Tag Archives: inspiration

Smart Phones: Novocaine for the Creative Mind

There’s a table out front of the cafe. It’s a square, low-set thing surrounded by comfy couches and it’s always in use. Today, it’s occupied by a group of friends drinking coffee. At least, I assume they’re friends. It’s hard to tell because they’ve all got their phones in their hands, too busy texting and tweeting and Instagramming their cheesecake to talk to each other.

Nearby, a young couple talk about their plans for the weekend. In the middle of their conversation, a phone beeps. The woman doesn’t hesitate. She whips her phone from her bag and swipes across the screen while her partner continues talking about restaurants and movies. “What?” she says when he pauses for breath. “I wasn’t listening. Sarah wanted to ask me about Fiji, so I told her I’d call her later.”

At another table, a couple my age eat their croissants in silence. She excuses herself to go to the bathroom. Before she’s even picked up her bag, he’s pulled his phone out and is tapping away at it, completely oblivious to the world around him.

Everywhere I look, people are on their phones. Not talking on them, just tap-tap-tapping away. Who knows what they’re doing. Maybe they’re texting directions to a friend. Maybe they’re shopping. Maybe they’re flinging righteously angry birds at towers. I don’t know. But what I do know is what they’re not doing. They’re not looking at the world around them. They’re not communicating with their friends. They’re not communicating with themselves.

It’s that last statement that bothers me the most.

For so many people, the idea of being forced to sit and do nothing — to be trapped with nothing but their own thoughts for company — is the worst kind of Hell imaginable. A wait of two minutes is unendurable without the benefit of a phone to relieve the instantaneous boredom. And the thought of being stuck without that mindless entertainment for half an hour? Or an hour? Or a whole day?

I’ve heard it said. “What did you expect me to do, just sit here and do nothing for five minutes?”

Yeah, I kinda did. Because that time when you sit and “do nothing”? That time is valuable. That time is important for your mental and emotional wellbeing. Without that kind of downtime, when do you listen to your own thoughts? When do you truly think and reflect and consolidate everything you’ve seen and done? When do you just be you?

I worry. I do. The modern world is designed for entertainment. From Angry Birds to LOL Cats, World of Warcraft to Bachelor Pad, there are endless opportunities for us to immerse ourselves in electronic Novocaine. And our Smart phones make that possible even when we’re on the go.

Do you know what happens when you spend all your time immersed in electronic media? When you rely on your TV, computer, iPod, and phone to entertain you every minute of free time?

Nor do I.

But do you know what happens when you don’t?

Creativity. Passion. Inspiration.

All those things that require an open, quiet mind.

Think about what you’re doing when you get your best, most crazy exciting ideas. Chances are, it’s either when you’re asleep (or near sleep), when you’re exercising, or when you’re in the shower. When was the last time you had a crazy, exciting, inspired idea playing Angry Birds?

I don’t have a smart phone. I don’t have games on my dumb phone. But even I sometimes fall into the trap. Even I sometimes find myself thinking I’ve got five minutes to wait. I’ll just check my email…

Do me a favour. Next time you’ve got to sit and wait for five minutes, just sit and wait. Leave your phone in your pocket or your purse or your bag or your car or (gasp!) back at your house. Sit. Wait. Look at the world around you. Let your thoughts wander and see where they end up.

You know, the way you used to back in the olden days .

 

19 Comments

Filed under Opinion

Feeling apathetic? Five Ways to Find Your Mojo

A few days ago, I wrote a post explaining how apathetic and “nothing” I was feeling. I wasn’t unhappy, I was just feeling empty. I didn’t know what to expect when I posted it — it was so much less positive than my usual posts — and I can’t begin to tell you how touched I was by the responses I received.

It turns out I’m not the only one who has days (weeks… months… years…) like that.

And people had suggestions on how to feel better. Good suggestions. Suggestions I possibly would have thought of myself if I hadn’t been feeling so incredibly overwhelmed by the world. So I put a few of them into practice.

You’ll be glad (probably) to know that I’m back to my usual manic, enthusiastic, excited self.

So I thought I’d Pay it Forward, as it were, and put together all of the wonderful suggestions I received, as well as a few of my own. I hope this is of some help to someone else out there feeling hollow and disillusioned and struggling to find a modicum of energy.

1. Rest & Relax

In today’s busy, busy world, we often find ourselves overwhelmed with responsibilities — many of which we take on out of guilt, obligation, or expectation. It’s easy to forget that we also have a responsibility to ourselves. Taking time to rest and relax is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. So if you’re feeling empty and drained, make sure you’re taking time to fulfill your obligations to yourself as well as your obligations to others.

Read a book, watch a movie, go out with friends, have a long bath, drink a bottle (or box) of wine, go for a walk, listen to music, dance in your underwear, sing in the shower, do some finger painting (by yourself, not with the kids), do something you’ve always wanted to do and never had the time for, or just go to bed and sleep.

(Thanks to Speaker7, learningtobesuperwoman, Bridget, jlbang24, and tyler72 for these suggestions.)

2. Rejuvenate Your Body & Soul

Another side-effect of being busy is that we tend to spend so much time looking after other people (especially when we’ve got kids), that we forget to take care of our own physical needs. But just because we’re parents, and we’ve got important jobs, and we’re trying to work a day job and write a novel and blog and find time to actually see our partners, friends, and extended families, it doesn’t mean we don’t need to eat, sleep, and connect with something greater than ourselves.

Make sure you sleep 7-8 hours every night. (I know it’s hard!) Did you know that when you don’t get enough sleep, your body craves more sugar and carbs, which causes you to over-eat and eat unhealthy foods? Did you know that when you don’t get enough sleep, your metabolism slows down and you tend to gain weight and feel lethargic? Seriously — sleep.

Drink a minimum of six glasses of water every day. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables, and plenty of good healthy food. If you’re like me, you probably crave McDonald’s burgers, salt & vinegar chips, and chocolate when you’re feeling down. Resist. Don’t do it. The buzz you get from eating them is temporary, and then you’ll feel worse than when you started.

Do some exercise. Exercising releases happy-juice into your brain and increases your energy levels. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. Instead of lounging in your pyjamas all day, put on some clothes and go for a run around the block. Your body (and mind) will thank you for it.

If you’re religious, take time to pray. If you’re not, try meditating. If that doesn’t appeal, take a walk into nature and find a quiet place where you can sit and contemplate the awe-inspiring nature of trees. That beautiful old tree you sit under to shade you from the sun? Chances are it’s older than you are. It could be up to hundreds of years old. Imagine how many other people have sat under the same tree, in that very same spot, enjoying the quiet greatness of the natural world.

(Thanks to Speaker7, learningtobesuperwoman, and Bridget for these suggestions.)

3. Research, Revisit and don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Have you ever felt like you’re the only one in the world who has ever felt so empty and hollow and depressed? Yeah, me too. I’m pretty sure we all feel that way when we’re teenagers, but sometimes the feeling sneaks back over us when we’re adults and really should know better.

Rather than trying to figure your own way out of your apathetic mood, look at how other people before you have done it. The interwebs are full of people shouting into the void about how to do this, that and the other. (And now I am, too. Yay me.) So head over to Google or YouTube and see what you can find.

(Thanks to Dan Thompson for this suggestion, as well as the following short video:)

4. Re-evaluate your Life

If your feeling of emptiness and apathy goes on for more than a few days, it might be time to try to work out why you’re feeling that way. Perhaps your mojo hasn’t really gone, and the steps above will help. Or perhaps your mojo has gone into hiding because you’re not happy with something in your life. If that’s the case, spend some time working out why you feel the way you do, and how you can change that.

In some cases, that may be obvious. As Dave Higgins said:

I had the feeling some days after I was made redundant for the first time.I found that having a scheduled boring routine task to do each day worked for me. Because it was boring (scrub the sink, &c.) I did not expect to feel happy during it. Once it was finished I got a little buzz from achieving it and my inner critic could not call the day wasted.

But sometimes, you may need to look at making a much larger change to re-find your mojo. As Dianne Gray said:

The way I pulled myself out of [a nothing week] last week was to make a massive decision. On Friday night I decided to leave work and go back to the country. My last day at work will be 2 November and now every day I’m looking forward to and working towards that goal.

(Thanks to Dave Higgins and Dianne Gray for sharing their experiences.)

5. Reach Out

Don’t underestimate the power of telling other people how you’re feeling. I wasn’t kidding on Wednesday when I said I’d written and deleted three blog posts before I wrote the one I eventually published. I’d actually decided not to post anything at all, but then forced myself to do it anyway. I’m so very glad I did. Even just hearing that other people feel the same was a huge help.

Thank you to everyone who read, liked, and commented on my post. You guys are the best.

Which of these suggestions have worked for you in the past? Have you got any others I’ve missed?

9 Comments

Filed under Opinion

Yes, you DO have time!

Ever feel guilty that you don’t have time to write/exercise/paint/fulfill your lifelong ambition of visiting every shoe store in the state?

Ever wish you had just one more hour every day?

Fear not! Your worries are over! For the low, introductory price of $19.95 (plus shipping and handling), I can show you everything you need to know about finding time to achieve your heart’s desire!

Yes, you DO have time!

I’m just kidding about the money. (Unless you want to send me some. I am a poor, struggling artist after all.) But I do have the answer to my your our problems.

You’ve probably heard it said before that we all have the same amount of time — 24 hours in every day. So why does it seem like some people can work 12 hour days, write a novel every month, look after seven children, start a small business, and still have time to go shopping, where I you other people barely have time to write a couple of blog posts every week?

Is there some kind of time-turner on the market that I haven’t discovered?

Do these time-savvy people have a DeLorean in their garage?

No. Well, maybe. I don’t actually know. But what I do know is that I have a non-time travel-intensive way for me you us to find the time to write/exercise/paint/shop to our heart’s content. And I’m willing to share it with you for the low price of $19.95 free.

Let’s call it the PAE system.

Hold on, I think that deserves larger type.

The PAE System

Step 1: prioritize

I know, I know, prioritising doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Isn’t that what you do when you’ve written a list of Very Important (Boring) Tasks?

This may (or may not) surprise you, but you spend all day prioritising. All. Day. Would you like an example? Excellent.

Shall I watch TV or cook dinner?

Internalized questions: Which is most important right now? Am I hungry? Do I have to cook dinner for other people, or just myself? Is there something I particularly want to watch on TV? Is there a way I can do both?

If you’re not hungry and you don’t have the responsibility of cooking for someone else, watching TV is a higher priority than cooking dinner.

If you are hungry and you don’t have the responsibility og cooking for someone else, making dinner is a slightly higher priority, but could be over-ruled by TV if there’s something on that you particularly want to watch.

If you need to cook dinner for a family, it becomes a priority. Unless you can find a way to do both at once.

In that scenario, there are a number of listed variables that determine whether dinner or TV will be a higher priority right now. But there is also another variable, and that variable is you. Every person will prioritize slightly differently.

Let me make one thing clear: You CHOOSE to do everything you do. You CHOOSE to prioritize the way you spend your time.

“But wait!” I hear you cry. “I don’t want to go to work. I’d rather stay at home and write/exercise/paint/shop all day! I have to go to work.”

No, you don’t. You really don’t. Check your hands and shoulders. Any strings attached? Have you turned into a marionette overnight? No?

You CHOOSE to go to work.

You make that choice because if you don’t, you don’t get paid. If you don’t get paid, you can’t pay your bills and put food on the table.

Like most of us, you PRIORITIZE the need for food and shelter above your need to purchase shoes.

And you do this every day, without giving it a second thought.

What else do you do with your 168 hours every week?

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Travel
  • Spend time with your partner, kids, parents, friends, dogs, houseplants, etc
  • Watch TV
  • Play computer games
  • Facebook
  • Tweet
  • The list goes on and on and on

What you do with your time is completely up to you.

Hold on, let me say that again:

What you do with your time is completely up to you.

You have the power. You have the control. Now, you need to learn how to wield it. Now, you need to learn how to actively prioritize.

Spend a few minutes thinking about the things that are most important to you. Your job, your family, your friends, your sleep, your food, your housework, your relaxation time (don’t kid yourself and think that relaxing isn’t important — whether you meditate, watch TV, play computer games or read a book, make sure you include time to chill out), writing, exercise, painting, shopping, whatever.

I’m not going to ask you to rank them in order of importance. That’s a fool’s game. All of them are important. If they weren’t you wouldn’t have listed them.

But when you’re prioritising, you’re not trying to replace one thing with another. You’re trying to take control of your time, and work out a more effective way of using it.

Is it okay to come home from a 15 hour work day and collapse in front of the TV for 4 hours instead of writing? Yes. You’ve just prioritized relaxation over writing for one night. That’s not a bad thing.

Is it okay to come home every night and collapse in front of the TV instead of writing? Yes. Absolutely. You’ve just prioritized relaxation over writing on a permanent basis. Also not a bad thing. Just realise that your job (financial solvency) and relaxation is a higher priority than your writing career at the moment. And that’s also okay.

Step 2: Act On It

Now that you’re aware that you have the power, act on it. Own it. Embrace it.

If you want to do more writing/exercise/painting/shopping, make it a higher priority.

All I want to do is relax in front of the TV. Hang on, is that what I really want? Is that my priority? I also want to get some writing done. Which is most important to me right now?

Again, this scenario has multiple variables and options. If you’re exhausted, maybe relaxation is a higher priority. Likewise if there’s a program on that you really want to watch. Maybe you want a break, but still want to prioritize writing. I’ll watch TV for half an hour, and then go and write for an hour. Or the other way around. I’ll do half an hour of writing, and then relax for the evening.

Don’t cut out everything you enjoy. Don’t replace one hobby with another. Just be mindful of your decisions and act on your priorities.

Step 3: Enjoy!

You’ve done it. You’ve worked out your priority, made a decision, and acted on. Now enjoy it.

If you want to prioritize your family over your writing, don’t sit around feeling guilty that you haven’t made your daily word count. Relax and revel in the fact that you OWN that decision.

If you want to prioritize sleep over exercise, don’t feel bad that you missed your morning run. Sit down and enjoy your breakfast, knowing that you CHOSE to do so.

If you want to prioritize watching American Idol re-runs over painting, go for it. Enjoy it. Tweet about. And know that you took control of your life.

If you want to go out and buy shoes instead of working, do it. You may end up living under a bridge, but damn your feet will look hot. And no-one can take that power away from you.

What you do with your time is completely up to you.

It’s as easy as P.A.E.

Let me give you an example from my own life. (Because I know you like to read about me almost as much as I like to talk about me.)

I used to say that I wished I had more time for writing. But with two small boys, a shift-working husband, and a house to look after, I rarely found time to sit and concentrate for long. I’m awake with my youngest boy before 5:00am every morning, and am kept busy with kids and housework until my eldest goes to sleep at 8:00pm. That gives me around 8 hours each night to fit in time with my husband, sleep, and anything I want to do on my own (ie. write).

I spent a good deal of time feeling frustrated because I didn’t have enough time to write. Then I started to think about the choices I was making, and the real priorities I had.

I could put the boys in child-care one or two days a week, and use those days for writing. Or I could stick the boys in front of the TV for 5 or 6 hours a day (ah, free child-care) and use that time for writing. But I chose not to. Why? Because I made the CHOICE every day to prioritize time with my children over time spent writing or time spent doing paid work.

I could ignore the dirty bathrooms, do the dishes once a day, buy pre-packaged baby food and snacks, and save a lot of time by doing minimal housework. But I made the CHOICE every day to be as close to the ideal of the “perfect housewife” as I could manage.

These were both choices I was making. I was made the choice to prioritize my kids and my role as housewife over my writing career. And I really didn’t want to change that. I wanted it all.

So I acted on it. I asked my husband to help out. I asked if he would prioritize child-care for 20 hours a month. And he said yes. So for 2.8% of every month, I get to be a “fulltime novelist” and lock myself away to work on my book.

Would I like more than 20 hours a month to write? Absolutely. But also: Absolutely not. Because having more time put aside for writing would mean prioritising writing above something else that’s important to me. So instead of complaining, I relax and enjoy the writing time that I’ve got, as well as the time to spend doing everything else. 

And I know that I’m in control of my time, not the other way around.

31 Comments

Filed under Opinion, Writing

Monday’s Top 5

Author Kristan Hoffman celebrated her 26th birthday this week. I’m not sure what she did out in the Real World, but here in the blogosphere she wrote a Letter to Herself. It’s a great read for everyone, culminating in these words of wisdom:

Don’t try to predict what will happen, or put your life on a schedule. Just work hard, have fun, and be kind. If you do that, everything will follow in its own way and its own time.

Today Call Me Lucky, says Julie of byanyothername. But after reading this post, I’d have to say that I’m the lucky one — for getting to bask in her beautiful, inspiring writing. Although I read nigh on one hundred Thanksgiving posts, this is the one that really stood out.

Have you been to Taryn’s blog, Mama’s Got Wanderlust? She’s a brave woman, travelling the globe with a toddler in tow. After living and working in Moscow for a while, she and her darling daughter have moved to Beijing. Unfortunately, her amazing husband has had to stay in Moscow for a while to complete his work contract. But no matter how exciting it is to be living in China, and how settled they get, there’s still something missing. Her House is Not a Home.

Stephanie from Momma Be Thy Name has a great post this week that struck a chord — and, I’ve no doubt, a nerve — in a lot of people. She mourns the Devolving Friendships and Other Consequences of Having a Family. This is certainly something I’ve noticed, especially since the birth of my second son. Having children changes your outlook, your interests (by force if not by choice), and your vocabulary (Suddenly talking about breasts isn’t X-Rated, and half your conversation revolves around bodily functions.) Although it’s natural to want to hang out with people who have the same interests and speak the same language, it’s sad to experience the end of an era.

My last pick this week is brought to you by Emma of Mayfair Mum. She’s written a fabulous post titled Tribute to the Choir: Military Wives – May Their Courage Never Cease. She talks about her reaction to BBC’s The Choir, and the bravery shown by the wives of deployed soldiers.

…has taught those of us complacently sitting at home that even while we live in peace with our neighbours and without the threat of imminent nuclear war, there are brave English forces and their families who trained to be the best, do their best, and give the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

12 Comments

Filed under Top 5

Look, Mum, No Limits!

I’m preparing dinner when 4-year-old Big Brother wanders into the kitchen. “What are you doing?” he asks.

“I’m just making rissoles,” I say.

“Can I see?”

I look down at his hopeful face, and then to my hands which are encased in a sticky mixture of beef mince, raw egg, onion, and breadcrumbs. “Sorry, I can’t pick you up at the moment, my hands are all messy. You’re not quite tall enough to see up here.”

His eyebrows lower and he thinks about this for a moment. Then his face brightens and he says, “I’ll be tall enough if I stand on something. I’ll get a chair.”

# # #

I’m feeding Baby when Big Brother approaches with a book. “Can you read this to me?” he asks.

“Sure. Can I read it to you after I’ve finished with Baby?”

He thinks for a minute. “It’s okay. I can read it by myself.”

“Okay.”

He sits down and peruses the first page. “But I can’t read the words.”

“I won’t be much longer, and then I can read it to you.”

His eyebrows come down, and he thinks for a minute. Then he says, “It’s okay. I can read the letters. What does T-H-E spell?”

# # #

We’ve just finished reading our bedtime story, and Big Brother gives me a kiss and lies down to go to sleep. Out of the blue he asks, “In the morning, can I drive a real racing car?”

“Um. You can drive one of your toy racing cars.”

“No, I want to drive a real racing car. Like your car.”

I smile and give him another kiss. “I think you’re a bit too little to be driving cars yet, son.”

His eyebrows lower and he starts thinking. I wait to see if he’s got anything to say. When he doesn’t talk for a full minute, I make my way out of his room.

I’m at the door when he says, “But when I’m your age I’ll be able to drive a real racing car in the morning.”

# # #

One of the great things about children is that they have no concept of limits. There’s no obstacle that can’t be overcome; no difficulty that can’t be gotten around; no “impossibility” that can’t be solved. Are there setbacks? Absolutely. But they’re not limits. They’re just challenges.

There’s a lot we can learn from children.

# # #

“Did you know that an elephant is the only animal in the world who can’t jump?”

Big Brother gave me an incredulous look. “Is that really true?”

“Yep. They’re too big and heavy.”

His little eyebrows came down. His little face screwed up in concentration.

“I bet an elephant could jump if it was on a trampoline.”

 

11 Comments

Filed under Life With Kids