Writing on, and about, an island

Posts Tagged ‘Minimalism’

Simplicity = Creativity: stop worrying

In Career, Minimalism, Uncategorized, Writing on September 17, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I don’t do Facebook, and I don’t do quizzes on whether I’m creative or not, but this article hit a bit of a nerve with me.

I am a worrier, and apart from zombies and Ebola and being electrified while taking a shower (yes, I actually worry about this), I constantly worry whether my creativity is good enough, or is even ‘enough’. (This last bit is possibly why I have never pursued a career as a literary writer or artist, preferring commercial/corporate positions to give me validation and direction.)

As a writer by trade, I have (somewhat) over the years been able to release myself from some of the pressure to submit the perfect article, or perfect advertising copy or whatever… After 20 years of doing this career, however, I still procrastinate because I pursue perfection. I know this is something I will battle with forever, and accepting that makes me feel a little at peace with it… which in turn allows me to worry slightly less about it.

This is one of the reasons why I’ve decided to stop pressuring myself to enter writing comps, for the next little while. This is very hard for me because I’m ambitious, competitive and have had success in the past in this area. But I also clearly see that only viewing my creativity through this prism means I’m almost writing to some imagined KPIs, and not necessarily out of the joy of writing. It means I limit what I write about – and it also means I’m feeling stuck with re-starting my art practice (something that used to be second nature, and now feels very, very far away from me).

So, I’m going to try the simplicity of not loading myself up with creative expectations. I am going to place no demands on my creativity. (I’m referring here to my outside-of-job creativity, but I’m hoping it has flow-on effects to the ‘real work’ as well.) I’ll write and draw what I feel like; and I’m actively trying to replace other distractions and consumption with being creative in some way – but without the pressure.

The perfect (creativity) truly is the enemy of the good (creativity).

 

 

Simplicity = Creativity: the start

In Career, Minimalism, Tasmania, Writing on September 15, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Once upon a time… when I was about seven… I used to write and draw/paint instinctively and obsessively. There was nothing attached to the process. It was part of who I was.

I’m 38 now, and I have been struggling with my creativity for a while. Probably, if I’m honest, since I was about 16 – because that’s the point at which creativity stopped being something I did inherently, and became something I needed to quantify in some way.

I am not just a creative person, I have worked as a ‘creative’ for a long time, for money. And that’s where the problem lies. I equate creativity with monetary reward or prizes or accolades of some sort.

So, I’m going to try something for a while. I’m going to stop approaching my creativity as something I have to make money from, or should to do in order to submit an entry for something. I am going to try creating for no other person than to be creative; for no other person than for myself. I imagine that this, after so many years of not doing it, is going to be painfully hard. But, I am already frustrated and distracted and lost when it comes to my creative self, so it can’t be much harder, can it? It’s just going to be implementing a different ‘habit’.

To help me stay on track, I am going to combine one of my obsessions – simplicity – with creating. I moved to Tasmania from Sydney in 2008 to make my life simpler, and enable more space and time for creating. Getting rid of unnecessary stuff has always been important to me (I’ve worked as a copy editor for almost 20 years, and cutting out unnecessary words is one of my favourite past-times!) To some extent, the move and the motivation behind it has been a success. But there’s no doubt that pursuing simplicity can be just as hard on a quiet island as in the big smoke; the distractions aren’t always external – the internal ones can be just as bad. And I believe that simplicity is essential for creativity…

So, each time I feel like distracting myself from my lack of creativity with something that’s anti-simplicity – shopping, eating, going down the rabbit hole on the internet, for example – I am going to replace that time with being creative. Without pressure or need for result, I’m going to write or draw.

I don’t have the answers – that much I do know. But I can give it a go. Starting now.

Crafting a Creative Tasmanian Life

In Career, Freelance, Island Life, Minimalism, Tasmania on February 14, 2012 at 11:28 am

How to succeed as a creative in Tasmania? Get creative with how you present your message…

Recently, I worked on a story for House & Garden, featuring some good mates – Nick and Kerry – who’ve moved to Tasmania to renovate a minimalist-in-a-cool-Danish-way, 1960s weatherboard cottage. They love their food, so I love them.

They also live in a totally out-of-the-way place: in the beautiful, sleepy village of Middleton. Yet their careers are not suffering. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Nick’s a sought-after blacksmith and Kerry’s a talented creative director, and they both enjoy an amazing country lifestyle while maintaining their impressive creative careers. Kerry divides her time between their farm and Melbourne’s CBD for work, and Nick spends his days in his forge (on their 23-acre property on the banks of the D’Entrecasteaux).

They’ve also launched a blog, The Tassie Menagerie, which documents life on the farm, and how they juggle creative pursuits with herding ducks…

While their current arrangement seems idyllic to most, they are aiming even higher. Their goal is to live sustainably and independently – not just in terms of producing their own food, but also in working where and how they choose.

They say their move to Tasmania has enhanced their creativity – has given them a real point of difference in their work (which their clients are noticing).

To me, they are an example of how you can have your Tasmanian lifestyle while not compromising on the quality of your creativity. How you can use Tasmania as your USP (unique selling point).

To do the same, you have to:

1. Be flexible in how you deliver your message and product (think laterally);

2. Make sure you’re visible online (blog, website, guest posts…); and

3. Keep speaking to your audience as if they are global (not just local).

Too many freelance or independent creatives in Tasmania make the mistake of thinking and acting insular, of feeling they can’t compete with interstate and international creatives.

Clearly that’s not true – and it always pays to check out what other successful creatives are achieving. Be inspired and informed.

(Pics by Kerry and Nick, of their farm and forge)

Live Like a Pauper. Write Like a King

In Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Island Life, Minimalism, Tasmania, Writing on February 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Living frugally is perhaps the most liberating thing any writer can do. I have come to realise that my success as a writer (by success I mean the amount and quality of personal writing I do) is directly related to how simple I make my life. To how many distractions I remove.

Not so long ago, extreme frugality was forced on me. However, now that it’s no longer a necessity, I can’t let frugality go. The more I live like a pauper, the more my writing flourishes.

Why?

In the short-term…

  • I socialise less – freeing up time for talking, thinking, discovering and creating
  • I cook mostly homemade meals –  see above
  • I buy less alcohol – self-explanatory!
  • I walk and run – not paying for exercise leaves me with valuable thinking time, and essential ‘running writing’
  • I catch the bus – no car equals more time for writing and reading
  • I clear more clutter – whittling down my wardrobe by half means I’m spending far less time managing it

In the long-term…

I’m not having to fund things I don’t need, so I don’t have to work so hard to make ever-more money. Not being consumed by distracting/draining money-making projects has massively freed up my time and energy for personal writing…

It’s a wake-up call when you realise one new pair of shoes is worth about half a day’s work. That’s half a day I can reclaim in writing – if I choose not to buy the shoes.

So, it’s a choice.

In 12 years in Sydney – when I was childless, free of major responsibilities and had plenty of disposable income – I made a few halfhearted attempts at writing the novel I’d always wanted to write.

Since moving to Tasmania and simplifying my life, I’ve written a full-length novel (in 3 months), entered a short story in a national crime-writing competition (and won an award), and am well on the way to publishing several non-fiction guides (funded by the money I’m saving by not spending).

If you want to be a writer, choose minimalism, simplicity and frugality – and you’ll find the focus, discipline and freedom you need to be successful.

The French Five (aka The Island Five)

In Island Life, Minimalism, Tasmania on January 30, 2012 at 11:39 am

This post could easily be called ‘The French Fashion Diet… Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a thing for clothes. I worked as a fashion editor, stylist and writer for a long time; to me, beautifully made clothes are art. Which makes it hard for me to get rid of them…

Repeat: I have A LOT OF CLOTHES.

But, my move to an island means reassessing my style. I’ve written about how I didn’t buy any new clothes for more than a year after arriving here, due to debt reduction… (tip: shop your own wardrobe before buying anything new).

It’s not just about cutting spending however, as I’ve never really spent much money on clothes (lots of freebies in the magazine world!). No, it turns out that my Sydney clothes are also now somewhat obsolete in Tasmania.

Sydney style vs Island style

In Sydney, I actually did wear everything I owned, so there was no guilty or wasteful ‘excess’. However, since moving to Tasmania, there’s no getting away from the fact that, for whatever reason (weather, work… whatever…), I am only wearing about 5% of my wardrobe. And the rest is clutter which I seem to spend way too much time ‘managing’ (ie moving from one chair to another; from bedroom to spare room).

I made a concerted effort to get rid of stuff last year (all donated to charity), in order to clear some space. But it’s obvious I need to do more in 2012. I want more time and space for me. And less clothes = more time + space.

So, I’m taking inspiration from the French on this one. (Well, the cobbled streets and pretty parks of Hobart do have a Parisian flavour, especially during spring and autumn.)

Obviously, I’m not going to be living with a mere 5 items of clothing, but I consider the following to be the basis of any decent minimalist wardrobe.

My French Five (accessories not included*)

  1. Black blazer
  2. White t-shirt
  3. ‘Cigarette’ pants (ie skinny)
  4. LBD
  5. Pencil skirt

*It almost goes without saying… ballet flats, silk scarves, leather shoulder bag

My Island Five (accessories not included*)

  1. Leather jacket
  2. White tank
  3. Skinny jeans
  4. Shift dress
  5. Denim skirt

*Ankle boots, Havaianas, Indian shawl…

On top of this French/Island Five, you should really only buy 5 additional items per fashion season (ie 10 items per year). And make sure you get rid of something each time you buy something new.

Finally – I do not (and never will) fall for fashion trends and cheap copies. Work your own style and make more space for yourself in doing so!

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