a letter about fear

I’ve been writing letters to myself first thing in the morning for the last two weeks.

This is something which came out of a conversation about an exciting upcoming project with – and the feeling that writing a letter every day to anyone, including oneself, could be transformative.

The letters are quite personal, as you may imagine. They are mostly about my work, and are powerful in places, rambling and unexpected in other places. Reading them back to myself it seems like a gift, giving me a whole clear pathway for my work.

The first letter was about fear. I share it because fear and courage are a real part of work – and in case it helps :


Dear Sian

What is it that you are afraid of? Is it that you are afraid of admitting what it is that you are afraid of? Of writing it down? Well let’s write it down then. Go there.

Afraid of having nothing to show for myself.

Afraid of expressing myself imperfectly.

Afraid of being unsophisticated, stupid, wrong. Of being seen and exposed as such.

[Like the time when …]

Am I afraid of the breadth of my interest, that I hold so many disparate threads, that they cannot be reconciled, do not fit together? Yes I am afraid of that. That what I do does not tend in a direction. That what I hold is a shapeless heap. That it is beyond me to give it cohesion. And of course this is true. Even Sherlock Holmes has cases which he cannot solve, resolve; and he does not exist.

But again this is because I tend to feel that what I do does not have value, is not good enough – if it does not end in finality, in a conclusion… I want to believe that I will find something out. Reveal truth. And the truth that I do reveal is not a bright mountain; it is small, dim, partial, multiple, changing. […]

Meanwhile, I’ll remind myelf that the best I can do, the only thing I can do, is to show up, to claim the right to exist, to be good enough. Every day. Do one small thing.

Yours truthfully

Sian “


on generosity

Generosity, gratitude and creativity (art).

The nature of the relationship between these becomes clearer, but is not clear enough yet (to me). This piece of writing therefore has a beginning and a middle, but no ending.

The context. Our ultra-capitalist economy which is ever growing, and ever seeking to commodify all things, including those things which traditionally have been held to be commons, or spiritual and non-commodifiable properties. The symbol or metaphor for these commons is the spring, the source. Thus, the disjuncture that we experience, our discomfort, is exemplified by the casual use in our contemporary societies of the word ‘resource’. As in: ‘human resources department’ or ‘exploitation of mineral resources’.

Source: Lewis Hyde, The Gift. (And he was drawing on work by Marshall Sahlins,Walt Whitman and Ezra Pound).

‘The Gift’ is a complex and important book that is on my list for a second reading. Hyde’s central argument is that the work of art (the creative spirit) properly sits within the gift economy (rather than the commodity economy). A conundrum in the book is that of creatives making a living in contemporary (ultra-capitalist) economies. [This is a conundrum that all creative persons are required to work on and with, like it or not.]

The nature of a gift transaction is the transaction of something freely bestowed and unearned. The gift increases in the giving, the motion. The hoarding of a gift is transgression (or sin). The action of the gift is connective, binding: Hyde says “gift exchange is an erotic commerce, joining self and other … the gifted state is an erotic state: in it we are sensible of, and participate in, the underlying unity of things.” And people, all people, seem to understand about gifts. We have a fine and unconscious sense of discernment as to the status of a transaction (within our own social and cultural context); ie. where it is on a spectrum between gift exchange and commodity exchange.

And so Hyde is pointing out that the nature of creativity and art, both for the creator and for the receiver of the work of art, is that it is perceived as properly falling within a gift economy. Hyde says “it is when art acts as an agent of transformation that we may correctly speak of it as a gift.” Thus, the source of creativity is that which is gifted to us. And the labour of gratitude is to be worthy of the gift. (This means to do the work, to develop the gift and to give it away, to keep it moving – not to hoard it, which would be to transgress).

All of which is not to say that artists (creatives) should not be paid. But it does point to some interesting questions of value, and some reasons for the difficult balancing acts which we perform daily.


bottle tops and cardboard tubes

I’m showing you some prints I’ve made today in a joy-filled online session that I participated in this morning – with the community arts group that I help to run (

We worked with things from our rubbish bins – things like bottle tops and cardboard tubes, taking me back to the joy of being a small child and playing with colour, pattern and mark-making. I based my prints on the curled paper strips with the small joys that I’ve been working with over the last few days and weeks.

The session was led by the marvellous Roz Moreton, a local artist who it is just a priviledge to work with (

Roz shared a video as part of our session – its a very short snippet from a talk by Ken Robinson, speaking about making mistakes and creativity. I will also share it with you here, because its so important for all of us: