Having recently written between 3 and 4 thousand words per day doing product descriptions I definitely think that hovering between writing and running away from it both helps and hurts creativity.
I wanted to write those words because at the end of it all I could say, as I already did, I’d been writing thousands of words for weeks. I wanted the badge. I wanted to have a go at it. I wanted to rush to my laptop and start banging away like a professional. But I didn’t. It didn’t turn out that way.
I also felt overwhelmed when thinking how writing 200 words would leave a minimum of 2800 to go. I didn’t know whether my writing was good enough. Would they smile and say thank you, then edit with a heavy-duty chainsaw? Would I repeat myself and make my writing stale to the reader? Would my descriptions sell anything? I avoided my laptop because I didn’t want to be confronted by all the words I wasn’t writing. I was never going to get anything done, I just knew it. I would miss the deadline and mess up everything for everyone attached to the project. But I didn’t. It didn’t turn out that way.
In the end I made the deadline and got great feedback. I made it by loafing and working hard alternately. I walk a fine line between doing and thinking about doing. The doing would be pointless without time away. The thinking would be pointless without the act.
I have decided that I have a limit of 2000 words in me per day. Two days spent writing 3000 deserves a day of writing nothing. Days of writing nothing at all should never follow each other. Planned procrastination works.
To create is great. To prepare to create, equally so.
As I child I could never quite explain what I wanted to be when I got older. Nothing really seemed good enough or interesting enough, but I knew there was something I was made for. If I had to put it into adult words now, I would say I want to Think for a living.
I wanted to know everything as a child. I remember looking at the covers of the stacks and stacks of books my father owned and wishing deeply to know what was on the inside. I taught myself how to read better English than that taught at school and set off on a journey to find the things my mind was hungry for.
I don’t remember many of the books I read as I child because I don’t think I need to. Those words, those stories, those ideas, journeys, fantasies are written on the inside of my skin and I take them with me wherever I go. So when you ask me about I about a book I own I might not always be able to give you an insightful answer. But I know that if you stare deeply into my eyes you’d see a page being turned each time I blink. I become my books.
There are only two things I believe I can do well enough to make the world a better place. One is being myself and the other is to Think. Thinking requires that all other things be put aside to focus on the Mind and I believe that every society needs those who do the Thinking. Thinking doesn’t produce many tangible results, and when ideas are your end-product the shelves in the shop will remain empty. The highest payment a Thinker receives is a remark like: “I’ve never thought of it like that”, when offering a new point of view. To apprehend an idea, however old or new it might be, is the work of those who are willing to be quiet, keep still and send homing pigeons into the realm of Mind.
I don’t need much to do my work well. Give me book, a comfy seat, a pen and paper and good window to stare through and it’s another productive day at the office.
There are some areas of my life that remain a work in progress, but for the most part I’m living my dream. Through trail and error and a lot of reading and experimenting I have come to learn a few things that have made my journey much easier. Here is what I have learnt during my journey
Know what you want.
I know that one seems too obvious and everyone has heard that before, but it took me almost 40 years to finally admit that writing is where I belong. As soon as I did doors were flung open that I could not have entered otherwise. Knowing what you want is so powerful that I think the +- 40 years I spent fumbling about was not a waste of time but a huge boost in the right direction.
Commit to yourself first.
As a woman and a mother it is accepted that I would always put others ahead of myself, but I have learnt that the best thing I can do for those I love is to love myself first. In this context it means not shelving my dreams, plans and desires for my own life in order to make room for someone else’s. I’m a far more pleasant person to deal with when I prioritise all the things that keep me happy.
Dreams are built one brick at a time.
What has tripped me up in the past has been the idea that success should come quickly or else it might never arrive. I now realise that there is something big or small (but mostly small) that I can do every day to build my dream. Failure to do the little that is required right now is tantamount to self-sabotage.
Dream as big as you want, and then LET GO.
This is the single biggest lesson I have ever learnt. As a driven, determined, self-reliant woman I always wanted to control every step of making my life as I envision it to be. I am learning now that knowing what you want and being steadfast in that while doing what you can is all the effort you need. The quicker you can set a dream free the quicker it will materialise.
Every opportunity to doubt is an opportunity to increase in belief.
Nothing in life is all sun-shine and roses, but your private world – the world as you experience it – is shaped by the spirit in which you act. There inevitably will be things that don’t work out and days where all efforts seem futile (yesterday was such a day for me) and doubting seems the only logical response. I have learnt that doubt is a habit like any other. It’s a habit that we cling to because we believe fear and worry are sensible. To be doubtful but take no action is just plain dumb. Yes! If you truly are concerned about something just take action instead of sitting around worrying. Acting will already remove most doubt and worry. And any successful outcome that flows from your action will increase your belief in your ability to deal with your life.
All battles are lost or won in the Mind first.
Having a strong mind just makes life so much easier. I have learnt that my Mind can only produce fruits based on what I feed it. In general I think we are much to nonchalant about what we expose our awareness to. Whether it is the right entertainment, the right people, constructive thoughts or even the right food, the mind is too precious to be negligent with. I refuse to let any random thing sully the mind I have been working on to strengthen for all these years. A strong mind allows one to choose your actions consciously, to observe yourself objectively, to experience your feelings authentically to make your decisions with certainty and conviction.
I can’t say that I have the keys to a wonderful life for everyone, but these things surely have made my life much more peaceful, satisfying and purposeful. All those I believe are core requirements for the life of one’s dreams
At this point I’ve completely given up on live as a non-writer because I am finally ready to admit that I’m anything but a non-writer.
I’m a semi-recluse who needs the whole world to leave me the hell alone, so I can think and listen to the voice inside my head telling me things I’d be better off not knowing.
I can’t feel my experiences unless I write them down. I don’t know what I know until it’s shaped into words. I can’t make sense of life unless I my eyes can tell it to my mind. I don’t know how other people know their lives while it remains unshaped and unarticulated. If I don’t write I’ll end up having conversations with myself in the mirror all day. That’ll bring the crazy-police knocking at my door. Can’t have that.
I wish it didn’t hurt so much to write. I wish that I was confident enough not to want to snatch back every word I’ve ever written and return it to that place deep inside of myself where it came from.
I say fuck, shit and hell, and take the lords name in vain when I write. I know that unless I do, I won’t be writing me. So I count on those who read what I write to not be too precious about politeness and instead be more interested in feeling what I try to convey.
I don’t know if I post too often or not, use too few words, use too many words, choose the right topic or get my point across. I don’t know whether I’m too shallow, too deep, too personal or too detached. I don’t know much I just know that I cannot stop writing. I want to go back to writing in my journal and hiding everything away from the world, but it’s too late. Writing is an illness.
I’ve given up on life as a non-writer because writing leaves me no choice. I’m learning to tone down expectation and I’m learning to throw hundreds of words at unresponsive audiences.
My town used to be considered a barometer for white sentiment in the old South Africa. It used to be judged as being very “verkramp”, meaning bigoted, and some of its past glory still remains. But like most other things in life the view from the outside differs from what insiders see.
Being Black/Coloured in South Africa meant that we were allocated our own little portion of each town. Even if the lines that separated one portion from another were only in the imaginations and town planning maps of those who wanted it to be that way, each portion developed its own identity over the years and my town actually refers to the portion where I live.
What stands out about my town is the two main activities my co-habitants engage in. One is religion and the other liquor. The contradiction is lost on my fellow townsmen because it has always been this way. It’s hard for the people in my town to believe that a person could choose not to drink and still have no desire to partake in any religion. I just love the way life is so cut and dried in the minds of those I live with.
My town is a place where your character is mostly determined by what your surname is. Great for those with upstanding pedigrees, crappy for those who come from less decent stock. People assume to know the content of your character, your future prospects and your status in societal hierarchy based on what they know of your family. For some it’s hard to break free from history. For others an undeserved bump-up which they struggle to live up to.
Like most small towns we pride ourselves on our communal spirit. We are always there for each other we say; and it’s true. “There” might be as support in your time of need, or it might be in your private business. That is after all what small towns are best known for, nosy neighbours. Oh we might donate money, or time, or effort when you need us, but we will whisper about you before you’re out of earshot. Mostly because we want you to know that you have done something scandalous and gossip-worthy.
The people of my town love pretending that they just live here, but actually belong in better towns. Everyone actually belongs in Johannesburg, the City of Gold, but by some fluke of circumstance they just can’t get the dust of this horrid little place shaken off their shoes. Having left my town, lived in Johannesburg for 13 years, and had a good life there by any standard, I think a reality check is in order.
Being known in my town is like having money in the bank when living in Jo’burg. “Small-town Famous” is a term that was coined after a visit to my town, I’m sure. The assumption that everyone wants to be known gives my fellow citizens the right to question anyone in depth. The answers of which couldn’t possibly have any relevance in their day to day life, but if you want to be well-known you have to spill your guts.
My town has long established a way to walk, to talk, to dress, to think, where to appear and when to appear there. Everyone knows what our sentiments and opinions should be, who we should side with, what our ambitions should be and how we must go about conducting our private affairs. It might be many stipulations but the answer to all of these is the same: whatever everyone else is doing.
A burning desire of those in my town is to have a big funeral. You pay for this by attending as many funerals as you can while alive. The question: “Who will attend your funeral if you don’t support the funerals of others?” is meant to strike fear into the heart of any dissident member of my community.
Those who love this burg act as if every feather on every bird flying over the town has been placed in their custody. Sometimes this custodianship extends itself to the grocery cupboards, garden implements, toolboxes, cars, and children of fellow inhabitants. Don’t be surprised if someone you barely know comes and knocks on your door at any time of day asking to use/borrow your lawnmower, mayonnaise, child (to send on an errand) or baking trays. You have very little room to refuse. Remember, you want to build up goodwill for your funeral and not be gossiped about as being stingy. Anyone living near you has unlimited emergency rides booked in your car. Please take note and act accordingly. My neighbour asked the other day what my pottering in the garden was all about. I explained it’s a food garden where I’m growing vegetables. Her response was: “Ooh great! Now I can borrow spinach from you.” Wow!
The part I have most difficulty with in my town is the unsolicited visit. The drop-in. The head poking through the doorway. The knock when you least want to hear one. And if you don’t answer, the people of my town start calling your name. If you still don’t respond they ask your neighbour where you are. Both the unwanted visitor and neighbour might start calling your name. All that noise to force you out of your unsociable behaviour. The rule now is, always keep the dishes washed because you never know who might come to ask/lend something. Always keep the sitting room in perfect order so you can let your guest in without shame. In fact, make sure your whole house is spic and span by 11 o’clock because anyone might drop in from then on. I can do without uninvited guests; they’re the ones who stay the longest because they have nothing better to do.
My town is a gem and a soft place to fall when the big, big world stops treating us nicely. My town is a family town because most of us stem from a few core lines going back generation before generation. My town will make a space for you even when your ancestry is foreign to us, there’s always room for one more branch on the family tree.
My town is a study in the best and worst of human nature and especially its paradoxes. My town is a concentrated dose of the whole, wide world.
Today I saw a post on Facebook that I feel was an attempt sow panic for whatever reason people choose to do things like that and though I normally keep my opinions to myself on FB, I had to give my 2 cents worth. This is it below.
For those who don’t know the country, this is 200 South African Rand and it is supposedly worth less than 10 British Pound. Really? If you believe any random expert over your own common sense, it is. This was my response to the FB post:
This is the kind of twisted shit that makes people’s lives miserable. Everyone is panicking about a stupid meme that doesn’t make any difference to our daily lives. Those who panic and criticize don’t even understand macro-economics or what the real meaning of an exchange rate is.
Since a blog is such a personal thing, it will become apparent over time that I lean toward what is considered conspiracy theory and unashamedly so.
With issues such as the global economic downturn, loss of value in all currencies, dire future prospects, and the general public finding it increasingly difficult to afford the most basic of needs for their survival, I see a concerted effort to steal people’s joy. I see a world that has a habit of leaning on people’s panic buttons for reasons I cannot imagine. I see people being deprived of something that would make the world no poorer if we allow everyone to have just a little bit more of it. No it’s not money, it’s peace of mind. What does the world stand to lose if every single human being could just close their eyes each evening with peace of mind. Nothing, in fact we all stand to gain something from it.
But it’s time that we start thinking independently, start employing logic, start questioning what happens around us and not just allow persons unknown to post memes that basically say that your life is shit and about to become shittier in the near future. Think just a little bit more than you normally do.
If every country is servicing huge national debts and the richest and most powerful have the biggest debts, ask yourself who is owing who. I know the answer is that we owe the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank, but where do they get the money from if they don’t belong to any specific country and don’t run businesses of their own? There is no logic attached to these things. Every member country, which is almost all the countries on Earth contribute to these organisations. Then the very same countries take loans from these organisations. These countries then have to pay back this money with interest. What? Did you just say that you borrow your own money and pay it back with interest? Yes, I did!
So basically everyone owes everyone else, right? Why can all debts not be pardoned, everyone given a clean slate and we start minding our own business and handling our own money affairs without international interference?
If your country doesn’t have to pay back it’s debts your economy will improve overnight, you might have to pay less or no tax. But no, that’s not going to happen because it makes sense and it might give you a bit of peace of mind. So none of that for you.
As for South Africans, we must ask ourselves how it is that we produce the gold that is supposed to back up all currencies, yet ours keep slipping. I’ve dealt with the buying and selling of gold for 2 years in my career as a bookkeeper and whenever the price of gold went up, there was a drop in the South African currency. You would think that it would make our country richer and thus our currency stronger if the minerals we produce appreciate in value, but alas, no. Clearly global economics are incorrigibly resistant to logic.
Another question I ask myself as a South African is this: In light of the fact that we produce so many raw materials for other countries’ economies, we even supply the great British Empire with fresh produce, shouldn’t our currency far outstrip theirs? They talk about their countries’ reserves, but at the same time the biggest economies have national debts that they cannot even pay the interests of. Now tell me again about those reserves they have while being unable to pay their debts. Again, no logic.
My reasoning might be extremely simplistic, but I know one thing about very intelligent and academically superior things. Nothing can be so superior and intelligent that it even defies logic. It is our assumption that these things are too complicated to understand that gives those who mess with our security and the fruits of our hard work all the power to dupe us into staying at the bottom of the rung.
The majority of the world’s population suffer from mental slavery. The minute a news bulletin tells us to panic and fear for our lives we hardly take a second to ask some basic questions. Why is it happening? How did it happen? Who made it happen? What does it have to do with me? When did it start and when is it going to end? We start acting like Chicken Little with immediate effect.
You deserve a fair exchange for the hard work you put into your job.
You and yours deserve a full belly and a warm, comfy place to sleep every day.
You and yours deserve security and peace of mind as part of your basic state of being.
There are people who will take all these things from you if you don’t fight to keep it.
Don’t take up arms, fight with your mind.
Question, contemplate and come to your own conclusions.
One of the great men of the South African Freedom Struggle was Steve Bikoand he said: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
Don’t give anyone your mind to fuck with.
The small academic town I live in is surrounded by many small farms. With 200 South African Rand I get farm fresh milk with cream still floating on top. I get vegetables so fresh they still smell of soil. I get meat fresh from the abattoir. I can even buy a live chicken and slaughter it at home. And after all that I’m still left with a few rand in change. How many people in the UK can say the same? Is that what you get in Great Brittan for less than 10 pound? I think not.
When making your own way in this world, inevitably there will be days when you’re just BROKE. Well you can panic, get depressed, or just get used to it, I think being broke has its perks.
Broke-ness makes one sharp and lean, light on your feet and clear of thought. It removes the blinkers so you can see how much is available without money, and how good most of it is. It forces you to use everything you have to make it to the next minute alive. As the saying goes, old wine cannot be placed in new bottles and being broke forces you to finish off every last drop before receiving a fresh supply. Hunger and debt are sterling motivators.
Although it’s crowded, the crowd normally hates being at a special place called Broke. It’s on the corner where Payday Avenue and Poverty Street cross each other and most people stand on that corner for most of their lives. While we’re kicking it at Broke Intersection why not make an inventory of what we have despite our location? I still have the ability to write a silly little piece like this and I have never had to pay a cent for it – nor am I being paid a cent either.
I sometimes wonder what it would feel like to be really rich and to be honest it sounds boring and heavy. Having to care for several houses and cars and investment portfolios, jewellery, art and whatever else it is that rich people own seems very tiring to me. It might be sour grapes, I concede, but I don’t like the idea of wasting time trying to decide which ridiculously expensive shoes go with my equally ridiculously expensive dress. At a certain point, leather is just the hide of a dead animal, a dress is nothing more than a piece of cloth and a diamond ring serves no real purpose beyond sitting on your finger.
As a person with relatively few possessions, I have a special connection with most of my stuff. Much of it is in excellent condition although some of my stuff have owned me for more than a decade. I use my possessions until we can go no further with each other in a fruitful manner before we part ways. I’m still under the care of a beautiful corduroy coat I received from my father in my twenties. It’s one of those first-class second-hand items. I don’t know what possessed the person who got rid of it to do so; but I thank their (probably rich) behind every year when winter comes around.
Being broke is not virtuous, glamorous or even compulsory but it just seems to always lurk in one’s immediate vicinity. So while I’m part of the broke crowd I think I’ll just keep my eyes peeled and catch some tips from my compatriots while the hustle to remove ourselves (temporarily only) from this corner is in progress. I know we all are furthering our education in the science of being broke.
Every single day when I wake up I feel amazing. I feel joyful and filled with life and my mind is exceptionally clear. Then the inevitable happens, my mind starts running the basic operating system and I have to plug into the world. And what is the first thing that I download once I’m plugged in? It’s Worry.
I’m lucky that I have only a few things to Worry about and I call them my priorities, not my problems. They are my spiritual evolution, my children and my work. Everything other than that is peripheral and subject to being cancelled at any point it gets tedious.
But as I walk through life I feel as if there is a little voice in my head that constantly says: Worry! I have to continually remind myself that even my priorities are not worth worrying about, they are my joy and I am glad to have them. The real struggle is to hold on to my joy and not give into Worry; as normal and human as it may seem to others.
There was a group of people who had all the prosperity that you could imagine, strong family ties, were deeply spiritual and everything in life just seemed to go their way. Other people wondered why this particular group was so privileged and how they could become like them. Was it by working harder, studying more, making their businesses more profitable, changing their spiritual practices, what? The secret was simple and the last thing one could have imagined. Each morning every member of the group of very fortunate people would on waking up and before opening their eyes say: “Today is the most wonderful day of my life and something extraordinary is going to happen to me.” They taught this to their children and made sure their children understood how crucial the practice is to having a good life – and their children complied. Generation after generation they prospered because of one simple thing they did before rising from bed.
This I read in a crazy little book. Okay, so I fancied-up the story a bit because I’m a writer, but the essence remains. And the essence of it struck a chord in me. I said to myself: “Netta, what do you have to lose by saying that to yourself every morning. Do it 5 times over each morning and just see what happens.”
Well, I found repeating it just once was hell near impossible. Really! I could not concentrate long enough to silently utter that phrase once. Just once. It took effort because all my mind knew at the time was that it had to plug into the Matrix of Worry and nothing else was required of it. I had to teach myself to first focus on making a wonderful day before plugging into the world.
Some time after starting the practice I decided to give up problems altogether, I have no need of them and they sure make life less enjoyable. I got rid of the ones that were just habitual, like worrying about the future and I worked on the ones I thought were important. My life has become much more joyful and much less complicated since starting that simple practice. Most recently I’ve stopped listening to other people’s problems as well.
I have to plug into life because I love life, but I don’t have to be controlled by the Matrix of Worry if I don’t chose to. The best thing that I gained from reading that crazy book was to insert and prioritise my joy before I did anything else for the day. It’s great to feel good just because I feel good.
What simple practise do you have that makes your life a little more joyful? Tell us on the comments below or drop me a line in my inbox via e-mail. I’m always willing to learn something new or hear a different point of view.
I recently read that most people want to be entrepreneurs, they want to be their own bosses. That doesn’t surprise me.
What was most enlightening was that they would prefer a business that employs less than 100 people. Now that seems reasonable to me on so many levels; more so than the world domination we all supposed to want but actually don’t.
Here is why mastery seems so much better than market domination to me:
I can become a master at what I do.Everything is so fast these days that before you can even get used to a new thing it’s replaced by an even newer thing. I wonder when people actually get to mastery level in their skill-sets, if they even care about it. Masters keep working at their craft, they keep finding new ways to apply the basic principles and that gives them staying power. Many stars fade twice as fast as they came on the scene because momentary appeal is nothing when it’s not backed up by real skill and experience. I know a jazz drummer who practices every day for hours and has done so for decades. He has now made jazz drumming his own, but he still works at it. The general public might not know who he is, but famous musicians act like groupies when he’s around. They realise that whatever their appeal might be they need someone of his skill and experience to back them up on stage. Now that is something I want to aim at.
It’s easy to do what I love. I like the idea of mastery because then I don’t have to deal with all the crap I actually have no interest in. Although business advice is always to get your fingers in as many pies as possible, mastery cannot accommodate that. That leaves some pies for other to play around with, which hopefully will create a more even spread of prosperity.
I can deal with people who I like to work with.This is one of the greatest upsides of building a small business based on mastery and not market domination. What I really didn’t like in the working world was having to spend day after day with people who I would cross the street to avoid in normal life. Anyone with the right qualifications who passed the interview became part of the team, no matter how poor a fit they were for the rest of the team. That isn’t the environment that produces mastery.
I can serve people who value my work.Rather than trying to capture as much of the market as possible I want to focus instead on building meaningful business relationships with people I connect with. We’ve all learnt the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule, right? It says that 80% of most business’ income comes from 20% of their clientele. I think the remaining 80% should find someone else to work with and I will focus on the 20% who really matter to me. That sounds like I will end up with less work and maybe more money when I cut ties with those I cannot serve well.
I can focus on the main thing. Big business is powered by a huge machine (fancy offices, jets, golf club memberships, executive privileges) which sometimes have nothing to do with the main thing. Keeping it small and focusing on mastery means that I will not be swallowed by the running of the show and end up missing the show itself.
I can leave a legacy. Money is not a legacy, no matter how much of it I make it will always have someone else’s face on it. Having a track record of brilliance and mastery is much more valuable in my eyes than just making a lot of money. Taking the example of money, the currency in my country, South Africa, has the face of Nelson Mandela on every note. He made such an impact on society that now his face is money. He didn’t leave money behind or chase after it while he was alive. By focusing on what he valued the man became a symbol of great value. Now that is leaving a legacy, not an inheritance.
I think it is inherent in human nature to share, and the study that says most people just want a manageable business of their own proves that point. If more people open businesses that employ 100 or less employees, there will probably be more jobs and more opportunity for the greater population of Earth to live a good life.
Mastery makes much more sense than market domination.