Just You, Me, and the Pretty Lights

… And a few thousand other people checking out Vivid last weekend.

So recently Sydney came to life. With lights. With amazing lights.
Projections of colour and images on iconic structures around the city.
Quirky installations along the walk from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour.
And a few fireworks to keep the little kids (and the big kids) happy.

Having heard good reports about it from friends, I rugged up last Sunday night and met up with the Guy to check it all out.

We went the reverse path, starting at Darling Harbour and finishing at the Sydney Opera House.

I didn’t take heaps of snaps coz, y’know, fungi and beaches are more my thing. But it was hard not to be taken with the beauty of it all…

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Not a lot of firework pics coz we were perched on a pot plant (best place for shorties like us!) and I wasn’t too keen on falling off. Plus I wanted to enjoy the show.

Clearly my fave sights were the Harbour Bridge (managed a snap of the Guy taking a snap of the Bridge too, haha) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, which had the best projection sequence to music. Watched it 3 times to capture my favourite bits.

All in all, a great night’s wandering. (Without losing each other in the crowd too. Well, not for very long, at least!)

Hats off to all the amazing artists, designers, and people who made it happen. Thanks for the inspirations!

That’s all for now, from your friendly, neighbourhood Strey Creative 🙂

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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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Sleep, Baby, Sleep

“A lot has happened. It’s time to write about it.”

You’re right, WordPress email, a lot has happened. Lots and lots. Ups and downs. Clouds and sunshine. And something that has significantly altered life as I know it.

When I started this blog I’d thought to keep it related to my creative life. Stuff I create, stuff that inspires me, trials and errors and arguments with paint and what-not.
But what about when ‘other life’ and creativity collide? Would I go ahead and share personal stuff with the world? (That’s being optimistically broad, isn’t it? Ok, sharing personal stuff with you, wonderful readers I’ve never met.)

Well, I’ve arrived at that bridge, so here we cross…

Two weeks ago I had to say goodbye to my best friend: my four-legged best friend who actually picked me that day at the pound, just before Christmas, more than 15 years ago.
She was a skinny mutt with tiger stripes and a massive smile. It was love at first kiss (where kiss = a flappy-tongued assault on my face)

Fast forward through dog training years, learning to play fetch, destroying backyard plants, tearing up bean bags, and many a car ride with her big staffy head out the window.

Fast forward through injuries and recoveries, illnesses and health, walks in rain, storm & shine, and getting her own special ‘sparkle jumper’ for the winter months.

Time is both long and short; the living and the remembering. And time changes everything.

Last October we lost her ‘pound sister’, Kara, to a stroke, on a day of such magic – incredible synchronicities and happenings – you’d swear she knew her time was up and orchestrated the most amazing last day for herself.

Love for my girl, Tahni, doubled after that. But time, we knew, was getting shorter for her too.

Walks became shorter, dinners smaller. My active girl was wearing out. Well, her body was wearing out; her mind was determined as ever.

I knew I had to call it when she could no longer walk easily. The change came so quick. One week to the next. One day to the next. Legs that were weakening. Legs that couldn’t support her. One leg that became 3 times its normal size through fluid retention.

Neither of us wanted to let go.
But I know that both of us chose this lesson to learn, coming into our lives as we did. We chose to learn that letting go is really about allowing ‘mortal’ love to become ‘immortal’. Yet even this awareness needed a little extra nudge at the time.

One of the difficulties with this kind of decision is feeling it’s ‘right’. Right thing, right time. It was certainly the right thing to do. Love can endure incredible hardship, but I didn’t want that for my little girl, as much as she was determined. (She’d rarely let on if she was ever struggling, and didn’t like the fuss if you did find out! Must’ve been the 80% staffy!)

Right time? This one plays with your head a little more. The ups and downs of that last week provided both doubt and confirmation. But I guess sometimes we just want some other sign. Something beyond ourselves.

That sign came on Tahni’s last morning, on the special temporary lawn built just for her use.

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Some people believe that feathers are signs from angels. I don’t know where I stand on that exactly, but over the years I’ve experienced different fae magic so for me this came as a message of comfort and relief. (The way it sat up, we couldn’t miss it.)
It was the right time. All would be well.

A few hours later our wonderful vet arrived.
On her own bed, in my arms, I don’t think Tahn and I have ever held each other so close as in that last minute. Then she slipped into sleep and beyond, letting go of a body that, we learned, was more worn out than we knew.

This was my first big experience with grief, with having someone so close, then having to let them go. (Kara was close, but Tahni was closer for me.)
I’d expected the tears but not the extreme lightheadedness & cold symptoms as my body reacted physically to loss.

Time again became strange, detached. The world continued while my own stopped. Trapped in the circle of last moments, and thoughts and feelings that were unknown and raw.

How I found myself dealing with it though, was creatively.

I found solace in working with photos: editing, adjusting, arranging, and filtering. Another outlet was writing in the ‘Elvish’ language, Quenya. Call it engaging with the ‘magic’, or simply escaping into something both academic and creative at the same time (I’ve studied it intermittently since 2002). For me it felt like the right way to express my thoughts.

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‘Farewell my beautiful friend, you are my treasure and I’ll always love you. May you shine upon my path until our next life.’

Who knows what impels us to do things in certain ways? Who knows what frequencies we tap into at times of great emotion? And how the unseen things of the universe arrange themselves to comfort, teach and inspire through different channels?

The first 3 days were the hardest.
Even now I’m still adjusting. I’ve realised just how much my world revolved around her – for more than half my own life. It’s the physical loss mostly. I have enough of a psychic streak to have shared moments of connection since, so I know she’s fine. But the little things catch you at least once a day – the impulse to go and pat her, see her, even wave as I walk past where her bed was.

What can I say? She was a massive part of my life. Always will be.

So after these days and weeks of recovering, adjusting and redefining (I’ve never been without animals at home), I think I’m ready to get back into the swing of it. Creating n stuff.
We’ll see what mess I can make with my art supplies this week 🙂

Thanks for reading.

“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet.
Even longer,’ Pooh answered.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The title for this blog comes from this beautiful song by NZ band, Broods. For me, it says it all.

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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 😉

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!!) 😉