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  • Suzy Bashford

Find your brave & bonkers on the Big Juicy Creative podcast with actress Claire Merrick (episode 26)

Actress Claire Merrick left a successful, corporate career in marketing in her 40s in order to pursue her dream of acting. She is well acquainted with both the theory of creativity (she has a master's in innovation) and the practical reality of it (the creative struggle is real!).

I loved talking to Claire as she has so many helpful gems when it comes to keeping committed to your creativity. Here are some of my favourite quotes from our conversation on the Big Juicy Creative podcast.

"We all start off creative. We are all born creative. Some people have bigger tendencies to be more creative in terms of hardwiring, but we are all born creative."

"As adults, the demons come in and we say 'x y and z'. I always think 'is it going to be good enough?'"

"It sounds a bit wanky, but it's true. Performing is the only thing I feel like I’ve been put on the earth the to do and that I’m comfortable and able to do."

[Then life and the pressure to achieve and earn money came in and this desire] got squashed down. And I swear to anybody, do this [ignore your creative urges] at your peril"

"From when I started work, I ignored it [the creative urge] I just got on I ignored that purpose but I always felt dissatisfied in my work. Always. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it but I struggled. I would every 2 years change jobs. And I'd think 'what is missing?'. The drum inside me – beating very quietly for many years – once I had children, it just got louder and louder and I couldn’t ignore it any longer and I realised it was. My desire to go back to that feeling I had when I was a kid."

"I am my own blocker. If you have blockers, until you get them out of the way, then you are not able to go and pursue that creative path, and everyone suffers with this for multiple reasons. It could be time, resources or pragmatic things – like we’re in lockdown and kids have to be homeschooled, dogs still got to be walked, house got to be looked after, etc etc. The one thing I have learnt over the last few months is the need to just do something."

"I want to write a short play. It’s dawned on me in last few months and, in particular, the last few weeks – what’s stopping me is I want to give birth to a perfectly formed play that is going to be a West End hit. We need to accept that the first iteration of whatever we’re doing isn’t going to be perfect because the creative process is messy and it’s a slog."

"The first time you readthrough a script as an actor, you feel like a complete ham. You're intonating in the wrong places. You can’t be in moment, you’re too busy with the internal dialogue rathe than being true to what’s on the page – one of the things I’ve learned and it’s so true whether writing or acting – first time you’re doing it is not going to be like the finished product."

Then as you get feedback from, say, the director....

"Then magic starts to happen. It's like a sculptor with their block of clay.Tthey’ve got this clunky block of clay but they will turn it into something beautiful, but the process of that there's a lot of mess, a lot of standing back looking at it. Probably a lot of screwing and throwing away. And that’s the creative process. In fact – it makes me want to write now – poems films – not made in a day."

"Permission is another blocker for me. We do need to give ourselves permission to create and enjoy the act of creating."

"Creativity is an essential part of happiness for the human condition. To ignore it is at your peril – to ignore whatever your form of creativity is – I mean some people find numbers beautiful and they find beauty in maths and therefore a huge amount of joy doing something like Soduku and that might be their creative outlet. Some people want to write operas – and compose music – and you know for me it’s acting. I don’t know why. I’ve asked myself 'why – what in the world would want me to pursue the most bonkers of careers that’s acting?' But I do."

What do u get out of it?

"Whilst people say 'Claire’s jolly and confident and happy' I’m quite naturally an introvert and I’m not particularly brilliant at expressing my inner most thoughts and feelings. I much prefer to write them down than say them out loud. So there’s something about expressing all my emotions and my being through the words of somebody else. It’s really fun to pick apart the human condition and be able to say something you might not ever be able to say yourself or feel you could say in everyday life."

So you are using creativity to explore the boundaries of yourself?

"Totally. When artists paint, they’re doing abstract work and it’s an expression of grief or joy... That for me is what acting is like... letting out emotions, like a therapy, that I’ve had in side of me over the years that I’ve never been able to express."

"An old acting coach of mine said he had an acting coach, that said to him when he was at drama schoo, ‘darling darling we’re all a little bit ill’

Another coach said:

"You will never be able to be truly in the moment whilst you are constantly observing yourself and judging yourself and wondering whether the audience think you’re any good or the director thinks you’re any good or your partner.... One of the best ways I find to be in the moment is to truly listen to the person you are in the scene with, to really listen to what they say to you... by listening, you are responding... so they talk, you listen, you respond – it might be that you have no words to say at that particular time, but the emotion or emotional response will show it might be in a gesture you make, it might be the way your eyebrow raises; if you genuinely feel you’ve heard something for the first time, you’re going to respond for the first time and magic truly happens. It's the most wonderful experience when it happens because you are, for that time, you are somebody else and that's because you forget yourself and that is pure bonkers I sound wanky again, don't I?!"

"Creativity in the corporate world definitely has a place. It’s the lifeblood of an organisation. We should be allowed to be creative but so many of us aren’t."

"I'm working on giving myself permission to be creative because it’s not an indulgence. It’s not earning any money, but actually you almost need to put that aside, if you can."

"Its about being ruthless with yourself – prioritising not just idle pleasures, but saying making time for creativity is more important than bingeing on Netflix."

"Creativity is really hard work. It sounds like an indulgence but it’s hard work, constantly hearing your voice go 'that’s rubbish'!"

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