Review, Reflect, Refocus

This blog is about revisiting my New Year Resolutions for 2020, taking stock, re-planning and re-focusing. Yep the year hasn’t turned out as planed but there’s only one way out of it – and that’s into it.

Reflecting on my goals I can see that some of them are now out of my control and cannot be achieved. However, there are still several I can accomplish if I refocus and put energy and time into them.

To begin with, looking at all my goals and plans for 2020 was a little bit of a downer.

My daughter and I were planning a trip to Greece and I had other adventures planned, also the interactive-experimental documentary, At The Horizon, which I have mentioned changed. Because of New Zealand’s lock-down the gallery that was to host the exhibition had to push a lot of the projects back to 2021. I wrote about this creative project in Process: A mixture of creativity and chaos – Part 1.

I’m blessed, I haven’t lost my job and I have my health and family, so these aren’t major issues. But I feel like the beginning of June is a perfect time to review, reflect and refocus.

So where to go from here?

I can’t push all projects or goals back. Some are just no longer practical in this changed world. Yes, they may happen, in a year or two, but for my own mental health and creativity I need to focus on now, on today.

In my New Year Resolutions 2020 post, I categorised all my goals; personal, health, creative, and work.

So, in review: two goals in my personal category can no longer happen, the health goals haven’t changed, and the creative goals and work goals need to be realigned

In reflection, and being honest with myself, my six personal goals were probably a few too many anyway. As stated, two can no longer happen and one has been removed, so now I have just three to focus on. The health goals haven’t changed, one of them I have maintained throughout this year, but the other has not happened at all, so I need to focus on this. I had five creative goals, one has been ticked off, YES!!!!! One I’m going to let go, which leaves three. The two work goals will still happen, but I need to develop new timelines for them.

Also, in reflection, I simply can’t ignore what is happening around the world. I’m not an island in space, I am connected to my world. I have to be honest; my mood, positivity and energy have changed. I’ve needed more time out, more rest, more down time.

So that’s they lay of the land, now I have to refocus, while giving myself a bit more time.

Years ago, my partner and I bought a property that needed a lot of work. We were both taken with how cute the house was and could see all the potential.  Some of the issues were dealt with straight away, and some were left for, “when we could get to them”… After a few years, everything began to bug me, I started to see all the flaws and it was overwhelming Then after talking with someone I realised that the house hadn’t changed, it was just how I was thinking about it. Seems cliché but that is exactly what happened, I remembered why we had bought it, my attitude changed, and I actually started doing things on the house again.

Refocusing can be tricky. But there is a reason why you do the things you do, a reason why you create in the way that you do.

You love it.

Yes, you get frustrated, you don’t have the time, you feel depleted before you begin, but you still love it. And just settling on that for a while can assist to grow motivation. I try to remember moments that I’m in the flow, times when my creativity takes over, or seeing someone impacting by work I’ve done. That is often enough to get me going again.

But that is not all it is. It can’t just be daydreaming about the good times. It is also the work. Refocusing means recommitting to the work ahead. Making timelines, breaking goals down, writing lists, putting deadlines in the calendar. You know, all the hard stuff.

I’m not going to leave it too long before a reflect again. I think I need to do this more regularly.

Well that’s it from me. Catch you next week xx.

To Choose, or not to Choose

Even though they sit in the same word family there are some differences about the words choose and choices –

Choices: is to have options

Choose: is to make a decision, it is an action word

Here are some synonyms of the word choose: select, pick, take, indicate, elect, cherry-pick, decide, all good words, all words of ‘action’.  (I especially like ‘cherry-pick’). So why is it, that with so many choices we often give up our privilege to choose.

This time last year I chose to visit my brother and his family in Australia. Great decision on my part.

With this new framework of staying at home due to covid-19, our choices have become more limited and within that I’ve began to realise the varied choices that ‘were’ available to me and reflect on why I didn’t choose to take up some of those opportunities.

When given a multitude of choices it is easier not to choose. In that way every choice is still possible, or that is what you are telling yourself. Yes, sometimes you do need to keep yourself open, but what if you do that too much, what if some doors you don’t go through because you’re always expecting a better choice to turn up, or you’re scared that going through one will rule out another.

Recently I was approached to be part of a creative collaboration. I jumped at the chance and for a time spent my creative energy on the project. I found time, I became excited by the work and once it was finished, I realised that I had not been choosing my own project. The one that means something to me, the one that I’ve been working on for a few years.

Was it because I was no longer excited by the work, or was it because I wasn’t choosing it?

The short burst of work I engaged in collaboration reminded me that I love the creative process. So, the following week, I choose to work on my project, and I’ve been actively involved ever since. My renewed decision sparked my energy and I now look forward to each time I spend on it.

So, what was happening. Over time opportunities, or things you think you want to do accumulate. Not only important things, but the small fun stuff too, the catchups with friends, the drive to a particular beach, the activity you’ve put off all summer. All the things you want to do become this long list, and how do you divide your time up between them. Well, maybe you don’t. Maybe having too many choices is actually the problem.

With time being spent at home over the last six weeks, I’ve been reminded that I don’t need a lot of things and choices cluttering up my day, week or month. Actually, less is better.

Love this quote from poet Mary Oliver:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?

We may be told that we can have it all, and do it all – but really, if you think about it, that’s not true, and why would you want that anyway? Your one wild precious life – keep that in your head and heart when you are making your decisions, or when you are full of indecision and fear. Life is so short, it is wild, precious, beautiful – don’t spend it on things you’re not that into, or feel obligated to do, don’t fill it with worry, that is not worth your time.

Greg McKeown author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less states:

When we forget our ability to choose, we learn to be helpless. Drip by drip we allow our power to be taken away until we end up becoming a function of other people’s choices – or even a function of our own past choices. In turn, we surrender out power to choose.

I think we also surrender our power to choose when we have too many choices. All the choices may hold interest, may be meaningful, but because you can’t have it all or do it all – YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE.

When you are walking and you put your left leg out, then your right leg out – do you ever ask yourself if you started walking on the wrong leg? No, well I don’t? So why think about choice as wrong or right, it is a step, and you need movement to get where you want to go. If you don’t know where that is, start moving and maybe you will end up where you don’t want to be and then at least you can decide where to go from there.

But if you’re not moving?? Well you know that answer.

Make choices, make decisions, move, find out, discovery what is and what isn’t for you. Don’t let too many options stall your movement – keep discovering how you want to live your one wild precious life.

Catch you next week xx

Self Mending

Over the Easter break, and due to our current lockdown situation, I decided to do some mending. I’ve been working in a stressful situation since lockdown began, so I desperately needed to take some time out and get my mind off work, and the situation the world is in.

I had bought a cardigan a couple of months ago from an op shop that had quite a few holes in it. I know, seems strange to buy something like this, but I just kind of fell in love with this old thing, and I knew it was just going to end up in landfill if I didn’t intervene. 

So, I brought it home, and have tried wearing it and just being OK with the holes, but it wasn’t really my thing, so I decided this weekend to patch it. 

I’m definitely not a knitter. But it was the only way I could see to patch up this garment. So first I knitted two elbow patches, this worked well. Took me all day – and any knitter reading this will probably laugh, as really, they are quite small. It would have been nice to shape them into ovals, but all I could do was a rectangle. 

Then I needed to patch the pockets but had to use bits of wool I had, so I made two large striped patches for these. 

Anyway, the whole time knitting, I got to thinking about mending. How often we need mending and what we do to patch things up. When I first decided to patch the cardigan, I thought about purchasing wool that was the exact same colour, so the patches would not be noticeable. I actually went into a wool shop and was going to bring the cardigan in with me, however the shutdown started, so I decided to use what I had left over from a couple of plain scarfs and some Peggy-squares I’d made into a cushion.

But like I mentioned, over this time sitting at the window and mending this cardigan, I started to think about all the mending that needs done in my own life. When things are difficult, I often hide it, or cover it up so no one can notice how I’m feeling. And now, staring at these coloured patches on my cardigan I wondered what would happen if we allowed ourselves to be patched, and we allowed our broken parts to be seen.

How many times have you hidden what is broken, thinking that if people see you in this state you are somehow lesser, or weaker?

I know from experience, that certain things that happen in life never go away. There is no ‘getting over it’. No way to fix it. It stays with you. So, what I do is try to live with it, and maybe when I’m out and about, at work or social events, I cover it up. Hide certain parts that I don’t want people to see. Thinking if they see damage, they won’t think of me in the same way. 

At the moment, with the world in turmoil, my moods have certainly been up and down. At times I spend time on creative projects, but I am also spending a lot of time lying on my bed and thinking about the world, and people’s lives. Some old hurts are also surfacing. Fears, and worries take over pretty quickly if I’m not careful. I mean, things are difficult right now, there is no easy way out of this. 

So, in this time, can I mend? Can I be brave enough to turn towards some parts of myself and see that they need a patch. And yes, it might be a big bright one, noticeable, but in the long run, more durable, sustainable. 

I don’t know how to actually go about mending. Maybe the first thing is to be honest. If you struggle with mental health, talk about it, on a level that is every day. I think that I want to be braver in this way, I want to include all of myself rather than pretend I’m able to do everything or feel a certain way. Some things will never go away, but instead of hiding them maybe it is possible to make those broken bits visible, and in time OK. 

Below is a small list of quotes I found online from artists and writers that obviously know who they are, fully, and are not afraid to show their broken bits in their creative outlet. 

Catch you next week. xx

Creating… Because you have to

This is my first post. I have now been blogging for six months and decided to re-post it. Happy I’ve been able to show up every week, can’t believe 6 months has rolled around so quickly – please enjoy…

I didn’t initially know what to call this article, however, I did know that being a creative isn’t an option for me. I need to state I’m not talking about creating for work or a product, but just being creative for creativities sake. I believe that creating is part of who we are, we are a creative species. The thing is, we’ve got so caught up in product-driven creativity that something about the process has been lost. And, it’s such a shame.

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Success, what is it? Part Two

Wow, my world has changed in the last 7 days. Everyone’s world has. I just have to mention this before getting on with this week’s topic on success. I’m now working at home, my partner has no work, and New Zealand has been put into lock-down for one month, which started two days ago. I really hope we can beat this thing. Statistics around the world are becoming more and more disturbing and, at times, it is difficult to maintain positivity. However, I have been turning to my creative outlets. Even the smallest of things I create are bringing some joy.

And, to me, my blog is one of my creative outlets, so, ‘success’, in a time of uncertainty.

What is success?

Last week I introduced the idea of individual success and personal success. So, just to catch up anyone that hasn’t read part one I will outline the definitions. Individual success is how you succeed on your own within a group, and how that group view this success. Personal success is what you believe to be successful. They can be the same thing, but more than often, they are not.

New app I’m plying with: Rookie Cam

Last week I also conveyed the idea that the American Dream is linked to a certain way western culture think about succeeding and particular outcomes which contribute to this.

I’ve (surprisingly) meet quite a few people who do not believe that, living in New Zealand, American culture has a lot to do with us. I find this surprising, I just think it is so obvious, but anyway…

When my daughter was around 4 – 6 years of age she would often have friends around to play. I would pop my head in from time to time to see what they were doing and noticed how they spoke to each other in an American accents. Most other parents I talked to also commented on this. Over the years I’ve reflected on this. Of course she was modelling play-time from TV shows. Television is where she saw ‘pretending’ and so it is fair to say that she was mimicking this as a learning tool.

At that time less than 20% of our television was created in New Zealand.

I know this is purely anecdotal, however the American Dream is a way of viewing success and I believe it has filtered into every aspect of western culture. And, of course, New Zealand is not alone in this. How we view success is often mediated through privileged American thought. What American media deem to be successful is now how we rate individual success.

We understand our world, decipher meaning, and interpret society from what is happening at THAT specific time and space. My great, great grandmother was a successful mid-wife, her community (a small local in the South Island of New Zealand), thought of her as successful, she did not have the American Dream slanted reality to live up to. Her specific time and space brought about specific understandings of the world.

However, my community is world-wide, the potential for me to have community success is a lot more treacherous. Success, for me in my time and space, is not just being successful at a particular ‘thing’ in the community, it is about money, fame, beauty, winning, overcoming in order to have a ‘success story’; the list goes on. And none of it is particularly useful. However, like my daughter, we mimic and interpret our particular time and space.

This is why I think that individual success and how it is measured is particularly difficult for creatives to navigate. Creatives and creativity are seen and measured within harsher parameters than many other activities or professions. Writing a novel is not celebrated, it’s only taken notice of when it’s on a best sellers list, films are measured on box-office takings, albums are measured on sales, paintings on their auction price. Money directly linked to the outcome of the creative arts.

I’m in no way saying that monetising what creatives do is not important, I’m just saying it’s not everything. I’ve been to plenty of films with huge box office takings that in my opinion they were not successful films. What they succeeded at was fitting a mould for a market – and that is all.

The value of individual success rapidly lessens when you carefully consider what it means in western culture. Personal success is where we should all be challenging ourselves with. Understanding what we believe success to be. Not what a monetised system tells us it is.

I asked Facebook friends to share their definition of success and I was pleasantly surprised by the answers. Most were more focused on personal success and not what western culture was alluding to. But that cultural pressure is there, and trying to navigate personal success over individual success for most is a battle.

If you are content, challenged, interested, engaged in your own creative activities – take some comfort. That is success. It doesn’t need to be measured by someone else to be valid.

That’s all for now – I will come back to this topic at another time.

Catch you next week xx

Success, what is it? Part One

I’ve been thinking about the term success and what it means, especially for creatives or the creative industry. It’s a strange time to discuss the term success, with everything going on. However, maybe it is also an amazing opportunity to reflect on social constructs, maybe during this time it is easier to see what is important.

The word ‘success’ started as a neutral term. It wasn’t good or bad, it was just an outcome. It fits into the process of doing something, the result neither positive nor negative. Think of the word succeed, not in its positive connotation but in the succession of things. Something will succeed another. The Latin past participle of success is succedere, meaning come after, go near to, come under, take the place of. Ced, cess and ceed all mean go. So, you can see that the word originated with the outcome of a process in mind and not the calculated value of that outcome. 

However, from the late 19 century the term success held a ‘positive’ tone within it. Success was now in opposition to failure. Both outcomes, but now with very different meanings. Success began to weave its way into modern modes of being in the world. What it was to have success, be successful, have a success story

Side Note: ‘success story’ was believed to be first termed in France as a critique on literary work. Not because the work was brilliant but rather as to its scandalous character. 

The merriam-webster dictionary defines success as:

  • a degree or measure of succeeding
  • favourable or desired outcome
  • one that succeeds
  • outcome – obsolete

The original “outcome”, (not positive or negative), now obsolete. 

So, success, the definition of a positive outcome, an outcome that meets the intention; and a successful person, (someone who succeeds), must therefore be a person who often meets their desired goal or intention. Seems simple enough. 

I need to vacuum because the house is dirty. I vacuum. Success!

However, success has another layer. The word connotes a mode of success that does not simply mean a positive outcome. We all know this. It has its negative side. And this is what I want to pull out and explore in relation to the arts and being a creative.  

When you Google success, definitions come up, and courses on how to be successful, which when you think about it – it’s odd. How can you teach someone to be successful when all success is – is a positive outcome!? Wouldn’t it depend on the intention? So, here is the problem. Success in our modern western world is obviously not about a positive outcome, it is about a SPECIFIC outcome. Wealth being the number one, along with winning, and fame being another and there is a few more definitions that point to a ‘successful person, who has a ‘success story’…

When we hear about successful stories it is about people who have met this SPECIFIC outcome and only this outcome.  

Hartmut Keil defines the American Dream as being:

Individual success, advancement, materialism, personal success, neighbourliness, naturalness, individuality, freedom, equality, equal opportunity, search for identity, nation purpose, American consciousness, democratic dream, dream of paradise, moving force, liberation of humanity, world’s salvation.

I find it interesting that he uses ‘success’ twice. Once for ‘individual success’, and then for ‘personal success’?? 

What I garner from this, is the individual success is of that person, rather than of a group. They have achieved something on their own while being recognised by a group. This part is important to point out as individual and group have a relation, for the success to come from an individual, first they have to be part of a group.

While personal success is something, they ‘own’, as in, they believe they have been successful in something. For example, you could have a businessperson, who is deemed successful by others, however, the same successful person, may believe their real success is being able to spend time with family and friends… you know what I mean.

So according to Keil there seems to be two ways to measure success. 

Individual success: what others think about our success in relation to what is culturally deemed as successful.

Personal success: What we believe our success to be.

I want to point out here that contemporary society is structured so certain types of employments or interests are deemed of different value.

For example, a singer can become known by being good at what they do, the more known the singer is the more is attributed to success. However, a plumber, (for example), doesn’t usually become known – society does not expect this of them to deem them as successful

For creatives, often, fame, or being ‘known’, is linked to individual success. The stakes are high. And because of this, individual success or the lack of it weighs creatives down.

This is where we can turn to personal success. I’m not (in anyway) saying that individual success is not something to aim for or have goals or dreams about, what I’m saying is that personal success needs to be valued higher. Creating is a quality of the human experience that needs to be celebrated no matter what. And we need to hold onto what we LOVE about this process and experience and not what others think of it.

We can’t control others’ thoughts. We can’t control what society deems as important one month and of little value the next. But we can control how we feel about our own creativity.

There is more I want to write on this, and so will return next week to this subject. I just want to acknowledge I brought the American Dream into the picture by quoting Hartmut Keil and there is good reason for that, but not enough time in this post.

So, if interested, please return and read part two.

Catch you next week xx

The Rise of Second-hand Shopping

Last year Newshub reported that second-hand shopping is growing at a “phenomenal rate”, and the trend is likely to rise as customers seek out greener alternatives to fashion. In this same report Newshub suggested that second-hand alternatives will out grow fast-fashion in the next 10 years.

United Nations environment article, Putting the brakes on Fast Fashion states:

The fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater and 10 percent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally and it takes around 2,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans.

Obviously, this can’t go on. So, is second-hand shopping the answer? And, how do we go about it?

This is a pile of clothes a second-hand shop was trying to give away for free – sadly, not enough interest, so it was heading to land-fill.

I’ve always shopped second-hand, so I’m already accustomed to this way of shopping. My wardrobe consists of 80% pre-used clothing. It started when I was in my teens, which is pretty normal as at that time in life most of us were/are on a small budget. However, for me, I just fell in love with the hunt for gems. Now, I must admit, I spend a little more on the second-hand items I purchase, but once you start this practice it is very hard to go back. Now, fast-fashion clothes seem like ‘card-board cutout’, and I’d rather show style than fashion anyway.

However, how do you start this practice if all you have known is fast-fashion shopping. I can imagine the change being super stressful. The thing is with fast-fashion you can see what is the latest trend, go into a mall and purchase something similar on a small budget.

There is a lot going on here. First the need to fit in, to feel socially acceptable. And this fear is REAL. We are, after all, pack-animals, so in the past we survived by fitting in with our group.

Richard F. Taflinger, in the article, Social Basis of Human Behaviour, states:

Another aspect of personal survival is the forming of social groups within a species. When staying alive is not just the responsibility of the individual, but other members of the species help the individual to survive, and vice versa, all members’ chances are enhanced.

This need to fit with our group or tribe is very instinctual, not something modern media created. Media, however, taps into this basic need, and now, sadly, it is deeply ingrained in our western perception of how we should: be, look, behave – and what we should have.

As most of us know, this way of thinking about ‘fitting in’ often starts in our teen years as at this age we are most susceptible to our peers’ criticism. And for a lot of us a cycle of comparing begins. Over the last 30 years the market has completely changed and brands start by capturing the tween-age group. The clothes are made super cheap, and match what is in trend – fitting both the budget and the need to fit in. By the time you are moving into your 20’s you’re totally hooked on this type of shopping, and move onto brands with a slightly more mature look, but with the same production and consumption values.

So, from this so-called ‘safe’ shopping experience how do you move out of this comfort zone and start a lower-impact clothes shopping adventure. It’s tough changing. So difficult. I’m not going to say that it’s going to be easy. However, it is rewarding, if you’re just beginning on this journey, or if you don’t know where to start – just start, see what happens.

Love this quote from, Wendell Barry:

Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.

So if you want some tips, (there are so, so, so many YouTubers and Bloggers who are focusing on just this issue), here is a post from ‘Trash is for Tossers’, giving a step by step guide to second-hand shopping. And I also recommend Useless Wardrobe, who puts out inspiring content on this topic every week.

Also, if you don’t want to go to (actual) second-hand shops, there are hundreds, if not thousands, online, from everyday brands to designer. Just for starters, Thred-up or Vestiaire Collective are places to start, and then… literally ‘the world is your oyster’… or if you don’t like oysters, then, ‘the world is your, (insert fave in here)’. I try to shop locally, or with online sellers in my country or region. I just think it is another way to lower my impact, however whatever it takes to break the ‘fast-fashion’ spell, in my opinion, is worth a go.

I was chatting to my partner about writing this post, and he asked a very good question, ‘How does this relate to creativity?’ He asked because he knows I’m trying to keep my blog-posts within a certain theme or framework. It got me thinking.

For me I’ve always loved style. But this did not come from a self-style ambition, it came from people watching, music videos, period-film, street art, and so on. Style captures a time, place, feeling, subculture. It pulls and pushes from the need to connect with a tribe and the desire for individualism. It’s secular, seasonal, it ebbs and flows, it is for the young and the very old, there is something about true style that announces someone, but this type of style has nothing to do with fashion. Style is creative. I just love this small creative post from BlackPants, outing the differences between style and fashion.

Style, for me, is knowing who you are, and when you put on the clothes you’re most comfortable and confident in, you forget about them and get on with your day. I think discussing fashion, production, consumption AND style, subculture, creativity – is something for this blog.

So is secondhand shopping the answer? Truly? I don’t know. BUT, I find enjoyment from the pieces I collect, and satisfaction that I’m somehow, in the smallest of ways, protesting against the fast-fashion industry. Does it make a difference? Again, I don’t know, BUT, it makes a huge difference to me – so that’s worth it.

You’re Your Biggest Asset

You know those times when filling out some financial form or statement and you have to list your assets: house, rental property, investments, bonds, vehicles… and so on it goes. We all write down or tick different things according to our situation. I always have this moment where I think, ‘I don’t have enough’, or ‘I need more things that other people have’.

I’m not sure about your culture, but in mine we keep our financial circumstances private. I live in a house – but do I own or rent? My partner has a vehicle – but does he own it, or is he paying it off? I have appliances, but again are they owned, rented, or on HP? It’s easy to look at others from the outside and start comparing based on the items you think they own, but you never really know anyone’s situation.

It’s strange to think that when we are filling out these forms, and the question is, ‘what is your largest asset, or what is your largest financial asset, that we don’t write: ‘ME‘. I am.

I am my biggest asset. I am my biggest financial asset. I am my biggest investment. Even if you are not working, you are your biggest asset – in every way.

You have to be, it doesn’t make sense to write anything else down. What you are doing, what decisions you have a head of you, what your possibilities are – is everything. YOU are your biggest asset.

It’s not often that I purchase a large asset, or an expensive item. But when I do I’m pretty chuffed. For example I once bought myself a small red French car and I LOVED IT. At first, I cleaned it, took it through car washes, bought smelly hanging things for the rear window – did all the things. I was, ‘car proud.’ Yep, that was me, it was shortly lived, but during that period I spent money, energy, time and thought on that car. It’s a pity that, even knowing I’m more important than a car I don’t always care for myself the way I cared for this vehicle.

Even though I’m my biggest asset, and always will be, I often don’t spend, money, energy, time and thought on myself. In another perspective if someone else was looking after me and treated me the way I sometimes treat myself, it would probably be called – neglect.

There are so many reasons why we end up neglecting ourselves, and often circumstances, such as financial difficulties or health come into play. However, if we understand that we are the most important person in our lives, we may just treat ourselves with a bit more respect, love, grace, and forgiveness.

Even now, it is hard to write that I’m the most important person in my own life – shouldn’t that title go to my children, partner, parents, siblings, friends… that’s what I have always told myself, that all these others come first. But now I think that it is OK to think of yourself as the most important, because it actually doesn’t negate how you feel or treat others.

For example, if I had a tool or machine that made my income for me, provided for myself and others – wouldn’t I look after it? I would probably take it in for checks, get someone in to fix it when it was needed, purchase replacement parts, keep it in good running order – because it’s an asset. So why don’t we do that for ourselves? Logically it makes sense to keep ourselves healthy, spend time on ourselves, rest, do all the things to keep us going, so we can work, provide for our families and spend time with others.

If this makes sense, then why are we doing everything-but looking after ourselves? Laurie Buchanan, PhD states:

Self-care is a deliberate choice to gift yourself with people, places, things, events, and opportunities that recharge our personal battery and promote whole health — body, mind, and spirit.

We need to take stock of what is important to us and include those things/people in our lives. It’s not easy, I can be so harsh on myself, the energy I do use on myself can be so negative – but lately, especially since starting this blog – I’ve been really facing myself a lot more and realising I need to spend money, energy, time and thought on myself to sustain a fulfilled and creative life.

I will leave you with this wonderful quote from Kamal Ravikant:

Any negative thought is darkness. How do you remove it? Do you fight fear or worry? Do you push or drown away sadness and pain? Doesn’t work. Instead, imagine you’re in a dark room and it’s bright outside. Your job is to go to the window, pull out a rag, and start cleaning. Just clean. And soon enough, light enters naturally, taking the darkness away.

Catch you next week xx

Creating (In) A Team

Creating in a team can be complicated, especially if team members don’t agree to the direction of a particular element of the process. I’ve worked in a number of team situations, and in different positions within teams.

A garden friend I received as a gift from students.

One of the biggest complaints I hear about the creative team process is when members ideas are not used. Being a team member, does not mean the creative idea you come up with will be chosen, however, to work well and really enjoy the process you need to be willing to constantly offer up ideas. And that is all it is – just an idea, you’re not offering your soul, so there is no reason to take it personally.

At times this can be difficult as we think if our idea is not good enough for the project, we are not good enough – but that is not the case. If you were not good enough, you probably wouldn’t be on the team in the first place. The willingness to offer ideas and then sacrifice them confidently for another shows a huge ability to concentrate on the WORK rather than the SELF. The work is why you are there, the work is what you are projecting towards, the self needs to take a step back and let the work have priority in that moment. Even if you think you’re idea is better, you need to leave it behind and keep moving.

When my ideas are not in-line with the direction of the project, but I think they’re great  I usually put them on the back-burner for another time. You never know when you’re idea might just fit or solve an issue somewhere else.

Another difficult aspect of giving an idea forward is when the idea is initially taken up, but changed to the point that it is not your idea anymore. However, this is the definition of working in a team, everyone will add, change, adapt, transform – all the things, to push your idea into a place where it will best fit the work. Remember it’s about the WORK.

Also, when you start out in creative industries, often your ideas are not even asked for. Instead you are part of a larger department that is putting others ideas into practice or reality. At this point, it’s usually best to just learn from others or even learn from others’ mistakes.

Once I presented a creative idea to my manager and then that same person presented that idea to the management team as their own. This was difficult to stomach, however, in the end, I took it as a huge nod towards my own creativity – if they didn’t think the idea was good in the first place, it never would have been used.

There is so much to discuss about creating with a team and being a team member, but I’m going to change track here and discuss team leadership. I’m not an expert, there are many out there, a lot of books and information you can get on this topic, however, I’m just going to write about what I know and the experience I’ve had.

What I know that working as a team member and being a team leader, are very different – or at least they are for me.

I learnt quickly that sometimes I just needed to let go of my creative ideas, even though I had the vision for the project. Especially when I had brought in creative-specialists and crafts people. This is difficult, because I had envisioned the project outcome in a certain way and was adamant that it should stay the way I saw it. But letting go taught me a lot. First, just because someone else’s idea is better for the project or solves a problem more easily does not mean that it is not your vision. Taking on others ideas and advice is often essential to gain the outcome you need.

In my leadership experience I started with small teams, however projects grew very quickly, (probably too quickly). I found the same problems I had at the beginning, were still there but augmented in the larger projects. Once I realized this I tried to reflect on similar things I was doing. If I did the same things – I would get the same results, I wanted different results so I needed to change up what I was doing. Sounds logical – but you have to stop and reflect to actually make a change.  

There are often other issues to consider when working in creative teams, and first off is usually the budget. I have found that when the budget is bigger the freedom is tighter. There are more constrictions and more elements and people to contend with. When the team and budget is small it is often more creative (in a way), because you have to solve problems differently.

I actually have done a lot of reading around this topic for this post, but didn’t find anything I really wanted to use. However there is a ton of advice out-there. For me is was learning on the go, both with team work and leadership work. What helped the most in my own leadership was that I’m also a creative, so I understand the process – I think it would be more challenging not being a creative having to lead a creative team. One thing about creatives, I believe, is their plasticity and adaption in the testing stages when it comes to process. So often – it gets worse before it gets better. That messy part of the process is the process. The beginning stages of a creative project can be very slow, however once this incubator stage is over, usually creative projects have a cumulative effect with everything coming together. As I’ve written before you really do need to trust the process, and trust your team’s process.

I’d love to hear how you deal with your own creative process, or leadership methods you have instilled when leading a team.

Catch you next week xx

Stepping through ikigai towards Invincible Summer

My dear,

In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.

In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.

In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.

I realized, through it all, that…

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy.

For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me,

within me, there’s something stronger –

something better, pushing right back.

Falsely yours

Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus and other Essays, (1955).

Shadow on my wall made by my bedside lamp.

Even though the full poem is absolutely stunning and brings together substantial context usually only one sentence in it is quoted:

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

When looking at the previous sentences, they are building towards this summary sentence, and in a way, this sentence stands on the back of the previous; that whatever is around me, whatever I am going through there is something else I can cling to, something lighter, something outside forces cannot break – something invincibly mine. Interestingly Camus osculates between: hate, love, tears, smile, chaos, calm, winter, summer, always landing on what we perceive as positive, that is until the end when he supplants “sincerely yours” for “falsely yours”.

Why does he end on this note? Why build up so much hope and then leave the poem with uncertainty? Does the word ‘falsely’ negate the poem’s hope, or does it do something else?

Just recently I’ve come across the term, ikigai, pronounced (ee-kee-guy). A Japanese term, which loosely translates into life-value or life’s purpose. Iki, which means life and gai which describes worth or value.

My understanding is that this term originated in Okinawa as early as the fourteenth century, however, only became more commonly known in the late twentieth century and now seems to be very popular.  Wikipedia describes the term as:

‘a reason for living (being alive); a meaning for (to) life; what (something that) makes life worth living; a raison d’etre‘

If you google the ikigai a Venn diagram is likely to pop up intersecting four main questions: what do you love?, what are you good at?, what does the world need?, and what can you be paid for? Where these four elements intersect, is your ikigai. The diagram, is thought to have been created in the early twenty-first century and does not originate in Japan with the concept. So although the diagram can be useful it is worth reading more about this philosophy to understand the complexities.

Much of what I have read, at this stage about ikigai, promotes that your passion in life does not have to be huge, it’s not about what society calls success, or having wealth; it can be about finding small joys which enrich your overall experience of life. It is completely unique to you, so trying to be something others might see as successful, will never be your true ikigai.

Similar to Camus’s poem the forces outside of us cannot dictate our self-worth. Camus lived during WWII and was part of the French Resistance, I’m sure that he experienced (metaphorically and physically) pretty dark times, a horrific winter, so his suggestion that within us there is an invincible summer is a powerful statement.

It is hard to always continue to fight, especially when you wake up in the morning and are filled with dread. I know this feeling.

This is winter, tears, hate – all the things. On these days the “invincible summer” metaphor is laughable. Again I just want to bring in this osculation Camus is working with; love, hate, summer, winter… however, if we think about ikigai, we can think of small moments that mark our day with possibilities; morning coffee, talking to friends, and so on. These too are outside of us and cannot fully bring about ikigai, but they can help us get out of bed in the morning.

Tim Tamashiro states:

Ikigai is an action word, a verb: to serve, to create, to delight, to nourish, to provide, to teach, to heal, to connect, to build.

So once we have had that coffee and are out of bed, we need to ACT.

I know that Camus’s poem and ikigai are not perfectly matched, however I love the distance between them, which allows me to move back and forward from both ideas, trying to nudge more nuances out of them. There is a lovely correlation but also something jarring when you put them up together.

Camus is painting a big picture, giving us an epic sense of triumph, where ikigai is in finding the steps, everything in detail. What both, in their own ways suggest, is that our own worth cannot be found from looking outside ourselves. Competition, comparing, or measuring ourselves against others will never give us what we need, it will never point us in the right direction. Our strength MUST come from knowing ourselves. From here we can move into summer.

Jumping back to ‘Falsely yours’… What I have read is that Camus was writing to a person either in a relationship with him, or a previous relationship. His words suggest that he does not belong ‘truly’ to this person. So I’m going to suggest if he is not someone else’s, he is his own. So Falsely yours, but Sincerely mine. How wonderful – to be your own, without pretence.

If you want to find out more about ikigai (because I am no expert), please use the links below.

Ken Mogi : Finding your life purpose with ikigai

Rob Bell: How to reboot your life with the Japanese philosophy of ikigai

Also, Eckhart Tolle takes Camus’s line and works it in with his own philosophy and spiritual teaching, which I found very interesting.

Eckhart Tolle: Precious Moments of Being Alone – Albert Camus’s “Invincible Summer”

Catch you next week xx