Do you want a more creative 2024?
Introducing "The Total Artist: An Adventure In Expressive Living"
A year ago, I almost wrote this post. Then life happened. (To say 2023 was a rollercoaster would be an unbelievable understatement.)
Im the meantime, the idea didn’t go away.
And so now, here we are!
One week from today (to coincide with the new moon on 11 January 2024) I’m going to be launching my newest creative experiment via this newsletter.
Say hello to…
The Total Artist: An Adventure in Expressive Living.
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What does it mean to be a ‘total artist’?
Seventeen years ago when I was doing my MA in Text & Performance at RADA, we had a workshop with a fantastic guest teacher who I believe was from Ghana. She came in prepared to work with our group of ‘theatre students’, but she was shocked at what she found - particularly how slow we were to pick up her material. She had planned to teach us a song, dance, and story from her own cultural practice. Within her worldview, it was a no-brainer that if we wanted to make theatre of course we would sing. Of course we would dance. Of course we would play instruments. Right?
I still remember the look of incredulity on her face as we mumbled and stumbled around the rehearsal room, with varying levels of success. These were key forms of expression - why on earth would we want to cut ourselves off from them, or even feel confident calling ourselves theatre artists if our comfort zone was so narrow that it confined us to a world of words on a page?
Since that time, a lot of my creative work as a writer has involved collaborating with people who work in different disciplines (dancers, photographers, circus artists, etc). I’ve always found it fascinating to experience the the world through their eyes. It is invariably so different to my own approach and biases.
In my experience, the more skilled we become, the easier it is to get stuck in the habits and preconceptions of our narrow area of interest or technical aptitude.
There is something magical about the approach children take to creative expression.
You would never hear a kid say ‘Oh no, I’m a sculptor, I couldn’t possibly pick up a drum’ or ‘I only write words I would never say them on a stage.’ They are in touch with the fullness of their intrinsic creativity.
We need and deserve that freedom, too.
Because actually, how we move through the world as people is integrally tied to what we create. If we cut off certain areas as ‘not me’ we may avoid feelings of vulnerability. But we miss out on the exhilaration of full expression when we never step outside the confines of a label like ‘singer’ or ‘cartoonist’ or ‘chef’… or in my case, ‘scriptwriter’.
Contemplating all of this a couple of years ago, I began to wonder…
What would it look like to try to engage with creativity across the full spectrum of the arts?
What discoveries would I make that would enrich my core practice, but also my everyday life?
And what if I didn’t do it alone?
This programme is partly inspired by an amazing online course I did a couple of years ago called ‘Healing With The Arts’. It was designed by creatively-minded medical professionals. It encouraged people to move through an exploration of a number of different forms to engage their healing energies. (It’s available for free on Coursera, and I highly recommend it.)
I wanted to deepen and continue these explorations in a way that focuses less on physical healing, and more on finding opportunities to make every day life as artistically rich as possible.
I also need to give a shout out to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. If you love that book, I have a hunch you will really enjoy The Total Artist.
Sounds cool! But, um… what is it?
The Total Artist a digital programme created to be done in company with others. The prompts may take the form of emails or videos, and will be delivered directly to your inbox. The Total Artist exists somewhere in a space between a blog series and an online course, so I have called it an ‘adventure’.
Most importantly, it will be fun!
The Total Artist will unfold as a year long experiment.
Each month will be dedicated to a different medium of artistic expression. (These will be timed to coincide with the moon cycles rather than the calendar months, as a nice little way of encouraging us to be in tune with the world around us.)
As an example: Month 1 will focus on writing - particularly the dynamic tension between clarity (prose) and mystery (poetry). Both these modes of communication have a valuable place in our lives. How do we decide which facets we want to tap into when expressing ourselves through language and text? And what role do clarity and mystery have in other mediums of creative expression?
My greatest hope is that this can help unblock the areas where we feel stuck.
Never know what to wear in your author photo? Maybe the Body Art month will unlock something.
Do you hate writing the grants you need to fund your dance practice? Maybe you will find a new approach in the writing month.
Feel like you struggle to be fully present within your artistic practice? Spirituality is a chance to reflect on what gives your work meaning.
Rather than considering artistic forms in isolation, we’ll be constantly aiming to connect them to other mediums and our own artistic spirits.
It would be impossible to cover every kind of artistic practice. The goal is to stretch outside our comfort zones, engage all of our senses, and embrace a broad definition of what includes ‘art’.
We will cover the following areas:
Writing (11 January)
Photography (9 February)
Music (10 March)
Dance (8 April)
Cooking (7 May)
Acting (6 June)
Visual Art (5 July)
Spirituality (4 August)
Body Art - fashion & style (2 September)
Space art - architecture & design (2 October)
Culture & Geography (1 Nov)
Wildcard (1 Dec)
I don’t claim to be an expert in all of these areas (far from it, truth be told).
However, I am an expert at helping artists (normally writers) get unstuck and look at things from a different angle.
That is what we are essentially doing here.
One of the things I love most in my own teaching practice is making the frame where other people have room to explore. So that is how I see my role - holding space for myself and my fellow travellers.
What do I have to do to if I want to participate?
Nothing! Or everything! It’s totally up to you!
You can read the the prompts as a way to notice and reflect how you encounter these aspects of creativity in your work and life.
Or you can jump in with both feet and get your hands dirty by creating your own projects within these art forms.
As with most things, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. But also, there is something to be said for being gentle with our expectations of ourselves. Just the subtle act of paying attention can be a powerful thing.
Throughout the year, I’m going to be sharing my own experiments and creative discoveries.
If you decide to join, I’d really encourage you to give yourself a space to reflect. This could be a journal, voice notes, video blogs, etc - there is room to be creative! It’s in that reflective space where the creative magic generally happens.
I’m hopeful that there will be a sufficient critical mass of people to create a lively comments section and share discoveries as a community. I’d love to hear from other thinkers from a variety of disciplines.
Who is this for?
The Total Artist is pitched at a level where it will be engaging and stimulating for people who already have a serious or professional creative practice and want to expand the scope of their artistry.
However, everyone is welcome and appreciated! If you don’t consider yourself an artist, but want to access more expressivity, this is also a place for you.
I take the viewpoint that living itself is the ultimate form of creativity, so even if you just want to find a bit more magic in your life, this series of posts will hopefully support you in doing that.
Do I have to pay anything? Or signup?
It costs nothing to join in. The prompts (videos and emails) for The Total Artist series will be totally free for the duration of the yearlong programme.
How to get the info?All you have to do is sign up to the newsletter ‘Where The Roses Bloom’ and you will get them automatically as a special strand within this digital space.
What if I’m interested but not ready to engage right now?
That’s fine - join us when you can. The beauty of a year is that it is cyclical. Anything you miss will wind back around again.
Thanks for reading about this. This project been a long time coming, and I’m really excited to see what unfolds over the coming months. Hopefully we can explore creativity together in the coming year!