I spent the weekend in Cambridge with a friend, wandering about and drinking warm drinks and eating good food and talking about fiction.
It was good.
Cambridge is an odd place – medieval city gone modern. There was something strange about backlit bank signs, billboards advertising language schools, cars, and red phone booths, against the backdrop of old, beautiful buildings and brick roads. Cambridge is beautiful, but it is also ugly. It has the charm of times past, beautiful fronts and narrow back alleys, chimneys forming endless rows against the sky, neatly tended lawns, and tiny cafés stowed in wherever there is space. But it also has the disappointing air of a city that tries to be more than it is, and crams garish doubledeckers, expensive shops, and overpriced tourist services into every nook and cranny.
I enjoyed my time there, and I have learned a lot about what makes cities what they are. Cities don’t always have to be beautiful. Sometimes they are unapologetically ugly. Sometimes both those things coexist in the same time and place.
I recommend the museum of archaeology and anthropology, by the way. Admissions are free, and there’s a lovely (temporary) exhibit about Cambridge on the ground floor.
i’ve been creating a lot of art lately. more than usual. it’s this need to have my hands on something physical, be it paper, fabric, pencils, paint, glue, wood, canvas… creating something with my own two hands.
writing needs hands too, but my hands are tired of writing. they hover over the keyboard as i will them to work for me, but they say no. not today. today i want to make art. colourful, explosive, wonderful art.
not all of it is colourful. but it’s creating, and that’s what i need to do.
the seasonal depression crept up on me last month. it’s coming earlier this year than usual. usually it isn’t until after the clocks change at the end of october, something about disturbing my circadian rhythm always sends me straight into a spin of lethargy, exhaustion and lack of motivation. this year it was september, and not because of the weather. i’ve been keeping decent hours, too.
it’s work. work. work. work.
i love my job and i’ve had some amazing tasks these past couple of months. i saw a grand project through that i created from scratch, and i’m still kind of…reeling. it’s hard to believe it’s over – it’s been sixteen days since my project ended but it feels like yesterday. it feels like two months. i’ve lost all concept of time, and i’m just..breathing.
and making art.
it’s the autumn holidays now, in denmark. i’m off work – officially – and i wanted to make something of the time, and put in some good work on my poor neglected thesis, that i pushed to the side over the course of my work project. instead i’ve taken the time off. i’ve made more art.
it’s funny, because i’ve never considered myself an artist, in the way that i consider myself a writer. writing is in my blood – storytelling is at the very core of me. i’m a writer. if i’m not a writer, then who am i? i’m not an artist, and yet i am. i’m the kind of artist who works in bursts, who keeps art supplies for years, who saves scraps of interesting paper and fabric and paints. i buy ikea cabinet doors on sale from the warehouse, and i stash them in my flat for months. then, one day, i find out why i saved those cabinet doors, and i make art. the cabinet doors are excellent frames and canvases, by the way, as there are holes pre-drilled in the back for hinges. makes them easy to hang.
i spoke to a friend about my most recent art pieces. she’s an artist – an actual artist, with a degree in creative writing, but a passion within visual arts and comic books. she works for tv, writing scripts, but i’ve always known her as an artist. an actual artist. she draws, she paints, she creates comics. we have wonderful conversations about art and fiction and creating, because we’re two sides of two different coins.
anyway, i spoke to her, and she said to me “i love how you always manage to tell so many stories in your artwork. even when you make art, you write. everything about you is stories.”
after that conversation, i found myself picking up the long-discarded crime novel i was once working on. i don’t know that it will be a crime novel anymore, but i know now what it’s about. i know now how i’m going to write it. all the threads are coming together, all the missing pieces, all the missing emotions. all the missing art.
i look at the art i’ve made over the past few weeks, and i think about this novel, and i know. it’s all stories.