Writer Life & Lessons

On Balancing Creative Pursuits

As a child, I spent the school holidays with my grandparents, where I grew up with a mixture of gardening, painting and rambling. But each holiday, we would visit a nature-y place, and take a creative class. Throughout the years, I learned to sew, cross-stitch, cook, and paint.

I took Art in secondary school, where I stuck chicken wire on a box for “3D” and struggled to paint a wolf on canvas. I found the waiting between layers of paint more interesting than the painting, and I’ve never really found joy in sewing. I enjoyed drawing, but had very little skill, which has always been frustrating.


I started writing novels in 2009, and have written around 700,000 words across 11 novels, not including non-fiction, short fiction, and the multiple drafts of each story. It’s the one creative pursuit which seems to have stuck, and even in ‘lulls’ I returned to projects – cross-referencing the novel with my outline so I can pick up where I left off when the time/energy/focus returns.

Of all the creative things I’ve tried, only my writing and my sketchpad has following me through my three house moves to my current place.


Recently I’ve picked up my sketchpad and a 5H pencil, and found some pictures to copy. I’ve never had official drawing classes, and I tend to do best with perspective. But the fact I wanted to pick up that pencil again, as I do every 4-5 months, always gets me thinking about creativity, and my role as a learner of creative skills.

I’m not a great artist, but each time I return to the pursuit, I look up some new technique and try to teach myself for a week. Then the sketchpad fades under a pile of novel notes only to be found a few weeks later and put away.

But when my writing is at a halt, it is those pictures which remind me that I am inherently a creative being — and no matter how much skill I have, the importance is that I continue to make art, in whatever form I choose.

How do you assign time to your creativity?

Do you make art outside of writing?

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