I’m extremely grateful for the position I’m in at the end of 2016.
Do you want people to pay attention to your creative work? You might want to read this first.
1. Know your shit
Bestselling author Steven Pressfield is a big believer in the value of learning on the job. In his latest book, Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit, he talks about how stints as an ad copywriter and screenwriter helped him hone his craft, and learn skills that apply equally to every field of writing.
As an ad copywriter, he quickly learnt that getting words on a page is only the beginning:
“The pros understand that nobody wants to read their shit. They will start from that premise and employ all their arts and all their skills to come up with some brilliant stroke that will cut through that indifference, that clutter, that B.S.”
Welcome to the fourth and final part of The Art of Taking Action series, in which I share a few other ideas from the book I found useful – from Krech and a few of the other contributors.
In part one I wrote about the central ideas in the book The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology, by Gregg Kech, in part two we explored musician Shinichi Suzuki’s thoughts on procrastination and part three considered the stress of not getting things done.
This time, I’ve collected some more of the best ‘notes and quotes’ in a wee magazine for you – just click the link below to view it in your browser.
By the way, I first heard about Gregg Krech on my friend Greg Berg’s excellent podcast Life on Purpose, and today I found out that he’s returned to the show to record another fascinating conversation – both are essential listening for anyone who has found this series helpful.
If you don’t like the magazine format, read on below as usual!
Welcome to part three of The Art of Taking Action series.
In part one I wrote about the central ideas in the book The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology, by Gregg Kech, and in part two we explored musician Shinichi Suzuki’s thoughts on procrastination.
In another excellent essay in the book, Trudy Boyle shares her research on stress, and is keen to point out that not all stress is bad for you – in fact, it’s a normal part of life to some extent, as without some stress we probably wouldn’t achieve anything at all.
There are definitely some stresses which we want to avoid though. Stress caused by procrastination can be particularly harmful to our mental and physical health.
Boyle describes something that feels quite familiar to me – Any fellow freelancers/creative professionals will probably also relate!
“My number one stress creator is not completing a task I have set for myself or following through promptly. The stress is compounded when I take on more than I can deliver in the allotted time. And my final penchant, which makes up what I call my “stress triangle, is to ignore the whole lot until the last sixty seconds!”
But does this matter, as long as we get the work done ‘just in time’? Maybe some of us are just wired to do things at the last minute.
Welcome to part two of The Art of Taking Action series. In part one I wrote about the central ideas in the book The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology, by Gregg Kech.
As well as Kech’s own writing, the book also features essays by other contributors which also have some great insights on the topic.
One of these essays is by the late musician and educator Shinichi Suzuki on the topic ‘To Merely Want to Do Something Is Not Enough’. Suzuki really gets to the heart of how we end up with the habit of procrastination and why it’s so unhelpful. He asks:
“Why is it that so many people think of doing things and do not do them?”
“Consider the implications of a life in which you don’t have the power, focus, or single-mindedness to do what you say you will do. Imagine the countless times your wiser self decides on a particular course of action, only to be blown off course by the merest breeze of immediate desire. There’s a helplessness, a scattered, drifting quality about such a life.”
Dan Rosenthal (quoted in The Art of Taking Action)
Did you start the new year, or the past week, or even this new day, with a clean slate? Unfortunately, I didn’t. I started it with a long list of overdue tasks.
I like the idea of ‘going with the flow’, but what if you’re floating down a river full of rocks and branches and other obstacles? What if you’ve also got your feet tangled in some river weeds and a hefty block of concrete chained to your torso? you’re not going to get anywhere fast.
It’s the same with unfinished tasks and unfulfilled dreams. They weigh us down.
“Each day should be devoted to miracles. The purpose of time is to enable man to learn to use it constructively.”
A Course in Miracles
It’s the very first day of 2016. We, collectively as human beings on earth, are about to take another trip round the sun. How immensely exciting is that?
What an amazing opportunity we have to make something of our lives and change ourselves and this world for the better, if we can only learn how to harness each day constructively.
It’s also scary, right? Because another year has come to an end and we aren’t perfect yet!
Margaret Pinard is one of the good pals I’m grateful to have made through writing this blog. She has been very supportive over the last few years – thanks Margaret!
I asked her to write for you about life as a self-published author – because she’s managed to write and publish three entire novels since I’ve known her.
Now and again I record a podcast with my pals Fabian and Michael (with various special guests) called Mountain Shores.
Well, we hadn’t recorded in a while despite the fact we meet most weeks over Skype for a chat. So we decided to try something different and record a “mini” version of about ten minutes length.
Fabian provided us with an interesting bite-sized topic to discuss – whether giving our all is a good idea. After all, if Michael Phelps wasn’t giving his all when he won all those gold metals as he’s recently claimed, then what hope is there for the rest of us?
Listen below and read the show notes over at mountainshores.net
It’s hard to admit this on my blog that features the word ‘creative’ in the title, but I’ve been creatively blocked for a while now when it comes to my own projects (as you might have guessed by the lack of posts recently).
I have a bad habit of starting up something creative with great gusto and spending loads of time on it but then giving up as soon as the going gets tough – or when I realise that I just can’t carve out that much time on a regular basis.
I’m well aware that starting small is the key to establishing a new habit but even when I’ve tried to keep things small in the past, things have somehow got out of hand. My Mad Genius “Micro-Guides” are a good example of this. There was very little that was “micro” about them in reality because I didn’t set clear constraints in advance and each ended up taking a considerable amount of work to produce. And for various reasons I’ve never quite finished the series of 6 I planned to write (although I do still plan to remedy this at some point before the next ice age).
So I was delighted when my online pal and accomplished illustrator Cathryn, aka concretemoomin, shared the idea of “mini time capsules” on her blog. The idea comes from the talented photographer/videographer Xanthe Berkeley who shares weekly mini films of her weekend adventures on Instagram to great effect.
Here was something truly tiny to try – Instagram limits video uploads to 15 seconds (except for advertisers who are allowed to upload 30). And if I stuck to one video a week, this would surely be a manageable and sustainable project to try! Thankfully I had already filmed some footage that week from our trip to Torquay for a family wedding. I shared the video on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and it got a really nice reaction from friends and family.
Are you a writer, or do you want to be? Then you’ll probably want to have a listen to this in-depth interview I recently recorded with Glasgow-based Writer and Content Specialist Nicola Balkind.
Nicola is giving a workshop in Edinburgh on Finding Your Voice Online (at the Skriva Writing School on Friday 23rd October) where she will help writers create “a plan you can’t ignore” for their online writing career.
She’s very well qualified to do so, being a published author, long-time freelancer and a regular contributor to BBC Radio Scotland and The List Magazine – just to mention a few of her accomplishments!
We cover a dizzying array of topics in this half hour conversation including:
- Why finding your voice online is so important
- How she juggles so many multi-media projects
- How she got started in freelancing and why it’s good to have a mix of more “serious” and fun work
- Persuading people to hire you and take your advice when you’re ahead of the curve
- Why being a young woman can be both an advantage and a disadvantage in the media
- Her experience writing two books (about Glasgow film locations and Hunger Games fandom)
- What she learnt from Oliver Burkeman’s book about self-help for cynics when she was a literary guineapig for Canongate Books
As well as her impressive business blog, you can also read more from Nicola at her personal blog Robotnic.co which features “monthly reading wrap-ups, book and film reviews, and pop culture chat” or you can enjoy watching/listening to her talking about the same topics on YouTube and the podcast she co-hosts, ‘Bookish Blether.’
Oh, and a final reminder that if you live locally you can book a place on her Edinburgh workshop over at Eventbrite.
“An ounce of practice is generally worth more than ton of theory.”
– E.F. Schumacher (author of the book Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered)
At last year’s Small is Beautiful conference in Glasgow, the first speaker was writer and author Jocelyn K Glei, who at the time was Founding Editor and Director of Behance’s 99U.com and also edited their excellent book series.