Saturday 16th / Sunday 17th November 2019 (00:35hrs) :
I hope you’ve all been enjoying and following my series of posts in my ‘Winter Survival Guide’, and have found some of my suggestions helpful.
I thought it would be a nice idea to actually share with you my own efforts to put some of my ideas into practice, and hopefully you will be inspired to join in.
This isn’t necessarily going to be in the order of my original posts, and for some of the ‘smaller’ and more lighter hearted suggestions (such as dancing along to Christmas music! 😉 ) you’ll have to browse through the comments sections of my Winter Survival Guide to see any updates I’ve put in there, but for the more eventful suggestions I’ll write longer posts.
I’ve actually been stuck inside all day today by myself, and truth be told I had a bit of a dip in my mood this evening as some things have been bothering me, but I’m working through them and have been enjoying some quiet reflective times listening to Scripture, cosying up on my couch and watching Grey’s Anatomy, as well as doing some tidying up around the house, talking to my parents on the phone, blogging – of course, and having a little ‘dance party’ of my own. So although the updates on my wintery walks aren’t from today, I have been putting into practice some of the other, cosier, indoor tips from my Winter Survival Guide. However, here are some pictures from some wintery walks in the park and observations in the city’s main train station from a little earlier on. I hope that it brings some joy and inspiration to you even if you can’t get outside yourself today. Be blessed, and happy beautiful wintery journey to you. x
Have you ever thought about the difference between procrastination and creative thinking in your life? Procrastination is when you know you need to do something but keep coming up with excuses to put it off. I’m sure we’ve all been there! Some of us may even spend most of our time there, which surely can’t be too good in the practical day to day things of life.
However, if you are a creative person, then maybe at some point in your life you’ve been labelled or have labelled yourself as ‘lazy’. But is this actually the case?
Think of a project you’ve been working on for a long time, something that requires thought, focus, commitment, insight. Maybe you’re a painter, a sculptor, a musician / composer, working on a photography project, or like me, a writer. Has there been something that you have had as an on-going creative venture, that is very important to you, but that somehow you keep ‘stop-starting’ and yet with no intention of giving up?
Maybe you are overly critical of yourself about this. In a world that is fast-paced, filled with deadlines, and timelines, it can be difficult to see the positives in letting things rest for a while. Obviously, if you are working to external deadlines such as writing for a publisher / book deal, preparing for an exhibition with a set date, or working on a commissioned piece of art, then you may in fact be procrastinating if you are putting off what you know needs to be done.
But what if you are solely creating something with no other demands imposed other than it is something you feel you need to do and to express? I have been working on a novel for ten years, and it involves a lot of personal reflection, as well as progressing on my journey of processing and healing past experiences and present realities. I used to think, when I was younger, that I would have written my book by such and such an age. Is it failure that I haven’t? Or is it woven within the fabric of this ‘life’s work’ itself? Isn’t it the case that something coming from the deepest parts of me to find expression and life as I continue to learn and make sense of things needs and in fact deserves time?
When I am not working on my novel, which can be for months on end (I could look at this as because I am busy with other commitments, need longer focused periods of time, etc.) the creative process is still happening. It hasn’t stopped just because there is a pause in the writing, just as your creative process maybe continuing even when for a time you have put down your pen, pencil, paintbrush, composition notebook, camera, sculpting tools, musical instrument, or whatever it may be for you. During the ‘fallow’ periods of ‘not writing’ my novel, I still continue to write in other ways that require less focus and emotional and psychological investment which can actually be a relief from the difficulty and intensity of expressing in art personal pain and growth. My mind continues to process and ‘sift’ through experiences, gaining insight as I continue on my life path, and perhaps subconsciously working out ‘solutions’ to yet to be answered questions in my novel itself. I learn new things from my experiences, from people around me, from reading, and gain insight, inspiration and new ideas even when I am not working specifically on my creative project. And when I come back to it, I realise that I hadn’t actually ‘left’ it. Just as in music, those moments of silence, of pause, of reflection can be profound and imbued with power and meaning and emotion, so too can the times of rest in our creative journey.
Can you relate? Maybe if you are in a similar position and if it is the case that you are giving yourself a hard time over not investing time in something so important to you creatively, you could instead consider all of the many ways that the rest and silence is not in fact laziness or procrastination but a form of growth, insight, of learning, and exploring other people’s creativity, or reflecting upon and sifting through your own inner journey so that when you do once more give yourself to your creative work, things are more focused, have a greater depth, authenticity and sharpness to them.
It’s just a thought that I’ve come to realise gives me greater freedom from self-imposed expectations on my creative journey. What about you? Would love to hear your thoughts and insights into your own creative processes.
Autumn is one of my favourite times of the year. At least it is when the days are crisp, cool, and there is a hint of sunshine. I’m not so keen on those rainy, wind-swept blustery days, so it has been a blessing to wake up to the gift of some really special, sun-kissed autumnal mornings.
I live in a city, but you don’t have to wander too far before coming upon a park or green space that takes you away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s one of my favourite things about living where I do.
So, I’d like to share with you some of the tender moments of autumn that I captured during a stroll in the park last Saturday. I had a belated birthday lunch with a couple of good friends, which is one of the nice things about living in the city, so many options and opportunities to connect with people, and to enjoy some tasty cuisine – the variety seems endless! Afterwards I decided to walk home through the park, and I often find these walks some of the sweetest moments in my ‘ordinary’ life. I am so grateful to live in the hub of a city, but still to have nature around me in some way or another. The pace slows, people stroll rather than rush, and there is time – time to linger, to notice, to chat, or to contemplate life in solitude. There is time to watch the world go by, to observe individuals, joggers, photographers, students, older couples, young families, toddlers finding joy in the simple things like jumping up and down a pile of crisp golden leaves, or watching squirrels scampering to burry food for the winter. The squirrels were probably the most rushed creatures in the park, everyone else had more of a sense of ease about them, which if you are a city dweller you know that that isn’t generally the norm.
I hope you enjoy ‘pausing’ with me for a moment, to enjoy the beauty of these autumnal gifts. What is autumn / fall like where you are? Is there anything in particular that you love most about this season? Happy wandering, friends. x
What is it about blogging – whether reading and following blogs, and / or writing and updating your own blog/s that keeps you coming back for more? It’s an interesting point to ponder, and one which I’d like to think about and explore in this post, and possibly subsequent posts. Now, I know some of you blog for monetary purposes, I’m personally a ‘fledgling’ blogger and it’s not something I do, it’s not where I am on my blogging journey, not yet at least, however for those off you who do, I’ve noticed a few things: 1. Your passion drives your blogging ventures as much as any financial impetus, and that’s what brings authenticity to your work. 2. Earning money is not your sole reason for blogging, there is clearly something more than that, whether that be self expression, sharing life lessons or displaying your creative talents, and this could be why you have readers coming back faithfully, sharing your journey.
With that being said, let’s erase any dividing line between bloggers who earn money from blogging and those of us who don’t. Having taken that away, we’re all just people on an ‘equal playing field’ so to speak, and it’s from here I’d like to explore some of the psychological benefits of blogging, irrespective of whether or not there is monetary gain.
Technology: Great Servant, but a Bad Master:
Author of ‘The Happiness Project’, Gretchen Rubin says that technology is a great servant but a bad master. I think this is a wonderful concept to ponder.
Often the discourse around technology nowadays includes the concerns that many people have about how the use and misuse or overuse of technology is negatively impacting relationships and individuals’ mental health. For example, children and young people are said to be so engaged in online words that they lack the ability to forge deep and meaningful relationships and friendships. We risk becoming less attentive to the people we are sharing our lives with because of an growing obsession to share pictures of our perhaps half-lived experiences online. We crave the instant gratification of ‘likes’ rather than quietly spending time to develop the deeper aspects of our characters that we ourselves can honestly like. We fall into the comparison trap whenever we see the amazing experiences of other people’s (perhaps filtered) lives and we feel a sense of frustration, overwhelm, dissatisfaction and psychological and emotional burnout that comes from information overload, negative input and lack of space and time (or failure to carve that out for ourselves) to process what we are taking in.
HOWEVER, these negative effects are not always the case. As Rubin says, bad master, good servant. So what of blogging? Why am I exploring the benefits of blogging when perhaps a lot of the discourse about our use of technology is tinged with negativity?
Can Blogging be Good for You?
I would say a resounding ‘YES’. I don’t say that it always is good, but that it definitely can be.
1. Everyone has a story to tell:
In all the rush and hurry of life, sometimes (or oftentimes) we can feel that our voices are being drowned out. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has the need to feel and be validated. However, we are not always given the time or space to tell our stories, to be listened to or heard. Yet, here as bloggers we have this little space carved out where we can do exactly that, and whether one person or a million people read our stories, we have a platform to share, to express ourselves, and the gift of being listened to.
Furthermore, we are able to give the same gift to others, when we take the time to listen to their stories, to hear what they have to say, to appreciate who they are as well as their work. The validation may not come in the way people expect on the more ‘instant’ platforms where for example we post a photograph and wait to see how many ‘likes’ we get. Sure, someone may ‘like’ a blog post, but they may not, and yet that doesn’t take away from the possibility that people are reading and appreciating what we and others do, whether or not they express that. The platform in itself is a gift in being able to tell our stories, with the possibility of being heard, because everyone in life has something worthwhile to share.
2. The luxury of time.
One of the psychological benefits of blogging that I find is that it is a slow and steady process. When I sit down to write my blog, I am not posting anything to be sent out instantaneously (not that there is anything wrong with that). I presume we are all quite similar in that respect, as bloggers. Even if your post is a picture and a snippet of commentary, you are still putting more time and thought into it than simply sharing or forwarding something that someone else has said.
When I write, I need to pause to think, to allow myself to explore what it is that is simmering under the surface of my conscious thought and to form those ideas into words, sentences, images. It means that as we do so, we put more of ourselves into what we are doing, and I believe that honest self expression and the time that we give ourselves to do that has real psychological benefits just as much as journaling might have for some people. The tangle of unexpressed thoughts within us can find expression, form and sense as we take the time to share them.
In a world where so much is driven by materialism, consumerism, trends, fashions, fads and influences, we can sometimes risk being ‘swamped’ or drowned out by other people’s opinions, ideas and ways of life. I find that blogging takes me away from that to a more settled, quieter, calmer space where I can be authentic, whether or not anyone else will see that. Having that space to express our authentic selves is a wonderful outlet with psychological and emotional benefits in a world that so often wants to press us into its mould.
4. You are not alone, and the world is full of interesting people…
Sometimes we can feel quite alone in this world. Even with people around us we might feel like a ‘misfit’ in terms of our age, stage of life, or experience. However, there are billions of people on this planet, and many who are fortunate and privileged enough to have access to technology. This opens up to us new vistas of opportunity and possibility – we realise that the world is far more interesting and diverse that what we have experienced first hand, and we are granted the exciting access of a glimpse into people’s lives from all across the world. We are also reminded that however diverse our experiences may be, there is something fundamentally familiar about the minds and lives of other people – something so distinct about being human that we all share. And even if the people in your daily life that you meet and talk with face to face don’t share what you are going through, there is bound to be someone out there in the blogging world who does, and who could even offer you hope that you can, for example, get through a difficult situation when you see that they have been through similar, or encouragement and inspiration for your pursuits and opportunities for learning and growth in areas of expertise. Blogging also provides us with the opportunity to help and encourage other people with what we ourselves have learned in life. It brings together people of different ages, nationalities and interests. You are not alone, we are not alone, and the world is full of interesting people, and blogging opens up the opportunity to learn so much more about that which surely is a good thing for the mind and the imagination.
5. All the Little Things…
Sometimes I find that blogging helps me to stay ‘on track’ with certain aspects of my life. Even if I go through a spell of being busy or not blogging regularly, I can still come back to it and record whatever I’m thinking, talk about any aspect of my life, discuss projects I’m working on, and even the little day to day things that we need to keep motivated on such as home keeping, having a good attitude at work, maintaining routines, health and nutrition and all of the other ‘little things’ that make up the fabric of life, as well as those more interesting experiences such as travel for example.
It’s nice to know that these little things are shared by other people, and blogging can benefit us psychologically as we use it as a space to remember that the little things matter, they’re not insignificant, and it can be fun and helpful emotionally and mentally to be able to look back on our year, our lives and journeys through our blog posts to see how we have grown, changed and how our ideas and interests have developed.
So what about you? What are the benefits you find of blogging? And how has blogging helped you to develop and grow as a person? Something to think about and thank you for your wonderful posts and insights into life as you see it 🙂 x
Even when slowing down within the creative process, it can be that we find that we feel rushed within certain areas of ourselves inwardly. Part of the process of creativity is deep connection, and therefore we need to be aware that there can sometimes be a disconnect even when we slow down to write.
I have been experiencing the calm of engaging creatively with my writing. And yet, I sense an inward restlessness, and so I am going to pause and take a break away from writing my book to exercise my sense of connection.
It is quite simple, and is helpful for managing anxiety as well. Slow down, turn off distractions, and concentrate on your five senses, one at a time.
Observe, notice, experience, feel, the following, if you are able:
5 things you can see
4 things you can hear
3 things you can touch
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
Don’t rush through it. Don’t think of what you want to or ‘should be’ creating. If you like, play some gentle instrumental music quietly in the background to help you compose your breathing and concentration. Focus on your experience and enjoying being present in it. We can’t create the similitude of an experience well, if we haven’t first learned to live it….in and for itself.
Ok, so I’m not actually going to be staying in a cute and cosy log cabin in the woods, but I did feel that in line with my teenage dreams from years ago a picture of a log cabin was a necessity – don’t you agree? 🙂
As per my earlier post on planning a retreat, I have carved out some space and time for myself to focus on a couple of projects that are important to me. I am fortunate enough to live alone and have a cosy flat which affords me the opportunity for creativity and solitude. I have also taken three days off work so that I can focus more seriously on my writing, and also intersperse that with a couple of other creative projects, and taking that time off means that I have given myself a sense of accountability to use it well. I had tried to plan working writing time into my after work time in the evenings and at weekends. However, this didn’t quite work for me. There would be days when I’d feel particularly productive, creative and motivated and I could use the time well, but on the whole that plan and intention just seemed to slip by the wayside. After work I’d come home and would have to organise dinner (however quick and simple that might be for a bachelorette! 🙂 ) but I’d also want to use the time just to unwind, or on a good day maybe go for a walk or do some exercise inside, and of course I’d get caught up in frittering away my time online. Additionally on one night of the week I’d attend a Bible study and prayer group, and throughout the week I’d also make time to pray, so really the writing after work plan wasn’t fitting in with my lifestyle and concentration levels after work. I have in the past taken time off, 5 days I think which in addition to the weekends gave me a lovely 9 day stretch of time to focus on working on my book. I don’t know about you with your creative or other pursuits, but I feel that with creative projects you can’t merely schedule in a little bit of time every day to really do your best work. Blogging helps me to write regularly, and it doesn’t require the same amount of emotional and mental concentration as writing my novel does, but it is so helpful in keeping up the practice of writing on a reasonably regular basis (although I apologise for the times when I seem to go ‘AWOL’ due to life getting busy). I also write regularly as a part of my role at work doing policy and research work, but that involves formal business writing, which although I am quite proficient in, for the most part it isn’t such a passionate affair for me as creative writing is.
For me, setting aside focused creative writing time involves a build up and a cool down in a sense. The build up, or preparatory time is moving out of the zone of my Monday to Friday work schedule and easing myself into a more creative ‘space’. Over the past few days, since Thursday (it is Sunday as I write this) I have been gently easing into this by blogging about preparing a personal retreat, and then getting my home organized a bit so that I won’t be overly distracted by pending housework (although there is still some stuff needing done, but isn’t there always? It’s important to have some set aside tidy space to be creative, but at the same time to ensure we use the time fully even if that means we need to attend to other less pressing ‘chores’ in other rooms at a future time. Boundaries need to be drawn around our set aside time so that we can pursue our dreams and not lose them in the midst of the day to day of our lives). I also spent some time sitting quietly with my thoughts, processing some emotions including difficult ones, and I have been spending time in prayer and resting, walking outside and engaging again in adult colouring in. These things may seem unrelated to the task at hand, but it sometimes takes a little time to allow our minds to inhabit a focused creative space to engage more fully in a specific project.
However, I also realise the importance of not allowing ‘preparation’ – both internal and external – to become a distraction from what I actually want to use the time for. And it can so easily become a distraction, because for some strange reason we can tend to find reasons to not focus on the things in life we love to do and create.
So, all in all, this blog post is me giving myself a bit of accountability by sharing it with you. This is ‘life as it happens to be’ for me right now, and you are all an important part of that journey. So hopefully this will allow me to move more determinedly out of the preparation space and into inhabiting a focused creative space. I may or may not leave my home over the next three days, we’ll see, and hopefully if you don’t see much from me on my blog over the next few days that will mean I am being productive and creative elsewhere, and will have more to share with you on my ‘return’. If however, you do see more of me here, feel free to give me a sharp reminder to stay focused and stop procrastinating, and get back to it! 🙂
So, over to you – do you have any creative projects or ventures planned this year? I wish you all the very best with them, and with your reading and blogging. xx
Writing Goals: For the sake of keeping myself accountable, I think I should specify some writing goals to achieve during my time. As much as I’d love to say my goal is to write for, say 8 hours a day for the next three and a half days, that may be a little unrealistic and discouraging if I don’t meet that. It takes time to read over what I have already been working on (for the past several years!) and quality is important, not just quantity of time or words. So instead, I’ll set a minimum standard and aim for writing (not including re-reading time) at least 15 minutes every hour for a minimum of 7 sessions a day. I hope and intend to write for a few hours at a time, but at least this way I am not adding extra pressure to myself during the creative process, but am setting goals and boundaries to ensure that I don’t just fritter away my time and not get anything done. Here goes….wish me well 🙂 x