If you don’t know what to do and you’re feeling overwhelmed saying ‘thank you’ might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it works. I recently listened to a spiritual leader called Mooji who said just saying ‘thank you’ is enough to change or shift your mood or position on the day.
If you just repeat those simple words, “thank you… thank you… thank you…” and keep repeating. After a while a peace settles in and then you will start to see all the people and things in your life that you are thankful for.
I’m writing this because I’ve had to do this exact exercise this week a couple of times already. I’ve let my mind become a monster. It is so easy to do and the mind seems ready to jump into that character pretty quickly. Allowing myself to over worry, overthink and imagine fictitious fear mongering scenarios, all which keep me overwhelmed and anxious. It’s hard to stop a habitual way of thinking, and it will take some work, but in the end to carry a sense of peace is worth the effort.
So , when I learn of little things, like repeating the words ‘thank you’ and find that it actually works, I’m happy, actually excited, to share with you. Because, for me, 2021 has probably been one of the hardest years I’ve ever experienced. Any form of peace I can hold for myself these days is precious.
This quote seems to fit where I’m at right now.
The center that I cannot find is known to my unconscious mind.
W. H. Auden
Well I trust the unconscious mind knows, because most days I certainly don’t. I did make a short Vlog this week that discusses value and holding on to our unique creative ability. If you want to watch that, click here.
Hope you have a peace-fueled week. Catch you next time xx
As I’ve stated in earlier posts, I’m working my way through Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. This week is chapter 8, Recovering a Sense of Strength. So, over the week I’ve been contemplating how to gain strength as an artist, which is difficult, because I feel so weak. Trying to find a path, or something to hold onto, is so tenuous. I find something, open a door, head that way only to find I’ve suddenly lost interest, or it’s not what I thought it would be.
But I’m determined.
So, this week I started a free online course called “Follow the Breadcrumbs”, which is run by Nicholas Wilton from Art2Life. The course only takes about 30 – 40mins a day for 5 days, where participants are asked to follow clues (breadcrumbs), and learn about creativity in art, how it makes you feel, where you want to take it and so forth.
As I write this I’m only on day 2 but finding the process very emotional.
Several years ago I finished the biggest project I’d ever worked on, it took about 10 years to complete and since then I haven’t been able to commit to anything major. I’ve done bits and pieces, and all of those smaller projects have been beautiful in their own way, but I haven’t been able to strive or push into a project like I use to. I haven’t been able to risk myself to my creativity – which I did in the past. I believed it was the only way to be creative.
Maybe, it was youth, or naivety that pushed me that far and now I’m older and wiser – but since finishing that project, honestly, I’ve just felt lost.
So I try drawing and painting, I write prose and poetry, I try experimental filmmaking, I try writing this blog.. and find some enjoyment, some motivation and purpose, but there still seems to be something missing.
I don’t think I’ve opened up in this way on the blog before, because I haven’t until this moment realised that I need art to find me –
I really need, art to just come and find me again.
Today on the “Breadcrumbs” challenge we draw/painted/wrote – expressions of what made us happy or joyful as a child, and what I painted – was joyful but also painful, which woke me up. It woke me up because art needs to reflect myself personally to make sense. The striving, and risk taking I did before – worked because that was where art was finding me, that was where I personally was, and I’ve been believing I always had to be in that place.
But I’m not there anymore – so, art can’t find me there.
Of course art can find me when I’m weak too, I just didn’t realise that till now.
Maybe this is a prayer, or a meditation, that I’m sending the universe. Art please come and find me – because I need you more than ever, in this weak vulnerable state.
Please let me know where you are at, with art or life in general.
What is it to have faith? Faith is about believing in something you can’t prove. I can’t prove that when I start a creative project I’m going to see it through, that I’m going to create something I’m proud of, or that I’m going to have success.
When a writer starts a novel, when a musician starts a song, when a sculptor starts a new project there is no way of knowing what the results will be. But they start anyway.
Yep. It’s frightening even terrifying at times and without faith in the process creatives may not make a start at all.
When I started to prepare for my upcoming residency at RM Gallery I only had a vague idea of a starting point – no idea how the process would go let alone the outcome. And it is nerve racking, part of me is constantly criticising the process and sabotaging my faith in my ability. And, that’s absolutely normal.
Creativity isn’t always easy, and it’s not always fun. I love being a creative but sometimes it’s just bloody hard work, and most of that is inner-work for me, combatting fears and overcoming my own insecurities. But, with all that I have faith in the process.
Faith isn’t completely blind. This is where we need to remember the things we have done before. Even though they may not be the same, the process may differ, the creative project may be completely different, we have accomplished things before. We’ve done stuff!! When in doubt try to take your mind back and remember that thing you did… at the time you also didn’t think you could do it, or didn’t know how your were going to do it – but you did it! You did that thing! Whatever it was, you did it! So faith in the process is not completely blind.
Below is a recent Vlog I did, where I comment on my process and admit that I don’t know exactly where this project is taking me – but that’s OK, as I believe in the process.
Remember to keep going. Have faith. You can do it.
It’s just a small thing. Compared to everything else. But there is a habit I’ve developed that is so frustrating me and wasting my time.
I feel so unmotivated and at limbo. It’s not that I don’t have projects on that I’m excited about. It’s more that I’m in this waiting state. I keep telling myself to do better, but then each day I fall harder into the habits I’m trying to break. I feel a bit of a fraud – especially writing this blog and encouraging people, even I can’t find my own footing.
One habit I’ve fallen into is scrolling. Yes, it’s been part of my daily experience for some years, but since lock-down during Covid-19, in New Zealand, this habit is more like an addiction.
My time gets sucked into the phone on different apps and social media depending on my day. If I have the slightest break or time spent waiting, or time I should be doing something else, but it isn’t urgent, I find myself on my phone.
The last month it has gotten a lot worse. Just constant, and it’s bugging the hell out of me. I keep telling myself something like, “only 10 minutes more” and 45 minutes goes past and I’m so pissed off. This is not me. I’m not this person. I’m a middle aged professional, goal orientated creative – stuck scrolling!!! I know this is a small thing, but just felt I needed to write about it.
The only person here to blame is me and I’ve got to get out of this situation. I want to identify a few things before I move on, maybe clarify, for myself, how the phone can work for me and how it works against me.
The phone I have, probably like yours, is a computer attached to a network with constant changing, growing information. If I randomly want to know something, like you, I Google it. If I need to get somewhere, I use maps. I use my phone to message, email, bank, and so it goes on. In this way it is an asset, a tool to use in our society. These are functions that make sense. But then there are other functions like social media, which is touted as a place to stay connected. And yes, they do keep me connected to friends, I also use social media in business and creative opportunities. This is not new, I’m not writing about something you don’t already know, I’m just trying to work it through for myself.
It’s not that there is an amount of time that is OK, and a time that is not OK. That is up to the individual. But for me I’ve passed some kind of comfort zone. What I’m finding is that I’m unhappy about this time. When Covid-19 first started I kept checking the news, which led into scrolling, waiting for more news, and then news that gets interpreted on social media sites, friends’ comments and so this watching, waiting, reading, scrolling began. Now it’s more just a way to lose my time, a willingness to suspend a lived experience for a mind on hold, dulled by pictures and posts.
So, what to do…
To think more on this and review my thoughts and behavior patterns I’ve decided to have a social media free weekend.
Just writing that seems such a letdown – how could I get to this point.
Anyway, that’s what I did.
Saturday seemed to go fine. I did find myself needing to keep ‘busy’. Happy accident that this busy was productive but I don’t believe ‘busy’ is always the best remedy.
Sunday was more difficult. I did glance at a couple of posts a few times, but did not stay to scroll. I also used my phone apps more – probably substituting phone time.
Now it’s Monday morning.
I think there is a couple of things I need to do. First, I’m going to remove Facebook app off my phone. I don’t need it. I don’t even like Facebook. So why feel obliged to have it?
And, I’m going to limit my time on Instagram. I think it’s the only way for me. See how I go anyway.
But I don’t want to go back to how its been these last months.
I want to move on. That was that.
Not sure this was helpful, or that interesting but it is what I have for now.
Often glorious finds come my way because others have shared what they are reading, watching, or engaging with. So, this post is all about sharing things I have found.
Firstly, I want to share a video from KarenBritChick. Her YouTube channel is about fashion and she does this amazing series called What everyone is wearing in New York. I love the street vibe and the way she discusses personal style. I especially like the fact that the videos are quite long, so I can settle in and really enjoy the New York vibe. But the video I want to share today is something quite different. Due to what is happening globally I think this is the perfect introduction to her: My experience with racism/What is it like to be Black?
I listen to Russell Brand (occasionally), I like how he approaches very difficult subjects with curiosity. He also has a podcast, Under the Skin, but I think this is a good introduction to him, and it’s not too long: What I’ve Learned This Week
There’s a couple of other Youtubers I want to share with you.
Firstly, Yoga with Adriene, there is so much I can say about this channel, but it’s best just to go there and try something yourself. Here are a couple of favorites. Yoga for Courage: This practice is full-on, but it reminds me to have faith in myself and my body. Moon Practice: Very gentle practice for those days when you need more peace than challenges.
This one is quite different, Kutovakika, who inspires creativity through her ingenious self-styled photography. She shares a step by step approach with both cameras and phone-cameras, so you can follow along. Mostly she uses everyday items, which means you don’t need all the equipment. She also has some knitting tutorials, which I have yet to check out. Also, I love looking at her Instagram page: @kutovakika
For something quite different, here is an interactive documentary by Mariette Sluyter titled, Bread. This documentary is so sweet, I just love the women talking about their cultures and how they have brought modes of being (and baking) into their new Canadian country.
Because I’m into creating film and love moving image, this one is just a must. Art of the Title. This website explores the creation of title making for films. The range is so diverse, and they incorporate who made the titles and sometimes, what went into their design.
I looooovvveee Nordic Noir television shows. So, doing some of my own research around how this type of noir developed I came across this podcast, titled appropriately: Nordic Noir. This is not a series to listen to, but a historic view of the development of this genre in this particular region in the world.
This post is short and sweet, and I hope you find something in these shares.
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.
I’m having a difficult time.
Breathe. Breathe in, then out,
slowly through the mouth.
I’m not going to offer advice about
how to get through it, not even gonna try.
Instead I’m gonna tell you how
I’m getting through this.
I breathe in through the nose,
then out slowly through the mouth.
I’m trying to wake up at a similar time
everyday, (doesn’t always work).
I get dressed - even though I stay at home.
I do my hair, and sometimes put on make-up.
I try to exercise everyday,
either through yoga or walking.
The more strenuous stuff I've given up, for now.
I need light exercise, just movement - that is enough.
I don’t snack too much -
just eat at regular times.
As I breathe in I count slowly to 5.
I get caught up on my social media feeds.
I try to put the phone down, sometimes I can,
and sometimes I can’t - but I’m not
going to be too hard on myself. It’s OK.
I breathe in, counting to 5,
then I hold my intake and slowly breathe out
through the mouth.
Sometimes I lie on my bed, I make a nest,
with pillows and blankets. I just lie there.
I think of my family that I haven’t seen,
I wonder what they are doing.
I imagine they are safe, happy,
and coping with what is happening.
I talk to my mum everyday at 4.30pm.
Breathing, in and out. Slowly.
I sit at the window and watch
people walking in bubbles, or jogging past.
I think about crowds,
and what it was like to be on a crowded train.
I used to complain about crowded trains -
I wonder if I will do that again?
I breathe in, counting to 5,
then I hold my intake and slowly breathe out
to the count of 7.
Sometimes I snack on the news,
on what is happening around the world.
I look at the numbers and can’t make sense of it.
Then I start again on my social media feed,
just to dull my mind,
to flatten the numbers.
I breathe in, then as I breathe out
I relax my shoulders down.
I’m still working.
So fortunate that I do.
It gives my weekdays structure,
I’m busy during that time,
focused and the days blur from one to the next.
I breathe in, I breathe out, I relax my shoulders.
Lately, I haven’t been snacking on the news,
and I’ve been feeling guilty,
because I don’t know the numbers. This is complicated.
But, I’m getting through. I’m lucky.
How’s it going?
I hope you are well.
Catch you next week xx.
Sometimes I get a lot done, I mean I just plough through the work, I’m creative, I’ve got energy, I feel inspired. AND sometimes I don’t feel like this, and I don’t get much done. The problem is, I tend to beat myself up when I’m low in energy. Which is so stupid. I don’t do that to other people, I keep that one just for me.
Also, with the lockdown in New Zealand due to Co-vid 19, it feels like there is more pressure to be productive on creative projects because you’re spending more time at home. And if we are just talking about time, then yes, I don’t have my daily 3-hour commute – I’m still working but have more time.
So, suddenly with 15 more hours to fill up – I should be more creative!? Well, maybe. But… the world is in a terrible situation and for some of us we just aren’t feeling it. I’m not saying we should all sink into deep dark depression; I just mean, this is not an easy time. And, it is TOTALLY OK to not feel creative, to not be inspired and to not have a lot of energy.
On my social media feeds, I’m seeing posts about productivity, and getting “that project done you’ve never had time for”. I don’t think this is a bad thing, however, it can become negative if you beat yourself up, because everyone else seems to be overly productive and you can’t seem to get your act together.
Remember the only thing you may have more of isTIME. Don’t get me wrong, having extra time is great – but it’s not everything. Just because you have more time, doesn’t mean you suddenly feel more creative, have more energy or feel inspired. So why put the pressure on yourself.
Give yourself some space. Take that extra time and be good to yourself, whatever that means to you. I have found during this time that I’ve been more tired, which is probably due to the stress of this situation. Stress really takes from us, takes our energy, takes our inspiration, and our ability to creatively function. So, in this instance often you need to fill yourself with these things.
Think of yourself as a container; some things can take away what you have, and some things add. Stress is a taker…
So, if you are feeling overwhelmed you probably need to give to yourself (your container). And this really depends on you.
Last Saturday, I got up, did 20mins of yoga, had breakfast, and then wrote this massive list of all the tasks I was going to do. Didn’t happen, what did happen was me going for a walk in the sunshine, caught up on some of the YouTubers I watch, listened to some vinyl and cuddled my cat – A LOT. I did this, because I realised it was what I needed. I’d been teaching online all week and it was just OK to enjoy my day without giving myself unneeded pressure to be creative or productive.
The thing is, is to listen to yourself and not your social media feed.
Be OK with being overwhelmed sometimes, or tired, or unmotivated. This is not ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’. Your body and mind are telling you that you need to give to yourself and not take more out.
If you have got yourself tied up into knots and are in a bad way, and every time you go to create it either doesn’t happen, or nothing you create seems right. Maybe it’s time to STOP.
That’s right. DO NOTHING. This has happened to me in the past, I’ve got myself into a negative mindset and have heaped on pressure to keep going no matter what.
What I do in this situation is give myself some time but decide on a day that I will start back into it – even a time. For example; maybe I’m working on a short film or some creative writing, but my creativity and energy is becoming low. Nothing is working. I’m becoming frustrated and annoyed at myself. That is when I decide, OK, for the next four days I’m not going to think about this project, but on the fifth day at 10am I’m going to open up that document and start working again. During this time-off I try to ‘give to myself’, again this will be different for you than it is for me.
I enjoy yoga and meditation, walking, reading, baking something yummy, watching Netflix, YouTube, listening to music – nothing overly special, but as I’m doing these things my container is starting to fill. AND, usually I start to get excited about the project again. But I don’t let myself start early, I keep to my date and time – that way I know I’ll have the energy I need, but more importantly I have kept my agreement with myself.
Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is almost daily on our screen during Covid-19 telling New Zealanders to be kind to each other – I’m saying, be kind to yourself.
I’ve been researching the topic or idea of success for this weeks post, and got well into it until I became sick. (Not Covid-19).
So, I’m posting about not posting… not very successful eh?
However, I am going to continue on this topic for next week and I’m finding it to be a very engaging one. There are many sides to the term, especially for creatives who can struggle with the cultural understanding of success as it relates to wealth, fame or the idea of winning.
So the next post is to dig into this term, (it may even be more than just one week), and try to discover how to navigate the idea.
Sorry for a very unsuccessful blog, but I will catch you next week xx
In Quora a question was placed some years ago: “What is creative energy, and where does it come from?” Anthony Torres gave this answer:
It is the energy of an active, open minded individual who is channeling their inner-will to pursue change with an absence of worldly interference. Creative energy, in general, will come from within, but more specifically, should come from the soul.
I just thought this was a beautiful way to begin thinking about creative energy, especially to note the idea of “absence of worldly interference.” I’m guessing this suggests our constant buffering of our attention, such as; scrolling on a phone, which hinders the flow of concentration. However, the most powerful element in this answer is an individual who is “open minded”.
Last week, (when writing this), I was part of a writing workshop, with two others, to create a possible story line for a web-series. It was our first meeting, we started at 10am and finished just before 2pm, and, WOW! We got so much done. We bought our note-books and laptops and some initial ideas. That was all. I was unsure of how the process would work, and also unsure on how I would fit into the writing group dynamic. However, my mind was open and I was fully ready for possibilities.
…open mindedness and innovation are linked — because in order to entertain different and, sometimes contradicting viewpoints, those views either have to be presented or conjured up in the mind as counter examples. Thus, it is through creativity that innovation and open-mindedness go hand in hand.
Open mindedness has an ability to refrain from becoming ‘stuck’, so easy for us creatives to fall into. There is a way of being that allows the process to take over the project, rather than staying rigid on a mode of creating. I call it ‘trust’ but others will call it something else. I simply trust the process, so as I start doing the work, I let the work take its own course. It’s not staying static though, you have to start the work, which can simply mean sitting down with a pencil and paper, or going for a walk with a camera, or picking up the guitar; the action of starting has to come from you, then you can allow the process can take over.
That is not saying that you don’t have an intended outcome it’s just admitting to yourself that you don’t have all the answers to get there, but you’re open to finding out how. The Encyclopedia of Creativity suggests:
A creative person, virtually by definition, must be receptive to new ideas and willing to look at problems from various points of view. Open-mindedness includes not fearing the new, different, or unknown and not making up one’s mind in advance.
So our writing group meet, and we started forming the characters, their motivations, the story arch and cliffhanger end for episode 6 – quite a lot of work accomplished in one meeting. I just want to go back to the first point made in Torres’ Quora answer about the absence of worldly interference. This aspect will be very different for everyone depending on their creative pursuit, I pretty much put any technology down and just use a pen and paper to start the story process, however your pursuit may involve YouTube tutorials, or online courses, or searching on your phone, but in my mind that is using technology as a tool and not as interference. It is staying focused and not allowing that technology which you are creatively using to become a distraction.
Our writing group met in a conference room, which is pretty plain, there was nothing in the room that any of us personally connected to. I think ‘space’ is very important to enhance the process, it is not necessary to have a perfect space to start but it does switch your brain into a different mode. Have a watch of Annie Lennox discuss the moving-spaces she uses, especially to create the song ‘Sweet Dreams’. (this is around 0:38 seconds in, however the whole discussion is useful). I also enjoy writing and creatively thinking while commuting to work and back.
But no matter where we are distraction on our phones is so common. Looking, scrolling, watching a small rectangular object connected to our hands has become a way of being in the world. However, this way, (which is not positive or negative), is passive (lacks energy) – so when we are creating we need to bring our energy with us. To do this just make a start, like I said before, just pick up the guitar and then continue onwards being open. If you fall back into passivity, that’s OK, just start again until your concentration strengthens and you can move forward.
In our writing group, none of us spent time on social media throughout the meeting, we stayed focused and as we worked through ideas and characters, the structure of our time happened quite organically. We had a couple of short breaks, but did not stop for longer than 15 minutes during the 4 hour period.
When we think about creative energy we focus on; ‘getting the shit done’, ‘ticked off the list’, the ‘desired end result’, which for me would be a scripted web-series. And I love this, LOVE ticking tasks off my ever renewing list.
However, creative energy is the PROCESS, not the outcome. So the energy actually comes from being creative. Put energy in – to get energy out. Just like physical exercise, energy creates energy and as you actively engage in creativity your energy stamina will grow. A good way to expand creative stamina is to undertake exercises in your chosen field. For example someone may knit a scarf, then perhaps a small throw, before going onto something complicated, or someone might work on pinch pots with a particular clay before trying to create a complex structure involving many elements. So when I discuss my creative work in story creation for a web series, I didn’t just arrive at that place, I have learnt the necessary skills and techniques and then as I’ve progressed I’ve been able to focus my concentration and gain the energy I need to see the process through.
It’s very important to know where you are in the process. I’m certainly not saying don’t make a start, for sure jump in and make a start, but just remember from that stepping in place you may not understand the energy you need for the process, there will be learning involved, mistakes along the way, things that you didn’t expect – but stay open and trust the process. As my Yoga instructor says “If you’re on your mat, the hardest thing has already been overcome.” So wherever you are at, start by bringing your energy, trust the process and see what happens.