It’s never too late

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I love the sentiments in this article about finding new and exciting things to do at any stage in your life. I know quite a few people who seem to think that getting older means giving up. I don’t feel like that at all. I’m moving towards the time when I’ll retire from fulltime paid employment, but I have no intention of retiring from life. If anything, I’m planning to do all of the things that I don’t currently have the time or energy to do.

It’s never too late to re-invent yourself

Life is often about finding and re-finding ourselves. As we change over the years our perception of who we are also changes. While we might think that having grey hair means that we should stop trying to re-invent ourselves, I don’t agree. I suspect that it might be harder because there are so many strong stereotypes around older women, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. One of the joys of getting older is that you care less about what other people think, which is very helpful.

Your new found freedom is a gift

If your children have flown the coop, you might be in the position of having a little more time on your hands. If there is something you want to do, what’s stopping you? This could be the perfect time to take on a new challenge whatever stage of life you are at. The trick is to focus on what makes you feel happy, ignore other people, and go for it.

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Facing down your fears

I listened to a great interview with Elizabeth Gilbert this morning on my way to work. It was part of a podcast on the source of creativity made by the TED radio hour. This is a show which strings together excerpts from various TED talks on a central theme and it’s always thought provoking.

Elizabeth Gilbert is famous for writing Eat, Pray, Love – possibly one of the most successful books of its kind and a huge bestseller for Gilbert. In the interview, she talks about facing her fears. She says that she is constantly asked if she worries that she won’t be able to write anything as good and admits that she does worry about this, but she has learnt to face down her fear.

She tells a lovely story of addressing her fears directly (yes, out loud, as if they are crouching in the corner of her writing room). She tells them that she knows that they’re there, but that they aren’t in charge. They can come along for the ride, but they aren’t in the driver’s seat.

I like this metaphor very much. You can’t really pretend that you aren’t afraid, but you can tell your fears to take a back seat in your creative journey.

 

Confidence is the key

As a teenager, one of my favourite books was Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s a dystopian story set in a world where women are progressively disenfranchised and reduced to the status of servants. This is achieved by freezing all of their bank accounts and charge cards. One day they can access the automatic teller machine and the next day they can’t. It’s as simple as that.

Atwood has written a new book with a similar theme called The Heart Goes Last. This book tells the story of a struggling couple who take up an offer of working in an experimental prison where people spend half their time as guards and half their time as prisoners. It’s a fantastic piece of writing in the true sense of the word. The novel also features sex robots called ‘prostibots’.

In an interview with the author, she says that she always has lots of ideas about what to write and that she usually chooses the most outlandish idea to focus on. Not because she wants to make it hard for herself, just because she likes a challenge.

She says that people without ideas shouldn’t write.

I found this a bit confronting as I’m always worried about not having ideas, but I don’t really think the problem is not having ideas, it’s more about convincing yourself that an idea is stupid before you’ve even started exploring it. I’m pretty good at talking myself out of things. It’s less risky that actually doing something because no-one can criticise your work if you don’t produce anything.

The problem is not lack of imagination, it’s lack of confidence.

What people seem to need most coaching about in the area of creativity is not ‘optimizing’ their imaginations—it’s their confidence. And that’s because we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that we are all specialists of some kind, and that you can’t really be a writer unless you’ve got something like a master’s degree. Obviously, we want dentists to be trained, but writing is human storytelling and everybody does it.

Margaret Atwood on how technology influences creativity

This really leaves me with nowhere to go in the excuse department. There’s no reason not to write. There’s no reason not to begin. It’s all about starting isn’t it?

Inspiration for crafty types

Repeating pattern design, made by me.

Yesterday I watched a short tutorial on surface pattern design. These are patterns that can be used for wallpaper, on ceramics, fabric, or notepaper. On anything, really…

It’s not something that I’ve ever considered doing as a hobby because I thought that this kind of activity was reserved for creative people, and that certainly wasn’t the way I perceived myself until quite recently. I would go so far as to say that I have spent quite a lot of time avoiding any activities that involved ‘craft’ especially if it involved pre-schoolers.

I know – I’m a terrible mother!

I always preferred to read to my children or let them make a mess with soapy water in the kitchen sink. I wasn’t into cutting and pasting.

I quite enjoyed the introductory lesson which focussed on finding inspiration. This is a matter of taking notice of things that you like and collecting ideas and examples in one place. I figure this is not really so hard, given that even though I’m not very crafty, I do know what I like.

It made me think about how many creative pursuits I have avoided by seeing myself as a non-creative person. It made me think that it’s time to change, to try things and just see if I like them. I don’t have to be good at everything.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m giving it a whirl and I’ll post some of the results here and it might encourage you to go off and try something new yourself.

After watching the tutorial I set off in search of some blogs about pattern design and there are heaps of lovely ones. The anomis blog is good place to start.

p.s. I was searching around for an image to accompany this post and I didn’t want to steal anyone’s work so I thought I’d use a pattern I made a couple of years ago in my graphic design course. I’d actually forgotten that I’d done this until today. It was quite good fun as I remember, even though it did involve some cutting and pasting.

Finding your inner purpose – part 2

This morning I jumped out of bed (well perhaps jumped is a bit of an overstatement), but I did rise fairly enthusiastically after a nice weekend off, and I found to my delight that I had a new subscriber who goes by the name of midimike. Thanks for subscribing Mike, I do find it genuinely thrilling!

Anyway, the point of this update is that Mike is a sound engineer and musician and it reminded me that one of my secret ambitions as a young person was to be a record producer or sound engineer. I have always loved playing and listening to music and it was my dream to be able to spend my working life involved with music in some way.

By the age of fifteen I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to make a living as a professional musician as I really didn’t have the talent and I didn’t practice nearly enough on any of the instruments that I played (guitar, piano and tenor horn). I figured that if I couldn’t be a musician I could work in the music industry in some capacity.

As a result, when I was in my third year at high school I organised to do work experience at the local radio station for a week. It was a bit naive of me to think that working at a radio station was in any way related to being in the music industry but you’ll have to remember that I was very young. It was pretty disappointing.

I spent the entire week learning how to make coffee.

I don’t think I even made it to the record library and I certainly didn’t get to select any play lists. This didn’t put me off and when I left school at the tender age of 15, I did manage to get a job as a film editing assistant with a local independent film producer and this in turn led to a pretty good career in the film industry.

So I guess in a round-about way I have achieved quite a few of my early dreams. The advent of digital technology means that anyone can be a film maker (or videographer) if they invest in a little bit of equipment and learn the skills. Equally, technology means that anyone can produce beautiful and/or interesting music.

My key message is that you really have no excuses for not having a go at anything that interests you. It’s relatively cheap to get started in any creative endeavour, you just need some time and energy to put your head down and teach yourself the skills. So what’s stopping you?

Finding your inner purpose

Today I watched a great little video featuring Elle Luna, an artist, writer and designer who lives and works in San Francisco. A couple of years ago Elle wrote an article called Should and Must in which she talked about the choices we all need to make between what we should be doing, and what we must do.

Must do things are all those activities that you daydream about doing one day (when you have the time, the money, the space). It’s the things that you secretly think you were born to do, except that something got in the way. Maybe it was the need to have a real job, or maybe you had kids who actually needed to be fed and housed and taken to school every day. There are a million reasons why we don’t do the things we really want to do and it’s pretty well-known that the main reason we resist is fear. Fear of failure, anxiety about being laughed at, or just the simply fear that we have nothing really to say.

However, while watching the video it occurred to me that there is often another reason that we go around feeling like we’re a bit unfulfilled. I feel a bit like that quite a lot of the time and I can never decide whether or not it’s because I read too many books (and they make me believe that I have not yet reached my full potential), or whether it’s because I simply haven’t identified my inner purpose (or what I was born to do).

Elle Luna addresses this problem in her talk. Her advice is to ring your mother and ask her what kind of things you loved doing as a child. This suggestion is based on the idea that we have natural inclinations towards certain types of activities that bring us pleasure and we have some aptitude for. This made me think about activities that I liked as a child, and the resulting list was surprisingly short and not particularly helpful in assisting me to find my inner purpose.

My list:

  1. Reading – I’m really not sure how you can use this to find your calling. All I know is that I am definitely one of those kids who read with a torch under the bedclothes. I have also been known to read on the way to school and during maths classes. I am pretty sure that I read most of ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ during algebra, which probably explains why I could never work out what x was equal to.
  2. Daydreaming – Again, not particularly helpful in this day and age, although I do spent quite a lot of my working day thinking about things and I’m very thankful to have a job where I am expected to think.
  3. Eating – preferably whilst reading and/or day dreaming. I love food but I’m not a brilliant cook (too lazy) and I’m never going to be on Masterchef.

So where does that leave me? Maybe there are some other quirky things I’ve forgotten. I’ll call my mother and ask her.

What about you? Do you already know what you were meant to do, but you just haven’t started yet?

We all rationalise the decisions we make

This morning I watched an interesting TED talk about making hard decisions. Although the talk is a bit slow at the beginning, Ruth Chang makes some interesting points about the fact that we make decisions based on what we value and not on rational choices. We like to think that we are making rational decisions, but in reality we justify our actions to make them seem rational.

The same thing is true of decisions we make about items we purchase. We choose certain products because we would like to be seen as the kind of person who owns such a product or because it reminds us something else that we care about or value. But when we are questioned about our choices we say that this particular car has better fuel economy or this phone has a longer lasting battery or a better camera. In other words, we just make up reasons that sound sensible.

Perhaps we shouldn’t bother with justifying our choices in rational ways? Perhaps we should just say, I made this decision because it felt right or it made me feel good.

The same is true of choices we make about exploring our creativity. We say that we can’t write because we don’t have time, or we don’t have the space. This makes us feel better when the truth is usually that we are just scared. Scared about taking that first step, scared of exposing our inner thoughts to the world, scared that we will be misunderstood or laughed at. But we’re at the beginning of a new fresh year and what better time is there to take a chance on starting something new, or trying your hand at something different? You don’t need to have a good reason and why don’t need to explain, just do it.

p.s. let me know how it goes…