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


Difficult times. 
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. 
I’m breathing.

How’s it going?
I hope you are well. 
Catch you next week xx.

Productivity Pressure

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 is TIME. 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.

Catch you next week xx.

This is not it. Success.

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

Photo from a couple of years back when in Toronto.

Creative Energy

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.

Anna Powers in states:

…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.

Catch you next week xx

Without Photoshop

The last 4 weeks I have regularly uploaded my newly formed blog. All excitement! But then week 5 hit, and lacking in energy, stressed by work, time-poor, (all the things) – I thought possibly I wouldn’t get there. Nothing on my list of possible subjects jumped out at me. My week ahead was already full. I just sat at my desk immobilised at thought of making a decision. And, I guess it was this situation that gave me the idea for this post.

Life is a strange thing, and we seem to live in very strange times. I, like most people who own a smart phone, get caught up in all the pretty images of everyone on Instagram, Facebook and other feeds I scroll through. When I do take an image of myself and post it to one of these platforms, I deliberately go through a selection process, cropping and adding a filter – but we can’t do that to life can we? We can’t select what we have to do or go through, we can’t crop the bad bits out, and there is no filter that adds a ‘glow’ to the daily grind. Although we absorb a photoshop experience in our feeds, we don’t in life, so there is a constant discontinuity that we experience.

This is not a new discussion, this has been going on for years – but I thought, because of my week, I’d add my own thoughts into the mix.

A little about me, at the moment I’m teaching filmmaking in Auckland, New Zealand, full-time and also trying to make my own work. Plus I have family responsibilities, life is full, and I’m not complaining. Not at all – I’m so fortunate. However, in this western lifestyle pressures seem to be ever increasing and the negatives are real. Anxiety and mental health concerns are growing in most western populations and the reasons for the incline are varied. Loads of articles point to constant media flows, political turmoil, eco-anxiety, smart phone use, work environments, constant online availability and more. Many of these are aspects in life past generations never faced, so we really have no idea where this is all heading and what it means for our lived experience.

However, it’s not like past generations didn’t have there concerns, didn’t have global turmoil at different times, but there seems to be another layer of tension, and certainly another layer of pressure. I also think being female has its added obstacles when discussing images. In New Zealand there are laws in place restricting gender inequality, however, visually we are still bombarded with images of young, slim, attractive, smiling, women in provocative placements or compositions. Social platforms, of course, augment the ‘perfect’ image of women and drive comparisons ever higher. It’s no wonder the beauty industry is so large, we are all so insecure we rush to the latest product that promises miracle results. But what is it that we are after – because the fact is – we don’t live a photoshopped life, we never have.

Again – this is not new, this discussion about the ‘perfect image’ and women’s bodies being used and fragmented for advertising purposes is… an old story. Everyone knows images are photoshopped, everyone knows how to crop and add filters – but the insecurity stays the same, actually it’s grown. So what is up?

Cropped image of a Carrot Cake, which I’ve changed saturation and tint. I did this in a few minutes, so imagine what time is spent on an image used for advertising.
Wide shot of what is really happening in the kitchen, no cropping, tint or saturation change. (It did taste good, however!!)

The power of the image

Stanley Cavell states:

One can feel that there is always a camera left out of the picture: the one working now. When my limitation to myself feels like a limitation of myself, it seems that I am always leaving something unsaid; as it were, the saying is left out. My problem seems to be that human existence is metaphysically dishonest.

We are aware that there is a camera behind every photo, if we stop to think about it. Actually, if we stop to think about it, we would see all the elements of setting-up, which has been done ‘behind the scenes’. For example, the model may have been getting their make-up and hair done for two hours before they’re sitting in front of the camera. The lighting specialist may have taken an hour to light the room specifically to the tone and mood needed for the photoshoot. But we don’t stop to think. In this way we are dishonest to ourselves. On my commute to work I must see hundreds of images, and even though I teach filmmaking, which is very similar to photography, I very rarely break an image down into its working parts. Firstly, there is just too many, and secondly I have bought into the image industry like most other people. However, the implications that we are not honest with how these images are made and the enormity of images we are seeing has an effect on us.

Because a photograph captures what we call reality, we believe the image is showing a truthful representation of life. Even though we know most images, especially for advertising, are constructed in some way, we still have to work at figuring out what ‘behind-the-scenes’ setting-up took place. Yet, most of us, most of the time, do not do this work – so we get caught up in believing an image as truthful. And, this leads to comparison. Our reality, not being similar to the reality we think we see in the image. This of course is augmented for teenagers as they have a heightened awareness of their peers, and a deep desire to fit in.

Maybe seeing less images would be a good thing. Staying off our phones a little more each day, only scrolling through Facebook a couple of times a week. Stopping and being critical of images we see on billboards and posters. But I’m preaching stuff we already know. The task is actually doing it. And, this is partly why I’ve started this blog in the first place. I really do believe creativity can fill the void to help reduce our need for screens, and our stress levels. If we are engaging in creativity on a daily basis we will be fully present in that moment and not need to disengage from life, because through creativity; life will give us what we need.

Sounds all shinny and roses – and it wont be! Creativity, making time for creativity, deciding what to do, all these things and more will take time and could be stressful. I still think if we stick at it we will be better off.

So – to test is out, next week, everyday I’m going to do something creative with my time, small bite size tasks to get me started. I will blog about it, and show you what I have done, and if I spent less time on screens or not. Hopefully it will be positive, but either way it will be learning experience that I’m willing to take a chance on. 

Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed. Harvard University Press:Cambridge, 1971.

Global vs Local

More and more news articles are discussing environmental anxiety, and I know that I’m more distressed about people and the planet than ever before. Linked here is an article from The Independent, really worth a read, yet it’s first sentences “Plummeting insect numbers. A sixth mass extinction. Thinning of ice sheets. Sea level rise. Wildfires in California. Thawing Arctic permafrost,” really points to why this anxiety is growing. How could it not?

It feels like I’m in the opening sequences of Children of Men, where the population is facing extinction through infertility – different problem, same concern. It’s easy to see how people get into a type of frozen panic, where there is an absolute terror of what is happening, but an inability to act.

Britt Wray, in her Ted Talk, states:

“… the American Psychological Association says that our psychological responses to climate change, like conflict avoidance, helplessness and resignation, are growing.”

The issues are so vast, I guess we expect our leaders to do the work, but that isn’t always happening. I get angry with big business and so fed up with politicians that have their hands tied, seemingly doing nothing. These issues are huge, overwhelming and global. I’ve noticed that there are a lot more online petitions to sign and protests to join – especially on Facebook. However, I’m finding this evolving era difficult to know where to put my energy. It’s so crushing that it’s easy to put it nowhere because, well, it’s all a bit much, and there seems to be different scientific data pointing to different outcomes – how do we know what to believe?

Greta Thunberg’s speech was so powerful, so devastating and I was so appalled by the governmental backlash she received. Her emotions were real, her concerns were justified, whatever you think about global warming, she certainly made some pointed remarks.

Interesting enough, the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, stated that we should not be putting children through such anxiety, he states:

“I want children growing up in Australia to feel positive about their future, and I think it is important we give them that confidence that they will not only have a wonderful country and pristine environment to live in, that they will also have an economy to live in as well…I don’t want our children to have anxieties about these issues.”

I’m not sure where he gets the idea that his country has a pristine environment. We don’t have to look too far to see that most countries around the world DO NOT have pristine environments anymore. And this is not a comment on Scott Morrison, many governments around the globe had similar things to say.

Sad – that it is the youth who are accelerating the issues and not the older generations pushing for change. I agree with Greta, that the world is in a sorry state of affairs when children have to publicly demand for political action.

Luisa Neubauer, (youth activist) at  TedxYouth 2019 states:

I travelled to the Climate Conference and wanted to find out what this is really like, what this is about. For political realists, this might be no surprise, but I found it hard to bear: that fossil fuel industries and political leaders are doing everything, everything to prevent real change from happening. They are not keen to set targets that are ambitious enough to put us on a below-two-degree pathway. After all, these are the only ones who benefit from this climate crisis, right? The fossil fuel industry generates profits, and political leaders, well, they look at the next election, at what makes them popular, and I guess that’s not asking the inconvenient questions. There is no intention for them to change the game. There is no country in the world where either companies or political powers are sanctioned for wrecking the climate.

The one aspect that struck me was a particular carbon emissions graph she used, not the 21 Century graph showing a slight increase of emissions over 20 years, but the terrifying graph showing emissions over 10,000 years. An extraordinary picture – a very clear indicator of the human factor.  (If you’re not sure – just google it)…

What Luisa asks us all to do is become activists, push for change, question politicians, to combat this growing anxiety of the global situation. I might not be able to change what is happening in other parts of the world, but surely I can make my voice heard locally. And that is where I think we can all make a start. In part, this is why I’ve started blogging. I just need to do something, say something, create something.

I also believe that living in New Zealand, a long way from some of the bigger global issues, it can be easy to put blinkers on and just live life ignoring what is going on. However, that position is also changing as in our local neighbourhood, especially, the Pacific Islands are under extreme pressure from rising sea levels. Some small, low lying Islands, have completely disappeared.

Photo from my visit to Tonga on the main Island, Tongatapu

Watch this ABC report on The Marshall Islands, or this powerful documentary on Kiribati, not so far away.

Also, New Zealand is an agricultural nation, the dairy industry is one of our biggest exports, and this industry isn’t exactly the cleanest… but that’s an entirely other blog post!!

So, what to do? Well one thing that can relieve some anxiety are the small things, privately – in your own home, for example, gardening, composting, recycling and consuming less. And I’m all for that – but sadly that’s not going to make enough changes, which is why we have to get public on these issues.

Start by reading more on the topics, talk about issues with family, friends, and colleagues. Also get involved in the community, understand what effects the changing environment has around you, vote for local Politians that have environmental plans in place, question big brands on their climate actions. I know it all sounds a bit much, and I’m freaking out as much as anyone, but I’m willing to start. We have to get creative and get active. Start small, just do one thing and see where it leads.

I’m no activist, this is all new to me, but I can’t just watch those images of people losing their home Islands to rising sea levels, or watch on as ever increasing storms hit areas around our globe and do nothing. We all have a stake in this. This is so not going away. I wish it wasn’t like this, but the reality is what it is. No fairy tale endings here.

Walking on Cornwallis Beach, Manukau Harbour, Auckland

My personal challenge, over the next 12 months, is to join local groups, get involved in the community more, help assist my local area, and to put energy into my corner of the world. I can’t do everything, but to feel more confident in myself, to feel that I’m at least doing the best, I need to do something!