Monday, 14 May 2012

Right now it's hard to write

I just had to make the hard decision to put an old, much-loved dog to sleep.  Amber was a sweet-natured, sometimes over-enthusiastic, often muddy Labrador who had a wonderfully happy life that ended peacefully in my arms.  So rather than be sad, I want to celebrate some of her upbeat doggy philosophy  - much of which has crept into my picture books…

1. Wag your tail and greet each new day with joy.
2. Mud is fun, especially when shared.
3. Treat strangers as potential friends.
4. There are many different fragrances and consistencies to manure.
5. Shoes are meant to be slobbered on.
6. The same old familiar walk always has different scents to sniff.
7. Every meal is a celebration.
8. Hair shed is hair shared.
9. Dirty underwear is treasure.
10. An old dog dreams young dreams.
 
 

 
At this moment, I feel drained of creative energy, but I know from experience that it will return. After my husband died I was SURE I wouldn’t be able to write again - but a few months later I felt I had to write – and out of it came Gilbert the Great, a happy-sad picture book about loss and coming to terms with it.

 
So, like any good picture book, this blog has a reassuring ending for anyone finding it hard to be creative right now.  Don’t add to your stress by worrying about it. Get on with your life as best you can – and one day soon, it WILL be back.

33 comments:

  1. Hi there. I had to leave a comment after reading this. I hope you don't mind... It's so sad when we have to take a decision that parts us with our animal pal, but how lovely to think of Amber in those ten, celebratory points. It made me smile, especially point ten. Creativity doesnt really go, it just sits patiently until the mind has dealt with the bigger, life "stuff " ... For now, take care and know you did what was best. Your creativity will be waiting. :-D

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    1. I'm really glad you left your comment. Thanks so much for your support.

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  2. The positive wisdom of experience. Amber would give a wag to that advice, I'm sure. Thank you, Jane.

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  3. Wise words,Ms Clarke - words which show an understanding of the nature of picture books. Picture books can deal with some of the most important issues of life - in a seemingly light and definitley economical way. That is why I include Where the Wild Things Are as one of my all time favourite books for any age and it's why I get cross when I hear teachers and parents telling children that a picture book is 'too babyish for them'.

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  4. Jane, thank you so much. I have copied Amber's philosophy to go on the special board in my office where I put words and pictures that I hope will inspire me and help me through difficult days. You've shared a very important truth. Sometimes it does seem impossible to go on being remotely creative ever again, but given peace it will happen. Meanwhile, there is extraordinary inspiration to be found around you.

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  5. Thank you, Jane, for sharing the Labrador philosophy, and reminding me of their zest for life. It is a lovely tribute to Amber. I had to have my Matty (Matilda) put down 11 years ago, and still remember the pain. She's has since featured in lots of happy poems (and one sad but celebratory one).

    Your words made me smile in recognition, laugh in memory and, at last, cry as I am currently nursing my mother through her last weeks or months. Since I returned from my break, she can no longer swallow, so Life feels very much 'on hold'. Thanks for the encouragement.

    My shelves are laden with picture books that I love and keep, even though I and my children are (officially) grown up. Thank you for adding to their valuable tradition of resourcefulness and beauty.

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    1. Oh Celia, I'm so sorry to hear about your mother. I wish you strength for the times ahead and hope you will have happy moments to cherish as you both find peace.

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  6. Aaaaahhhh! This brings a lump to my throat. How lovely that you can think back on the good times, though. Thanks especially for the assurance that the creativity will come back one day: that's good to know.

    My favourite 'Amberism' is number two - mud is definitely fun! I don't have a pet, but the moments spent poddling about in the potting shed with my seedlings have been some of my most relaxing and cheering recently.

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  7. What a fabulous post. Amber was obviously a gorgeous dog. And I totally agree - I think to be able to write picture books well you need a certain outlook on life, you need to be as full of the enthusiasm children have to communicate to them, you need to find everything interesting like they do, to find joy in small things which are overlooked by the normal grown-ups, to revel in every moment, and to be able to share that joy and wonder.

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  8. Jane, it's so lovely of you to share your feelings. Amber must have been a great comfort to you after your husband died, and it's sad to lose that link. I believe a little (or a lot) of Amber lives on in one of your best-loved characters, and I'm quite sure she will inspire another character, probably sooner than you think.

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  9. Thank you for sharing this Jane.
    It shows exactly how our creative energy ebbs and flows with the things that happen in our lives. Also, how important it is to remember that we sometimes need to take a break, knowing that it will come back again.

    Often a child's first experience of death is through the loss of a pet, so a well written picture book on the subject can gently help them find ways to cope with loss.

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  10. A beautiful tribute to a lovely dog. Not sure whether to smile or cry right now, perhaps I'll do both.

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  11. Thank you for sharing thids Jane.
    I met you in Winchester where you taught me in two classes. I also met you in the after party. Your humour astounds me and is well remembered.
    When I am stuck creatively I think of you and now I have more to remember.
    My dog, George had to be put down also in December. He was 15 years old.
    Thank you for this post
    Take care

    Your fan

    Rita

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    1. That's such a lovely thing to say, Rita, thank you.

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  12. Thank you, Jane.
    I'm so sorry about Amber. Thank you for sharing your wise words with us. And I hope you are able to do as you say and let it rest for a while knowing it will come back. After a different trauma in my twenties, I spent a year not being able to read more than a couple of lines, and unable to write -whilst I was trying to write my PhD. But it did come back and I hope you're surrounded by supportive friends who'll let you come to terms with things in your own time.
    I can see Amber in Stuck in the Mud now, which I can actually see as I'm writing (dog-eared! and well read).
    Thanks, Amber. And thanks, Jane.
    Clare.

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    1. Yes, she's in Stuck in the Mud - your comment about it being dog-eared made me smile. Thanks for sharing your experience, too, very reassuring.

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  13. What a beautiful and brilliant dog! Thanks for reminding us to focus on the positive side and to appreciate what we had.

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  14. This is so helpful. We all have dry times and sometimes feel that we're pretty much used up - so knowing that other people feel the same is a kind of rescue. When big stuff happens it can knock you sideways. Why should we be able to just carry on as normal? I admire those people who seem to stay on an even keel no matter what, but I'm not one of them and I appreciate knowing that you aren't either.
    Harry shared Amber's passion for dirty underwear. he once filled the garden with the contents of the laundry bag. I discovered this after the second Amazon delivery of the day... ah what tales those drivers have to tell. Mud he didn't go for - not a water dog, though he liked to roll on dead fish.
    Lots of love, Jane. And thank you for your post.

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  15. I know how you feel Jane as I'm sure must everyone who's ever lost a much loved pet. Having seen and been impressed by so much of your work I don't think you need fear a temporary lack of creativity. I'm sure that in no time at all it'll bounding back up your path with a gift of inspiration for you. If I was with you right now I'd be putting on the kettle.

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  16. Oh, sweet Amber, I love your philosophy and know that you brought buckets of happiness (as well as mud and manure) to this household. RIP. I can't wait for the very special picture that will come out of this time of grief, Jane. Thank you for sharing!

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  17. Beautifully said, Amber and Jane - 3 and 10 are my particular favourites. Writing picture books can never be a 9 to 5 job - they come when the time is right - usually, for me, when I'm content in life but find myself restless to create something new, something funny, something joyful from and for the child within me. It's hard to connect with that child at times, but you write wonderful picture books, Jane, and you will do again - and sooner even than you think.

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  18. What a beautiful dog - and I am broken-hearted for you. But you are very wise to know that writing will return - your wonderful memories of life with Amber will see to that. Hugs, Jane.

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  19. Such a poignant post, Jane, and I know your doggy philosophy is going to stay in my mind. Plus I'll remind myself of it when I have to take Spud out in the rain and mud.

    Amber was a lucky dog, and an inspiring one. I hope your creativity returns soon, or whenever it's ready. Death and memories go at their own rate. I treasure my copy of your 'Gilbert the Great'. xx

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  20. I remember Amber so well. She was always wagging not only her tail but her whole body as she greeted me with her latest toy in her mouth. Your sofa belonged to her and to Bramble, but I was lucky enough to share it with them on several occasions. I shall miss her. Much love from Ragnhild xx

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  21. A fab post. With regards to underwear in our house this HAS to be socks. I've even watched our dog take them out of the washing machine. There may be lots of different fragrances and consistencies of manure but to be of interest it HAS to be within a small window of 'freshness.' Too new or too old and it is ignored. Finally we share mud but we do not share puddles!

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  22. Thanks for sharing your experience and Amber's wisdom, Jane. Thinking of you.

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  23. What a beautiful tribute to Amber. The "doggy philosophy was smile`eliciting and very touching.
    Take care.

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  24. Great analogies. Thanks so much for sharing. YOU ARE STRONG!!!

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  25. This is such a lovely post! I love the Amber philosophy.

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  26. A lovely tribute and it's so true, mostly bad things either cement me to the floor or make me run away. I can maqnage a sort of autopilot thingy but I'm not sure it works long term.

    You made me smile, Sparky used to sit chewing underwear with a very guilty expression on his face xx

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  27. It seems to me that dogs have the whole thing sussed out pretty well, looking at your learned tips. I shall be trying out the dog philosophy myself, especially at meal times...now that we're on the green leaf diet. I'm having trouble with the dirty underwear part, but that's just me being fussy! I hope that Bramble is not getting the 'only dog' syndrome? Utterly spoiled and unreasonable? But I know he's in expert hands. X

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  28. What a warm and inspiring post, Jane. I like the aphoristic wordplay in Number 8 and I think Oscar Wilde would too.

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  29. Thanks all, for your support, I'm just getting up and running again x

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