Bit by bit

When you are trying to make a contribution, there is not shortcut – particularly if you are not part of an ‘old boys network’ automatically getting your foot into the door – instead you have to start with becoming skilled. This takes practice and effort. Nothing more, nothing less.

Take the wildlife artist who can show a progression from school day sketches to celebrated conservation art: see link

Or the ESG researcher who has worked their way up to be in charge of a whole department: see link

The question then becomes not “who do you know” but “what can you do”. That is far more fair on all involved.

The perfect website for creatives?

I think I have found it.

If you are a struggling artist, you might be able to get funding/support for your work, Kickstarter-style at Drip (

The site is owned by Kickstarter and it just re-launched – it aims to support people (rather than projects ala Kickstarter) with a focus on creatives.

Right now it is in an invite only launch phase, but when this opens up to the public, it will be awesome. I encourage the dedicated writers and creatives out there to try and get support through Drip one day.

Motocross – a.k.a – Fitting in the writing

Life gets in the way of our goals and dreams on a daily basis. As we get older what was once a clear freeway in front of us is now littered with obstacles to manage – a child to feed, a wife to care for, an illness to recover from. In fact, once adulthood gives way to middle age, life resembles a motocross track. It’s all jumps, bumps, woops, berms, ruts and corners to manage.

So how to fit in writing amidst the chaos? A couple of thoughts:

  1. Forcibly push it into your schedule and stick to your guns. Simple and effective, but it might annoy someone who isn’t expecting it.
  2. Realise there is more time than you think in a day – particularly if you are diligent with focusing on what is important.
  3. Carry a note book with you and use it. Writing something small every day – little ideas and observations – will add up over the long term. Referring to a book of notes when you blog or write a story will speed up the process and feel more like drawing from a bank account than conjuring something from thin air.

Of course this is not an extensive list. To juggle responsibilities successfully is the end goal – when its done well a busy life can feel like launching a scrambler into the air on a tabletop jump, rather than coming short and tasting dirt through your helmet!

Jacaranda – Part 1

Jacaranda trees look like they are dead for much of the year. In the late months of the dry season they are often chopped down because people assume the dilapidated branches have run their course, have lived their life. However, if you leave the tree standing for a few more weeks, the rain may come and that may bring vivid purple flowers sprouting out of the stony branches.

Most of us have an idea of what is right and what is wrong.

One hot sunny afternoon when we were about 12 years old I was at Jimmy’s house. A large garden of five acres and good weather meant we were outdoors most of the time. Jimmy’s house was exciting. He had all the toys and as we got older the toys just got bigger and better. I was deliriously happy because we got to ride Jimmy’s motorbike all day. This was no kid’s bike either – Jimmy had a 250cc motocross bike. Pull on the throttle too hard and the front wheel flipped you off the back. Get it just right and you felt as though you were flying. I could barely contain my happiness.

After a couple of hours of giddy fun we ran out of fuel to ride the bike and Jimmy got bored. Then he got visibly agitated at the petrol situation. He started to accuse me of riding his bike too much, of taking over his riding time and burning all the petrol. An accusation for a fight, but before the argument could get going Jimmy spotted his cat drinking from a bowl. I didn’t even know that he had a cat until that moment. For Jimmy, it was a new target.

“Looks like your chain is a little rusty there, Moggy!” Jimmy took a can of spray-on lubricant and decided to terrorize his cat. Cornering it against two walls, Jimmy sprayed the can onto his pet. A stream of thick, black goop shot at the animal. The whiskers dripped with oil, the hair was a sticky mess. Furry legs tried in vain to shake it off. Jimmy laughed while I stared in shock and the cat screeched and hissed at us, leaping feet into the air only to be sprayed again into submission.

Eventually the can ran out of oil and Jimmy ran out of laughs. I tried to absorb what I had seen, but the experience seemed to drip off my body and gather in a pool at my feet. The cat ran off to regain its stolen pride. I managed to force a smile at Jimmy. Slightly unhinged, Jimmy and I moved on to the next toy.

The process is the end goal

Creating, learning, enjoying, believing, trusting, trying, selling, achieving: I am focussed on verbs today. The doing words. Sounds boring but hear me out.

Verbs are interesting because they imply an ongoing process. For example, the act of creating something is often focussed on the end result. You might say, “I want to create a novel”… or “I want to start a company” or “I want to learn a language”. We have tangible examples of things we want to emulate or to have which get us excited and elicit emotional responses. However, when we make the end goal the focus, it can lead to disappointment when it is not achieved early on. Rather, it is the process and ongoing nature of the achievement that should be the focus. If you “do creative stuff” for long enough then something creative will pop out the other side. Similarly, if you “do language learning stuff” for long enough then you will learn a language. The important part is the doing. The process. There is some comfort in this.

It might be a matter of letting go of an end goal, or rather letting go of a strict preconception of success and end goals, and focussing more on the process letting it take you where it may.

Newness and perseverance

The decision to give up on something is easy to make and it is also absolute. At one point you are engaged in something, with all the possibilities and trials and tribulations implied, and then you are back at zero. You just stopped.

Often a decision to stop is because the thing you are doing gets difficult. We convince ourselves that a Rubik’s cube is too hard, or that the alarm clock went off too early and we haven’t had enough sleep. We stop engaging and move on to something else (or to more sleep).

To frame it another way, rather than stopping because something gets hard, we stop because it is no longer new and exciting. Sooner or later, any activity or relationship loses its feeling of newness, its novelty. There is a comfort in starting something fresh, an excitement, and also a lack of pressure – how can we be good at something if we haven’t been doing it for very long? The novelty fades and what we are left with is a reflection of how well we are doing. It’s easy to drop the ball and stop playing if we are not happy with what we see.

To quote Seth Godin: “Two things you might take away from this: First, there’s solace in finding someone who has done it before, whatever “it” is you’re trying to do. Knowing that it’s possible and studying how it was done can’t help but increase the chances you’ll stick it out.

Second: huge value accrues to the few able to actually do a thing for the very first time.”

Imagine you kept at it and got it right? No need to imagine, just keep at it.

All the masters – the power of collation

I have a great book called “1001 albums you must hear before you die“. The pages guide you through pop music and cherrypicked albums from the 1950’s onwards.Collation is an art form in itself, and this is the best example I have to show. Poring over the pictures and reviews brings out the nostalgia in spades.

The era of the album is all but over but here is a record of how great it was.

These were the masters, and their masterpieces. If you are an aspiring musician looking to learn your trade and tradition, you might want to start here. The same applies to all good work of course. Who were the masters, and what exactly did they do so well?