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#1 A true story of chance, risk & reward, for anyone creating in isolation (or for whom building & sustaining a creative life has few precedents in their family/class/culture)

[a winding #AmWriting #FridayFeeling thread for a rainy day]
#2 I've been staying this week with my friend & mentor, the sculptor #DavidNash. He committed to life as an artist in his 20s, making firm & unusual choices towards that. (@Museum_Cardiff has a fine exhibition of his 50 years at Capel Rhiw, Blaenau. At @TownerGallery from Sept).
#3 Likewise, I'd always wanted to be a writer. But coming from a single parent, working class, rural background, I was risk averse. A First in English got me a job in TV, but I soon retreated to a secure admin job. Saved, read thousands of books, made notes. Twenty years passed.
#4 I didn't write anything for publication until I was 42. Four short pieces for a local psychogeography project. One was about how vandals attacking a protected tree in the community field opposite my house shocked me, late in life, to action & words both
#5 'As when horses get stabbed: how it was. Obscene-looking, against nature, of alien intent. Skinned of bark six feet high; a flaying deep and neat and deliberate; effortful...Some act of equal and opposite force was needed, but what?'
#6 'An answer came immediately I asked, with strange and compelling logic. The railings that ran the length of the field – intricate, gone brown & brittle – I would paint them. By myself, on my knees, for as long as it took. Rebuke, reparation. An act both silly & serious'
#7 I gave several readings in the autumn of 2015. The nerves I'd always had giving work presentations & in social situations were utterly absent. After a lifetime of hiding, I felt most fully myself sharing stories with an audience and listening to them in return...
#8 Then it was over. January 16, I was at home while my husband and friends returned to their jobs, looking out at the two lime trees opposite my writing desk, feeling lost, stupid, foolish. What was I thinking? That I could turn these late, little pieces into a writing life?
#9 There was a knock at the door. My new neighbour, the sculptor David Nash, owner of the lime trees across the road. He had a copy of my essay with him. 'This is the real thing,' he said. 'You've discovered something, and now it is your duty to keep going. Extend it. Formalise.'
#10 I recognised this for the gift it was & made a big leap. Instead of writing small pieces to send out in hope of acceptance, I asked my local lido if I could write a mile beside it. Decided to spend my savings, and give away, on a grand scale, my time, learning, attention...
#11 My undertaking - #WildPatience: a mile of writing - connected me to hundreds of people in my town and beyond. A previously shy & hidden person, I was now being interviewed, photographed, asked to write & present...outdoorswimmingsociety.com/a-wild-patienc…
#12 By working in public as I have, I've had the chance now to meet & encourage many hundreds of others in their first steps into creative life. These are the key things I've learned from my mentor, that I pass on now in turn...
#13 Give your ideas 'molecules' - a title, handwritten sketches, notes on scrap paper. Maybe a work is beyond your time, resources, abilities now, but by giving it initial physical form you are more likely one day to make it happen [Photo: David Nash with part of his Family Tree]
#14 Be alert to the teachings of chance. David Nash's 1970 Nine Cracked Balls opened up his mature work's direction when wood he had left & forgotten surprised him with its change over time (as my first work came after painting railings alerted me to potential of being in public)
#15 However early & tentative your practice, be professional & serious. Document each step, and tell a true, ongoing story about your work - as David Nash has done in his cumulative Family Tree panels. Even if your work does not receive public acclaim, you gain meaning from this.
#16 Don't measure the success of an event by how many people attend: instead be motivated by the idea that if you do good public work, you might each time meet just one person with whom you connect, to benefit of you, or them, or you both.
#17 Understand how much *time* it takes for a work, or a path, or a life to take shape. David Nash planted his Ash Dome in 1977, during the Cold War, as an act of faith for the next millennium. I took 2 years over my #WildPatience mile of writing, despite starting so late in life
[#18 David and I talked about this - time & patience in art - for the 2018 @BBCRadio4 show Pursuit of Beauty
#19 I'm arrived now at the end of three years public work - from my #WildPatience mile of writing to this year's @wainwrightprize longlisted #WildWomanSwimming. There is no certainty ahead: Maybe I will, like David, have one day decades of good public work behind me. Maybe not.
#20 I do know this: My life has been immeasurably richer since I opened myself to risk, & chance, & connection. Whatever your practice - music/writing/art - risk it in public, however odd, however local, so that a mentor, peer, or child in need of encouragement might find you.
[#21 Thank you to @pechakucha_btn who first invited me -this time last year - to tell a version of this story using their (nerve-racking) 20 slides x 20 seconds format...]

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