Escape Hatch on the HMS Portland

Hi and welcome back to The Clear-Minded Creative. As I’m writing this, it’s the beginning of July 2011, which means the year has reached the half-way point. And this blog has now been going for 6 months too. So it seems a good time for a little reflection.

I feel like I’ve achieved quite a bit since the beginning of the year. Three things that have happened since January 1st are amongst the biggest achievements of my life:

  • Starting this blog and getting a positive reaction to it
  • Getting consistent paid freelance copywriting work which I enjoy
  • Getting married (ok this one should have been no.1!)

All three of course are not just down to me – they’re all down to the help and support of other people.

So I feel especially grateful to have those people in my life as well as these amazing opportunities to reach new people through the blog and gain new experiences through my freelance work.

So why do I feel like giving up?

It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve given up on a good thing. In fact, I’ve done it consistently. For example I used to write a regular column/produce a podcast for a local magazine, but I gave it up as I felt the work involved far outweighed the rewards.

In retrospect it wasn’t always for completely the wrong reasons. Making some space in my schedule allowed me to get paid freelance work, after all. But now I feel like giving up again, even though I know I’m headed in a positive direction.

Impatience

The trouble is, I got impatient. I thought that now I had a bit of freelance work, maybe I could leave my day job. Maybe if I just got a bit more work, I could give up the security of the job which pays my mortgage and bills.

So I took on a few other pieces of work, and subsequently struggled to get them done. Not only that, but my work at my day job has also suffered – the worst of both worlds. Now I realise it was far too soon to expect to make a comfortable living freelance.

What’s even worse though is I’ve failed to keep to the schedule I promised to on this blog, even though I reduced the posting frequency recently from twice to once a week. I haven’t even managed that. And it stings.

Because I know I can do better.

And because I’ve become the polar opposite of clear-minded again. I’m overwhelmed, confused and frozen by indecision. And I’m trying to escape through reading all the blogs I follow in Google Reader and surfing my social media feeds – which only makes my mind more cluttered.

Hit Refresh

But hey, we all have relapses right? We all need to take a step back, reflect on what went right and do more of that and less of the other.

So I’m not going to give up. I’m just going to ask you to be kind and be a little patient with me, as I try and get back to full speed again. And I’m going to be a little more patient with myself and my situation and not try to force things to happen that aren’t meant to happen yet.

If you’ve not achieved your goals so far this year, could you turn things around? Or could you at least be a little kinder to yourself and celebrate the things you have achieved?

I hope so.

Here’s a wee video I made at the weekend to mark the six months mark of the blog and with a few hints of what’s to come for the rest of the year.

Thanks for sticking around so far. Let me know in the comments where you find yourself at the mid-point of the year and if you have a goal to achieve by the end of it. From now on I really want to bring the focus here back to how I can help others instead of moaning on about my own problems all of the time!

p.s. there’s more info on the record I mention in the video over at Song, By Toad.

p.p.s. In an effort to spend less time messing about with social media, I’m going to put Share Your Wares Sunday on pause for the time being, probably just for the rest of the summer. Thanks very much to everyone who’s taken part over the last few months.

29 Comments

  1. Hey Milo, good to see this review! (And what a truly wonderful vinyl album release of Song, By Toad!)

    As for me, I’m finally using some more fuel to get my first eguide written, after the Beyond Rules release earlier this year. It will be all about how to get things done while traveling. I have found myself struggling with that at time, yet still managed to find some kind of a balance over almost three years now, so I thought it would be useful to share my experiences with others.

    Looking forward to your manifesto, and to more clearminded creativity!
    Fabian | The Friendly Anarchist recently posted..Pieces of Berlin

    • Thanks Fabian – yes it’s a great artifact. Just got another one through the post, the comic SVK by Warren Ellis and D’Israeli – it comes with a UV light to reveal certain elements of the story.

      Looking forward to the eguide, I’ve always wondered how you do it!

      Yes the manifesto is my main goal for the time being. So here’s to less social media!

  2. Have you ever read George Leonard’s Mastery?

    He’s got a great riff in there about how we don’t spend enough time at the plateaus as we ascend to mastery.

    The plateaus are where it is boring, hard, sloggy. The place where many of us want to pack it in.

    Ah . . . but just around the corner is the *next step up*

    Good stuff here . . . keep it going ; )

    • Sounds good Mike – a possible future Clear-Minded Classic perhaps!

      Also sounds a similar message to Godin’s The Dip. Choosing what to give up and what to continue doing is the key I guess.

      Many thanks for the support!

  3. Hello Milo,

    It seems almost everybody who’s doing “creative” work has this same problem: you know you have to do write/draw/compose/whatever today, you are all set, ready to go, and then… you go and do the dishes. Check your mail. Read that interesting article you saw in the newspaper yesterday…

    What I don’t understand is why we do that. Even when I try to be really honest with myself, I do not fully see the reason behind this behavior. There are some possible explanations, but none seems right.

    Am I just being lazy? Sorry, but no. I’m not a lazy person. And if it was laziness, than why would you go and do the dishes and all those other chores? Then I would be sitting in the sofa for the rest of the afternoon, watching old James Bond movies with the cat on my lap. Hey, doesn’t she need feeding…

    Perhaps I don’t really really really like to do the work I’m supposed to do? Nah. Come on! I’m an illustrator. I get to sit and draw and play with shapes and colors all day long. Sensual pleasures!

    Perhaps I’m afraid? Of failing? Then why do I sometimes quit when I’m on a roll? I’ve made a nice drawing yesterday and I feel I’m getting better all the time, finally finding something like an own voice as well… That should be stimulating, no?

    Perhaps I’m afraid of success? Then why do I like to post my work on a blog? Why do I try to attract the attention of people? Why would I seek out job opportunities? I could do the work and keep it in my sketchbooks and private files. Guaranty no “success”.

    Or are all these answers just too simple? Is it some intricate combination of all of the above? Because, of course, I sometimes do get afraid people won’t like what I made. And sometimes I don’t feel like scanning those sketches. And sometimes I do spent the afternoon watching Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Dr. No, one after the other. And yes, I do like to be on my own so leave me alone, thank you very much.

    So, I don’t know.

    And I wonder what other people think about this? Do you know exactly WHY you’re feeding the cat instead of starting the work you’re supposed to do?

    What? Is it that late already? I guess I better start scanning those sketches….

    All the best,

    Gilliom
    Gilliom-Monsieur Bandit recently posted..Illustration Friday (4): Remedy

    • So, so true Gilliom. Our subconscious mind has such power over us.

      Apparently, whatever it does, it does for what it thinks is a good reason, to “protect” us. So for me perhaps it is a fear of success. In case success brings some kind of mental breakdown because i can’t cope with what’s involved.

      Perhaps a fear of ridicule and the fact I will no longer be able to hide away in my bedroom and actually have to get out there and do something. Or perhaps my subconscious is just an Ian Fleming fan (yours too, it seems!)

      And perhaps we only do art to ultimately find out the reason why we don’t want to do it?

      Woah. Now my head hurts.

  4. Hey Milo,
    Great honest post, excellent video (was impressed, all one take, you’re good) and I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and all the comments today.

    Gilliom-Monsieur Bandit, some interesting questions. I’m not sure what the answers are (if you find them, let me know). I have an additional problem in that if I’m being paid to do something, I don’t want to do it, even if I had wanted to do it when I wasn’t being paid to do it. It makes no sense at all but I’d rather do random fun creative things then the things I’m meant to be doing (however fun and creative they may be). I’m not sure if it’s because I like to choose and having something paid is no longer a choice? (is this in my subconscious?).

    Also I know I much prefer to pursue a new idea then do my ‘to do list’ of tasks, again I don’t know why this is but could be something to do with the excitement that comes with a new idea and riding the wave that pursuing it brings (I know a few days later the idea looses it’s spark).

    Also, the hardest part for me is starting on the thing I’m meant to be doing, I’ll put it off with so many things but once I do force myself to start, I enjoy it and wish I’d just got on with it earlier.

    I want to give up, don’t want to create or even speak to anyone if I’m feeling down so I try to look after myself and eat properly and do exercise since if my body is healthy my mind has more chance of staying healthy. That said, often I get too busy and exercise and food start to slip. I suppose we all have days where we just don’t want to get out of bed and face the day. I quite often think I’d like to hibernate in winter, eat food, watch DVD’s, sleep.

    I know having time and space outside helps me loads. This monk, Father Abbott (I’ve read his book finding sanctuary) asks people who say they’re too busy to have silence or space “How have you allowed yourself to get into this state?” and they’re shocked, they blame others or circumstances and yet ultimately we have to take responsibility for our own busyness. Being too busy is often a failing of mine but I’m aware it’s my responsibility to sort it out and I’m trying to get better. Right now I’m doing ridiculous amounts of work and then going on holiday, not the best model! I’m working at being more balanced and planning better but it’s hard when you start out freelancing because you end up saying yes to jobs because you don’t know if you’ll have work later. I’ve started saying no now though, because I know I won’t be able to work in the future if I over do it. Also, I know I need to plan for the chaos! 20% extra time for things that just come up, if you’ve allocated all your time when something extra happens or something goes wrong it’s stress city because you’ve no margin to deal with it.

    All good advice and all things I know I need to do but don’t always manage to put into practice!
    Emily Dodd recently posted..Banana me beautiful: The book and the boat

  5. PS I should of added, don’t give up! You’re doing a great job (:
    Emily Dodd recently posted..Banana me beautiful: The book and the boat

    • Hi Emily

      Thanks very much for commenting and for the encouragement. First of all, don’t be fooled into thinking that was the first take! We tried to record it down by the water at Cramond to begin with, but sunbathing locals kept walking into shot ;)

      Secondly everything you say is true, especially the stuff about making space and in many ways this sums up what the message of this blog is. I’ve let myself get into this situation even though I know it’s not healthy, and not positive to do so.

      Which is why I think a reminder is always good, even if it’s not something particularly new that’s being said.

      I have all the same feelings as you with paid work etc. I think it helps that on Mondays I go into the office to do the freelance work so I just get on with it in that environment. However in the other office I work in I feel a lot less motivated as it is not always work I enjoy or am good at.

      Even though you obviously have the same resistances as I do, so you have obviously found a way to get over those barriers, judging by all your output recently :)

    • Emily just reminded me (thanks Emily) that I posted something just along those lines last week http://stickfiguresimple.com/filters-and-understanding

      Not meant to be self promotion, just, maybe, helpful.

      Good conversation
      Mike Davenport recently posted..Fathoming understanding—the good stuff’s way deep

  6. Hmm, a lot of interesting stuff to comment on!

    On the subject of why we put things off, I can only ever put that down to a perception that my creative work somehow has less importance than other things. I might spend a Friday afternoon writing, but because it’s not my day job I hesitate to call it ‘work’ (because I believe non-creative friends and acquaintances wouldn’t describe it as such) and therefore struggle to justify putting it before domestic tasks and other mundane-but-necessary aspects of life.

    Maybe that’s just an excuse in itself (catch 22 anybody?), and if I ever find myself doing something that I’m getting paid for, I’ll let you know whether my motivation changes.

    Anyone want to pay me for anything…? (Purely as an experiment, of course!)

    Thanks for the mention in the video, Milo. Ironically, the poetry has suffered a little bit in recent weeks as I have got back into writing more prose. I find it hard to switch my brain between the two styles of writing, so have to concentrate on one at a time. The writing course started a couple of weeks ago, and the guy leading it advocated writing poetry as a useful exercise in wielding words, so I’ll definitely be keeping it up in some capacity.

    That first course session was really inspiring, in that it has helped me formulate the (probably unrealistic!) idea that there is a book about independent cinemas to be written, with the blog posts acting as a starting point.

    I’m not sure if this is a dangerous leap to make, as much of my progress in the last six months has been based on taking things steadily. Having said that, the constant struggle to try and get people reading the blog and keep them reading does make the pursuit of longer-term goals difficult, so I’m not sure what to devote my energies to most. I feel like I’m doing okay, but could be doing much better – I want to explore other outlets, such as Tumblr, but fear them becoming too big a distraction and ultimately frustrating.

    And I’m STILL struggling as to whether a smartphone would help or hinder me!

    For now, then, I’ll work on my course project (which will definitely use the cinema blog posts), and I’ll keep looking out for other creative opportunities (I recently applied for a voluntary copywriting position in the hope of getting some ‘proper’ experience). The big thing to take out of it is that my confidence and inspiration is so much higher than it was when I started the blog on January 31st, which is down to regular writing, sitting in rooms with people and enjoying a bit of creative discussion, and also finding this blog.

    So I’m delighted you’re carrying on, and look forward to another six months of progress!
    Paul recently posted..Superman Never Had This Problem

    • Hi Paul

      Maybe it is an outdated/deeply held belief about the relative importance or not of the creative activity. I don’t know if getting paid would help with that, but it might make your friends/acquaintances more impressed (not that this is important in the grand scheme of things)!

      Prose or poetry it’s still another string to your bow – the course you’re on sounds good – your book project is pretty ambitious and exciting which might just give you the impetus to do it. Why not?

      My advice (oh it’s so much easier to give others advice than follow it myself) would be to get the book written and then worry about promoting it/getting a smartphone/tumblr. I know all too well how distracting these things can be. Far better to have something that’s really worth promoting first, no?

      Glad that things have progressed for you too since Jan 1st. Here’s to an even more successful second half of the year!

  7. Don’t give up Milo! I love reading this blog.

    By the way, did you film this last Sunday? How the devil did you manage that?!

    Hoho.

  8. I can totally relate to this post. In fact, I think you wrote this post from inside my head! Get out…or do my work now too! :)

    As soon as I feel I have “accomplished” something, a whole lot more piles onto my plate and it feels like a wellspring of to-do’s come forward. I know its part of my creative process but feelings of overwhelm and imbalance can overtake me…if I let them. For me the key is realizing it is all about embracing what is working for me, and letting go of what I thought I *should* be doing.

    I think you hit the nail on the head in saying that celebrating accomplishments is so important. Doing this allows me to continue to focus on my version of success. When I can *choose* what I want to feel success with rather than *should* do (for my success) the journey and process is more authentic. And fun.

    Instead of looking at things as failures or delays, I always try to reframe this energy into what has this delay allowed me to accomplish?

    And yes, I agree, it’s easier to give advice than to follow it sometimes!

    Welcome back and thanks for helping me to get more clear minded!

    • Hi Marianne,

      Phew. It really is a relief to know I’m not the only one. As for your work, I’d better get on with mine first ;)

      I think you’re saying that we should trust in our own energy/process more? As in, be more accepting of how we work etc. I think what I’m going through just now is probably a positive thing if it helps me get clearer about what I want. But it’s still frustrating when it means I don’t always get other stuff I know I should be getting on with done.

      Of course in NLP there’s an argument that removing the word ‘should’ and replacing it with ‘could’ is much more beneficial, as when we feel we have a choice in our action it’s much more motivating than feeling like we ‘have’ to do something.

      Thanks to you for commenting and adding to the discussion!

  9. I can totally empathise with your situation! I have income from seasonal part time tutoring and a bit of writing. Noramlly I also have a day job but my latest one finished a few months ago. So I’m trying to really concentrate on writing and also looking into writing based business ideas. But at the same time still looking for a proper day job… It can get really confusing as to what i really want to do and where to put my energies. I hope things work out for you!
    craftygreenpoet recently posted..Gery Heron

    • Hi Juliet, best of luck with it. It’s hard because the grass always looks greener (not to pun on your pseudonym) – it would be great to have the time to work on writing, but I don’t really want to go back to being as poor as I used to be.

      I hope you find some rewarding work that allows you to keep doing what you want to do!

  10. Hey Milo!

    First off, I feel absolutely terrible and all the more grateful for your help with the book trailer after reading about what a crazy workload you’ve had! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    As for giving up and this feeling of just being worn out, I know exactly what you mean and I think it happens to all of us. There are periods through the year where all my positive motivation disappears, nothing is quite working the way I want it to, the benefits are still not in sight (will they ever be?) and publishers, teachers, students, readers, friends…everyone is waiting for something from me…a reply to an email, a re-tweet, a returned call, a response to a text, chapters of a novel, edited pages, translated sentences, a doctors appointment, grocery shopping, bill to pay, dinner to cook, dentist…ahh! and I am just exhausted.

    Those are the days I’m reminded of the Hemingway quote: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

    Creative work is tiring stuff. Sometimes we need a breather, need to stock up on all that blood we put in our work. Even if we can manage the work load at the start, sometimes it gets out of hand through the simple loss of blood. Of course, I try to replace my blood with caffeine but it doesn’t always work :) That’s why I loved your subtitle: Hit Refresh. I’m keeping that one in mind!

    I try to remind myself to Be Kind To Myself. Many creative people around me are (like me) their own worst critics. We could all use a little bit of self-directed-kindness. Maybe acknowledging that needing to Hit Refresh from time to time is a part of the Creative Persons Life Style, will help make moments where we feel overwhelmed less stressful. At least it might stop that nasty Mrs Self Doubt from joining Mr. Worn Out when he comes calling.

    Alright, i’m taking my worn out self into the kitchen for more coffee. Thank you again for all your help with the video, and for keeping this blog going (because it’s awesome)!

    -Hande

    • Hi Hande – don’t worry I probably shouldn’t have agreed to do it but who could resist with vampires and damsels in distress involved!

      You’ve hit the nail on the head there – it’s a loss of energy or passion that’s only temporary but when it hits it’s very sudden and impossible to get past – at least for me. I suppose we can learn to plan ahead a little so we avoid taking on too much, but it’s not always easy to judge these things.

      Glad you like the ‘hit refresh’ idea too – maybe that could be the title (or at least the subtitle) for my new manifesto :)

  11. Hey Milo,

    I hope you’re doing well!

    I totally understand where you’re coming from as I often feel the same way. I especially resonate with this:

    “And I’m trying to escape through reading all the blogs I follow in Google Reader and surfing my social media feeds – which only makes my mind more cluttered.”

    I often do the same thing and what’s funny is that when I’m not engaged in social media I feel kind of guilty! For example, I rarely use Twitter these days and sometimes I think ‘hmmm, should I be tweeting more? Am I missing something’

    I suppose a lot of it is doubt and maybe you have similar feelings. Doubt over people are interested in what I have to say. Doubt in whether I have anything worthwhile to share. Doubt over whether I can find success in my own endeavor OR if that’s even what I really want.

    Not sure how much this helps, but I very much emphasize with you and hopefully you realize that the vast majority of people have similar feelings.

    I really like the comment you make on being kinder to yourself. I think that point can’t be overemphasized enough. Most of us are so damn hard on ourselves and we put so much pressure on ourselves and I think it’s extremely important that we extend the same kindness to ourselves that we extend to our friends, family, and internet community that we interact with.

    Looking forward to seeing what’s coming next – the site is great!

    Peace,
    Nate
    Nate recently posted..Learning to Explore Your Emotions

    • That’s really kind Nate thanks. It does make a hell of difference to get all these comments, it genuinely makes everything seem worthwhile.

      I know exactly what you mean, I hate to miss out on what’s going on, but at the same time I don’t want to sit on the sidelines watching what other people are doing and not get anything done myself!

      I think the approach you are taking, which is to look at deeper ways of connecting with yourself through the likes of yoga and meditation is the best way of dealing with the doubts etc that you quite rightly identify as being part of the problem. And I need to do that more often.

      And kindness is key I agree. Part of that kindness is taking a break from the noise as often as possible. Amazing what you can achieve with the internet switched off!

  12. I think the summer is a fallow time for blogging anyway !

  13. Hi Milo,

    A well deserved pat on the back for all the things you have achieved and belated congratulations on getting married. I really enjoy CMC and wish for its continuing success. The summer will give me a chance to catch up on articles I didn’t get round to reading fully.

    And it is very clear-minded thinking to reflect and realise you have become cluttered :D

    It’s an annual review for me, it’s been a year since I gave up my day job & moved to Scotland. I haven’t achieved everything I wanted to, mainly finding another day job, but the freelancing ball is just starting to move. Hopefully, it will start rolling soon. Also slowly overcoming that creative fear that Gilliom mentions in his comment.

    Refresh clicks all round and “Add Oil”
    Anz

    • Hi Anz, thanks very much for the support/kind words, it’s really nice to hear that the site had an impact. And thanks for the wedding well wishes!

      Glad also to hear that you’re starting to get some momentum with the freelance work – getting things off the ground is probably the hardest part and I hope things improve for you from here on in.

      Here’s to further successes in the coming year :)