Insanity, digging holes and creativity

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
Been there, done that. Still doing it.
Therefore I am in fact quite insane?

I rather struggle with this whole routine thing. On the one hand I would very much like to believe that it is possible to use routine to assist in building positive habits.
But routine and a rut is so often the same thing. [I read somewhere that the difference between a rut and the grave is the depth…]

I have managed to – for once, at least – change my routine of feeling down and then as a matter of course sitting in front of the T.V. eating and swallowing without even noticing what is going into my mouth. I climbed into my car and went for a drive instead. I couldn’t wallow in negative feelings because I had to concentrate on the road. I came back energised and refreshed.

Went for a drive.

Went for a drive.

But I have since fallen back in a negative spiral of my own doing.
What is the first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole?
Stop digging!

If only I would listen to my own advice!

I’ve rediscovered Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. In this course book she suggests the writing of three pages in the morning in which you get rid of what ever is running through your mind at that specific junction. Get all the stuff that’s bothering you on to a page and get some distance from it. In effect you’re making space for better/creative thoughts.

As part of the process Cameron also proposes that you make an artist’s date with yourself every week. The purpose of the date is to open yourself up to insight, inspiration and guidance. It’s supposed to be an excursion to accommodate your inner child/the artist in you. Spending time in solitude, she says, is essential to self-nurturing. And you get to listen to that inner voice telling you “I hate this serious stuff, I wish I could…”

I’ve had success with the morning pages, it seems to free up the worrying part of my personality. But for some reason I have trouble turning up for my dates. I’ve missed a date at the fabric shop and the wool shop. I did have a date at the crafting shop though and brought home colourful paper of various textures that made my heart sing. Of course, judging myself for not having done anything with it yet, is not helping…

Isn't it lovely?

Isn’t it lovely?

I love these textures and colours

I love these textures and colours



Turning Pro: embrace the calling of your soul

It doesn’t happen that often. But sometimes you meet someone or read a book that cuts through all your bullshit. And sometimes what they suggest is not that big a deal. Except that it is. To act in spite of what I’m thinking or feeling in the moment may seem straight-forward and easy. Until I’m thinking: no, the wind is blowing… it will not be nice outside when I go for my walk…. Just one more chapter before I go to sleep… I want to know what happens next even though I have to get up early tomorrow… Wow, I’m really craving something sweet now… let’s make something with lots of sugar in it… so what my clothes are tighter every time I put it on…

According to Steven Pressfield in Turning Pro there are two frameworks that we traditionally use to transform ourselves: We hate ourselves because we believe there’s something wrong with us that needs fixing or we hate ourselves because we believe we’ve done something wrong and need to be punished and forgiven to be fixed. Pressfield discusses a third option: we hate ourselves because we’re living life as amateurs. To change our minds, we need to turn pro. Similar to athletes turning professional (probably without receiving a big financial compensation, though).

As amateurs we have a few things “going” for us:

We’re terrified. We’re afraid of failure, of success, of looking foolish, of being excluded from the tribe, afraid, afraid, afraid. We permit that fear to stop us from acting. We take ourselves so seriously that we paralyse ourselves. We fear being different from others. And therefore end up being inauthentic. Because we remain someone other than who we really are. We continuously rate ourselves in relation to others. We lack compassion for ourselves. We live in denial and act by addiction.

Addiction doesn’t necessarily refer only to the usual culprits drugs and alcohol. Addiction is anything that you keep on doing without it moving you forward. What you get from your addiction, is an inability to do what needs to be done.

To feel ambition and to act on it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls. Not to act means you turn your back on yourself and the reason for your existence.
Steven Pressfield Turning Pro

How do you turn pro? Here are some of his ideas:

Show up and do the work every day. Do the work for the work’s sake, not expecting financial reward or future fame. Be committed over the long haul. Forget about instant gratification… Act despite fear. Accept no excuses. Be dedicated to master the techniques. Don’t take failure (or success!) personally. Don’t wait for inspiration. Do it.

It seems clear that having a habit of doing and acting is the best way of transforming oneself into the best version of oneself. I find it ironic that even though I get an enormous burst of energy when I follow that unique calling of the soul – be it going for that walk in the gushing wind or sitting down for a session in front of the computer despite a yearning for vegging in front of the television – I still some days turn my back on myself and give in to the resistance.

This is a battle that needs fighting every day. There is no finish line. When you turn pro you get to recommit to your decision every day.

Elizabeth Gilbert calls the trusty kitchen timer an important tool in a creative person’s life. Set the timer for 30 minutes and do some focused work for that period. Do it every day. That’s how you learn discipline.

Right, so I’ve done my 30 minutes writing. Off to do some quilting for 30 minutes! 🙂


Second fiddle-itis vs offering my contribution whether I think it makes a difference or not

Unbelievable the number of stuff I can find to do to prevent me from actually sitting on my butt and finishing this blog. Oh! To face that empty space where I don’t know what I’m going to write/paint/create … The battle of the blank page/canvass.

I’ve just made myself two ponytails, after French plaiting from the top and then from the bottom and making a variety of hair styles …

I also battle with “second fiddle-itis”, I think. It’s Ben and Ros Zander’s term (The art of possibility) for “the habit of thinking you make no difference”. So why bother? In one of the chapters they argue that if we think of the world in a competitive frame of mind, there is automatically a winning and a losing side. However, when you use a contributing framework, there is no other side. You are giving/contributing what you can and as such are making a difference even though you may not understand how or why.

So here is what I contribute today. Take it or leave it. 🙂

The more I read about writing, the more I get the impression that the creative process behind writing is similar to painting and making collages. And the crucial aspect is to show up. The stories/collages/art pretty much make themselves once you get past the plaiting of the hair, the cleaning of the toilet, the reorganising of the desk, another cup of coffee…

I don’t often show up for any type of creative process these days. I don’t find the time. But to rephrase Stephen King (On Writing): “How many JAG and CSI reruns does it take to make one South African life complete?” [*hanging my head in embarrassment*] Watching television seems to gobble up time as fast as the wink of an eye. Talk about wasted time.

Steven Pressfield (The War of Art) calls the watching of television and finding other stuff to do symptoms of Resistance. Resistance shows its head for anything that you want to do where you work against immediate gratification in favour of long-term plans such as writing, losing weight, working on improving your fitness…

Pressfield says with regard to writing: It is not the writing part that’s hard. What is hard is sitting down to write. So plait your hair, make your pony tails [men with short hair: substitute your own postponement devices here], but stay on your bum and do what needs to be done.

Spoiler alert: First-world problem! Your password is incorrect.

Look, I really enjoy the electronic age in which we live. I love accessing all sorts of information from the comfort of my own home. And I love the immediacy of it all. I type in the book I want in the search box, click and click and voilà! I can start reading. No waiting in line at the library or book shop for me, thank you very much.

But you know. Every often a site that I visit for the first time wants a user name and a password. And for some reason (I’m pretty sure they have the best of intentions!) they don’t want to accept my trusty old password – the one that is easy to remember and consists of 5 letters and 1 number. No way! You have to come up with a more complex password: they will not let you in the door with a “good enough” password. No sir! (How do you spell “No sirree/sirrey/sir-e?)

You need a variety of alphanumerical digits and capitals and lower case and one of these days I suppose you’ll have to input your thumb and tongue print too!

Being of an impatient nature, I then proceed without writing down that new complex password. And by the time I visit that site again, I have forgotten their preference for complexity.

Have you heard about the old lady that uses the password “incorrect”? Because when she types in the wrong password, the computer tells her:

Your password is incorrect.

I can think of a few options to complexify “incorrect” 🙂






How do we know ourselves? Comparing versus LIKE and LOVE

How do we know ourselves? I think we tend to know ourselves by comparison. I’m shorter than my one cousin, fatter than my niece, slower than my brother, slightly worse at Maths than my best friend etc. BUT I’m also taller than another cousin, slimmer than another niece, faster than my other brother and slightly better at Maths than another friend.

And that is exactly the problem with comparing ourselves to others. There will always be somebody better than you. And there will always be somebody worse off than you. But we (OK, no: I) usually compare myself to everybody that is better than me. Usually on the days that I actually need some positive reinforcement.

I was transcribing an interview and I couldn’t quite make out what the person was saying. Something about “a ??? personality”. Of course, what do you do if you want to find out more about something? Starts with a G….?

So I googled personality types, hoping to match what I see with what I can’t quite hear … and happened on an interesting blog on the INFJ personality type:

I still don’t know what personality the interviewee was referring to, but I learned something new about my own personality type in the process.

INFJ is just one of 16 personality types according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. (Did you know that Myers and Briggs were both female and that Briggs was Myers’ mother? Bit of useless information.)

Perman and Albritton discuss these 16 types in detail in their book I’m not crazy I’m just not you. The types are determined along a continuum of four dimentions:

(E) Extraverting   ENERGY                 Introverting (I)
(S) Sensing             PERCEPTION        Intuiting (N)
(T) Thinking          JUDGMENT           Feeling (F)
(J) Judging            ORIENTATION    Perceiving (P)

Can you see what the INFJ refers to?

You can find out what your personality type is here:

In any case, back to the point I was trying to make. At some point the INFJ coach advises the reader to answer a list of questions with positive declarations like “I love candy” in stead of negative declarations like “I eat to many sweets”.

Based on this positive declaration mindset, I now realise that I absolutely LOVE brownies. I LOVE fudge. I LOVE condensed milk. I also LIKE baking and making sweet stuffs. As soon as I reframed the brownies and fudge and condensed milk as positive, I took away my self-judgement. I’ve been complaining about eating too much sugary things and judging myself and feeling bad about it and not being on a diet even though my figure would surely thank me for having less to carry… Filling myself with dread because another day passed with too much sugar. So now I’m still eating too much sugar, but not feeling so bad about it? I understand your skepticism.

However, in the process, I also realised that I do not really LOVE or even LIKE the smores (melted marshmellows on Marie Biscuits) that I’ve been devouring one after the other. Also chips (crisps/potato chips). I’ve never been able to open a packet and not eat everything. But I don’t really LOVE or LIKE it. I’m just on automatic. Reminds me of a scene in the animation Ratatouille where the food critic is criticised for being so thin and that he obviously doesn’t like food. And he replies: I don’t like food. I LOVE food. And if I don’t LOVE it, I don’t swallow!

I do hope that the premise that you can’t change what you’re not aware of will proof to be true. I mean, really. If I could delete automatic intake of the smores and chips that I don’t LOVE, my hips would surely be better off?

Any way, I have started writing down the little things I like/love every day. Now instead of comparing myself to what I observe of someone else (comparing my insides to somebody else’s outsides) – and basing my self-image on how well I compare, or not – I now find comfort, pleasure and self-acceptance in my little quirks: I like “playing around” (meaning not in too much detail) with apps and software that improve my work and/or that works well. I absolutely LOVE a colourful plate of food (any plate of food looks better with a bit of green, have you noticed?). I LIKE my first cup of coffee in the morning. I LIKE Google.

For some strange reason, I feel like ending this piece with:

How much do I love thee, let me count  the ways 🙂


Here’s the first step

Too much positive feedback seems to have immobilised me with this second post after the l-o-n-g break. I’ve decided to follow Napoleon Hill’s advice to face this uncertainty:

Here’s the first step: Start right where you are. Go as far as you can see. When you get there you will see even further.
– Napoleon Hill

So here I am. I showed up. What can I see?

I can see that my perspective in life is everything. Rory Sutherland’s TEDtalk [] in Athens provided the inspiration for this idea: Things are not what they are. Things are what we think they are and what we compare them to. Wayne Dyer, in his book on intention, basically says the same thing: if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.

How to do this? I found the easiest way to manage this shift of perspective is to look for something that I am thankful for in what ever circumstance it is that is pulling me down.

As easy as that. Gratitude. Gratitude reframes your perception of your environment and provides a positive context or lens for you to look at your situation.

What can I see further?

I can see further that even though I’m of the glass half full type (and I don’t like the colour or the taste), I acknowledge that I’m grateful that I do, in fact, have a glass.

Rule #6

Have you heard about Zander’s Rule #6?

You can listen to Benjamin Zander tell the story of Rule #6 here:

 Rule #6 is Don’t take yourself so damn seriously.

This rule can be applied in a multitude of environments and somehow manages to bring a smile to my face and a lightness of heart that is exactly what’s needed for me to cope better in the circumstances. Work getting you down and pulling you in all directions and you’re all stressed out: Don’t take yourself so damn seriously! Family tension, children demanding attention, food not ready for supper, homework, exams, prepared speeches … Don’t take yourself so damn seriously! Sitting in traffic, moving from one lane to the next and just when you’re in the new lane the other one starts moving? Don’t take yourself so damn seriously!

It is as if by confirming this rule helps me get some space between me and the stuff that, in that moment’s mode of thinking, is getting me down.

Taking yourself less seriously might just lead you to finding your energised, inspired and exciting self!

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