Ordinary things

As I write, the neighbours are sitting on their verandah eating dinner together. Mum and dad and two kids. I guess it’s a bit unusual in this day and age to see such a stereotypical nuclear family, but nevertheless it’s lovely to hear them as they sit in the autumn air laughing and chatting together while they eat. It’s not perfect, the kids bicker and try to wrestle one another in an effort to avoid eating their vegies. Dad has to lay down the law about finishing their dinner before they are allowed to leave the table.

I find it really comforting in a way I can’t describe, yet here I am trying to describe what’s around me. Things that are ordinary but nice.

A few days ago I commented on the post of a fellow blogger who was concerned that she was writing about ordinary things. No great dramas in her life, just the day to day observations that go with raising a family. I told her that she shouldn’t worry about being ordinary. That what was ordinary to her could quite well be interesting and meaningful to others.

I meant what I said, but I have to admit that I avoid writing because I’m scared that people will find it ordinary or just plain boring. I also avoid writing from the heart because to reveal one’s inner secret’s and vulnerabilities is very scary, even though I know it’s also what makes us human. I love reading posts where people reveal a little of themselves and the way they see the world. I love the sense of connection that comes from recognising that other people have the same fears and interests as me.

So at this Easter time, here’s to you fellow bloggers. You inspire me. Please keep writing and sharing your ideas. You never know when you might strike a chord or touch a heart.

Why I’ll never be famous

Like a lot of bloggers, I have spent a good part of the last few years thinking that one day I’ll be discovered and as a result I’ll become famous in my own small way. I know in my heart of hearts that this is nothing but a silly daydream. For a start, my fantasy doesn’t even get as far as working out what I’ll become famous for.

My blog is a hotchpotch of ideas with no discernible theme or focus and I don’t even post consistently, which is the number one rule for a successful blog. Even worse, I’m not particularly fond of being the focus of attention. Although I have done quite a bit of public speaking and I’ve presented to quite large groups, I am still pretty nervous about being in the limelight and prefer a backstage role. I like to work behind the scenes to help other people look good. So there is no real reason for me wanting a little bit of fame.

When I examine this idea a bit more closely I realise that it’s not really fame that I am seeking, it’s really a much deeper need to say something that matters. I imagine that for many of us, what we want is to be influential in some way. We want our ideas to make a difference to the world.

This is difficult in a world that is crowded with ideas and where everyone wants to be seen as a ‘thought leader’. I had the opportunity to hear quite a well known person speak at a work conference this week and I think that many people in the room regarded this person as a thought leader. She certainly spoke very well but I felt that her talk was merely a collection of borrowed ideas rehashed and rebranded for the audience. What I wanted was something fresh and new. I wanted to have my preconceived ideas poked and prodded. I wanted to be challenged to think deeply or differently about how to be a good leader, however this was sadly missing.

It’s hard to be influential and even harder to be original. Whilst I subscribe to the idea that everyone has a unique view of the world and can therefore always add their own personal take on any issue, I am mindful that people are busy so you need to have something interesting or provocative to say if you are going to take up their valuable time.

These musings have led me to think really seriously about what this blog is for. Whilst it’s primarily an outlet for ideas I’d like to share, on a more fundamental level it’s intended to be encouraging. I feel very strongly that many people have skills and talents that remain unexplored because they afraid of failure. In my case, my creative outlet is writing. I like writing but I find it quite difficult to express myself as well as I would like to. My hope is that if I keep on practicing I’ll improve over time. I am led to believe that this is true of most creative endeavours!

It would be enormously helpful if any of you would care to share your ideas with me. I would particularly like to know what areas you struggle with and if there is anything I can do to help you? Maybe you lack confidence or don’t know quite where to start? I’d be really interested to get some feedback from you.

Blogging challenge: day thirty-one

Well here we are at day thirty-one. I didn’t really think I would make it to the end of this blogging challenge. In case you’ve just joined me, my goal was to write a post every day in May, and I’ve achieved this, so I’m happy about that.

The reason I set myself this challenge was because I was a bit stuck. I hadn’t been posting very much and I got a bit caught up in thinking that I didn’t really have anything to say and/or I needed to write something really profound in order to post something. I wanted to force myself to be in the position where I just had to write something, it didn’t need to be great, I just needed to do it.

After thirty-one days of consecutive posting this is what I have found:

  1. You can write about anything if you really have to. Some days I really felt I had nothing to say, but I got into the habit of being on the lookout for ideas and shareable content. In the end, I found it was quite easy to write about something if I stopped worrying about it needing to be great.
  2. I’ve increased the number of readers (I hate calling you followers, it always sounds like you’re slaves or disciples). I’ve checked out all the blogs of my new subscribers and some of them are fantastic. I’m not sure why you have subscribed to this blog because you haven’t said, but I’m glad you are on board.
  3. This leads me to my next point, which is that only one person has every responded in the comments, despite my pleading. I have no idea how to get people to respond without being offensive, so any suggestions would be great.

I’d like to thank everyone who has joined me on this journey. I would really love some feedback (positive or negative) and I promise I’ll try to blog regularly from now on!

Blogging challenge: day nine

The dinner has been eaten, the dishes have been washed and the guests have made their way to bed. It’s very late and I’m very tired but I couldn’t miss this opportunity to ask you a question…

What is it exactly that you want from a blog that you follow and how does a blogger find out what this is?

I know it helps to have a niche audience and it’s wonderful if you have something interesting to say. That second thing is the one that I struggle with. What do you do on the days when you lose faith in your ability to create something?

The answer? Keep going.

Just keep doing whatever it is that you are doing and sooner or later you will find that your persistence pays off.

Blogging challenge: day eight

I think I’ve reached the point in this blogging challenge where I would normally give up, but I’m determined to push through this time. I didn’t mean that to sound heroic – it’s not like I’m climbing Mount Everest or doing battle with a life threatening illness or anything. I just mean that this is the point where I normally decide that it’s all a bit too hard, and who cares anyway?

You might think that I am a person who gives up too easily, and I’ll admit that this might be true, but this time I’m determined to keep going.

In his book “Harden Up!” Felix Economakis talks about the need to exercise our minds in order to keep our thinking muscles strong. As he says, in the right balance, stress and challenges promote growth and creativity. I think this is true. We all need a little push now and again to get things moving, otherwise we  become lazy and learn how to float along without making any effort. If you are a blogging or writing or creating something beautiful, there are going to be times when you just feel like giving up, but I think these are the very times when you should try to keep going.

I hope that if you are conducting some kind of personal challenge, you’ll just keep on going. If you have any suggestions for how to get past the point where you would like to give up, I would love to hear from you.

Blogging challenge: day six

Is staring at a blank screen harder than staring at a blank page? I don’t think so.

A screen is quite inviting with its little blinking cursor, but a page just looks like an endless ocean of white.

Writing into a computer has the added advantage of being so much easier to erase and I find this comforting. It’s so easy to delete an imperfect sentence or to re-phrase an idea. The permanence of writing pen on paper just plain scares me and I can really only manage to do any creative writing when I’m using a pencil.

This hasn’t stopped me from acquiring a very large collection of different coloured pens in the vain hope that they will inspire me to actually site down and write something.

That gets me to the purpose of this writing challenge. The idea is to write every day, regardless of whether I am tired or whether I am in the mood. I need to be more businesslike in my approach and stop waiting for inspiration to strike. I have spent way too long thinking about writing and not nearly enough time actually writing. I’ve put too much emphasis on producing something ‘good’ and not enough time on just producing something. It’s quite exciting really. After all there’s only you and me here, so there’s nothing to fear.

How are you travelling with your own creative endeavours? Why not jump in and set yourself a challenge?

Blogging challenge: day four

Like many people, I have a bad habit of thinking that reading enough books on my area of interest will result in me being more skilled. I know this is foolish!

It’s a habit I picked when I was doing my undergraduate degree. I would go to the library, get out about ten books on the essay topic and breathe a sigh of relief. It was as if having done the research equated to having the knowledge inside my head. I would relax a bit, knowing that I had all the necessary information at my fingertips. I knew that the essay wouldn’t write itself, but somehow I felt as though having the textbooks on my desk would do the trick.

As a result, my essays were never very good. I never left enough time to write a really polished piece, and I always submitted work that was not quite finished. I longed to get good marks, but I just couldn’t quite get myself moving enough to start early and refine my work. Once a tutor wrote on my work “good start, where is the rest?”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a great reader and a great supporter of reading. Reading can help you in many ways. It can provide context and a theoretical basis for your ideas. Books can describe methods and processes, but it can’t ever replace doing the actual work. No amount of reading is a substitute for actually doing something, even if the result is not quite as good as you would like it to be.

In many ways, reading is just another (more pleasurable) form of procrastination. Its a lot more fun than doing the ironing or tidying up the cupboard, but ultimately it’s a poor substitute for doing something.

I guess that’s what led to this blogging challenge. I was caught up in reading and not taking enough action.

Is there something that you are putting off doing?