Monthly Archives: November 2016

Creative Inspiration…Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies

As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently reading Tim Harford’s: Messy: How to be Creative & Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World.

In Chapter 1 on Creativity, Harford introduced me to “Oblique Strategies”. They are intended as a creative tool for musicians and were developed by legendary producer Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt – the pair originally both came up with the same idea independently in 1975, and joined forces to make it a reality.

Oblique Strategies is a deck of cards, about 7×9 cm in size, supplied in a small black box labelled “OBLIQUE STRATEGIES”. The cards themselves are black on one side, white on the other, and have obscure, cryptic aphorisms printed on the front in small letters.

Eno’s own description explains the idea very well:

“The Oblique Strategies evolved from me being in a number of working situations when the panic of the situation – particularly in studios – tended to make me quickly forget that there were others ways of working and that there were tangential ways of attacking problems that were in many senses more interesting than the direct head-on approach. If you’re in a panic, you tend to take the head-on approach because it seems to be the one that’s going to yield the best results Of course, that often isn’t the case – it’s just the most obvious and – apparently – reliable method. The function of the Oblique Strategies was, initially, to serve as a series of prompts which said, “Don’t forget that you could adopt *this* attitude,” or “Don’t forget you could adopt *that* attitude.”

Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies – the Ultimate Music Production Tool

By the way, Brian Eno had found fame as Roxy Music’s crazy Keyboard player and had also created a new sonic aesthetic called ambient music.bowie-heroesEno used the cards in song writing sessions in Berlin with David Bowie and Tony Visconti and Messy tells how “the strange chaotic working process produced two of the decades most critically acclaimed albums, Low and Heroes, along with Iggy Pop’s most respected work, The Idiot and Lust for Life, which Bowie co-wrote and benefited from the same messy approach.”

Here’s a few examples of what’s written on the cards:

  • Use an old idea.
  • State the problem in words as clearly as possible.
  • Only one element of each kind.
  • What would your closest friend do?
  • What to increase? What to reduce?
  • Are there sections? Consider transitions.
  • Try faking it!
  • Honour thy error as a hidden intention.
  • Ask your body.
  • Work at a different speed.

Have you ever tried using the Oblique Strategy cards?

I am thinking about buying a pack but will make a few of my own cards first and see how it goes.

I’d be interested in your feedback.

xx Rowena

Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World.

If you could see my desk and take a panoramic view of my house, you’d immediately understand why I bought Tim Harford’s: Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World.

It’s not because I’m anally clean. Rather, it’s because I’m naturally messy, chaotic yet delightfully creative. Indeed, I rarely have any trouble with writer’s block and have more of a problem with creative overflow and all my neurons going off at once.

I didn’t need to think twice when I first spotted the book in  a Surry Hills bookshop in Sydney (the one with the rainbow bicycle out the front). I’d finally found an ally…someone else on my side of the messy desk debate. After all, I’ve long been an advocate of: “Messy desk, active mind”.

However, with the rise of the dreaded Declutter Movement, I’ve been becoming increasingly outnumbered. So, I welcome this book, which will become a handy weapon to defend myself against those marauding armies of preachy declutterers. While it might not be the size of a telephone book or antique Bible, it could still inflict a bit of damage, sending them packing along with their almighty bins.

book pile

However, Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World is far more broad reaching than the state of your desk. I guess it’s saying that you don’t have to be tidy minded to be creative. Indeed, Harford is suggesting quite the reverse. That chaos, shock thinking and juggling multiple projects across disciplines has led to some incredible breakthroughs. That being focused might not be the best approach to generating creative solutions after all. Indeed, he suggests the reverse.

I am still reading Messy and am only up to Chapter 3. While I appreciate that you usually finish the book before you write about it, I couldn’t wait.  I am finding this book so amazing that I’m not just reading it, I am studying it…scrutinising each and every page. That in itself is not exceptional. I always read books with a pen in hand to underline stuff and also jot down striking vocabulary such as “monomaniacal tendencies” in this instance. However, when it comes to this book, my scribbling has reached new heights and I am Googling bits along the way. There’s just so many valuable insights to investigate and explore that I really want to take it as far as I can. Just how far can these revelations take my writing? The way I think? I don’t know but I have very great expectations and am savouring every word along the way.

That’s why I thought I’d run through the book as I go on the blog and I’d like to encourage you to rush out there and buy it, so we can read it together.

When I studied creative writing at university, I was told that “writing is a thinking process”. Therefore, if we’re going to improve our writing, we also need to work on our thoughts, how we think, what inspires us and what helps us take those incredible creative leaps which take us way beyond anything we’ve ever written before.

As a reader, one of my pet hates is the number of writers who write about what it means to be a writer. Added to that, is the high percentage of novels which have have a journalist or writer as the protagonist. There’s such a plethora of characters out there, so why do so many writers stay within their comfort zones?

You might be surprised to know that I’m not only a writer but also a photographer,  am learning the violin and for the last 3 months, I’ve been taking adult ballet and lyrical dance classes. That’s alongside living with a disability and chronic health issues. This enables a lot of cross-fertilisation. I actually think of this as creative cross-training in the same way a swimmer might run, lift weights, do aerobics and yoga.

Have you read: Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World?

If not, I’d personally recommend abandoning your current read and getting stuck into it before you let the opportunity pass. It won’t just get you thinking, but will also inspire action, change and growth beyond writing. After all, we as humans should be in a state of constant refinement. To sit still, is to stagnate.

Well, I apologise for putting on my motivational speaker hat, but who doesn’t want to be their best? The only trouble is putting in the work.

Anyway, rather than stuffing all these insights into one humungus post, I’m breaking it up. My next post will be looking at Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategy Cards and then I’ll be looking at how to keep multiple projects on the boil without blowing a gasket.

That’s just looking at Chapter 1 on Creativity. So, stay tuned for more gems to get those synapses firing…really firing!!

xx Rowena

The Poet Muse…a mostly magnetic poem.

Gorgeous Goddess


delirious in a chocolate forest.

Mother moon whispers

sweet symphonies.


Your hair is a rose garden

and I swim in your beauty.

Who are you?

What is your song?


I hear your music

Yet, can not dance.


An inner silence

fills my heart.



I stare at you

as still as a pond,

though my heart beats

faster than time’s

tick-tock clock accelerating

fast beyond my dreams.


I feel such love.

Yet, have no words.

Only rusty strings,

an imperfect bow

and half-forgotten notes.


So, I’ll let you sleep,

and you’ll remain a dream.

Nothing compares with make believe.

Rowena Curtin  23rd November, 2016.

The Path…A Magnetic Poem.

Today, I was struck on the head by the magnetic muse in what could only be described as a “coup de foudre”.

In case you “ne comprendez pas”, that means falling in love at first sight. I thought falling in love, or becoming addicted, sounded much more dramatic in French.

Like a proverbial matchmaker,  Merril D Smith  introduced me writing magnetic poetry online at It’s so much fun. I chose the nature theme and I was thrilled with the results. I felt my poetry gained very rich symbolism and I put images together which I never would’ve thought of combining before, yet made such sense and expanded my vision exponentially.

Dare I ask you what you think?

Well, here goes:

The Path

Shine moon spirit.



My soul is withered.

I wander down a lonely path.

Every daffodil Spring,

the bright, blue bird walks

through the fresh earth.

Garden tendrils rustled.

Then some seed said:

“Use intuition.

There’s a sanctuary.”

Secret winds murmur:

“Climb the ancient mountain.

Know her peace.


Leave moss be.

Make song.”


I thrive.

Rowena Newton

Magnetic Poetry 23rd November, 2016.

Have you been struck by the magnetic muse? I’d love to hear how you went.

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share November 20, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This is a very special weekend coffee share for me because today is my husband’s 50th Birthday…Happy Birthday, Geoff!

So, the last week has been flat out with trying to organise a birthday celebration, food and worst of all, trying to get the house presentable…forget tidy. We’re just talking “good enough”. I am a very extroverted, sociable person and I love having people over but with my health being problematic, getting on top of the house is a huge struggle and I tend to keep people out. I’ve really had to talk to myself about this and that the state of the house shouldn’t matter. I love baking and when I have friends over, there’s the pavlova, my Raspberry & White Chocolate Cheese Cake. So am trying to think it’s enough that our friends feel welcome, eat well and feel loved. If they have a problem, with the house they can come over and lend a hand. I won’t send them packing.

Why is it that having the perfect house is seen as a barometer of characher, particularly for women? It seems we can conquer so many different world but heaven help you if you a messy house! That’s a capital offense!!

So we’ve had a busy weekend of celebrations.

Last night, we went out for a very special celebratory dinner with family at Sous Le Soleil, a French restaurant in Roseville, Sydney.  The restaurant operates out of  Firs cottage, which was been built before 1824 by Daniel Dering Mathew (1788-1856) and is located in the middle of Roseville Park. So, before we even get to the food, we’re looking a really quaint historic cottage set in parkland and that just ticks all my boxes. The restaurant also has a range of Frenchenalia including aprons, tea towels, Christmas decorations and a place mat featuring a map of Paris. Needless to say, I was in love before I’d even had a bite but then the food was also exquisite with a real symphony of flavours. I have scallops for entree, duck for main course and a sticky date pudding with caramelised pineapple an rum & raisin ice cream. We also had a scrumptious chocolate mouse birthday cake. The presentation was also exquisite. Overall, though what I loved about going there was that we had a room to ourselves and dining there had the feel of having an intimate and private dinner party in your home without having to do all the work yourself. Brilliant!

Today, we went out for lunch locally with Geoff’s sister and niece and then had friends over for an impromptu afternoon tea. We’re planning to have a proper celebration in the New Year when things aren’t so hectic. It’s not a good time of year to try to get all those very special friends together to celebrate this momentous occasion…50 Not Out!

By the way, I’ll also share that yesterday was Bilbo’s 10th Birthday, which makes him 70 in dog years. His birthday present was having the lot of us go out and leave him at home with Lady. However, I hope he enjoyed Geoff’s celebrations today. He found a whole new cast of unwitting ball throwers who found his persistence and endurance inspirational…especially when he was huffing and puffing and looking half dead in the heat. Obsession…addiction…these are words Bilbo only knows too well!!


Mum looking after me.

While we’ve had the excitement and hard work of Geoff’s birthday, my mother was admitted to hospital with acute muscle spasms in her back. While not life threatening, the situation has certain been very stressful. nobody likes to see anyone suffer, but when it’s someone you love, gave birth to you and has been there your whole entire life, it takes you right off the richter scale. There are no words to describe that impact, even when you know that it’s not fatal. It’s not the end of the world but it’s still not good. I ended up turning to my blog for solace, writing Caring For Mum.

Last week, I also participated in Friday Fictioneers for the first time and really loved it. This week’s photo prompt was a cello and it was fascinating reading through all the responses to the prompt. I don’t know how the other writers felt but I had been so focused on my Vision or interpretation that I saw no other and I really had to re-read a few to get their vision, which was equally there in the photo as well. It was a really productive exercise, quite aside from being fun and meeting so great new writers as well. You can read my effort here: Silent Strings

Thursday night, I had my last Lyrical Dance lesson for the year. I apologise for not posting any photos of me sporting my tutu. You’ll just have to let your imaginations paint a picture instead. My daughter came along to watch, which was a bit intimidating but she did sit out in the corridor peering in, rather than glaring intently at us somewhat challenged adult dancers. That was probably a good move as we’re not quite ready for an audience yet. I’m really going to miss my classes and am already thinking ahead to next year and am thinking of adding tap to the mix.

So, I don’t know if that’s covered last week but it’s getting late and a whole new week starts tomorrow. This coming week has been re-badged as “School Spectacular” and our daughter has rehearsals Wednesday, Thursday and performances on Friday and Saturday. Somehow, she survived all of this last year so I’m encouraged that she and us can survive this year as well. That said, as much as I love School Spec, I’m feeling exhausted just thinking about it.

How has your week been and do you have anything special planned for the coming week? I hope things are going well and if you’re struggling with the cold, I’m happy to send you some of our heat.

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster.

Love and best wishes,