Introducing our first guest writer- Catherine Pitt. Catherine will be writing regularly for Keeping Curious on a whole range of topics but for the first post I thought it best that she introduce herself so grab a cuppa and over to Catherine.
Hi, I’m Catherine! I primarily spend my time running my copy and content business, Flip Writing, and I also act as Studio Manager for my partner’s dance school. When I’m not working, I’m an avid fan of all things creative and arty. Films, theatre, books, poetry, video games, colouring books and crafts make me very happy.
What does creativity mean to you?
To me, creativity means having the freedom to explore life with an open mind. It means being on the lookout for new ideas/theories/approaches which you can apply to your work, hobbies and projects.
Creativity is such an important concept. It’s about exploring your passions without the fear of making mistakes. I’m learning to embrace the mistakes and express myself more and more. There will be a masterpiece followed by an ‘Oh dear…’ That’s just part and parcel of the creative process! Put simply, I enjoy the wonder of creating.
What have you been working on today/this week/this year?
I’m currently working on some social media campaigns, writing copy for a web development company and drawing up a long and detailed business plan for Flip Writing. I’m also squeezing in some mind-mapping and creative writing when I have the time! Each little thing I’m focused on has longer term implications, which is exciting.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a freelance copy, content and creative writer at Flip Writing, and Studio Manager for my partner’s dance school. I love both businesses and the work we create. The current versatility of my working life is what keeps me passionate about the present and future. It also reinforces my decision to leave behind the mundane nine-to-five and lead a more creative life. It’s scary, but liberating.
How do you schedule time to be creative?
This is a tough one, because the logistical and day-to-day grind of running a business can quite often take over everything else. But I try to create a schedule every night for the following day and factor in a couple of small periods where I can be more creative. Whether it’s exploring an idea in more depth, writing a poem, or creating a decoupage bottle, I need that wind down time to be more artistic. The weekends and evenings are always good for scheduling creative time – a tired brain can sometimes spike your creativity!
Have you always been creative?
I have, yes. I’ve always been a dreamer with my head in the clouds. I’ve always embraced the arts and creativity in one way or another. Acting, writing, playing guitar, I like so many creative things. But sadly, I haven’t always taken it as seriously as I’d like. As a teenager, I believed that I needed to pursue subjects that would give me a big fat paycheck and security. I suppressed my wishes to be an actor, writer, director, etc, in favour of what society told me I should be doing/aspire to. It’s only over the past couple of years that I have reconnected with my creativity on a deeper level, actively ‘practising’ and refining my skills. I’m enjoying re-training myself, but sometimes I feel very far behind!
Did you enjoy school?
On the whole, I did enjoy school. I excelled academically and loved learning. But I also dealt with many other issues including bullying, the pressure to do well and mental health problems. This caused me to leave a mainstream secondary school and go into a smaller, special school that was designed for children who were struggling in mainstream school. But I made my time there my own and have many positive memories. I continued to excel academically, did a BTEC in performing arts, and had a lot of fun.
What was your childhood like? What were you like growing up? Messy? Tidy?
My childhood was mostly happy. Despite dealing with a ridiculous amount of traumatic criminal activity in our neighbourhood (we were burgled, attacked, verbally abused, etc) and further circumstances that were far from ideal, myself, my mum and dad were extremely close. I have fond memories of escaping into films and going to see musicals at the theatre with my mum. She also read to me lots, and we coloured and crafted together. My dad had to work a lot, but he also shared my love of film. I also remember playing their vinyl records on repeat, my favourites being Simon & Garfunkel, The Carpenters and ABBA.
I was a conscientious child with a lot of potential. I also liked to talk a lot! I was very neat and tidy. Any mess was due to crafts and creating!
Did your family support your creativity as you were growing up?
They did! It was me that suppressed my own creativity! My mum and dad wanted me to do whatever I wanted to do. They would save for me to buy video tapes, go to the theatre, try workshops and go to groups that were appealing. I’ve always had a creative eye, and my exposure to the arts at such a young age paved the way to a creative destiny.
Are there any skills you wish to develop?
Singing and playing an instrument! I adore music and musical theatre, so if I could just learn to carry a tune and play an instrument properly that would be great. I’d also love to go on more creative writing courses to improve my personal writing ventures.
What was the best advice you were given?
My mum always said to me in times of panic and worry, ‘Catherine, you’re your own person. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or does.’ And it’s true. If I’d have listened to this sooner, I would have been living without expectations and fear of judgment. I embrace her advice now, and I’ve finally started believing it. The only person that needs to be happy with what Catherine is, and does, is Catherine. I took the plunge to lead a creative life precisely four months ago, and it’s been the best decision I ever made.
What’s your favourite material to work with?
As a writer, I’d have to say a good old biro, or a keyboard. But if I’m practising creativity in other ways, then paint, a paint brush and a glass bottle.
Describe your perfect creative day. Where does it start?
I would wake up early, relax with a coffee and do some meditation (this is something that I am determined to stick with because I am starting to see the benefits!) Then I would work on my own creative writing for a couple of hours. After lunch, I’d have a creative meeting in an inspiring space (a studio, theatre, café, etc), and would then focus on business work until early evening. After dinner, I would relax, watch a film, read for a little, then sleep.
Do you prefer to work in silence? If not, what do you listen to when you are working?
It honestly tends to depend on what mood I’m in. Sometimes I can only think when I am in silence. Other times, I just love listening to some smooth café jazz or slow R&B to get me into that feel good zone. If I want a more active atmosphere, then I will create a random playlist of more upbeat tracks on iTunes, spanning genres from dance classics to thrash metal.
What is the best book you read to inspire you?
‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig is just a great, life-affirming book with an interesting structure. Also, my current read which is ‘Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind’. It’s a well thought out little book with chapters from entrepreneurs and professors discussing their methods to stay productive and creative. It touches on a few scientific principles and serves as an excellent ‘boost’ book.
Do you ever have blah days? What’s your remedy?
All the time. Some days I just find myself flailing around for a few hours thinking, ‘Can I really do this?’ I basically have to give myself time to re-focus. Whether that’s chilling with video games or going for a walk, I need time to relax and gather myself together. Then I block out all distractions and aim to get a few things done. This step is important for me on ‘blah’ days because it alleviates the guilt and anxiety the next day over not doing anything productive the previous day.
Do you have a favourite quote?
I love this Ernest Hemingway quote, ‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.’ It’s so true of artists. All we need to do is get started, dig deep and shower the creative process with heart and soul.
Has work work changed over the years?
It has changed. I left university and did the most amazing artistic internship with a small Birmingham theatre company, Women & Theatre. I was on cloud nine and could not believe that I was getting paid to do creative things. But due to a lack of self-esteem, I hid myself somewhat and didn’t try hard enough to find further creative work when it ended. I then worked as a note taker at a university and as an administrator, processing thesis examinations for research students. It’s taken me three years, but I now feel back on track with my work and feel like I am fully utilising my full potential. I’ve realised that I always need to be doing some form of creative work to remain engaged and moving forward with my life.
What are you curious about?
Pretty much everything and anything! One thing I’m particularly curious about at the moment though is the behind the scenes processes, routines, and structures of how art is created. I find the process fascinating. You begin with an idea, and that idea grows and snowballs into a larger than life force. I just love thinking about it. I always watch behind the scenes footage and documentaries to see how the creative process puts art together.
What’s your wildest ambition?
To be a best-selling author, actor, director, musical theatre sensation, all rolled into one! I can dream, eh?
Who are you favourite writers?
In no particular order, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, Lionel Shriver, Thomas Hardy and Elizabeth Gaskell.
What is your favourite creative memory?
Probably helping to write, devise and star in a play about female munitions workers in the First World War at Women & Theatre. I got to work with the most incredible group of women. It was the most fantastic five months. The performance was showcased to the public in a Baptist Church and the atmosphere was amazing.
What are the most important life lessons you have learned?
Patience is a virtue! Don’t rush things and trust in your efforts. Also - life is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve missed out on big chunks of my life because I’ve been unconscious to the present moment. But I refuse to let life just pass me by these days. I now try to enjoy every moment because I know how precious life is. It’s happening now, not tomorrow.
Do you hope your children will be creative?
Absolutely! They don’t have to be working in the arts or have a creative career, but I’d like to think that they will enjoy creative hobbies and approach their work with a creative mind.
What do you think about arts programmes being cut from schools?
I honestly think it’s incredibly sad and frightening. There are limited resources and finances everywhere, but that doesn’t mean we should sacrifice our culture and creativity. Schools these days are very much like factories, churning out fearful, stressed children that are finding it harder and harder to express themselves creatively. Of course they need to be good at Maths and English, but they also need to be able to have creative ideas and learn that there’s more to life than grades and achievement.
If you woke up tomorrow having gained a new skill, what would it be?
Singing. I’d feel so good if I could express myself through tuneful singing.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re perfect just the way you are. Your grades and achievements are not a measure of your self-worth. Embrace failure because you will learn from it. Enjoy being you.
I think you'll agree theres some wise words in there that will resonate with everyone. If you are interested in being a writer for Keeping Curious please feel free to drop me message outlining your idea and we can see how we can collaborate. I look forward to hearing from you. Polly x