I'm not a huge non-fiction reader. I’m usually even less keen to read someone’s diary or outline of their personal experiences, so I had no idea whether I would enjoy Diary of a Creative Mind.
Breis opened the diary with an effective introduction that not only set the tone for the rest of the narrative, but also struck a chord with my inner childhood self. He recounts how he used to keep a diary when he was a child living in Nigeria, and once wrote an entry about how he was falsely accused of stealing meat from the pot, only for his parents to read it. After accusing him of fabricating the entry (for reasons still unbeknownst to him) he decided to never keep a diary again. This resonated with me and took me back to having someone read my diary as a child; and how it felt like a complete violation of privacy, almost like they had stained my soul by reading my innermost thoughts. It was only when I read this passage that I realised how much that had stayed with me, and I found myself doing this throughout the text. Breis’ writing is vulnerable in a way that doesn’t evoke pity or melancholy, but rather encourages the reader to draw similarities within their own lives.
As the title mentions and is iterated in the introduction, the aim of the novel is not only to portray the creation of his EP: Arise & Shine, but also to help fellow creatives by providing insight into his own creative processes. His choice to convey this in the form of a journal encouraged me to consider the benefits of journaling. At one point Breis mentions that “we’re in an age where young people need to express themselves in healthy ways. To ignore this is to unwittingly foster unhealthy forms of expression in them”, which I couldn’t agree with more. From starting with his promise to never keep a diary as a child to his decision to “be more focused and intentional” with documenting his life, not only is there growth, but there is also evidence of the benefits of keeping a journal, especially when you’re in a period of creating new art.
To pair the actual EP with the journey behind the piece of art enables you to resonate with it even more. The main thing I love about the production in Arise & Shine is the influence of all of his cultures. That he lives in the UK is clear, but then he also incorporates Yoruba in his lyrics, and the instruments on the track transport you to West Africa. Amidst the undertones of that Afrobeat feel, there are also elements of jazz, spoken word and rap that all stand out. The lyrics to Wahala especially contain a mix of educational puns and phrases that remind me of old Nigerian proverbs my dad used to say to me growing up. Additionally, Bries also talks about the migration experience and what it felt like to encounter racism, and he takes us back to the life of this boy who lives in London and the niche paradox of feeling like no one around him is able to relate to his experience as a black man. Overall, his self-description: “I’m an African dressed as a Westerner” in one of his early projects is not only apt, but also embodied within both the diary and the EP itself.
Diary of a Creative Mind can be purchased here.