THE SLUMP

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I had high expectations for this Easter holiday.

Very high expectations, in fact.

I envisaged sun soaked sessions outside local coffee shops with my laptop perched on my knee in an oversized jumper. I pictured lazy days in the park spent scribbling in a notebook. At one point, I was booking a very expensive holiday to Cape Verde that I couldn’t afford, hoping to tan and write at the same time. Basically, I predicted that wherever I was in the world, I would be being (at the very least) creative, although of course, the reality of any sort of writing I do consists of my bed, some snacks and a pair of unwashed, faded pyjamas, so I’m not quite sure why I all of a sudden saw myself living in some sort of Hipster paradise, churning out great works of art on the other side of the world…

But anyway, two weeks into a two and a half week break from work and all I have posted on here are two ‘Sunday Papers’ pieces (which literally consist of nothing other than other people’s fantastic writing) and a couple of ‘Monday Mantras’, which, of course, everybody needs at the start of a working week, but it’s not exactly rocket science and/or a work of creative genius to find a quote and share it.

But it’s really not that I haven’t wanted to post anything. On the contrary, I was determined to become the next Zoella or whoever else is now living off the fruits of their online presence in the space of 17 days. But, surprisingly, it hasn’t happened. Perhaps I aimed too high? Perhaps ‘becoming Zoella’ was a little too optimistic? Perhaps I’ve lazed in bed for a little too long each morning? Spent too much time cooking delicious food or getting on with adult things like finding a flat and a new job?

Truth is, I really couldn’t tell you; I haven’t a clue why I haven’t been writing. I could list five thousand reasons why I might not be feeling particularly creative at the moment, but I really have no idea where my words have gone. The problem though, is that when these slumps strike, and I go into some sort of creative coma, it’s very difficult to hop back out of it and pick up a pen or start typing. Much like working out, once I haven’t written or posted anything of any significance in a while, the thought of doing so becomes scary and – at times – impossible. I question my abilities and grow uncertain about why I even do this.

And then I get an email.

Or a private message on Twitter.

People start questioning why I haven’t posted in a while and my hearts lifts a little.

I start to hear the familiar little cogs turning and get the urge to post something… anything.

So that’s why I’m here on this Wednesday evening.

I am hoping that by typing words and hitting publish without thinking too much about them, a creative valve hidden somewhere deep inside my body will open and, just like that, the juices will start flowing once again.

Here’s to thinking, writing and being more creative over the next few weeks.

Watch this space.

AN OPEN LETTER TO NICKY MORGAN – A GUEST POST

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Dear Nicky,

I hear you have warned young people that choosing to study arts subjects could “hold them back for the rest of their lives.”

Just for clarity, ‘art’ is defined as: “expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.”

The Education Secretary is telling children to shut down their imaginations- well isn’t that just dandy. Apparently “those who study maths to A-level will earn 10% more over their lifetime.” Realistically, people who study maths to A-level will probably earn more like 90% more than I will in my lifetime. And you know what? I honestly could not care less.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have a full appreciation for scientific and mathematical subjects- they have an incredibly high value within society. Each day, groundbreaking medical and technological advances are made that change people’s lives. Which is brilliant. But the arts are just as important.

People escape the pressure of their working life by losing themselves in creativity on a daily basis. They allow the literary meanderings of Faulks or McEwan or E L James, to transcend the cramped isolation of the underground. They place their headphones on and have the inane murmurings of Taylor Swift blare away their troubles. Millions upon millions of people escape in to the world of Westeros or Litchfield prison; they immerse themselves in stories of meth producers or singing high school kids, or even simply six chums, relaxing in their local coffeehouse. They see pieces of art and design, which are at the foundation of our cultural identity and make them feel something. The most famous Briton isn’t a mathematician or a scientist; sorry to burst that bubble, but the poor sod just wrote a few plays and some poems. Thankfully you weren’t around back then to try and stick a pin in his creative balloon.

And you’re not sticking one in mine, either.

So I have cobbled together the words of those who made the decision to pursue a passion that would “hold them back for the rest of their lives”, to present my point far more aptly than I can:

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that

nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

We are told that one must be careful of books, and what’s inside them, for words have the power to change us.

History is a nightmare from which we are trying to awake.

Do I dare disturb the universe?

But I remember one thing: it wasn’t me that started acting deaf; it was people that first started acting like I was too dumb to hear or see or say anything at all.

Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.

Nicky, my dear,

You cast a shadow on something wherever you stand, so choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth.

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.

We will not be led into the heart of an immense darkness;

Afterall, we are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.

The curves of our lips rewrite history.

 We owe it to the young people of the future. Young people like

Matilda, whose strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.

They are not alone. You will not suppress the imaginations of future generations of Matildas and Harrys everywhere, because you view arts and humanities as ‘soft subjects’. So here I am setting up an artistic version of Dumbledore’s Army (couldn’t help myself), to ensure that the fire of creativity will continue to burn long in the imaginations of our young people and not be snuffed out by these dementorish measures.

I’m an actor, pursuing my creative ambition. So no, I am not going to go out and get a ‘real job’. I already have one.

Yours creatively,

Liam

Written by Liam Steward-George.

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Actor, writer, bold pant wearer.