The Mountain Shores Podcast Returns!

Resurfacing after a few months in his offline hideout, Fabian discusses with Milo the beauty of creating in the real world, the importance of goals, what he has in common with David Hasselhoff and the improbabilities of ever becoming a professional kite-surfer (despite his involvement with Westend Surfing).

After a short interruption from a potential psychokiller, we touch on the issues of overworking for clients (perhaps leaving us with a boatload of money, but less time for our own work), public expectations, and the right balance between reflecting, reporting and actual, well, doing.

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Honesty, Hibernation and a bit of Bah Humbug

One year after Fabian Kruse and I first began our ‘podcast with no name’, we’ve arrived at, in our usual leisurely fashion, the 10th episode of what came to be known as ‘Mountain Shores: The (Un)Productivity Podcast’.

This bumper festive episode also features our regular guest/co-host Michael Nobbs from Sustainably Creative.

You can hear it below if you’re reading this in your web browser, or you can find it (and all of the previous episodes) at iTunes, Stitcher, or mountainshores.net. I recommend the latter, as you can also read the full details including show notes and feast your eyes on the brilliant ‘Morrissey ruins Christmas’ picture by Jim’ll Paint It in its full glory!

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p.s. this might be a good time to check out my ‘bah humbug’ post from last year: 5 Ways to Stay Sane During the Festive Season

The Ditch the Day Job Video Diaries: Oslo Slow Travel Special

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Yesterday I posted the third Mountain Shores podcast, recorded in the sunshine on a mountainside in Oslo. If you want to know how we came up with that name and what it means, have a listen! (you can also see all of my photos from the trip).

Meeting up with two of my blogging pals in real life for the first time felt like a pretty momentous occasion, so I also decided to base a special episode of the Ditch the Day Job Video Diaries around the trip, and also to make it public (if you want to see previous episodes, you can subscribe to my free newsletter).

Mountain Shores & Slow Travel in Oslo – a Podcast

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Mountain Shores – our view as we were recording the podcast.

The ‘podcast with no name’ now has a name. Here is the Mountain Shores Podcast episode 3, recorded in Oslo with my co-host Fabian Kruse and our regular guest Michael Nobbs.

We met up in Norway to attend Chris Guillebeau’s Party at the End of the World, to celebrate the fact he achieved his goal of visiting every country in the world by the age of 35 (it was also his birthday).

We talk about slow travel and taking time to make deeper connections (even at crazy parties), how we are each making April awesome in our own way (and feeling a little awkward about using that word) and of course, cakes!

Reflection, Planning & Tiny Steps – a Podcast

DrawingYourLife_300-200x300In our 2nd (as yet unnamed) podcast, Fabian Kruse and I chat to our guest Michael Nobbs about his new book Drawing Your Life.

We take some time to reflect on how 2013 is shaping up for each of us so far, following what Michael suggested could be a Month of Reflection and Planning in January and a Month of Tiny Steps in February.

We also delve deeper into the process of choosing a small manageable activity that allows you to get at least 20 minutes of creative work done each day – which isn’t quite as simple as it sounds!

Inspiration Supercharged

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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.

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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. 

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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.