In ‘Getting Geeky’ (episode 8 of the Mountain Shores Podcast), Fabian Kruse, Michael Nobbs and myself talk about the advantages and disadvantages of getting lost in creative flow, how to delight customers with high quality ice-cream, and whether our mindsets can make a difference to our earning potential.
You can also hear a bit more about The C.A.K.E. method, a bite-sized course that Fabian and I are offering to bloggers who want to have (more) fun and get more done.
What have people been talking about this week? The vast expanse of a brand new year, of course.
The Onset of Annual Review Syndrome
Chris Guillebeau has written about his annual review process now for a number of years, but this was a more vulnerable post than usual, as he is coming towards the end of his goal to travel to every country in the world, and has been feeling “sad recently for reasons I don’t understand”. The final country he is visiting will be Norway in April and I’ll be joining him in celebrating his achievement at a party in Oslo.
NENgage is “a new social media project which offers free training to community groups, local citizens and activists in how to use social media and online tools” in the Inverleith area of Edinburgh.
It’s being funded by local news publication The North Edinburgh News and lead by multimedia journalist Tom Allan and multi-talented writer/presenter Emily Dodd, both of whom regularly work for the BBC and a number of other organisations.
I’m volunteering at two of the sessions, and also helped Tom and Emily film four short videos to promote the events – you can see the first two of these below.
I can’t remember the last time I did one of these round-up posts, but there’s been a lot of good stuff on the internet recently which I wouldn’t like you to miss out on.
See, the internet and I are pretty good pals (Some might say it’s my only friend). It tells me interesting things, and it doesn’t mind if I share them with other people. In fact if I don’t share them it goes in a bit of a cream puff.
So I share them on Twitter, and Facebook, and Tumblr, and Pinterest, and Google MotherfriggingPlus, but still the internet’s insatiable desire to be liked (or is that my own insatiable desire to accrue internet likes?) is not satisfied, and so I bring you a massive blog post full of the best things I’ve seen on the internet.
Plus I couldn’t think of anything else to write about.
Amazing & Hilarious Art Documentary on John Balderassi with voice over by Tom Waits
And it’s less than 6 minutes long, what’s not to like?
Game On with Gaiman
Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech has been posted on a lot of the blogs I read, and rightly so. His thoughts on creativity, writing and freelancing are incredibly inspiring. I’ve embedded it below, but if you can’t watch video at the moment you can read the full transcript here.
I can’t implore you to watch this enough. It’s possibly my favourite ever commencement speech. Not that I’ve compiled a list of commencement speeches or anything (I never really heard of them before the internet told me), but that one by Steve Jobs was also pretty good…
Live and KickStartering
Meanwhile, Gaiman’s lovely wife Amanda Palmer has just raised ONE MILLION dollars on Kickstarter to fund her new album. Hypebot reported (with gratuitous tits included gratis).
As they point out, Palmer is already an established artist with a huge fanbase and a bunch of celebrity pals. But still, just think of the possibilities for your own creative project. Hell, even tech companies are using Kickstarter to raise backing for their products before they even manufacture a single item, e.g. the Pebble watch which connects with smartphones raised $10m. That’s a lot of money right there. Unfortunately there is an issue with using it in the UK which is a bit annoying.
Ze Frank’s A Show is rather brilliant. he says “Chase that Happy”:
Blogging, Freelancing & Entrepreneuring
We all have an idea of our ideal workspace. A clean, mahogony desk, a 27# iMac, a huge stack of hundred dollar bills, and a bottle of whisky, plus a rifle. That’s mine. But in reality, I sit at the kitchen table surrounded by random bits of junk.
Think Traffic is a blog which tells you how to get traffic for your blog. A good way to get traffic for your blog is to mention lots of bloggers. Another good way is to feature lots of hot sexy women. This post does both. Seriously though, these women are kicking ass and taking names online. Are me and other men doomed because we’re just too lazy and don’t look good in a tight dress?
Natalie Sisson is one of those women who are kicking ass and taking names online. She describes herself as ‘the suitcase entrepreneur’. Not because she sells suitcases, but because she travels like, a lot. Anyway, after 2 years she’s learnt some shit. Here’s the lowdown, in 24 Incredible Lessons Learnt From Being in Business. This is seriously worth a read if you’re interested in starting an online business.
Hey Shenee isn’t in Think Traffic’s list but she too, is kicking ass and taking names online. She even took my name, but it didn’t really suit her so she gave it back.
Detour TV is here! A 30 minute monthly web TV show all about new Scottish music by those clever Detour Scotland chappies, which is really well made. Good job chaps! The Pop Cop also has a bit about the making of it.
Right, I’ve run out of steam, ice cream and bad 80’s music so that’s all for now. But if you’ve seen something good on the internet, feel free to share a link in the comments. No spam mind!
You can always find the time and energy for something if you really love it.
Some creative people have one good idea and stick with it throughout their career – others, like my friend Andy, who is a designer and also runs a local mini-record label, seem to have too many ideas and projects to fit in to the average lifetime. As you can see from the questions below, Andy’s been a very busy boy.
Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?
I’m Andy Lobban. I’m a designer at Storm ID by day. In my spare time I do a few things. I co-run Gerry Loves Records, a tiny little vinyl and cassette record label concentrating mostly on local grass roots artists. I help organise Refresh Edinburgh which is a get together for internerds.
Don’t worry, I’ve not suddenly been overcome by a massive dose of hubris, but I am on a little bit of a happy high, because The Clear-Minded Creative been included in highly respected Scottish culture magazine The List‘s ahem, list.. of Best Scottish Websites, coming in at no.14 out of the 30 they mention.
The List do clarify that they were looking for unique and interesting ideas rather than the biggest and best known sites (thankfully for me!) But of course some of my other favourite Scottish blogs are notable by their absence, as always happens with these things.
Once the full article is up on the List’s website I’ll share it here. But for now, here is an extract from the kind words that List writer Kirsten Innes penned about this blog:
The most recent start-up in our list, Milo McLaughlin’s fascinating blog does exactly what it says on the tin: it helps creative people stay focused and, er, clear-minded… McLaughlin is no catchphrase-spouting self-help guru, though. The blog is equal parts personal journey and guide, and was set up as much to help him trace his own clear-minded path as to assist others with theirs.
Which makes me extremely happy as it’s exactly what I intended this blog to be. Sometimes, when you feel like giving up, you get just the encouragement you need – and this, combined with everyone’s generous comments and tweets regarding my last post, have been really touching and helped me to stay positive -so thanks.
If you’re in Edinburgh or Glasgow pick up the latest issue of The List now from all good newsagents – it also comes with a massive free Edinburgh Festival guide.
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.
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.
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.
Wedding pic by our friends Colin and Sharon Kirby (not sure which one of them took it!)
Hi, I’m back – successfully married and honeymooned, and despite a two day delay returning due to Iceland’s volcanic ash cloud, feeling pretty refreshed and ready for the rest of the year.
Our wedding day was absolutely fantastic, and really surpassed all of our expectations in terms of how much fun it was and how well everything went. We haven’t got hold of the official photos just yet but when we do I’ll share one or two here and a few more details of the day itself (if you’ll forgive the self-indulgence).
Morning Routines and Other Goals
Thanks so much to everyone for their comments on the My Morning Routine FAIL post at the start of the month, I was blown away by the reaction. I’m determined to try setting a decent routine again and thanks to the really helpful comments have a number of new ideas to try and help me stick to it this time. I’ll give an update in a month or two as to how it’s going.
In terms of other personal goals, now that the wedding’s in the bag, My wife (!) and I will have some time in our schedule so we really want to get back into running again. We ran a couple of 10ks over a year ago but since then have done very little. So we’ve decided to sign up for the Great Edinburgh 10k Run on 2nd October. This just happens to be the day after my birthday which makes it an ideal goal for the second half of the year.
Reading about being self-disciplined
Although I tried to avoid social networking whilst on honeymoon I still took some time to read blogs using the free wi-fi in the hotel. Having so clearly failed at self-discipline I was heartened to read that Leo Babauta, whose achievements are many, considers the whole thing a myth. He says that motivation is what’s important.
However Trent Hamm of the Simple Dollar believes that what we call it doesn’t matter, the key is to shift the balance so that the preferred behaviour is now easier than the old, negative behaviour.
Maybe the problem is that we will always end up frustrated because we want too much? My friend Nate at Fearless Endeavours suggests we try to focus on ‘wanting what we already have’. Gratitude is definitely a good way of improving your happiness, and it can be very easy to lose sight of. This was a welcome reminder.
New Streamlined Schedule
As you may already know, I’ve struggled a bit to maintain the twice weekly schedule on the blog and weekly email newsletter I started in January. I’ve decided that to make things more manageable and give you a better idea of what to expect I will be cutting it down to one definite post a week, at least for the next few months. So here’s what you can now expect each month:
One in-depth article on Clear-Minded Creativity
One Clear-Minded Creative Types interview
One Clear-Minded Classics book review
One monthly Creative Catch Up with links to other great blog posts and other info
The newsletters will continue to be weekly to ensure you don’t miss anything – and will also include links to other content and additional info that I won’t be sharing on the blog. So if you’re not subscribed, you’re really only getting half the story!
And I’ll still be hanging out and posting regular links to great content on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook so hopefully I’ll see you there too.
Share Your Wares Sunday
Which reminds me to remind you that you’re always welcome to share your latest creative projects on the Facebook page each Sunday, and I might even include it in the monthly catch-up posts. If you’re a bit shy about putting your stuff forward this is a good way to get started, and if you’re not shy then why aren’t you already doing it
This month I’m grateful to Paul Forrester and Emily Dodd for keeping things alive whilst I was in wedding mode. Paul has written a great poem about the secret life of shopping trolleys (and is clearly coming on leaps and bounds with his poetry) and Emily has put together a great local nature round up for the month. I know this is only the tip of the iceberg as to what both have going on at the moment – it’s great to see them both doing so well.
On a sadder note, I was very disappointed to find out that the Guardian Edinburgh blog was being closed down after only a year. Michael MacLeod, who ran the blog has been a great supporter of The Clear-Minded Creative and many other great creative initiatives throughout the city and was nice enough to include the launch of this blog as one of January’s highlights in his final ‘best of’ post. I wish him all the best in whatever he does next.
I’m writing this post at an Edinburgh blogger’s meet up at Sofi’s bar in Leith organised by Georgia of IdeaSpotting. It’s an attempt to be sociable *and* get some blogging done, so I’m interested to see if it’s possible to do both at the same time!
Mainly because I’ve not been very good at making the time to post recently (as you may have noticed). And maybe, just maybe, a bit of friendly peer pressure will help..
I figured I’d try and reignite the blogging spark by doing a short round-up post. I used to do these on my personal blog and they were quite popular. It might be that these are better suited for Sundays in future, to tie in with..
Share Your Wares Sundays
I asked people to share something creative they’d completed during the week on the Facebook page each Sunday. It’s had a pretty good reaction so far, especially considering I haven’t done an awful lot to publicise it yet.
Emily Dodd shared the story of 11 year old Adam Bojelian who can’t speak or write with a pen but creates poetry by blinking. Emily just happened to be at the bloggers’ meet up too, and she told me how she met Adam and his mum at a recent Social Media Surgery in Edinburgh. Following Emily’s excellent advice on getting the word out they have now raised over £2,000 for his trike ride to support disabled children and their families.
Basically Mars reckons that trying to do too many things at once is a recipe for career disaster. He strongly advises against trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Now a lot of bloggers are multi-talented and proud of it, so there was a bit of a backlash.
Personally I’m a little torn about this one. I really enjoy Mars’s blog because he isn’t afraid to make strong arguments, and I basically agree with his essential point – he’s suggesting clarity and focus is best when communicating who you are with other people – which is basically the message of this blog too.
I think though that who we are and what we do in life evolves naturally over time, so it’s not like we have to choose one thing and stick to it. But maybe it’s a good idea to define what we do in a clearer way. What do you think?
I’ve also started posting some interesting stuff on the Clear-Minded Creative tumblr page. This content feeds through to Facebook but if you’re on Tumblr you might prefer to follow it that way. Tumblr is a great way to find really cool content and also a good way to try out blogging if you’ve not done it before, because it’s so easy to use.
I loved this quote in particular:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.
Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through. – Ira Glass via Sam Sketch
If you’re in Glasgow and around between 6 -7pm it would be great to see you (Roddy Woomble of Idlewild is playing a solo set afterwards if that helps persuade you!)
How I Stopped Worrying and Learnt to Love the Tech
I was actually quite slow to get the tech bug, for example I didn’t get a mobile phone until relatively late and I was fairly clueless when it came to computers until the last few years. My first ever blog post was in July 2005 so I was by no means an early adopter of blogging either , although 6 years is quite a long time now that I think about it.
Since I bought my Macbook a few years ago and then an iPhone, I’ve become a bit of a fan of Apple’s products, and I’ve also become quite a geek generally. For over a year I spent a fair chunk of each day reading blogs and trying out new web and mobile apps, and although my attention has now expanded to many other things, I still have a keen interest in modern technology, the internet and the latest gadgets (not that I can afford as many as I’d like).
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s essential to embrace technology if you want to further your creative goals – even if you’re not a blogger.
Note: If you do want other people to find your creative work having a blog is still the best way to get the word out and connect with people online. I may be preaching to the converted on this point though!
Technology Can Help You Go Pro
Obviously technology can help you with the actual act of creation – e.g. Michael Nobbs is now using an iPad for his drawings – and there are powerful programmes like Adobe Creative Suite which are used by designers, photographers and video editors. If you put the work in, these packages can allow you to present yourself in an extremely professional way, allowing you to compete with established creative pros when selling your work.
And whilst decent tech is certainly not cheap, these days you can create things on a reasonable well-powered laptop that would have been unimaginable less than a decade ago. The fact I can now film and edit HD video on my iPhone is mind-boggling to me, not just because I’m a lover of all things Apple and shiny, but because of what it allows me to do – film footage anywhere I am, and share it to the world via my blog.
Technology allows you to connect with the world
Using Skype, I’ve interviewed some of my favourite musicians like Bonnie Prince Billy and Regina Spektor, and received coaching and seminars on a variety of topics from people I like and admire from all over the world. I’ve made a bunch of friends on Twitter, and I can keep in touch with family and friends from all over the world on Facebook. I’m old enough to remember when NONE OF THIS WAS POSSIBLE. It wasn’t that long ago.
Hell even MySpace, which is now dead to me, was useful at the time. I remember when there was as much a buzz about it as there is now with Twitter. My music was appreciated by a few crazy people in different parts of the world, even though most people found it unlistenable tosh!
And I’m delighted to say a bunch of amazing creative people from all over the world read this blog. That’s one of the most exciting things about blogging for me.
Staying aware of the latest trends keeps you one step ahead
Now believe it or not, I’ve never been massively comfortable with bragging about myself. The beauty of blogging and social media means you don’t have to boast about what you’ve done, you just have to show the evidence and it will speak for itself. But on this occasion I’ll make an exception (didn’t take much persuading did it?) as I want to show you how being up to date with the latest trends can be of benefit.
Here’s some stuff I’ve achieved because I’ve embraced technology and the latest trends:
I’ve attracted paid freelance work due in part to my blogging and social media experience.
I was promoted to a digital engagement role at work thanks to my self -taught knowledge in the area.
I was asked to take part in a debate at St Andrew’s University with some very well respected and established journalists and academic figures, because I had written online about the future of journalism.
This weekend I reached 1,000 followers on Twitter for the first time – and it has happened organically just because I enjoy chatting to new people and finding out what they’re doing (and it’s helped that I’ve been on there for over two years).
I founded the I Hear a New World podcast for Scottish culture magazine The Skinny, which I hope helped in some way to raise the profile of some excellent but under-appreciated musicians.
And I”m not even a proper early adopter! There’s loads of people out there who are way ahead of me, but the fact is that by at least being aware of what’s going on in the world of technology, I can foresee trends and take advantage of them if I’m able to.
But Everyone’s a Blogger Nowadays
True, a lot of people have blogs these days, and not all of them are that great. But if you’re not in the game, you’re never going to win. Social networking sites aren’t going to cut it – look what’s happened to the aforementioned MySpace.
Writing for other publications is all very well but you need your own web ‘real estate’ if you want to get people to visit you and follow you over time. You need your own blog (preferably on WordPress) and you need to keep it up to date if you’re really serious about spreading your work to as many people as possible. Of course if you don’t want to to do that, then fair enough but if you’re reading this I’m guessing you probably do!
Just do yourself a favour – include a link so people can subscribe by RSS and email – and use Feedburner so that they can subscribe using their favoured feed reader without having to copy and paste the link. Okay, only obsessive blog readers like me might use RSS, but they’re exactly the people you want as long-term readers as they are more likely to share your stuff with other people.
Technology allows you to teach yourself pretty much anything
This might be the biggie. You can pretty much learn anything you want in terms of creative skills with the information that’s now readily available online.
Personally my first port of call is always books, and I now read a combination of print books and ebooks, either via my Kindle or downloaded directly from the website of the author. You can find info for free on pretty much anything if youre willing to take the time, and there are also a bunch of useful info products and subscription services which will distill this infiormation into an easy to follow guide and even provide it in audio and video formats (though you do need to be somewhat cautious about which of these you invest in).
YES, TECHNOLOGY CAN BE A PAIN IN THE ARSE.
Technology is never perfect, and I have to admit I do get frustrated sometimes when trying to use technology but that’s mainly because I either haven’t taken the time to learn something properly or am trying to do too much too quickly, without proper preparation.
And of course being online all the time does have it’s disadvantages and can be hugely distracting and that’s something we all need to learn how to deal with if we’re to stay sane and clear-minded.
What’s worse, environmentally and ethically there are a huge amount of issues with the sourcing of components and the disposal of obsolete tech.
But it’s hard not to see the positive sides. technology and the internet levels the playing field (at least it does for the time being) and allows anyone who’s got a creative urge to set up a website and get their work out there.
Of course the amount of effort and time involved in doing that is not to be underestimated, but I think it’s fair to say that technology currently gives creative people an opportunity that even 15 years ago would have been unimaginable. Who knows how long it might last? Get on board while you can.
The Ditch the Day Job Video Diaries are 20 video diaries I have filmed since I took voluntary redundancy in February 2012 – after ten years working in the Scottish civil service.
The videos also feature footage from a couple of adventures I went on to meet other bloggers and self-employed people from around the world and get their perspectives, including the World Domination Summit in Portland and a trip to Oslo.