You are not alone

You Are Not Alone - Pierre WolferClear-minded Creativity is possible, if you’re willing to work at it. The fact is though, it’s a work in progress, not a permanent state of mind.

Most importantly though, and here is the real secret to being a Clear-Minded Creative – you cannot do it alone. Neither can I, or anyone else.

Main photo: Pierre Wolfer (Creative Commons)

The Art of Not Knowing

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Freedom in the present moment comes from letting go of the need to know what will happen in the future.

From trusting that you will make the right decisions if you listen to your heart, your gut instincts and feelings, and ignoring the constant chatter of the “monkey mind”.

Freedom comes from letting yourself ‘be’. Accepting who you are. Not forcing yourself to be something you’re not.

Caring for others is an essential part of life, but can’t we do that without sacrificing our own happiness in the process? We shouldn’t be required to live up to other people’s expectations if they are no longer in alignment with who we are and what we want out of life.

The Uncertain Creative

Photo: Nicu Buculei (Creative Commons)

Photo: Nicu Buculei (Creative Commons)

Society expects us to decide definitively what we want to do with our lives by the time we leave school, or university.

But being a ‘Clear-Minded Creative’ doesn’t mean you know exactly what you’re doing. That wouldn’t be very interesting!

It means you accept that you may never know – but that you keep trying and experimenting anyway.

8 Daily Habits That Will Help You Refresh Your Mindset

Meditation - Refresh Your Mindset

Photo by AlicePopkorn (Creative Commons)

In James Altucher’s entertaining book How to be the Luckiest Person Alive, he suggests a daily practice which he claims will dramatically improve your life:

  • Physical – exercise enough to break a sweat for 10 minutes (probably 20-30 minutes of movement a day in total) – he also says it’s essential to sleep for 8 hours (9pm-5am), and suggests no eating after 5:30pm
  • Emotional – cut people out of your life who drag you down, and always be honest (without being hurtful).
  • Mental – exercise the idea muscle – come up with a list of ideas every day
  • Spiritual – at least one of the following: pray, meditate, practice gratitude, practice forgiveness, study spiritual texts.

Altucher says that any time he feels things are going downhill in his life, it’s because he let this practice slip.

I agree with most of what he suggests, but of course we all have our own priorities. So here is my own list of things that help me ‘refresh my mindset’ in the hope that you’ll also find it useful.

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Before You Quit Writing, Read This

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

Thomas Mann

Before You Quit Writing, Read This is a new collaborative book from Dave Ursillo and The Literati Writers (of which I’m a member) which is now available on Amazon Kindle.

The purpose of the book is to share our personal stories so that we can encourage fellow writers who might be considering quitting to keep going.

Digging Deep

My contribution is called I’m a Writer, Damn It! and it’s a very personal piece.

Dave challenged us to really dig deep and write about something we haven’t revealed publicly before.

So I delved into some difficult childhood memories, and told a brief story of my life, including the times when I wrote and the fallow periods when I did anything but.

“The act of writing is itself an act of understanding. By putting pen to paper, you’re engaging in a very reflective and sometimes even confrontational practice of facing your own truth: everything etched within your soul.”

Dave Ursillo (Before You Quit Writing, Read This)

My intention was to let any struggling writers out there know that I too have struggled. I spent many years not writing and without much hope of ever achieving my creative dreams. I almost gave up. But I’m still here, writing, publishing and even getting paid for it.

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It’s Covered

One of the things that made this such a great experience was that Dave put this project together in a highly professional way, from bringing in illustrator Mars Dorian to create the cover, to hiring a professional editor to give each of us feedback on our contributions, to preparing publicity material.

Edited Highlights

As a professional writer and content creator for a variety of clients, I’m used to receiving feedback on my work, however it is a different matter when it’s something so personal.

It took me a day or two to digest the editor’s comments and to accept that making those changes would definitely improve the piece, such as being clearer and more transparent about what I was trying to express. It was a great thing to experience and has definitely made me think more carefully about how I write.

Breaking Through The Fear Barrier

The day before the book was due to be published, I read over my piece again and was suddenly seized with a terrible fear that what I’d written could upset my parents. I had never discussed some of those memories with them directly and I didn’t want to them to misinterpret what I had written.

I shared my fear with the other Literati Writers and got some very supportive responses and advice, which really helped. But the fear remained.

“FEAR is a bastard. He has this way of wrapping his cold, sinewy hand around your heart that takes your breath away, sends a chill down into your guts, and causes you to freeze up. He takes the joy you get from writing and ruthlessly smashes it to bits, making you second-guess your abilities.”

Jessica Glendinning (Before You Quit Writing, Read This)

I’ve read other writers and content creators talk about this type of fear gripping them, and the general consensus seems to be that this is what happens when you break out of your comfort zone and start sharing something real, something that truly matters, and that will actually be of value to others.

And maybe by writing about those negative experiences and sharing it publicly, I can finally escape their hold on me.

“As you dig, you will learn. And once unearthed, you can choose what to keep around, and what to let go.”

Dave Ursillo (Before You Quit Writing, Read This)

That’s something that makes sense to me as a writer, but is probably difficult for others to understand, especially if they find themselves entangled in my words without having chosen to be.

Dare Greatly and Do The Work

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The fact is that what I’ve shared in my article is my own truth, of how I experienced and interpreted circumstances at the time they happened.

Perhaps those half-remembered moments from the past lack their proper context, and perhaps they are an unbalanced account of what really happened. But it is what came to me when I sat down to write.

“What’s left on the page is pure, unadulterated me. It’s not always pretty, but that’s okay. Neither am I. It’s not always funny or insightful. But whatever it is, it’s me. It’s a snapshot of myself. A little glimpse into my brain at the moment the pen hit the paper or my fingers hit the keys.”

Tom Meitner (Before You Quit Writing, Read This)

Either way, I will learn from this, and keep going. Because as Brené Brown suggests, you’ve got to Dare Greatly, and that means being vulnerable, taking risks and leaning into the discomfort that comes from baring your soul to the world.

And as Steven Pressfield says, you’ve got to Do The Work, and make a habit of sitting down to write, every day.

Whatever failings I may have, at least I’m doing both those things. This, I’m discovering, is what it’s like to be a writer.

Thanks to Dave, Jessica and Tom for their quotes above – each and every contribution to the book contains similar wisdom about writing, so I’d highly recommend having a read.

Before You Quit Writing, Read This is available now on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk as well as other Amazon stores worldwide (affiliate links).

It is free to download until Thursday July 12th 2013, and you don’t even need a Kindle to read it. 

mountainshores_icelandDave Ursillo is also the guest on the most recent Mountain Shores Podcast:

Finding Home In Writing (and Rhode Island)

In an in-depth and honest conversation, Dave chats to Fabian and I about how writing helped him bounce back from depression and how he has carved out a career as a creative entrepreneur after leaving the world of politics behind.

Visit MountainShores.net | Listen/Subscribe on iTunes | Stitcher

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What I Think About When I Read About Running

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‘Persevere’ is the motto of Leith, now a part of Edinburgh.

I was extremely saddened to hear about the tragic events at the Boston Marathon yesterday and my heart goes out to everyone affected.

I’ve never been to Boston, but my grandparents lived and worked there for a number of years after they emigrated to the States from Ireland so I feel a strong connection to the City. Plus, Mel and I (and a few of our friends) had joined the ranks of the long-distance running community only the day before, when we ran the Rock n Roll Edinburgh Half Marathon. So I feel an affinity with the runners too, who were simply trying to do something positive and achieve a personal goal.

Yesterday’s events certainly put our minor complaints about the Edinburgh wind and rain and the rather poor organisation at the finish line of the half-marathon into perspective. Suddenly, I am appreciative of my many blessings instead.

“Reaching the finish line, never walking, and enjoying the race. These three, in this order, are my goals.”

Haruki Murakami

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Adventures in Self-Publishing

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Self-publishing still has a bad rap amongst some writers, who see it as ‘vanity publishing’.

That’s good news for the rest of us, who see it as a brilliant opportunity to get our work out there without having to wait for permission from traditional gatekeepers.

Obviously though, if you are self-publishing, it’s important to maintain high standards.

Artisan Authors

According to Guy Kawasaki, author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk), self-publishing at its best is akin to artisan producers such as makers cheese or craft beers. It might not be ‘hands on’ in the traditional sense, but done right, Kawasaki believes it’s an artform all of its own (listen to this great interview on Blogcast.fm to find out more).

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Claiming New Ground

claiming new groundAlmost half way into February, my goals are beginning to take shape for the rest of the year. Or at least the next few months.

More importantly, I’m beginning to make progress on those goals. Tiny steps, maybe – but at least it’s some progress.

Pounding the Pavement

Mel and I have signed up for our first half-marathon – the Edinburgh Rock n Roll Half Marathon in April.

We’ve already started training using Hal Higdon‘s Novice 1 programme. The result is that I’m running more each week in 2013 so far than I did in an entire month in 2012.

The programme is working really well so far, with small increases in distance each week. It’s a good feeling to be able to manage the slightly longer runs.

We ran farther along a particular road last week than we ever had before, and I really felt like I was ‘claiming new ground’ by running there for the first time. I’m not sure I would have felt the same way if I’d walked there, and we have in fact driven past there a few times. Running though, it felt more primal. Territory claimed.

As we were passing, Mel and I even got invited inside the local boxing club to have a look around!

Branching Out

Claiming new ground creatively is a great feeling too. One of my other goals for the first half of the year is to finish the 3 ‘missing’ micro-guides from the Career Masterplan for Mad Geniuses.

I’ve started writing and researching for those for 20 minutes a day as part of Michael Nobbs’ Month of Tiny Steps. It’s not a lot of work each day, but it’s better than nothing (which is what I’ve been doing on that particular project for the last month or so).

I also want to start spreading the word about this blog and publishing more content. It would be great if I could start making some money from my efforts here in the future.

Clear-Minded Classics Volume 1: Ten Essential Books for Dissatisfied Creative Types

Clear-Minded Classics Cover Test 2So as a test in that direction I’ve compiled my reviews of the first ten Clear-Minded Classics I’ve covered on this blog and made them available on Kindle.

The formatting isn’t perfect, the cover is ultra-basic, but, hey – I’ve got something published on Amazon! (New ground claimed!)

As a thank you for supporting Clear-Minded Creative you can get the book for free today and tomorrow only (13th and 14th February).

If you find this blog at all helpful, you’ll really be supporting my efforts here by buying it, sharing it and reviewing it on Amazon. More importantly though, I hope you read it and find it useful.

As I say in the introduction:

I spent a lot of time ‘lost at sea’ over the last 15 years, and these books have gradually helped me steer a course to the shore – but it took a lot of time just to discover they were out there. It took a lot of trial and error to put these ideas into place. Therefore I hope this guide can save you a lot of time spent searching for answers and enable you to get to work on your creative projects even sooner!

Get the book on Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon.de Amazon.fr (it’s available on other Amazon stores also)

Click to share the book on Twitter (thanks!)

(Please note that at present I have no plans to publish this book on other platforms such as the iBookstore and Nook but I may look into this in the future.)

Do you plan to claim new ground during the rest of 2013? Let me know in the comments!