longandwindingroad

The Long and Winding Path to Finding Your Life’s Work (in 5 Steps)

Do you know what your life’s work is?

It’s a daunting concept, isn’t it? But wouldn’t it be nice to take it into your own hands, rather than rely on other people’s permission!

There’s only one issue: how do we take our life’s work into our own hands if we don’t know what it is? For most of us, it only become clear one piece at a time, as we progress through life – like a very long and complicated jigsaw puzzle.

Your Voice Matters

Your Voice Matters

Photo: mindaugasdanys (Creative Commons)

Being creative is in many ways about having a voice and wanting to express ourselves. We all have a unique perspective, and we can share that with the world through our creativity.

Don’t underestimate how important it is that you do this.

It’s a Vine Time to Make a Clone

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Feeling overwhelmed? Far too much to do? Feel like it will take you four lifetimes to get everything ticked off your to-do list?

You might enjoy taking advantage of our new self-replication service:

EAZYCLONER.CO

Immediately make more of your life, double your productivity, and free yourself up for more fun activities.

We currently have a special deal – 3 new yous for the price of 2, if you sign your life away on the dot today!**


*Either that or spend the best part of day dicking about with Twitter’s latest iPhone app 

**We cannot take responsibility for flawed copies, duplicated lazy-assedness, or any other unexpected consequences of having multiple versions of yourself roaming the earth.

(see also – the appeal of apps that turn us into artists).

Seth Godin Spectacular!

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This coming week on Clear-Minded Creative will be a Seth Godin spectacular, to mark the release of 3 new books by the influential blogger and bestselling author: The Icarus Deception, V is for Vulnerable (with cartoonist Hugh MacLeod) and Watcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

I’ve got 4 copies of The Icarus Deception to give away, and one person will also get a special copy of V is for Vulnerable signed by Seth himself. But you’ve got to be in it to win it, so to find out how to enter you’ll need to stay tuned. You can subscribe to the newsletter (make sure you tick the ‘every post’ option), like the Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter.

I’ll also be sharing carefully-crafted and inspiring quotes each day, or ‘Sethisms’ which have become Godin’s trademark. I’ll leave you with an excellent ‘Sethism’ from the Icarus Deception:

“The door to art and connection is open, but we have no idea for how long.

Every day on the other side of the door is better than a day on this side.

Every moment that we wait, biding our time, waiting for the perfect opportunity, is a moment wasted, and worse, a door that closes, possibly not to open again for a long time to come.”

p.s. I’ve updated the Clear-Minded Creative About Page with a new Mission Statement on why creative people should ignore doubters and critics, which was in no small part inspired by Seth Godin’s work.

Apocalyptic Accountability – A Conversation

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Photo by badjonni


If you’re reading this the likelihood is the world didn’t end on 21st December 2012 as the Mayans predicted. Although it’s still possible at the time of writing, just less than 30 minutes before the bells toll to midnight on the 20th. But assuming that it doesn’t happen, it’s still an inescapable fact that 2012 is almost over.

Time for some Friendly Accountability

My pal Fabian and I have been holding each other accountable in a friendly way most of the year so we thought it was a good time to discuss how things have gone, and look forward a little to how we can wrap things up and make improvements in 2013.

It’s a tester for a possible regular podcast where we would invite others to reveal their tips for people who want to be productive whilst still enjoying life, so it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on whether you would be interested in hearing more.

Hope you enjoy the conversation!

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p.s. I can still learn a thing or two about getting things done from Fabian, that’s for sure. His post went up much earlier today, and so I’ve copied the show notes from him:

Mars Dorian profile pic

“Blow Your Comfort Zone to Smithereens” – An Interview with Mars Dorian, Marketing Artist

Standing out online is all about personality, passion and a powerful visual brand. Mars Dorian has all three (and then some).

Over the last couple of years Mars has produced an explosion of colourful cartoons and articles bursting with equally colourful language.  His posts are hilarious and highly motivational, with a ton of insight and advice about branding yourself online.

Now it’s time to find out how he will “light a fire under your ass”.

I’ve Just Run Out of Excuses

Yesterday I left the civil service after almost exactly 10 years to the day I started. You can read some background to this in one of the previous newsletters. Somewhat spookily, given this was my last day of repeating the same routine over and over again, this happened on Groundhog Day.

Another coincidence – on the way to work, I was listening to a playlist of 120 cheesy songs and ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe came on just as I was approaching the building – at which point I started singing along at the top of my voice, obviously!

Man with a Plan or Unemployed Bum?

Because I voluntarily accepted redundancy, I will receive a decent lump sum. If I’m careful, I can survive on this for a year, even if I didn’t have any other money coming in.

My plan though, is to continue to work as a freelance copywriter, which is something I’ve been doing since I cut down my working week to four days at the beginning of 2011 – but now it will need to be on a much bigger scale because this time next year it will probably be my main source of income.

I also want to ramp up my blogging efforts again. The point of this blog was always to help other creative people find focus and achieve their potential – and I’ve only just scratched the surface so far.

Developing a new business as well as blogging is going to take a lot of focus and discipline, even though I’ll no longer be working a day job at the same time. Key to this is establishing productive habits and spending my days wisely.

I also want to ensure I have time for exercise and my own creative projects/experiments, whilst I have the luxury of being able to structure my own time.

Every Moment Counts

Every moment counts for me this year. It’s hugely important. But what’s new? I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t have done some legwork. I couldn’t have done this if I was heavily overdrawn or in credit card debt for example (I do have student loans but it was under the old system which means I can continue to defer them for the time being).

If I hadn’t already been paid for my writing and other work I might not have had the confidence to take the leap (even then it was a tough decision). My previous job, whilst it had it’s frustrations, did mean I got a lot of experience with digital media and marketing, and the fact I’ve been writing, blogging, using social media and producing audio and video content for many years is also a bonus.

Also worth pointing out is that over a year ago, on the advice of  Jonathan Mead, I set a very specific goal: to ditch my day job by 31st March 2012. This was before I knew the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy would arise. In fact, I forgot that I had done this until I looked at my calendar for 2012 a few weeks ago, but the intention was always at the back of my mind – never underestimate the power of committing to clear and highly specific goals.

One of my leaving gifts

Everything you do is a step in either the right, or wrong direction to achieving what you really want out of life. That’s what this blog is really about. Whatever situation you’re in right now, it’s a good thing to remember. Of course we can also put too much pressure on ourselves – rest and relaxation, enjoying life and HAVING FUN has to be part of the plan too.

This is an important post for me, and I’d  be really grateful if you would share it on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus or wherever you see fit using the handy buttons below.

Oh, and why not join over 100 people who already subscribe to the newsletter and like CMC on Facebook, and over 1000 people who follow me on Twitter: @milomclaughlin

p.s. I know I dropped the ball with this blog last year but I’m back now, and I’ve got no more excuses – so expect big things :)

Inspiration Supercharged

Kaffee

This is a guest post by Clear-Minded Creative Type Fabian Kruse of The Friendly Anarchist. All the photos featured are also his handywork.

Travelling through several countries on two different continents, living in eight different cities (and one island), switching apartments every couple of weeks and visiting dozens of parks, sights and landmarks nearby doesn’t sound like the ideal way to get creative work done.

To be honest, it probably isn’t. And still, while doing this over the course of this year, two books got somehow written.

Here’s the thing: Even though learning to be productive anywhere was quite a challenge for me, getting input and inspiration on the way – from the South American Andes to the Austrian Alps, from Caribbean beaches to Berlin’s club culture – was what fuelled my work more than anything else.

If you are a creative type and thinking about travelling the world to find inspiration, here’s my personal plea for you to get your suitcase packed and your ticket booked!

It’s also a plea for a different kind of travel, a plea for diving into local culture and moving off the beaten track. The right mix of connecting and disconnecting, getting lost and finding input, constant creation and conscious moments of leisure is what will provide you with plenty of fertile grounds for your creative endeavours.

Chicas

1) Connect, Connect, Connect

When moving to a new city, the easiest way to get a feeling for the place is to connect with as many locals as possible.

Ask for their recommendations, and make sure to state you’re interested in things that go beyond the usual tourist spots: Which are the up and coming districts? Where does the alternative culture thrive? What about local events that are generally ignored by tourists?

If you’re shy or don’t speak the language, simply take some time to observe: Which are the places crowded by natives rather than tourists? Which medium of transport do they prefer, how do they deal with each other, which kind of food do they eat?

I had some of the best and most inspiring travel moments when attending champeta parties in the barrios of Cartagena, drinking draft beer in the shady bars around San Salvador’s central market, or trying to find the best ajiaco soups in the suburbs of Bogotá. I wouldn’t have experienced any of those places if I hadn’t connected with locals who invited me to accompany them.

2) Then: Disconnect

Disconnection is the second major element of being creative on the road for me. While it’s admittedly not good for blog traffic and social media presence, I have noticed that fully immersing myself in a new place will skyrocket my creativity.

This means: Ignore email for a while, close your Twitter client, even leave your laptop and cellphone at home and just start to walk around, being totally in the here and now. It’s hard to get a feeling for the area if you’re looking at a screen all the time!

Pieces of Vienna 9

3) Getting Lost: The Anti-Guidebook

Sure, you wouldn’t want to visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower, but if you’re up for taking inspiration to a new level, don’t just stop there. Move beyond the photographic highlights and the recommended restaurants, even if time is short.

The easiest way to do this: Walk around your destination until you don’t have any idea where you are. Then, find your way back. Taxis are not allowed, unless you really are drifting.

Of course, this advice is to be taken with a grain of salt when you’re travelling in dangerous areas, but even cities like Medellín in Colombia provide plenty of opportunities to get lost without risking to get mugged on your way.

4) Rip, Mix, Burn

We’re living in a remix culture in a remix world. I believe that everything you see and experience on your travels will be reflected in your creative work in one form or the other, anyway – so why not embrace it consciously and create the craziest remixes you can make up?

Cross traditional indigenous music with punk rock from back home, mix Indonesian shadow puppet theatre with early Austrian expressionism, combine magic realism and gonzo journalism.

Even if you end up doing this just for your personal amusement, it will be a relieving practice that will impact your approach to creative work. Bonus tip: If you’re interested in “meta remixes”, be sure to check out the immigrant quarters of the city you’re at: The amicable “clash of cultures” (like the meeting of Austrian and Balkan traditions in Vienna’s 16th district) will baffle your expectations and make your creativity thrive and prosper.

Die Prozess

5) Your Travel Journal

Don’t just collect your receipts, photos and memories from the trip, do something with them! The classical format of this is a travel journal. But as this stuff tends to backlog quickly, experiment with keeping the journal regularly and in real-time, even when on the move.

You won’t have more time later, anyway – and if you need to get some photo prints done or copies made, you can do this in most cities in the world nowadays. The results might look a bit less polished than a journal created back at home, but the real-time process can trigger a lot of creative energy for your other projects.

6) The (Playful) Do Habit

There are many challenges when it comes to being creative on the road, but the principal one is the same as always: You have to do stuff in order to get stuff done! Trite but true – you have to get going in order to make some progress with your creative work! For me, the thing that tends to hold me back me the most is an exaggerated perfectionism and an all too serious approach to creativity. Thankfully, there’s an easy remedy: Be playful! The only thing that matters is to keep moving, to keep creating, to keep doing. Circumstances will never be perfect, but despite of that, taking small but real steps towards your magnum opus is the only thing you can do to make headway.

7)In Defense of Idleness

Adopting a do habit has a flipside, of course! While some people seem to thrive on crammed agendas and stressful lifestyles, I believe that most of us actually benefit from regularly enjoying some hours of idleness!

The reason for this is simple: Idleness gives your brain time to process all the input you permanently receive. It will lead to new connections, new insights, and new ideas. This is of course even more important if you are permanently traveling and exploring.

The things you see and experience will have an impact on you, and it could be helpful to give yourself the proverbial headspace to deal with them. And let’s be honest: Not only will your creativity benefit from some leisurely hours here and there. In a world of total work, doing nothing for a little while can simply be a delightful act of rebellion.

Amazonia - Be Prepared

Wow, he has got around a bit hasn’t he? 

Fabian’s new book Productive Anywhere is available now, and features great advice on travelling and getting things done as well as great interviews and other bonus info.

To get a free taster you can listen to or download a transcript of his interview with Chris Guillebeau,  who currently runs a hugely successful online business whilst being well on his way to completing his mission of travelling to every country in the world by the age of 35. So yeah, probably worth a listen.

Disclaimer: I will get a cut of the profits if you follow my link to Fabian’s book and buy it, but the cost to you remains the same. Then once I’m filthy rich from I can travel all around the world like Fabian does, drinking the spoils away in a variety of Caribbean beach hut bars. 

Ali George

How to Write 12 Books in 12 Months – An Interview with Writer/Illustrator Ali George

Most writers are faced with a difficult decision as October draws to an end – whether to take part in NaNoWriMo (more details below). I’ve never managed it myself and having tried and failed to write a novel when I was younger the thought brings me out in a cold sweat.

So for the next in the Clear-Minded Creative Types series I looked to local writer Ali George for advice and more info on what drives her to work so hard.

As well as being a NaNo veteran, the level of output she maintains on her own blogs and in a variety of other outlets is hugely impressive, and oh yeah, there’s that small challenge she set herself for 2011 – writing a book every month. I hadn’t even realised that she is also an illustrator.

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Clear-Minded Classic #6: The Renaissance Soul (read this if you can’t choose between your creative passions)

Some creative types have known what they want to do all their lives. From the minute they start to crawl and gurgle something resembling a human language, they have made a beeline for that one thing that floats their boat – whether it be a paintbrush or a pencil, a drum set or a guitar, or a camera.

I hate them.

Okay that’s a bit strong. Perhaps more accurate to say, I’m insanely jealous of them (the lucky swine).

Because I’ve never known what I wanted.

Writing is the thing that comes most naturally to me, but perhaps because of the culture I was brought up in it never seemed like something to pursue as a career, like a doctor or lawyer.

So as well as writing, I drew cartoons, I played guitar, I messed around with a camcorder and made daft DIY music videos. I tried scriptwriting, I tried music reviewing, I even tried this really daft new trend they’re calling blogging, which has enabled me to write, take photos, make videos and record podcasts.

I even get paid for my work as a copywriter now, though not full time as yet. I really enjoy it, I find it rewarding and interesting and it’s definitely suited to my skills. It’s taken me until my early thirties to finally get paid doing something creative that I really enjoy – and it’s still not my full time job.

But guess what? I still want to play guitar, I still want to draw and paint and make daft DIY music videos etc etc. I can’t quite give up on all my creative dreams. I wanted to write a novel, I wanted to record an album of my maudlin acoustic guitar ballads and I wanted to make a short film or even a feature. Still do in fact.

Even now, with all my efforts to be more clear-minded, I just can’t settle on one thing.

Which is where this month’s Clear-Minded Classic comes in. It’s a book called The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One, by Margaret Lobenstine.

withered hand

“Travelling & Hollering”: An Interview with Musician & Artist Dan Willson aka Withered Hand

After a bit of a break, I’m delighted to crank the Clear-Minded Creative Types series of interviews back into action with one of my favourite songwriters, Dan Willson aka Withered Hand, who is also an artist and DIY gig promoter – not to mention husband and father.

He also happens to be an Edinburgh resident and I’ve seen him at various venues in town, from the small and dingy to the vast and expansive with his recent Queen’s Hall show. He even appeared my telly box in a recent BBC documentary about the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas (Dan became a trending topic on Twitter in the UK due to the US authorities initially refusing his visa).

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

My name is Dan Willson. I write songs and perform them under the moniker Withered Hand. I suppose I have been doing this on and off for about 5 years. Before that I used to play guitar in bands and draw a lot. I certainly never expected to be a songwriter, much less a singer, but I mostly like what I get to do right now.

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?

As a kid I wanted to be an artist. I guess my parents didn’t realise I needed dissuading. I have always had a clear short term idea of what I want to do creatively, but stagger along with no real plan and right now I’m getting it out there via songwriting and performing songs, I hope it carries on being something I do but maybe in a few years I’ll be doing something else which involves less travelling and hollering.

Extract from Dan’s comic strip ‘A Fake’s Progress’