Introducing, Freelance Writer, Communications enthusiast, 2016 member of the Cropper Foundation Caribbean Writers’ Creative Writing Residential Workshop, volunteer and participant in the incendiarism of the ego, Jeanette Awai, so here we go…
1. How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?
Creativity is to give birth to ideas and see them through from inception to execution. For me, it's the painful alliance of being true to the muses in the head and the unconscious process of putting pen to paper and guiding what comes out - it is the literal birthing of an idea and then responsibly letting it roam in the world.
2. How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
I think of creativity as phenotype - you can be born with a creative gene, but unless you grow up in an environment that supports it or forces it to come to fruition, it would never be expressed hence why when you read the biographies of artists you will see that they were encouraged to be creative from an early age or were surrounded by literature and art or were forced to find outlets to counteract oppressive forces in their lives. It's both innate and developed.
3. When did you realize that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?
I think I always had a fascination with words particularly since I was always encouraged to read - my father worked in a bookstore so books were always in my life. I think my parents encouraged me to develop my imagination through reading, interacting with my siblings and exposing me to cultural experiences.
4. What is your standard for evaluating your own creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are monetary rewards relevant to your own work?
I've been involved in academia for most of my adult life so to me creativity is always aligned with inquiry and problem solving that's the standard I use to judge my own work - what problem am I trying to solve? What question am I posing? Who am I in discourse with?
In terms of monetary rewards, through exploring online journals and other publications I think monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity and can be a great incentive, but with that comes the tailoring of your work for a specific audience/judging requirements - I don't think this is a bad thing, but it is something to keep in mind when evaluating one's work i.e. you are receiving/not receiving recognition and payment not based on your creative output, but based on your ability to cater for this publication's criteria.
5. Do you think your own perception and evaluation of your creative endeavors are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you think the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?
I think there's a line that all creators teeter between when they create which is wanting to please their vision and please their audience and it can be both helpful and a hindrance. Having moved back to Trinidad, I think I have stumbled upon a community that encourages creative efforts, however I'm still trying to find like-minded people who I can collaborate with to help me with my writing process and create new works.
6. What do you do when you experience a creative block?
Always go back to the beginning - what brought me here in the first place? Then I free write or find sources of inspiration based around the etymology of whatever word I find myself obsessing with. I also force myself to shut off my inner editor and free write then go back to my initial piece, free from fear of it not being polished or good enough.
7. How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?
I'm in love with language so I always go back to the etymological roots of whatever I'm writing - what does this word mean, how does this help me? I also try to figure out who else I'm in discourse with and draw strength from there.
8. Do you have any special rituals that you do in order to achieve your creative goals?
Listening to instrumental music.
9. Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If it has changed, please explain how?
Yes, I think when I was younger I bought my own bullshit easier because my teachers were wowed by my minimal efforts. As I grew older, I realized I was doing a disservice to myself by procrastinating, handing in slapdash work, I learned more about the writing process and now I try to encourage myself to not aim for perfection on the first try, but keep revising and strive just to get words out.
10. What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?
Choosing to pursue a career in liberal arts. I came from a Science background and gained a dual undergraduate degree in Psychology and English, at the time I thought I wanted to be a psychologist, but I fell in love with English despite reservations from my family, I chose to go in that direction and I'm still figuring out what that entails.
11. Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
My friends who are also creators and thinkers who encourage me to keep going and silence my inner self-saboteur.
12. Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.
Acceptance comes from within so I would quicker mistrust someone who readily accepted my work before I did. I think once I feel that I did justice to my creative process, I need no other validation.
13. Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain.
Yes in a circulatory sort of way. I struggled in Graduate school because I did not feel my ideas were good enough and/or I could never see them through because I'd always force myself to work under pressure and never gave myself a chance to succeed, needless to say I did not finish my degree for personal and financial reasons and I felt it affected me as a writer. I felt that because I failed, I could not write and I was wrong. I could still write, I just needed to actually write and create output. :)
14. Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?
I would align myself with a supportive community because for a long time I felt writing was a solitary pressure filled process and it doesn't need to be that way. I think being surrounded by people who encourage you allows you to draw inspiration from them and vice versa.
15. Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
See question #13.
16. What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?
As a Marketing and Communications Assistant for The UWI St. Augustine, I get to write articles about UWI-related events in our monthly newspaper UWI Today and my last article about the DCFA Visual Arts Final Year Exhibition is one that I’m really proud of because I got to interview up and coming artists, their mentors and even people behind the scenes and talk about their process and give them the shine they deserve. Really enjoyed highlighting their achievements.
17. Have you helped or mentored anyone else? Is there someone that you see (name drop) that you would like to Mentor?
Yes, I was a mentor throughout university to other International students. In terms of the local community, no one comes to mind, but I'd love to see a "Shadow a creator for a day" program for young at heart minds like myself.
18. To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?
Kill your ego and never stop creating. Don't just talk about being a creative person be one by creating something every day even if it doesn't seem like much, in the grand scheme of things it will add up and could be useful in the future.
19. What would you most like to be remembered for?
Making people feel more alive.
20. If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?
Mellifluous Medley - where each crayon stroke would be a rainbow of all the colours. Seriously, why doesn’t this exist yet? It’s 2016!
Jeanette's website is coming soon! In the meantime, you can find her work within her portfolio here, in the Trinidad Guardian’s WOW Magazine Archives and in the UWI St. Augustine’s monthly newspaper, UWI Today.
We're really excited as Jeanette has offered her time and skills to be one of our contributing crayons. So you can look out for more of her writing here very soon.