Mayday! Mayday!

Or, how did we get to the middle of May already?

Well, April was a write off to Life #2 for me, hence the cobwebs and tumbleweeds that have started to take up residence here at Strey Creative.

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Well they had…

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Anyway, now I find myself in the best part of autumn with some free time and the itch for exploring. First stop: the local national park.

I’d forgotten how much I love this place. It’s a few minutes drive from where I live and there are many entrances and trails to choose from. I dragged a friend along the first time so we could walk and talk and get to know each other better. We’ve known each other for a few years but y’know how things start to develop sometimes. 🙂

And I think what he learned about me on this particular excursion – apart from my love for scrambling over rocks and scrubby slopes and things – was the strange fey-ness that comes over me when I’m in nature. Especially when I come across things like this:

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How cool are they, right?

Yeah, I can crouch there fascinated for ages, mesmerised by what’s essentially random fungus in the dirt. I don’t know what it is about them. Or anything else that captures my attention in a way that makes time stop. It’s like when I’m in the creative zone: nothing else exists, time stops, food may or may not happen, daylight rolls over to night but all I know is that suddenly I can’t see what I’m painting anymore. Love that space.

However, on this particular day I did manage to tone it down a bit so as not to completely freak the guy out (coz knowing about someone’s ‘crazy’ and experiencing it are two different things!)

Instead, I took pictures and vowed to return with more time and less company so as to better appreciate the fungal beauty of the Aussie bush.

And subsequent wanderings have delivered an incredible bounty, I’m pleased to report. I didn’t know half of these existed (probably coz I’ve never looked before, but still). Some teeny-tiny, some rather plump and proud of themselves. All amazing.

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And my personal favourites – as I could not believe such a colour was possible:

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Yes, they’re purple! Yes, they’re real!

Actually, the guy gets credit for this find on trip #2 as he spotted them while I was distracted. (He was the distraction at the time, I believe.)

Oh. So. Much. Awesomeness.

I keep expecting to see little faery creatures dancing around them or peeking out from behind the stalks. And – hey, what’s that look for? Oh c’mon. You can’t say you’ve never thought of that kinda thing before. No, I didn’t eat any of the toadies, trust me! I can understand your concern there. I’m just a creative girl with a creative (& hopeful!) mind!
And it’s fun to see the magic in life. Real or imagined.

But yes, since then there has been more scribbling, more gallivanting with iPhone camera, and more strey creativity in general. Where will it take me next?

We shall find out next time!

Till then, have fun 🙂

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Moment of Truth

So after a week of scribbling, splashing, sketching & scanning (enough words beginning with ‘s’? I think so), I wrote my cover letter with the link to my new online portfolio, typed the publisher’s address and pressed send. [insert massive sigh of relief here]

I’d eventually got to this: (and a few others)

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After lots of this:

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I did it!
I submitted something.
I actually put something out there for the publishing powers to see.
Don’t know if anything will come of it. They’ll only get in touch if they’re interested. But hey, it was a great exercise in getting something organised, and crossing that threshold of will I/won’t I. I’d been meaning to do something like that for a while (by a ‘while’ I mean weeks… ok maybe months… alright, yes – years!) and this deadline finally got me looking lively about it.

Here follows an insight into the past couple of weeks, by way of an ‘Artist Heart Rate Monitor’ diagram, or emotional scale, with reference to causal factors. (Lab coat on for that sentence)

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It was indeed a little stressful.
The good news is, I survived. Not just survived, I came out of the experience with a realisation: I was doing what I love. It wasn’t just an idea any more, that I wanted to illustrate or at least make art. (All very romantic in one’s mind.) I was living it for a few days – essentially giving it a go, trying it on. And I liked it.

There’s always the chance that dream and reality don’t line up. What seems perfect in your head – what you imagine doing, feeling & being, with that lovely soft-focus lens of an ideal, may not translate to the mess, the tests of will and patience, and the frustrations of actual practice. But in this instance it felt right.

So now, in order to support concurrent addictions to chocolate, books, and art supplies (really, Kel, you need to stop – when you see that Sale sign just walk away, just say no! You can do it!) …oh, and other vital living expenses, I need to find ways of getting paid for said art.

A recent FB post from a well-known fantasy artist offered some encouragement about this very thing. She mentioned that artists/creatives today have the best opportunities to make a living off their work. Now, more than ever, with the internet, creative sites, online galleries, printers etc, we can get ourselves out there and sell directly to those who are interested, anywhere in the world. Pretty darn cool, right?

So that’s next on my list (it already was, actually, but I think it was bumped back when this other thing popped up). My new challenge: to not let this one slip from weeks to months to years. To get an online market stall up and running by… the end of the month (at the latest).
I think mentioning it here is giving me a sense of accountability, which I need. (A shout out to those who read/follow – thank yous! You’re keeping me honest) 😀

Back to last week’s big step though, I’m just proud of the fact I followed through. There were a few times when I questioned myself – am I ready? Is my work good enough? Is it cheating to use some older works? Will it matter that most of the ones I’m using are trading card size?

Then a flash of insight came through that told me: it’s not about what you do, it’s about you just doing it. Your lesson is in conquering your doubts and fears for this round (there will be many rounds throughout your lifetime). Knowing that you stepped up, stuck with, and succeeded where you otherwise might’ve chickened out. (I nearly did, during one particular fight with the watercolours, as time ticked down like it was riding a trolley downhill with no brakes.)

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I realised in the end I was doing it for me first, and for them second.
Of course, I would love to hear from them, and be accepted, and dive into the world of being published. It’d be an amazing bonus. But I say bonus because I guess I’ve already had a win. I’m happy with what I achieved in a short space of time.

So it’s done.
It’s gone.
And it’s here if you would like to see what I threw together 🙂
It’s a work in progress, as no artist is ever done, and I have much room to improve and expand.

One last little story I want to share, for anyone who is interested in ‘everyday magics’ (synchronicity, coincidence, and other fun things)…
This happened last night.
It was getting towards midnight, I was lying up on my pillow reading, when I notice a big mama house spider has joined me – on my shoulder!! Being Australian, of course these guys are dangerous, they’re on the second tier: ‘toxic’ rather than the first: ‘deadly’ (which is where dear little Arbie the Red Back sits). I tend to forget that though, and think of them as low risk, coz I like them. They set up camp on the edge of a window and catch flies and things (and toss the discarded bodies all over the windowsill when they’re done – I must have a word to them about that.)
Anyway, I see this big hairy ‘friend’ and have to think quick – a flick of the shirt gets her onto the bedcover, where she proceeds to crawl onto my open training bag. I grab a container and hold it in front of her, half expecting her to scuttle away, and ask her if she would please step in (yes, I talk to spiders). She obliged, without hesitation. (Spider-whispering is just another skill I offer.) Relocated outside, everybody’s happy.

Aussie black house spider; every home should have one.

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Afterwards, my thoughts went as follows: why might that happen? Creatures are messengers. Why a spider?

I had a new deck of oracle cards sitting on the bed which I hadn’t yet opened. They’re called ‘Animal Magic’, and come from Transference Healing. I’ve worked with them before but this was a deck I bought for myself recently.
‘Look up Spider,’ a thought urged.
I started working my way thought the plastic wrappers.
‘Wouldn’t it be funny if Spider was the card sitting on top,’ another thought added. I was already getting a funny feeling.
Finally inside, the bottom card was Unicorn, and the top card was… Spider. (!!)
So I turn to the book that gives info about the card, the meanings, etc. what I found was:
Spider = Creator
Reading through, the last line of the first page jumps out, “…she calls you to ‘create, create, create.'”

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Have I any right to doubt myself when things like that come through? Haha.
Life has some interesting ways of getting messages across 😉

Till next time, may some everyday magic brighten your day too!

Given The Chance

Strey creativity has taken an interesting turn in the past couple of weeks. This could be put down to astrology, numerology, or the new cookies & cream Kit Kat – which has nothin on the dark chocolate Kit Kat they recently discontinued (bring it back, please!!)
Whatever the case, there’s been a lot more arty-experimenting and a lot less writing.

Alright, so the real reason is that I spotted a long-held dream on the horizon.
It’s one of those dreams I thought had run so far away that I’d never catch it. You know the kind, an idea or intention you might secretly hold because it’s unimpressive to those around you? Or you feel it’s unreachable because you’ve built barriers out of as many excuses as you can find, over many years of telling yourself you can’t/shouldn’t/better not.
You both go into hiding – the dream scampers off into hills and valleys far away, while you stay in the city of distraction.
Time passes.

Then one day, somehow, life conspires to reintroduce dream and dreamer once more.

And so it was with me recently. A friend who I hadn’t talked to in ages sent me a link for a publisher that’s opening up for new illustrators and writers until the end of Feb. She knew about my illustrator dream from a few years back, and thought she’d pass the info along in case I was interested.

I picture my expression as something like this:

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Something encompassing surprise, joy, excitement, fear, and doubt. (While surrounded by the mess of everything else.)
I’d already started considering other little artsy opportunities here and there, and subsequently started experimenting.

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But this suggested a whole new level – a style, a professional finish, and a portfolio of work.

Am I ready for this?
Where do I start?
Is there enough time?

The questions tease me while I launch into a new round of scribbling and pushing myself to expand in style and experience. I’m still very much in the thick of this space now. It’s that age-old wrestle with self about worthiness, avoiding comparing yourself with others and, at the heart of it, just taking that courageous step and saying Yes to your dream. There’s that feeling that if I don’t try, I’ll regret it. Even if it goes nowhere for now.
So my awareness of time is a little more heightened while I decide just what I’ll do (while squeezing in as many creative hours as I can!) What’s the minimum I’ll need to submit? What skills will I showcase? Does it matter that I’m self-taught?
And can I fit in this chance for Dream Career #1 while I’m living and getting deeper into Dream Career #2 (which is veeeeery different)?

Can you live 2 Dreams at once?
I sure hope so.

A thought came to me while scribbling the other night, kind of in response to a lot of the motivational quotes you see talking about ‘chasing’ your dreams.

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Maybe the ‘chase’ is what makes it run away.
What if we simply relaxed & had fun along the way? Took the pressure off ourselves? We might find that one day, much sooner than we’d ever thought, we not only ‘catch’ our dream, but we’re already living and enjoying it.

Well, for now, I have a week. We’ll see what happens 😉

Building Blocks for Creativity

No, really.
Look at them. A whole basket full of fun. Thank you, local church op shop for this fantastic $4 find. (And you should have seen their excitement that someone was taking this stuff off their hands! Almost too excited…)
So here they are.

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(WTF do I do now? Where did those glorious artistic visions go? Where’s that meteor shower of ideas that burst through my mind when I was considering buying this pile of rejected wood!?)
Well, I guess I could – oh, hey Arbie.

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Trust you to come out of the proverbial woodwork to check out the literal woodwork. Don’t you go making any webs tho…
Now, where there’s an Arbie, there’s bound to be a Nut close by…

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Yep. There he is.
Alright, jump in. Let’s have a look at these outside.

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Having fun?

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Well it looks like Arbie’s got dibs on the treasure chest.
Ok what else have we got?

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Squares, rectangles, cylinders, curvy bits. All with nicely finished edges. Dunno what they were for in their past life. Roads for toy cars? Basic building blocks? (At least I had different coloured ones as a kid.) Maybe just off cuts? (Though the neat edges suggest otherwise.)

Hmmm…

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WTF is this?

That’s clearly a ring-in. Might just toss it aside coz I don’t think I’ll be using it.

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Now, how many of each of these do we – oh.

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Thanks, Nut.
I guess you’ve found the piece you want then. Jolly good.

[45mins later.] Do dogs never tire of this game?!

Right, well, I’d say I’ve got a pretty good stash for some alternative rustic wood signs. Yes, I know I’m still finishing the others I started months ago – stop judging me! The stars weren’t aligned, ok?
They mustn’t be quite aligned yet either coz otherwise this morning’s coat of varnish wouldn’t have stuck to the newspaper causing an emergency sand-and-patch up job!
Phew.

Anyway, here’s my first experiment with ink and acrylic (see below). Ink, my recently discovered BFF, decided to bleed on this particular surface, I noticed with horror. (Sorry ink, no longer BFF.) So I turned to my old faithful mate, acrylic paint.
It was getting rather late, so under the influence of chocolate I eventually got it to a look I was happy with. (Couldn’t leave it in its current mess, midnight or no midnight.) This was despite the Blue having gone to shit in its tube as well. I shook it and though, ‘allo, that’s not right…’ Paint should never sound like a Milo milkshake being made.
But, improviser that I am, I made it mix, so this little strey character got her blue tunic after all. (Thus far I’ve only sketched these little characters I call ‘streys’, so this was a double experiment of painting surface and ‘colouring in’ with paint!)

One more swoop with the black ink gets us to… A happy place 🙂

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So the verdict? I think there’s much fun to be had with this lot. And moving out of your comfort zone is good for the creative soul too.
Often the most rewarding projects are the ones where you’re forced to rescue or innovate or think quick because the materials don’t behave according to your neat, ideal plan. I’d call that a real ‘building block’ to creativity. What can you do when things go wrong or play unexpected games with you?

And a funny thing happens when you resign yourself to a project being ‘stuffed’. Suddenly you free yourself to experiment, coz ‘it’s messed up anyway’, so you take more risks. You extend your skills. You grow. You learn. And hopefully you become a better artist because of it.
In other words, never give up. 😉

Happy creating!

For more Nut & Arbie fun, check out their blog here: http://www.nutandarbie.wordpress.com

A Return to Random

Sometimes the closest I get to being arty is applying eyeshadow in the morning. Yeah, colouring in my eyelids; the creative highlight of my day. (Boom! A pun already. Didn’t see that one coming!)
I’ve just had a week of that – minimal artistry. In artsy Melbourne, of all places. I was on a training course where long days with a bunch of mates meant I couldn’t really take time to scamper off and check out the funky shops & markets & alleyways that were all within easy walking distance and brimming with goodies. The best I could do was press my nose up to the window of each little shop and sigh. Next time… next time…
(Incidentally, I told myself the same thing last time I was there.)

Well, at least I did manage a handful of snaps during the rare moments off. One night we found this place in the city whilst searching for a supermarket. I forget what it’s called (any Melbourne readers who can fill me in?) but it had a cool light show going on that changed colour and side every 5-10 seconds.

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Yeah, bit of a touristy moment for us, but what the hey 🙂

The other thing I missed last week was my current fantasy-brick pal, ‘Magician’ (R E Feist), which I’m 1/3 of the way through and very much enjoying. In fact, I missed the rest of the library-cave that is my home too. My world just doesn’t feel quite right without books sitting, lurking, resting and peeking from all available spaces.
So just to taunt me, this was the view out of our apartment window.

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I mean, seriously?!

And unfortunately, long training days + non-bookworm friends = no chance to visit. Cue bottom lip quiver and shiny eyes for Kel.
But it was probably a good thing after all. I wasn’t keen to test my baggage limit at the airport. Nor did I want to piss off all the other books at home with freshly-bought newcomers jumping the reading queue. (That happens enough already.)

So anyway, back home in Sydney now, I’m switching my mindset onto creativity again. That’s the thing with being eclectic (or strey, as I like to call it), it’s like having multiple personalities. The mindset for one ‘life’ often clashes with the other, resulting in a kind of void that needs to be leapt across if I’m to function well in one or the other. Therefore I’ve been flipping through magazines looking to spark ideas, buying art supplies because there was a sale (not because I need the stuff – heavens! that would be logical…), and listening to a countdown of the best music of 2013 as voted by listeners of Triple J (Australian alternative indie-rock-dance-hip hop radio station – pretty much as random as me!).
This is the first year I’ve voted in the JJJ Hottest 100 (as it’s called), since there were a bunch of songs that really captured me last year (I get lost in this wonderful musical swoon when I hear them), and I thought it would be good to join in.

And in the spirit of sharing things I enjoy, I thought I’d post my personal Top 3 because I haven’t tried linking songs before (gotta challenge oneself). As well as that, if anything can highlight (and celebrate!) my eclectic nature apart from my bookshelf, it’s my musical tastes.
So here they are, the Strey Creative Top 3 Songs of 2013:

1. The Kite String Tangle ‘Given the Chance’

2. The Amity Affliction ‘Born to Die’ (Lana Del Rey cover)
(That link might be temperamental – it doesn’t like phones or tablets. But other links to it are hard to come by!)

3. Dustin Tebbutt ‘The Breach’

All awesome songs, and all Australian, as it happens. Now if this musical swoon could just morph into a creative swoon…

What were your top 3 songs of last year?
How do they inspire you?
Do they say anything interesting about you?

2014, eh? Crack on!

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I think my New Year is still in its wrapping.
You know how you get something new and you just want to admire it for a while in all its shiny newness? Crisp, clean, free of any sticky mitts…

I’m not kidding anyone with the fact I’m dawdling, am I?

Ok, time to break open the packaging and get into 2014!

I’m not really one for New Year’s ‘resolutions’ (who wants those judgmental undertones to start the year?) but there’s a bunch of stuff I intend to do this year (I figure ‘intentions’ give me a bit of leeway – I can approach them whenever I damn well feel like it!) So here they are in pictures:

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And in words: do another market, set up an online market stall, develop my sketches and characters, practice Quenya & calligraphy…

I’ll be honest, some of it’s kind of scary for me. I still feel like a bit of a tech n00b with online things and that I’m gonna stuff things up big time! Dunno why. I grew up with computers, then shied away a bit when the internet really got booming. Now I’m playing catch up with just a teeny weeny streak of self consciousness…

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It’s funny, I’ll take artistic risks all the time. I’ll work on something important, or something where I only get one shot. I get the idea, ponder it, then – rather than do test runs and perfect it elsewhere first – I’ll pretty much launch in and see what happens. Maybe not the best way to do it. I’ve screwed up, I’ve problem-solved, I’ve rescued. But it works for me. And I’m cool with that.
Yet something like setting up a thing online, that your average 3 year old has probably mastered these days… nup.
I get intimidated.
I procrastinate.
I hide.
Weird, huh?

So yeah, time to push past all that and embrace 2014 by expanding further on the interwebs. I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Who knows, maybe it’ll help someone who’s in the same boat (even if it’s just a rather loose sense of moral support where they can think, Yay, I’m not the only one!) For others of you it might prove anywhere from entertaining to cringeworthy (I still don’t know wtf this hash tag thing is all about. No, really. #WTF?)
Suggestions and support are always welcome, however! 😉

Right, well, one of my first destinations along this year’s path is an inn called ‘Learning to Photograph One’s Stock’. (Goodness, I think I’ve just fallen into describing my life as a big fantasy adventure where there are inns and forests and magic coins and things… haha. Awesome.) But yeah, learning to photograph the stuff I make and want to sell. This is an art in itself if you want to present things in an appealing and inspiring way. Think magazine presentation vs DIY classifieds you see here and there. = Magical vision of the thing in context vs lazy snap of the thing tossed on a kitchen bench. Hmmm.
Because I’m an earthy kind of person (who is prone to medieval and fantasy references, as you now know) and some of the themes of what I create are earthy, I wanted to incorporate that in my photos. This means choosing a certain background, ‘setting’, colours, textures, and props like leaves and bark. Having access to heaps of magazines has been great for picking up ideas and inspirations that I can start to experiment with.

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Already I’ve learnt that flat = boring (box 1), the protective cello bag needs to be ditched (box 4), but the bark and branch elements are quite good (boxes 2&3). These kind of complete the vision I had when making the charms themselves.
It’s a start.
So now I’ve flitted over to the stage of defining what my online stall will be (title, themes, maybe even logo) and also making the things specifically for it. Along with that then, when ready, I’ll look at creating a good set up for photographing them. (All the while telling myself, ‘You can dooo it’ in my best Rob Schneider impression, to keep the doubt & discouragement demons at bay) Hey, whatever works, right?

Something I have got rolling already is a second blog dedicated to Nut & Arbie.

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Yeah, I know, I’ve only just started this one! But they threatened to invade it if I didn’t give them their own space! And I do rather like the excitement of starting something new (see last post).
So if the adventures of a well-endowed bully dog and a cheeky, overgrown spider appeal to you, please check out their blog: Nut & Arbie
They’ll be overjoyed.

Now to find a slab of meat and a mug of ale! (…Or a sushi and hot chocolate.)
Till next time!

One for the Dabblers

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Don’t you love it when an article in a magazine validates or at least identifies one of your quirks? You know, a trait or a behaviour that you thought nobody else had, that your family and friends give you a hard time about because they’re clearly not one of the chosen ones who get to enjoy such an element in their lives? Even better when the article paints this quirk in a positive light (what? you mean I may not be the spawn of hobgoblins after all? Please, do go on…) It’s like finding a soulmate on a page, a new friend amongst a bunch of words.

I experienced this feeling recently as I flicked through a copy of Psychologies from a few months back (hooray for Christmas where you finally have time to catch up on reading while you hide from relatives and recover from your food/drink/chocolate/fruit coma – choose as applicable). There was an article talking about people who are serial starters – they start all kinds of projects and either don’t finish them or finish very few.

‘Hey, that’s like me!’ I squealed to Nut, who didn’t bat an eyelid (probably coz he doesn’t have any). Yet his expression said it all. Yes, Kel, you started making *my* blog, remember? You started putting ideas together, started taking pics, started editing pics, but where’s my blog?

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Well, I… Hey it’s coming, alright? Haven’t you got a spider to harass?

Whoops. That came out a bit defensive. But sometimes we do that when we’re challenged, don’t we? Particularly when it regards something that’s more or less a natural inclination for us. Something that’s misunderstood. Something that, for whatever reason, society/family/peers/Grumpy Cat deem undesirable. Or inefficient. Time-wasting. Deviant. Frivolous. Harking back to some underlying, old school belief about how life ‘should’ be lived.
‘You’re not doing your life right, you’d better shape up and get things together in the prescribed way or you’ll regret it.’
Hang on – whose life is it?!

That’s what this article was getting at, in a way. Honouring what feels right for you. Putting aside the guilt and instead adopting the assumption that, deep inside, you actually know what you’re doing (even though you may appear like a headless chicken bumping from one thing to the next!)
For those of us ‘serial starters’, we’re not lazy or quitters. Some of us are just wired to explore rather than settle. And who’s to say that it’s not the way to go, or that it’s going to be detrimental? Because often the dabblers among us can be made to feel inadequate, as if there’s something wrong with us for not having that ‘one thing’ we do in life. Yet, the world’s now changed in a way that actually favours the dabblers and jacks-of-all-trades.

So what if, in the bigger scheme of things, we’re actually ahead of the game? What if our occasionally criticised dabbling has given us a wide and varied skill set that makes us highly adaptable? Not to mention well-attuned to our interests and strengths? How is that a bad thing?

Another thing I loved about this article was its praise for curiosity. As any creative knows, permission to explore and experiment opens the way for those happy accidents and discoveries you never would have made if you only kept to what is known and accepted. A healthy dose of curiosity about life – your own life in particular – surely leads to a brighter, happier you.

In my experience, a brighter, happier me is the one that embarks on all kinds of new projects. Usually with the intention of finishing them, but not bound to doing so. (Pressure to finish things can sometimes stifle the joy of them.) I like starting different projects because I think they’ll be fun. I love learning new things. I love the energy of beginning. Sometimes I lose interest part way through. Sometimes I embrace it all the way. I can’t know till I get going. Coz how are you supposed to know what really resonates with you until you’re in the midst of it? (Riding the waves of ‘succeeding’ and ‘failing’ along the way too.) That’s what makes life interesting.

At the same time, the article suggests that sometimes the lessons we’re meant to learn arrive before we finish the task itself. Be it a book, a project or a course, if you get the feeling you got what you needed halfway through, rejoice! Now move onto the next lesson elsewhere; wherever your interest takes you, coz that’s where you’re going to be happiest. Imagine if we praised and valued our adventurous minds instead of scolding them!

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I reckon it’s time to let ourselves off the hook regarding things we haven’t finished. Maybe we’ve already learnt what we needed to learn and our energy is best channelled elsewhere, into new things. If that is what’s happening naturally, why fight it? Relax and be more process-orientated rather than outcome-orientated. Who knows, maybe the process is the outcome, and was always meant to be.

*The article I’ve referred to throughout this post is called ‘Starter’s Orders’ by Barbara Sher, in Psychologies magazine, October 2013 issue. I started looking online for a link if there is one, but my brief search got nothin’. By that point I was already moving on to photo editing and finishing a block of chocolate (see I do finish some things!!) 😉

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