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Viv Albertine: A State of Compulsion

06/06/2014 12:19 BST | Updated 05/08/2014 10:59 BST

2014-06-05-vivbookcover_sm.jpg Viv Albertine, guitarist in punk band The Slits, ceramicist, writer and actress has written an inspiring memoir, 'Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys' about her experience of being one of the few women involved in the early UK punk scene, through marriage, motherhood, divorce and back again . 'Catching the Comet's Tail' talked to Viv about her creative process.

Viv on creativity...

"As a woman born in the 1950s, and growing up through the 60s and 70s, the first obstacle I had to overcome, was believing I could be creative.  Still now, I dare not use the word 'artist' about myself.  

Everything I do, I do a hundred percent - love, mother, write, sing, make things.  I have to be moved to a state of compulsion to do anything. I can't live a compromised life. " 

Was creativity encouraged in you as a child?

"I was poor.  We had no television, no telephone.  I created worlds with drawings; fairylands where I had a flying bed. I drew and designed the clothes we couldn't afford. Drawing and painting was encouraged by my mother and there was no doubt I would go to art school.  I chose the coolest one to apply to because the students were known as militant, locking themselves in the cafeteria to protest against...I don't know what...I liked the idea of being locked in a cafeteria all night with lots of long-haired boys."

Why did you decide to write the memoir?

"Friends suggested I write a book but I was appalled at the idea.  I did not want to write a half-hearted book; if I did it, it had to be the whole truth and there was no way I was going to do that with a husband and daughter to embarrass.  But then I got divorced, and it occurred to me that my daughter might still love me even if she knew what I'd done and who I really was.  So I started to reveal little bits of my past life to her, and guess what?  She loved me even more.  

I had to write the book on my own, I was confessing to the page, going much further than I ever envisaged I would in terms of revealing myself and the struggles I've had.  I consoled myself by saying, 'just write it all down, you can always take it out again later.' but of course once it was written, it had to stay in.   The scary, revealing moments were visceral and thrilling and I want all my work to be that."

How did becoming a mother affect your creativity?

"Becoming a mother, for me, was my creativity, for about 7 years.  I was singing to and playing with my daughter, making things, writing poems, teaching her, re-papering dolls-houses and discovering the world all over again and I was utterly entranced. I was a full-time mother out of choice and the role stretched me to my limits.  Any other project seemed meaningless to me compared with nurturing a new life."

Do you ever feel blocked creatively?

"I never worry about that.  Writing the book I've learnt that sitting down and facing the page everyday can kick-start the creative process. As long as there is something that has to be told, I'm fine.  If not, if I don't feel compelled, I'll go fallow and enjoy that process too. "

Where do you write and do you have a routine?

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"It's no big deal where I write, but usually it's in the kitchen of wherever I am.  I always have a big glass of water precariously near my laptop or amp as I get incredibly thirsty when I write or play guitar. I tend to sit on the edge of my seat, excited and nervous about what I'm doing.  I only get excited or fearful if I'm being honest; that's how I know writing is going well.

In terms of routine. I'm more of a morning person which is annoying as I love my bed! I love the physical position of lying down and the feel of cotton sheets that have warmed to my body temperature during the night, touching most of my body, especially my feet.  I slide my feet around on the sheet like a cat just enjoying the feel of the sheets and the sudden cool bit on the edges."

Creative tools

"For the book, I treated myself to a Macbook Pro.  I can't type properly but I am still quite fast and I love cutting and pasting when I redraft chapters.  

For lyrics I prefer old-fashioned exercise books, I buy them in whichever country I'm in. I flick back through past note books and pull out phrases and quotes from years back.  I'm pleased I can use them at last, it's like they were just waiting there on the page for when the right song needed them."

Is there another creative art form you wish you could master? 

"Architecture interests me very much, I love modern and brutal architecture.  I was too undisciplined as a young person to train to be an architect - also maths frightens me -unless I'm buying a property and then suddenly I become really good at it!"

What are you working on next?

"In the back of my head something musical is lurking in the shadows and I also have an idea for a one-off clothing collection of strange and funny pieces that I am making notes about."

Viv Albertine's memoir, 'Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys' is out now published by Faber & Faber.