Make a Network

“Networking”, a grubby word that makes creative people shudder; the thought of making awkward introductions in stuffy rooms and swapping business cards with people who are not remotely interesting or helpful.

But all networking wasn’t made equal. The internet has exploded the old stereotype. It’s true that social media has fallen far from its pedestal. (It’s ruining our lives apparently, and nothing you see or read is real). But not everyone on social media is a narcissistic liar and, as part of a broader strategy, it can still be extremely helpful.

Why make a network at all?

1 – Sharing ideas can expand them. It can solidify or liquify your thoughts and help you focus on the core of an idea.

2 – People in networks promote each other. While we don’t necessarily work for the audience, aren’t they a wonderful bonus? Networks have networks, who have networks, so getting involved opens up your reach and makes your audience bigger.

3 – If your social is joined to your creative time you get more from your time in general. In the crassest sense it’s killing to birds with one stone. A more positive view is to say it’s symbiosis of creativity and pleasure. Your in-person network can be the people you go to galleries with, spend time in the studio with, or go to the pub with.

Where to start?

Find a physical hub. Look for a place near where you live where other creatives are either gathering or working. If you’re a visual artist, lots of studios rent space for short periods of time, or on a shared basis (so, for example, you could just rent a space for one day per week).

stusu.com is a place to find shared studio space

Writers tend to gather in cafes with their notepads or laptops. If there is a cafe that is attached to a bookshop you will more than likely find some writers there. And, if you have absolutely no money then look for free events and keep going to them until you start to recognise people. Think about gallery openings, free live performances, book signings and readings.

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Find an online community by dedicating your social media profiles to your creativity. If you already use Instagram, Twitter or Facebook for life in general, think about creating alternative accounts or pages just for you creative self. Search for strangers who are doing similar things to you and follow them. Show your appreciation for other people’s work if you like it. Share your work and strike up a conversation with anyone who shows appreciation towards it.

“…if you have absolutely no money then look for free events and keep going to them until you start to recognise people. Think about gallery openings, free live performances, book signings and readings.”

 

Your virtual community can be a source of strength when times get tough. There will always be someone there to pat you on the back and sing your praises – online communities are fantastic for that. If you spread the net widely enough you can probably always find someone who is awake too.

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Meetup.com is a website for meeting people with similar interests to you in a platonic group setting. The premise is that an event is organised online, but happens in-person. It’s low commitment, extremely diverse and has infiltrated almost everywhere. Look for you kinfolk on the website, and if you can’t find them start your own group, for example “Saturday Morning water-colourists at the park”.

meetup.com is a place to find in-person meetups

While all these methods sound hugely time-consuming the point is not necessarily to do all of them all the time. Find your own uses in each network. In an ideal scenario meaningful friendships and collaborations will follow from them, your work will grow and develop too.

Useful links:

stusu.com Studio sharing platform.

meetup.com Place to make face-to-face, non-romantic friendships with people who share your interests.

Read all nine Tips for Creatives with Day Jobs

Self-declare

The second part of our ‘creatives with day jobs series’. See the full list here

We live in a culture that defines people by how they make money. When the questions is asked “What do you do?” the reply often starts: “I am a…”

I am a teacher, a dentist, a receptionist, a sales rep, a refuse collector.

We do jobs to get paid, yes, but by talking about ourselves using a job title we affirm in our minds that our role is our responsibility. The responsibility can transcend the money. (I am still ‘a teacher’ on my non-teaching days, for example).

I am a pomegranate!

So, while you might not be paid for your art,  a shift in thinking can help you take your role as a creative person more seriously. Art doesn’t have to be serious to be taken seriously. But artists have be serious about being artists to be taken seriously. If you can’t stand up and say “I am a writer!”, why would anyone else think of you as one?

Becoming a creative first, and a sales rep (dentist, teacher etc.) second will put your responsibility to create in the forefront of your mind. Self-decalring can give you a deeper sense of responsibility to make time for your creativity and to talk about your art with others.

It’s only a small change, but it can make a big difference.

Resident Interview – Ava Lonergan

This is an extract of a mutual interview between Ava Lonergan and I during her residency in September 2018. Ava is an artist and writer from Richmond VA. She spent a week here developing ideas. She is a co-founder of Corner Office, which started as an arts organisation in her hometown, and more recently launched as a publication. A fuller version of the interview is available on the Corner Office website at cornerofficespace.com/odette-brady

Odette: Tell me what you’ve been working on. If it’s easier you can just tell me about today, because sometimes the question is just too big.

Ava: Well, I can definitely tell you what I’ve been doing this week. I came here without any specific ideas in mind, but it’s also coincided with this book I started reading, Women Who Run With The Wolves, which has brought up a lot of questions for me. I decided to start with questions, just answering questions in writing. The questions that I chose were kind of pertinent to themes I’ve been interested in lately, which are memory and intuition. I feel like the past however many years I’ve been existing with my mind feeling like it’s ten feet above my body at all times and not feeling very in my body. So, I’ve been thinking about returning to the body, and I think that has to do with memory and intuition; feeling those things more so through the body. And I answered questions about other themes, like technology, which I’m always struggling with, and social media. I was answering these questions, and coming up with more questions, and I developed all this writing. I’ve been sorting through that and trying to make sense of it and trying to find connections and put it together into a cohesive thing. I’ve narrowed it down this week into working mostly with memory and intuition and how those things have been so influenced by smartphones. That’s mostly what I’ve been thinking about. I could see it taking a final form as a publication. I don’t know, I can’t really imagine having just text to talk about these ideas, or just visuals, so I want to have the two together. So, yeah. That’s the answer.

I don’t know that I’ve ever spent this much time intensely focused and dedicated just to my work.”

Odette: It seems like the relationship between being a creative person and doing art and writing things is much more freeform than what the world gives people credit for. How do you feel about the pigeonholing?

Ava: It’s definitely something I struggle with, and writing is something I’ve only seriously introduced into my practice in the past year. It’s always something I’ve done but I’ve never really thought of it in connection with other parts of what I do. I even just have a hard time if someone asks me what I do. I have the hardest time just saying ‘yes, I am an artist.’ So I even struggle getting to that point. And then the follow-up question is always like, oh, what kind of art do you make? Or worse: oh, what do you paint?! It’s hard, because I feel like I’m constantly introducing new media and new elements into my practice, and it’s hard to make it all feel cohesive. I think it’s easier to explain to other artists because I feel like we’re all dealing with it in some way or another. But I’ve just found that my different ideas just take different forms, so I have to let that happen the way that it wants to happen. I have a hard time with follow through, coming up with final outcomes, final work. I guess I had a very small exhibition of paintings about a year ago or so, but I really haven’t had a formal exhibition since my thesis show for undergraduate work. I’m not super concerned about exhibiting constantly, but I don’t know—I don’t really like looking at my CV.

Odette: I feel that the pressure is external. You probably take it on from outside. And really, the pressure is from people who don’t understand and want to have a nice easy answer that they can understand. You shouldn’t really need to give them one.

Ava: Yeah, the world likes to categorise and label things. That leaves me wanting to fit things into categories and labels. And then I don’t even end up finishing anything, because I start thinking about that too much, and I get confused about where and how to present the work.

Odette: What does finished look like to you?

Ava: When I think about finished, unfortunately, I think about an exhibition. Or, for writing, it would be being published, somewhere that’s not self-publishing, because that’s pretty easy to do these days. But those are all very conventional ways of thinking about being finished. For me, it would more so be just knowing that I’ve worked through what feels like all the possible options, multiple drafts, putting more time into it. I don’t think I put enough time into things. I’m always trying to rush things or I want to finish things but I’m not putting the time in to make it feel like it has that kind of depth and polish of a finished thing. That would be my own personal finished criteria. Even in this one week, I keep trying to get to a certain point. It’s like, oh, I want to have a first draft, or oh, I want to have a piece of writing finished, but it’s just one week! I can’t expect to get anything to any kind of—maybe not even a first draft. And that’s ok, is what I keep telling myself. Or reminding myself.

Odette: One thing that has really struck me talking to people at Cel del Nord is the difference between how different people gauge success.

Ava: I definitely feel that this week—which is not quite over yet!—has been successful. I don’t know that I’ve ever spent this much time intensely focused and dedicated just to my work. I’ve done a couple of two week workshops before, but they were classes, so I was in the studio a lot and working a lot but there were also demos and discussions and critiques and stuff. So this is the first time it’s been more like, eight or however many hours a day of just working through it.

Odette: I think you’ve done more, actually. I think you’ve done, nine to ten hours. Kudos to you.

Ava: Yes! That’s what I was hoping for, more like ten hours a day. I mean, some of it was reading… but that’s all part of it.

Odette: I’m so happy for you. I honestly am.

Ava: Yeah, it’s been such a success. I was coming into it hesitant about maintaining focus, like, if I hit the first wall am I going to lose momentum or lose enthusiasm? Just to know that I can push through that is good.

Researching Moth Symbolism, artwork by Ava Lonergan

Odette: Now know that you’ve got the focus and momentum, what are you going to do next?

Ava: I have been thinking a lot about that. I’m partially really excited thinking about it but partially feel like I’m jumping ahead in thinking about it because I haven’t finished what I’m working on now. Yeah, I have a few things in mind I want to apply for. Now that I know what kind of focus I can maintain, the kind of work I can do in a week, I’m just grateful I’m about to go to Sevilla and I’ll have eight solid months where I’m pretty much only working like, 12-16 hours a week?

Odette: That’s very European.

Ava: So, I won’t have quite as much time, but there’ll still be lots and lots of time, so I pretty much want to keep running with this momentum, working out a schedule, a routine, just to keep pushing it. And I have a few residencies that I want to apply to for next year. I think most of the deadlines are January, February, March so that still leaves me a lot of time to get everything together. I don’t want to be—going back to what I was talking about earlier—I don’t want to be pushing this work to some finished stage prematurely or just for the sake of these applications. I want it to organically come to a close. So, that’s one thing I’m trying to prioritize.

Odette: Do you think it’s possible to apply for one of those types of things to move something forward and not finish it? Or do you think that they would expect you to finish?

Well-used workspace

Ava: It seems like most of them don’t expect you to finish. It seems like most of them are similar to coming here, where it’s like, there’s an understanding that the creative process is this big giant mystery and I don’t think there’s really expectation of finishing a project or doing anything super specific. So, yeah, there’s the possibility I could say, this is what I’ve been working on and this is what I’m going to keep working on.

Odette: Yeah. I really hope that works.

Ava: Yeah. I have no plans for after the school year, which is fine. I still have a lot of time. It would be really great to do one or two residencies next year. If not next year—I’ll just keep applying and keep working!

 

How to dedicate time to thinking

In our season of celebrating day-jobbing creatives we have come up with nine tips, we might call them nine principles, that are especially important for those with double lives.

See all nine tips for creatives with day jobs.

First on our list is “schedule thinking time.” Split the creative time you have into two chunks. Set aside 70% of your time for ‘doing’. Doing is painting, drawing, writing (words or music), sculpting – whatever flavour creative you are, this is what you ‘do’. The remaining 30% is for ‘thinking’. That’s eighteen minutes of every creative hour, thirty-six minutes of a two hour session on a week-night for example, or two hours and twenty-four minutes of an eight our stint at the weekend.

Humans are pretty efficient beings and when we are busy we may even become very efficient. If we eat the same food every night it’s not necessarily because we love pasta and sauce but more likely because we don’t have to think about it. We know we like it, we know we can make it, it’s easy and satisfying and we can even say we’ve cooked. If we treat our creative output with the same efficiency – if we don’t stop and think both deeply and regularly – we only ever make the same work.

If your work is a presentation of your ideas, give those ideas time to develop, change and expand.

Thinking can be as simple as sitting around chin-stroking, but there are better and more efficient ways to think that might help if you are short of time or distracted. Regardless of the type of creative you are, thinking with a pen and paper in hand is a great way to capture and develop ideas. Don’t try and draw whole pictures or write whole sentences (save that for the doing phase). Just mark out what enters your head as it comes. For example, you’re think of writing a poem about flowers. You might start by writing the word flowers, then: growth, short lives, fleeting beauty, drying petals, papery, dry. Who grew them? Why? What colour are they? Reds and purples – sky. Blues – mood. Marigolds – sunset. Marigolds as metaphor for sunset … etc. (you can tell I am not a poet, but you get the idea).

What you do with the ideas and the thoughts is almost besides the point. That you had them at all means your brain has been opened up. It’s hungry again, ready again – it’s open again and you can sit down to whatever you’re doing with the right frame of mind.

Resident Interview – Lou Peake

“Coconut Palm” – Artwork by Lou Peake, 2018

Odette: What have you working been on today?

Lou: Water. I’ve been trying to capture the Gavarresa [river that runs through Oristà] but it’s hard! It moves really fast, which is nothing like a photo. I’m not sure how I did. The scene itself was enough to think about but the light on top of that was a lot to take in. In general I’ve been working with oil pastels and watercolour. Watercolour is new to me, so that’s been a big challenge.

Odette: Are you a full time artist? How do you define yourself?

Lou: I consider myself a writer, but in the last few years art has become so compelling the balance has changed. I suppose you might say I was ‘creative’ in general. I’ve been writing for years, but a while back I was telling a friend about an art course I was doing. I said I was the least experienced artist on the course, and he said “you just called yourself an artist.” I guess that was the first time I’d said it. I’ve started to learn the technical elements, the basic shapes, because I feel like an artist would need those things. So I suppose that came from calling myself an artist.

“View from the Kitchen Window” – Artwork by Lou Peake 2018

Odette: And do you think you approach things differently now?

Lou: Yes, I suppose I do. I always wanted to illustrate my own stories but I decided a long time ago I couldn’t draw, so I didn’t. So,  even just talking about it now, it seems that labelling can change things both positively and negatively.

Odette: When do you think your creative life started?

I was a creative kid. I babysat my cousins and I used to tell them stories – not read to them, actually make the stories as up as I told them. They used to ask me to do it in the end because they really enjoyed them. I didn’t think of it as creative at the time, though.

There’s a lot of creativity in the family. In the previous generations it was all about crafts. I have a cousin who is a writer who has helped me enormously with my novel.

Detail of “Sunflowers in a vase” – artwork by Lou Peake 2018

Odette:  We are really interested in artists with day jobs and how they approach their creative life. What advice would you give to someone who, like you, identifies as an artist but makes their living doing something else?

Lou: Everybody’s different! But I would suggest scheduling dates and deadlines. I have a productivity buddy and we hold each other accountable to what we’ve said we’d do, which is great.

I would also recommend finding cheap or free classes. The National Portrait Gallery [London] runs a drawing session one evening a week which is free, and it’s full of after-work artists.

Another thing is that I only work 3-4 days a week. For a while I was getting up at 6am to write before work. When I began to take my writing seriously I made a contract with myself to either work part-time or do shifts so I could also have a creative life, and I’ve done what I needed to to make that work for me.

Odette: Congratulations on finishing your book! What’s it about?

Lou: It’s called Nick in the Dark and it will be published under my pen name, Midge Kelly. It’s about an 11 year old boy who discovers he can turn into a bat. He realises his father is from another world, and that something from that world has left his sister in a coma.

Nick in the Dark by Midge Kelly

Odette: And you illustrated the cover yourself?

Lou: Yep. Actually, my productivity buddy verbally boxed me into [laughs]. It’s in charcoal, inspired by Jim Kay’s illustrations for ‘A Monster Calls’, which I loved.

Odette: And when’s the book out?

Lou: It’s out on the 15th November. And it’ll be followed up by a second part. It’s been great writing part one knowing there’s a part two coming. I’ve been able to sow all kinds of seeds for later.

Odette: What did you take from your time here at Cel del Nord?

Lou: My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to work all day, but that was nonsense. Given the right space, and the headspace, and the peace of Cel del Nord, I did it. That productivity – knowing that I can do that – has been a real boost.

If I came again I’d come with more confidence. That and I’d bring my acrylics. I’ve seen so many things that are crying out to painted! I’d also like to have done some more writing. Next time I think I’ll write in the mornings.

Odette: Do you think you’ll approach your work differently when you get home?

Lou: I really like hanging my work up on the line in the studio so I could look at it all together – see what’s worked and what hasn’t by comparison. I think I’ll be hanging a line up in my home studio when I get back.

I also liked thinking about my “practice”. I feel encouraged to keep going, and keep scheduling.

Artwork on the line

Lou Peake is an Australian children’s author and artist who lives and works in London. Her novel Nick in the Dark will be out on Kindle on 15th November 2018, published under her pen name Midge Kelly.

More information on National Portrait Gallery Drop-in Drawing Sessions can be found by clicking here.

Nine tips – advice for creatives with day jobs

This autumn we dedicate our thoughts to artists, writers and musicians who have day jobs. The day jobbers are a special breed, applied to their art in a way that many can only envy, nurturing a creative life around a pre-existing set of responsibilities.

Here are nine tips for anyone who finds themselves in the midst of the creativity vs. day job balancing act. We will be looking at each of these pieces of advice in more detail between now and the end of 2018.

For ease, we bundle all artists, musicians, writers, performers and anyone else who qualifies under the heading “creatives”.

“Make your own damn art, don’t expect me to do it”.

Schedule thinking time

Contemplation, and even meditation, are a crucial part of the creative process. When time is limited it’s easy to skip this part and go straight to the making. Try and split your creative time 30/70 thinking/doing. The 70% will be all the more productive for having the 30% to back it.

Read more on thinking time.

Make a network

It takes time at first, but making a network of fellow creatives can save time in the long run. Artists and writers are incredible types for helping each other out. It can take the sting out of self-promotion if you are part of a team who all do it for each other. If you open yourself to real friendships you can allow your creative-self to seep into your social life too.

Read more on making a network.

Self-declare

If you want people to see you as a creative you have to self-declare. No one else is going to do it for you. This is especially true if we do other work. Many of us live in a culture that defines people by how they make money. As creatives with jobs it’s on us to break that pattern. It doesn’t have to be aggressive, it just has to be true. The more times you say it, the truer it will be. Say it with me now. My name is Odette and I am a writer.

Read more on self-declaration.

Take your notebook everywhere

If you carry your notebook or sketchbook around with you, you can always leave a little piece of yourself open to inspiration. As long as you are carrying blank paper and a pen or a pencil, you are a creative, whether at home, work, or on the school run.

Congratulate yourself

If you ever think of yourself as a lesser creative because other creatives are not bogged down with the day to day, don’t. Consider this, if others had to get up at 5am to walk the dog, make the kids’ breakfast and then spend the day at the office before sitting down to create, would they still have the tenacity to stand up and say “I am a creative” like you do? We say you deserve congratulating for keeping all that going, and you should too. Remind yourself often how incredible you are.

Consider a retreat or residency

Retreats are one of the best ways to move forward with projects that have become stuck. They are your chance to forget everything else you could be doing. Life is elsewhere.

We are set up to make your time work for you (dedicated time is our bread and butter!) but, if you can’t come to somewhere like Cel del Nord, try and set your own boundaries around a single weekend at home. Eject everyone from the house, settle in with everything you need, turn off your phone (at least for a while) and let the creativity flow.

Reduce tiredness

Give up caffeine. I KNOW it sounds absolutely insane. But in the long run it is a known step towards reducing tiredness and increasing energy. The less you rely on caffeine, the longer you can stay alert during the day – which means that all those after work hours can finally be given over to creating. And if you can’t turn it off completely, at least switch to tea, rather than coffee (it’s a slower release of caffeine) and avoid caffeine completely after 2pm.

Ask for help

Your art is the culmination of your talents. Why can’t those talents include asking for help? Perhaps the person you live with could be in charge of a few more of the domestic bits, if they realise and understand how much it means to you. Perhaps a colleague could cover for you while you attend a workshop that’s on a weekday. Ask nicely, show gratitude and then keep on creating.

Check back in to see some more detail on each of these ideas between now and the end of 2018.

Open Call – Seeking people for our 2019 roster

You can can see details of our open call at Res Artis, the international organisation for art residencies.

Description of residency program
A self-led residency in the heart of Catalonia, where the Independence movement is strong and the people are rooted firmly in their traditions and culture. An area of geological interest, vast organic beauty and a feeling of disconnect from the rest of the world. We are the ideal residency for those who wish to:

– Work on any existing project in a peaceful and uninterrupted environment

Or

– Explore a geological area for incorporation into new or existing artworks
– Investigate the new and old faces of village with centuries-old family lineages
– Experience the grass-roots edge of the Catalan Independence Movement
– Take a look at a long tradition of ceramics for use in everyday life

Additional options:

– Enjoying the beauty of the local area on foot or by the artists’ own transport
– Workshops for local people
– Collaborations with local artists
– Field trips around the region (please see details on the residency website)
– Exhibition

Sa Sebastià from the north

Duration of residency
Residencies are a minimum of three days and a maximum of three months.

Disciplines, work equipment and assistance
We are best set up to cater for painters, illustrators, writers and classical musicians but we can also accomodate film-makers, photographers and sculptors. Please enquire so we can discuss your needs and make sure we have what you are looking for.

We keep only very basic art supplies on site: Gloves, rags, jars, peg line, printer paper – but we are very much open to facilitating other supplies on the basis that they are paid for by the artist. Please check we carry the equipment you accept ahead of your residency.

North View

Fees and support
All bedrooms are single occupancy. Working pairs / collaborating duos are encouraged to undertake the whole studio and receive a preferential rate.

One artist, three days: €165
One artist, seven days: €385
One artist, thirty days: €1650 (airport transfers included)

Additional nights are priced at €55 per night.

Two artists, three days: €115.50 per artist
Two artists, seven days: €269.50 per artist
Two artists, thirty days: €1155 per artist (airport transfers included)

Additional nights are priced at €38.50 per night, per artist.

All costs are the responsibility of the artist, including food, transport and travel insurance. We gladly offer invite-letters and information about the organisation in support of funding applications.

Expectations towards the artist
Artists are expected to arrive with a plan of work for the duration of their stay. This does not need to be presented to the organiser and does not need to culminate in the production of an artwork – research and the exploration of ideas are considered sufficient. Communal activities – mainly walks and talks – are offered but are not obligatory. Artists are expected to be cordial and amenable to any other artist using the apartment or studio. The residency is in a small, tight knit community and we ask that you respect our neighbours.

Desk things

Mellow Yellow – Music by Colour

Calendula swaying in the late August breeze

Yellow is the colour of sunshine, associated with joy and energy. It produces a warming effect, arouses cheerfulness, stimulates mental activity and generates energy.

This playlist, curated with Nicky from Colour Story, emulates the yellow haze of a bygone era. It gives you the glowing promise of a freer world. Listen to it and you can feel the sun’s glow in the late afternoon and see dandelion seeds floating through the air to land on the psychedelic yellow prints of kaftans and platforms.

Track List

1. Yellow Days, A Little While
2. Donavan, Mellow Yellow
3. Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi
4. Perl Jam, Yellow Ledbetter
5. Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
6. Yellow Man, Zungguzungguguzungguzeng
7. KT Tunstall, Yellow Flower
8. Christie, Yellow River
9.
The Beatles, Yellow Submarine 

What we’ve learned – Five things about moving from a city to a village

To the surprise of our loved ones, in February 2017 we moved from an internationally renowned conurbation to a Catalan ‘microvillage‘; from London to Oristà. The official population of Oristà is 557. However, that includes approximately 65 square kilometres of countryside and it’s farmhouses as well as an exclave in another town. We estimate the village population to be closer to 200.

We made the move so we could start Cel del Nord. It was neither because we hated London, nor because we loved villages (neither of those things are true). So, we expected a learning curve and got one, and we share the stick-out points of that curve here.

Oristà, exactly as we found it in February 2017

1. Choice

In London we had lots of choice: places to choose from and also people to choose from. From a population of 8.14 million people, 3,615 pubs and 337 nightclubs, there was always somewhere open and always someone to go there with. That doesn’t take into account all the galleries, theatres, cinemas, experiences and  museums. With choice like that have to you be selective. You can’t do everything and see everyone. You select the people you most want to see and the things you most want to do.

In a village all that choice is taken away.  The only selection is: Do I socialise or don’t I? If I’d given it any real thought before it would have worried me. What if I don’t like anyone? What if there is nothing going on? What if I am stuck with people I hate, and those people are doing things I don’t want to?

Well, the lack of choice has brought around a whole new experience of getting knowing people we might not have encountered in our old life. My new friends are an utterly eclectic group of people of all ages, all trades and all interests. Great people who know how to have fun, it turns out, are everywhere, and it’s helped me focus much more on the humanness of people, rather than what they represent or why we are the same.

And a quick note on the choice of activity – while we live a reasonable distance from a town and a not unreasonable distance from Barcelona – there is very little choice. There is, however, much more going on than I expected. Festivals, dinners, a play, a painting competition, concerts… The people in the countryside make their own fun and it’s not all farming related.*

Summer Concert in Oristà

2. Spontaneity

Of course, with so few options there’s very little spontaneity, which is something I miss. I can’t pop out for Vietnamese just because it takes my fancy. The nearest Vietnamese restaurant is 1 hour five minutes by car and that doesn’t including parking. Nor can I stumble across a last minute private view. There are galleries within reach but the stumbling part just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t sound like much, but there was a moment when this situation felt stifling.

Over time, though, I have learned to find spontaneity elsewhere. Jumping in the car to drive an hour to a campsite for the weekend in the mountains, for example. Dropping in at a neighbours house to end up staying for dinner happens regularly, and thankfully people tend to keep wine in reserve for such things (no popping to the offie, either).

Stumbled upon this invite when I was taking the rubbish out (win!)

3. Creative flow

If you haven’t yet some upon on our Cel del Nord mantra ‘Dedicated Time’, this where it really comes to life.

The push and pull of London, and the other cities we’ve lived in, set a pace for my creative productivity. I felt the need to constantly produce – if not money, at least words. Words on a page was my version of inbox bulge (see this article to learn more about inbox boasting). It felt like I was being watched, constantly. The ebb and flow of different friends asking, well intentioned, what I’d been up to pushed me to constantly shape-shift as a writer, just so I had something to say.

At Cel del Nord, no one is competing in terms of output, busyness or freshness. There’s quiet – quiet of the mind –  and from the quiet, the clarity and quality of my ideas has multiplied. Even if my word count has fallen back just a little bit, it feels better.

And this is what we mean by Dedicated Time. Dedicated Time is not about bashing out word count. It’s time to think, reflect, hone and select, and only then turn to the page,  the canvas or the stave.

4. Anonymity

I wish I had something positive to say about anonymity, but this is an honest piece. Here, we don’t have any. Strangers, complete strangers, have stopped me in the street with questions like, “Do you still have houseguests?”. They know who I am and they know my business, and if I was better at speaking their language I would probably know theirs.

It can be unbearable, and it’s the worst thing about being here. I am used to doing what I want, when I want, and no one knowing or caring. City living is the only living that really affords you that freedom apart from full hermit-hood. As it is, there are some days when I check the street is empty before stepping out of house (especially after playing loud music the night before).

I am slowly learning not to take it to heart. It does seem that, because we are all so weirdly intimate, things are taken with a larger pinch of salt. They have to be. We are like a family, kind of stuck with each other.

5. Take your time

And maybe because of that lack of anonymity, here is my advice: If you are moving from a city to a village, take your time.

You are joining an existing entity, a tiny eco-system, and you will change it forever.  Take your time to decide what your neighbours mean to you, and what you intend to mean to them. It will be difficult to take back any first impressions that you leave, or sentiments you put forward, good and bad.

Deciding to commit to every opportunity, committee, bake-sale, political cause and friendship is tempting when you want to fit in. Don’t forget it takes time to get to know people, and when you do you might wish you hadn’t (and so might they). Luckily for us Oristà is brimming with fantastic characters who couldn’t have made us more welcome, but when I think of how things could have gone had we not been so lucky, I realise how hasty I was to ingratiate myself into a community that has been made up of the same families for more than a century. It didn’t, but it could have gone horribly wrong.


*The fun around here really isn’t all farming related, but one of the most fun things ever was a betting game where a grid was painted on the floor of a makeshift corral outside the bar and bets were made on which square the village donkey would poo on. It’s called “caga burro”.

Red Alert – Music by Colour

When the temperature hits the thirties, what better colour to put music to than red?

The Red Alert playlist is for sipping something cold outdoors and cranking up the portable speaker.

It starts at the pop end and slides on through to something more ‘dancy’, never forgoing the smoothness of a lazy afternoon dancing in the park or the garden. With friends or alone, it’s up to you.

Track List

1. Jamiroquai, Canned Heat
2. Basement Jaxx, Red Alert
3. Cevin Fisher, (You Got Me) Burnin’ Up
4. Harry Romero, Magma
5. Disclosure, When a Fire Starts to Burn
6.  Fort Romeau, Terracotta
7. Kings of Tomorrow, Sunshine
8. Mark Knight, Man with the Red Face (Rene Amesz Remix)
9. Try a Little Tenderness, Sandy Rivera