On writing things down 


Help! I need a second brain – my first one is full of crap.

Recently I discovered how nice it feels to write things down, and how quiet my mind is after i’ve organised my thoughts. I saw people posting their fresh new diaries and was reminded how nice it is to work in analog. Filling in a blank page with words is intensely satisfying, similar to hitting publish on a blog post that i’d been mulling over for a week – like this one! A few weeks ago I picked up a Moleskine from Officeworks and designated him as my second brain for the year. Let me tell you about how Inigo, yes, I pretty much name every important object in my life, has changed me for the better.

 

I’m not one for glitter pens or planning my day into 30 minute increments in pastel pink, but lists? Lists are amazing. My previous method for writing lists and appointments would be to jot it down on the nearest piece of paper (receipts, labels, toilet paper etc.) and then lose the list immediately. This method is great if you’d like to spend your day worrying about what you’ve forgotten to do rather than writing, doing creative projects etc.

The feeling of trying to remember everything and worrying about what i’ve forgotten is enough to leave absolutely no room for creative thinking. I’ll sit down to write and all I can think about is “socks, socks, buy some damn socks you trench-footed baby adult.” The volume in my brain is turned up so loud that I am completely stalled in whatever i’m doing. Writing things down in the one spot is like letting my brain breathe, leaving plenty of room for my weird little ideas to convince me that they need to be written about. I know exactly where to go when I need to look at lists, timetables, rosters, and have somewhere to write if I come up with something and i’m not within arms length of my macbook.

If you also feel like writing things out is helpful, I loosely follow the bullet journal style of cataloguing and you can watch a quick video about it here.  I’ve found this method of logging daily tasks to be the best to ensure I get things done while giving me the freedom to write down anything, take up as many pages as I need, and know that I can still locate important information.

Keeping track of things and using method of organisation that condenses my useless internal chatter into an A5 rectangle?

Inconceivable!

inigo

Thanks Inigo.

*Seriously please watch The Princess Bride if you haven’t already, we’ll understand each other much more easily.

“Oh, how creative.”

  

There’s no arguing that creativity can be a messy, confusing process no matter what it is you’re into. Something I’ve found to be just as if not more frustrating than actually doing the work is trying to explain the thing that you’re doing to people who don’t really want to understand.

If you are one of these people whether you make candles, poetry, miniature train sets or play violin at the local train station — chances are you’ve had to explain yourself to someone who doesn’t understand, or someone who sees creative thinking as a frivolous pastime. It’s incredibly frustrating to have people ask when they don’t really care, or already have a preconceived idea about how you live or spend your time. Creativity isn’t just an excuse for creative people to sit back and allow everyone else to slog out the 9-5 while we, the throng of creative do-nothings, roll naked down a grassy hill.

As a person with my creepy skeleton fingers in many weird-tasting pies, I’ve received the dismissive comments about what I do many times, and for a while it stressed me out so much that I just stopped telling people. Meeting new people left me with heart palpitations and boob sweat because I knew at least a third of the encounter would be me trying to explain myself, as if I was apologising for doing something that brings me so much enjoyment.

Between writing, ceramics, and making jewellery out of oven-hardening clay, the response I receive quite often is the same variation of “Oh, you do (insert creative skill)? – that must be nice, to have so much time on your hands …” or when people half-heartedly asking how my “little writing projects” are coming along as they stare off into the distance wistfully noting that they don’t even have time to paint their nails anymore. I just didn’t see the point in putting myself through that, until I started answering these half-hearted questions so honestly and with as much confidence as I could gather that people either stopped giving me the not-so-subtle put down or I just didn’t care what they thought because I was doing the work that was fulfilling and exciting for me.

I sound like I’m oversimplifying the solution if I say to ‘just stop caring’. But really, I just stopped giving a shit what everyone else thinks of me/my work, and it sounds brutal but I honestly don’t think a lot of people care what anyone else is doing, and that’s alright. When you consider how wrapped up everyone is in their own problems and how little time they spend thinking/talking about you, it just makes it a lot easier to stop worrying. Just be ridiculously excited about what you’re doing, let everyone know about it if they dare to ask, and if they’re dismissive or condescending – that’s cool, just don’t waste your time having any sort of similar conversation with them again. 

As Chuck Wendig notes in his blog post 25 Things You Should Know About Creativity, he’s devised the perfect way to deal with the “Oh, how creative” mindset:

“Hey, fuck those people. Fuck ‘em because they don’t grok the fact that creativity is what makes this whole human race not just function, but evolve.”

I’m not suggesting that creativity is the cure-all for everything screwed up in the world, but I just think that those who think that creative people don’t work hard or don’t ‘grind’ as much as everyone else are being ridiculous. Everyone works hard. A lot of people work multiple jobs and still come home with swollen ankles and do their dance practice, or spend nights painting while the kids sleep. Even if it makes no money, if it goes nowhere in the eyes of others, and it’s something you would do regardless and it makes you happy – I think that means you should definitely fucking do it irrespective of what everyone else might think.

Mad Plant Monday: Writing and Bravery

  
I’ve seen everyone in the writing community gushing over Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel Big Magic, and I couldn’t help but grab the soft cover in my clammy little paws when I saw it’s colourful goodness sitting on the shelf in my local bookshop. If you’re in a creative rut or looking for a summer read i’d highly recommend it from my very limited view of 45 pages deep. I was really heartened by the chapter on fear. She discusses the importance of acknowledging fear and accepting its’ place in the creative process, but knowing when to ignore it and push on with things.

“You have treasures hidden within you – extraordinary treasures – and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”

So basically there’s no better time to suck it up and be a brave little cookie. This is something i’ve struggled with, being brave. I’m scared of a lot of things. Yesterday afternoon I stood on a fallen passionfruit while walking the dog and squealed bloody murder because my first thought was FROG FROG I’VE STEPPED ON A FROG. So between that, grasshopper legs, crinkle cut chips and terracotta, i’m a delight. But there’s something that probably scares me more than grasshopper legs, and it’s my problem with sharing my work. This has been arguably my biggest setback. I judge too harshly and never feel ready to let my work go and be what it’s supposed to be. But how is that helpful? When will it ever be good enough?

I’ve started trying to accept that i’ll never feel totally ready to declare a piece finished. And the less i’ve stopped hoarding writing in the depths of my writing folder and more i’ve put out there the easier it’s all become. Writing begets writing, success begets success and so on. There will always be more ideas, a new way to examine something, a better word – but there’s never going to be a better time to have a go than right now.

For more words on bravery and a little tough love be sure to check out this recent post by Chuck Wendig entitled Go Big, Go Weird, Go You, And Fuck Fear in the Ear. He’s really subtle about it.

Ax

What if the pool runs dry?

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Running out of material is something that threatens to leave a bit of pee running down my leg. I want to be in it for the long haul, but what if one day the words just stop? This fear is something that hinders my writing, or more accurately, stops me from writing at all. I worry that I will write everything i’m capable of, everything about me and my experiences, and have nothing noteworthy or interesting left. Instead i’ll sit down and write about a pivotal moment in my life, or a piece that i’ve been sitting on for weeks, and i’ll just let it sit all sad and stagnant on my desktop.

Recently i’ve come to realise that in order to be a writer you actually have to let people see your stuff, and in order for people to see your stuff you have to put on a brave face and throw it out there. Read More »

It’s OK to Have a Lazy Day

How could you not be happy with these two in the sunshine?
How could you not be happy with these two in the sunshine?

I love the ideas of lazy days, of sleep ins and homemade breakfasts and staying in your pyjamas all day. But when I try to emulate that ‘Sunday vibe’ everyone seem to have down to an art form I feel anxious, like I should be doing something more productive.

Today was a public holiday in most of Australia. Everyone on instagram were sharing their sleep-ins, day trips, and movie marathons. It’s really nice to see people kicking back and enjoying themselves, and I wish I could do the same without that little niggling worry that i’m being lazy/wasting my day.

But I was adamant that I would relax and do the things people were all out doing. I went to a cafe and sat with Baxter and had a coffee while reading Anne Lamott’s Some Instructions on Writing and Life. We then ventured to the crowded dog park so Baxter could bound around and be the schoolyard bully he fancies himself as. And it was fun. Coffee and dogs is always something guaranteed to make me happy, as long as I can ignore the little voice in my head telling me to get home, buckle down, find my dream job as a freelance writer and stop faffing the day away. I’ve started calling the voice Barb, and our one-sided conversations usually go a little bit like this:

Barb: “Hey, is drinking coffee going to get shit done? We can sit around drinking coffee when you’re 70 and retired, you know.”

Barb started to get really loud and nasal, so I headed home with the mindset that I would smash out a few articles to submit, write a couple of blog posts, finish my book and then relax.

Instead I came home and ate, did laundry, scrutinised my split ends, and ate some more. I wasn’t hungry, I was stalling. I stymied myself with worry and ended up not getting much done at all. After I was done mentally berating myself, I made a coffee and watched an episode of Wentworth. I actually watched it without trying to multitask and relaxed, and it was so good. I sat back afterwards and wondered why I had stressed myself out so much. If I had chilled out, told Barb to shove it and let myself do what I felt like doing without over-committing with a massive to-do list, I probably would have got a lot more done.

So this is my promise to be a little nicer to myself, and work on quieting that little voice that hurries me along instead of sitting back and enjoying myself.

If anyone ever feels similar, I’d love to hear about it and know that i’m not the only one with an inner Barb. Although if you call your niggling little voice Barb that would be freaky and we’re probably soul sisters/siblings.

A x

Pottery Club

My love of clay began when I gifted my Nan a metallic green pig I had sculpted in art class at school.  It had little beady eyes and an altogether unsettling body composition, but I was so proud of it, and the deformed little sentinel still stands guard in her foyer.

I didn’t touch clay again until I discovered the joys of oven-bake clay in November 2011. Clay that you can cure in a little toaster oven in just 15 minutes? Magic! From there I began making miniature food sculptures you can wear as jewellery. I realise that sentence is a little confusing for someone who doesn’t spend hours sculpting a carrot the size of a matchstick, so it’s probably easier for you to get the gist by having a quick squiz here to really understand what i’m blabbing about. Yes, it’s an extremely niche market, but thankfully yes, people really do buy/wear them.

For as long as I can remember wheel thrown pottery has always mesmerised me, but classes were few and far between, and were almost always booked up well in advanced. For my 23rd birthday I was determined to find a class with open spaces, and a new studio opened up just a suburb away. The thought of trying to wrangle a hunk of clay on a spinning wheel using nothing but centrifugal force and my hands was a dizzying concept, and more than just being fun, it would be functional! I might be able to make things that can hold water and food and look aesthetically pleasing – unlike my metallic pig.

I struggled through my first couple of classes. Getting that little lump of stoneware clay to sit in the middle of the wheel-head seemed near impossible, and being left-handed added an exciting little learning curve. My instructor insisted I was a natural, but I felt more like a fraud as I did in music class, holding up the clarinet and pretending to play without having a clue what I was doing. After a few lessons of me gritting my teeth trying to make things that looked less like stunted little vessels that were either too thick or dangerously thin, it all started to flow much more easily.

Wheel throwing has forced me gather a modicum of patience. I was so used to having a near instant end result with oven-baked clay. I could start and finish a piece in under an hour, but now it takes more like 3 weeks, as I only have one day a week in the studio and things need time to firm up between trimming/bisque firing/glazing. I started classes almost two months ago and it was only last week that I sent my first two little planters to the mercy of the kiln gods. They’re not perfect, but they’ll be the first thing I’ll be able to hold in my hand as a finished product. As I put them on the firing shelf I muttered my goodbyes, telling them to “Make Mummy proud or don’t bother coming home.” One of the resident potters happened to walk in at that time and had a good giggle, noting that she too had that same nervous feeling when she started.

In just two days i’ll be able to see how they went on their little journey. They might have exploded, or the glaze might have run and turned them into a permanent art installation in the kiln. I’ll admit that the waiting is killing me, but the process was half the fun.

A x.

Hungry

Photo by Mark_K_ on Flickr
Photo by Mark_K_ on Flickr

After graduation I was satiated. I thought I had eaten and dished out more words than I could ever read/write/speak again. I revelled in the feeling of having nothing due, to go to sleep without triple-checking to ensure I did in fact set my alarm. I was in a state of blissful limbo, where I felt the space between graduating and work was a good place to rest because damn, I had worked hard.

I worked in my unfulfilling cafe job and spent all my in-between time sculpting. I loved having the time and freedom to pursue my art, and I had no intentions to write, read, or do anything in relation to my degree. I had no idea what I was doing, floating through the weeks in the hopes that my dream job would yank me out of hibernation and inspire me to continue what I used to love and do for fun.

That feeling of euphoric freedom faded as swiftly as it had come. Small talk with strangers became difficult, because when they asked what I do for a living I stuttered and made excuses trying to justify my state of nothingness.

Up until now I had been stagnant, but it all became too much. Doing nothing was weighing on me more than when I was running myself ragged, and that gnawing need to write started to bug me. At first writing was hard, I felt like a newborn baby giraffe stumbling around clumsily. But now it’s just started happening, as weird as it sounds. I’m writing in my head constantly, most of it is shit, I mean it’s not like I picked up a pen and became a writing savant or anything. But I’ve started carrying my journal around just in case, and i’ve actually picked up my university textbooks again. For the first time, in a very long time, I can call myself a writer and actually mean it.