By Eithne Cullen
Welcome to March’s Thoughtful Tuesday page.
Our theme for the month is Nature, Inspiring Creativity: Past, Present And Future and on today’s page, I’d like to turn the theme around and use this as a starting point to look at the nature of creativity – particularly pertinent, as it’s International Women’s Day today! The pieces I’m sharing reflect the ways creative people use different means and media to produce different outcomes; channelling their talents differently in doing so.
First of all, I’d like to share this little piece from Pen to Printer Claire Buss, which is a great example of someone responding creatively to a challenge, even if she didn’t get it right.
Potluck dinner, they said. Potluck. So, she’d made a leftovers meat casserole thingy in her slow cooker and chucked in whatever she could find, plus gravy. Personally, she thought it tasted way better than anything else she could’ve made. Great cook she was not. It wasn’t her fault they were all vegan. Potluck.
© Claire Buss, 2019
The next piece I’m sharing is about Jonathan Hirons, a remarkable man who has overcome a difficult situation to carry on his creative work and, in doing so, helped others to understand the journey he’s been on. Here’s an account of how he has responded to the changing nature of his creativity.
The film On The Tip Of My Tongue is based on Jonathan Hirons’ story, which started in January 2019 while he was attending a meeting in London.
While discussing the project Jonathan and his colleagues were working on, he began to feel strange and suddenly found that he couldn’t make changes to his document. He had trouble finding the words he wanted to speak. His colleagues, realising there was something wrong, called an ambulance, and Jonathan was taken to UCLH, where CT and MRI scans showed that he had had a stroke, caused by a bleed on the brain.
Initially, while Jonathan found that speaking and writing were difficult, he could read perfectly well in his head, but couldn’t verbalise his thoughts. At the hospital, he was diagnosed with Aphasia and spent five nights there. Aphasia is a condition affecting the language area of the brain, resulting in a speech impairment, or inability to speak.
Soon after his stroke, Jonathan’s speech was poor and he could barely read or write, although his comprehension was mostly unimpaired. He couldn’t remember the name of the road he lived on but could speak the postcode without hesitation. He couldn’t remember his mobile number, or the pin number to his bank account. He couldn’t read and sometimes had trouble understanding what was being said to him. He could, however, sign his name. This was a very worrying time. He stopped driving. His wife, Ann, made sure he carried a card with his name and address. The information and advice from the hospital was that his condition would improve and that it was important he practised reading and writing.
Jonathan was referred to a speech therapist close to home. It was a few weeks before an appointment came through, but after much research on the internet and recognising the importance of starting the rehabilitation process as soon as possible, Ann encouraged him to start reading out loud. Every day, a small amount of time was set aside to read a few lines of a book. She started with using nursery-school flashcards to help him with word recognition and writing. When speech therapy started, Jonathan was able to improve to a point where he is now able to read and write more fluently.
Like most people who have had a stroke or head injury, Jonathan wanted to regain his independence and was motivated to try and get back to the way he was. It has been a difficult time and the rehabilitation process varies. While he has come a very long way from the early worrying days, it’s unlikely he will fully return to pre-stroke times. He continues to improve and is able to function at a high level. His familiarity with technology has helped him. Technology is a useful tool that could help some Aphasia sufferers. There are apps for phones and tablets that not only enable individuals to improve communication through reading and writing, but also enables them to connect with the outside world.
Jonathan’s recovery was helped with a flash-card app and he now uses voice-to-text to help him with his writing. Before his stroke, he was involved with writing projects funded by the EU: for example, the Leonardo and Erasmus schemes. In addition to this, he was involved in his own film projects. A stroke brought all this to an abrupt halt.
“I’ve been interested in films since I was 11, when I borrowed my uncle’s eight mm cine camera. Although I’ve had other jobs, I’ve always had the film-making ‘bug’. Latterly, I’ve been incorporating film-making into my work. I’ve made a lot of short films for EU-funded projects around small businesses and education, alongside my own projects, including a fiction short Cast Adrift.”
Jonathan’s paid work dried up immediately after his stroke (at a stroke, you might say), so he turned to his film-making to fill the gap, and engaging with the Aphasia group in Exeter. As he got to know the Aphasia community, he realised that 350,000 people in the UK have Aphasia, and yet few people seem to have heard of it. He then set about interviewing and filming members of the group. He made a virtual recording of the Aphasia choir at the start of the pandemic and, during the pandemic, began planning a documentary about the condition and how it affects many thousands of people every day.
The film sets out to show that Aphasia is a hidden disability and that there is a lack of support once the initial rehabilitation is over. Recovery from strokes and head injuries varies considerably. Some people are able to regain the ability to function independently, while others need more help. Help and support comes from charities and family.
As well as Jonathan, there are two other key characters in the body of the story. The story charts how Aphasia can create numerous quality-of-life problems, because communication is a necessary part of everyday life. Difficulty with communication affects jobs, relationships, and day-to-day functioning. Language barriers may lead to embarrassment and/or depression. While they carry the brunt of lasting problems, carers are often overlooked. The story looks at the problems from their side as well. The film also looks at Aphasia charities – often run by either ex-professionals, or by someone affected by Aphasia. These are usually small, local, and under-funded.
Thanks to Jonathan for telling us about his journey. You can use these links to find out more about him on Facebook:.facebook.com/TipofmytongueFilm-111068878096487, Twitter: twitter.com/BuffaloLoungeUK and LinkedIn:.linkedin.com/in/jonathanhirons/
This poem from Pen to Print regular, Danny Baxter, looks at the nature of a relationship and how one person can perceive the relationship differently from the other… the nature of things, and how we see them.
You relate to me as you see me.
You converse with your own perception.
You are relating to your own invention.
This relationship is your own creation.
And as I communicate, you listen,
And though I stress to make things clear,
Making certain the vibrations reach your ear,
The things I speak you cannot hear.
The image you have of me in your mind,
Is made of what you thought you heard,
Not necessarily my spoken word,
So your vision of me may be blurred.
If your picture of me is something I’m not,
Subjection to this form I will resist.
You are relating to someone who does not exist.
I am misrepresented as long as you persist.
And if I try to intervene,
You view my acts through you false illusion,
Then my interaction will cause confusion,
And this serves to deepen your delusion.
The things your mind refuses to accept,
Are things that you will never see,
Are things to you I can never be.
You don’t interact with that part of me.
But if your principles match my own,
A common language can be found,
Communication exchange within common ground,
A foundation will exist that is sound.
And if you synch your attitude with mine,
You’ll see things from my point of view,
You’ll understand what I think of you,
This relationship will have space for two.
© Danny Baxter, 2010 Xian Force Productions
Another wonder in the changing nature of creativity and communications is the rise of the podcast as a means of sharing our messages, telling our stories. You might be aware that Write On! magazine and Pen to Print have a relationship with Alternative Stories and you can access our magazine through their podcasts. The podcast is produced by Chris Gregory, and here he shares some of his experience and insight with us:
Writing Connections Through Audio
When I started producing the Alternative Stories podcast back in 2019 I really didn’t know what I was doing! I had a script that I wanted to turn into a radio drama and the vaguest of ideas about how to do so. It was a difficult journey, begun with little clue of how I’d complete it, but I’m pleased to say I did and made some incredible connections along the way. This short article is about the connections you can make as a writer working in audio.
So how can audio content help to connect writers and help us improve our work? I want to start by recommending some podcasts that might inspire you. Clearly, I’d heartily recommend Write On! Audio which now has six editions published. Check it out for writer interviews, writing advice, and showcases selected by members of the Write On! team. There are plenty of opportunities for listeners to submit their own pieces and have them read by an actor and shared on the podcast. Another wonderful podcast about writing practice is “Write Now” by the American writer and audio dramatist Sarah Rhea Werner. I’d also recommend Not Too Busy To Write from Ali Miller and Penny Wincer, which combines writing advice with interviews. My podcast Alternative Stories has over 100 editions and can be found on all major podcast platforms too.
I firmly believe working with voices is something that can benefit any writer. There is no substitute for hearing your dialogue read aloud; just as audio dramatists do through table reads for new audio plays. Listen out for authenticity, coherence and consistency of voice. Ask a trusted friend to read for you and then note what you liked and didn’t. Make your own recordings and listen back to them to hone your dialogue. Share these with fellow writers and offer to listen and provide feedback on their readings to create a trusted network of writers using audio to connect and assist each other.
If you have a special piece, such as a short story or a monologue, why not consider getting it professionally produced by an actor or voice artist? The thrill of hearing a professional actor read your words is one you’ll never forget and the resulting audio can be used to promote your writing by presenting it in the best possible light. Combine audio with imagery using audiograms or simple video editing tools to make multimedia content to share on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or your website. You can hire voice actors via freelancing sites such as Fiverr and the price need not be prohibitive. Alternatively, production companies like Alternative Stories are usually happy to make these connections for you or even to fully produce your audio.
Another connection you can make with a great-sounding recording of your work, is to try to get it played on your local radio station or on podcasts. The BBC’s “Upload” initiative was set up to help creative people hear their work played on their local radio station. Just search for ‘BBC Upload’ and you’ll find details of how to submit. It’s a great experience to have your writing heard on the radio and connect you to many more readers.
Chris’s writing podcast recommendations are:
© Chris Gregory of Alternative Stories, producer of the Write On! Audio Podcast, 2022
And finally, I’d like to finish with a little note of my own. Friendship is at the heart of the nature of creativity. One of my writing friends, Roy Merchant, died last month. He was a member of the writing group ‘Write Next Door’. He’s been a real support to so many writers throughout lockdown and will be missed by the group. He has submitted to my pages before, including a piece about growing up in the Caribbean with a British-based curriculum when Victory in Europe was declared at the end of WW2. Here’s a little reminder:
We knew the Europeans as tourists who came down rafting on the Rio Grande, or went to Navy Island, where all the Hollywood stars would go. We had no TV to tell us how big the celebration was in England and the rest of Europe. And by the time it came to us on Pathe News at the cinema in Port Antonio, the newspaper had already told us that it was over and something else was catching our attention.
So, for us in the West Indies, like much of the war, it was something we heard about, but not something we were part of. Our real involvement in helping Britain would start when 500 of us decided to get on the Windrush ship in 1948 to help the mother country. But that is another story.
(c) Roy Merchant, 2021
You can find out more about Roy’s writing on his website and YouTube: Relentless Realities.
Read our latest issue of Write On! Magazine here
The pieces I’m sharing today reflect the ways creative people have used different means and media to produce different outcomes and channel their talents differently in doing so.