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Aug 28 - Email from Yvonne de Jonge

Life itself is mostly a question of perception, isn’t it?
You can a) focus on things that went wrong and be in a terrible mood, or b) remember those things that went well and made you smile. Enter Happiness Journals, The Happiness Project. Same day, different mood. I used to be a ‘glass half empty’ girl, now I’m a ‘glass half full’ kinda gal. Well, most days anyway, ha.
Recently I met an old colleague of mine and she commented that she would love to quit her job (had been wanting it for years) and do something different but ‘of course that would never happen’, ‘…too old’, ‘what about the bills’, etc.
Such a narrow way of thinking and I felt sad for her. But also a little annoyed, because who says she can’t do just that? Who says any of us can’t do that? Society? But that’s ‘us’ too, isn’t it?
And of course nothing will ever happen if you’re just waiting for things to change. Nobody is going to just hand you a new life or do the work for you. It’s all up to us, individually, and if we don’t want to do the work (and keep doing the work), we’re never going to succeed.
Rant over.
Anyway, back to creativity and focus. I did my best creative work when I just sat down, and without external pressure (no social media, no paying clients or deadlines etc), created whatever. Putting blobs of ink or water colour on paper and just letting my imagination run free. What also helped was creating something with just a single word as a prompt (‘whisper’, ‘sink’, ’seperated’, ‘up’). Anything abstract. And go from there.
Having said that, I could have only done it at the time because I was taking a lot of rest while recovering from a virus to the vestibular system (had to Google that, excuse me if it is slightly incorrectly translated). I kept falling over so sitting down was the only option for me. It took an awfully long time to fully recover because I was in fact pretty overworked at the time. A ‘blessing’ in disguise. And I’ve never allowed myself to get that overworked since.
Now, as a healthy person, I don’t really have any excuse not to sit down and do the ‘work’ (beside the dreaded full-time work etc. which still continues of course ). So why is it, that sometimes I still can’t find that motivation?
Like you said ‘free your brain from the clutter and do something’.
So, I have a little lie down, or sit still and just ‘be’ (mindful, meditate, listen to the sounds of the waves). And then create. Put a little barrier between work and creativity to get yourself in the right mindset.
I find that I can’t be creative straight after having done ‘work’. Oops, it’s getting late, I have to eat and go.
Thanks for the patience, Melissa. Have a good day!

Aug. 30 - Email from Melissa Kandel

It’s interesting about your friend and what motivates change. I do think it’s sometimes universal factors beyond your control or imagination; you walk into a grocery store and the guy checking out happens to be a brilliant painter who can illustrate your children’s book and suddenly your life is transformed. You buy a Snickers at a tiny, decrepit convenience store and along with the candy purchase a winning lottery ticket. You clean out your garage and find a rare painting by Picasso worth a bajillion dollars …
Except sometimes it’s more about throwing a whole lot of darts against the dartboard until one hits the bulls eye. Maybe you get it on the first try but more often than not, it takes ten, twenty, hundreds of throws before you nail it right in the sweet spot. Serendipity plays no role here. It’s purely a matter of cold, hard perseverance and an unwillingness to relent.
The more I think about the topic of these sweeping life changes so many of us seek to become happier, more complete humans, the more I think we’re just afraid to fail and the more I think maybe our definition of failure is the real problem. If you think about it, failure is good. It means we did something, we tried, we got out our dartboard and started throwing. It also means that we had a specific outcome in mind, defined that outcome as success, and didn’t find it at the end of whatever it was we set out to do. But what if, let’s say, you set out to make scrambled eggs and instead made an omelet that tastes EVEN better than the scramble you originally wanted to create? Technically, you failed but approached through a different relative lens, you succeeded to do something far greater than the scramble. You made a delicious omelet! (In the dartboard analogy, you’d define success as throwing the darts and not as hitting the bulls eye. In that scenario, you basically won every time.)
I don’t know. Maybe that makes no sense.
Some of my best accomplishments though (or at least things I can look back on and say, “Hm, kind of cool I made that happen,”) were the result of catastrophic failures. There’s a silly quote about success being a result of getting up one more time than you’re knocked down but I think success is just whatever you make it out to be. You define success. Sure it’s great to have goals but they must be shifty, changeable, nimble little things you can mold based on the variability and chaos of life.
Also, what were you working on? Send me some photos of your recent art.

Sept. 18 - Email from Yvonne de Jonge

Hi there. It’s been a while. Yikes.
Hope you’re well!
I suddenly had some family things to focus on (all good now), hence the hiatus.
So. Yes. It does make sense. The omelet analogy (good title for a book ;)). And you really do define your own succes. Good points.
Thoughts on being successful, by Marloes de Vries:

So true.
You know, I made screenshots of comments on my work by people I admire, photos of me (oh boy) at creative markets or events and my work other people posted/promoted online. Seeing all of these images together makes me feel super good about the things I did (the ‘very cool I made that happen’, feeling) and gets me motivated to do new things (although feeling motivated isn’t always the same as actually ‘doing’ something).
I should really print those out and stick ‘em on a (non-digital) board.
It may sound a bit sad, haha, but it really does help to feel supported by your peers, doesn’t it? From time to time, we do need a reminder that we’re actually not doing that bad.
I’m not working on anything (sigh) at the moment. I haven’t been working on anything creative for quite a while.
I guess, as ‘freelancers’ (or how you like to call it, personally I don’t like the term girl-boss much), we need to learn to ‘let go’ and live a little as well?
We’re mostly a hard-working bunch, who maybe find it hard to relax? Which brings us right back to mindfulness.
Oh! I watched a BBC program this week about age vs body age. Really interesting. Some people lowered their body age by more / regular exercise, others by adapting a healthier diet (one guy was now still healthy looking but ate a lot of junk food and had a high risk of heart disease). One woman, who’s stress-levels at work were aging her, used Mindfulness and knocked 9 years off in 12 weeks!
Mind over matter indeed. And it shows that one solution doesn’t fit all.
The (only) two states of a freelancer, by Marloes de Vries:

Oh yes, back to your question (can you tell I’m really bad at focusing at the moment):
I will be picking up my pen and ink and I’ll be drawing something every day of October on Instagram (‘Inktober’ is just a little incentive to get drawing again)! I’ve never been good at sticking to creative challenges because the daily prompts are usually not what I feel like making at that particular time and ‘Inktober’ just says: ‘Make something beautiful every day.’

Sept. 18 - Email from Melissa Kandel

Wow, so much to digest. You know, I think we may have enough to publish something. Your emails are always the motivating jolt I need … to know there are others in the world struggling with the same waning and waxing of creativity. It helps more than you know.

If you’re just now catching up on ‘Letters,’ you might want to start from the top:


  • garrystafford says:

    No doubt that getting the darts out is a HUGE step. Fear wants to shut it down. I think it can be fear of failure (what if I don’t even hit the board?!) or fear of success (what if straight up I hit the bull’s eye?!). Lately, for me, it’s been the latter. You discuss age. As I’ve gotten older sometimes I fear the sadness, yes sadness, that seems to more often accompany success. When I have a fantastic day/moment/experience the joy that comes from that is increasingly colored by the knowing that these experiences are so fleeting, fragile, wonderful and finite; very finite. And, yet we do them anyway. It seems that when younger, we DO, and accept. With age we DO, and appreciate, and grieve that this very well may not pass by again…. So, get the board out.

  • anjalisk96 says:

    Inspiration, Motivation and our will to do things. It can take us a long way into happiness. Great post by the way.

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