Deborah Alexander writes … The ‘Magic Penny’ song was a firm favourite at school when I was teaching primary age pupils. It was one of those songs that crept into your brain at assembly and then you just couldn’t shake it off for the remainder of the day.
Way back beyond those days, when I was around the same age and a pupil myself, we didn’t have songs like that. Our school was classic C. of E. so we stood up and sang ‘To Be a Pilgrim’ and ‘Glad That I Live Am I’. Or ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ if we really needed waking up.
But the Magic Penny song was from a broader church…it could apply to any child from any culture and its message was a positive one. Give love in order to receive love.
So what does this have to do with creativity? It’s something I’ve been giving some thought to for a while. You see, I’m writing a novel. I know, I know, everyone’s writing a novel. But I am. This is in addition to writing my own blog on Reflective Writing. Plus putting together guides for teaching English. Oh, and some poetry too. Then along came the Girls Do Coffee blog for Ex-Pat Radio. I started to panic … how can I keep coming up with ideas? I’m going to run out! But run out of what? Creativity? I realised that I was thinking of creativity as being a limited reservoir within and that, each time I wrote something, whether it was an article or a poem or a chapter of my novel, a little more creativity was leaking away.
But a strange thing happened. I realised that the more I wrote, the more I had to write. The more words and descriptions and characters poured from my pen, the more they popped to the surface in my brain. I wasn’t expecting this. But I should have done. Here’s what Maya Angelou has to say on the subject, and if you can’t rely on Maya Angelou for wisdom, who can you rely on?
‘You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.’
Angelou’s words are as wise as you might expect from this revered author, but I have to say that they don’t have the earworm qualities of the Magic Penny song, written by Malvina Reynolds (yes, the very same that wrote ‘Little Boxes’ and ‘Morningtown Ride’, songs that were regularly heard on Family Favourites on the radio in the 1960s).
‘Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away,
Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.
It’s just like a magic penny, hold it tight and you won’t get any;
Lend it, spend it and you’ll have so many….’
I could go on. I still know it off by heart. You can find it on the internet if you really want to, but it comes with a warning … listen to this song once and you won’t ever be able to delete it from your memory bank. But then, with a message like that, why not?
When it comes to writing, I would like to suggest that the message could be just as relevant if we replaced ‘love’ with the word ‘creativity’. Obviously, it wouldn’t scan so well with the song. But hopefully you follow my meaning?
Saving up your ideas for that really important piece of writing (the best-seller!) is never going to work. It’s like never getting the bike out of the garage because you’re saving up your energy for the Tour de France. Just as the cyclist needs to get those wheels moving if he or she wishes to improve their speed or their mobility, the writer needs to keep getting those words out there, even if they are a little wobbly at first.
Before you know it, you’ll be sailing across the hills and valleys of a world of your own making, stories and poems, letters and articles flying by as you write.
Of course, few writers can produce output without input. Where are these Magic Pennies supposed to come from in the first place? Interviews with authors produce a variety of suggestions as to where to get your ideas. Mine, I know, overlap with many of theirs. Read…not in order to steal ideas but to feed your own imagination, to learn about the different ways a writer lays a story on a page, to carry out research and uncover the facts, the experiences or the memories. Listen…the teenager at the bus-stop, the pensioner in the supermarket queue, the tourists on the train…they all have a story to tell. A scrap of conversation could so easily turn into a story with a sprinkling of ‘What if…?’ And we at Girls Do Coffee know from experience that a chat at the airport or over the internet can lead to a fascinating interview on air.
Write…whether your preference is the pen or the keyboard, get the words out there …even if you return later in the day (or year) to re-write or refine, just get those ideas or images or dialogues written down.
For more news on writing I suggest you make a note in your diary … 21st June is National Writing Day … so if you are interested in writing, or if you would like to encourage your children or pupils in the field of writing, there are events taking place in many areas of the UK involving authors and communities. Also, their website (www.nationalwritingday.org.uk) is full of ideas for you to try out.
But most importantly, like the song says, don’t hang on to that Magic Penny … ‘spend it, lend it and you’ll have so many …’… so what’s keeping you? Get spending!
Deborah Alexander – www.reflective-writing-group.org