In the period 2016-2017, three events took place with the title of ‘Autumn Voices.’ Two of these were part of the Luminate Festival of Creative Ageing and one was an event for the Scottish Writers’ Centre. All three were headed by Larry Butler. All three events contained in their programmes a slot for discussion in small groups, based on a set of questions provided by Larry. Although those who attended were by no means all in their later life a large proportion were. The following is a sample of the responses made to Larry’s questions:
Q. What does creativity mean to you?
Responding to things with a sense of awe and wonder and sharing this with other people; doing something you love; making something that hadn’t previously existed; becoming completely absorbed in an activity; being free of ego, limitless, in the moment; encouraging other people to become more than they were; embracing newness, exploration; imposing order on chaos; not always concerned with the Arts with a big A, but with activities like gardening, baking, sewing, playing with the grandchildren, or finding a positive outcome in potentially negative situations.
Q: Is there anything that limits your creativity?
Shortage of time; diminishing motivation and energy; the feeling that I don’t have the talent; lack of confidence; harsh criticism; limited technical knowledge; having small children; grief; illness and its aftermath; doubt; when starting out, the frighteningly high standards of the experts; laziness; frustration at not reaching the level I want.
Q. What would help your creativity to flower?
People who respond to my work with interest and encouragement; having time, especially large blocks of time; being able to do it more often and regularly; having the money to do it and not having to earn money by doing something else; learning to let go and accept change; recognising that as one door closes another opens; gaining in confidence; not caring anymore what other people think; knowing that it is never too late to learn something new or try something different; finding new friends, new groups to join.
Q. If nothing could stop you, how would you expand your creativity?
Expand into other areas of creativity besides my main one, such as music, writing, painting and dance; write an opera, experiment with other kinds of writing; let go both physically and mentally without worrying; abolish all those internal censors and watchdogs.
Q. Remember how you felt as a child playing – what did you enjoy most?
The imagination that allows you to be anything or anybody, or travel anywhere in your mind; dressing up and assuming different identities; drawing; tree houses that were so much more than that; walking barefoot; playing with my big sister and having her attention; hiding away; dare-devil things; being on my own (from someone who has five brothers and sisters); being in a team (from someone who was an only child).
Q. What would you most like to write about before you die?
The major novel that I have never got round to writing; my life and my parents’ lives, so that my children and grandchildren will have a record of these things; give praise and gratitude for the beauty of nature that has brought me so much pleasure throughout my life; something that makes a difference to society, something about the injustice and inequality that exists in the world today, or the destruction of the environment; proper long letters to all my friends.
Q. How do grief and loss trigger creative responses in you?
They lower my level of inhibition so that things pour out of me which are usually locked away; it can trigger expressions of gratitude. I wouldn’t feel loss and pain unless what’s lost had been wonderful in some way; it makes me want to write something about that person, to celebrate their life and do it in the best way possible; just writing about my loss helps me come to terms with it.