10 Ways to Give In To Fear

Bench seat in sunlight with shade to left side

Every so often I’ll realise that I’ve not been spending much time (if any) doing the creative things that I enjoy and that give me some perspective in my daily life. Taking photos and drawing get me noticing the things around me that I might not otherwise see. They help me to slow down and appreciate the little things that are all around me.

There are lots of reasons that I take a break from drawing or photographing stuff but one thing I try to stay conscious of is fear. It’s really easy to become paralysed by fear so that you just stop creating and then getting back into being creative becomes a real struggle.

10 Ways to Give in to Fear

  1. Listen to the person or people who criticise what you do or how you do it – start wondering if they are right.
  2. Decide that what you create will be disappointing.
  3. Worry that what you create isn’t (or won’t be) original and that it’s all been done before.
  4. Spend too long looking at what others are doing – start to compare yourself to them and decide that you will never be as good.
  5. Ignore/ forget any praise or positive feedback you’ve had, even if it far outweighs the negative.
  6. Over think your creative projects – never get beyond the planning stage.
  7. Decide you have nothing worthwhile to add.
  8. Feel embarrassed or that people will laugh at you.
  9. Find distractions – put off doing the creative things you enjoy, i.e. procrastinate.
  10. Agree with your inner critic when it suggests you are being frivolous or self-indulgent.

In what other ways does fear take over and stop you from being creative? How do you overcome it to get yourself back on track?

 

By | December 9th, 2013|Creativity|7 Comments

Daily Decluttering

Ten books, yellow

Unpacking and Decluttering

I’ve been decluttering over the past week or two. Every so often I find it kind of therapeutic to go through some of the things I own and make a decision about what stays and what goes.

A recent house move means that once again I have been faced with the reality of exactly how much stuff we own. Although it’s still quite a lot, it’s a lot less than we’ve ever owned before. Packing and unpacking everything has also given me a chance to look at every single item again and in a lot of cases I’ve put some things straight into bags to go to a charity shop, rather than let them even make their way into a cupboard or onto a shelf.

Clothes in a heap

I’m not trying to live a monastic lifestyle (although I do think there’s a lot to be said for that way of life) and I’m not really into the idea of only allowing myself to own a fixed number of things so I don’t think I’d call myself a Minimalist.

What I Own and What I Buy

Having decluttered in big and small ways during the past 6 years has gradually made me think a lot more about my relationship to material possessions, though. I find myself thinking more about how and why I buy things. Whether I’d be happy with an e-book instead of a physical, paper book that takes up space on a shelf, whether I need lots and lots of pairs of jeans, or whether a few will be enough, or whether it’s likely that one day some sort of cake-related emergency will strike that will mean I do in fact need 8 or 9 different shapes and sizes of wooden spoon.

Ten DVDs

Over time I’ve started to think more, not just about whether I need the things I own but also about why it is that I want to buy things. I think I am probably a little bit less attached to a lot of the things I buy now than I might have been maybe 7 or 8 years ago. I own more than I need and do still treat myself but I try to be more conscious of why it is that I’m buying something.

Emotional Attachment

That’s not to say that I don’t develop an emotional attachment to the stuff I own. Of course I do and I’m not going to be hard on myself for caring about my wedding ring, the old and unusual copies of books that sit on my shelves, the jewellery box that was my Grandma’s and various other belongings that I will continue to pack and unpack each and every time I move home.

Wooden spoons, plastic drinks bottles

I am, however, happy to let go of DVDs that I could easily watch online and books that I’d be just as happy to borrow from the library, boxes full of fabric scraps that I was saving ‘just in case’ and tools that I don’t use because I don’t usually do DIY in the rented flats that I now live in.

Breaking the emotional attachment to things like that can be hard the first time and even a bit scary. It took me a while to come around to the idea of getting rid of my furniture when it was sitting in storage costing me money a few years ago but letting it go felt like a huge weight had lifted from my shoulders.

Gaining Space

Every so often I’ll box up some junk that’s accumulated, or pick out a few bits of clothing that I’ve not worn during the previous couple of years and I’ll sell them or give them to a charity shop. I don’t think that getting rid of the things I own will make me a better person but every time I do something like, put a bag of clothes into the Salvation Army collection bin, or help someone from the local hospice shop load up their car with a few boxes of my kitchen and household stuff I feel a slight sense of relief.

Old medicines and toiletries

Although I probably still own far more than I really need I’m not going to go to the extreme of denying myself some things that I enjoy. On the whole though, I prefer having a bit more space to being surrounded by a comfort blanket of material possessions that actually hold no real meaning for me.

Decluttering With Low Energy

Even once you get over the emotional aspect of getting rid of things, decluttering can still be overwhelming, especially when you are ill or limited in energy. Along with other members of Michael Nobbs’ Sustainably Creative community my recent spell of decluttering has been done with this in mind – the idea being to get rid of 10 things every day.

I’m not sure how many days I will do this for or if it will always be something that I do every day but creating a limit of no more than 10 things at a time has so far meant that I’m not exhausting myself or using up entire days trying to get rid of things.

I’ve started posting photographs on Instagram of the 10 things I’ve picked out to get rid of each day. Doing that makes it feel like more of a public declaration or commitment – and one that’s been strangely addictive. Once I’ve finished picking out my 10 things I’m already thinking about what the next day’s might be.

So, decluttering in some way every so often means that I gain a bit of physical space, a bit of mental space and for me that means I make my day-to-day life just a tiny bit simpler.

By | November 18th, 2013|Life|17 Comments

Memories of Life in Helsinki

view from rooftop of helsinki finland

Into the Unknown

In 2009 I went to live in Helsinki. It was a bit spur-of-the-moment and I’d never even visited Finland before but me and my (now) husband arrived in early February and ended up staying for 3 months. I suppose it’s debatable as to whether this was ‘living there’ or just an extended working holiday but it was one of the more unusual things we’ve done and one that had a lasting effect on me.

Other than the weather I really didn’t know what to expect from Helsinki. A few months before going there we’d spent the weekend in Geneva and found that unbearably cold. Going to the capital of Finland in the depths of winter when it was -11°C, however felt by comparison strangely comfortable.

Icy pavement and white van on Esplanadi Helsinki Finland

Not only had I not been there before, I’d not even really seen any pictures of the city. In my mind I expected the architecture to look a bit like cities in Germany or the Netherlands but it wasn’t really like that and seemed to be more influenced by Russia (which, geographically speaking, makes sense).

Helsinki_Orthodox_Cathedral

Typically Finnish

There are loads of things that Finland is known for: Fazer chocolate, Marimekko, Moomin Shops, Strindberg Cafe (and its selection of cakes), Suomenlinna, the underground shopping malls, trams, the church carved out of rock (which, actually we lived just around the corner from and didn’t visit at all in the 3 months we lived there…).

Four plastic Moomin toy figures

Obviously I remember all of those things and have a fondness for them (apart from the church that I didn’t see). I still recall times like when we climbed to the top of the Hotel Torni to sit at the outdoor bar, admire the view and drink hot chocolate with blankets over our legs.

Personal Memories

However, the anecdotes we laugh about and share with people are about totally different things. I suppose Finland was my first experience of travelling. Not just going on holiday for a couple of weeks and having a quick look at what’s there but slowly exploring a bit more, noticing things about the culture and the people. Experiencing what might just be ordinary everyday life, but ordinary everyday life in a different culture.

Bed, sofa dining table window

Home Away From Home

I’ve got happy memories of our slightly too-small studio flat that actually contained everything we needed. Of Sunday afternoons when we would walk down to the sea and cross the bridge over the ice to a cafe for tea and, of course, cake.

Kitchen and table and chairs

The municipal heating system that ensured we were kept warm and always had hot water. The discovery that it’s common to have your draining board inside a cupboard above the kitchen sink, and a tiny shower bidet attached to the underside of the bathroom sink (both genius ideas in my opinion).

View from Helsinki Market Square out to sea

Food and Studying

I remember seeing lots of people rush from the tram to a tiny tent near the harbour which, I later discovered, served salmon soup (as did the boat moored nearby). I remember learning to make salmon soup at home, cooking reindeer stew and buying Mämmi to eat at Easter.

I remember using the library at Helsinki University (when finishing the assignments for my London-based Masters Degree), being unable to find the Theology section as I was in the wrong building – and then sliding down the icy hill near the (white) cathedral on the way home.

Senate Square, Helsinki, Cathedral, statue Alexander II

I remember that it seemed to be impossible to buy a fresh chicken in a supermarket and that the stall holders at the indoor market, where you could buy a chicken (and a microwaved reindeer kebab, if the mood took you) all assumed I was Finnish. I actually found myself feeling a bit guilty that I wasn’t.

Language

We eventually decided against signing up for Finnish lessons. Instead we went to the Academic Bookstore and had a conversation with a shop assistant, who wore a flag badge to represent every language she could speak (there were a lot of badges). She recommended all kinds of books to us and we childishly avoided eye contact with one another as she repeatedly described the differences between the introductory level books and the ones we might like ‘if you want to go deeper’.

I am ashamed to say that I barely looked at our ‘Finnish for Foreigners’ books and sold them on Ebay when we came back to London. I am not ashamed to say though, that I picked up lots of Finnish words just from listening to and interacting with Finnish people, and using online translation tools to write my shopping lists and to help me decipher food labels.

There were a few people I spoke to in shops who were very excited to discover I was English, so they could practice their foreign language skills (and ask me why it was that I would leave Yorkshire – the land of green moors and ‘Wuthering Heights’ for such a cold place).

Weather, Food and People

We saw another side to the usually very reserved Finnish people in the extremely drunk man who invited himself to sit with us at the end of our meal in a Chinese restaurant on Valentines night. He invited us to visit his home the following day and didn’t notice as we walked in the opposite direction when leaving the restaurant.

View across the frozen sea to buildings in the distance

I remember heavy snowfall in April and tiny snow ploughs that almost immediately cleared the roads and car parks. I remember May Day in Helsinki when we bought a brick for €1 from a drunk student on a tram, agreeing that we would take the brick back to the UK and email him a photo of it (we didn’t bring it back).

I remember sampling bear pie while listening to a loud English man tell some strangers how he’d cured his own diabetes. I remember the restaurant a few doors down from where we lived, that served mostly steak (including ‘Robbers steak’ which was served hanging from miniature gallows) and where, no matter what you ordered you would be given a large bowl of iceberg lettuce before your meal.

Frozen_sea

Finland was the first place where I saw the sea frozen solid. So solid in fact that people regularly walked across it (I wasn’t brave enough to do that). It was where I bought a pair of (very expensive) Ugg boots to give my poor feet respite from the walking boots that had given me blisters (story of my life – all shoes hate my feet).

Buoys in solid frozen sea

Finland was where, on a ferry, we met a Finnish woman who had lived through the Winter War and told us a few stories about the village where she grew up.

Ducks walking on frozen sea

It was also the place where, no matter where you bought it, a cup of coffee (or a bunch of broccoli) cost €2.50. Where there were ducks who had not flown south for the winter. Where we discovered Ruispalat and where we bought a huge block of cheese that we stored in our freezer.

Helsinki was the city I remember where people enjoyed being outdoors, no matter how cold the weather was. Where you could get a free cup of tea with a sandwich and where, on a visit, if your Father-in-law mentioned that he’d not seen a band of panpipe players busking in the street (obligatory in most European tourist spots) you could immediately walk outside and see, for the first time, one setting up ready to start playing.

Lost dog notice with photos of dog and flowers

It was where parents would take their babies out in prams and use a blanket to protect them from the falling snow. Where I found a homeless person asleep inside a coin operated toilet. Where, in the railway station we saw a picture of a dog, that I assume was missing. Where we first ate cloudberries and where, if ever we asked a fishmonger to recommend a traditional way of eating (any) fish they would, without fail, tell us to stuff it with cheese and eat it with potatoes.

Frozen sea cracking near the rocks

There were of, course, lots of things about the UK that I missed while I was away and that I was really glad to come home to: not needing to wear a winter coat in Spring, the busyness of London, being able to buy my underwear at Marks and Spencer‘s, but most of all being closer to family.

What this experience made me realise though was the difference between going on holiday and travelling.  Bertrand Russell describes how some people will travel to foreign countries but eat the same food as they do at home, have the same conversations, hang around with the same kinds of people and may just feel tired at the end of it from all the travelling. I’m not sure that I agree with him entirely about this but he compares this type of person to,

‘Other men [who], wherever they go, see what is characteristic, make the acquaintance of people who typify the locality, observe whatever is of interest either historically or socially, eat the food of the country, learn its manners and its language, and come home with a new stock of pleasant thoughts for winter evenings.’1

I think that trying to experience a city or country by finding the places that the local people hang out, talking to them and learning about their food and history means that, you’re likely to learn more, come away with unique memories that go beyond the typical tourist experience of a new place, and get closer to the reality of life there.

1Bertand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

By | October 24th, 2013|Life|24 Comments

Procrastinating With Pens and Paint

Watercolour sketch of some clothes hanging on a rail

I had visions of doing lots of practical things yesterday – there are always lots of ‘useful’ things I think I could or should be getting done and I did pop to the shops which I think counts as doing something useful.

The rest of the day I spent resting, reading and doing a bit of drawing. I thought it might be nice to actually use some watercolours in my watercolour sketchpad so I had a bit of a play with paints this morning.

I’ve not used watercolours since I was about 18 and even then I preferred oils or acrylics but I like the idea of using watercolours in sketches because they’re quick drying and easy to carry around.

I definitely need to keep practising, both my general painting skills and with mixing colours (to avoid big orange streaks in future drawings).

Maybe I’ll do something a bit more practical today – or maybe I’ll do some more scribbling and splashing of paint.

By | October 8th, 2013|Drawing, Life|4 Comments