What’s life got to do with the colour of the sky?

It took me twenty-five years to realise that I was a goals-orientated individual. I guess until someone pointed it out, I was so caught up in the way I was doing things that I hadn’t realised.

I mean it’s not a bad thing, in many ways life (and writing) is all a series of goals – an invisible checklist that exists only in your head, presiding over your waking life. A multitude of boxes waiting to be ticked off as you go. Just in this week alone my goals have ranged from getting a haircut (failed) to becoming the greatest, most influential writer who ever lived (also sadly failed).

It’s the same with writing…if you don’t have goals you’re going to struggle – since I started this blog I’ve said that every day, rain or shine, I’ll post something. And I’ve stuck with it. On some days I’ve felt tired or been busy, so I’ve written a shorter post – but I’ve still achieved that goal and it’s kept me writing.

Set little goals for yourself. It works. Even if you only manage to write 50 words you’ve still written – you’re not gonna be able to whack out a whopping 70 thousand words every day. Keep the momentum going. As I’ve said before, writing is a bit like working out – if you suddenly miss a few days, it can soon turn to weeks and the absence can create a warm spot for the parasite of laziness to develop and you can soon find your New York Times Bestseller (every published book ever) thrown onto the wayside.

When I started this post I didn’t intend to mention goals as much, but hey I’ve got nothing against freestyling.

I wanted to mention that, as goals-orientated about life as you maybe, take a moment every now and then to notice the colour of the sky as you go from A to B. You’ll appreciate it. I spent many years smashing objectives and achieving goals, but lost count of things along the way. Missing the journey as my mind was only set on reaching the destination.

People-watch, look at the colour of the sky, take the route less travelled on your usual commute…whatever it is do something different and, most importantly, look for something different. After all inspiration is often in the unexpected, but if you’re only concentrating on the road ahead then who knows what you’ll miss on the sides of the roads.

Sure, on most motorways you’ll only miss seeing a handful of McDonalds and Little Chefs (other fast food joints are available too)…but inspiration will always be grazing somewhere along the grass – like a unicorn waiting to be found…or at the very least a carrot-chomping donkey.

The rhythm of creativity.

One of the hardest things about being creative is actually getting the momentum going and finishing the thing.

Whether you’re writing a story, typing up your memoirs or jotting down the lyrics for a power ballad – at one time or another you’re more than likely going to want to stop mid-sentence. Perhaps you’ll realise you fucked up something in the first paragraph, or maybe you’ll decide that the second verse isn’t quite right. Whatever the case, the likelihood is that you’re going to stop prematurely.

The lesson for today is simple.

Don’t do that.

A creative flow can be hard to find and once we get into one it’s important to do all you can to preserve it. On the various laptops and PCs that I’ve had over the years there are files and files full of unfinished novels and stories. They were either abandoned because I went off to chase the next shiny project I saw in the distance, or because I stopped writing and started editing – thus, breaking my flow and meaning that when I tried to come back to it the words weren’t coming as easy.

A good creative flow is like an incredible looking butterfly – amazing when you see it, gliding along at a good pace. But also very, very delicate – you just know that those wings are so flimsy that the slightest heavy touch could damage them beyond repair.

(Although, unlike butterflies, when your creative flow dies don’t pin its corpse to the inside of a collection book. That’s just weird.)

Your creativity is like this – once you get into the swing of it do as much as you can to keep it going, get those words out and don’t do anything heavy-handed that might affect it. If the words are coming naturally, don’t worry about those typos in paragraph one – don’t worry that you accidentally typed the name Maggie, when you meant to write about your character called Jed.

Concentrate on getting those words down, it’s easier to edit a page full of words than to take on a blank page with a mindset of fragile creativity.

Even if you suddenly decide you want to go back and change a full chapter of your story – just make a quick note of it, and then go back to your flow.

Once the words start to naturally get a little harder, or once that thing called life gets in the way – then you can come back to it and make those changes. Or maybe you just continue writing your story/blog post/etc as you now want it and go back once you’ve completed the draft.

When things flow and the job’s a good ‘un do all you can to keep it going. Don’t over-analyse until afterwards. If you ask a child to write you a story or draw you a picture, 90% of the time they’ll finish it.

Sure most of their work won’t make the ‘New York Times Bestsellers’ list (although maybe it would? Nearly every paperback I see has that on the front) – but they’ll get to the end. Because they just go with what they feel, and their inner-critic doesn’t break things up for them.

So, yeah next time someone calls you ‘childish’ or tells you that you’re acting like a ‘kid’ thank them and go smash something creative.

What are you doing to develop yourself?

We live in a world saturated by motivation, or at least attempts at motivation. If you look down any social media feed you’ll find quotes, inspirational videos and memes – flowing across the page like some kind of wide-eyed, shiny-smiley waterfall of alliteration and ambition.

It’s a good thing in some ways, such easy access to information and such an ability to connect with like-minded people is something that we’ve never had before. Not only that but nearly any ‘self-help’ book, information book or philosophy book can be delivered to your door by the next working day. Just at the click of a button. Perfect, we should all be brainier and better at life, right?

The problem is…you can have all the tools to hand, but unless you actually use them…well, what’s the point?

So whoever or wherever you are, the question I want to ask you is… “what are you doing to develop yourself today?”

Whether it’s to do with writing, applying for a job/course, fitness, sport or anything in-between or beyond, you can have a head full of dreams and talent, but unless you take the time to work on you it’s unlikely that the success you crave is going to find you.

Sometimes that means sacrifices – saying no to the occasional night out, taking a day off or waking up a couple of hours earlier.

Writing was always my first love but as I reluctantly tumbled into adulthood time became scarce – I suddenly had this thing called ‘full-time work’ that seemed to take up the best part of my day. Apparently it’s a phenomenon that most of us experience…!

And, so, until recently when I started consciously making the time to write, my creativity fell on the wayside and I had to work to get it back. I see writing a bit like physical fitness – sure some of us are born with a good natural level of fitness, but if we get lazy it becomes harder and harder to get back on track.

Writing is like that. It’s a metaphorical muscle that can turn to metaphorical fat if you don’t use it enough and it can take a while to get it back.

If you don’t make (or find) the time to develop ‘you’ it’s likely that you’ll watch the hours and the days and the weeks and the months and the years whizz past in a blur of moderate good times and a lingering sense of unfulfillment.

Enough preaching – wake up an hour early, take a night to yourself, book some time off…whatever it takes – start buying yourself time to do what you want to do. No other generation has had as much access to information, education and leisure time as us. You should make it count – start developing YOU today!

Getting things done is an art and you, me – we’ve all got this covered.

Beer.

I didn’t write because I took tonight to be social.

As important as writing is, sometimes you do just need to unwind and make sure you keep up with your friends.

I’ll be honest this is abrupt because I’m on my phone and my thumbs are none too dexterous.

I’ll raise my Brewdog beer to you…until tomorrow when I’ll do a proper post…

Procrastination…the doom of a cyber generation.

When many bloggers or cyber writers tackle a theme they start off by pasting the dictionary definition of their topic…why!? Do they think their audience is too silly to know what the word means? Did they not know what it meant themselves? Or, are they just using it as a springboard to help their lazy ass get a creative flow going? My apologies, to quote many a millennial…’rant over’. Let’s get on with the blog post…

Procrastination
prə(ʊ)ˌkrastɪˈneɪʃ(ə)n/

noun

  1. the action of delaying or postponing something.
    “your first tip is to avoid procrastination”

In case you’ve not guessed this one is about procrastination, and for as long as I’ve tried to write creatively procrastination has been the main reason why I’ve not been writing. It’s such an easy thing to do, and an easy trap to fall into…I’ll sit there at my desk, ready to launch a full blown verbal assault on a blank word document, and then suddenly I’ll start to wonder what year Die Hard was released or what happened to an old footballer I used to like once he’d retired, or perhaps I’ll start to wonder how long it would take to fly to Mars in a rocket.

And thus that catalyst for procrastination ‘Google’ will open and away my hours will wile, access to information is great…but it sure as hell can shut the doorway of productivity at times.

Asides from maintaining focus, there’s not really a known cure for procrastination is there? Very few doctors seem to be trained in dealing with it, and listening to TED talks about it only further exacerbates the issue in the first place.

I guess it says a lot for how advanced the human mind is now that we have enough time for such a level of reflection that it can take us away from the present so easily. I mean back in the day, when cavemen and women danced across the far corners of the Earth, I’m pretty sure procrastination must have been nigh on impossible.

The fear of a T-Rex making me into a candlelit dinner for one would certainly keep my ass in check and stop me from googling the full cast and crew of an episode of ‘Friends’ to see if the bit part actor I thought I saw was actually in it!

But yet, as our lives and the worlds around us become more and more complicated, the more scope there is for delaying what you want to do.

So, today I didn’t write because I was procrastinating and, after thinking about cooking dinner for ages, decided to alert the nearest pizza merchant of my hunger and ask them to deliver their product forthwith.

I guess the secret to stop procrastination and maximise productivity would be to make sure I find the right project. One that I simply can’t put down, one that keeps me awake with flowing words until the wee hours. Mind abuzz with ideas.

But…finding that project…that’s the challenge.

Sandwiched.

This sandwich sums up the reason why I didn’t write today.

It looks nice doesn’t it? There’s something just right about it, isn’t there?

If this sandwich was a sofa, you could bet your life that it’d be the kind of love-seat where you’d spend most of your leisure time. In fact, after a weekend, you’d probably be so glued to it that it’d take a spatula to jimmy you off.

There’s mozzarella, avocado, rocket and a bit of mayo. A lot of healthy, and just enough unhealthy to appeal to the devil on your shoulder.

But, let’s focus on what I said earlier – the ‘just right’. A lot of moments in life aren’t like this sandwich. Unfortunately.

I didn’t write today because I took too long trying to find that ‘just right’ moment and feeling. The chair was uncomfortable, there was too much glare on the screen, the TV distracted me, a friend messaged me…

So I moved seats, flicked off the telebox and muted my phone.

The sofa seemed like the perfect choice – light from the lamp glinted off the freshly polished leather as it whispered seductively to me.

Unfortunately, it turned out to have the sweet song of a siren and led me to ruin – it was way too comfortable! Soon I had my feet up, and as I sunk into the leathery folds of luxury my mind swam away from the realms of the written world and into the vast, encompassing land of procrastination.

And, thus, to further procrastinate I wrote about this – instead of writing the bestseller that’ll help make me my first million.

I guess the moral of this story is – not everything is going to be just right and not everything is going to seem as appealing as that sandwich – so maybe it’s best to ‘override’ our mind’s inner comfort fanatic and make the most out of the situation.

After all, the key ingredient for writing (when it comes to those of us who don’t do it professionally) is time…I had time to write…that was the golden thing. I had time! But, instead of using it productively I spent it all trying to find the perfect setting and the picture perfect moment.

Lesson learnt. Next time I have the time to write I’ll do so on top of an ant-hill if I have to, and every time I receive the stinging bite of a wrathful red ant on my buttocks I’ll see it as a cue to work a little harder.

Who knows, maybe if Orwell or Hemingway had had the same treatment they might have been even more productive…

In case anyone is more interested in the sandwich than my observations, you can find it at Buzz Kaffebar in the fair city of Copenhagen. Photo credits….to me.