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Writing

Tomorrow I will be heading to Melbourne Australia with some of my devices. The digitals are getting a sabbatical. Or a working holiday.

It’s taken more time to charge, install, update, upload, download, delete (and watch youtubes) in readiness to go away than it did to pack actual stuff to take.

Perhaps it would make more sense to disconnect altogether but I don’t want to go into digital withdrawal. So I am patiently tapping out this post on the iPod as a trial run.

Things change so fast. Yesterday I took my toner cartridges in for a refill. The guy laughed and said “I remember these!” Yes folks my printer is EIGHT YEARS OLD. (Bold courtesy of guy in shop.) As old as a child! Hang on – that’s not old is it?

Are printers running on dog years like all the other devices and aps. Or mosquito years? Seems like we are chewing up time and stuff at breakneck speed.

In the meantime I will keep trying to squeeze utility out of what I’ve got – self and devices.

I follow quite a few blogs and have started noting posts that stand out to me for the Linking Back post each week. What I am noticing is that a number of the blogs I follow are written by people who have been influenced by Christianity or Buddhism. This presents me with a dilemma, as I am not aiming to promote any particular religion. If I had to fill out religion on an emergency room admittance form, I would probably put Nil or Not Applicable. However these two traditions have both been a big influence on my life and my thinking, and continue to influence me through the blogs I am reading.

What strikes me about the blogs I follow is that very different religious and philosophical starting points can lead people to hold similar social values or come to similar conclusions about what is important in life. This is certainly the case with simplicity and minimalism, which attracts people from humanist, christian and buddhist traditions, among others. It seems like intentional living and the desire to live more simply can be the fruit of any many different belief systems if thoughtfully applied. I like to think that the things which unite us are stronger than our differences and try to remain open to learning from people writing from different perspectives.

So in this spirit, I am going to mention a blog on which I find a lot of thought provoking material, which is Storyline Blog. This is the most overtly Christian blog that I follow; however much of the focus of the posts is on how we choose to live our lives. I can’t comment on the theology of the Storyline crew, because that’s not my department, but I do find some of the fruit of their thinking valuable. I like the respectful and thoughtful tone that the host Donald Miller adopts, and I feel like although we might be on different sides of some debates, we could have a respectful and rewarding conversation.

A post by Donald Miller that I enjoyed is 2 Things I do that Increase My Creative Output the Most. He describes creative work as a dance, and adopts an approach he calls “write where the wind is blowing”. His description of working on what wants to be written, rather than forcing himself to stick to a scheduled topic, is a lot like the way that I prefer to work. I feels more effective for me to go with the flow than force myself to do something when I am in the wrong frame of mind. I must admit I like it when I come across other people flying the flag for this more flexible approach.

Also on Storyline Blog was a post called The Question That Changed Everything for Me by Allison Vesterfelt. Allison writes about the impact of conversation where a friend asks her What would you do with your life if you didn’t have to worry about money.” This question prompted Allison to challenge her worries about money and embark on a road trip across the USA. Of course money is a significant factor in our life decisions, and not everyone is in a position to quit their job and take off in their car for an adventure. But I  think we can limit ourselves unnecessarily in a quest for ironclad financial security, I know that’s what I used to do. I admire Allison’s willingness to challenge those self-limiting beliefs.

Finally, I want to mention an inspiring talk which I found in the post Sunday Morning Sermon: Caitlin Crosby “Love is the Key”. Caitlin has been able to generate work and hope for homeless people by starting a business manufacturing keys engraved with hopeful messages. I was struck by her message about helping the people in front of you. I also liked the description of how the business evolved, particularly the fact that she waited six months for the right solution for manufacturing the keys to present itself, rather than just leaping in with her first idea. In the song at the end Caitlin has a line about being “Too safe to feel”. That certainly struck a chord with me. As I choose less safety and certainty, I find I am more open to feeling connected with other people.

I have started going on Sunshine Walks after lunch. Late autumn and early winter still supply a fair share of sunshine most days, but unfortunately it does not reach into my south facing unit (ie facing Antarctica). When I get the chance I take an afternoon stroll and seek out the sun. Here it is, backing up a poinsettia tree.

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For those of you interested in photography I have put up a few photos of Sydney Harbour in Lights on the ImageChest Photography website.

What if, instead of bashing out a quick blog post, I could luxuriate in words?

What if I were to be enveloped in imaginings?

What if I could soak in a idea until it came out my pores?

What if I were to take the time to write what I really want to say?

What if I would write to my hearts content?

When I was in the USA last year I stumbled upon and open-mike comedy night at the downstairs bar at my hotel. I joined in with the 30 or so people crowded into the small room to hear the performers. It was a tightknit group who got together on a regular basis to display their comedy skills, with a friendly and jovial atmosphere as you might expect. Gradually I realised that I was one of about five people in the audience who weren’t performing.

One performer was a young woman, who was clearly known to the group. For her few minutes in the spotlight, she talked about a recent experience with abortion and her families reaction to it. It wasn’t funny. She seemed extremely vulnerable, and the audience didn’t know how to react. The experience she was sharing was too recent; too raw; too painful. Whatever happens to transform a personal story into a comedy routine that everyone can laugh at wasn’t happening.

I wanted to grab an overcoat, wrap her up and take her off the stage. I wanted to somehow protect her from her painful experience, and the sharing of it. I wanted to tell her that this wasn’t the place to find the solace she was looking for. I was a stranger in a strange environment, and I didn’t do any of those things. I watched her sit down. It seemed that her story had not connected her more deeply with anyone in the group, and I feared the experience would deepen her sense of isolation.

I have also seen and experienced this type of raw over exposure in writing groups where people read their work aloud, and in sometimes in reading blogs. I have read blog posts that suggest struggles with depression that have not been met by supportive comments. I have stumbled upon one post, months old, that suggested that the person might be suicidal, with no follow up comments or posts. It saddens and frightens me when I find people reaching out for help to the internet, only to be met with silence.

When it works well, the process of creating a song, a poem, a blog post or a joke converts our personal experience into a universal story that others can relate to and understand. This very process can be healing, and create a sense of perspective about the subject matter and a feeling of connection with others. But sometimes, it doesn’t quite happen. Sometimes it comes across as just raw feeling, uncovered and unprotected.

For myself, I try to write about things that I have some perspective on, that might be of help or interest to others. Although some of these topics can be personal, I don’t write about things if I am feeling very shaken up and vulnerable. If I was seriously in need of help, I’d talk to a real person about it.

So by all means, share what is going on for you, if that feels comfortable and helpful. But remember to take care of yourself. Its not necessary to tell the world your troubles if you don’t feel OK about it. You don’t have to bleed your heart onto the stage, or the page. Your sensitive sould needs to be protected, and the best person to do that is you.

I read some wonderful books and blogs and thought I would share a few of the things that caught my attention this week.

I finished reading Natalie Goldberg’s The True Secret of Writing in which she outlines the process adopted in her True Secret Writing workshops. Natalie Goldberg has been an long term zen meditation practitioner, and uses that foundation as a basis for her workshops. Having some experience in zen retreats, I could relate to her description of how she integrates writing practice with other forms of meditation. It got me thinking about taking my own writing more seriously, and treating writing as a practice to be sunk into, rather than a task to be ticked off.

One of my favourite posts this week was on Simple and Minimal blog by Regina Wong who writes from London England. The post is called What If Money Was No Object and contains a link to an audio recording by Alan Watts. He is talking about the advice he gave to students preparing to leave university and unsure of what to do. He asked the students to imagine what they would do if money was no object, and then pursue that. I found the audio very moving.  I have a book called The Way of Zen by Alan Watts on my bookshelf. He is someone whose opinion I value, and it meant a lot to me to hear him encouraging people to pursue the things that were important to them, rather than be limited by convention. I also enjoyed Regina’s reflections on her own life journey, and whether it would have been different if she had heard this advice earlier.

The Minimalists Blog has a link to quite a long talk on How Minimalism is Changing Entrepreneurship. It features some of the leading lights of minimalism, Joshua Becker, Joshua Fields Milburn, Ryan Nicodemus and Courtney Carver. I have all their blogs in my reader and it was nice to hear their voices and interactions. The talk is a good introduction to minimalism and gives a sense of these fascinating personalities.

For light relief there was an entertaining post on The Great Jollyhoombah blog.  In Mindfully Picking Up the Slack CJ shares his thinking on how to prepare for his wife Tammy’s return after a few days away. That was relevant to me as my two weeks of alone time were drawing to an end and I also needed to think about making home comfortable and welcoming. I did an online grocery order so that we were stocked up with essentials which seemed to hit the mark.

This weekend I am adjusting to having company at home which involves sharing and cooperating. Yes, they teach this on Sesame Street, but its a lesson we need to continue to learn. Much as I enjoyed my TV free fortnight, I need to let go of that for now and allow myself to enjoy the TV as a shared activity. I don’t want talk myself into thinking I can’t cope with the TV being on or I will make myself into a bedroom isolate or the grumpy TV police.

Somehow since starting this blog last year I have managed to create a situation where I have three blogs/websites, four blog readers, two Facebook pages and one Facebook group, a Linked In account, two Pinterest accounts and online selling accounts  with eBay, Gumtree, and Etsy. No wonder I don’t have time for TV.

Some of this activity has been for the purpose of exploration. Learning how to write online, to sell online, and how to make good use of my photography. I don’t do everything everyday, however it does sometimes feel a bit too complicated.

Originally I was trying to keep these activities separate from each other, but that became impossible, and I was losing the benefits of being able to direct people from one site to another. However this makes it all the more important that what I write in once place does not undermine or contradict what I say in another. If someone who wants to hire with me as a professional organiser finds their way over here to May and September, I want them to feel comfortable with the person they find here. If someone interested in my photographs finds my professional organising board on Pinterest, I want them to get an accurate impression of who I am. The posts on each site might be emphasising different themes, or taking a different tone, but overall I hope that there is some coherence between them all.

This is the blog that is easiest to write and feel like the truest voice, the closest to how I really think and feel. I am comfortable with the photography blog. It has a lighter tone, being about images rather than words. Since I started the Etsy store it has been challenging working out how stay true to my original vision for that blog while linking it in with selling greeting cards. I am still working that through. I am not really comfortable with Facebook, Linked In or Pinterest at this point, and maybe I will need to rethink those.

The most difficult blog to write has been the blog page on my professional organising site. It has been a struggle to develop a consistent tone and rhythm of postings. Recently I have realised that I have been unconsciously trying to “sound like a professional organiser” and this has me to feel the need to write about how to sort and organise stuff. I now realise that I have got things backwards. I never dreamed of being a professional organiser, I just made a change in my own life and that led to me wanting to help people lead simpler lives. I wanted to make myself available to stand with them in the mess, literal and metaphorical, and help them work out what to do about it. “Professional Organiser” turned out to be the closest name I could find for that activity, but by choosing that term to define what I was doing, I took on the risk that the label would start to define me.

Lately I have written some blog posts on the professional organising site that reflect more of my personality and world view. The turning point was What I Learned from Bedbugs which was about learning the benefits of travelling light when I had to clean every item of clothing I possessed on an overseas trip. Soon after I wrote Showing Up in which draws and analogy between Natalie Goldbergs method of showing up for writing practice in the True Secret of Writing, with showing up for a session of simplifying and organising in your own home. And today, I have posted Ordinary Beauty about appreciating the simple everyday beauty available in our own homes. By writing these posts I am setting the tone for my own business and helping potential clients understand my values and perspective.

In May I will be doing an online writing course with Tammy Strobel from Rowdy Kittens. Tammy is a writer and photographer who blogs about tiny house living and how to be happy with less material posessions. I think she does a great job of presenting an authentic voice and vision across various mediums. I am looking forward to linking up with her and other writers in the hope of deepening and focussing my own writing.

I’d like to thank City Rail for letting me know that the trains are running late and out of timetable order this morning. I was planning to catch a train a few stops to go to a small business course today. It was very helpful to be notified that there was a problem before I even go out of bed.

Actually the announcement was not for me but it wasn’t on the TV or the radio that I heard it. The announcement was for “Customers on plaform 1” but due to the still weather I could hear the platform announcements from my bedroom nearly 1km away. One of the advantages of living up high above a valley I guess.

It was strange to get up knowing that there was a problem with the trains without having been told. I guess years of train travel and subliminal announcement deciphering have made me very attuned to what City Rail have to say. Maybe I have become a City Rail announcement sauvant (Rainman for train announcements). Luckily for me, I can now plan to catch two buses instead of the train if I want to.

Unlucky for you, I don’t have time to write the deep, meaningful and fascinatingly insightful post that I had in mind. Such is life!

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