I was chatting to Jade Herriman the other day about writing haiku when there’s little time for writing. That got me thinking again about all the things I use my little haikus for (yes, I like adding the s). When I started writing poems as a kid, I loved trying out the structured forms like limericks and the different kinds of sonnets. The old Japanese haiku (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables) also got a turn, but it was only in 2010 that I really started writing them as a habit. I love telling the story of how I travelled to Namibia with friends at a time when my friend Pat and I were trying to do a 100 consecutive days of writing a daily haiku. At first it was about the challenge and the fun of coming up with images to fit into these little forms.
But we discovered something amazing after the trip: those daily haikus made a wonderful travel journal. With minimal effort we had created a day-by-day log of our trip: vivid, memorable and condensed. Since then, I’ve made a habit of writing haiku on trips, look at how this one captures the kind of trip another friend and I recently made to Hogsback:
glittering under bent ferns
Here we had to stop
Recognise the picture at the top of the post? It gets better. Even the most mundane work day was given some meaning by documenting it with a haiku. And they aren’t always beautiful or happy, but they often were funny and made everything better. I’m the world’s worst diary keeper and journal writer, but suddenly I could read back over my days and recall them vividly! It is like having a photo album of words, of even seemingly mundane things like the weather. Last week it was very hot:
Slowly the night bakes
till the sound of cicadas
quiver out the sun
And then it started to rain:
Sharp drumming raindrops
swaddle the heat with a roar
in a white blanket
Turns out documenting was only part of it. We started sending our haikus to friends via email, SMS, WhatsApp and Social Media and not only do you have an instant audience and travel companion; it turns out these little poems are contagious! More friends joined in, added lines when we got stuck, made up their own. It was also a wonderful way to get people who don’t normally write poetry or who thought that writing poetry wasn’t for them, to stick a foot into the water. Here are two fun ones we all slapped up together at the Afrikaans Leeskring (reading circle) in Empangeni:
Bol poedel sit en wag
Bol rol en rol en rol en
poedel is gebol
Hygend op die mat
ogies wag vir beter dae
stertjie bly vol hoop
During times when I feel I have no time or energy for writing or anything creative, a little haiku is an easy way out. But turns out that writing them is like putting a bucket under a leaking tap. Sooner or later those little drops make a bucket full of water! They’re like oil for that engine, a kind of low effort maintenance. And after a while I noticed how the constant squeezing of images into these little poems improved and sharpened my writing in other genres too – even my academic writing!
langs die gras wat wakkerword
en ruik na oop pad
Do you write haiku? Would you like to try it? You can go Google all the rules and conventions and traditions that go with this art form, it’s fascinating. But I generally stick to the 5-7-5 and biedem the rest.
Leave me your haiku in your comment on this post and I’ll feature all the ones I get by Friday in a post!
Many of you wish you knew a way of keeping up your creative practice even during the holiday season or other busy times of the year. Baie van julle wens julle kan meer tyd maak daarvoor om iets kreatiefs te doen. And how can you stick to your goals during the coming year? One of the things we like doing here, is dusting off neglected or forgotten knowledge and skills. From time to time I’ll ask some experts to unpack some of the things on their shelves. I asked an art therapist and coach, Jade Herriman – all the way from Sydney, Australia – about creativity, art therapy and setting goals for 2016.
Over to you, Jade!
What would you tell someone who says “But I’m not creative at all!”
“I disagree – you can’t help but be creative!” We are all creative beings, we are kept alive by about a zillion fascinating and awe inspiring creative processes in our bodies and the world around us, and we are constantly creating.
I bet most people are involved in some of the creativity that happens every day: thinking up new ideas, creating new relationships, making things around the house whether that be a new garden bed, a pot of pasta, a knitting project, or even selecting colours to wear, choosing which font to use on their report at work, arranging furniture in our houses, pottering in our sheds with tools – these are all creative acts, where we bring to life something new through our ingenuity and resources.
I think the challenge for adults is that we become fixed on outcomes, and we get a certain fixed idea in our heads of what creative looks like. An artist, a famous composer, a wildly eccentric inventor. We discount all the ordinary little acts of creativity that we are involved with, and because we don’t match these grand visions of creativity we start to think that creativity belongs to the special people – someone other than us. I think if we can accept that creativity comes out in many different ways, that it’s not the same thing as having mastered a particular skill (like drawing for example) we can loosen up a bit. Once we lose the fear, or quiet down the fear or work around the fear, the creativity comes out like a torrential flow. We learn over time that being kind to ourselves, and seeing ourselves as creative paves the way to us taking risks and being more creative out in the world.
It works with you exactly where you are! ‘Lazy?’ Fine. ‘Unmotivated?’ No problem. ‘Scared to death of getting the actual thing you want the most?’ Yep, no worries, aren’t we all. I love that she doesn’t seek to blame or shame anyone, and provides a road map for getting what you want, even with all your very normal human weaknesses and quirks. This somehow shortcuts all the self talk that says ‘well, when I’m more peaceful, and nicer and more organized and have shinier hair… THEN I’m allowed to be happy and go after what I want’.
It is refreshingly frank and balances both the need to accept ourselves with all our human foibles and our wonderful grand dreams, and the need to make practical movement towards what we love, so that we can come alive and have happy and fulfilling lives.
Oh and she’s so genuinely compassionate but also blunt, no B.S. and funny!
What is one of the most surprising things art therapy/working as an art therapist has taught you?
Most people, given the right setting and the right encouragement, can make art and find meaning in it for themselves and their life situation.
During the holiday season most of us find it difficult to keep up a creative practice or stay on track with our goals in general. Any advice?
Be kind to yourself! It’s ok to have downtime from our creative pursuits just like it’s ok to have time away from a job. Sometimes we can run ourselves into the ground trying to do everything all year round, especially if we tend towards perfectionism or we fear that once we stop we will never engage with our creative pursuit or goal again.
If seeing family and friends is taking extra time, if you have to travel long distances, if you have extra responsibilities for cooking, gift giving, charitable works, keeping in touch etc this time of year, then really take the time to acknowledge that for yourself. It can help to realise that it doesn’t mean you have abandoned your creative works if you give yourself a week off – it just means your plate is super full, and maybe rest and getting enough sleep take priority just now. I think rhythm over time is a great concept and I find my own creative projects tend to run in cycles. Not every day has to be identical.
That said, creative expression can be a great release from stress and provide comfort and calm during busy times. Maybe see if you can think of one tiny thing you will do over the season to nourish yourself creatively – if and when you get time and feel like it. I like journaling, or taking photos as my core creative practice, even when traveling. Journaling helps me process my feelings and involves no pressure for a particular outcome as its private, and photography helps orient me towards appreciating beauty and keeps a record of my experiences.
As a coach, what are your tips for going after a dream in 2016?
– name the dream out loud – to yourself and a trusted other
– if you can make the dream have a physical presence in your life do that – a vision board with images of that holiday destination, a few books on your coffee table that feature that hobby you’d like to try, a hopeful pair of second hand dancing shoes arranged prettily on your dressing table..
– find your tribe so you have inspiring role models and can see how people a few steps ahead got there. It also helps to make it more real to hear from people who have done or want to do the same thing as you.
– use structure to your advantage – join a class, participate in an online group, subscribe to a specialist magazine – anything that means you will have more frequent reminders of the thing you love and make you feel more connected to it
– take the smallest step – a series of very small steps help a lot. Much better to make some tiny but tangible progress than make a lofty grand plan that is so scary you can’t begin
– get help and support – ask for help! Ask trusted and well-meaning friends or family for ideas, for materials, for someone to lend you the equipment you need, to talk to someone who’s done it before.
– if you want to work with someone to help keep you accountable or who has real world experience doing what you are trying to do, or just helping people work towards their dreams try working with a coach or a mentor from your field.
*All images courtesy of Jade Herriman
Jade Herriman is a transpersonal art therapist and coach who also has her own active arts practice. She draws on over 15 years experience working in teams within diverse organisations as a sustainability professional, researcher and facilitator. Jade integrates the principles of client centered counseling and group facilitation with art therapy processes, Barbara Sher Life Coaching methods and her own experience of creative practice. She runs art therapy and coaching workshops within organisations and for the general public; and works with individual clients face to face and by Skype.