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The Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour”
Inspiration truly is the spice of life. In my seven years as a scribe, I have gathered creativity from all manner of sources, and have each of them to thank for keeping the home fires burning, so to speak. Today however, I wish to elucidate the origins of my creative self and speak of the all-important seeds planted at an early age, back when my impressionable young mind was a sponge for inspiration. To be fair, it still is now. But childhood is where the foundations were primarily placed and decisively to boot. Indeed, there are direct parallels to be drawn from the interests vested in me as a kid to my artistic output over forty years on. And it comes as no great surprise to me that a handful of my greatest personal heroes were responsible for instilling the belief in me that my imagination could take me wherever on this green earth or any other I allowed it to.
I was four-years-old when my mother read me The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton at bedtime. I could barely process all the fantastical fuel being fed, on account of a novel that made the impossible seem very much possible. Enormous oaks reached into the clouds, as feeders for an infinite number of destinations sprawled out above them. Subconsciously at least, the significance of trees was unmistakable. Better yet, Blyton’s tale taught me the skies need only ever be the limit, should we surrender a belief in elevation all tender feet are entitled to by birthright. I have always been a visual creature, and having such a monumental piece of literature lovingly narrated to me provided my imagination the colour and shade required to paint the broadest canvas.
My grandfather, meanwhile, awakened the performance artist inside me and comprehensively connected the very dots of me to rhyme. He regularly read me poetry, although not the likes of Wordsworth and Yeats. My miniscule attention span would never have been able to entertain the works of such illustrious wordsmiths, without the life experience to appreciate the intricacies of verse. These were children’s books, of barely thirty leaves, and the rhyming structures were more owing to limerick style than anything else. Aside from the rich vein of humour bleeding through each verse, it was my grandfather’s animated recitals that genuinely brought them to life. This would likely explain why I instinctively rhyme words when lost in a melody, whether or not I am deep in the throes of thrashing out song.
Next up was my very first cinematic enlightenment. And, once again, my mother was instrumental in firing up the pistons. Along with my grandmother, she surprised my five-year-old self with an unforeseen visit to the nearby movie house, long before multiplexes became commonplace. The headline feature in question was Walt Disney’s 1937 fantasy, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and a deep-rooted love for fairy tales and the like stemmed from one bashful bite of this most flavorsome of fruits. Every now and then, when inspiration is at its most flourishing, I delve beneath the veil to coerce a children’s story from the coils of me. As with all classic fairy tales, there was a fair share of shade loitering with intent amongst the light of Snow White’s spring-loaded stride. Disney’s tale struck the ideal balance and catered, not only to my spotlessly sunny disposition, but also my fast-swelling fascination for all things vaguely sinister.
Enter my father, who had already clocked my enchantment with godlike monsters, courtesy of my attraction with dinosaurs and other suchlike prehistoric critters. From the lowly slither of pint-sized trilobites to the sky-scraping heights of the delightfully named Diplodocus, and my own personal darling, the Triceratops, mine was a jovially Jurassic path. That being said, my second excursion to the cinema in as many years, took learning to a far more subterranean level. Sub-aqua to be precise. You see, the Jaws Double Bill was doing the rounds about the time of my sixth birthday. And, while fear is widely regarded as the mind killer, here it was the kind of thriller filler my wide eyes were hankering for most. Between Snow White and a three ton Great White on a hissy fit, I was hook line and sinker in the thick of it.
While there were innumerable other muses littered throughout my creative upbringing, the above were unquestionably the most fundamental to shaping the artist sat before you now. I count myself particularly blessed to have had imagination so kindly catered for by both my parents and grandparents. It would be decades later before the fruits of my first bona fide education ripened, whereby my infatuation with rhyming poetry, fairy tales and the macabre was finally supplied an outlet through prose. However, while it would be effortless reeling off dozens of artistic inspirators who have influenced my output in some way or another, in truth, it all began at Home. I like to think that each of my personal heroes spotted something in me and knew precisely how to nurture the seeds which would eventually flourish in later life. Ultimately though, it all boiled down to unconditional love.
I never felt anything less than categorically safe and sound during childhood. My well-being was invariably protected within such a close-knit family huddle and a self-certified journeyman such as myself never felt jeopardy when exploring the farthest reaches of boundless imagination. Outside of this safe place, I continued to cherry pick from every font available to me, and still do so to this very day. But I am under no illusion as to how I came to be, as an artist of the soul. And the key word in all of this is empowerment. Limitations are beyond doubt a man-made affair, placed on us to prevent straying too far from the flock and traversing the greatest unknown. The irony is that we can be our own worst enemies in this regard, albeit through consistently being wired to believe that we cannot by a society keen to herd us into penned enclosures. We ultimately possess all the tools for adventure and enlightenment; it just helps when encouraged to put them to stellar use.
I happen to write an almost unimaginable amount of poetry, but see no great innovation in branding myself a poet. For the moment I do such, I’m hemming myself in and stunting opportunity for crucial growth. I may be veering ever closer to the elusive half-century mark, but never did much care for numbers. And besides, when I close my eyes tight, I still see the same splendorous sights. Enormous oaks reaching into the clouds, as feeders for an infinite number of destinations sprawled out above them. They do say we never forget our first loves. Such is every bit as applicable to the hearts of artists. That first blush of spring may be a distant memory by the time it arrives at the obligatory autumnal dress down, but I would argue the fall is every last rustic leaf as beautiful. When I create, I’m as childlike as I’ve ever been, with far sight to the evergreen, and eyes so wide they can prize whichsoever dream confides of the most treasured theme a dreamer tends to dream. And I have never been so grateful to my roots. To the angels at my table who enabled me to taste the fabled fruit. Long placed at ease to chase the greatest truth.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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‘Enormous oaks reaching into the clouds, as feeders for an infinite number of destinations sprawled out above them.’ Such a beautiful and inspiring image of endless adventure and creativity
Endless adventure. Yes! Without it, we are shadows of our true selves. I am eternally grateful for the gentle nudges that ushered me towards the magic places. And any trip back to my childhood is one I relish taking. So glad this resonated with you.
This intimate look into your creative journey is a delightful fairy tale in itself! Thank you for opening up your pages and reading aloud. Those mentioned will be beaming like Cheshire cats right now.
I really love how we share a mutual love and inspiration of The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyto. Trees and forests have always been my spiritual places and I feel something burst alive when I’m leaning against bark. It’s amazing 🌳 And we’re glad we got you those Jaws socks!!