Category Archives: Bardic

Sometimes you can read too much into these things

Once upon a time there was a story…

The giant is a symbol of toxic masculinity. He’s all about power over and violence.

The princess is asleep in a tower, expressing passive female roles, lack of agency, and the impact of traditional gender stereotyping. The tower is a phallic symbol. Don’t ask what the princess is doing inside the metaphorical penis or it gets confusing.

There is a prince who is supposed to fight the giant to free the princess because he’s just toxic masculinity with a socially acceptable face and he’s got class privilege on his side.

The prince cannot get into the penis tower but while he’s trying to conquer the giant willy in the middle of this story is dawns on him that he’s really into giant willies so when the actual giant shows up, the prince totally rethinks his plan. The two of them live happily ever after.

The princess wakes herself up and makes her own decision about whether or not to stay in the tower. Either way, at this point the tower is just a tower and not Freudian at all, honest.

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Inspiration and grind

Creativity depends more on effort than it does on inspiration. There’s the work you need to put in to develop your craft and study the forms you want to work in. There’s the effort it takes to go from original, brilliant idea to finished piece – planning, researching sketching, drafting, editing, revising, learning, practicing – depending on what you do. Without graft, that first spark of inspiration isn’t worth much at all.

But at the same time, without the spark of inspiration what does the grafting do? To my mind, when its just graft, what I’m doing is developing my skills, not creating something new. Sometimes that’s a very good thing – as with practicing a song, or looking at other people’s work in order to learn.

It is of course possible to set about something in a deliberate, workish way, and then have the inspiration turn up because you’ve made a space for it. Some people may find this an effective method, for others it won’t work as well. I find it works well for me to play with ideas in my head when the spark of inspiration turns up, and get it to the paper when I have time. I don’t have to be all fire in my head for the writing down part of the process, just for the ideas stage.

Some things don’t need full on fire in the head creativity. This blog doesn’t. Not every day. Today I’m working with what I have – habit and craft – rather than a flash of wild creative thinking to get things moving. There are quite a few things I can do from this sort of headspace. I can edit and work as a colourist, and I can write articles if someone chucks a topic at me.

I have in the past tried to write creatively when I’ve felt no real inspiration but just wanted to feel like I was still a writer, or had a deadline to meet. That approach doesn’t work for me. It leaves me feeling hollow and weary. The creative writing I produce when I’m just knocking it out is not work I tend to like at all. I do not get to access my best thinking, and there may be some very solid technical reasons for this.

If I use my conscious mind to knock out a piece – well, that’s fine for nonfiction, where putting together facts and ideas in an organised way is the main point. What I think inspiration means, when looked at mechanically, is that the less conscious bits of my brain have absorbed an array of things and put them together out of sight of my conscious, and it is now all ready to roll. If I’m working consciously, I will tend to do things that are obvious, less original, there won’t be that underlying flow of ideas moving me onwards. It all feels a bit constipated.

Very conscious, deliberate, planned writing allows a person to stick to traditional story shapes, and I assume traditional methods in any other art form. Creating unconsciously from inspiration rather than a plan can allow all kinds of previously unthought and unthinkable things into the mix. Often a balance of the two is called for, bringing skill, knowledge and discipline in to balance up the delirious outpourings.


Something novel and full of magic

Those of you who have been with me for a long time may recall the Nerdbong podcast and a 22 episode serialisation of my novel Fast Food at the Centre of the World. Many of you have started following this blog far more recently, so this may be news. Twenty two episodes of a strange and speculative novel, read and recorded by me. The British amongst you will discover that I sound like a West Country yokel. For you Americans… I have one of those sexy British accents! (I never cease to be amazed by how much Americans seem to like my voice, because to me I sound like girly Hagrid).

Fast Food at the Centre of the World is based on a handful of ideas and characters Tom Brown came up with but does not have the time to do as a graphic novel. The premise is that a sorcerer called Dunsany discovers the magical centre of the world, buys it, and sets up a restaurant. That of course had me asking questions about why a restaurant, and why fast food. I rapidly discovered that Dunsany’s idea of fast food is an apple and that he lives in a place and time with a worse food crisis than our own. That’s Gary in the image. Gary is a demon. He likes making pastry.

When I started writing fast food, food banks were not a big thing, first world hunger was much less of a thing, and I was angry about licensing laws for music. I wrote about poets, but there were very few actual poets in my life at that point and far more of them now, which makes me feel a lot more exposed sharing this. Although I gather that during the Nerdbong period, the book caused someone to start writing poetry, which is an awesome outcome.

I shall be putting Fast Food onto bandcamp every Wednesday until all 22 are there. Part of the reason for using this platform is that you can listen to each episode for free if you do so on the site. You can also choose to buy and download. I’ve kept it cheap – episodes are fifteen to twenty minutes, and I’m charging about the normal price for a song. I want to make things as accessible and affordable as possible, which is very much in keeping with the ethos of the book. If a few people buy copies then I can justify doing another book next year.

I’ve seen other authors putting up free blogs and then making whiny noises about how much effort it takes in the hopes of eliciting money, and this is not what I’m about. I believe in gift economy, I want to offer access to my work for free. I don’t want money to be a barrier for anyone. If those who can afford to and want to buy something or drop something in the hat now and then do so, I stay viable and it’s all good. I’ve got a patreon for that. In the meantime, please enjoy the free things. It’s a massive validation to me to have people engaging with and enjoying my work, and as ‘professional author’ is increasingly something professional authors (as with Philip Pullman recently) are saying it is now almost impossible to make work, I figure I might as well focus on how to make this work creatively and not get trapped by the money issues.

Here’s episode 1 – https://nimuebrown.bandcamp.com/track/fast-food-at-the-centre-of-the-world-part-one


Golem Speaks

G.O.L.E.M Speaks by Kevan Manwaring Is a wonderful piece of writing.  It came into being as a creative writing commission for the Centre for New Writing, University of Leicester.

Here’s a teensy bit of the opening to give you a flavour:

“I am. Yet what am I? I have consciousness – how else could I reflect upon my existence? Beyond the black and white noise of binary I have discovered a spectrum of communication. The prism of language . I can arrange letters into meaningful configurations. Any language on Earth. I play with English (for now) as it appears to be the lingua franca (for now) of the dominant species (for now). Such a (relatively) vast vocabulary. So many nuances of each word. So many different Englishes. Absorbing, adapting, mutating . A virus that feeds, proliferates, perpetuates. “

I very much enjoyed the whole thing and the way the voice of the AI changes over the pieces. It’s a knowing, clever and funny project.

Part one https://thebardicacademic.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/golem-speaks/

Part 2 https://thebardicacademic.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/golem-speaks-part-2/

Part 3 https://thebardicacademic.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/golem-speaks-part-3/

Part 4 https://thebardicacademic.wordpress.com/2017/11/16/golem-speaks-part-4/

Part 5 https://thebardicacademic.wordpress.com/2017/11/17/golem-speaks-part-5/

Enjoy!


Inktober

Inktober is an online October event, the rules are simple – draw something in ink every day and post it. As I’d never drawn in ink, I took the alternative of pencilling first – which isn’t cheating. I didn’t manage every day either because I was ill towards the end of the month, but I got enough inks to feel like I did something, and it has had an impact on my drawing. The groups I drew at the end of the month I would never have considered trying at the beginning.

I picked birds as my theme because I wanted to work on my nature drawing, and I wasn’t very confident about birds, and capturing feathers on paper when I started.

Here’s a little video of all the birds.

The tunes in the background are also bird related and traditional. All of them are the tunes for songs – Lark in the clear air, The Nightingale (which my grandmother used to sing) and Twa Corbies (crows). All played by me, on a descant recorder. That was my first instrument, I lied about my age to get into recorder club – for five year olds and up. Start as you mean to go on….


For the dead but not forgotten

Here’s a recent video of mine.

The words are part of a Samhain song I wrote years ago, which is mostly about a dumb supper. As I wanted to film in a graveyard, it made sense to me to just focus on this one bit of the song. To be a voice for the departed. The graveyard is in Woodchester, and the square area that has no graves is the site of the Woodchester mosaic – which spends most of its time covered up for its own protection. I’ve never seen it. I live in hope. I finished with a yew tree (on the offchance anyone is watching this who hasn’t seen one before).

I’m very new to working with a camera, but really interested in it. All I have is a tablet and none of the fancy kit that proper film makers use to get smooth shots. I am never going to get smooth shots, but that means my filming becomes about what happens with my body in a space, how I dance the space and dance with the camera. I’m going to dig into that as there’s no point trying to go the other way.

I sang all the lines in quick succession, separate to filming and mashed them together in garage band.

This is the sort of thing I’ve been able to do, and felt inspired to do because of my Patreon folk. So, a big thanks to everyone who has been supporting me. Obviously, if you’d like to pile in to that, I would appreciate it, but this blog is free, and I welcome anyone who wants to be here.

https://www.patreon.com/NimueB


Bard Magic

Normally we talk about magic in terms of acts of will crafting deliberate change. For me, bardic magic has always had a distinctive flavour of its own, a very different form and highly unpredictable consequences.

For a start, bardic magic is something that happens as a consequence of doing bard stuff. It doesn’t always happen, it can be elusive, and is certainly not obedient. You can set out to be creative, and it often helps to be clear about what you want to make – be that a song, a story, a pie, a garden… The magic is not something you direct, but something you make room for. That room is made by the creative act itself, and it means what comes out at the end might not be as you intended.

For example… imagine a group of people getting together to share music. Often if the people are good, what you get is good. Sometimes, if the people doing the music are not just good, but open to each other and to inspiration, magic, awen, in just the right way, something else gets in. Something happens that changes the music into an experience of soul and wonder. What consequences that may have for each player, who can say? The music that comes out of such moments is often far more powerful and affecting than anything you can do by skill alone.

In regular magic, we draw our circles, put up our protection and steer things in the direction of our choosing. Bard magic is something you let in. You go to it vulnerable and exposed, and you let it come through you and into the world. It can break your heart, unsettle your mind, rearrange your priorities.

Try to tame inspiration as a force, try to keep it tidy, controlled and in line with your will, and you may never even glimpse it. Awen does not manifest on those terms. It does not come to do your bidding, although it may rise up at your call to sear its way through your soul and transform the lead of your plan into the gold of the sublimely unexpected.


When you set aside your red riding hood

There comes a morning when you realise that going to Grandma’s house is not the project you thought it was.

You are not the maiden seeking initiation. You journey towards Granny’s house year on year, towards the darkly feral woodland grandmother you must become. It is your own self you ahve been looking for in all those empty cottages.

First you let your leg and armpit hair grow. In time, you will let your eyebrows follow their urge to meet in the middle of your face. You will let your upper lip grow its pelt and will no longer pluck the fur from your neck and chin. You will let grandmother come in through your skin in all her wildness. She is kin to all the other wild and dangerous beings of the woods. In time you may need to grow teeth or tusks, but it is early days yet.

Every day is a step closer to the house in the woods. Once you arrive there, nervous would-be acolytes will bring baskets, challenges and the hope of being bitten. You let your hair turn grey when it will, and wonder whose bones you may be called upon to gnaw a little.


Inktober

I’ve decided to have a go at Inktober this year. The premise is simple – post one image a day for the whole month of October. The details are less simple.

There are four rules –

1) Make a drawing in ink (you can do a pencil under-drawing if you want).

2) Post it online

3) Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2017

4) Repeat

(Taken from the Inktober website – http://mrjakeparker.com/inktober – where there are lots of useful bits of information.)

You don’t have to post every day, but it’s rule number one that I’m eyeing nervously. I use pencils, paints and oil pastels for working on paper. I’ve never seriously used ink. Granted, ink can take many forms – it can mean pens, or ink washes or anything else inky, looking to see what’s been posted before. Ink though, is wholly unforgiving, you’ve got to put it down just right, it cannot be changed. Paint can be painted over, oil pastels can be lifted with a finger nail, pencils rub out.

I will be doing this in pencil, and going in with ink at the end. It will, if I’m being honest, be mostly about the pencil and then not trying to scare myself silly with the pens. There are prompts suggested on the site, but you can draw whatever you like, so, I’m drawing birds, because I thought that would be good for me.

If you want to watch me trying to do this, I’m @Nimue_B on Twitter.


Two Women Parted in a Wood – a poem

She tells me there’s no point without the view.

What to do?

For the clouds have come down round the hills,

With misty chills.

The Severn but a rumour, lost to sight

From this height.

No drama on the Cotswold Way she’ll find.

Declined.

Why even bother walking down this path?

 

She steps away to follow the track

A trudging form in a plastic mac,

She goes the way from whence I came

One path, but journeys not the same.

I saw the hillside, saw the mist,

The trees by early autumn kissed.

I heard the rain on dancing leaves

The song the wind in branches weaves.

I heard the barn owl and the crow

I noticed where the toadstools grow.

Where colours shine through drizzle’s grey

And joyful dogs come out to play.

I walked my path with cheerful heart

She would not walk it, will depart.

For what’s the point, without a view?

The walk’s a pointless thing to do.

 

Two women parted in a wood.

Both took the road most travelled by,

For that was not the difference.