Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The One Hour Nap

Original Picture taken from StockSnap
She loves sleep. And being this ever so boring creature that she is, she always tells everyone how this is one of her favourite pastimes. However, she barely gets enough of it. She is tired when she wakes she up in the morning and she she is even more tired when she goes to bed.

Like a child she refuses to take a break during the day, saying that an hour of rest,or merely half an hour, is wasted time. There are so many things she has to do and even more things she wants to do. There are never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. So, why make this tiny time window even smaller? But she is oh so tired...

Then, one afternoon, she lies down on her couch after a long day at work, covers herself with a blanket and starts to listen to a podcast. To make sure she doesn't sleep the entire evening, she sets an alarm. 30 minutes of rest should be just fine, right?
She listens to the podcasts, soon ignoring the voices while slowly drifting away. Then, there is nothing. Just the comfortable warmth of the blanket and the feeling of safety. She wakes up about 2 minutes before her alarmclock, but she immediately feels that it was not enough. She sets another timer, starts another podcasts, and closes her eyes.

This time, her eyes do not open until the alarm starts. She turns it off, takes a big stretch and sits up. With her legs still a bit wobbly she makes her way to the kitchen to drink a big glass of water. Her eyes feel well rested, her mind is calm yet invigorated.

It is one thing to pull yourself together in order to accomplish whatever you want to accomplish, but it is something completely different when you start ignoring what your body needs. This will only slow you down in the long run. So, please make the time to take care of yourself properly. Eat the right foods when you are hungry and close your eyes for a moment, when you feel stressed.

As a high school student I used to tackle my days with about 4-5 hours of sleep a night and no breakfast. I was constantly tired and I carried this habit around with me until university. About a year ago I started to eat breakfast every day, and while I still don't get enough sleep most of the time, I try to give myself some rest when I feel like I really need it. I'm not always a good listener when it comes to my body's needs, but when I do listen I always try to act accordingly.

Listen, allow yourself to take a step back from your duties from time to time.  Create good habits and find the right quick fixes for your deficiencies, and your daily life will be a lot smoother.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Words on Solitude

Original Picture taken from StockSnap
"My solitude doesn't depend on the presence or absence of people; on the contrary, I hate who steals my solitude without, in exchange, offering me true company."
                                                                                                                          Friedrich Nietzsche
I feel so intensely the delights of shutting oneself up in a little world of one's own, with pictures and music and everything beautiful.
                                                                                                        Virginia Woolf, the voyage out
 "I like a lonely walk" I went on "at the end of a day full of people: it's always, to me, on such occasions, quite as if something has happened that the mind wants to catch and fix before the vividness fades. So I mope by myself an hour - I take stock of my impressions."
                                                                                                         Henry James, the sacred fount
 I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine an the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.
                                                                                                          Henry Miller, tropic of cancer
"I love walking in the woods, on the trails, along the beaches. I love being part of nature. I love walking alone. It is therapy. One needs to be alone, to recharge one's batteries."
                                                                                                                           Grace Kelly
"Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your own presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement."
                                                                                                                                      Alice Koller
"I enjoy controlled loneliness. I like wandering around the city alone. I'm not afraid of coming back to an empty flat and lying down in an empty bed. I'm afraid of having no one to miss. Of having no one to love."
                                                                                                                            Kuba Wojewodzki

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Weakness as a Sign of Progress?

Original Picture taken from StockSnap
Today was on of those days where I just wanted  to curl up in  a big blanket and cry. Because I was feeling so overwhelmed, so stressed out. Ever since I heard that I would get a promotion at my part-time job, I was excited beyond belief, because it seemed so amazing that people actually trust me enough to entrust me with so much responsibility, but I was and still am utterly scared
I am scared of screwing it up, that I won't be able to handle it.

In the following weeks I have a lot of appointments to prepare me for my new tasks. I can already feel the weight of these changes resting heavily on my shoulders. And today was, for some strange reason, exeptionally hard. Maybe it is because of the one and a half hours I had to work overtime to get everything done and the fact that this kept me from working out and getting a birthday present for my mother earlier in the day. Maybe it is because I didn't get a lot of sleep the night before. When I came home, I was so tired that I took an almost one hour long nap. Maybe it is because I had to add two new appointments to my "work-preparation-schedule", one being tomorrow morning and I still have to get some things sorted out for that one. 
And I still have to write my long overdue MA-thesis...

And at this point, where I sit on the couch trying not to cry, I wonder how everyone else does it? Why am I so weak? I know that this is just a phase. There are so many things I have to get used to, but that at some point will be a habit. There will be less appointments once I know how everything works. I will grow with every new task that I'm presented with. 

Yet, I feel this well-known urge to run away from my responsibilities - old and new and go back to being just a student, sleeping the day away and occasionally going to uni while enjoying myself the rest of the time. 

I feel like one of the hardest parts of growing up is having to juggle different needs. On the one hand, I want to work and lead an independent life. On the other hand, I want to stay in my little safety bubble from the old days where responsibilities are scarce, but fun just around the corner. It is hard to accept that life is changing faster than you want it to, that you can do nothing but go with it. Because this is how things go. This is how things go for everyone. 

Yesterday, I was looking at some appartments in my city. I do not want to move immediately, but even though I am so stressed right now, I imagine myself finishing my studies and staying at my job to get more experience. I would earn good money and I would finally be able to get a place with a proper kitchen and my own washing machine. That would be so nice...

I have to get my head around quite a few things at the moment, but once I figure everything out and have a (at least partially) regular work schedule I will be okay. This moment of weakness just shows me that important things are happening in my life. My life is going to change and I think it is for the better.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Don't Oppress Your Creative Instincts

Original Picture taken from StockSnap
Recently, I've been reading Rolf Dobelli's "The art of thinking clearly", a very interesting book on psychological issues we have in our everyday lives. In one of the very early chapters he talks about the so called "survivorship bias", which makes us overestimate our chances by ignoring people who failed doing something and concentrating on those who succeeded.

Dobelli uses a very appropriate example to make his case:
Aspiring writers.
A lot of us are hoping to become the next J.K. Rowling, or a less mysogynist version of Hemingway, but we hardly ever think of all the other creative minds who have had the same idea, but never found a publisher, abandoned their manuscripts, or never even had the courage to write one.
We never talk about failures, only about successes, because that's what we want to hear.

So, Dobelli advises us to do a serious reality check to bring us back down to earth. There are crushed dreams everywhere. Hopes turned to dust. Do we really want to go through all this stress without ever getting what we want from it?

It is important to note that this doesn't mean that we should never try anything at all. But we should put our aspirations into perspective. What do I want to do and why do I want to do it? Is it supposed to be just fun or do I want to get some kind of higher recognition? Do I want to make a living from it?
By assessing those factors we are able to avoid the survivorship bias and see everything more clearly.

Eventually, things might happen, things that even surpass your humble expectations. You might be able to quit your job to fully commit to a job in a creative field, but the disappointment will not be as heavy if it remains a hobby with the sole purpose to fill the hours on the weekends.

Seeing other people succeed in life can be blinding. Every day we see people living the "perfect life" and we want that, too. Success is all around us, but we rarely see the side effects.
Being a victim of the survivorship bias can be crushing, but trying to avoid it too hard can be just as fatal.
Know how much you can take - how many blows, how many disappointments.
Know your worth and work on whatever makes you happy.
Do what you want to do, but keep your expectations within reach.
Good things will happen, but also bad things. And you'll be fine, because you tried and made an effort.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Dreading my Birthday

Original Picture taken from StockSnap
Two more nights to go. 
Two more nights and I will be 25 years old. 

For most people their birthday is a day to celebrate and have fun. After all, everyone who cares about you will call or come over to have a jolly good time. There will be presents, joy and (most importantly) cake. So, how could anyone possibly dread such a wonderful day? 

Well, for me, my birthday is nothing more but a cruel reminder
Another year has gone by. During that year, chances were missed, memories forgotten or not even made. Being the nostalgic person that I am, I tend to long for days gone by. I want to relive cherished experiences, feel what I felt at that point in my life. But I know that it is impossible and that I should not live in the past. I know that I'm supposed to focus on my future
My birthday reminds me of the fact that everything I have experienced and loved so far is now nothing more than a remnant that will fade away as time goes on. And it reminds me of all the things that I didn't do: all the hours I have spent paralyzed on the couch, doing nothing out of fear and sheer laziness

25 is not old. There is still so much time and so many great things to do in this world. 
But it feels like I have already missed out on so many of them. Things I won't be able to do in a way you are only capable of when you are in your early twenties, with all those possibilities laid out before your bare feet. 
You are free, spontaneous - you can do whatever the hell you want, because you are young and foolish. You make that unplanned road trip with your friends, because it's summer. You decide to study abroad, because you want a change of scene.

I've never had that change of scene. I've never made real plans for the future. There was no ambition to do something with my life. Now, only 2 days before my birthday, all that is left are regrets. Regrets and too many walks down memory lane, which can be a dangerous place to hang around for too long. 

I don't want people to call me on the phone to congratulate me on yet another wasted year
I don't want people to write on my Facebook page even though I haven't seen them for ages and they probably don't even care. 
Just give me that God damn cake, so I can curl up and choke on it. 

They say that it is never too late  for a fresh start, that you should do what your gut feeling tells you. Eventually, you will end up where you are supposed to be. 
But what if your gut feeling decides to shut down to see what you are going to do with your life just for the heck of it? 
Picking yourself up is hard, especially with the ticking of the clock in the back of your head, pressuring you to do something valuable with your time. 

So, just let me sleep away the day. 
Let's forget about the fact that I am not 21 anymore.
Let's pretend that I am not wasting my life.

I have no idea where this text is going, but so is my life: a collection of different pieces that do not form one coherent picture, but a rather poorly crafted collage. I'm just hanging around doing stuff, but not what I'm actually supposed to do. But I guess, this is what birthdays are about, too. They're not just cakes and presents, but also reflection and sometimes even melancholy
I'm already looking forward to the day when I will be comfortable with ageing, when I'm over this stage of my life and can finally say: "Good Lord, I'm so glad I'm not 25 anymore. Being in your twenties sucks balls."

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Killing Off Creativity and Trying to Bring it Back to Life

Original Picture taken from StockSnap
As a child, I regarded myself as the creative type. I was a lot into crafting and always making up new weird (and disturbingly brutal) stories. Christmas presents were often selfmade and the materials to wrap them were almost just as expensive as the presents themselves. Nowadays I can not even properly wrap up a book. 
I loved drawing until I came to the conclusion that my style was not the way I wanted it to be. So, I gave it up. At a certain point ideas for stories started to disappear. Nothing seemed to be good enough. So, I gave writing up, as well. And as you get older, you simply prefer to buy your Christmas presents instead of making them yourself. I mean, who's got the time for that anyway?

And isn't it sad, that we tend to loose qualities like that over the years? Things we were once highly passionate about fade away, because we either find "perfectly rational" reasons to let them go or because we fail to make time for them.

Recently, I've watched two very interesting videos featuring Elizabeth Gilbert. The first one was a TED talk, the second one an interview with Marie Forleo. While her highly successful book "Eat, Pray, Love" is not one of my favourites, I do think that she is a very gifted writer, as well as a talented speaker. She offers so many interesting and inspiring insights in a way only a few people can. 
A lot of her talks and interviews center on the topic of creativity - why people are afraid to be creative, but also why we shouldn't be. 

According to her, perfectionism kills off creativity. Someone who is truly a perfectionist will not even start a new project just because he is afraid of screwing up. And I could not agree more, especially since I believe that this ridiculous form of perfectionism is the reason why I gave up so many things that I used to love. 
When I was a child, I did not give a damn about what other people might think about my creations. I drew or wrote whatever came to my mind. It was pure pleasure. But the older I got, the more I started to feel like my creations had to have a deeper meaning, a higher value. I didn't want to show my drawings and texts around anymore, because the prospect of criticism was so scary. I was also afraid that even if people said that they liked what I had done, they would do it so they wouldn't have to hurt my feelings. 

And I have to say that I'm still dragging this fear with me everywhere I go. It is like a heavy, black shadow, that lurks over my shoulder, watching every single move. It is paralyzing and destroys almost every single attempt at getting back to where I used to be: a state of uncompromising creativity.

So here I am, waiting for motivation and inspiration to come around. A mistake a lot of people make. while motivation often doesn't show up until you are already engaged in a project, inspiration is even more scarce. There might be moments of clarity, a spark that suddenly turns into this great idea. 
But most of the time it is hard labour. Even Elizabeth Gilbert, who seems to be so effortless in the way the talks about her work, says that she actually has to slave away like a mule most of the time. 
Motivation and inspiration are not the things you should wait for. It'll only cost you even more time. The real trick is to get started before they decide to grace us with their presence. 

I've read so many times, that in order to become a good writer, you should write every single day. But how should I write something if I have no idea what to write about? This whole process of starting to get back into doing creative things is so tedious and hard
I have to be consistent, which already difficult for me. But at the same time I have to let go of this shadow that tells me that nothing I will ever do will be good enough. Not good enough for me and most certainly not good enough for someone else. 

Even writing these blog posts, let alone releasing them on the internet is quite a task, knowing that people will be able to judge them. But it is at least a little something. 
Yesterday I went to the bookstore to get a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic". I do not think that reading it will suddenly make me feel "oh so inspired and motivated" (I'm starting to really resent those words), but that it will help me tackle my fears and work my way through this low. 

How do you deal with you creativity?
What are your fears when it comes to being creative?