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Riding the Train of Awesome – Interview with Nathan Agin

Nathan Agin in action at his WDS2012 healthy lunch meetup

Nathan Agin is a former actor turned modern day nomad who shares his healthy living practices on his blog Nonstop Awesomeness.

I met Nathan at WDS2012 in July. He organised a number of unofficial meet ups, including a healthy lunch and meditation sessions and we talked about how healthy eating and exercise can have a dramatically positive effect on our mental health (see the Mental Health Foundation website for more on diet and mental health).

This is a man who definitely ‘walks the talk’ when it comes to healthy living, and as I’ve now committed to a Year of Clarity (i.e. no alcohol!) what better time to get advice on that topic.

I chatted to Nathan in sunny L.A. (via the wonders of Skype) and asked him about his exciting plans for a new show celebrating healthy food and travel which recently placed #6 (out of 121 ideas) in a recent Good.Is contest.

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My Bid for World Domination in 2012

In two week’s time the second World Domination Summit is taking place in Portland, Oregon. The event is organised by Chris Guillebeau and the speakers at the event include some of my favourite bloggers/authors, including Jonathan Fields, Pam Slim, Scott Belksy and Danielle La Porte.

Here’s a video from the last event:

When tickets went on sale at the beginning of the year I took a chance and bought myself one, as I knew they would sell out fast. I was still not even sure if I was going to leave my job at that point, though deep down I must have known I would.

I still can’t quite believe I’m going! According to the WDS site’s calculations, I’m making an 8400 kilometre journey, and I’m not the only one coming from far and wide, with people coming from all over the globe.

I’ve been preparing by watching the daft comedy series Portlandia on Netflix, which has made me wonder what I’m letting myself in for. The series stars Kyle MacLachlan, aka Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks as the Mayor of Portland, as well as various other guest stars.

According to the above video, “Portland is the city where young people go to retire!” so it’s no surprise that a lot of bloggers with unconventional businesses and lifestyles would end up living there, as well as Chris himself – for example Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing, Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind and his wife Ev`Yan of Sex Love Liberation, Emilie Wapnick of Puttylike, Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology, and Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens (thanks to another Portland resident, Janet of Purple Pandy for compiling this handy list!).

This trip is going to take me way out of my comfort zone. I’ve never taken such a long flight anywhere on my own before, in fact I haven’t really travelled anywhere on my own properly before at all (apart from going from Scotland to Ireland which hardly counts). Add to that the fact I know hardly anyone (though I’ve had brief contact online with a few other people attending, including CMC type Melissa Dinwiddie who’s featured in the above video from last year with her ukulele!).

So I am very nervous about the experience but it seems appropriate to do it in the year that I’m testing the waters of being freelance/building a creative business, and while I’ve still got a few months of funds left. I’m expecting to meet quite a few inspiring people and possibly learn a few things about myself in the process. So.. here goes!

If you’ve taken a step outside your comfort zone recently or in the past, tell me about it in the comments. And if you’re also going to WDS I’d love it if you introduced yourself!

p.s. I’ll be sending out the latest update to the Ditch the Day Job Diaries on either Sunday or Monday * which will include a sneak preview of my new micro-manifesto which will be released at the beginning of July.  *Correction – the video and email now won’t be sent until next week at the same time as the manifesto will be released.

You can subscribe here to catch up with all 14 episodes, including the most recent, which ended on something of a cliffhanger as I considered the possibility of going back to full-time work…

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. 

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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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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!

Nine CMC

Clear-Minded Creative Types #1: Nine

Nine – picture by Emli Bendixen

This is the first in a series of interviews with creative types who are doing things a little differently to the norm, and I’m delighted that the first interview is with my friend Nine, who also happens to be one of my favourite writers. I asked her to introduce herself:

I’m a freelance editor, zinester, traveller, and member of the redundancy club. I work while I’m on the road, and avoid paying rent by finding house sitting assignments. My where-next shortlist changes weekly.

My zines are If Destroyed Still True (about stuff that happens to me) and Sex Industry Apologist (based on my years as a staff member at a support project for sex workers).

Abyssinia, Henry is my primary blog these days, documenting where I’m at, but my other one is called Everyone I Ever Kissed, which is exactly what it sounds like: it’s been on hiatus for a while, but I’ll get on with it eventually. I also used to edit the LGBT and subsequently Deviance sections of The Skinny magazine.

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 pretty much always wanted to be a writer, though when I was a kid I wrote short stories and now I’m all about non-fiction. I like to read fiction by others, but real life is too interesting for me to make things up.

In my mid- to late teens I wanted to be a music journalist, and worked on that quite a bit, but eventually I got really sick of it – I felt like I was bluffing my way through it. I guess my motivation was wrong: I wanted to write about music because I loved music (and I loved getting free stuff, and getting onto the guest list reduced my chances of getting ID’d), but not because I loved writing about music.

I gradually realised that I’d been trying to sound like some sort of all-knowing observer with no discernible personality. I was writing in this voice because I thought that was what you were supposed to do. Then I discovered zines, and got more into punk and DIY scenes, and that kind of changed everything.

A lot of the zines I read had that confessional/memoir thing going on, which appealed to me. And I saw that actually, I could create something just the way I wanted it – I didn’t need to follow anyone else’s formula for what constitutes ‘proper’ writing or ‘proper’ publishing or whatever, and I could have full control of how it looked and where it went.

So then I wound up largely focusing on my own life, though often incorporating the personal-is-political approach. It’s always felt completely natural to me – I’m just writing in my own voice rather than taking a step back and pretending I’m not really there. Although I’m aware that my life might not be all that conventional by some people’s standards, it’s not actually about accentuating (perceived) difference. There are universal experiences to talk about, and I want to strike a chord with people.