is the book you write

The best thing for ‘productivity’, Austin tells us, is boredom, an hour of nothing. Switching off and letting your mind roam can feel like a luxury when every minute counts, but in that space you can hear what you’re really thinking, uncover ideas and new directions. And crucially, he says, ‘The published book is the book you write’. So, I’m going to write. Bit by bit. Word by word. And I’m going to get over myself, my fear of embarrassment. Writer Colin Marshall says that “Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide,” reminding me that vulnerability is the real key to connection.

So, I’m going to practice, let go of my ego, and embarrass myself. I’ll probably mess up, but that’s OK because I’m going to keep going. It’s easy to doubt yourself, to think that somebody else can do it/say it better, that’s it’s all been done before. But you haven’t done it or said it before. So I’ll do it my way, and that’s OK.

Being who we are

Recently someone I care about rang to tell me some significant health news. “Oh no!’ I gasped, “that’s scary.” As soon as I put the phone down I began berating myself. Why had I said that? Why hadn’t I just reassured them, said that it was nothing, that everything would be OK? The next day I accidentally pocket dialed them. “Thank you for reacting the way you did yesterday”, they said. “It gave me the opportunity to really feel what I was feeling, to process it. I feel much better about it now.”

We are who we are. Just like gardening, and letting the weeds in, it’s not about the production, it’s about working with what is, respecting it and ourselves. We can, I can, do this.

Get in touch to tell me what you’re reading and thinking about.

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