Climb Every Mountain: How A Singing Nun Coaxed My Creativity Back
When the keyboard went silent I never expected a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic to hold the key to my creative recovery.
There is nothing quite like the sound of fingers tip, tap, tapping on a keyboard. It is music to my ears. A comforting, wonderful sound that puts me into an almost meditative state as my digits fly across the keys, creating a beautiful dance all their own.
Over the years in newsrooms, offices, spare bedrooms and in recent years, countless coffee shops and hotels, I have laughed, cried, rejoiced, celebrated, lived with this sound. I must have written thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands of words. My keyboard overture a beautiful symphony for my creativity. At least that’s how I see it and feel it when I’m totally immersed, lost in the moment.
Then one day — or, on reflection, over quite a few days — the music somehow stuttered, slowed and came to a resounding stop. Silence. A quiet so deafening it hurt my ears and my heart all at once. It was devastating and the aftershocks just kept on coming.
Monkeys filling the space
When the keyboard taps ceased, my worry monkeys couldn’t stand the quiet, so they did what they did best — they filled the space. ‘What on earth are you wasting your time writing for anyway?’, they spat out at me. ‘You never were any good, not really. You’ve based a whole career on a few top marks in English class and pleasant words from a couple of PR clients. Pathetic.”
And there’s that word. Pathetic. A word that would come back to taunt me on numerous occasions. Such a harsh, devastating word, dripping with vitriol, sarcasm, so acidic I could feel the burn as it hit. So, I swallowed the hurt and the hopelessness down and felt the lead weight around my heart grow just that bit heavier.
It’s not something you want to carry around when you’re going into business meetings. but I did just that — on numerous occasions. It’s amazing how adept you become at papering over the cracks when you need to. To the outside world, to those that knew me in a professional sense, nothing had changed. In my world, however, things were very different.
Harry Potter Effect
Writer’s block? The understatement of the century.
In the worst moments, it was more like total creativity and life block. NOTHING — and I mean nothing — inspired me, motivated me, touched me. It was as if I had sealed myself away, away from work, away from others, away from myself.
I could be in a room full of people and I would experience an almost out of body moment. Several moments. Like I was looking at someone else or was aware of a little tiny me, cowering at the back of my own body. At these times, even the light and sound were different somehow. As if an unknown hand had come along and placed a gossamer ‘shield’ in front of my eyes. Like I was peering out from my cloak of invisibility. Thank you to the incredible JK for the Harry Potter reference.
Meanwhile, back in the ‘comfort’ of my home office, my laptop stayed silent, coming to life only so I could immerse myself in YouTube ‘classics’ like re-runs of The L-Word or Dexter. Total escapism. Total cop-out. And this went on for weeks. Minutes that turned into hours, hours that turned into days. I dread to think how much time I wasted with hours of pointless ‘entertainment’. Mind numbing, soul destroying… the gateway to total inertia.
Is it any wonder that people that sit in front of that screen, day in day out get tired, irritable, depressed? Something had to change. That laptop needed to be put to better use, but where to start?
Advice from a singing nun
Oh, the irony that this was the first thing that popped in in answer to the question. More world of on-screen entertainment references!
How about ‘Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start’. If Julie sings it, it’s got to be a useful tip, right? A smile creases the corners of my mouth.
So, maybe Julie Andrew’s many runs across that mountain (I have actually done this painfully badly when on holiday in Austria) which were part of my childhood weren’t totally in vain.
After all it’s hard to hear those worry monkeys when you’re belting out a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Time to get tip, tap, tapping and start up that symphony again. The orchestra are tuning up. I can hear it and feel it. Can’t wait for Act 1.
Asha Clearwater is an NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualified journalist who’s been a news reporter, features editor and arts editor, as well as editor of several national business magazines.
Today, through her business Turquoise Tiger, she coaches SMEs on the art of great storytelling to promote their products and services.
Asha occasionally freelances as a writer for national magazines and is even behind some of the information boards you’ll find strolling through Woodland Trust Forests.