This is such a great talk (and a short one!) on why we are ALL creative and how to claim some of that creativity back.
The fear of creating is such a real block. I am currently struggling with this even now. Not just in terms of writing, although there I am continuously getting better and better (and lo and behold, doing it really does make the next time easier!) but in other areas as well. At the moment what is looming large and extremely difficult for me is a series of videos I want to make to go along with my 7 Day Creativity Jumpstart Workbook. I feel like such an idiot! First off, talking to the video camera makes me feel silly. Only slightly less silly than when someone is behind the camera. (Patrick and I did some videos for our first motorcycle trip together from Germany to Turkey and back. I felt like an ass then too! Even more so if possible because someone was witnessing me in real time.) And so many things go through my head.
No one cares what you have to say!
You stumble and make mistakes! Those that do care are going to think you are a moron and stop listening!
You can see your daughter’s things in the background. How unprofessional!
Even without the toys and children’s posters in the background, this thing is sooooo not professional.
You sound nasally! (But probably better than when you are not congested because then your voice skyrockets 6 octaves!)
People will see this!
Nobody will see this!
And the list goes on and on on and on! And I have to step back, and remind myself what I remind others.
That you do your best, release and do better next time.
That I am not going for perfect and polished, I am going for me, and I am very far from perfect or polished! But that does not mean I do not deserve a creative life or that I shouldn’t encourage others to claim it for themselves!
Anyone who doesn’t like it doesn’t have to like it. Most will move on and never think of it again. Some will offer constructive criticism. All of that is ok. Anyone who wants to be mean about what I produce has an issue that has nothing to do with me and everything that has to with themselves. I should not let mean spirited people stop me.
And so I am, albeit painfully, working on the videos. And although like everything they are taking longer than I thought they would, they are coming along! Hopefully they will be finished before Berlin Baby The Sequel makes his appearance and I can schedule them as a series of blogposts. And if not, then at least they are started and I am challenging myself. My family is fed and we have shelter. Things could be much worse.
I am in love with this book. I am now a card carrying member of the cult of KonMari and I am not afraid to shout it out to the rooftops. I am also not afraid to say that The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is not without its faults. But I do feel that a lot of the reviewers who have written Marie Kondo and her work off as “bat shit crazy” or the equivalent are missing out on what the book truly has to offer. Which is less about talking to your stuff and much more about respecting how you treat the objects in your life and moving away from an over reliance on stuff.
It is about letting go of what you don’t want and instead surrounding yourself with objects that give you joy. If it does not make you happy it has got to go. This strikes fear and terror into the hearts of our stuff obsessed society. And so it is easy to write the book off as a crazy lady who wants you to talk to plants and purses. That way you do not need to confront how much you have of which you do not truly want.
It is easy to get caught up on the details rather than the message. It is true that Marie Kondo is obsessed. Yet I find it wonderful that she was able to turn her personality quirk for the love of neatness into a full fledged business and now a world wide best seller. But even beyond that, the parts of the book where she writes about talking to her belongings and thanking them for jobs well done is less about getting to write her off as a nutter because she does this, and more about taking the reasoning behind it. So, am I about to thank my clothes at the end of the day for a job well done? No. But did she make me think about how I treat my objects as things with permanence and worthy of putting care and effort into? Yes. And if they are not worthy of putting the effort of care into them, why do I have these things anyway?
Kondo does not say that everyone should read her book and therefore will live a happy life. In fact she says you can have a total mess of a house and be happy. Her only question then is why you would buy her book if you are in that situation. So she assumes if you are interested in her book it is because you want a neater and more tidier environment. A fair enough assumption I feel. (And she also encourages you to use her method on her book if it fails to spark joy, so she is not a hypocrite!).
And if you feel the need to tidy your house and get rid of clutter she feels she can also help you change your life in the process. Not because you are tidying all the time. She argues very much against this.
If you are tidying all the time you have done something wrong. Rather you should take her method, really and truly tidy your house, and be done with it. Afterwards you will not have to go back as instead of a method of storing things away, her way is more of a philosophy of why to keep things or get rid of them. This method is not about storing things you might like to keep or might have need for. In this day and age if you truly need it you can buy it when you need it. And 99% of the time we never need it. We just fear we might. Or we keep it from the guilt of hurting someone else who may have given us the item. Or worse, because we bought it and never wore/used it. And this is one place where I agreed with her talking to your belongings. I was finally able to throw away clothes that I bought on sale and then never wore but could never part with because I paid the money for it. Thank it for the thrill of the purchase and for teaching you about the dangers of buying things because they are on sale. Move on!
Instead, it is this conscious approach to your surroundings that make the positive impact on your life.You are no longer a sleep walker numbed by the evidence of all of your stuff. You have consciously built a home of things that bring you joy. The rest is discarded.
And as someone who spent the weekend on clothing alone, if you decide to undertake this task, it is not something done in a couple of hours. This takes weeks to months. And I think that is fine. People who promise overnight miracles are full of bullshit. And it does require you to really examine your feelings towards your surroundings. And you may find in your purging of your things that your life is not aligned to what you truly want. And that requires change. So ignoring it and calling her nuts is probably easier.
And maybe you are happy and just want a home that is more clutter free and in tune with who you are. Which is what I wanted when I decided to try the book out. With a second baby coming and the plan to spend 2 months this summer on a boat, I thought a book about decluttering would be right up my alley. What I found was a philosophy on what I should keep (and in the future buy!) that allowed me to part with the objects of my past that belong there and a wake up call to how I treat my objects and what I surround myself with.
Even if I won’t be thanking my objects for a job well done, I will be thanking Marie Kondo for helping me part with my stuff guilt free and downsize even further. So that what I have is what I love. And when you are surrounded by what you love you can not help but have those steps taken towards true happiness.
Don’t look at me I am writing! Such a deep and dark secret! Even worse, someone on the internet doesn’t like it. The shame and the horrors.
Bad reviews can be soul crushing and the very thought of them were a massive roadblock to my wanting to write. Even if writing it out now makes me laugh, the thought of someone not liking my work scared me. Seeing how others (both far superior in talent to myself as well as worse) received nasty reviews and not only survived but even continued to publish gave me the courage to let my fears fall to the wayside and put myself out there. (It also helps when you have a German partner who never lets up and pushes you at all times). And like every other author out there on the planet, I did receive some bad reviews. I also received good and even a couple of great reviews.
And yet it was the bad review that took up residence in my head. It’s weight so out of proportion.
It doesn’t seem to matter if the good reviews outnumber the bad. That they exist hurt. And for me it was not just that they had something hurtful about my book. It was that other people were also going to read that about my book. People who would laugh at me.
Suddenly I found myself in junior high again, on the one hand with no interest or desire to be in the popular crowd, and yet hating it when one of them felt the need to single you out for whatever offence they deemed you had committed.
“Writing is far too often the unachievable dream or the dirty little secret of too many writers. The reasons are many and can include everything from a lack of time to the paralyzing terror that everyone is going to laugh at you. The wonders of the Internet and the self-publishing revolution mean not only are your dreams closer than ever before – so are the distractions. So you can convince yourself that even if you had the time you are not that special brand of masochist who would chance having your high school bully read your work before mocking it on Facebook for all to see.”
Because that is exactly what used to keep me from wanting to publish. Why expose myself not only to strangers, but also to those that know me?
Of course I could have used a pseudonym. But that is a topic for another time. The point is I did eventually get past the fear of bad reviews. And now I barely even read my reviews, good or bad. And when I do I go into it with the intention of learning how to be a better writer. That is not to say I play to readers no matter what the cost. But if everyone is saying the book is badly edited or boring, well, they may be on to something I can then use to improve my next book. So every couple of months I look at my reviews keeping the following in my head:
This is just someone’s opinion.
Is it even a fair assessment? So far there is only one review for Unleash Your Writer, and although I can take some of it and apply it, I really feel she missed the point of the book. I can’t change that. What I can do is try to stop others from having the same experience. This means rewriting the description to further highlight the book is not about coming up with ideas or how to structure a story, and IS about digging into what is emotionally stopping you from writing so you can past your excuses.
Can I learn from the review? (As in keep doing what they liked and stop doing what they didn’t?) If not, move on. It is just an opinion. And sometimes one that is less about giving honest feedback and more about venting rage that they feel they could have done better but didn’t. Do not engage.
I don’t recommend reading all your reviews, at least not on a regular basis. But the occasional check in to see what is being said can be important. Your reviewer might have a valid point. One that you can then use to improve your next book. Or you might find they are completely off the wall and you might have to find yourself reexamining your book blurb to see if you can be clearer as to who this book is for.
And in the end, a bad review can even be good!
Internet rejection and bashing is actually what made me seek out Martha Beck. And now I love the woman. And although I am not a romance fan at all, I loved reading this interview with Ruth Ann Nordin on the Smashwords blog about how she almost gave up because of the hurtful 1 and 2 star reviews she received. But she let the people who loved her work win out. It really inspired me and made me remember that not everyone is going to like your work. And some of those people are going to write mean and horrible reviews. But my experience has been those who write mean reviews are writing from a mean place. And you shouldn’t listen to them. Those who write an honest review, even if it stings, leave you with valuable advice for next time, and then you need to let it go. Next time you will do better.
And it is always better to learn and continue with your path and what makes you happy than to let others derail you. Because those people move on and do not think about you anymore. And you are the one left changing your life for fear of what someone said once and forgot about, even if the internet remembers it.
No one else is dwelling on it. You shouldn’t either.
My dog still loves me. And my toddler, but I think that only applies til she’s a teenager…
I have decided to do a trial and put my writing workbooks on Kindle Select. At the moment only the 7 Day Creativity Jumpstart is available. But Unleash Your Writer will be up as soon as it is out of extended distribution on Smashwords. After refusing to put a single book ever into Kindle Select you may be wondering why I have decided to do it now, at the very moment when most people are saying that the select program is failing authors and kindle unlimited even more so.
It is true that I am not a big fan of exclusivity and the books will not remain permanent features on the site. When I started to self-publish I was ecstatic at what Amazon was offering and the new world of publishing it opened up. I did not delude myself into thinking that Amazon was a self-publisher’s best friend. They want to make money and they will do it whatever way they can. Sometimes that will benefit independent authors and other times it will not. My advice is to educate yourself as best as possible and then make educated decisions on what you think will best benefit you and your author’s platform. And having as many venues for readers to find you as possible just seems like sound and reasonable advice.
Which leads me to why I have decided to close some of those opportunities for discovery.
Unlike my motorcycle travel memoirs, the workbooks are not selling on any of the other platforms. So although I am closing the chance of discovery for a few months, I am not shutting down an income stream. I want to use the select program as a tool and see if by utilizing the free days I can get my books into the hands of more people. And from there find out if the workbook market is just a much harder market to break into, or if I just have not found my readers in that market yet. I am also hoping that with the free days I can capitalize on getting some more reviews. The 7 Day Creativity has no reviews as of the moment, which can be a killer when people are deciding if they should buy the book or not. And Unleash Your Writer only has one, and a dismal one at that! I plan on writing a post about bad reviews and what we can learn from them next week. But in this case 90% of the review was less something I can take and use and more that she did not read the description of what the book was about. It happens, but with only one review, and that one being a 1 star at that, no one is going to buy that book. Or at least very few people. So I would rather take it out, offer it for free, and see if it really is the book or if it is one reader who is angry that she did not get the writing prompts I specifically said were not in the book in the first place.
People like motorcycles better than books about why you may have your creativity blocked. Or at the very least they like talking about them more. But it turns out I like writing about creativity more! So I guess I will just continue to do both!
I want to write that a new year is the perfect time for new beginnings. But that is just lazy thinking and writing. A new beginning can be made at any time. And they are created from moment to moment and not from a complete break from the past or the need for a new calender. The fact that most people have abandoned their new year resolutions by February just goes to show that a new year is less about a perfect time for a new beginning and more about the illusion that it is.
And let’s be fair to ourselves. Breaking from our past is rather hard, as it makes up who we are. Instead, working with the past, learning and relearning from it, and trying to remain as conscious as possible about the process, that is the harder, but truer, path.
Or at least I believe so! And that can be started at any time, although it needs to be constantly attended to. We need to be reminded we are only human. And setting goals and forcing high standards of change while beating myself into submission seems like, well, soul sucking rather than soul enhancing work.
And so that is why I am not making any resolutions this new year. I want my year to be soul enhancing rather than sucking. I am going to try and follow through on what I love and practice self-forgiveness rather than beating myself up when I slip up. I am going to try to embrace my writing and enjoy the process rather than fretting I am not doing enough or being enough. I am going to accept that being a mother separated from her mother by an ocean means I am allowed to accept a dip in productivity.
I also get to accept that when I feel guilty sometimes it is because I know I am indulging in behaviour that does not ring true with the “ideal me” and sometimes it’s just because being a mother did not come with a manual. And even if it had, let’s face it, I probably would have disagreed with all of it and tossed it out the window to do it my way anyway. And that brings uncertainty, which is often the price you have to pay to walk your own path. But then you also get to be rewarded with the joy that comes with finding that sweet spot that lets you touch happiness you have defined for yourself. (It doesn’t always stay, but at least you know how to fumble towards it again!)
As a mother or a writer I often have no idea what I am doing. But this year I am practising forgiveness and enjoying the ride. No resolutions, just mindful practice of my life.
My newest workbook, The 7 Day Creativity Jumpstart Workbook, is now out on Amazon and Smashwords, AND with the following coupon (type in WJ29E) you can get it for 50% off at Smashwords from now until December 8th, 2014. Which means only 2 dollars!
Despite the joy and fulfillment we receive from living a life with creativity in it, few of us allow ourselves the right to create. Instead we allow outside pressure to stop us from what we consider an indulgence rather than a right. We force ourselves to do things we don’t love and deny that which we do. We let the everyday overwhelm us and always assume that some day we will finally do that which we love, all the while never appreciating that we need to actively create a space to practice our creativity. In the words of Andy Warhol “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
This workbook is about helping you identify where you need to make changes in your life in order to allow creativity to come in. It aims to be a jump start to reconnecting with your creative self, finding the blocks and getting past them to do whatever creative art it is that you love. What it is not is a book of creative prompts.
If you want you can compare it to financial problems. A person who needs money can borrow it and be temporarily cured of a financial crunch. However, that is not going to remove the deeper problem of that person’s relationship to money. The 7 Day Creativity Jumpstart looks at fixing the real reasons you are not creating and not just addressing a lack of ideas you may have.
You may have noticed the blog went quiet again. (And then again maybe not, as nothing kills off a readership like never updating.) I have periods of activity where I can work on my writing projects and post regularly. Sometimes I need to choose between the two and I choose my writing projects over the blog. And sometimes life spins out of control and I get nothing done on either of those two fronts. Sometimes this is in the form of something out of my control (an exploding toddler, first trimester daze etc). And sometimes it is a direct result of laziness that gets coupled with apathy that then spins out of control. You know the drill.
I am not alone here. Something happens to throw you off your writing routine. A friend has a crisis and knows you work from home or you have a blue day that turns into a blue week. Much like a gym routine, once you have broken from your writing it is so difficult to return to it.
Something you loved has become something to be squeezed in. And this despite the fact that not only do you feel better for having done it, you KNOW you feel better when you do it.
And yet you avoid it like you would rather have pencils driven into your eyes. You may even find yourself being snappish and irritable and have no idea why. Although you may strongly suspect that it could be because you are neglecting that part of you that needs to create. That part that shrivels up when it is bound and gagged and takes you down with it. Yet we choose not to act upon it.
Why are human being like this? Creativity is like our muscles. When we use it regularly it becomes strong and easy to use. It makes the rest of your body and soul feel great. Using it is a joy.
And just like your muscles, when you stop using creativity on a regular basis it loses its power. And it requires effort to get back into shape. Effort that is fuelled by energy that needs to come from other areas of your life. And we often feel like we just do not have it in us to do so.
When I find myself in this situation I start to beat myself up. And then I forgive myself. Admit that I have gotten off track. But I do not need to stay there. Instead I need to forgive myself for the past and use my butt kicking for the present. As a tool to move forward, not a way to continue to be unproductive while taking potshots at my self esteem.
It helps no one and allows me to continue to be unproductive and is a pretty crappy way of assuming accountability while still doing nothing about it.
And just because my first day back is not as good as it was before, I do not allow myself to quit. Just like I would not expect myself to run a marathon after 6 months of not even lacing up my sneakers, neither do I expect to be able to just pick up where I left off with my writing. That is not to say that I allow myself to slack off at first sign of trouble. But I take note of it and like I would with my toddler, I guide myself back to where I want to be. Maybe its just morning pages over coffee for the first week. Or a slotted hour in at the cafe near my daughters daycare. But it is something manageable and I do it.
I start practising setting my boundaries again, as I have come to accept that this is also something that requires constant practice. I set my priorities and I say no to friends who want to meet for coffee during my set writing time. If I would not cancel a class to go for coffee why would I cancel my writing time to do it? And I find that a little self love and acceptance with some boundary control has me back writing again. (And in this case I expect to have another handbook out by early next week.)
Finally, when I feel myself starting to stray, I remind myself that even if I am not as productive as I want, I am still writing and publishing, something that 4 years ago I was not. Then it was just a pipe dream. Now it is a reality.
And better to be doing something rather than nothing. And that normally gets me back on track as well.
And yes, I do need to revisit and go through the exercises I established in my Unleash Your Writer Workbook. Life is a constant cycle of learning.
Good news! We successfully ran a crowdfunding project to get Iceland: A Stormy Motorcycle Adventure translated from English into German. I do believe it was more out of luck, rather than a well thought out and successful campaign. So if you are thinking about crowdfunding your own book or creative project, read on for some of my thoughts on the entire project as well as some lessons learned.
Some Background To The Project
Our translator is a new translator looking to build his body of work. As such he quoted us a low price on the cost of the translation. When we compared his work to the other samples we received from other more established translators we found he was almost as good and way cheaper. He would do the entire work for 600 Euro. As we (myself and my partner Patrick, who helps out in someway on every book and at times co-authors them), wanted to make sure that we reached our goal we thought a low price for the same quality meant a much higher chance of reaching our goal. So we posted our project on Startnext (a German crowdfunding platform) and left the amount needed at 600. Any amount we made over the 600 we would use for professional editors/giving the extra profits direct to Robert, as he was doing the work for a rock bottom fee.
Choosing a small financial goal seemed like a good idea at the time. After all a small amount of money must be easier to raise than a large amount – right?
As we learned, not necessarily.
To run a successful campaign requires a large amount of effort. Ideally you have the idea and begin to promote and develop interest in your project months before you go live with the actual crowdfunding campaign.
To me, the amount of 600 Euro seems so low that it did not require the extra effort. We were so wrong. Asking people to part with their hard earned money is asking them to part with it. No matter if you are asking 300 people for 2 Euro or 3000. They want to know that the money is going to something they feel is worth it.
The other obstacle faced with such a low goal was one I had not anticipated. Due to the fact that 600 seemed like a low goal, I did not feel like it was worth the effort of putting a lot of promotional effort in. It was a combination of feeling it should not be too hard to hit 600 and that there were so many other things I could be doing with my time. Things like writing or promoting books that were ready for purchase right away. Things that might result in the 600 anyway. Or even if not, if I made 300 that month I got to keep it, whereas with a crowdfunding project I would only see the payout if we made our goal. Anything less is returned to the supporters.
That I had not anticipated.
In the end, the fact that we got funded was more a fluke. Right up until the last minute we only had 50 Euro of our total goal of 600. The weekend before the campaign was due to close Patrick had a radio interview to promote his book Fernweh and talk about travelling the world by motorcycle. Happily, the interviewer was just as happy to devote part of the program to our journey through Iceland and the campaign to get our book translated.
Iceland was never an easy ride
But it was always an amazing one!
Did the radio plug make that big of a difference? We have no idea.
One donor swooped in last minute and donated 600 Euro, pushing our final total up to 650 Euro. The book would be translated! (And Robert is about halfway through it at the moment). We still do not know who this person is. They never requested a single one of the thank you incentives. We wrote them to thank them and never heard a thing back. Not a request for a package or why they wanted to give us the 600 Euro. Was it because they heard it on the radio? We do not know. We just know that neither of the 3 of us know the donor in question. No family or friend who wanted the project to go ahead.
The main thing is we were successful, but it may have had a lot more to do with luck!
So would I do it again?
Absolutely. We are looking into crowdfunding the documentary of our trip through Iceland.
Some key things we will be implementing this time around:
We are working with someone we know and trust and has a solid reputation as a graphic designer and film editor.
We are already planning the campaign that will be launched on a crowdfunding platform in 3 – 4 months time. AFTER we have done the building of a community to support the project and to build awareness around it. And since this one will be a highly professional project we are going to be looking for thousands of dollars rather than hundreds. And this is not to suggest that the Iceland book was never meant to be a professional product. But the price was one based on a new translator and no extra funds for professional formatting. The content might be solid, but the book was still one done by an individual rather than a publishing house. The sale price will reflect that. Under 5 dollars as opposed to 10 or more for an e-book. The work on the Iceland documentary is with an individual who does this for a living. This is not a building of his brand. He will do the work for a fair price, but not a low price. And that is ok as the end result will reflect that.
A teaser video from Andi when we first thought we would be doing the project. Then we realized how much time it would require and in fairness, Andi needed to be paid to finish such a large project. That is why now we are back to trying crowdfunding.
Also, somehow aiming for thousands and failing does not seem like the same waste of time that trying for 600 and potentially failing did.
And I think that is where I fell short in the Iceland translation campaign. I didn’t feel like the effort required to reach out and do the promotion required would be worth it no matter what the outcome of the campaign. And that was not something I had anticipated as a potential problem. Promoting would still get my name and my books out there, I really thought I was ready to do it. But with my daughter under a year and a half and not in daycare at the time, combined with no family living in the country let alone the city, my time was precious. I had two days a week where the babysitter came for 3 hours.Those 6 hours encompassed all the time I was to have to myself for the week. To do all my writing, book promoting and self care. Somehow each time the babysitter arrived, doing the promotion required for the Iceland campaign seemed like more effort than it was worth. I wanted to spend that time writing new things.
And in the end, for my sanity, that really was more important. I needed that time to write. I was a happier mother and partner for getting it. To have spent it otherwise was not a good idea. Perhaps now that she is in daycare it would be different. But at the time it was not. I needed to write and not promote.
So am I suggesting that you should only crowdfund if you’re looking for big money?
I am saying that you should set a financial goal that is not only achievable but makes the entire venture worth it no matter what the final outcome will be. And assess the time you have to devote to making the project worth it beforehand.
This is a really great and inspirational video from Raw Story Life and Joanna Penn. Worth the listen and the reminder that even if success seems to come with ease or overnight it so rarely does. Or that overnight bit was actually the result of a number of years finally snowballing into an avalanche!