Introduced By Amber Hall
This month, our theme continues to be ‘Reality And Perspectives’. I’ve been thinking about how the arts and writing opens us up to new perspectives and ideas, allowing us to think more deeply about the world we live in.
The writer Anaïs Nin said: “We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” In psychology, our frame of reference is the context in which we interpret the world and it is shaped by our values, beliefs and experiences. The arts broaden our world view by inviting us to step inside another person’s frame of reference, allowing us to become more attuned to one another. When we engage with a piece of art, we’re encouraged to think about our own frame of reference, too. We might wonder why a story, painting or piece of music elicits a certain response in us, for example, or consider why we’re so drawn to a particular writer or artist.
When we express ourselves creatively, we also shed light on our own unique perspectives. Our ideas, whether sprung from experience, observation or the ether, are rooted in some fundamental truth about who we are. As writers, we often follow an unconscious path towards the stories we want to tell, finding them in the far reaches of our mind, bringing them out onto the page.
The pieces I’ve chosen this month explore the connection between perspective and creativity, both in a personal and interpersonal sense.
I’d like to start with two poems by Donna McCabe. She writes about the creative process and examines the role poetry plays in our lives in both and acknowledges the way verse broadens our understanding of the world.
Awakening To Poetry
Finding hope in the written word
Comfort in the bleeding of ink
Awakening to poetry
And its deeper meaning
Allowing it to broaden my horizons
As it helps me to think
Searching on a deeper level
Exploring further afield
My pen becomes a mighty sword
My notebook the valiant shield.
(c) Donna McCabe, 2023
Ink bleeds from me
Be it happy, joyous or blue
I just can’t stop it from happening
I know it’s the same for you too
It’s a constant problem
We writers suffer from
The need to bleed out
Our very souls
It’s the only way
We can live our lives
Keep going and feeling whole.
© Donna McCabe, 2023
Connect with Donna on Facebook: @Poemsbydonnamccabe and Instagram: @donnamccabe_
Next, a prose piece by Claire Buckle, who gives us insight into how her writing journey has informed her understanding of different – and, sometimes, difficult – topics. Claire’s short story Eaves Dropping! will be published in My Weekly on 25 November, so be sure to grab a copy!
Exploring Different Perspectives Through Storytelling
I thought I’d take a personal approach to this theme rather than a general one. Since I started writing short stories many years ago, engaging with different subjects, I have challenged, changed, and shifted my perspectives on various topics. I mostly write for women’s magazines and nowadays often push the boundaries of what might be acceptable for that market. I always feel pleasantly surprised and delighted when such stories are published.
One example revolved around the sensitive subject of a woman’s desire to tattoo over her mastectomy scar, despite her family’s lack of understanding. As with most magazine stories, the plot gradually navigated towards resolving the conflict. My hope was that the story would inspire women who wished to tattoo over their scars but faced opposition, to engage in open conversations with friends and family.
However, some subjects are not suitable for the magazine market. A prime example is a story I wrote after listening to an episode of The Conversation on Radio 4 Extra – Drag Kings: The Women Performing As Men. Presenter Kim Chakanesta spoke to two women who performed as men and poked fun at the patriarchy. This interview opened up an area of discussion I’d not previously encountered. It sparked the idea of a character study of an individual in a dressing room preparing to go on stage. The story delved into their childhood and adult struggles to find their true identity. I opted to write this narrative in the first person – a perspective I wouldn’t have attempted before listening to the programme – and then doing a lot more research. Because drag queens enjoy visibility in mainstream entertainment, I hoped the reader would assume the character was one as well. However, as the story unfolded, it’s revealed that the performer is, in fact, a drag king. I intended to promote empathy in the reader rather than judgement and to question why this area of drag is less well known and accessible.
All forms of art can open up discussions and challenge perspectives. I’m looking forward to visiting the Marina Abramovic exhibition, which is currently showing at the Royal Academy in London until January 1st. Over the years, this performance artist has tested the endurance and limits of her mind and body, pushing them to extremes and challenging assumptions. She has now trained younger artists to perform her pieces. The work prompts viewers to reflect on their own vulnerabilities. Performances cover a wide range of topics, from time to gender to cultural issues. If you haven’t encountered this controversial artist, I recommend exploring her work. While some people find it harrowing, it rarely fails to stimulate discussion.
I can only hope my stories, in their own modest way, encourage readers to contemplate human nature and empathise with characters from diverse backgrounds and with different life experiences.
© Claire Buckle, 2023
In this piece, Afsana Elanko explores the ways in which the arts uplift, inspire and connect us. She reflects on the mental health challenges suffered by some of history’s most notable creatives, and posits the healing qualities of art.
Importance Of The Arts In Changing Perspectives
We of the craft are crazy. Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched. Lord Byron.
Creativity and exposure to art can help change our perspectives as humans. Throughout the centuries, we’ve seen the links between mental health and creativity. Researchers and psychologists over time have made connections between famous artists and mental health. For example, Pablo Picasso is thought to have suffered from bipolar disorder, and Yayoi Kusama has experienced hallucinations and obsessive-compulsive behaviours since childhood. Ludwig Beethoven is thought to have suffered from bipolar disorder, too, and Ernest Hemingway suffered from depression. Evidence shows that Van Gogh, who suffered from bipolar disorder, continued to make art despite his illness. In fact, audiences often connect strongly to works created at a tumultuous time in an artist’s life.
When we listen to music, feelings are stirred as we connect with the composers and artists. This provides a unique connection on an ‘inner-being’ level: the idea that someone else shares the same feelings. In storytelling, one forms a connection with the narrator and the writer. Again, knowing someone else has gone through something can give us a sense that things are bearable, that they will pass. This change in perspective may not even be realised at a conscious level. On an internal level, though, there is a change in outlook. This unique connection provides an all-important inclusion. As we know, isolation is common for those struggling with their mental health.
When we look at a piece of photography or art, we’re often drawn to the colours, which themselves evoke feelings inside us. When Picasso was suffering from depression, he was famously drawn to blue during his blue period. Many incredible artists, composers, writers and other creatives have used their work to overcome internal suffering, finding solace. By creating, one has something to focus on; our senses are consumed by the process at hand. This, in turn, starts to change our perspective, allowing us to see what we’re capable of and giving us inner resilience.
Creativity can be anything, from a scribble on paper to a painting; it could be the opening sentence of a short story, or the image we’ve created in our minds after reading a chapter of a novel. There are so many avenues for creativity, we can each pick out our own preference. The important thing is the connection we make and the discourse we share in our environments.
As I sign off, my invitation to you is to engage with the arts to change your perspectives. Who knows? Together we might be able to change the reality around us!
© Afsana Elanko, 2023
Finally, we have a powerful prose piece by Pauline Bouquin, who has used her writing to step into her authenticity and change her perspective.
A New Perspective
I could not sleep. I was lying in a large bed in the blue room, my favourite. My mind was racing; insomnia, like a giant tree, growing inside of me. The branches of my thoughts were endless, leading me to new paths every time I tried to remove them from my head. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on the sounds coming from the woods outside. An owl was hooting, and the wind was whispering through the leaves. I could feel Spring in the sound.
I had just started to relax when I heard a voice coming from downstairs. „Guten Tag, guten Abend und gute Nacht!“ It was Grandma. The Truman Show. I quickly understood. She was watching her favourite movie for the hundredth time in her native language, in order to keep practising her German skills. Grandma’s greatest fear was to forget it all. The other day, she’d rushed into my room with the fruit basket in one hand and a German dictionary in the other. She couldn’t remember the translation of ‘strawberry’. That’s how Grandma was, aiming for perfection in all fields.
She was old-school. According to her, I could only be happy if I had a posh wedding in a castle with a rich young man. All I needed was to wait quietly for the right one. She thought pushing me towards realising this was a way to protect me, to protect my future. She didn’t realise her protection was stifling me. I didn’t know how to stop her sticking her nose into my business. I was nearly 20 and wanted to manage on my own life! And yet, I’d never had the strength to face my grandma and to disappoint her, until now.
There, in that bed, with my thoughts racing, I came to a decision. I was going to tell her I’d never marry a rich, a young, a tall man. In fact, that I’d never marry a man, full stop. She needed to know I was not attracted to men. I also knew, though, Grandma would never, ever, understand this.
We’d already had conversations dancing around the subject. Her point of view was always sharp and decided. This meant I was doubly scared of what her reaction might be, scared of what she might think of me, scared it might put an end to our wonderful relationship. I wanted things to change, but, equally, I didn’t want to break something I couldn’t repair. My problem, of course…
Looking at it rationally, I realised it was all a matter of perspective. I was scared about things coming to an end, whereas actually this change meant a new beginning. This dive into the future that would cost me. After years spent worrying and turning these ideas over and over in my mind, too afraid of diving into new waters, I suddenly realised this fear came from projecting what might be onto what was. I needed to find the courage to just dive in!
That night, the soothing sounds of the woods made me realise it was time. I would tell her. As I heard the sound of her stick on the tiles, telling me she was climbing the stairs, I knew the time had come. Change was inevitable. Yes, one chapter was coming to an end. But a new one was about to begin.
© Pauline Bouquin, 2023
Cconnect with me on Twitter: @amber_marie_123 and Instagram: @amber.marie.123
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Our ideas, whether sprung from experience, observation or the ether, are rooted in some fundamental truth about who we are.