Poet, Artist & Blogger Emily Dodd

One of the good things about starting this blog has been meeting new creative people and Emily Dodd is one of those lovely new people who I’ve come into contact since the blog started up.

I’ve been amazed at how positive, creative and productive she has been in the short while I’ve known her, so as with all of the Clear-Minded Creative Types so far, I wanted to find out what her secret was, and she hasn’t disappointed with her extremely honest and generous answers below, which I found very inspiring – hopefully you will too.


Mike Davenport of Stick Figure Simple

Here’s an interesting interview with an unusual creative type – Mike Davenport has been a teacher for over 30 years, and it doesn’t seem to have dampened his humour as you’ll see by his answers (hint: doughnuts feature heavily).

Mike’s one of those rare people who practice what they preach, as seen by his wise advice  on clarity over at and his ability to express complex ideas through his deceptively simple stick figure drawings. He’s also an active member of the Third Tribe marketing forum, run by Copyblogger Media.

Let’s hear what he’s got to say. I’ll give him a moment to prepare himself first.

Mike? Are you in the zone yet?

Okay, I’m ready. Bring on the toughest questions you got. Fire ‘em up.

If you insist!  Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?

Starting easy on me, are ya? Okay.

I’m actually two people—not physically, but mentally. A part of me works with actual humans for my day job, coaching and teach. The other part dabbles here on the net—working with humans (at least I hope they are) virtually and digitally. I draw stick figure images and use simple drawings in an attempt to help readers find clarity and better engage their audience.

Exciting, eh?

Some days I remind myself of this fellow who’s eating a dozen doughnuts by himself. But he’s drinking water because he is conscious about his weight. Kinda schizo, a nice guy, but ya gotta wonder what he’s thinking.

About doughnuts, I guess? Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?

I’ve always known that I wanted to teach—and I’ve been lucky enough to do that for over 30 years.

But the tricky part has been WHAT do I want to teach. And I’ve been all over the place on that. I’ve taught courses ranging from cross-country skiing to courses on failure and wisdom. Now I’m teaching on the web about clarity. Man, that’s a wide spectrum of stuff. Keeps me young and attentive . . . er . . . what were we talking about??

Clarity, I believe. Speaking of which, how do you define success?

Oh . . . questions getting tougher, I see. How about four versions then.

Short version: success = living

Long version: success = living a long, prosperous, engaging, and compassionate life.

Heavy version: success = the split-second before you die you do a quick review of your life and you realize that you made a difference.

Even heavier version: success = getting the last doughnut.

Ah, the doughnuts again, I notice a recurring theme!

In a possibly futile attempt to distract you from circular sugary foodstuffs, what in your opinion are the positives and negatives of technology when it comes to both creating and promoting your work?

Jeez, I should have studied harder. Okay . . . hm . .

There is this wicked cool part to technology and that is how fast new things can appear, almost out of nowhere. Like smart phones. Within the last two years the market has exploded with users and with the ability of the phone and access to services.

Yet there is a negative of side to technology—and it is often very significant. And that is how your work can now be seen by an enormous audience, and very quickly. (As I write this one of our political leaders has just resigned due to the fact he was sending explicit images of himself to women over his smart phone. I don’t think he realized that that material could (and was) easily shared with others.)

See, people struggle with the power of new technology sometimes, like this poor chap did.

So what? Well, I draw simple stick figure images. Those have been around for thousands of years. And back then a guy probably put the image up on the cave wall to impress a gal or his family. But technology, such as smart phones, now makes it so anyone in the world that has one can see my images in a second.

That can freak a guy out sometimes. Really.

Do you collaborate with others or prefer to work alone, and why?

I do both. I collaborate usually until I annoy the heck out of someone then I end up working alone. Hm . . that should be telling me something.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere! Seriously though, is community important to you – either local or online – and if so, why?

Community is where it is happening—both real and web-real. To me, stories are critical to what I do and if I’m just telling stories to myself, well, that’s weird and kinda scary. I get stoked by an active and vibrant community. Bored by my lonesome.

Hm . . this is almost like a therapy session. Do I need to pay you an hourly rate?

No, but maybe therapy is the way forward for me. At least that’s what my wife tells me…

In fact here’s one of my recurring issues: I’ve always found consistency difficult in terms of learning a craft and then practicing it regularly. Is this something you’ve mastered and do you have any advice on how to maintain this?

Y’know, I’ve entered this mid-life point—fifties actually. And I can hang my hat (and I do wear hats) on two things that I have been trying to master.

Be authentic, and be honest.

Both have been hard for me to get a handle on, and I still struggle, but in terms of what I do and how I do it, those are the most critical parts.

Brilliant, thanks very much Mike, for taking my quite serious questions not at all seriously and thus reminding me to take myself less seriously too – a good lesson indeed. And of course for the illustrations which he drew especially for this interview. Don’t forget to check out his stuff over at


Fabian Kruse (The Friendly Anarchist)

I’m delighted to introduce you to Fabian Kruse aka The Friendly Anarchist. Despite never having met in person, I’ve been good friends with Fabian since we both took part in an online course run by Jonathan Mead called Paid to Exist, which gives an overview of how Jonathan was able to quit his job and run his own online business. A small group of us who were on the course have kept in touch through Skype, our blogs, social media and email, and it’s been fascinating to see how things have progressed for each of us since.

In December of last year Fabian and I supported each other in getting our key creative projects at the time off the ground (or should that be nagged each other?)– for me it was this blog, and for him it was his excellent new book Beyond Rules: A Dilettante’s Guide to Personal Sovereignty, Space Travel, and Lots of Ice Cream which he has generously made available for free download.

Fabian has a unique, thoughtful angle on life, inspired partly by his travels, and he’s a superb photographer. I particularly like his emphasis on tempo guisto, meaning to do things at a pace which suits your own inner tempo. Now if I’m honest with myself that’s pretty much how I naturally do things too, no matter how much I try and make myself stick to a strict schedule, so Fabian’s philosophy on life makes me feel a lot better about myself!

Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?

I am a writer, thinker, artist, activist and idler with a background in political science. I am also a slow-pace long-term traveller. Currently, I am living in Cologne, Germany, where I finished writing and editing my first book, Beyond Rules.

I like the sun, friendly people, good food, good rum, and am interested in the internet, micropreneurship, friendly anarchism, and lonely beaches.

Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?

I describe myself as deliberately dilettantish, because I enjoy the trial and error process so much that I would not want to miss it.

This is noticeable, when it comes to means of creative expression and technique: I am currently mostly writing, but cannot let go of – both analogue and digital, serious and from-the-hip style – photography. I also enjoy painting and doodling, and am very interested in art in the public space. Then, there’s typography and print design, screen-printing, and graffiti that call my attention. I even once started making electronic music, but I admittedly suck at it.

Fabian’s photography site

Short answer to your question: I decided not to focus, even though I agree that it’s important to practice a lot if you want to become really good at something. Still, I believe there’s more than one thing we can do in life, and I prefer to become “pretty good” in many things, instead of being “stellar” in just a single one.

Have you organised your life in a certain way/made sacrifices in order to continue to be creative?

I decided against pursuing an office career and having lots of money.

This was quite a challenge, because I was raised in the old economy, focusing on stable jobs, secure retirement savings, et cetera.

Still, I never really bought into that approach, because I felt that life should be lived here and now, opposed to postponing it endlessly. Too many people die waiting for the future, or they become sick or simply old and tired, and won’t be able to move freely anymore and make their dreams come true once they have the money.

Changes became more concrete for me after I started traveling on my own, mostly in Latin America. Once you’re on the road and in a different culture, you see that other approaches to life can work, based more on solidarity and freedom than on competition and restraint.

I am dreaming of creating a very basic community fund with friends and acquaintances in order to free ourselves from the broken pension system and create working alternatives at a lower level. I understand that most people need some safety guarantees, but I suppose there are better ways to do it than what’s the standard today.

How do you define success?

I believe success is driving a Porsche and living in an apartment overseeing Central Park in NYC.

I also want a trophy wife that gets plastic surgery every couple of months.

And a learjet.

(Of course, I’m just kidding. My real take on success can be found in chapter 5 of Beyond Rules. I’m serious about the latter, though. I’d *love* to have a learjet. Have you seen that last James Bond movie where they fly from some old runway in Haiti directly to the opera in Bregenz, Austria? Amazing!)

What in your opinion are the positives and negatives of technology when it comes to both creating and promoting your work?

The negatives: I get lost in it sometimes. Too much information and input isn’t always a good thing. So I think you have to identify that fine red line between inspiration and information overload.

The positives: Dictionaries, encyclopedias, how-tos and tutorials right at hand; the ability to get in touch with similar-minded people anywhere in the world; the end of the gatekeeper culture (even though there is a new one emerging, and we have to stop that!).

Plus, it’s helping me to earn a living without being in an office, and I definitely love that.

Do you collaborate with others or prefer to work alone, and why?

I am used to working last-minute, *and* I’m a recovering perfectionist, so these two factors don’t combine well with many people.

On the other hand, it can work pretty fine; it’s really a compatibility question, and one of creating clear milestones and deliverables for everybody involved.

It also depends a lot on the matter. Photography, for example, is something very different from writing: When I am shooting for my own pleasure, I’ll often bring people along (or just shoot during meet-ups and travels), and this will always influence the result. In portrait sessions, I’ll of course try to include ideas and wishes from the clients as well.

In painting, I am sometimes working together with my wife… so there’s always some give and take, and it leads to interesting results.

When it comes to text, though, I am often unwilling to collaborate, at least during the process of creation. I prefer to write alone, discussing content either before starting, or once an advanced editing stage is reached. If you compromise too much, you will water everything down to the point it gets boring and mediocre.

Is community important to you – either local or online – and if so, why?

It’s key. Peers are so important. They will critique me, they will motivate me, they will inspire me, they will kick my ass, they will laugh at me or with me. Key, key, key, key, key!

It’s something I miss during my travels at times, and it’s probably also a reason why I end up doing so many different things. For example, I met a bunch of genius screen-printers in San Salvador, so they taught me their technique, and we just met up several times to drink and print; a thing I wouldn’t have done on my own.

Or the whole extreme metal subculture – I met those guys in the Caribbean. Incredible, it’s like 35 degrees and the sun shines 365 days a year, and they dress in black leather and sing about the eternal winter. So I simply had to document them, and at the same time I could help them out with promotional photos.

Extreme Metal in the Carribbean by Fabian Kruse

Community also matters online, even though I am a bad forum user. I’ll sometimes be around for weeks at a daily basis, and then get lost for a couple of months because other things in life are happening. Old-school web user that I am, I still prefer staying in touch by email, although I enjoy Twitter quite a bit, too. Changeblogger (created by Raam Dev) is another new forum I’m interested in.

I’ve always found consistency difficult in terms of learning a craft and then practicing it regularly – is this something you’ve mastered and do you have any advice on how to maintain this?

The only solution seems to be doing something every single day, no matter what.

I either write a text, or take some photos, or do something else, and, surprisingly, it helps.

My main advice would be to lower the entry barriers: Just decide to work on your creative stuff for 10 minutes each day. Or to write one sentence. Often, once you’re at it, you will be able to do much more than that, and you will see the progress after a couple of weeks or months. I think it’s true that most people overestimate what they can achieve in a day, and underestimate what they can achieve in a year. But in order for the year to be successful, at least a small action is required every single day.

Apart from that, of course, I am not very consistent in what I do – and I don’t think this is necessary for every creative person, either. It even can become a limitation that’s merely imposed by economic considerations. While that is one possible way to pursue your art, it’s certainly not the only one, and there have been some very successful people (like Gerhard Richter) doing otherwise.

Cheers and thank you, Milo! :)

And the same to you Fabian!  If you enjoyed that and found Fabian’s outlook on life of interest, please say hello in the comments. Meanwhile don’t forget to have a read of his book.

Mule guitar

Journalist, Podcaster and “Philosopher” Steven Kearney

Ok, so to get back into the swing of things with the interviews, here’s one with Mr Steven Kearney, a writer for The Scotsman’s music website Radar, who I first met because we both did a radio show at Edinburgh’s student radio station Fresh Air.

Alas, Stevie has killed off the truly excellent ‘Dylan and the Mule’ podcasts which I shamefully only started listening to around the time he stopped doing them. And I miss them now. Sob.

I’m told though that he has plenty more web projects up his sleeve for the future. For the time being he’s busy enough with a certain charity challenge – read on for more info.

I wanted to interview Stevie in particular for his perspective as someone who has recently trained to be a journalist and who has intimate knowledge of the current (difficult) situation for that profession. He’s also kindly given me permission to make his dissertation Could the Professional Music Journalist Vanish available for free download – see the end of the post for more details.

Hi Stevie! Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?

We all know the scene – you are sitting in a bar with friends and you are introduced to someone new. They ask “what do you do then?” I always struggle with this particular question. If I’m feeling playful, I tend to answer “philosopher”, although this is in no way the truth. It has led to some of my most wonderful lies though.

My university studies were in Corporate Communications and then Journalism, so I tend to be very communication centred. By day I run a wine and whisky shop, which I enjoy immensely. In terms of the creative side of things, I have been writing for the Scotsman’s Radar blog for around two years, I have been Fresh Air Radio’s Best Male Presenter on two occasions, I previously ran the Dylan and the Mule new music podcast and I’m currently in the planning stage of organising an all day charity music festival in Aberdeen during July (possibly entitled Aural Pleasure, if I can get away with it).

Podcast Powered By Podbean

I’m working with my friend Colin Austin to put on a series of acts in two venues, somewhere around Belmont Street to raise money for youth projects in the creative arts sector. There’s still a hell of a lot of work to be done to get things moving though! We also have plans afoot to start up a new Aberdeen-based new music website in the next few months, with regular reviews, interviews and podcasts featuring session tracks by local musicians.

I have previously tried my hand at music, but lack any modicum of talent. I have written a lot of short stories and am currently battling my way through writing my first novel – which is about an alcoholic television news journalist who commits a terrible act of violence late one night, then arrives at work the next morning to find out that he is covering the story. It is, I stress, not an autobiography!

Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?

I still lack focus to be honest. This time last year I was moving to Manchester to be a kick-ass news journalist. That was what I’d studied for and that was what I was going to be. I did well at university and had no doubt I would be successful. Five months later I had quit, having absolutely hated my job. I had to source and write 25 articles a day and I couldn’t keep up. It was a sobering time. Two months after that I was moving back home to Aberdeen and working back in the wine trade. However, you can’t put a price on looking forward to going to work in the morning rather than dreading it. So yeah, plans change. Mine change regularly.

In terms of creativity, I am still unsure if I am a properly creative person myself – I see my role more as a facilitator for creativity in others. In terms of music writing, I am the guy who arranges the quotes in a certain order and adds a bit of background detail. The creative people are the ones making the wonderful music. With the festival we are planning for the summer, we are giving a platform to others.

I guess in many ways it has taken me a long time to find a role for myself within the music scene, which effectively makes me a frustrated musician doesn’t it? I still have to try very hard not to behave like a total gimp when I’m around people whose music I love. Every time I see Dan Willson from Withered Hand I manage to speak absolute shit to him because I think the guy is phenomenal. I reckon he thinks I’m a proper mental case, but he’s much too polite to say anything.

Looking forwards, I want to keep the music writing as a hobby as that allows me to pick and choose my projects more carefully. Journalism is not half the fun it is cracked up to be and you need to be really focused on one particular goal, otherwise you’ll end up doing what I did, which was sitting in a tower block in Manchester at 8am every morning writing about property investment in the Middle East. And that is a pile of shit.

Have you organised your life in a certain way/made sacrifices in order to continue to be creative?

I’ve not made huge sacrifices, because I am doing what I want to do. I work on projects which interest me and have a job I enjoy which is flexible enough to allow me to do other things outside of work time. I don’t make much money, but I am not in a place where that bothers me right now. It bothers my bank, but I’m fine with that. I’m waiting for my government bail out.

How do you define success?

Success for me has to be measured by a yardstick of my own making. If you look around at others too much you create two problems. Firstly, any success you identify will only be comparative success, compared to your peers, which is fairly hollow. Secondly, there will always be someone doing better than you, so you’ll never be satisfied. Success is getting up each day and looking forward to whatever shit might be thrown at you, safe in the knowledge that none of it really matters at all.

What in your opinion are the positives and negatives of technology when it comes to both creating and promoting your work?

Stevie interviews Comedian Marcus Brigstocke

The positive side for any writer is that the barriers to entry have been steamrollered by the internet – and the rise of blogging in particular. My university thesis was on this very subject – looking at how technology has changed the role of the music writer. The general outcome was that it is wonderful that anyone can now write a blog and have their work accessible to such a global audience, but it makes it much harder to make a living from music writing.

With my journalist’s hat on, the biggest problem is that so many journalism graduates are being pumped out each year into an industry in terminal decline as technology replaces people, perpetuated by a recession where advertising revenues are at an all time low. There are no paid positions to take up. Subsequently, talented young journalists are working for free, even for some of the big publications. In some cases recently, people are paying to do work placements.

Thus, the publications see no need to pay anyone, because there is a massive queue of people willing to work for nothing. It is a vicious cycle for music writers just now and it isn’t going to get any better. Incidentally, when I left my job as a news journalist, I was apparently replace by an endless stream of two-week unpaid work placement students, all giving up their time in the hope of landing a paid position which didn’t actually exist.

While we discuss the upside and downside of technology, it is useful to consider that blogging does present another problem. Too many people think their opinion matters when it comes to music. I am a music journalist because I research bands, I interview them and I report what I learn. I am trained to ask the right questions and get the required information to create an informative and entertaining article. I don’t judge music and I am certainly not a music critic.

My opinion on a band is no more valid than that of any other person at the gig I’m attending. I am careful to keep my opinion of the music out of what I do because, essentially, I have no basis on which to be a taste-maker. Blogging causes a din of unqualified opinion and I personally try to keep out of this. With my podcasts, it is a bit different, because it is obvious that I will play things I like because it is my podcast. When writing for a site like Radar though, it carries more weight, so I’ll stick to the facts. It would be nice to know that people realise that starting a blog doesn’t make you a music critic.

Stevie with Neil from the super awesome Edinburgh band Meursault

Working with others certainly leads to a much better creative process. With the music festival we are plotting, it only really came to life when I sat in the Brew Dog pub in Aberdeen with Colin one night and we threw ideas around for about 3 hours. John – who runs The Kiosque – joined us and helped take some of the rough edges off our more elaborate plans. We had two dreamers and one guy thinking practically. It was so much more productive than being sat at home, trying to figure it out on my own.

In contrast, my fiction writing is a resolutely solitary process, where I have to switch off the internet, block out the world and find a quiet room, where I will sit for at least 3 hours at a time without budging. Occasionally it gets to a stage where I am prepared to send it to a select few people who are my trusted proof-readers. Even then, I find it brutal having someone pore over your work looking for ways to improve it. It undoubtedly helps to have a good community of writers who can help each other out, but I still find it much too difficult to let go.

I’ve always found consistency difficult in terms of learning a craft and then practicing it regularly – is this something you’ve mastered and do you have any advice on how to maintain this?

When your creative outlets happen outside of your work hours, it is hard to be disciplined enough to achieve consistency. This is certainly something I struggle with. Also, I was afraid to say no to anything for a long time, because I hoped to make a career out of journalism. It is so incredibly tough to find a decent job that I felt compelled to agree to everything to keep my CV looking good, but in the end I spread myself too thin and did a half-arsed job on everything.

In terms of advice, I’d say pick one or two things and do them really well, rather than trying to do everything and thus doing it all badly. I have a much better balance now than this time last year, but I still take on far too much.

Incidentally, I have also decided to take on a bit of an insane challenge to raise money for a very worthwhile project in Tanzania, so when I’m not working or writing, I’m out on my bike or in the gym, preparing to cycle 270km over mountains, while stopping off to run up Ben Nevis and Ben Lomond along the way – all in just 4 days. I have actually lost the plot, so feel free to sponsor this madness at

Cheers Stevie! So do you agree or disagree with his outspoken opinions on blogging, or demand that Stevie start podcasting again right away? Let him know in the comments.

That free dissertation – the full details.

Given that Mr Kearney is also giving away his entire dissertation to readers of this blog, why not  say thanks by sponsoring the man and helping charity at the same time? I’m off to do it now.

The dissertation looks at how things like blogging have affected music journalism and  out of the people he interviewed there are quite a few different opinions on the topic.  I was delighted to be asked to contribute, along with the following Scottish music scene movers and shakers:

Vic Galloway, Jim Gellatly, Matthew Young, Jason Cranwell, Nick Mitchell, Billy Hamilton, Peter Kelly and Dan Willson.

Download Could the Professional Music Journalist Vanish by Steven A Kearney


Filmmaker & Photographer Mary Gordon

This week’s interview is with Mary Gordon, who I first found out about through her blog Creative Voyage. Mary runs courses in Edinburgh based on the hugely popular book The Artist’s Way
(which I will be talking about in more detail on this blog soon). However despite that fact we both live in the same city we have yet to meet in real life- something we must remedy soon!

I found Mary’s ideas and philosophy of life really interesting and hope you will too.  I was especially intrigued by how she has following her instinct on a number of key occasions has been a key part of her creative journey.

Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?

I’m a filmmaker/photographer who runs creative unblocking workshops in Glasgow & Edinburgh based on the techniques developed by Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way and my own 20 years of creating. I’m working on putting together a collaborative photography exhibition and developing a feature documentary.

Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?

Well… I had various quite random wishes of things I wanted to be as a child, junk shop owner, writer and someone in ‘biznis’. However I had a very profound experience walking as a student through a wood in spring when the trees were in blossom by full moon and a most powerful and direct inner voice said to me that my job was to ‘tell stories’.

However in what form as been the basis of my exploration ever since. I started by making films and then I took up photography in a slightly random way about 12 years ago.

The Lomo LCA

I was staying with a friend in London and walked past an early Lomography shop. I had been reading about Lomography online and was compelled to go in. I ended up buying a Lomo LCA from this rather strange woman with a strong German accent who gave me a quick lesson on how to use the camera. And I was off on a whole different kind of creative adventure.

Have you organised your life in a certain way/made sacrifices in order to continue to be creative?

Yes but partly because there are certain things or ways of working which really don’t work for me (full time in an office 9-5). But there are other ways to look at it. What other people think of a sacrifice to me is a relief. Because what others think is necessary in their life is not to me.

But then they probably wouldn’t travel 500 miles to the best photo printer or spend their holidays in the Imperial War Museum Archive watching rare films by Ruby Grierson!


How do you define success?

Humm well I feel that if I’m creating regularly, in contact with a wide group of creative people, having fun, have something to look forward to and not starving – I’m doing brilliantly.

I’ve found that whenever someone is trying to shove their idea of ‘success’ at you it is because they have achieved their idea of ‘success’ and are as miserable as sin but won’t admit it so they are on a mad recruiting campaign because they cannot countenance the idea that they have swallowed something that does not work. Being happy is the best revenge.

On a side note re money – whenever I have had well paid work which I dislike I’ve always ended up worse off financially speaking due to the amount of cash spent on ‘treating’ myself to compensate on my time being tied up in something I dislike doing.

This is not to say that I’m against money. But I think it isn’t helpful to push the idea of making living from your creativity to legitimate being creative. I found Tom Hodgkinson’s book How To Be Free very helpful about clarifying my ideas around what makes a good life.


What in your opinion are the positives and negatives of technology when it comes to both creating and promoting your work?

As far as creating goes I’m old school (waggy finger) analogue. I only work with film. My last documentary was recorded on video but had a large tranche of footage which was originated on Super8 which I shot myself.

What I like about these formats is the amount of chance and accident which is involved and actual conditions. By that I mean the shot or footage is dependent on me being there at that particular moment when the light is like this. Its not faked up later. It’s a zen lesson on dealing with what is.

When it comes to promoting my work? Bring it on! Gosh I wish I’d had the internets when I made my first film. It was agony putting myself out and my film out into the world. I now would have such an easier job. The ability to make connections and be connected is infinitely expanded.

I am a total twitter convert – it was my friend Rhiannon Connelly @starrybluesky, a photographer working with polaroids who introduced me to it. As a result I now actually feel more connected to the place I live in and I’m making wonderful connections in a wider way.

I was on an old school email list to do with creativity about 10 years ago and the connections I made via that have meant that in the past 5 years I’ve been on quite extended trips to US and Australia where I actually met all the people I’d been emailing with all those years.

I occasionally have a freak out about the amount of time I spend online. But I am becoming less reactive more organised about it. But I had a lovely aha moment talking to a friend last week when she pointed out presocial media we weren’t all rushing about being wonderful in the now, connected, present people and she could remember spending much time lying on the sofa flicking her way through Heat.

Do you collaborate with others or prefer to work alone, and why?

My films are necessity collaborations or a bit like gathering an army together! I’ve been considering whether it would be possible to work more on film alone and I’ve been thinking about Margaret Tait as a role model here. I would never have made my first film Ethel Moorhead without my producer Steve Quinn who was a wonderful collaborator. We were both novices and learned together.

I think if you do collaborate you have to respect whoever you are working with. My current producer has a strong background in TV so when he talks to me about the way my story is or isn’t working in terms of storytelling in TV terms I have to take what he says on board. I think when collaboration works you can take turns in infusing the partnership with creativity.

On the other hand when you work alone as I do with my photography – I enjoy that very much as its something I can do whenever I want to, I don’t have to persuade or ask permission. However the downside is that I’ve probably not pushed myself as much as I could have. And this is something I have to do more of in my photographic practice.

Is community important to you – either local or online – and if so, why?

Oh yes I put a lot of time in my friendships, maintaining them – they are my ballast as a creative person. We need to be what Julia Cameron calls ‘believing mirrors’ to each other. We can see the talent and possibilities in each other usually easier than in ourselves, which is why it’s important to keep telling each other about our faith in each other.

I made a film about a wonderful woman called Mary Fraser Dott who was a chiropodist by day and SNP activist by night – she was a founding member of the SNP when it had about 30 members. She was my great aunt and she ran a literary salon from her flat in Millar Place with people like Hugh MacDairmid and Anne Redpath. I’m really hoping to start something similar as I’d like to do an in person network.

I’ve always found consistency difficult in terms of learning a craft and then practicing it regularly – is this something you’ve mastered and do you have any advice on how to maintain this?

Yes I am luckily quite a tenacious person by temperament so have put in many hours learning lo-fi photography methods by myself. I think what helps is making practicing your creativity a daily habit (or at least aim to make it so).

Doing something small but regularly is much more sustainable over a long period than waiting for a large swathe of time which then becomes very daunting because you have then justify putting aside the time. I find the Artist’s Way practice of morning pages (a free form form of writing in the morning which helps to clear the brain for the day ahead) gently reminds me every day of what I should be doing. But generally a working method which is just step by step in the direction you want to go in makes the most amazing progress over time.

Thanks Mary! If you enjoyed this post why not leave a comment or say hello to Mary directly, either on her blog or on Twitter where she’s @creativevoyage.

Note: this post contains affiliate links to Amazon. One day, someone will actually use them to buy a book and I will be rich wohahaha.


Artist, Blogger and Tea Drinker Michael Nobbs

I first became aware of Michael Nobbs through my friend Fabian (The Friendly Anarchist). As well as loving his artwork, I was impressed with the sense of calm, compassion and wisdom that he demonstrates when he writes about ‘sustainable creativity’ on his blog.

And of course it’s a topic very close in theme to ‘clear-minded creativity’ so I was delighted when he agreed to take part in this series.

I’m also seriously impressed at what he’s achieved despite being diagnosed with ME/CFS as he speaks about in more detail about below. I think the way he’s managed his illness is seriously helpful for anyone who struggles to find time to be creative, or indeed suffers from any kind of illness (or even psychological issues such as depression or low self-esteem which can also set people back from achieving what they want creatively).

So without further ado, let’s find out more:

Hi Michael! Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?

My name is Michael Nobbs and I’m a full time artist, blogger and tea drinker (not necessarily in that order). Back at the end of the 1990s I was diagnosed with ME/CFS and over the last decade and a half I’ve learnt a lot about sustaining a creative career with limited energy.

I am author of the blog, Sustainably Creative. Between regular cups of tea I draw the everyday and ordinary things around me and post links to Twitter about drawing and trying to keep things simple. I recently released the first version of an ebook that I have been working on for a while, Sustainable Creativity*.

Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?

My journey to where I am now creatively has been a bit of a winding one. When I was first diagnosed with ME/CFS I was working as a freelance writer and publisher.

My life had been getting smaller and smaller for a number of years as I’d struggled to keep working (and making money!) whilst I was very slowly (almost in perceptively) getting progressively iller. In the end I basically had a breakdown and started on a six month medical treadmill that finally ended up with a diagnosis for ME/CFS.

The relief of a diagnosis was huge. I was told to give up trying to work, and basically took to my bed and rested and slept and began the slow process of learning to look after myself and my energy levels.

During that period I picked up Julia Cameron’s wonderful The Artist’s Way*
and rekindled a wish to be a visual artist that had become lost somewhere in my early teens.

As energy allowed I began to take some art classes, drawing first and then painting. I loved painting, and for a while painted some very large landscapes, but the energy entailed in working in paint on the scale I wanted was really more than I could cope with. As hard as it was to accept, I finally came to the conclusion that I would have to find a “smaller” more energy-considerate way of working.

In 2004 I came across two artist’s blogs, one by Keri Smith and the second by Danny Gregory. They both draw a lot, and tended to draw the things around them. I was inspired both by their drawings and the fact that they blogged.

I began to make small drawings and posting them to a blog. I realised that the process of drawing and blogging was something I could generally sustain, and I loved the feeling of achievement I felt from finishing a little drawing and posting it online. I realised that feeling that I had accomplished something (and would be able to do so again) was a huge boost to how I saw myself; instead of often feeling defeated and exhausted by the things I tried to do I found I felt buoyed up by doing something sustainable.

Eventually I studied for an MA in fine art and now drawing and blogging are central to my creative life.

How do you define success?

For a very long time success meant getting through the day and remaining as positive as possible. Getting successfully through the day was measured by things like keeping myself fed and watered and my home reasonably together. If I could also make a small drawing and post it to my blog then that was often the icing on the cake.

Over time though, as my health has improved I have found myself wanting more. Studying for my MA (part-time over a couple of years) felt like a huge success to me, both creatively and in terms of learning to manage my energy levels.

Now a few years on from my MA I’m beginning to measure success in more financial terms. I spent a decade and a half on a very low income and over the last couple of years I’ve been working at increasing my income. I want to end 2011 earning at least £2000 a month (about US$3200) from my creative work, and I want to be earning it in a personally sustainable way. I went public with this aim a couple of weeks ago and have also launched a subscription based newsletter for anyone who would like to follow my progress (and maybe learn a little along the way too).

What in your opinion are the positives and negatives of technology when it comes to both creating and promoting your work?

Michael Nobbs – drawn iPad

I’m a technophile and happy to admit it. I think technology and the Internet offer huge opportunities to creative people who are willing to embrace them. Should we wish we can all be our own publishers, gallery owners and PR companies.

Do you collaborate with others or prefer to work alone, and why?

I prefer to work alone. This year I announced that I was no longer going to be directly exchanging my time for money. That means I’m no longer going to be working with or for people in the conventional way of being paid for providing a service or my time. Instead I’m going to concentrate on producing my own work, which I will either give away or sell via the web.

I’ve been moving in this direction for a while, reducing the amount of freelance work I undertake, and spending much more time working on my own projects and being in charge of deciding my own schedule.

I’ve learnt that this is by far the most sustainable way for me to work. Not having to deal with other people expectations (no matter how understanding they can be about my limits) is very liberating.

Is community important to you – either local or online – and if so, why?

Yes community is very important to me. I meet with a group of writers once a week and value their support and input hugely. I also have group of online creative friends who I keep in touch with via Twitter, Facebook and email.

I’ve always found consistency difficult in terms of learning a craft and then practicing it regularly – is this something you’ve mastered and do you have any advice on how to maintain this?

Focus and practice :) Easier said than done I know. I learnt a long time ago that having severe limits to my energy meant that I needed to be very selective about what I chose to use my energy for. It made far better sense to focus on one manageable creative practice than to spread myself thinly.

Moreover it was better to work on what was important to me regularly and in small pieces of time. Little and often really can build up a creative body of work. Even just twenty minutes a day can make a difference.

Thanks Michael, excellent advice indeed! Are you inspired by this interview and Michael’s gorgeous drawings? Why not say hello in the comments.

Enjoy this interview? You can be one of the first to read Michael’s new e-book Sustainable Creativity*, which includes inspiration and advice to help people with low energy or limited time (or both) maintain a creative life. It’s also beautifully illustrated by Michael himself (of course!) You can also download his free e-book Start to Draw Your Life.

*As you might have guessed these are affiliate links. Yes, I’ve liberally peppered this article with desperate attempts to make a pittance of small change because I’m determined to prove that I can earn some cash doing something I enjoy, in this case interviewing amazing people and letting you know about them :)

Thom Chambers NewPortraitSmall

Editor and Publisher Thom Chambers

Not only does he spell his first name the same way as your man out of Radiohead (sorry, couldn’t resist), Thom Chambers is a very talented bloke.

He  edits and publishes a beautifully designed monthly e-magazine called In Treehouses, which is inspired by Kevin Kelly’s influential concept that an artist only needs 1,000 True Fans to make a living (highly relevant for anyone wanting to be a Clear-minded Creative).

I’ve been reading In Treehouses since the beginning, and the latest issue is an impressively in-depth look at a topic very close to my heart as a writer – the future of publishing. So I was delighted when Thom agreed to answer my questions about what makes him tick creatively:

Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?

I’m the editor and publisher of In Treehouses, which is a free e-magazine designed to help people reach 1,000 True Fans.

A True Fan is defined, pretty much, as someone who buys everything you create, who reads everything you write – someone around whom you can start to build your microbusiness.

Beyond that, I’m currently the marketing manager for a design and marketing agency in Cheltenham, England. As of May, though, I’m setting out on a new adventure and exploring uncharted waters by starting a digital publishing house. I can’t give too much more away on that just yet, but you can follow @intreehouses on Twitter or subscribe to In Treehouses to be kept up to date as things develop.

At the moment I’m living deep in the Hampshire countryside, working on an ebook that’s going to help people get a start on the journey towards their True Fans.

I’ve had lots of readers asking for help in the early stages – rather than reaching 1,000 True Fans, they’re more interested in how to reach one or five or ten to begin with. The great thing is that it scales. The things that will get you one True Fan will also get you your second, your hundredth, and your thousandth. So I’m writing an ebook to help people get over that first hurdle and get started on the journey.

And then there’s the latest edition of the magazine, although at the time of writing I’ve only just finished the latest one. I’m taking a breather for a day or two before starting the next edition.

The current edition of In Treehouses

Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?

It’s evolved, really. I wanted to work online and I wanted to create something stickier than a blog, so the magazine was a result. All the same, it took a few nudges from blog posts and the like to get started.

As soon as I started on it, though, the magazine felt natural in a way that blogging never did. I like being able to multitask with it – to do the writing, designing, editing, publishing, promoting, and so on.

One doesn’t have that control with a blog – you’re bound by the constraints of HTML and your own coding abilities a bit more. The magazine played to my strengths, really, and my desire to make sure all aspects of the experience were up to standard.

Have you organised your life in a certain way/made sacrifices in order to continue to be creative?

One has to, I think. I’m still working full time at the moment (although doing so remotely, so thankfully there’s no commute) and I’ve had to set myself a fairly strict routine of when I can work on the magazine and the creative side in general. I’m up at 5 most days, working for a couple of hours before I start the day job, and then put in another hour or two at the end of the day.

I’m putting in fairly anti-social hours for a few months so that I can reap the benefits longer-term, really. It’s winter, there’s not a whole lot on, and I’m living in a fairly rural part of the world so there are few distractions. It’s good, it forces me to focus on the work and get stuff done.

When you’ve constantly got temptation and are having to turn stuff down to work creatively, it can be easy to start to resent the creative side. It can start to feel like something that’s holding you back from going out with friends or whatever, rather than something on which you want to be working.

I look at what I’m doing now and the way I’m living now as a short-term thing, though. Come summertime I’ll have left full time work, so will be able to balance things a little more.

How do you define success?

Emerson said, “As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions”. I’ve always held to the idea that success is to be able to see the life you want to live and to set about creating it.

What in your opinion are the positives and negatives of technology when it comes to both creating and promoting your work?

In terms of the creation, I couldn’t do it without the technology. Being a digital magazine, I’m reliant on computers – that said, I’m no expert so am limited far beneath the extent of the design software that i use (Adobe CS). It’s nice to know the possibility is there, though.

And technology is at the heart of the way I promote the magazine, too. I’ve never advertised it and only ever done a handful of interviews, so the only way it spreads really is by people talking about it organically and spreading the magazine via digital word of mouth.

As for the negatives… it doesn’t affect me too much, but I’m intrigued by the lack of value placed on digital art. The digital world has created new opportunities for musicians and writers to pursue their 1,000 True Fans and sell digital versions of their work, but because computers have such visual possibility and one sees a thousand incredible images every day online, it’s hard for digital art to have value. Art (and photography) has become a screensaver and nobody wants to pay for that.

It seems that, unlike music or literature, we only value art and photography when we can have the physical version of it. Digital doesn’t work.

Do you collaborate with others or prefer to work alone, and why?

I have interviewees and the occasional contributor, but it’s mostly all me. Partly through the necessity of running such a small operation, and partly because I believe in the power of the individual to make something great, rather than the power of the collective – which has the power to spread the idea. Maybe it’s just a controlling thing, but I think there’s more chance of creating something remarkable when you’re working solo.

Is community important to you – either local or online – and if so, why?

Yeah, naturally. The community is how the message of the magazine spreads, which is great. There are always cheerleaders who don’t need pushing to tell others to check out your stuff. Even though I prefer to create the magazine alone, it’s written for the community and for their enjoyment. When R.E.M. play live, Michael Stipe often introduces their biggest hit – Losing My Religion – with the words “this is your song, we just wrote it”. I like that idea, that once you’ve created something successful then in a way it becomes the property of the fans and the community.

I’ve always found consistency difficult in terms of learning a craft and then practicing it regularly – is this something you’ve mastered and do you have any advice on how to maintain this?

There’s the saying, isn’t there – you don’t wait for the spirit to move you, you have to move the spirit. I think that’s the best way. You’re never going to be on top form every day. To drop in another cliche, even Shakespeare wrote bad plays. It’s about turning up and doing the work and accepting that some days you won’t feel like doing it. And then doing it anyway.

Thanks Thom for taking the time to answer and sharing your knowledge! What do you think? Why not say hello in the comments.

As well as being able to get the current issue for free, you can also buy the first 6 issues of In Treehouses in a handy 120 page ebook called The Almanac (they are no longer available to buy individually).

Note: This is of course an affiliate link, so I can sit back and watch the money roll in whilst I plan how to spend the endless hours of leisure that will make up my early retirement (if only!)

Lisa-Marie Paris train

Journalist, Blogger & Photographer Lisa-Marie Ferla

Lisa-Marie Ferla on the Outbound Train

This week’s interview is with one of my Scottish blogging buddies, Lisa-Marie Ferla, aka Last Year’s Girl. She’s a massive supporter of Scottish music both on her own blog and on The Scotsman’s Radar blog to which she regularly contributes.

In addition Lis writes about travel, cinema and everything in-between, always with a personal and heartfelt touch, and is an accomplished photographer (though she modestly claims not to be!)

Let’s hear what she’s got to say for herself.

Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?

I’m a redundant legal journalist and editor, currently working in retail. I’ve been blogging since before the word was even invented – according to Wikipedia – and have been famous on the internet since 1999 (but not quite as famous as Neil Gaiman).

I take photographs with little skill and lots of enthusiasm, and write about bands with a bit more skill and even more enthusiasm for anybody who’ll have me. Seriously. I go on like a hyperactive five-year-old. Don’t ask me about The Hold Steady.

My main website is, but you’re going to find more regular/actually updated content on my world famous, quoted-in-the-Guardian-that-one-time blog,

Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?

It’s probably fair to say “trial and error”. I mean, I always wanted to be a writer of some description; whether I was scribbling down stories in recycled school jotter in the bathroom when I should have been asleep, or stirring up my little brother and sister into a frenzy so they’d make some contributions to the magazine I put together on my teeny toy typewriter when my mum went away for the weekend.

Even at an early age I knew this was never going to be as lucrative an ambition as becoming a teacher like the rest of my family, which I suppose is where “journalist” entered into the mix, but in the late 1980s none of us could have foreseen the ways in which technology would change that particular profession, rendering it almost unrecognisable and increasingly difficult to make a living from.

I guess I’ve stumbled into many of the opportunities I’ve been given. I don’t mean to belittle my achievements, because I have worked incredibly hard, but there has certainly been an element of “right place, right time” to many of my adventures.

From a professional perspective, although my MSc in Journalism continues to impress I would never have been given the opportunity to edit and grow The Specialist Paralegal magazine had it not been for my law degree. The vast majority of my extracurricular activities have come about through my reputation as a blogger.

Honestly? I still have no idea what I want to do when I grow up.

Lisa-Marie Ferla taken by Neil Thomas Douglas for the Eclectic Peel exhibition.

Have you organised your life in a certain way/made sacrifices in order to continue to be creative?

Not really. The unfortunate fact of it is, and it’s particularly true of life these days, is that one still has to pay the bills.

I have a terrible habit of saying “yes” to absolutely everything I can despite a history of mental health problems, which tends to result in burnout and periods when I get home from work and would rather stare at the ceiling than turn on my computer.

It’s something I’m working on. I know what inspires me. I need space, good music in my life and long train trips staring out of the window. It’s not always possible to make that kind of time.

What in your opinion are the positives and negatives of technology when it comes to both creating and promoting your work?

Lissie Does Dixie

Well it’s blogging that I’m known for, so without technology my work wouldn’t exist! Or, at least, not in the same form that it does now, and certainly without the same audience… if you are the sort of person who finds the urge to create, you will find a way to do that regardless of the resources that are available to you.

The truth is that I am never happier than – and I feel I do my best writing – when I am scribbling my travel journals down in some notebook or other. And, without the distractions of Twitter and Facebook, I’m far more likely to get things done.

Do you collaborate with others or prefer to work alone, and why?

At the risk of sounding like a bit of an arse, the personal nature of my writing – even when it isn’t supposed to be personal, see every music-themed blog post I’ve ever written – means I prefer to work alone.

Saying that, I take much of my inspiration from others -snippets of overheard conversations, debates with my friends…

Is community important to you – either local or online – and if so, why?

Definitely. Perhaps because I’ve been doing this for so long, or maybe because of the nature of my work, I find it difficult to make a distinction between the two. Over the last year, particularly, there has been an incredible “online into offline” crossover between the Scottish music blogging, photography and performance community. It makes all the difference in the world – and gives you so much motivation not to quit – when you know you’re not alone.

Couldn’t agree more.  As well as checking out Lis’s blog and website, go say hello to her on Twitter (where she is so popular her wedding last year was a trending topic) or leave a comment.

Hande Zapsu Watt

Clear-Minded Creative Types #6: Novelist/Editor Hande Zapsu Watt

Hande Zapsu Watt

Most writers dream of having a novel published; this week’s Clear-Minded Creative Type has achieved that goal and more besides. Now involved in an exciting new international literary project which has strong links to Scotland, Hande Zapsu Watt shares her story so far and how her habits and environment have shaped her life and work.

Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?

I’m a writer/editor/translator/teacher/student, so in short, a little all over the place but I guess that’s what happens when you can’t sit still.

I’ll try that again with a little more clarity:

When I wake up, I’m never quite sure who I am. I dream a lot, almost every night, crazy vivid dreams that seem to go on for hours. I see grizzly bears taking over the world, snipers dropping out of the sky, machines looking for lost souls…so it usually takes a wee while to adjust.

After my first cup of coffee, I’m an editor. I edit my own work, other people’s work (sometimes as a favour, sometimes as a job) and recently I have become the editor of The Istanbul Review.

After my second cup of coffee I am a writer. I write paranormal/historical novels using the pen name Mina Hepsen ( Depending on the day and publisher deadlines, I also work on my (I hesitate to use the word ‘literary’ so I’ll say ‘non-genre’) novels.

There is Through the Dust for example, a novel I have been working on for about five years. It’s slow going. It’s not the lack of ideas or direction, but the fact that my main characters are so hopeless, so afraid… in order to write them, I need to put myself in their heads and I can’t keep it up for too long. It makes me mopey and pessimistic (I like to think of myself as an optimist) so I’ve been writing it bit by bit.

After my third cup of coffee I’m a student/tutor. I’m studying Creative Writing (final months of my PhD) at Edinburgh University and I also run English Literature tutorials there. It’s a continuous round of writing the thesis, preparing classes and grading papers. It takes up time but makes for a nice change and gives purpose to cup number three.

Later in the day, after an episode of House or Dexter or True Blood, I am whatever I need to be. Sometimes that means translator: I recently translated a book from Turkish into English called Black Milk* by Elif Shafak (out this April from Penguin). Sometimes that means more editing or writing. And sometimes it means trying hard to do nothing at all.

Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?

No, not at all actually. I always knew I wanted to try and change the world, to help people in some way, but I never imagined myself as a writer.

When I was very young I wanted to be a lawyer. The idea was simple: to save innocent people and make lots of money while doing it which I could then spend on charities. I soon fell out of love with that idea.

Hande in Morocco

The desire to be a doctor hit me next. I was 14 and spending my weekends working as a volunteer at a hospital in Istanbul. It was going really well, I was imagining a future filled with saving lives. And then one day I was waiting for a lift next to a young girl in a wheel chair. It was obvious she was a cancer patient and not doing well. Her hands were pale and limp. She had lost all her hair. It took me a moment to notice that her oxygen tube had fallen away from her nose. She couldn’t breathe, but she wasn’t struggling. There was no panic in her eyes, only a plea. She didn’t want me to help her. I called out to her attendant who was gossiping with the guy behind the information desk. That was when the doctor dream ended.

I toyed with the idea of being a biologist next. The Human Genome Project wasn’t complete yet, and genetics looked like it could produce cures for the suffering. The summer I turned 16, I was at Smith College studying science, working on dissection skills and DNA gels. The next summer I was back to medicine, but this time it was psychology. A few months working at a mental institution cured me of that notion and fast.

Finally I decided politics was the way forward. If I couldn’t keep innocents out of jail, if I couldn’t cure their cancer or fix their mental states then I could work on world peace (surely that was a cure to all of the above?).  I studied Political Science and Philosophy at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

I’ve already carried on quite a bit, so I won’t get into my forays into the realm of politics. Safe to say I got a good look, saw a lot of grey and decided it was not for me. Then through some luck and a lost bet, I got a letter from a publisher saying they wanted to buy my book. I had been writing since before the first career dream; poems, stories and finally a novel written during Ancient Russian History and Politics in Modern Japan classes. I loved doing it, but I had never seen it as a career possibility. I was too realistic for that.

So much for realism. I’ve published four novels and two children’s books since.

Hande, drawn by Oguz Demir

Have you organised your life in a certain way/made sacrifices in order to continue to be creative?

I think I touched on the ‘organized your life’ bit with the answer to your first question. I’m not kidding about the cups of coffee. I find I can’t write well if I fall out of routine, so I try to stick to it as strictly as possible.

There are, of course, grieving periods. Those days following the end of a novel after the elation has dimmed at having produced something complete. The world feels wrong during those days. I like to travel if I can, to exchange ‘wrong’ for ‘new’.

How do you define success?

Giving love, being loved and doing what I love. If I have all three and am managing to survive, I’ve succeeded.

What in your opinion are the positives and negatives of technology when it comes to both creating and promoting your work?

Togo, Africa

Technology is both brilliant and utterly frustrating. It is absolutely brilliant in terms of having knowledge at your fingertips. I recently had to describe dead bodies being pulled out of a river and had no clue how to do it. Would they be blue, black, bloated, rotten…what would happen to the eyes, the mouth, the hair? I keep lots of text books at home for research, but some things are just not covered in basic Anatomy books. Online, I can find the information I need in minutes…it’s all there.

Technology is also great to connect with readers. I love the letters I get through my website, love to browse pages where people I’ve never met are discussing characters I made up. I even like reading criticisms, if it’s not just a random rant they can be very useful to take things on board, to see your own flaws.

But the internet can also make things a little difficult. More and more, publishers rely on e-books and online selling which means they can spend less money on print runs, and very little money promoting your work. You need to promote yourself online, to stand out somehow amidst the millions of texts available. You need a website, a blog, a Facebook page…you need to tweet. And if you don’t, well you might be lucky and reach the readers anyway.

Maybe your publisher will spend the cash and rent one of those neat window spots for your book in Waterstones, or maybe you’ll get a fabulous review and people will flock to the stores making Blackwell’s want to order a whole load of copies. But in general it’s hard to stand out without jumping on the technology wagon. And jumping on that wagon means Time.

For me it also means frustration. I love writing back to emails, but tweeting? I’m terrible at it. I can’t fit any of my thoughts into that word limit so I end up talking about the weather. Literally.

Do you collaborate with others or prefer to work alone, and why?

Collaboration is great with people who work the same way that you do. I like getting things done. Everything on time, everything in order (I grew up in Germany and often feel that that part of myself comes from my time in Munich).

Unfortunately, not many creative people I know like to work that way. That’s why I was so lucky to find Oguz Demir, who I did the children’s books with. Not only is he a brilliant artist, but he sets due dates and keeps them. And it’s been the same for The Istanbul Review.

My partners Miriam Johnson and Victoria Harben are not only hard working, but they are fast too. We had our website up and running in three days and now, only two weeks after the project begun in earnest we’ve already had contributions from Paulo Coelho, Elif Shafak and Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (We are taking submissions at the moment for our inaugural review, so for all you creatives out there do have a look!)


Namibian Sand Dunes

Is community important to you – either local or online – and if so, why?

Community is definitely important. Not only the people and their tendencies but also the architecture, the weather, all of it put together. It’s hard to explain, but there are places in the world where I can write, and other places where I turn into a sponge. Nothing comes out.

I know that sounds a bit strange, and I’m still not sure what exactly accounts for this odd phenomenon but I’ve been able to narrow it down a little. I can’t write at all in New York, Amsterdam or Paris. I can write for a few hours a day in Istanbul, Boston and Miami. But Edinburgh is where I am most efficient and I am sure it has something to do with the community here. Maybe it’s the gothic architecture, but I rather think it’s the duality of the city and the people in it. Active and passive, hopeful and pessimistic, rainy and sunny: the city of walking rainbows.

Oh, and I can’t write on a cruise ship. Pretty random I know. Sorry, I don’t think I’ve answered your question very well.

I’ve always found consistency difficult in terms of learning a craft and then practicing it regularly – is this something you’ve mastered and do you have any advice on how to maintain this?

I can’t claim to have mastered anything really. As for advice, for those who hope to make a living through their creative work I would say: know the truth (the odds, the process, the reality behind getting your work out there), work hard and don’t give up.

And writers? Find creative things to do with rejection letters. Origami swans is one way to go.

Thanks Hande for the extremely interesting insights and excellent advice. What do you think? Share your thoughts  in the comments.

*affiliate link

Large Finbarr Group

Journalist & Blogger Finbarr Bermingham

This week’s interview is with journalist and blogger Finbarr Bermingham, who as well as having a highly memorable name, is also a great writer as can be seen from his blog.  Finbarr is a fellow contributor to The Skinny, a Scottish culture and listings magazine which we have both written for many times in the past.

Below he talks about setting a creative routine and sticking to it, how exercise helps with clarity, taking risks to get yourself out of a rut, and how progress is a great indicator of success.

Hi Finbarr! Please can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re up to?

 I am a freelance journalist and occasional blogger from Northern Ireland, masquerading as a teacher in South Korea. I’ve been writing since my schooldays but started to take it seriously when living in Edinburgh, doing pieces for The Skinny about five years ago.

I then spent some time in Brighton, where I gained NCTJ accreditation. Having huffed and puffed in the UK, trying in vain to earn a crust, I decided a new strategy was required and set off for South Korea about a year ago. At the moment, I spend my evenings as an ESL teacher and as much time as possible is devoted to writing. I also have a weekly radio slot here in Gwangju (English speaking, of course!).

Until a couple of years ago, all the writing I did was music based. Some of it still is, but it is (and I fear always will be) a labour of love. I’ve made a conscious effort to branch out into travel writing, current affairs, sport and wider cultural issues, to varying degrees of success. I’ve had work published in Asia Times, Irish News, Q, Restaurant Magazine and a fair number of arts publications.

Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?

I always had a nebulous notion of being a writer, but I never challenged myself as to what that actually meant until I was in my twenties. I always liked the idea of journalism and I suppose I thought I would just fall into that line of work… as long as I said I wanted to do it, it would happen.

I drifted through university, fell into an office job and woke up one day realizing I was no closer to becoming a writer than I had been at school.I eventually gave myself a kick up the arse and got the ball rolling, but my strategies have always been short term and my objectives are constantly changing.

Finbarr conducting an interview with one of the world’s leading geologists, Professor Min Huh. Photo by Gyonggu Shin

I’m not a great planner and my actions tend to be based more on circumstance than foresight.I haven’t ever felt like I was working towards one incandescent Holy Grail on the horizon. It’s more getting from A-B, and once I get there, I decide where to go next.

For the past few years, though, I’ve been surer on the general direction in which I’ve been headed, even if the exact route has remained a bit woolly.

Finbarr’s poetically titled blog, Scrawls and Bawls

I think my time here has helped me become more focused, too. I’ve come to realize what I do well and what I don’t. I have always tended to write about what interests me in the hope that it interests others, too. I have been lucky that Korea has given me a whole raft of fresh subject matter that fascinates me and that I’ve landed in the country at a time in which other people are intrigued by it, too. I know this won’t always be the case and that sometimes, I may need to be more accommodating in my writing if I am to make it a career.

Have you organised your life in a certain way/made sacrifices in order to continue to be creative?

Despite what I said previously, I have consciously made a couple of huge decisions in my life in order to progress my writing. I left a reasonably well paid job and a comfortable life in Edinburgh to return to education in Brighton at a time when steady work seemed to be the exception, rather than the rule. Whilst there were other factors in my coming to Korea, there was a large part of me that viewed it as a creative opportunity. I have certainly become a more creative person as a result.

Recently, I’ve indirectly cut down on things that are counter productive to me being creative and productive. Over the past six months, I’ve gotten into long distance running, a pastime that doesn’t marry too well with steady drinking. I’ve since discovered a kind of structured creativity I never had before. I feel more clear-headed and imaginative… a charge that could never have been pinned on me during my hazy early months here. I formulate a lot of my ideas whilst running now and often have the skeleton of a piece in my head by the time I get to the shower.

I do try to structure my day in order to make the most of it. I’ve learned that I work best when I first wake up. My job starts at 3pm, which gives me ample time to get what I need done in the mornings and early afternoon. Sometimes, I’ll avoid writing emails or speaking to people before I’ve gotten something written… usually something that needs doing, but anything will do. Generally, your thoughts are more interesting at that stage. It took me a while to realize that such a schedule could work for me, but now it’s a routine I treasure.

Finbarr’s interview with The National made The Skinny’s cover in May 2010

How do you define success?

There are different levels of success. I do think that to be paid for doing something creative should be considered success and an achievement, particularly if it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing. But that’s not the be all and end all; otherwise most of us would be pretty miserable.

Progression is an indicator of success. At the end of a week, or month, or year; if I can look back on that time and see that I’m further along the line than I was at the start, then it’s a success.

If I get published somewhere new, I’m pleased. If someone independently compliments me on what I’ve done, I’m delighted. It sounds conceited, but unfortunately kind words are too often the currency writers deal in. If something I write provokes discussion, then that too is rewarding.

On a personal level, all of these represent small successes. In the grand scheme of things, success (or my own perception of it) is an evolving entity. Not having an explicit goal means there’s always room for improvement.

What in your opinion are the positives and negatives of technology when it comes to both creating and promoting your work?

I think technology is essential. I am an irregular blogger, but I think the platform is absolutely vital to any writer. I view my blog as a blank canvas. It’s a space for trialing concepts and ideas – many of them fleeting and inconsistent. Whilst that may not make for a coherent and cognizant body of work, it allows me to articulate thoughts I may not be confident of getting published.

If I want to write something on a whim, at least I know there will always be a home for it. I’ve been told that a blog can act as a real-time résumé for potential publishers and employees, so occasionally, I will direct such folks towards it as well.

I was a latecomer to Twitter, but I use it regularly now too. Not only is it useful as a promotional tool, it’s also an excellent research facility. There is a wealth of information on there waiting to be tapped and it makes me laugh when people are skeptical about it. Sure, it is littered with insignificant platitudes (which anyone who follows me will testify), but if you are selective with who you follow then it is a wonderful resource for journalists.

Do you collaborate with others or prefer to work alone, and why?

The act of writing, itself, is a solitary one. Whilst I have collaborated on a couple of pieces in the past, they’ve always been independently written and magically coalesced by the hand of a higher power! I do, however, enjoy trialing ideas through with others.

I like polling opinions on issues and non-issues alike… sometimes conversations that are months old can come flooding back when I’m writing something. If I’m writing an article that requires primary research, I will obviously speak to a lot of people in the planning stages; but besides that, general, untargeted conversations help me greatly.

Teaching is particularly useful in that regard. Everyday I speak to my students about what’s happening in Korea, be it news, entertainment or sport. Most of them will echo the views they’ve heard over breakfast at home. More often than not, the mood of the people is reflected in their young. When my language skills are basic at best, I’ve found that this rejigging of ‘collaborative learning’ has proven very insightful and mutually beneficial.

Koreanosaurus Boseongensis: front cover of Gwangju News, Dec 2010

Is community important to you – either local or online – and if so, why?

I think it has become increasingly important to me. Gwangju has a few thousand ex-pats, in a city of 1.5million. The community here is close-knit and it’s one of my favourite things about the place. The flipside of it is that it’s very easy to get involved in whatever is happening: the local press, radio and blogs. Amongst the expats, not so many are interested in extra-curricular activities and the ones that are, are thrust together closer still.

Online, I guess it’s useful to have a presence in certain communities, although I would say I am peripheral at most. Monitoring the blogging community in Scotland from afar, I can see that it is growing alongside the arts community exponentially and creating a real online buzz. It’s exciting just to observe and I hope it’s a sign of things to come.

I’ve always found consistency difficult in terms of learning a craft and then practicing it regularly – is this something you’ve mastered and do you have any advice on how to maintain this?

I think I have attained some level of consistency, in that I could probably rustle up a decent piece on just about anything given some time. I agree that regular practice is crucial. It’s very easy to get rusty. I have by no means mastered anything, though. I’m not sure that would ever be possible.

I also find that maintaining other areas of your life can have a positive effect on your creativity (writing, for sure). Reading is of paramount importance. I notice that when I haven’t been reading a lot, it comes across in my writing and as such, sometimes have to make a conscious effort to read more. So whilst yes, application can improve consistency, I feel it’s important to make room for other valuable and complimentary pursuits.

As well as really enjoying his work I’m very impressed with the decisions Finbarr has made in order to progress his writing and expand his experiences.

What do you think? Share your thoughts/say hello in the comments!

Melissa Dinwiddie

Artist & Entrepreneur Melissa Dinwiddie

Melissa Dinwiddie

Melissa Dinwiddie is a great example of someone with numerous creative passions who is actually making a full-time living from her art and online ventures.

But it’s not always been plain-sailing as her answers below reveal:

Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?

Who I am and what I do has evolved quite a bit over time, but as I look back on my life, the one constant is a focus on creative pursuits.

I’ve made my living as an artist for many years but because I do so many different things, I now call myself a Multi-Passionate Creative ARTrepreneur and Creativity Enabler. I create in a variety of different expressions – art, music, writing – and I help other people follow their creative bliss through teaching, coaching and consulting. It took a long time to figure this out, though.

I blog about my creative journey and showcase my various offerings on my blog, Living A Creative Life.

As for what I’m up to, here’s a run-down:

I currently make most of my income from my art and design, primarily for weddings and lifecycle events, which you can find at I also teach calligraphy out of my home, and occasionally around the country, and I teach voice lessons and performance skills.

More recently I’ve been creating “digital products,” and I expect this part of my business to grow, and eventually overtake the wedding art.

In December I launched my first online course, the Thriving Artists Project *, which I created to help give other artists and creatives the inspiration and tools they need to bust the “starving artist” mindset and really thrive from their art. The TAP is an interactive membership site featuring interviews with successful artists and creatives, lessons on marketing and business, a member forum and monthly live Q&As and webinars.

With the launch of tTAP I’ve been offering consulting and coaching for creatives, and will soon be offering group coaching “mastermind” classes as well.

On January 1 I also launched a new website about creativity, 365 Days of Genius. It currently features articles from a variety of writers related to creativity, innovation and the way the mind works; daily resource links; a Genius Question of the Week; and 6-months of free creativity lessons. Eventually I’ll add a forum and other cool features as well.

Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?

Oh for goodness sake, no! I was very artistic and creative as a kid — my parents thought I was going to grow up to be an artist — and I made art, played piano, violin, viola, and sang in a choir, but I was probably more focused on doing well in school than anything else. (That and animals — at age 3 I was going to grow up to be a cat.)

Everything changed when I discovered dance my last year in high school. I dove in like a woman possessed, and discovered my first true creative passion. Everything else took a back seat — way back!

I took a year “off” after graduating in order to focus on dancing, spent the following year in Letters & Science at UC Berkeley, then dropped out to go to Juilliard in New York, with great hopes of a successful career as a dancer and choreographer.

That is a story in itself, but the upshot was very painful, both physically and emotionally: I developed acute tendinitis and had to stop dancing altogether. I didn’t realize at the time that this was the end of my dance career, which was probably a good thing, as I might have done something drastic!

This period was a real low point in my life. I graduated from Berkeley and went on to get a Masters at University of Birmingham in England, but in the midst of it all I spent several years not just lost, but very disconnected from my creative self. Being young and naive, I truly believed that I’d had my one shot at passion, and could now only expect to trudge through the rest of my life.

Yoga artwork by Melissa Dinwiddie

Thankfully, I went on to discover a number of different passions over the intervening years, starting with calligraphy in my late 20s, then music — in particular singing jazz — and now writing as well. I like to joke that I discover a new passion about every decade, but I think that might be speeding up, as just this past summer I fell in love with the ukulele, right on the heels of (re-) discovering my passion for writing.

As for what to focus on, it’s taken me decades to realize and accept that I’m hard wired to be multi-passionate. This means that I’ll probably never be able to focus 100% on one thing. In some ways, this is a curse, because without that consistent 100% focus I’ll never achieve the level of mastery that I might. But on the other hand, it’s a blessing, because it just makes me happy to have so many things I love to do!

I think of my passions as pots on a stove. Only one or two can be up front at any given time, so the others stay simmering on the back burners until I’m compelled to pull them up front again. It seems that the pots often move around on a 3-4 month cycle. Some things stay on the back burner for years, but then my passion will flare up again and I’ll have a mad binge attack of creating in that particular expression before it recedes to the back burner again.

The good thing about being where I am now is that I understand my process a lot more than I used to. When I was younger I tried to do everything all the time, and felt terrible when of course that didn’t work. Thankfully now I’m fairly relaxed about not doing any particular thing at any given moment. I know that it will cycle around again when the time is right.

Have you organised your life in a certain way/made sacrifices in order to continue to be creative?

Well, I made the decision over a decade ago that I’d rather enjoy my day-to-day life than acquire a lot of wealth and “things,” though this never felt like a sacrifice per se. In the past year especially I’ve really worked set up my life to spend as much time as possible engaged in my creative passions. This is an ongoing process, and not always easy, but I’m committed to keep chasing after what I call my “evolving bliss.” (Or in my case, blisses!)

How do you define success?

To me, success is having control over how I spend my time, feeling content and happy with my life, and making a positive impact on the world. I’d be lying if I said money didn’t play a part – for example, when I first started making my full living from my art & creative efforts it was a huge boost to my self-confidence, and I definitely have financial goals that will feel great when I achieve them. But making money for the sake of making money has never been part of my definition of success.

What in your opinion are the positives and negatives of technology when it comes to both creating and promoting your work?

Technology has been a tremendous boon for me in so many ways! My wedding art & design business would not exist without technology. Although I create my artwork by hand in “natural media,” I print my fine art ketubah prints in-house (making great use of Photoshop and InDesign) and sell my work almost entirely online.

My latest “baby,” the Thriving Artists Project, wouldn’t exist at all without technology and the internet.

I also only really discovered my passion for writing when I started blogging. I’d tried to be a writer 15 years earlier, but didn’t stick with it. Now I like to say that I just needed to find the right genre — blogging – which didn’t exist back then!

That said, I spend a lot more time on the computer than I’d really like. So that’s a negative: technology is a huge time sink that sucks me in on a regular basis.

Card by Melissa Dinwiddie

Do you collaborate with others or prefer to work alone, and why?

So far I’ve mostly worked alone, except when making music, which is extremely collaborative. I love playing and improvising with other musicians!

More recently I partnered with Heather Claus on 365 Days of Genius, and that’s been a great experience, and very educational. Good communication is key, as is never taking anything personally!

I’m also going to be offering an online course later this year in partnership with another artist and online whiz, Kirsty Hall, and I’d definitely love to collaborate more, both in creative businesses and in purely creative non-business endeavors.

Is community important to you – either local or online – and if so, why?

Community is hugely important to me. I’m a very connection-driven person, and am happiest when I’m able to make a positive difference in other people’s lives. That’s one of the things that really appeals to me about the internet and social media — the ability to connect in ways that weren’t possible before.

It’s also why I included a member forum in the Thriving Artists Project. Since community has made a big difference in my life, I wanted to offer a way for my members to connect with each other and with me, so that we could support each other most effectively.

I’ve always found consistency difficult in terms of learning a craft and then practicing it regularly – is this something you’ve mastered and do you have any advice on how to maintain this?

I have certainly not mastered this! When I was a dancer, going to class every day (sometimes multiple times a day) was part of my life, and I was so driven to master my craft that it wasn’t a question. People often refer to my discipline, but I don’t feel like a particularly disciplined person. It’s only when I’m madly in love with what I’m doing that I’m “disciplined” about doing it! And since what compels me most cycles around among my various pursuits, the things I’m less compelled by at any given time get sorely neglected.

Perhaps if I weren’t so multi-passionate I’d be able to be more consistent. As it is, I’ve found that taking regular classes or lessons helps tremendously, since I don’t want to be behind the rest of the class, or make a fool of myself when I’m asked to perform and it’s clear I haven’t practiced!

I think the real key here is to find your unique motivators. If you know what drives you — whether it’s moving toward something you want, or avoiding some kind of pain — you can use that to help create systems to keep you en route to your goals.

Phew! I have no idea how Melissa fits all that in. Can you relate to her “multi-passionate” creativity? Why not say hello in the comments.

*This is an affiliate link to Melissa’s Thriving Artist Project, which in theory means I would earn a commission if you buy it, and you can currently get a free 30 day sneak peek inside so everybody wins! I’m a member myself and there’s some great content there already including interviews with Chris Guillebeau & Michael Nobbs, and a whole bunch of helpful creative people involved in the forums.

Dougie takes his time getting into a cab, NYC

Broadcaster & Writer Douglas Anderson

Dougie takes his time getting into a cab, NYC

The third in this weekly series of interviews with clear-minded creative types is my old pal Douglas Anderson. It was a no-brainer to include him here because Dougie is probably the most determinedly creative person I have ever met. I’ve seen him go from making daft DIY videos about the A-Team for a laugh to interviewing Dirk Benedict (aka The Face) himself on live national breakfast telly (I nearly choked on my Cheerios!).

All the way though he’s worked on and developed his own creativity, whether it be by scripting and directing his own short films or writing regularly on his website.  He was most recently spotted performing as top Scottish band Belle & Sebastian’s manager (more on that below) and is a regular on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Fighting Talk.

Hey Dougie – tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a broadcaster and writer primarily but also try to keep doing my personal creative projects in my spare time such as short filmmaking. I’ve worked a lot for the BBC and Channel 4 as well as other broadcasters, production companies, bands and writers.

Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now?

From my mid teens all I really wanted to do was be in a band and play music. I went on to play in several but although coming close at times never got signed.

It was all a valuable experience though and I went on to work with some good independent music producers and contribute music to short films and independent features. I became more and more interested in short filmmaking and along with some likeminded friends, started to make my own. It was all very DIY, no budget but a lot of fun and creatively gratifying.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do professionally and the whole TV world seemed an impenetrable place, a bit like the Death Star. However, I filmed a short about what you can get up to in the summer if you’re skint, edited it in-camera (who knew where edit suites were?) and sent it to the BBC. They saw something in it and that’s how I got into presenting and the media world.

I would quickly find out that this was not a typical entrance as other presenters seemed to be either ex-models or former researchers who wanted to appear in front of camera. This contributed to me feeling like I was slightly in my own world due to my creative background but that’s not necessary a bad thing.

I also enjoyed not having to rely on other musicians who can be, shall we say, unreliable at times. I liked knowing that I could rely on myself to get stuff done. Obviously, I needed the work opportunities as well.

Have you organised your life in a certain way/made  sacrifices in order to continue to be creative?


I’ve made quite a few sacrifices but that’s what you have to do at times. Someone in my position needs to be focused and I think I have a good work ethic, as old fashioned as that sounds. One of the biggest things I did was moving to London from Edinburgh without a job at the other end. It was a risk in some ways but one I was prepared to take.

You can look at these type of things as part of life’s adventures but when you’re on the overnight bus surrounded by drunks and not knowing how things will pan out, it can feel a bit nervy.

Sometimes it’s good to take a leap in to the unknown. Other sacrifices are simpler but still important such as deciding not to go to the pub and instead try and start a script you have the seed of an idea for. The pint will always taste better after you have got somewhere with an idea.

I’ve met some people over the years who seem to have a Bukowski-esque outlook to creativity ie, get drunk, talk about what they are going to do artistically but never get around to it. The thing is, Charles got drunk but he never forgot to write.


How do you define success?

If success means having loads of money then I’m in trouble. There’s no doubt that it’s nice to be paid well for your creativity but I’ve never taken the quick buck for the sake of it. Maybe I should have done but you go with instinct. I suppose success could be viewed as being personally gratified at the body of work you have done. Or as I mentioned earlier, being able to do professional work as well as independent creative ventures.

I still do short films, they don’t make money but they are good to do. For example, last year I filmed my short Timber! Due to good will and contacts, I got professional actors in and a great crew. I ended up being producer, actor, director and a lot more besides but I saw it as a success as I got something from script to the finished article which I think looks great. It’s a cliche but it is surprising what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it, keep focused and put in the necessary effort.

Screenshots from Timber, featuring Dougie & Miles Jupp

We all have to make money and there are definitely times when you have to do jobs which whilst perhaps not being the perfect gig, are good for other reasons such as making new contacts, raising your profile and of course making money to pay the bills.

To give you another example, I worked with Belle & Sebastian recently, one of my favourite bands. They asked me personally and as a result, the show we made together felt very much like a successful creative undertaking. It didn’t make me loads of money but it wasn’t like I started looking at flats in Mayfair before filming began. I went record shopping instead!

What in your opinion are the positives and negatives of technology when it comes to both creating and promoting your work?

It’s important to have a web presence but more than that, a good web site. I see some presenters’ sites and at times it looks like a case of style over substance. For me, it’s great to have a site where I can have examples of my professional work, short films, articles I’ve written and a blog.

I guess some of the negatives are that everyone seems to have an online presence so there’s a lot of competition for views. My advice would always be to have a site which is easy to navigate. You don’t want to get to a site and have no idea where the blog is or examples of work and have to drag your mouse over loads of images in the hope they might link to something. As I’m bound to say, I think my site looks good, but it’s also easy to get around.

Do you collaborate with others or prefer to work alone, and why?

I love working with others. On tv and radio shows there are obviously more than those on-air working on the show. It’s also nice to be around fellow creatives to share and exchange ideas. Regardless of all that, it’s good to be around those with a similar outlook to yourself.

It’s funny as ‘media types’ have a certain reputation and there is some truth in it but there are many others who work in the industry because like me, they had an unquenchable urge to create in some form of artistic realm. It’s also important to have friends who don’t work in the industry as you don’t want to be submerged in it all the time. That would be counter productive and also bloody boring.

Is community important to you – either local or online – and if so, why?


Well, as someone who lives in London, community in the traditional sense is not too prevalent due to the vastness of the city. It’s different online of course where geography goes out the window somewhat. Networking sites such as Twitter are certainly helpful as they can put similar minded people in touch and open communications.

I’ve often found consistency difficult in terms of learning a craft and then practicing it regularly – is this something you’ve mastered and do you have any advice on how to maintain this?

I’ve always been of the mind set that you never really master a craft, you just get better at it the more you do it. It’s all a continuous learning process. I think it’s good to learn as many crafts as possible but at the same time not spread yourself too thin.

You can undoubtedly learn many skills without at times knowing what they are. It’s a case of determining what skills you have amassed and how they can be used to greatest effect. That sounds like something a careers advisor would say and I’m not one of those, I’m still trying to determine my own!

You can hear Dougie on a recent Word Magazine podcast below.

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