As a writer who works for money, it’s not enough to wait for inspiration. Even more so when managing content for my clients or own businesses.
But Austin Kleon has another way of looking at inspiration. While many of us think that ideas are something that comes from within us, Kleon suggests that ideas are really around us. What we need to do is let them in.
Kleon quotes another article, in which Tom Waits talks about how kids treat their ideas like “little origami things or paper airplanes”.
They don’t hang on to them for dear life. They make up a song and if they “lose it”, so be it.
“They’ll just make another one.”
I’ve been working on fiction, casually, for more than 10 years now and I have countless unfinished pieces that I’ve tossed.
Occasionally, the ideas come back to me in a different form. Listen to Your Grandmother was a story that had been sitting in my head for some time.
A conversation with a group of colleagues inspired my opening lines. And suddenly, the story was done. It wrote itself.
I’ve learned, over the years, that I’m no artist. I am only a channel. I just need to keep “showing up”, to facilitate the ideas that are ready to be born.
Back in high school when I was captain of the netball team, I used to say, “If you miss a pass, it’s your fault.”
Whether your teammate throws a bad pass or misses a catch, whether someone from the other team blocks the pass, it’s your fault.
It’s your job to do your best to catch whatever pass comes your way.
It’s your job to make the best pass possible — one that reaches your teammate without getting blocked by the opposite team.
It wasn’t about placing blame or finding fault with anybody else, but rather, about extracting the most out of yourself.
Like the stoics, we were hard on ourselves but forgiving with others.
If everyone on the team played this way, we could trust that our teammates were doing the best they could no matter what position they were playing.
And we could trust our teammates not to blame us for our mistakes and instead, constructively discuss how to improve.
We combined this mindset with consistent practice of techniques and strategies, and that year, took home the gold medal.
I realised that this mindset works with other kinds of teams as well.
We go further as a team when we can trust each other, when we push ourselves the hardest, and create environments that enable self-betterment.
I binge watched Good Omens over the last two days and it was so good I managed to avert the temptation of reading spoilers.
Based on the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, the six-episode TV series tells the story of an angel and a demon who both have a role to play in the days leading up to Armageddon.
Although it contains a lot about heaven and hell, the story is really about humanity and being human.
As humans, we may be torn between the forces of good and evil, we may have been told that we were “destined” to be this and that, but at every point, we have a choice.
We have more power than we think we do. And we don’t always have to follow the path that has been set out for us.
After six thousand years on earth, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, who are natural enemies find that they’ve become friends.
Although there are things that they are meant to do, they find that being on earth gives them a little fluidity.
By the end of the series, what we see is that love can grow in unlikely ways. That if we want to survive the end of the world, we need friends.
That no matter what the plan for our lives may be, we still have the power of choice.
I’ve been trying to wake up early every day for the past week. (By early, I mean 8am. I’m usually never up before 9. By that I mean I’m in bed till 11.)
I do this because I figure that I’ll have more time to write. So much of my work day is spent building websites, planning, writing for other people.
Writing for myself at the end of the day can feel like squeezing water out of a rock. It’s less than ideal.
In Choose Yourself by James Altucher, he writes that one should “love yourself enough to choose yourself”.
And that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
Because when I think about it, if I had to wake up early for a job that someone else had paid me to do, I would. If I had to forgo sleep to fix one of my ecommerce websites, I would.
So why wouldn’t I devote the same kind of energy into a thing that I claim to want so badly.
“Take control of your work, your life, your art. The tools are out there. Now you just need to use the tools inside yourself,” writes Altucher.
So every morning I think, choose yourself and then I roll out of bed.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Bojack Horseman lately and how he seems doomed to be an asshole, even though he so desperately wants to be good.
Although he’s a celebrity, and seems to have everything he wants, he is deeply broken and can’t seem to escape his demons.
It’s something that all of us humans struggle with, I think. No matter where in life we’re at.
We all want to be good. But sometimes, we let our negative emotions get the better of us. We lash out, we detach ourselves, we do the bad thing.
Fear and anger and joy, they all have two faces. The rush of adrenaline or the sting of insecurity. Anger provides the motivation to create change or the urge to destroy. Joy, taken too far can make us selfish, irresponsible.
Emotions have their role to play in regulating our lives. And while we cannot control them, the best thing about being human is that we can choose how we want to act.
Perhaps one of the worst things is that we have to live with the consequences, good or bad. And like Bojack Horseman, we find ways to cope. We find ways to keep on living.
The person I struggle most to write for is myself.
There have been days when I wonder if my desire to start and run businesses is an excuse to not write, to not pursue bylines.
Although I find myself writing a lot for work — everything requires writing — most of these are inglorious tasks. There’s no byline. It doesn’t have the same kind of artistry I hope to grow within myself.
There are days when I see a superbly-written long-form article on a well-known magazine and I feel an inexplicable wave of jealousy. And then I feel guilt.
Guilt that I haven’t given myself the space and time to grow in this area.
My desire for money is an excuse, I sometimes think. My desire to be this person labeled “entrepreneur” is an excuse to not take myself as a “writer” seriously.
I know how to hustle. But why haven’t I hustled in this area that I care the most about?
No matter what I do, no matter what industries I branch out into, I always come back to this.
Your passion can be a hobby, I tell myself. It doesn’t have to be your career.
But what if I want it to be?
In the last couple of weeks, my brain has been in an “always on” mode. And as always when that happens, my body is pushed beyond its limit and eventually, it rebels.
I haven’t learned my lesson.
This usually happens after I’ve been on holiday, when I feel so refreshed I’m excited to get back to work.
I go from task to task, with minimal breaks in between, and then at the end of the day, wonder why my brain feels fuzzy. Why ideas don’t seem to flow like they usually do.
“Your brain needs idle time,” writes Gustavo Razzetti in his article on the value of boredom.
“The deeper reflective states happen when our mind is not busy. Idle time allows us to make meaning out of unrelated facts — we connect the dots and create a coherent narrative,” he says.
When there are tonnes of articles teaching us how to be more productive, that our hour is worth $1000, telling us how to do the most things in the least time, it’s easy to feel guilty when we do nothing.
But last Friday, at the bar, as I wiped bottles and thought about how “unproductive” I was being, my brain suddenly came alive.
“Idle time is not dull but an opportunity for appreciation and learning,” says Razzetti.