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Clear-Minded Classic #5: Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields

I’m a big fan of author and entrepreneur Jonathan Fields, and I doubt this blog would even exist if I hadn’t discovered his book Career Renegade a few years ago.

After reading and massively identifying with the aforementioned Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People, I started looking for more, similar information.  I can’t remember the exact path that led me to his blog and to downloading his free PDF The Firefly Manifesto, but I do know that I was blown away by the content and immediately pre-ordered Career Renegade (which at that point hadn’t yet been released).

By pre-ordering I also got access to something called Career Renegade Flight School which was a series of videos recorded by Fields to further illuminate the topics covered in the book, and made me feel a connection with him that the book wouldn’t have achieved alone. I also listened to his brilliant Renegade Profiles podcast series, which was my first introduction to people like Chris Guillebeau and other inspiring bloggers and creative entrepreneurs.

So, what’s so good about the manifesto/book?

Career Renegade came out at the height of the economic downturn. In the Firefly Manifesto however, Fields had a slightly different angle on things to the usual doom and gloom.

He proposed that being made redundant, whilst a painful and difficult process to go through, could have within it the seeds of opportunity. What better time to rebuild your career from the ground up, and make a living from doing something you enjoy?

Now I hadn’t been made redundant at the time, but after over a decade of jobs that had the opposite effect of making me want to leap out of bed in the morning, I was equally ready to try a different approach.

And what Career Renegade does is help you look at your creative talents/interests in a whole new way. It asks: how best can you use your talents to provide value to others?  This is the key to making your creativity sought after, and rewarded financially, instead of ignored and keeping you poor. Here’s what Fields says:

 The simple truth is that you can turn nearly any passion into a big, fat heap of money. However, it often requires mining aspects of those passions you never knew existed or bringing them to life in markets and ways that defy the mainstream.

At the time I was putting a lot of time outside of work into writing about local music and recording a podcast. But I wasn’t the only one – the number of people doing similar things was increasing all the time and soon I didn’t even feel that I was adding anything new to proceedings.

Not only was there a lot of competition, there was nobody there waving a cheque book and offering to pay me, and putting on gigs and running a record label felt too daunting a step to take.

I had never, ever been in it for the money, but as much as I enjoyed the camaraderie and community of what I was doing, it was taking up all of my time outside of work, and didn’t seem like it could lead to me leaving the job I was doing for something more suited to my talents and interests.

Basically, I needed this book.

How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love

Fields’ own story of going from high strung lawyer to yoga teacher and health club owner following a health scare has been well documented elsewhere, and is also outlined in the book. He also highlights several other real life examples of people who have found a lucrative outlet for their passions.

Fields argues that we all need a good standard of living, and being creative doesn’t mean we have to be completely broke all the time. Which was good news for me, as I have a mortgage to pay and shiny gadgets to buy…

The first step is to identify what you love to do. Here, he brings the concept of Flow into play, from the now much quoted book by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.  To summarise this concept crudely, ask yourself what makes you lose track of time and lose yourself in the sheer enjoyment of it, because that’s probably what you were put on the earth to do. There is much more to it than that though, and he goes into further details in the book.

Secondly think about the people you want to have around you. This has a much bigger impact than most of us imagine on how much we enjoy our work/lives.

In the next stage, he talks about a variety of ways we can “move beyond the mainstream” and create a path for ourselves that will lead to us making a living doing what we love.

One of the best examples of this is how to “redeploy your passion in a market that places a higher value on it” – Fields shares the example of an artist who paints vineyards and sells them to the customers of the vineyard, thus targeting her paintings at an audience who are keen to buy them and have the means to do so, rather than letting them languish in her studio forevermore.

Now some might see this as selling out, and prefer to go down in history as the unappreciated genius who never sold a painting. Whilst that may not be as romantic, it does require a lifetime without recognition or reward, which doesn’t really sound that attractive to me – but whatever floats your boat.

The other topics covered are a lot to do with leveraging technology to both identify a market for what you do and to package your existing expertise in a way that’s desirable to other people. It’s a treasure trove of tips and insights and for me was a window into a whole other world of online opportunities and resources.

Gargantuan

Almost singlehandedly, this book inspired me to completely change the way I thought about my writing and my work. For over a year I went heavily into R&D (research and development) mode and read a huge number of blog posts, books and info products, all of which provided more proof that making a living doing what you love is possible. Now I just had to take some action – not always my strong point.

Eventually however I have taken slow steps towards creating a more rewarding career. Of course I wouldn’t claim that it’s been an easy process or that I’m all the way there – as Fields himself puts it:

Creating your life and livelihood to deliver maximum passion and prosperity is a gargantuan challenge.

But since starting out on this path I’ve been promoted to a job where I work with the web and digital communications, started working as a freelance copywriter and have started this blog, so I have a lot to be thankful to Jonathan Fields for.

As do a lot of other bloggers and creative types – I’ve seen his book mentioned many times by other people I admire as being a key inspiration to them also. Of course that just means that the competition out there is even greater than ever. So what are you waiting for?

Do you feel it’s possible to earn a decent living doing something you love? Have you read the book or do you intend to? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Download the free Firefly Manifesto (updated version)

Buy Career Renegade at Amazon.com: paperback Kindle edition

or Amazon.co.uk: paperback | Kindle edition

 

And look out for the next book from this author on the topic of turning uncertainty into creative success which is due out later this year.

Disclaimer: This page is littered with affiliate links, which means when you buy the book I get a small percentage of the profit. And by small, I mean miniscule, e.g. if 100,000 people were to buy a book via one of my affiliate links, I might be able to buy an iPad (this is not based on any actual calculation).

The Clear-Minded Creative: one of Scotland’s Best Websites

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.

It’s a particular honour because I’m in such tremendous company, from the brilliant resources for creative people that are Blipfoto and Central Station, to local eco blog Greener Leith and the excellent cinema blog Reel Scotland, to some of my favourite music sites such as Radio Magnetic, Glasgow Podcart, Song, By Toad, The Pop Cop and Is This Music?, and of course Lis from Last Year’s Girl who is one of our lovely Clear-Minded Creative Types. Plus a few other faves and a few that are new discoveries for me.

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.

Update: The full list is now online

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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.

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Clear-Minded Classic #3: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

When I was about 20 years old, I was totally and utterly lost. I was in my fourth year of studying for a degree and I was disillusioned with the whole process. I could see no clear way forward in terms of finding a job or career at the end of it, and I was drinking heavily.

When I was younger I’d always been creative. I used to make and sell my own comics, and then my interest moved into acting and making videos. One of the reasons I came to Edinburgh to study a Communications Degree was because the course curriculum included film-making. The prospectus had featured photographs of a pretty girl with a video camera and daft as it now sounds, that pretty much sold me on coming over from Ireland to check out the college for an open day.

When I arrived, the beauty of the city itself sealed the deal, plus the promise of decent gigs in both Edinburgh and Glasgow. I was also keen to get as far away from home as possible, as my parents had recently separated and I wanted to be as independent as possible. I was 16 when I moved.

Unfortunately it turned out that making videos was only a small part of the course, and by the time the opportunity came I was already drinking too much to properly focus on it. I could have made more of it if I’d had the right mindset – but I was already sucked into a kind of apathetic black hole where I just wanted to blot everything out rather than face up to reality.

At a certain point though, I had a moment of clarity and realised that if I continued in this way I was going to be in a seriously bad situation when I left college, if indeed I managed to complete my degree at all.

Thankfully, when I was browsing the shelves in Waterstone’s I spotted a book called The Artist’s Way and I found the real kick up the arse I needed.

Now I was not your typical purchaser of self-help books. After all, my whole persona at the time was centred around being a drunken cynic and nihilist.I can’t actually remember doing it now, and what was going through my mind at the time, but I’m guessing it was a sense of desperation that led me to buy the book.

As it happens, it was the perfect book for me to read at the time.

What’s the big deal?

The Artist’s Way is undoubtedly one of the most popular books ever written about creativity. A number of people have mentioned it in the Clear-Minded Creative Types series of interviews or when commenting on this blog, and time and time again it will pop up in conversations about the topic. There’s even a whole online forum devoted to it.

But not everyone is sold on it, because of its heavy focus on spirituality. It’s basically a recovery programme for people who have lost their faith in their own creativity, and so has similarities with recovery programmes for addictions, such as alcoholics anonymous. A key part of it involves believing that creativity has a spiritual origin.

Now although I am not a member of any religion I do have spiritual beliefs. But I don’t want to impose my views on anyone else so I’ll just say this -if you’re a truly committed athiest or agnostic who cannot stand any foray into this type of thing, then the book isn’t for you. Having said that, there are some great methods for getting more creative and clear-minded you could still take from it, which I’ll detail below.

What’s Involved?

Working with this book you will experience an intensive, guided encounter with your own creativity – your private villains, champions, wishes, fears, dreams, hopes and triumphs. The experience will make you excited, depressed, angry, afraid, joyous, hopeful and ultimately more free. Julia Cameron

So, to reiterate, the Artist’s Way is more of a recovery programme than a book which you sit down and read and then put away and forget forever. It involves making a commitment to read a chapter a week for 12 weeks, and to establish two key new habits in your life:

  • Daily “Morning Pages”
  • A Weekly ”Artist’s Date”

Plus there’s a bunch of other tasks at the end of each chapter. Now I’m not sure how much of these additional tasks I did when I first went through the book, but when it came to the morning pages, I committed and stuck to them like my life depended on it.

The whole idea is to write for 3 pages every morning, without censoring yourself. You just keep writing, even if it’s the first daft thing that pops into your head. They aren’t meant to be re-read, and Cameron strictly forbids you to share them with anyone else. The point is to be completely honest and real. She describes them as a form of meditation, the sole purpose of which is to get all the crap in your head out onto the page and thus leaving you more clear-minded.

We meditate to discover our own identity, our right place in the scheme of the universe. Through meditation we acquire, and eventually acknowledge our connection to an inner power source that has the ability to transform our outer world. Julia Cameron

You don’t need to be a writer, as this isn’t about creating something literary or clever. This is a splurge of words, which creates the space you need to allow the spark of creativity to be re-ignited.

An outpouring of words

Doing the morning pages led to an outpouring of writing for me. I would get up and start writing the moment I woke up, and often I would be writing poetry with images from my dreams, which were still fresh in my mind. I wrote a bunch of lyrics and some short stories. I was delighted to be writing again and it gave me renewed hope for the future.

Last year I started doing this again, via the site 750words.com. Based on the idea of the morning pages (750 words is about 3 pages) this brilliant site is cleverly designed to encourage and reward those people who manage to write every day. Over the course of a few months last year I clocked up 100,000 words. Some of it was just plain journalling, as Cameron suggests, but sometimes I would write a blog post or something else if I was inspired to. I worked a lot on the idea for this blog and what I wanted to cover on it.

Cameron goes on to describes the artist date as “a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and commmitted to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist”. She says this is equally as important to the morning pages as a way of opening yourself to inspiration.

The Censor = Resistance

As we saw in the previous Clear-Minded Classic The War of Art, Steven Pressfield identified the enemy of creativity as ‘resistance’. Cameron sees the problem as ‘the censor’ – another internal barrier we need to overcome.

We are victims of our own internalised perfectionist, a nasty and eternal critic, the censor – who resides in our (left) brain and keeps a constant stream of subversive remarks that are often disguised as the truth’ Julia Cameron

As with the resistance, the inner censor is a clever foe, and it takes a lot of work to get around it. but I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that..

There’s a lot more to The Artist’s Way than I can go into here. If you’re already firing on all creative cylinders then you probably don’t need this book, but if you’re willing to do a bit of soul-searching and feel like you need to recover that creative spark inside yourself it’s most definitely worthwhile.

Now I reckon it’s about time I started doing my 750 words a day again…

Buy The Artist’s Way on Amazon.co.uk

Buy The Artist’s Way on Amazon.com

Have you read/used the Artist’s Way? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Why Embracing Technology is Essential to Creative Success

This evening (Thursday 31st March) I’m speaking about blogging at the Apple Store in Glasgow, along with fellow Scottish bloggers Last Year’s Girl and Peenko (us three were also amongst those interviewed by Ten Tracks about music blogging recently).

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.

I Hear a New World Podcast 11 – March 2009 1 by gaseousbrain

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.

By the way if you’re in the UK you might want to join the protest against the Government’s proposed web blocking scheme which will erode our freedom of what we can access online – could be the start of a slippery slope..

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!

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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CMClassic 1

Clear-Minded Classics #1: The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People

"We're not like the others."

My attorney saw the hitchhiker long before I did. “Let’s give this boy a lift,” he said, and before I could mount any argument he was stopped and this poor Okie kid was running up to the car with a big grin on his face, saying, “Hot damn! I never rode in a convertible before!”

“Is that right?” I said. “Well, I guess you’re about ready, eh?”

The kid nodded eagerly as we roared off.

“We’re your friends,” said my attorney. “We’re not like the others.”

O Christ, I thought, he’s gone around the bend. “No more of that talk,” I said sharply. “Or I’ll put the leeches on you.”

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

The quote “we’re not like the others” from the above passage has always stuck in my mind, and it’s a remark that could easily be shouted from the rooftops by many of us creative types. We often feel like a square peg in a round hole, especially when it comes to work.

I’ve worked numerous jobs where I’ve felt seriously miserable, yet others around me seemed to be fine. I mean they would probably prefer not to be there, but it wasn’t seriously messing with their soul or anything.

I felt isolated and wondered if this was some terrible personality flaw of mine. I will own up to having my fair share of such flaws. But it’s not just me who feels like this at work, there’s a lot of us out there who feel the same.

Let me out.. yeah, let me out by meddygarnet

Stuck in a rut


A few years back I realised I was going nowhere fast. Ok, I’d gradually moved up the ladder in the civil service and got better paid jobs with more responsibility, and it looked fairly realistic to say I could continue to do so in the future, but the fact was I didn’t want to. In fact, I couldn’t think of anything worse.

I decided a career change was going to be necessary but I wasn’t sure what exactly to do. I wanted to make sure I made the right choice – I’d already spent four years doing a Communications Studies degree and didn’t feel it was at all worthwhile in career terms as it was a pretty vague and woolly subject with little in the way of vocational training (also I was very young and unfocused at the time).

I decided to research possible careers as thoroughly as I could before making the decision to go back to full-time or part-time education. Especially as I couldn’t afford it and was reluctant to get back into debt.

The truth is, I’m still working the day job, and still researching, still trying to learn new skills in my free time, from books and the internet. But some of the resources I’ve found have really helped me on my mission to become either more clear-minded or more creative, and in this new series I want to feature the best of them.

When looking into changing careers I first read the Guardian book How to Change Your Career, which gave me some initial encouragement. They even have a quote from psychologist Dr Charles Johnson who says: “being stale at your work is a way of ageing quickly.” At last, an explanation for my receding hairline and premature grey hairs. They also said that age shouldn’t be an obstacle to changing careers, so being in my 30s wasn’t necessarily a problem either.

The book has some useful info in it, with lots of details about specific jobs/career paths. But none of them seemed right for me. I mean journalism was the obvious choice, but I’d already done quite a bit of arts journalism in my spare time and found it hard to find work, and I wasn’t interested in news or sports. Plus, the journalism industry was now in disarray due to the ubiquity of the internet.

The next book I picked up at least made me feel a lot better about myself. The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People, by Carol Eickleberry, spoke directly to my experience. (note this is an affiliate link – for more details see foot of post).

Eickleberry focuses much more on the psychology of finding the right career/job and for me this was a breath of fresh air compared to most other career books which only really skim the surface. On the first page the author invites the reader to start their own personal adventure. She says: “the adventure begins when you set out to develop your own unique potential instead of following conventional expectations to become like someone else.”

This was a different approach to careers than those I’d seen before which you could paraphrase as ‘pick a profession which sounds like it might be ok and risk years of your life and a small fortune on the chance that a) you might enjoy it and b)  there might actually be some jobs available in the field’.

Holland’s Theory

Jool's Theory, by Milo

Eikleberry goes into detail about Holland’s theory, that “there are six basic personality types in the world of work, and six corresponding work environments”. She provides exercises to help you determine which type you most closely correspond to (please note that the theory comes from a psychologist named John Holland, not Jools Holland, former Squeeze musician turned TV presenter).

Arty

It wouldn’t take a genius to work out that I scored most highly in the ‘artistic’ category. I also scored fairly highly in the ‘social’ category, which included possible job roles such as counsellor or teacher. Eikleberry explains that knowing this second category is useful if you’re confused about what artistic avenue to pursue or are drawn to a number of different directions.

She also quotes statistics which show that there are a lot more artistic types out there than there are artistic jobs. Again, I started to understand better why I hadn’t yet found a job I really enjoyed.

The Reasons Why You Hate Your Job

In fact the book goes a long way towards explaining my seemingly incurable workplace malaise:

“Creative work requires a very high level of skill. It feels bad to have a high level of ability but not use it. One major study found that underutilisation of abilities is positively related to job dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and depression.” I certainly felt this way about the lack of writing/creative opportunities at my job at the time.

She also says that non-artistic types (the majority) can consider artistic types (the minority) in a negative light, or even choose to ignore their talents and accomplishments completely because they’re unwilling to see an alternative to their own value systems and beliefs. This lack of understanding, whether intentional or not, can mean constant misinterpretation of what the creative person is all about:

“Many creative people look like chronic malcontents to outsiders, because they are always searching for what can be improved.”

Coupled with our desire to do things our own way, and therefore difficulty in bowing to authority, it’s no wonder some of us don’t fit into traditional workplaces! And the news wasn’t good when it came to mental health either:

“Because psychological adjustment is defined, in part, as the ability to fit in, it’s not too surprising to learn that artistic types as a group demonstrate the least confidence and the greatest psychological distress of all six types.”

Composing Your Ideal Career

Once it has laid out the reasons why a traditional job is not suitable for creative types, the book goes on to give plenty of advice on working out your abilities, interests and motivators (there are plenty of resources for this on the accompanying website) as well as how to ‘compose your ideal career’. Eikleberry also suggests some specific roles you may want to look into further, based on what you find out about yourself.

The book didn’t give me all the answers by any means, but most importantly it made me realise I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t ‘broken’ in some way, I was just different. And it’s made me determined to find work that suited who I am, instead of trying to fit into to a role which someone else expected me to fulfil.

Was this post useful? Let me know what you think.

If you’re interested in buying this book, I’ve included links below to Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. These are affiliate links which means if you buy it I will receive a tiny amount of money for recommending it, but it won’t cost you anymore than it would otherwise.

amazon.com
The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People – Paperback

amazon.co.uk
Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People – Paperback
The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People – Kindle Edition

Main image by meddygarnet

I Want to Believe The Hype - Stallio

Is Your Scepticism Holding You Back?

Image: I Want to Believe The Hype by Stallio

A massive thank you to everybody who has commented, spread the word on Twitter & Facebook, or emailed me with feedback about the first week of The Clear-Minded Creative – the response has been fantastic.

The blog was even featured on The Guardian Edinburgh, which amusingly attracted my very own “hater” in the comments, who described me as “like Anthony Robbins meets Adrian Mole”.

Unfortunately for my hater, I actually take that as a compliment – I was a big fan of Sue Townsend’s geeky creation as a kid, and I also think Anthony Robbins has a lot of good things to say.

What?? I hear you gasp!

Wait a minute – don’t tell me – might you be hugely sceptical or cynical about self-development?

If so, I can totally relate. It’s hard not to be in the face of an ever-increasing queue of self-appointed ‘gurus’, lining up to sell you the ‘secret’ or ‘hidden key’ to success, or a miracle cure for your insomnia/low self-esteem/alektorophobia (fear of chickens) – especially when you have to remortgage your house to afford it.

Anyone who sets themselves up as a guru immediately sets alarm bells ringing in our minds. Nobody’s perfect after all, so if someone’s selling us their lifestyle or personality as something we should be aspiring to, I for one can’t help wondering what they’re not telling us about this perfect life of theirs, like what skeletons they have in their closet or bodies buried under their patio.

Okay, I have an over-active imagination but you might have the same nagging sensation that the image they’re portraying is not quite the whole truth.

Throughout my adult life I’ve fluctuated between wide-eyed naivety (or open-mindedness depending on your view), and a stubborn cynicism. The truth is though that I regret the extended periods where I was most sceptical and closed-off to the possibilities of self-improvement.

But Surely It’s Good to be a ‘Healthy Sceptic?’

Now I do believe that there is such thing as healthy scepticism, because people need to have a sense of when people are trying to con them and scepticism of generally accepted “truths” can be a very healthy thing. We need to challenge pointless traditions and out-dated systems and opinions.

However if a person is too sceptical about things that could be helpful to them surely it is counter-productive.

Old-School Self-Help

We’ve all heard of self-help gurus who have become hugely successful such as Anthony Robbins, Deepak Chopra and Brian Tracy. Whilst the advice these people offer can often be very helpful for anyone willing to put in the hard work to implementing it, they also often charge a premium for their services and use pushy sales techniques which could put people off.

And many people can come away disappointed because they thought there would be an easy answer to their problems.

Despite this, I personally have benefited from the advice of these old school self-help types because I gave them the benefit of the doubt and listened to the useful things they had to say.

And the likes of Anthony Robbins have inspired others, such as life coach Tim Brownson who is bringing self-help kicking and screaming into modern times with his no-nonsense, but highly effective approach. You can tell just by reading his excellent blog that Tim is no ordinary life coach.

Aesthetics are Important

These days, someone like Chris Guillebeau who uses fresh and modern design is more likely to get the trust of the modern creative person than someone like Brian Tracy with his old school aesthetics. But sometimes it’s worth pushing past your preconceptions.

The Advantages of an Open Mind

This excellent article on the same topic at The School of Life suggests we need to reclaim a sense of ‘sceptical optimism and down to earth happiness’.

With an open mind you can look past things like aesthetics and find some useful information.  And no-one’s saying you have to agree with everything a person says to get something useful out of it. Each person is unique and a critical eye is of course necessary in order to pick out the specific things that apply to your own personality, talents and life situation.

Do you agree or disagree that there are benefits to having a more open mind? Have your say in the comments.

Self Portrait by chefranden

3 Simple Questions that are Difficult to Answer

So you’ve seen the name of this blog and maybe it sparked your interest – but you might still be wondering if being a clear-minded creative is even possible. Isn’t it a contradiction in terms?

After all, aren’t most creative people the opposite of clear-minded, with so many thoughts going round their heads they feel as if they might explode? Aren’t creative people spontaneous, confused and more often than not intoxicated?

It’s on the tip of my tongue..

I can’t deny that confusion, spontaneity and occasional hedonism are often part and parcel of a creative life. However there are great benefits to getting as clear-minded as possible if you want to really achieve something remarkable.

You know when you have the name of something on the “tip of your tongue” but no matter how hard you try you can’t think of it? Then ten minutes or an hour later, when you’re involved in something else entirely, it suddenly comes to you out of the blue?

Inspiration is like that – it needs space to grow, just like you need to make time to practice if you want to get better at a creative skill. The more clear-minded you are, the more access you have to that mysterious input.

Becoming a clear-minded creative takes a lot of hard work and determination. It begins with learning about yourself and making changes where needed. It involves setting up habits and systems that help you achieve as much as possible. And it involves continuous awareness.

Read on for three simple questions that are difficult to answer but key to being a clear-minded creative:

Happy New Year!

Hello! I’m excited to kick of 2011 with my first ‘proper’ post on this new blog – and I decided to record a quick video just to explain a bit further what you can expect.

In the video I talk briefly about the need for creative people to gain clarity, consistency and confidence in order to move ahead with their work.

The lack of any of these can seriously hold you back – and coincidentally, straight after I recorded it I was checking my Google Reader and found this excellent video by Chris Brogan on the exact same topic: My Escape Velocity – Confidence is a Key

I think he might be copying me with that beard though..

I’ve now also added an About Page in case you’re interested, and over the next few weeks I’ll be exploring what I mean by Clear-Minded Creativity a little further. In fact, posting here regularly is my ‘blogging new year resolution’, as you can see from this post over at Blogging Teacher in which I and 34 other bloggers reveal our intentions for the year.

What Have You Got Planned?

As I mention in the video, I’d love to hear about the creative projects you’ve all got planned for 2011 – please let me know in the comments!