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LESSONS LEARNED

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Sometimes the internet is just the place to find that ass kickin’ dose of tough love that deep down you know you need (the other place is my friend Candice, she’s good. Really good.).

99U is one of my favourite sites for just such a butt-kicking, from the practical to the existential, and everything in between, they’ve got it covered. Last week I found myself bookmarking 2 of their posts and returning to them more then once to remind myself of the wisdom within…

An excerpt from the new 99U book, featuring, amongst others, Seth Godin…

Everybody who does creative work has figured out how to deal with their own demons to get their work done. There is no evidence that setting up your easel like Van Gogh makes you paint better. Tactics are idiosyncratic. But strategies are universal, and there are a lot of talented folks who are not succeeding the way they want to because their strategies are broken.

The strategy is simple, I think. The strategy is to have a practice, and what it means to have a practice is to regularly and reliably do the work in a habitual way.

There are many ways you can signify to yourself that you are doing your practice. For example, some people wear a white lab coat or a particular pair of glasses, or always work in a specific place—in doing these things, they are professionalizing their art.

The notion that I do my work here, now, like this, even when I do not feel like it, and especially when I do not feel like it, is very important. Because lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you don’t feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is your work and not your hobby.

I was instantly reminded of Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit, where she talks about ritual and routine as ways to kickstart your day, to slip into your creative routine and maintain momentum.

It’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, my life at the moment is the opposite of routine and ritual. I don’t really have a home, my time is split almost 50/50 between Devon and London so I’m constantly on the move, and there has been so much family upheaval in the last 18 months that as a family (both immediate and extended) we’re still trying to figure out the new normal. At the moment, nothing is permanent.

So routine & ritual? I should be so lucky! Along with a home, it’s the one thing I would wish for if I had a magic lamp in my hands right now.

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Of course, all this upheaval, travel, change and general stress can take it’s toll on a girl, and at times I find myself projecting that anxiety onto other people.

Empathy, and trying to think more kindly of people I have no real knowledge of is something I’m try to do more of (much to the frustration of some people who seem to think it’s just me being contrary or argumentative). But under duress, snap judgements of people become much easier than putting the effort into considering the alternatives (have you read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell? Brilliant book.). So I was happy to come across this excerpt from a 2005 commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace, urging listeners to live life mindfully and to have empathy for our fellow humans:

Most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible.

It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options.

You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.

I’m also sure that thinking better of other people can only help you think better of yourself in the long run. And that has to be a good thing, right?

Here endeth Monday’s lesson! x

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One Response to LESSONS LEARNED

  1. anaibb 22 May 2013 at 10:03 am #

    Lovely post with lots of true points here. I definitely think as you: “Thinking better of others can only help youthink better of yourself.” And if it suits you 🙂 I do have a home and don’t travel as much as you do but I’m finding hard to find and get my creative habit on track!

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