About 15 years ago I was going out with a girl who worked at a graphic design agency. I attended one of her work do’s and the company director came up to me and said: are you a creative too? I wanted to punch him in the head because I found the word ‘creative’ patronising. At the time I was working across hostels in Leeds so my day was a mixture of mundane paperwork and trying not to get attacked by the violent men I refused access into a womens’ hostel. Staying alive was the most creative thing I could do, something Thomas Hobbes would approve of . But I guess I also felt intimidated. Yes, I was writing that novel in my spare time and I’d had a few stories published. But there was no point mentioning any of this to this suited director. It felt like blagging. Besides, he was just making polite conversation until someone more worthwhile came along.
I mention this as I was recently approached by Norman Jackson to contribute to Creative Academic Magazine. He’d attended a talk I gave at a MESLIG: Digital Narratives Conference (8 Jan 2016) and wanted to feature me in their April issue (CAM 4) to coincide with World Creativity and Innovation Week (April 15 – 21) So I wrote a 2,500 word article on the creative drive behind Dawn of the Unread which you’ll be able to read in a week or so.
I’m no longer inhibited by the word creative any more, though I still find it slightly pretentious. In fact, one of my part time jobs is as a Creative Industries tutor at an International College. So I’ve even got ‘Creative’ in a job title! But I guess it serves its purpose in defining a particular way of working or perhaps more accurately, being. Who’s being pretentious now…Ahem.
For the last decade I’ve been interviewing authors and asking them where they got the idea for their books from. Most just shrug their shoulders and say ‘dunno’. I did the same when Norman asked me to strip back the processes of my work and try to nail down the when, where, what and how.
Dawn of the Unread was born out of absolute anger at the appalling literacy levels in the UK and the way that working class kids are left to rot. It was born out of the frustration of watching libraries and bookshops close down. It was born out of living in the Midlands, that squeezed middle of land in the heart of the country that constantly gets forgotten in the news, and trying to raise the profile of Nottingham, the factory city that is my home. But it was also born out of an obsessive desire to fill my life with an endless array of problems that bring an unbelievable pleasure when solved. Problems evoke questions and these are usually answered with more questions, and so the process goes on and on.
But I am immensely proud of Dawn of the Unread. I’m glad that we’ve given young graduates such as Ella Joyce and Amanda Tribble the opportunity to feature in a comic with giants such as Hunt Emerson and Eddie Campbell. It is innovative: as far as I’m aware nobody else has used embedded content in comic panels to give contextual information and appeal to different levels of readers. And it’s been instrumental in helping Nottingham be accredited as a UNESCO City of Literature. There’s other stuff too, but I don’t want to get all smug.
World Creativity and Innovation Week was first started in 2001. If you’ve not heard of it before that doesn’t mean you’re not creative. You’ve just not heard of it. But it’s good to know that it’s here and it’s lovely that fifteen years on I’ve somehow fudged myself into the discussions. Patience is a virtue, and all that.
Dawn of the Unread is a graphic novel celebrating Nottingham’s literary history. It was created to support libraries and bookshops. It began life online and won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in 2015 and has since been published by Spokesman Books (2017). All profits go towards UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature.
- Creative Academic Magazine (creativeacademic.uk)
- World Creativity and Innovation Week (wciw.org)
- 70 Blogs for Creative Inspiration (creativeboom.com)
- Why we impossibly, repeatedly get creatively stuck (creativesomething.net)
- How to cultivate your creative brain (creativityatwork.com)
- MELSIG: Digital Narratives Conference (extra.shu.ac.uk)
- Norman Jackson: Digital Narratives Experience (normanjackson.co.uk)