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.



Bouncing back

flat stanleyOne of my favourite childhood books was Flat Stanley. Written by Jeff Brown and published in 1964, this lovely book tells the story of Stanley Lambchop and his younger brother Arthur. The book eventually became a series but in the original story Stanley is flattened by a bulletin board that is hanging above his bed for the purpose of displaying pictures and posters. Rather than being dismayed by his altered state, Stanley makes the best of his new flatness and uses it to his advantage. He soon discovers that he can enter locked rooms by sliding under the door and can visit friends by being mailed to various destinations in an envelope. This was always my favourite part of the story.

Eventually Stanley gets tired of being flat and asks his father to pump him up with a bicycle pump, so the book has a happy ending.

What I like about this story is that even when flattened by an unfortunate freak accident Stanley is able to make the best of his new situation. Having spent the last week or so mulling over a few aspects of my life, I feel like I’m bouncing back at last.

Starting is easy, it’s keeping going that’s hard

Yesterday I received an email from a long lost friend. I found this to be wonderful for two reasons:

1. Even though your horoscope often tells you that you’ll be contacted by a long lost friend  it never seems to actually happen, so I’m glad it did.

2. I really like this person and I was just wondering the other day what had happened to her. How has her life turned out? Was she happy?

Fortunately the answer to the second question is YES! Apart from a few of the normal things that happen to people in life, she’s pretty happy I think. One of the lovely things about her getting in touch was that she had taken the trouble to read all of the posts on my other blog and make some comments about them. How amazing! This email arrived just at the point where I was wondering if there was any point to writing a blog? After all, no-one really responds (apart from my relatives and very close friends). Not even you – yes I’m actually talking to you now!

It made me think that it is really easy to start something new, but it’s really hard to keep going. Anyone can go along to the gym or walk to work and have a salad for lunch but it takes real commitment to keep walking to work and eating salad day after day. This is where the real commitment comes in, and sadly it’s something that many of us struggle with. Over and over again I find myself making resolutions about being more committed , more focussed and just plain better at everything, and over and over again I find myself failing and then feeling bad about it.

What’s to be done?

Okay, so I think the first thing is to be a little bit kind to yourself. After all, life is a bit rocky sometimes and we can’t be awesome all of the time. Secondly (and I’m being a bit contradictory here) don’t be so kind to yourself that you let yourself off the hook. You do need to keep going and keep trying new things and working hard. It’s a balancing act between kindness and self-improvement.

Any thoughts?

Blogging challenge: day twenty three

I’m twenty-three days into this self-imposed blogging challenge. What I have learnt so far is that it’s not that hard to come up with something to write about. If you are on the lookout for ideas, you seem to develop a heightened awareness about what is going on around you. I’ve noticed that several times a day I find myself thinking ‘that would be an interesting idea for a post’. Not all of the ideas actually make it into this blog, but have been stored for future use.

In many ways this writing challenge has proven to be successful in helping me to overcome my writers block. I was really focussed on writing really fantastic material and as a result, I didn’t write anything. I have found that if you take away the requirement that your writing needs to be awesome, you can create a lot more content. I realise that not all of it is great content, but the imperative to write every day has been incredibly helpful.

I really recommend setting yourself some targets and trying really hard to maintain a schedule of productivity. Is this something you have tried or considered? If so, why not share your experiences here? I’m sure that other readers would be interested in your story.