Birthdays rub me the wrong way. None moreso than my own. I don’t think this is the right way to feel, but it is how I feel.
Stop me if my desperate need for genuine validation is showing, but the idea of undue celebration or praise makes me sick.
That moment when you realise that the nice person in the foyer after your show is saying all the nice things about your work because they feel like they have to, brings me dread.
I despise my birthday like I despised the football participation trophies I got handed every year as a kid. I was crap at football. I knew it, my Mum knew it, the coach knew it, and my team knew it. But I was celebrated anyway. Why?
Why should I be celebrated for simply surviving another year?
After 23 of these, I think I finally get it.
We should celebrate birthdays because surviving is an act of showing up.
Surviving is hard sometimes. So to be able to do it, year after year, with a steadfast consistency is actually quite incredible.
Birthdays are the markers we can use to measure how well we are undertaking the delicate work of carrying on.
Some stand out, others are bundled up, and some skip by far too fast – but there they are. Every year. One of the only guarantees we have.
I’m doing better at surviving than I was a few of these ago. For once, I’m looking forward to the next one.
Here’s a few things I’m pretty convinced are true;
There is a constant war being fought for the attention of our digital selves which is having dramatic adverse effects on people’s happiness, especially amongst digital natives who have never known a world without digital media;
Activities practiced regularly which reward participants for consistent time investment over many years are essential to a meaningful life;
The instant dopaminergic gratifications available through social media and the 24-hour news cycle are training us against investing time into activities which generate meaning over time;
Therefore, it is necessary to reframe the benefits of investing time and energy into skills and activities which create meaning and value over time for those who don’t understand this intuitively.
Brain Pickings is a curation of deep dives into the work of great thinkers (often writers, poets or philosophers) by Maria Popova. Maria writes with a distinctive style which I admire greatly, and creates intricate networks throughout her blog by meticulously linking articles and topics to one another.
Tim Ferris is a well known author, entrepreneur and self described ‘human guinea pig’. His blog is the home to his widely successful podcast, The Tim Ferris Show, where he seeks to unpack the successful habits of world class performers. I regularly listen to his podcasts, and find his cataloguing of show notes on the blog to be an invaluable resource.
Today marks 100 days of putting my thoughts on the line.
Three months feels like a blink. But in such a short time, this already feels like one of the most meaningful commitments I’ve ever managed to uphold.
In honour of that, it seems like as arbitrary a time as any to look back, reflect and take a moment to thank those of you who’ve been the fertiliser to my grass-roots.
The growth I’ve experienced over the past few months has been overwhelming. I’ve written some crap, and I’ve written some work that I’m intensely proud of.
Having a tangible accumulation of ever-improving work is something I still can’t wrap my head around; some posts I was proud of two months now embarrass me to revise.
I can see the weeks where I allowed myself to be tired or overworked.
I can pick out the posts I published in a rush at 11:58pm instead of getting writing done in the morning.
The clear disparity in the quality of that work motivates me to take care of myself properly.
Beyond all that, I’ve benefited hugely from cataloguing a d categorising my thoughts.
By organising thoughts into the ‘clusters’ in the menu bar, I’ve been able to refer back to information quickly when I’ve needed it.
When I started out, I didn’t think I’d go back re-consider content nearly as much as I do. I revisit the ruckus cluster often, usually when I need a boost.
In terms of readership, the views and visitors to the site have been on a slow but steady incline.
These metrics aren’t what I measure the success of the blog by, but the fact that there is an upwards trend means that more people are hearing about the blog.
Because I don’t pay to advertise the blog anywhere, this means that a significant portion of this extra traffic will be from word-of-mouth.
If you’ve been a part of that, thank you.
Seriously. Some of the most delightful conversations I’ve had in the past few months have sprouted from;
“Hey! I read that thing you posted about…”
Conversations like that mean everything to me. And if you’re someone who regularly likes, comments on, shares or talks about my content, you’re responsible for a portion of that joy.
Thanks also to those of you who have followed the blog on WordPress, or via email.
There’s more than 50 of you now, and while I’m sure that at least a couple of you are Russian bots, I know that there’s a chunk of you who are lovely, real, genuine people.
It means a great deal that you’re willing to get notified every time I put something out there (not just when it’s good enough for me to share it on a social platform).
Launching this site has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing, but it’s also fundamentally changed the way I think.
It’s hard to express how valuable forcing myself to constantly seek out stimulating information to distill has been. Every day brings with it a looming pressure to notice things, and I’ve never felt more engaged with the world.
So far I’ve had the opportunity to share 2374 views with 1408 visitors, through 37,212 words.
When do you decide that an idea is worth committing to?
When do you kill your darlings?
Why are both of these questions difficult?
Why are they so loaded with resistance?
Yesterday I wrote about ruckus; about the fact that in the internet age it costs next-to-nothing to create things which bring people together.
If we are so inclined, we can all be people who start things regularly, because it’s free to try out ideas which might not work.
Theoretically, we can continue to try ideas out until one sticks.
In Western Australia, where I live, it takes six people and $121.80 to register a nonprofit organisation. If you add value to the life of just one person, that’s time and money well spent. I’ve done this, and I believe that almost anybody can.
You can launch an online store for under $100. If it works, congratulations, you have a business. If it doesn’t, you almost certainly learnt enough from the process to justify the expense, and can consider it a valuable investment in your own skills.
You don’t need a shop front or millions of dollars in donations to make change any more.
If starting things is so easy then, why doesn’t everybody do it?
Honestly, I think it’s because making things is fucking scary; Putting your name on a thing is scary, and telling people that you’re making a thing is scary (especially if it’s something they’ll want to see).
So lots of people don’t.
They still have ideas. Everyone has ideas, many of which are good ones. But they don’t commit to any. None of their ideas get seen through.
Until you make the shift from ‘having an idea’ to ‘doing the thing’, you idea doesn’t mean much to anyone but yourself. Making this shift towards your idea meaning something to other people is where the fear lives, but it needs to mean something to other people for it to become a thing in the first place.
This is particularly tragic when a person generates lots and lots of ideas, but struggles to commit to any of them. This is called thrashing.
We all know people who are thrashing.
They are usually wonderful people with brilliant minds, who are always talking about the next project they’re planning, or the next thing they want to write, but aren’t doing the vulnerable work of turning any of their ideas into things. Their ideas might be fantastic, but their work can’t speak for itself because it doesn’t exist.
I used to be a thrasher. I was thrashing over this blog until yesterday.
The solution to thrashing is to decide on a deadline for every idea. A pivotal moment where you make a serious decision;
Am I going to turn this idea into a thing, or am I going to kill it?
If you commit to the project, you have to finish. You owe it to yourself, no matter what. The product must ship, the website must launch, or the book gets written. No excuses. No backing out.
If you kill it, you’re making the promise to yourself that you’ll stop thinking about the idea, and shift your focus to another. You’ll stop talking about the idea, and if anyone asks you about it, you’ll tell them it’s dead.
If you can’t bring yourself to kill an idea, it’s probably a good one.
If you can’t bring yourself to commit to it, you are probably harbouring fear.
Starting things is scary work. Fear is an entirely natural part of the creative process, but we get to choose what we want to do with it.
We can resist fear, but deep down we know that never works.
“I do not think you can get rid of the fear.
I think that the harder you push back against the fear, the louder it becomes.
But I think you can dance with it.“
This is the trick. This is what transforms thrashing into sinking, or swimming.
Let your fear energise your work. Thank it.
I was petrified to launch this blog.
Until yesterday, it was a website I’d made and written some notes on, which around five people knew about.
I thought to myself;
‘I’ll launch after a few weeks. Once there’s a build-up of content for people to read back through.’
I was scared, and I wanted to leave myself an escape route available for as long as possible. I didn’t want to share it until I was 100% certain that I wasn’t going to embarrass myself, but another few weeks of writing posts wasn’t going to get rid of that feeling.
Nothing can get rid of that feeling. I was never going to feel safe pressing the share button.
Someone clever told me to push it anyway, and here we are.
My fear was rational. To an extent, so was the logic behind my plan to build up some content. But if I’m honest with myself, the only reason I didn’t launch a week ago when I wrote my welcome post was because I was scared of you reading it, and scared that I wouldn’t be able to deliver on my promise.
I was scared of telling you that I was going to publish a post every day, and that you’d take a look in a month and nothing would be there.
I was scared of you, I was scared of myself, I was scared of committing to do the thing.
Thrashing wins games of Pictionary, but in real life you need to do more than just have the right idea to come out ahead.
Yesterday was the day I made my commitment.
This blog is now a thing.
It will be until at least the 13th July 2020. I’ll publish something, even if it’s not much, for an entire year and then reassess.
I write what about whatever engrosses my attention and share one piece of it every day – no exceptions.
I sincerely hope you can find some value in the mix.
Each of my daily post gets assigned to any number of clusters. These are my attempt to organise the inevitably sporadic nature of my posts into categories of articles which you might find interesting.
Clusters can be found in the sidebar, and clicking on one will direct you to a feed of posts all relating to that cluster. If you’re looking for my thoughts on a specific topic, or are looking for an old post, that’s the best place to start!
Your feedback is very important to me, and I endeavour to respond to all of it. If you liked something, if you didn’t, or if you just have something to add, please get in touch.
This rest of this post contains a bit of history about me – and explains what led me to start this project.
I live in Perth, Western Australia. It’s nice, but I can’t see myself staying here forever.
My family is Australian, but only one of my grandparents was born here. My Nanny comes from Kent in England, while my Nonna and Nonno were both born in the same town on the East coast of Italy – I plan to live there for a time before I die.
I only have one really bad habit, and it’s also one of my best traits – I’m a ‘yes‘ person.
I regularly flirt with a crippling state of overcommitment because I love exploring new opportunities. I feel like I am at my most productive when I’m under a lot of pressure, even though this is rarely the case.
Likely due to this habit, I’ve developed a passionate hatred for the question:
‘What do you do?’
When confronted with it, I’m usually juggling too many jobs, projects or goals at any one time to give a clean answer.
To answer that question in a way which doesn’t make me feel awful, indulge me a little while I give you an abridged recap of my adult life.
I landed my first lead acting gig with The Western Australian Youth Theatre Company (WAYTCo) during my final year of high school. The play was Punk Rock by Simon Stephens, whom I love.
The play lined up almost perfectly with my last set of exams, and was the first time I had to prioritise between what I loved to do, and what I thought I needed to. The decision seemed impossible, and everyone I spoke to seemed rather certain that I had a choice: good grades, or some play.
I wanted both. So for the first time in my young adult life, I made it happen.
Making the sacrifices necessary to accept that role was one of the best decisions I ever made. I worked the equivalent of 6am – 10pm almost every day to stay on top of my studies during the rehearsal period, and I got through. Punk Rock taught me how to hustle.
I got so hooked on being in that rehearsal room that something else became clear to me, and it completely changed my trajectory;
If I was going to be happy, good art needed to be at the core of my everyday.
In the four years since, I’ve fumbled through a myriad of opportunities with that being my only consistent focus: make good art.
It was a beautiful catch-all which ticked every box I needed it to. It involved solving unique and complex problems, has inbuilt periods of isolation, and satisfied the expectations of every adult I knew.
The grown-ups laughed at the specificity of my ambition, but believed I’d make it all the same.
He’ll be fine, they thought.
It was naturally a shock when, after graduating high-school with a score more than adequate to take my pick of local engineering courses, I told them all that I was going to study Theatre.
No he won’t be, they thought.
WAYTCo allowed me to realise that art is important me. That I need it. In a sense, that show saved me from myself. Without it I likely would have suffered through half an engineering degree which I know for a fact I wouldn’t have finished.
Right now, the last three items on that list consume most of my time. As I edge closer to completing my studies, the sense that this won’t always be the case fills me with anticipation and excitement.
At the moment I still write in a bunch of forms; I still write theatre; I adore poetry and spoken word (you’ll find some of my angsty crap online if you look hard enough); and there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll sink my teeth into some longer form non-fiction soon enough. But first, I need to practice.
My writing is getting better constantly, but I’ve got a long way to go before I’ll be in the position to write a book that I’ll be proud of, a poetry collection of relevance, or a play I can tour the world with.
Every bit of advice I’ve ever received about becoming a better writer has shared the sentiment of this snippet of wisdom from Ira Glass, the host and executive producer of This American Life.
In six words;
To write well,write a lot.
This blog is how I intend to implement that sound advice. It’s my promise to the world. It’s an investment in myself.
The writer I’ll be in five years time will thank me for taking this leap.