FROM YOUR EDITOR Chaos and creativity


Gulfem Wormald, Editor of Words & Pictures, talks about how chaos can nurture your creative side.


Most of us experience a level of turbulence in our lives every now and then where we are thrown out of our comfort zones, sometimes against our will, sometimes willingly, into some shaky ground. At times we struggle to stand up and other times, to find a peaceful moment to lie down. Just with almost everything else, the distraction and destruction can vary from losing a bit of sleep to worrying that you may never be able to cope with life, ever again. I think it is fair to call this experience chaos.


According to Cambridge Dictionary, chaos is a state of total confusion with no order. Whatever you choose to name it, most of us experience the unsettling feeling of having to re-discover a new order thanks to things like illnesses, death, splitting up from a partner, selling and/or buying property, falling out with friends or family, empty nest, not being able to fill the nest, losing a job, exams, dealing with bullies, hormones… etc.


I usually work well under pressure, perform at levels I didn’t think I was capable of, start thinking practically and outside the box to find solutions. I recently feel like I have overfilled my plate from the open buffet of chaos which caused me to stumble a bit. I found that my creativity has been suffering. I had no mental space to even think about writing which isn’t a feeling I am comfortable with AT ALL.


Just as I had been feeling like I may never write another line again, I reminded myself that there is no story if there is no conflict. We, authors, live by that rule, right? So, does that actually mean that real life chaos can come with a serving of a wealth of new ideas? Now that is a more promising thought.


When we were at a university open day for my daughter a week ago, we listened to a philosophy talk. This quote from the Romanian Philosopher Emil Cioran helped me embrace chaos instead of running away from it and turn it into my personal weapon of creativity: “Chaos is rejecting all you have learned, chaos is being yourself”.


We are undoubtedly at our best when we can truly be ourselves. How else can we hope to find that unique voice that we all know is so precious to our creativity? Being able to bring our true selves out to the surface is a blessing, not a curse. If means justify the end, then I may have some space for a healthy dose of chaos. Maybe chaos is the good stuff we all need (in moderation).


It is ok if you have no time or will to collect material for your future ideas during a particularly challenging time. You will know when the time for creativity comes, don't rush it. My suggestion is to write things down. It is as simple as that. It doesn't have to be structured or even meaningful. I have things like "the estate agent's laugh", "the philosophy lecturer's hair and boots", "the tattooed woman at the lido" in my little notebook of nonsense. I could vaguely hear my creative mind's voice trying to get my attention at the time saying "I know you are exhausted but this is good stuff for later, just write it down". I am glad I listened as the chaos came with plenty of "potential writing material" for when I am ready. As the dust settles, I have been visiting my notes and remembering details that will help me later. Don't give up, you will get there and when you do, you will not be short of ideas.


Nietzsche famously said “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star” and Rakesh Jhunjhunwala argued, “growth comes from chaos, not order”. Let’s all pause in order to reflect on these words of wisdom for a moment. Having a bit of reflection, I actually started to feel less sorry for myself and more excited about finding myself through these challenging times, about growing, about dancing again, at least in written words. I realised I already mentally collected a tonne of new ideas recently. It will be a blast when my life finds its new normal and order; I will be better at being myself and my creativity will smash everything in my way. It turns out the cliché of the tortured artist is a thing! So here is to chaos and all the creativity it brings.


*Header image: In-house collaboration between Ell Rose and Tita Berredo



Gulfem Wormald is Editor of Words & Pictures. Contact: Twitter: @GulfemWormald


Ell Rose
 is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures
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Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. She has a Master's degree in Children's Literature and Illustration from Goldsmiths UOL and a background in marketing and publicity.   

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