Queer Amusements: Introducing 2024’s writer-in-residence

Jane Claire Bradley performing live, June 2023
Award-winning writer and performer Jane Claire Bradley introduces a new regular column as part of her residency at this year’s Queer Amusements festival

I’m here, queer and excited to share more on what I’ll be exploring as writer-in-residence for Queer Amusements and Blackpool Social Club this summer…

Hiya! I’m Jane Claire Bradley, the first ever writer-in-residence for the first ever Queer Amusements. I’m a queer, working-class writer, performer, educator and mental health practitioner, and I write both fiction and non-fiction in the form of short stories, novels, essays and performance poetry. My debut novel came out last year, and I’m also the author of two fiction chapbooks. Pre-pandemic, I did a ton of performing my writing at arts events and festivals, but it’s not something I’ve returned to fully since the world started re-opening, other than a couple of recent experiments, like performing with a live band for the first time.

 The Queer Amusements festival programme is an exciting chance to access amazing art, writing and performances from incredible queer artists, and to use that empower and electrify my own creative work.

At the moment, I’m really into exploring how to push my creative work further: to be bolder, braver, more radical and experimental. And the Queer Amusements festival programme is an exciting chance to do just that – to access amazing art, writing and performances from incredible queer artists, and to use that inspo to hopefully empower and electrify my own creative work. I’ll be sharing my writer-in-residence experience via fortnightly updates here on Blackpool Social Club, and I’m also hoping I’ll have the chance to share a live performance with you at some point during the Queer Amusements programme.

In the meantime, though, I thought I’d let you get to know me better by sharing the three pillars guiding my creative practice right now:

Daemonic creativity

I’ve done my time in the goth, metal and alternative scenes, and the occult. Uncanny and otherwise esoteric are thematic obsessions I seem to end up returning to again and again in my writing. So when I stumbled across the term ‘daemonic creativity’ last summer, I was fascinated. A core part of the ethos and work of horror writer Matt Cardin, it’s explored in depth in his book, A Course in Demonic Creativity: A Writer’s Guide to the Inner Genius.

The book examines why so many writers – along with artists, musicians, mystics, scientists and visionaries of all disciplines – across time, place and culture – have ‘spoken of being guided, accompanied, and even haunted by a force or presence that not only serves as the deep source of their creative work, but that exerts a kind of profound and inexorable gravitational pull on the shape of their lives.’

Cardin advocates for recognising that our unconscious minds – which we can conceptualise and make separate from our day-to-day conscious brains by seeing them as our ‘daimon,’ ‘genius’ or ‘muse’ – are treasure troves of creative momentum, innovation and energy, and that we can learn strategies to better befriend and collaborate with them.

My experiments with this idea have empowered me to become much more creatively self-trusting and intuitive – practicing attuning to what I’m most pulled towards, then telling myself ‘my daemon wants to do it this way’ functions like a bizarre but effective loophole out of self-doubt, and towards making bolder, more unapologetic work.

Seeing failure as a potential path towards having more fun, experimentation and innovation in my creative process, by trying weirder and wilder things that are almost destined to ‘fail’, has been transformational

Queer failure 

One of my favourite topics right now (and maybe always). This is another idea I came across for the first time last summer, and one I’ve written about before. Developed by queer American author and academic Jack Halberstam in the 2011 book The Queer Art of Failure, the concept of queer failure celebrates the necessity of failing as a way of pushing beyond societal, cultural and artistic norms. It’s about resisting the demands of the gatekeepers, industry and markets, and embracing the freedom and queerness of what’s conventionally defined as ‘failure’. As Halberstam puts it: “the queer art of failure turns on the impossible, the improbable, the unlikely, and the unremarkable. It quietly loses, and in losing it imagines other goals for life, for love, for art, and for being.”

I’ve been leading creative writing workshops for over a decade and in almost every single session, someone will talk about how their fear of failure is the thing keeping them stuck. I get it, and I’ve felt it too. Making and sharing art feels vulnerable, and fear of ‘failing’ (whatever that means to each individual) is an understandable self-protection mechanism. But embracing the idea of failure, and seeing it as a potential path towards having more fun, experimentation and innovation in my creative process by trying weirder and wilder things that are almost destined to ‘fail’ has been transformational, allowing me to move away from playing it safe and into pushing myself further.

Making art in the void

I discovered the work of artist, writer and illustrator Kening Zhu earlier this year. Absolute love, thought and care has gone into the creation of her podcast and beautiful online world. Since then, I’ve been devouring everything Kening shares, but the idea of making art in the void in particular was one that struck a chord.

This is the idea and practice of sharing creative work like no-one cares, putting it in a sacred place that belongs only to you, and letting that be enough. In the past, I’ve definitely fallen foul of getting sucked into the fickle demands and preferences of other platforms and algorithms, and gotten distracted by the desire for attention, popularity, dopamine and validation that those platforms often promise. But every time, those experiences have had a distorting and distracting effect on my creativity, so embracing the void is something I want to practice more.

As Kening says, living in the void means two things: “Your creative life force disentangles itself from results, noise, hesitation, self-doubt, or compromise. You learn to continually override the voices of fear. There is no where to go from here. You become: un-self-conscious. You’ll create your worst work, most mediocre work, and the best work of your life this way. Your motivation for creation will be so distilled to its core – that nothing and no one can touch it. You’ll become: unstoppable. Power is having everything to give. If you embrace death and obscurity that comes with the void – what else remains, to fear?”

Sounds pretty good to me.

Want more from me between now and my next writer-in-residence update? You can get 14 days of free writing prompts when you sign up via my website.

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    Jane Claire Bradley is an award-winning author, performer, therapist and educator. She is Blackpool Social Club's writer in residence for Queer Amusements 2024.

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