Change or failure? A pep talk to myself

Thoughts & Ramblings

Changing direction can feel like failure. You know, we’re taught to stick to things and not give up, to persist, to be consistent. Giving up is like admitting that the challenge has beaten you; that you’re not made of strong enough stuff.

So if I change my mind – if I stop persisting and give up to try something else – does that mean I’m not made of strong enough stuff? Is it the same as giving up?

This reaction emerged when I sat down to write this blog post. Goodness knows how many times I’ve blogged about changes. Why can’t I just stick something out?

I’ve realised that the sweet spot between my skills and my passions is creative non-fiction (including, perhaps, working with other authors as a publisher). This is quite a move from children’s fantasy fiction, and involves a change of audience as well.

So is this just me following a shiny new idea because fiction has ‘beaten’ me? Is this just giving up in a blue mushroom disguise?

I hope not.

I only started writing about five years ago. I hadn’t written a word of fiction before that since intermediate school, so I pretty much dived in head first, and everything I’ve published has been in that five year window.

So how on earth could I have expected to know what I wanted from the start? I couldn’t. Of course there were going to be changes! I was writing stories that were personal and creative, playing with zines, testing collaborations – in a word, experimenting.

And what’s the whole point of an experiment? That you don’t know what the outcome will be. It might be to find out if something is true, or to discover something new. After five years of experimenting, I am closer to something that will work for me.

Of course, the experimenting isn’t going to stop. It’s a bit like editing. First, you check the story as a whole – does it make sense? Is it exciting and engaging? Then you get into finer and finer details. At the moment, I’m refining rather than all-out experimenting.

This isn’t me throwing in the towel. It’s evaluating the outcomes of my experiments to create a business that is fulfilling, rewarding, within my skill set (but still challenging), and revolves around something I am incredibly passionate about: the beauty and wonder of our natural world.

And it’s not to say I won’t ever publish fiction again. I have The Train To Nowhere still in the works, and I’m sure there’ll be some more chapter books in my future, too – you can’t get rid of me that easily!

I am not going to see myself as a failure because I am open to change. In the words of Walt Disney: “Progress is impossible without change.” I am a work in progress, and I am proud of my work.

Go forth & experiment.

It’s okay to enjoy your work

Depression & Anxiety, Thoughts & Ramblings

Over the weekend I caught up with Chris, the man behind Criss-Fit (follow him on Facebook or Instagram). He recently became a personal trainer, so I wanted to feature him as a creative over on SONZA. I’ll share a link to the whole interview once it’s up, but there was one thing we talked about that I have been working through and would like to put in the public forum.

It’s the idea that if we are doing something we love, we should feel guilty about it. Now, on paper (or rather, on screen) this seems absurd, and yet it’s something I’ve struggled with for a really long time. It has only been in the last year that I’ve actually identified it as an issue and begun to work on it.

Before I started writing this post, I was working on yesterday’s page for the 100 Days Project, and I noticed this feeling of guilt. I put the page aside to write this post, because I think it’s important that we don’t feel like this. I believe that when we are doing things we’re really passionate about, the world is a better place. It’s why I became a teacher, it’s why I share my work, it’s why I try to encourage others, and it’s why I spend my time on things I love and care about.

Last week I spent a whole afternoon making these journals, and it was bliss.

But while I am doing these things, a little voice pops up sometimes and reminds me that other people are slaving away at their desk-job, or walking miles to get barely-drinkable water, or working hard physical labour. How dare I spend my time on something so frivolous and enjoyable as art?

I try to reason with it. I’m doing this project to build my connection with, and to raise awareness of the beauty of our natural world; I’m publishing to inspire children to follow their dreams; I’m interviewing awesome people to raise their profile; I’m sharing my experience of depression and anxiety so people know they’re not alone. But I know that those aren’t really why I’m doing any of it. I’m doing it because it helps me, because the process of creativity is a wondrous experience, and because I love being a part of other people’s transformations.

And I am entitled to make and share my work for those utterly selfish reasons. I am allowed to spend my time doing stuff I love doing (and some things I really don’t like doing). While I still feel responsibility to help people less fortunate than I, the way that those more fortunate than I help me, I am only human, and I am only here for a short time.

There are a few people close to me who have died, in my lifetime. When I look back on why they are so special to me, and why I looked up to them while they were around, it has nothing to do with what they sacrificed for others. What I admired about them was how they lived their daily lives with passion, and how kind they were to others. I loved them for their uniqueness, and even for their ‘flaws’.

I want to end this post with an Instagram post from my friend Amanda, that really struck a chord with me this week: “Be proud of who you are and let it come out in everything you do.”

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A Simpler Way – tiny changes to move forward in our world

News, Thoughts & Ramblings

I have a vlog that is waiting to be edited and published, but in the interim I want to bring your attention to a documentary which EVERYONE should watch.

Yes, everyone.

It’s about a small group of people who have committed to living directly off the land, in community. They’re buildng their own (tiny) houses with primarily reclaimed materials, and pretty much living waste-free.

I’m not ready to make the sort of change this group has made. Not nearly. But what I love about this doco is that it shows a way forward. It’s not doom and gloom, it’s a feasible solution.

The other thing I like is that there are things we can apply to our own lives. Perhaps we aren’t prepared for radical change – but maybe we can start a vege garden, eat less meat, recycle instead of throwing away, trade our services, buy local… seriously, just watch the doco.

And then make one (tiny) change.

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2017: Projects, not goals.

News, Thoughts & Ramblings

This year (or technically, next year) I’m doing my goals a little bit differently. For the past three years, I’ve set up publishing objectives and schedules. These have been based on the bigger picture of becoming a full-time author. I’ve had spreadsheets and timelines and while it did help me do a lot in a short amount of time, it didn’t allow enough for celebration or changing my mind.

Cause I do change my mind. A lot. The big picture has changed, so the goals need to as well. New ideas, new experiences, improving my skills, mindset shifts… these things happen. And they should happen. But fixed goals and fluid experience do not go hand in hand!

I believe in experimentation, because if we don’t try things how can we possibly know if it resonates with us? 2016 has been trying to teach me that this is okay. I think it has also been trying to teach me that we all contribute the most when we are wholly ourselves; when we are in our element.

My fiction is experimental, my art is experimental, and I have delighted in the experimental nature of zines and paper dying. Why not embrace this, instead of trying beat it into line?
So the big picture has changed from ‘full-time author’ to just being the best version of me that I can; permission to let go.

My projects are:

  • Year one of my post-grad dip in counselling.
  • A picture book The Train to Nowhere that has been waiting for my attention for FOUR YEARS.
  • More (wo)manpower – and MANpower – zines. Spotlight on the New Zealand Arts (SONZA) running regularly.
  • The third annual NZ Young Writers’ Anthology.
  • The first annual Indie Annual .
  • More non-fiction about writing and art, starting with Where Do Ideas Come From? And I am a Writer.
  • More crazy stories in my fiction world.
  • Zines! I’m letting these be whatever they want to.
  • Art. Ditto as per zines.

What’s something you’re looking forward to doing in 2017?

Painting, Creativity & Intuition

creativity, News, Thoughts & Ramblings, Visual Art

It’s been a while since I blogged (sorry), partly because I’ve been productive and focused, but mostly because there has been so much learning and insight that whenever I sit down to write something, I want to talk about ALL the things.

Story of my life.

So I’m going to try to keep today’s post to one topic. Painting. Creativity. Intuition.

One of the perks of working at a bookshop is that you get reading copies of books (not Fantastic Beasts, unfortunately). Some time ago, my manager recommended one to me: Iris Grace.

I finally got round to starting it last week and WOW. If you’re not familiar with her story, Iris is a young girl on the autism spectrum. The story is written from her mother’s point of view, from her own life and marriage to the grief of Iris’ diagnosis, to seeing beauty in her difference.

Now the reason I started reading it had nothing to do with autism, and everything to do with art. Below is one of Iris’ paintings. She’s only four or five years old.

'Explosions of Colour' - Source: https://irisgracepainting.com/paintings/

‘Explosions of Colour’ – Source: https://irisgracepainting.com/paintings/

The book describes much about Iris’ perspective (through the lens of her mother) and about autism, but what I picked up on the most is her sensory awareness, her deep connection with nature, and how she is able to communicate this through her paintings. My first thought when I saw her work?

One day, I want to paint like this.

I’ve blogged about my identity as a creative, an online persona, and just as a human being, several times before (here and here, and also on my old blog here and here). It’s obviously something I’m still working through, and that’s okay. Since working solidly on my painting with the goal of an exhibition, I’ve realised how much I am ‘in flow’ with painting; how easily it is able to transform what is inside me into a tangible product (exhibition details here if you’re in Auckland and interested in attending).

Reading Iris’ story has inspired me to do what comes naturally, and not feel apologetic: it is not selfish to dig deeper into myself. It’s helped me realise that intuitive art, à la Jackson Pollock, is real and true; I don’t need to have an intention or conceptual meaning before the work is finished.

Most of all, it has helped me realise that I am an artist (as a friend was trying to help me realise the other day). What’s interesting is that when I embrace the identity of being ‘an artist’, I feel a lot better about my writing as well. It doesn’t need to be excellent in the usual methods of judgement, because it is a creative work of art – not a traditional work of fiction.

So in all of this rambling, what I’m trying to say is that I’ve found my way home.

Also, expect to see a LOT more art in the future.

Zee 🙂