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October Project

November 1st, I’m half way through my Three Musketeer book and like so many things in life it’s an ongoing project. I consider the October Project a success as I consciously refocused on the fledgling career:

I attended a workshop and discovered the pragmatic side to my creativity. My believe that in order for any message/ cause to come across, it should resonate with its audience. Entertainment (as in engagement) is key to any art form and perhaps even activism.

I read and worked with a book called Business Model You, and stopped halfway. All diagrams, self-reflection exercises and quizzes I came to one conclusion: I know what I want. Even the plan on how to get there I kind of already know: I just need to commit to the idea and the fact it will take time.

This month the goal of a creative career got a whole extra dimension for me, with the controversy over the RSC’s casting of the Orphan of Zhao. There are many people who have already written about this issue  more eloquently than I ever can aspire to: in-depth writings you can find here by Broderick Chow, here by Gabby Wong and here by Anna Chen. In short, what the issue highlights is the lack of visibility of East Asian actors on stage and lack of none stereotypical roles. As much as I forget about this at times, I am of EA descent as they say and my experience of life up til now, I’d describe as non-stereo typical. Just by writing I could perhaps contribute a little bit to positive change.

by jennicreatives.com

Already knowing what you want to do and what you are aiming for, is a huge leap forward. All the decisions you make from then on, should lead you to your goal. The problem with writing, especially creative writing, is that you never know how long it will take before you can make a career out of it. If it happens at all. (Posthumous careers are overrated!) I need money to live and I would love to make it by doing something I love. (That is writing, the other thing would be deemed illegal…)

If anything, this month has shown me that it is all very well to talk the talk, sometimes one needs to walk the walk. In my case this means writing. Lots of writing. Plays, screenplays, radio plays, reviews, articles anything to perfect the skill.  There are a whole lot of channels out there, looking for stuff but I just need to write it and send it. That is how basic it is.

Whether it will lead somewhere is of course another issue but I start November with a new commitment: if the writing career never takes off ( and I’m going to give myself another 70 years for this and then it might be time to find another hobby.) it should never be for my lack of trying.

It really just boils down to one thing: Just. Do. It.

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As part of this October project, I went to a Case For Optimism meeting yesterday. In a previous post I expressed my concerns about it sounding a little “hippy-dippy” and I’ll honestly say I stepped outside my comfort zone yesterday.

Now, a few disclaimers first:

Firstly, I have a postgrad a Master degree in this hippy shit as some would brand it. I’m a pro at breathing exercises and the fact that I am this publicly reflecting on my work/career is still a trace of my alma mater’s reflective practitioner philosophy: I could wallpaper a family home and their garage with my reflections on this stuff.

Secondly, I wrote my thesis on “the importance of entertainment for the efficacy of sociopolitical theatre”, which was awarded with a first. (Not that it matters but I thought I’d  squeeze that in there…) So I’m aware of possible creative responses to social/political issues and no matter where life has taken me since graduation: it is still something I very strongly believe in.

Back to matter in hand: the case for optimism workshop. They explain what they do on their website:

Case for Optimism events are spaces for cultural leaders and arts practitioners and those wanting to deepen their creative response to the interlinked challenges of the ongoing financial crisis, the end of the oil age and climate change.  They are designed for people who want to find how they personally and collectively can respond best through their work.

As a writer, I went along for more the personal than the collective aspect. It was held in the ArtsAdmin building in a  theatre studio: so I did notice some people without shoes but there were chairs in front of the projector for a Zero Carbon Britain presentation by the Centre of Alternative Technology. So far so good.

At first I was thrown by the man playing the flute but then he made a very solid case about the alarming state of the world’s fossil fuels and how this all intertwines with the dwindling economy. Helpfully he suggested a change in cultural/political attitude was needed: apparently the technology for more sustainable energy already exists, it’s just that the world’s monetary resources are prioritised elsewhere and for it to be a political issue – it needs to be society’s concern first.

Insightful and a quandary to get your teeth in.

But then: 4 steps of ‘your journey’ to this workshop, imagining a sustainable future, all concluded in an unsatisfactory group brainstorm. On posters around the room categorised from “Food and Growing”, ” Education” to ” Transport” and “Wellbeing, we had to write down ideas. Now, call me pragmatic but EVERYONE VEGETARIAN-NO MORE FARMS!  is going to be tricky to implement on a grander scale.

There was one exercise from which a tangible idea could have formed, a project which could instigate some change and I ended up in a group that drew a chalk circle. Among inspired ideas of shared spaces to work, an opportunity for children to cook and eat together, a business venture that rented out roller coasters to adults, cooking classes that passed on dying arts like preserving to make the most of seasonal food – we had a chalk circle. Based on a psychology theory of Carl Jung.

My goal to find a bridge between ideas and the society it concerns by listening to their problems,  was translated by the group (who ironically all claimed to have the goal of listening) into a metaphysical space. Here people could retract to ask questions and use it as a compass to find answers. Again, sceptical me but I doubt 80-yr old Mrs Jones from number four, who is struggling to pay for heating this winter will retract to this metaphysical circle for an extra blanket. Later a group-member confided in me, she found defying the rules of the exercise quite thrilling. I also noticed she placed her name sticker not on the usual place of the chest but on the hem of her shirt: what a rebel.

I’m not sure what I expected of the afternoon, it did indeed state ‘cultural leaders and arts practitioners’  not ‘policy makers and business executives’: I felt some frustration that while I was pushed out of my comfort zone,  most of them were too comfy in theirs.

One of the closing questions asked was whether a Case for Optimism had thought about expanding their workshops to others, not so like-minded people, (“Houses of Parliament!” someone joked) The answer? No, because they would wait to be invited. Hm, I think the PM might be busy washing his hair underneath his wasteful power shower.

In any case, the person who asked the question got my attention enough to bee-line to him for a much-needed debrief in the nearest pub. I’m afraid to say I missed the performance scheduled at the end of the day, because I was too busy envying my new conversation partner’s pint over my (19 days down, 9 more to go!) non-alcoholic coke. That’s the drink not the drug: what a rebel.