Category Archives: Interview

On The Creative Couch: Helen Perris

On the creative couch today is Sydney-based musician Helen Perris.

How do you define yourself as a creative person?

Well I guess at the moment I’m defined as a singer-songwriter, children’s entertainer and character actress, but I have always been a creative person. As a child I performed, singing and dancing in front of any audience that would watch; writing plays and musicals for my peers to perform in front of the class; choreographing dances, composing music, writing poetry and stories, playing many instruments… the list goes on. I never STOPPED being creative. I think that people are inherently creative and it gets beaten out of them by the school system and adults who don’t know any better. Even in my admin work (I work part time for a music venue), I’m coming up with creative solutions to problems, so creativity isn’t necessarily limited to the Arts, though in me, that’s the most obvious way to define what I do.

What is your chosen creative medium and how does it allow you to express your creativity?

At the moment, my chosen creative medium is songwriting. I don’t agree that I’m using it to express my creativity though. I’m creative anyway, by my mere existence. I use songwriting to express myself.

Can you explain your creative process.

I’ll talk about my process of writing a song because that’s probably the easiest to explain. It depends on the seed. The process differs depending on what form the seed takes. It might be a melodic fragment (e.g. Demophobia) or a lyrical idea (e.g. Rainbows & Thunder). It might be a current or recent event and my constant dwelling on it (e.g. Headlights) or in response to my needing to let go of a problem (e.g. Palace in Suburbia). The seed is the inspiration. Making that seed into a song is the perspiration. The grunt work sometimes takes months and sometimes I feel like I’m not the one writing at all, but that I’m just the channel for it. When songs are written especially quickly, with very little editing, that’s how it feels. I usually write all of the lyrics first and then set them to music, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes I write lyrics sitting at the piano, sometimes at a piece of paper, sometimes at a computer. The music generally gets written at the piano, though I have been known to write the bulk of a melody and harmony part in the car, while driving. I work in a very solitary way, even when I collaborate. When I collaborate, my lyricist will send me complete or draft lyrics. If they’re complete, I’ll set them to music, messing about with keys and melodic ideas until I get the basic structure happening. If they aren’t complete, I’ll to and fro over email with the lyricist with changes until they are complete, then I’ll follow the same process. I haven’t (yet) sat down in the same room with another person and written a song together. That would be an interesting experiment.

Who or what gives your creativity impetus and direction?

I can’t really answer that. I can tell you what gave my career direction. My creative streak wants to dabble in everything and has no direction. I am goal-oriented and I like making my own creative opportunities. I chose this current direction because I was presented with an opportunity, which could have just ended there if I didn’t choose to take it further. But I was also simultaneously disenchanted with acting because of all the waiting around for opportunities and the constant rejection. I found it difficult to create my own acting work because I didn’t feel my script-writing abilities were strong enough and I felt a lack of community with fellow artists. Living in Western Sydney definitely made it harder to collaborate on theatre or film projects. So I took the positive response to my music as a sign and ran with it.

Who has inspired you in your creative journey?

Too many to list. Anyone who can survive the entertainment industry with their sanity and sense of humour intact is worthy of being a role model.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on creating a human being. After it’s born and I recover, I’m starting the planning, fundraising and pre-production work for my second EP.

What is your “go to” piece to inspire you?

I find inspiration everywhere and I don’t stick to one thing to find inspiration or motivation. If I did, I think all my creative output would be the same.

How do you see technology impacting or affecting people’s ability to be creative?

I think technology opens up new creative pathways. It definitely makes it easier to connect with creative people.

What is a piece that is representative of your creative purpose?

Hmmmmm…

Do you mean a piece I’ve created or a piece by somebody else?

I don’t really know. I still don’t know if I have a purpose, let alone a creative one. I like to help people understand themselves and each other better. That’s why I teach, too. If there’s anything I leave behind as my legacy, it’s that there are a bunch of people who stopped hating themselves and started accepting and liking themselves because I understood them and helped them to feel they weren’t alone.

Many thanks for your time, Helen.

Check out the links to Helen’s music.

You can listen to (and buy) her music via her bandcamp site and connect with her via facebook (Helen Perris Music) and twitter (@helenperris)

She also blogs at http://helenperrismusic.com/

You can also listen to her recordings on SoundCloud.

In 2012, Helen was invited to perform at TedX Canberra. Check out her bio and performance.

If you want to be a part of the On The Creative Couch series, drop me a line in the comments or via twitter (@revhappiness)

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On the Creative Couch: Icy Sedgwick

Sitting on the Creative Couch today is Icy Sedgwick. She is a writer, academic working towards her PhD in film studies, teacher, artist, wicked with a pair of knitting needles and constant supervillain.

Icy was one of the first people to encourage my interest in writing when I first started participating in the now defunct [fiction]Friday. Without someone to champion the cause, I may have let my writing slide away into nothingness.

Today she shares her perspective on creativity.

How do you define yourself as a creative person?

Creativity’s one of the strange phenomena since it’s not really something you are, more something that you do. You have your traditional forms of creativity, but then you have your approach to problems or issues that come up in life which require a creative approach to solve them. I do plenty of photography, jewellery making, knitting, painting and writing to satisfy the ‘creative outlets’ part of my existence, but I like to think I approach problems with a fairly creative mindset. Some people call it thinking laterally, I like to think of it as using the tools at my disposal to get the job done.

What is your chosen creative medium and how does it allow you to express your creativity?

I don’t have just one, it depends on what the end product is going to be. Sometimes I just want to capture what I see, so photography (and the creative editing that goes with it) is better suited to the process, but other days I just want to make something pretty that says something about me. Hence the spider fascinator I made.

Having said that, I think that words are my usual medium, whether I’m writing handouts at work, producing academic writing, or writing fiction. Language is one of the most pliable, but temperamental, creative media and I love seeing what I can make it do.

Can you explain your creative process?

I have two when it comes to writing. With one approach, it starts with a ‘What if…?’ My task is to take the data at hand and extrapolate potential scenarios. I choose the most plausible, and write it. That’s how I get the story. And yes, that applies to horror as well – when I’m looking at plausibility, I mean what would be plausible within that world and with that set of characters, not what is plausible according to the known laws of science. With my other approach, it all starts with a picture in my head, usually kicked off by a smell or a snippet of music. I work out what’s happening in the picture, and then that becomes my ‘What if…?’ scenario.

Who or what gives your creativity impetus and direction?

I’m not entirely sure it has a direction, other than the logical route from A to B. I have a creative idea, point A, and I want to see it finished, point B. I suppose the impetus is the joy of seeing a finished product, whether that’s a knitted garment, a beautiful photo or a piece of writing. I suppose the impetus is seeing it finished. So to answer the question, I think I rely a lot on my own curiosity, and my need to see things completed.

Who has inspired you in your creative journey?

Oh that’s a difficult question because technically it would include everyone I’ve ever met, and even those I haven’t. Creativity is such a broad thing, and I’ve been just as inspired by negative people as I have anyone who’s supported me. True, there are writers or filmmakers that I look up to, but for the inspiration that I use in my stories or my photos…I suppose it’s the world around me, and how I see it.

What are you currently working on?

I have different knitting and jewellery projects at various stages of completion, but I’m still working on the edits for my horror/fantasy novella, The Necromancer’s Apprentice. Once I’ve finished this editing pass, it’ll go to the beta readers and I’ll return to editing my Fowlis Westerby novel while they’re reading Necromancer.

What is your “go to” piece to inspire you?

Anything by Mozart. I truly believe that different forms of music resonate with people in different ways, and I tend to find that anything by Mozart gets me going. Sometimes a piece will give me pictures in my head that turn into stories, other times it’s just a mood relaxant that gets me in the right frame of mind to start creating.

How do you see technology impacting or affecting people’s ability to be creative?

I see it a lot at work because half of the students hate computers, and half of them hate doing things by hand. The ones that hate computers believe technology is hampering their creative abilities, and the others think that the computers will do the work for them. As with anything, technology is a tool that can be used to create different kinds of art, or to enhance existing art. It doesn’t do the work for you, but nor should it hamper your process. Having said that, technology makes sharing your creative endeavours a lot easier, and helps you to network with like-minded individuals. I love technology!

What is a piece that is representative of your creative purpose?

I’m not entirely sure I know what my purpose is, other than to create things that please me. Having said that, since I often do creative work to help combat my depression, I think this photo sums it up quite well – being creative helps me see the light among the storm clouds.

 Thanks for sharing on the Creative Couch today, Icy.

 

Icy Sedgwick was born in the North East of England, and is based in Newcastle upon Tyne. She has been writing with a view to doing so professionally for over ten years, and has had several stories included in anthologies, including Short Stack and Eighty-Nine. She teaches graphic design and spends her non-writing time working on a PhD in Film Studies. Icy had her first book, a Western named The Guns of Retribution, published through Pulp Press in September 2011.

My blog – http://blog.icysedgwick.com

Find me on Twitter @icypop

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/miss.icy.sedgwick

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/Icy_Sedgwick

Buy The Guns of Retribution – http://www.amazon.com/dp/1908544007/

On the Creative Couch: Deane Patterson

Welcome to the first interview for “On the Creative Couch.” This is my opportunity to ask a range of creative people from different creative fields about what they do, how they do it and how they understand the creative process.

The first guest to the couch is Deane Patterson (@ReceiverITW); film maker, musician, writer, bibliophile and someone who has inspired me for many years.

How do you define yourself as a creative person?

Well, you got it in one. I’ve struggled since my early 20s to put a label on what I do. I have to write something on my tax return, business card, Facebook bio – but lately I’ve given up and tell people I make things up. I don’t get any respect for that, but it’s the truth. I’ve owned “Creative Guys” as a business name for well over a decade now, and while I might not always use it publicly, it is a reminder to me that it’s just about being creative.

The struggle really comes from trying to define myself by what I do, when really it should be about who ‘I AM’ is in my life. What I do should come from who I am – not the other way around, because circumstances, passions and jobs change, but you as a person need to be the anchor point, the launch pad of your ideas.

If all you have is what you do, and that gets taken away from you, you can get really depressed, angry or just plain unproductive really quick.

I have an expression that’s all but tattooed on my heart (I should do it on my hand so I see it more frequently): Reveal The Kingdom. Everything I do is filtered through that. If it doesn’t fit through there, I’m in trouble, as I’ve strayed from my true love’s purpose, and my own heart’s desire.

I spent a year and a bit trying to be a commercial photographer, and one day I woke up and realized I was just in it for the money. I’m still recovering from that nearly a year later, and I’m still a little wobbly – but you have to forget the money and love the people – then you’ll touch lives (and get the support you need to carry on).

All I know is to tell stories and do that through music and video – it’s great that they go together so well – but within that is an infinite scope of possibilities from just 2 ingredients of making a story. And there are a ton of sub skills like writing, sound engineering, lighting, editing, design, publishing (the list goes on) that you work your way through just trying to tell the simplest story with music and moving pictures.

What is your chosen creative medium and how does it allow you to express your creativity?

I shoot stills, motion picture (video if you want to dumb it down), write and record music, write stories and advertising, I’m frequently designing things in Photoshop. I love music and would choose that if I really had to pick one, but I’ll do that when I’m grown up, and for now I enjoy stories and words, particularly as it applies to film.

Can you explain your creative process.

Immersive. Method. Obsessive. Frequently splintered and distracted. I struggle with focus and finishing the most because everything is damned interesting and I keep exploring the tributaries. It’s hard to remember: be the river, not the swamp.

Who or what gives your creativity impetus and direction?

Is this a thinly veiled question about God?

Who has inspired you in your creative journey?

Community. I care more about the encouragement of my family, especially my wife, and friends than a paycheck. My wife is encouraged by the paycheck too – so please, give generously.

What are you currently working on?

A screenplay for a creature feature (giant bugs), short orchestral music compositions (moving out of ambient and into a more symphonic vibe), some short story comps and a couple of submission offers, building a film/music production studio in the new house, a short film with a script based on an award winning stage play.

Long term, I’m hoping to get a timeline of 3 or 4 indie movies underway. Each project is more elaborate than the last so I can get the most experience with the lowest risk. The first film is 4 actors and someone else’s play that I’ve adapted for screen. The next is 4 actors and my script in one location. The one after that is 4 main characters and a lot of bit parts on a lot of locations. And then I’ve got a story with 7 main characters, but back to mostly one location – that project’s really about learning to work with actors more than film production issues – so you can see there is a long term plan there to grow into.

I’m also really into creating music, and sometimes I wonder if the music should come first – you know, which one is the driving force is, and which is the vehicle? I could just make music videos for my compositions and film school would have been worth it. But I really enjoy story telling in all forms, and film seems to put a bunch of things I do in a powerful mix where the sum is greater than the parts.

I once read a publisher being quoted, “Never believe what a creative person tells you what they’re working on. Just believe what they’ve finished.” So I use that as my escape clause.

What I plan, and God enables (because it’s totally dependant on Him) may change as I follow His lead – but that’s kinda the plan. If I change my mind, it’s because I wasn’t’ listening and wandered from the path. It’s been known to happen to creative people.

I’m a wanderer.

How do you see technology impacting or affecting people’s ability to be creative?

It makes it easier for people to get published, distributed, and easier to create stuff. But people are consequently making easier choices and not putting the same level of effort and expertise in.

Any idiot can use technology to get a result – and all their sycophantic facebook friends might even ‘like’ it – but much of what I see in terms of film/video production, photography, music and even writing is crap. And I include a lot of what I’m doing in the crap pile.

My only defense is that I’m learning. Failing forward. Getting better. You should be too. Get better, damn it. When I started in film, you shot film, and it cost literally hundreds of dollars to buy the freaking film, let alone process it. I learned photography the same way – you shot very limited numbers of stills, and didn’t know if you had until it came out of the lab days later, and then you had to print it.

No one got their book published.

If your band had a 4 track recording on cassette, you were awesome – forget making your own CDs, or even being able to record yourself on anything other than cassette.

This has turned into a full on rant – but when we took away all the barriers to entry, and technology made it easy, we slumped back to the lowest forms of using those opportunities.

Those barriers meant you had to work hard for the opportunity to work hard on making something. And it forced the cream to rise.

Work harder, dammit! And learn your craft. Make the effort to improve.

If you are totally dependent on technology as a crutch, then at least pay attention when the little red and green lines start breeding like nymphomaniac rats on your screen. You at least learned spelling and grammar at school you lazy sons of motherless idioms!

What is a piece of yours that is representative of your creative purpose?

I once read a publisher being quoted, “Never believe what a creative person tells you what they’re working on. Just believe what they’ve finished. So I use that as my escape clause.

I have a children’s book published called “The Purple Pirate Pants of Peril” that I’m extremely proud of, and if I could find where it is on my hard drive, I will re-publish. But that’s something that sold well and the target audience raved about.

I get paid for my music, but never get told where it’s being used, and I get very little feedback, so at this point, I’m still developing that. But I do have some music online (http://receiverinthewild.bandcamp.com/ ) that represents what I like to do musically. I find the money keeps the wolves from the door, but it’s feedback that really rewards my ego. And I like my ego. I like to have it stroked.

I’ve not released any of my personal video work that really says what I’m about yet – my best work is so far on other people’s projects – but it’s my goal to address this before I’m too far gone. How about February next year? Maybe.

Anything else to add?

Only God knows who you really are, and if you really want to know, He’s waiting to tell you. And then you’ll know what to do next.

Find Deane on Twitter @ReceiverITW

Blog: http://www.dcpatterson.com/

Bandcamp: http://receiverinthewild.bandcamp.com/

If you want to be a part of “On The Creative Couch” get in touch with me via twitter @revhappiness or leave a message in the comments below.