Hannah is the Featured Creative for our ‘World of Aroma’ themed creative retreat. She is a member of our Muse tribe and has a fascinating creative journey to share.
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1. How would you describe your creative self (e.g. writer, painter, dabbler)?
Actor and writer but in my heart I’m also an artist, a ballet dancer, a poet and a musician (except I can’t do any of those things)
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2. What’s your first memory of being creative?
My Nana has a first memory of me being an actor. Aged 3 I had been sent to my room for doing something wrong. My
Nana was staying with us from Ireland and after 30 mins decided to check on me. She found me in front of the mirror practising how to cry. From that moment on she said I would be an actress.
My memories are less clear. It’s always been there. I remember writing my first (and to date only) novel aged 9 on a ferry to France. I still have it. I haven’t read it in a while. I always used to write my stories in the first person and I would act them out as I wrote them. So the two things have always been intertwined for me. It took me a lot longer to identify as a writer, as a teenager I thought I had to choose between the two, I don’t know why. So I stopped writin
g and focused on being an actor. It was in my late 20’s at drama school that I realised not only were they related, they were both big parts of who I am.
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3. Why do you create?
For me it’s about understanding the world and it’s people better. One of the reasons I’ve never fully thrown myself at my acting career is that it’s so hard to find work worth doing. Acting at its best reflects back to people their own lives, it allows people to see someone else’s life and it encourages empathy and understanding. But so much of what we are offered is the same white, male story. Art should always be at the forefront of social movement and at its core should be the society it reflects.
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4. Where do you create?
Mostly at home in my studio flat. I prefer to write my plays and stories in a notebook before transferring them to the screen. But when I’m writing articles (I’m a freelance journalist) or my own newsletter I type it immediately. A lot of the actual work though happens away from the notebook and the screen. I often write whole articles and stories just walking in nature. And of course the acting takes place in rehearsal rooms, at home alone as I practice my lines and on the stage or on set.
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5. How would you describe your creative process?
One step forwards, two steps back. Well that’s how it feels. In truth, it’s never going back, it’s always moving forwards but very often my ideas need to formulate at the back of my head. So I might have an idea and not progress past the initial idea for months, sometimes years (my novel for example – ten years on and I’m still not out of the first chapter), but when I come back to it, or it comes back to me, I’m amazed at how much colour and texture it’s picked up. It’s like my brain has been working without me knowing. I’m learning to trust this, to understand sometimes my ideas need longer before I can push them onto paper. They’re always richer for it.
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6. Which of your creations are you most proud of & why?
I think I would have to say my play, Boosters. I wrote it for the Edinburgh fringe. I wrote, produced, directed and starred in it. It’s a play about restorative justice and how we need to welcome the criminal back to society. Ultimately it’s about judgement. I met some incredible people making it. Not least a young man called Jacob Dunne who had killed a boy in a one punch fight. His life took a terrible spiral after that night, he lost his mum, he went to prison and then on his return back to the real world he was saved by the parents of his victim. They wanted to go through restorative justice with him and it was the first time he’d even thought about what his victim and his victims family lost. Now he has a relationship with that family and does motivational talks to young people. He works with the one punch campaign that his victims family started. Just being allowed into his life made the whole project worth it. The play is not finished, I came away from Edinburgh with more ideas for development but no energy. Recently it’s been plaguing my thoughts again and I plan to rewrite it (probably under the new name l, criminal) as part of a series of plays I want to make about judgement. Even though it’s not finished and is really a work in progress, it’s the first time I took an idea from a dream to a real thing. I’ll always be proud of that play.
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7. What’s the best creative advice you’ve ever been given?
 
Practice, perseverance and to just do it. So much of being an actor can feel like waiting for a job, being a puppet, being judged. Same too being a writer. But then you have people like Lena Dunham who just went out and did. I’m a writer so there’s no excuse. If I wanted to I could be making theatre all the time. That’s this years goal. 
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8. What’s the worst creative advice you’ve ever been given?
Maybe you should do a business BTEC. Okay, it wasn’t exactly advice about being creative but it was my head teachers response to me telling him I was leaving school to do performing arts at college. My mum also always told me to have a plan b, she wanted me to study something practical. I’ve always steadfastly ignored her. I knew that to even think I wouldn’t do it or “make it” (whatever that means) would steal the vital energy I needed to stick at it. If you want to create, create, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. My mum only did it through fear. She didn’t understand what I wanted to do and it came from a good place. But it was absolutely the wrong advice.
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9. What advice would you give to other creatives out there?
Believe in you. No one else can make the work you can, perform a character the way you will, dance a ballet the way you do. Whatever it is, the world needs your voice, it’s a gift and it’s important. We don’t always put value to creativity but it saves us again and again. A book, a painting, a film, an opera, a song etc. All of us have been moved, felt seen, felt understood because of those things. It’s how we understand ourselves, through someone else’s voice. So be you, someone needs exactly what you have to say.
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10. Which creative person, living or dead, inspires you most & why?
Virginia Woolf, I don’t know why, I’m just in love with her. From the first moment I heard her name, read her essays and then her diaries. I don’t really enjoy her fiction but her prose gets under my skin. She feels like a friend.
Living would be Kate Bush. And probably Bjork too. I just love how creative they are, how they just do them. It’s always inspiring. Lena Dunham too. God there’s loads…I could do this all day!
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11. How would you most like your creative work to be remembered?
I’d like it to be remembered as thoughtful. Love it or hate it, a lot of thought goes into it, I hope that shows.
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12. Is there anything else you would like to share?
As I mentioned I’m going to be writing a series of plays about judgement and as partof that I will be planning some workshops around the various themes. I would love to hear from anyone who would be interested to hear more about them and also anyone who has some thoughts, stories or opinions on the theme of judgement. Send me an email to hannahainesmith@yahoo.co.uk
Also – thanks for having me!! I love being part of the Muse tribe and it’s really helped to keep me motivated with my own work.
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I really admire the honesty with which Hannah deals with the themes of creativity and mental well being on her blog, ‘Conversations with van Gogh’. You can see what it’s all about here: http://tinyletter.com/ConversationsWithVanGogh/archive