Giving Yourself The Compliment

great people

I have to tell you, giving yourself a compliment is not bad. It’s realizing what you are good at and admitting when you are not. I love the quote above, not that I want to brag about being a great person, but I am someone who does stuff before I am good at it.

I personally hate not being good at stuff, I like to master a skill before I set even one toe on that path. I don’t want to admit I can’t do something, even though I am getting better and better at getting criticism and taking the learning points from that.

One advice I should give you though: never take criticism without critically looking at the ‘learning points’ given. If you can take the criticism and hold it before you, you can see if you agree, if it is something you can learn from or if you disagree. Take it in when you have decided what to do with it. I used to take in criticism as a whole and started thinking about it after this absorbing.

Yesterday I got a massive load of compliments about my work. Today I disappointed a client. Yesterday I celebrated my good work. Today I realized writing is my strongest point, but other skills should be developed. Yesterday I floated. Today I compliment myself for feeling the disappointment and celebrate the intention to be more honest about my skills.

Those skills you are not good at, you have to decide: what do I want to do with that? Which extra skills do I want to develop first? I have ambitions. Lots of them. Let’s travel first, write later and when we are back on solid ground, let’s explore and get more skills.

Telling A Personal Story

In my humble opinion, liking a story, blog post or article is a matter of taste. My taste is that of personal stories. Like this story telling about two silk shirts that have gone missing and what that means to you. Or this story on how Caroline first fell in love with a woman. Or this story of the evening that turned into a weird, psychotic adventure.

If I look at my own posts, these stories get more likes and comments than other stories. Storytelling is this new hype, marketers are using it to persuade their customers, but there is something so compelling to a story that is written down like you are there, you are part of the narrative, you connect to the story, because you can feel the emotions.

And then I blank. Trying to come up with the story of my life that fits this post and reads like a novel, I get stuck. If you have been following my blog, the need to perform is something that makes me freeze like a deer staring into headlights. Sometimes I push through, but most often that does not result in the best results.

Last summer, almost a year ago, I went on this F**k It retreat, you might have heard something about this before. There I learned that it’s okay to feel insecure and letting myself relax. What surprised me most is the moment you let go, you become much stronger than you think you are.

It’s okay to have a goal, but if you get too rigid about getting there and the route you must take, you get stuck. The energy is not flowing anymore. This is something that is hard to accept, especially in a world where we are made to believe that our life can be shaped.

It’s like this example I gave my friend. I told her life always have different plans for us. The moment you really want, need and must have a boyfriend, you won’t find him. The moment you give up your search, he will be waiting at your doorstep. Or the soon-to-be parents that really want to have a baby, try everything in the medical spectrum, but cannot conceive. The moment they give up, boom, they are pregnant. Life is funny that way.

It’s the realization that no matter what life throws at us, we will be fine. I can have a clear picture of what I want to do in the future, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be happy when these things don’t happen.

In these flow-moments I have the best ideas for blogs and I can write them without thinking about it too much. Those blogs will be filled with my personal stories and views, because that’s me on my best. They won’t always come to me, but if I trust, I should be alright.

Something to help me along the way are the daily prompts, on which this post is also based. You can read the prompt of today here: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/daily-prompt-great/ I hope you share your ideas about what makes a great post. We can learn something here. 

Admitting That You Feel Like Giving Up

Yesterday I had my writers club over. We started out after our course at the Amsterdam Writers Trading School, to be able to encourage each other to keep writing and to give each other feedback on our pieces. Now four years later we are still around, even though with a smaller group and still nobody has published a book.

I admitted that I felt like giving up. I have not the most loving relationship with writing. Or writing fiction. I have a very loving relationship with blogging and writing journalistic articles, but I have so many stories in my head that are made up, fantasies and dreams, I want to bring that across in fictional stories, long and short too.

It is a hardship, but you know what the thing is, admitting this, telling my writing friends that I sometimes feel like just giving up, made me feel better right that instant. It was not even the fact that they said that I should write on, because I do have something to say and I have something interesting to bring to the table, it was the fact of setting these words free.

How insecure, even small I felt, saying these words, the freedom of letting the others know what I felt, is incredible. On top of that: all writers are the same. Even my friend Manuel, who I think writes the best of our group, says he sometimes doesn’t go to his writing class because he just can’t stand the criticism anymore. What about that?!

I would like to encourage you to set your words free too. In your head words turn into lonely monsters that eat away the brain, but undone from its chains it becomes a colorful bird that flies towards the sky.

Free Fall

STARTING FIVE MINUTES OF FREE WRITING. GO.

The moment I told me friends that I wanted to go and try to be on my own, everybody had a different spin to it. Since I often worry too much about these opinions, I wanted to let them go. Let them be absorbed by the wind and the air, that is hot and smells of sun tanning spray. In the end I would have to go on my own, so why worry about the things that were said now?

Sitting on my balcony thinking about the travels I am planning, the anxious side of me popped up and I started to make calculations, I wanted to get a grasp of what was going to happen, who I was going to meet and where the universe would take me. More and more aware of these unpredictable sides of life, I stopped and looked out unto the roofs of this tiny city.

There is nothing to plan. There is nothing to control. There is nothing to be counting on. This life is given other answers to the problems you see, and never will it go exactly as you see it. Just book the ticket. See if you can come there, set foot on the land and let the feelings and emotions that emerge then lead the way. Only to be aware of the fear that resides in all of us. And letting that fear be, so it can be set free.

The only thing we can come to is to fall, to ignite a free fall, to travel the world and be a free agent while doing it.

STOP

The theme of today’s five minute prompt is fallYou can be part of the Five Minute Friday prompt and I would love to see your ideas about the word ‘fall’. 

Musical Five Minutes

Prompts are great way to get inspiration and to keep writing. Being here and writing is one of the best ways to get the inspiration and the great new masterpieces out. This Friday I decided to do something new, namely: Five Minute Friday. The rules:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat for pure unedited love of the written word.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. Be generous and leave an encouraging comment for the person who linked up before you. That’s the best part about this community.

My lunch is devoured. Time to write (and no comment is added, since it’s writing and just that):

The theme: song

I had no idea how I got here, but I was sitting on the couch, tears found their way down my face, some dropped unwillingly to the floor. You might say I was in natural panic and some of this was true. I had absolutely no idea where I was, who I was, what the fuck I was doing, but all I could do is cry. It had been like this for a couple of weeks now and yesterday I broke the news to one of my closest friends. I didn’t want to be part of this world anymore. I saw no use, I had no energy and I couldn’t seem to grasp the meaning of my existence. He told me to get the hell to the doctors office, and there I had cried some more. It took me all the energy I could take to call, but it was probably the wisest decision I could have ever taken.

A year later I am standing in my living room, the headphones and the music on. The song bring the words I have heard before to me with more meaning every time I listen to it. Alicia Keys is using the words of the brand new her, but in fact she is singing about the brand new me. I have no more excuses. I am not troubling of being your friend if you can’t accept me. I can’t do that anymore, because I have done that and you know what? You stepped on me, you put me down and I can’t let that happen anymore. I can’t let myself step on me anymore. This is the end. And the brand new beginning.

I put down all the rugs I have worn before. I have thrown down the grey sheets. I embrace the color. I am here.

Bringing Reality and Imagination Together

Cartoon Roger Dahl

This is a recurring theme, I realised today: I love it when artists bring together reality and imagination. The real and the unreal. That’s why the writer Haruki Murakami, a Japanese legend who wrote books like ‘Norwegian Woods’ and ‘Kafka on the Shore’, is one of my all time favorites.

Recently giving his first public speech in his home country Japan since eighteen years, he stressed just that: 

Usually things are divided into the real and unreal, but I was wondering how it will be if I bring all of that into the stage of the real world.

He mixes the real world, we can all think and imagine, with unworldly world with walls, no memory, libraries with dreams and lots of cats. Well, dear people of the internet, don’t we all love cats? But seriously, this world is often conveyed together with food for thought, like the next paragraph from the novel Kafka on the Shore:

I’m free, I think. I shut my eyes and think hard and deep about how free I am, but I can’t really understand what it means. All I know is I’m totally alone. All alone in an unfamiliar place, like some solitary explorer who’s lost his compass and his map. Is this what it means to be free? I don’t know, and I give up thinking about it.

It has a sad ring to it, but I think that real freedom can be a bit lonely sometimes. And maybe we are lonely not by choice. What I do know, is the freedom to open our hearts, heads and souls for creativity, inspiration, to bring together the world of dreams, nightmares and limbo together with the harsh reality, to make our own worlds. I just want to say: you too are free to mix up reality and anything that your imagination brings up. (Alright, the only serious thing I will say about it, is this: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.)

I leave with this food for thought, and if you want to see how this can work out for other artists, you should really check out Rune Guneriussen. He mixed up the dreamy landscape of Norway together with everyday items, like phones and lamps, making surreal images on which you can build a story. Unfortunately, I have to obey the law and cannot post any of his photographs here, but if you want to see what phones on a water side look like: GO.

Home Is A State Of Mind

There is something special about a home. As I see it, my home is not just a house, where I happen to live. My Home with a capital H has the ability to make me feel safe, shielded from all the horrors and wrong doings of the world, but also a place I can trust my most memorable and precious memories too. It took me some time to realize how unsettling the absence of a home can be. It made my creativity go down the drain, the restlessness that I felt at home, was heard through my writing. I need a safe place to create, I am not naturally comfortable with the ideas that arise in my mind.

I remember the first time I walked into my home; the front door down stairs is still the same now, but the space behind it was filled with rubbish. The construction workers had their radio on, the Dutch, late folk singer André Hazes was filling the holes and dents of the windy chambers that built up this house. On the stairs in the corner laid a tiny layer of fine white dust. It made me sneeze just looking at it.

The girl from the real estate office excused the workers and missing parts of the house. As I could see, the process of building the house as a whole again was well underway. She couldn’t know back then, that it would take another year and a half for it to be completely finished. I didn’t care back then, I was curious to see what was on the top floor. My floor.

Some men got out a mobile staircase and put it in the hole in the ceiling. They were holding it, while the girl climbed on it. I followed with insecure steps.

“You know, this is not going to stay there. The staircase will be more to the left,’ she said pointing at the barren wooden floor.

A wide space opened itself up to me. It’s hard to explain what happened there, I still don’t know what went on in my head and heart. It’s most comparable to what happens when people fall in love or experience love at first sight. The first click that makes your heart wanting to open up and take all the noise, the wood, the space, the light in.

The dust from downstairs had made its way up and up the holes and stairs into the open space, covering the dark brown wooden shelves of the former storage space that this room used to be. Only two tiny windows lit the room. I could hear the cars from the streets, I couldn’t really see where all the walls would be and the wood was too dark for my taste. The second time I stepped over the threshold, the view was even worse: rain was pouring in from all craters in the corners. Even worse when we climbed up those crooked stairs again, because they had just removed the chimney.

That moment I looked at my father, who I had taken the second time to be the judge. Would he get my feeling for this space? Would he understand what I see in this shack? For a moment, he looked around, walked over to the tiniest window, trying to avoid the open space in the roof, and then he said:

‘I don’t see any downsides.’

My smile broke loose and I felt my heart fill up. My house and I were getting married! Not much later we signed the papers and made it official. Since then I have been building, first in my mind, then in real life. Now the walls are up, the big windows are in place and the furniture is exposed.

I still have no idea what happened, but it was love at first sight. Now the relationship evolved. I came Home with a capital H. Between these trusted walls, I can show my true colors. I can sing, dance and take time to pull back from the hectic world we live in. Make time to feel what lives inside of me and make the most out of that. Home is so much more than my house, it is a relaxed and true state of mind.

This blog is part of the Daily Post weekly creative writing challenge. I challenge you to take part as well. This weeks assignment is called ‘Through the Door’ and is about opening your front door, but in stead of entering in your house as it is now, going back in time or going into the future and describe what happened there. Go and see the whole Daily Post assignment and have fun!

An Ode To The Pen

PenIn the Daily Prompt of this Friday we are celebrating something small and the first thing that came to mind was my pen (see above, when trying out the name of my blog). You know, it’s the funniest thing, but when you start to appreciate the little things, it is amazing what you can do with so little. Especially in the artistic area. I mean, all you need is a piece of paper and a pen, or pencil, and voila, you are ready to start your next masterpiece.

For me there is not one pen. You can say I don’t believe in monogamy when it comes to pens or pencils. Sure, I like thick ones, so I can hold them firmly. Oh my, this is going beyond an ode, it’s almost pen-pornography. I like black or blue, smooth rollers and pens that stick with you for a while. Because I am a polygamist, I change my pens every now and then. I have no problem dumping them when they are through and old. I look for them at conferences, meetings and shops. I grab them secretly or even in public. Some pens are handed to me, because I would be indirectly promoting one company or another. (That’s why I often take a pen of a competitor to a company, just to tease.)

The physical act of writing is still enchanting. The moving of the pen over the soft paper, writing fast when I need it. Writing slowly and determent when I know the words matter. Whenever I am stuck, I just need some hardcore writing in my Moleskin. That brand, I do prefer, it’s true love. But, that’s a whole other topic for a whole other post.

The Great Advantage of Failing Fast

Yesterday, I posted a wonderful quote of Cher with the promise to explain why failing is such a great thing. Cher was talking about looking foolish, but I think the same can be said about failing. Or you look foolish because you failed at something. For example: writing something completely rubbish and posting it online. You might look foolish, but if you can’t accept that not all your writing will be Pulitzer price worthy, how can you grow?

We only know heights, because we know the lows. How else are you going to define ‘great’ if there isn’t something foolish opposing it?

The last couple of weeks I have been attending loads of conferences and the new power expression is ‘fail fast’. If you fail slow, you won’t have many successes either, the experts say. So fail fast, so you’re successes will come fast as well. They follow the 80/20 rule with that: of all new ideas 80 per cent will fail and 20 per cent will be a direct hit. I think that is something to keep in mind when we try to be creative. We make lots of drafts of our painting, our stories or theatre plays, but we don’t say we make ‘fails’, right?

Being ashamed of failing is something we grow-up humans experience. I wrote in an earlier post on editorannedaily.wordpress.com:

You have seen these funniest home video’s of cats making the wrong jump and end up getting stuck? Or bumping into a window? Do you think these cats are like ‘ooohhh myyy, I feel soooo ashamed! I hope my boss didn’t see me’? NO, they don’t. They get up and try again. Or the kid that is trying to walk? He falls down every once and a while, even when he’s a bit older. Do you think he’s going to hide and think by himself: ‘Oh my mommie is gonna think I am so stupid, because I fell.’ NO! He just gets up and try again.

There is another dimension to it: by trying, experimenting, making drafts, we will come outside our comfort zone and find new solutions to old problems. Succesful artists have acknowledged this side of ‘failing’. In the book ‘the secret of genius’ by Tijn Touber a couple of geniuses are quoted:

If you don’t fail every now and then, it means you’re not being very innovative – Woody Allen.

Fall regularly, the world looks different from the ground up – Oprah.

A genius makes no mistakes. His mistakes are the gateways to new discoveries – James Joyce.

Or like Cher said: if we can’t be foolish, we will never be great. Cheers to all the failures, the draft and the falls.

Should We Know What Our Purpose Is Right Now?

The thought that I could become a journalist, grew on me during a year at the Free University (Vrije Hogeschool), more than ten years ago. I had been writing for some time, but with no particular purpose. I thought writing is something everyone does, not something to specialize in. Of course, one could become a writer, but I could surely never be that.

Until that year, where I learned about retorics and writing an argument. I had to perform it later, but just the process of getting all the information, knowing what both sides of one topic could think and getting it all on paper, was the best feeling ever.

Later I discovered that I could do more with my writing. Sure, I had been writing stories for years now, but it was not until I did a course at the Writers Trade School in Amsterdam (Schrijversvakschool) that I became more involved. If I wanted to get better, I would have to do it more often.

Sometimes I hear from friends or acquaintances that they knew from when they were little, what to become. I never knew that, and even though I love my work as a journalist, I sometimes dream about other lifes, Like being a fulltime writer or artist. Do I miss something? A real passion? And is that even a problem?

According to Roman Krznaric of the School of Life it is not. Hooray! He writes in the book ‘How to find fulfilling work’ that even though we can have fulfilling work, a calling is not something that is there instantaneously or that we shouldn’t work to find it.

On the educational and entertaining website Brain Pickings, he is quoted talking about Marie Curie:

Curie was absolutely committed to her career. She lived an almost monastic lifestyle in her early years in Paris, surviving on nothing but buttered bread and tea for weeks at a time, which left her anemic and regularly fainting from hunger. She shunned her growing fame, had no interest in material comforts, preferring to live in avirtually unfurnished home: status and money mattered little to her. When a relative offered to buy her a wedding dress, she insisted that “if you are going to be kind enough to give me one, please let it be practical and dark so that I can put it on afterwards to go to the laboratory.” Before her death in 1934, aged 67, she summed up her philosophy of work: “Life is not easy for any of us,” she said. “But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.

Marie Curie never had [a] miraculous moment of insight, when she knew that she must dedicate her working life to researching the properties of radioactive materials. What really occurred was that this goal quietly crept up on her during years of sustained scientific research. … Her obsession grew in stages, without any Tannoy announcement from the heavens that issued her a calling. That’s the way it typically happens: although people occasionally have those explosive epiphanies, more commonly a vocation crystallizes slowly, almost without us realizing it.

So there is no great mystery behind it all. If we want a job that is also a vocation, we should not passively wait around for it to appear out of thin air. Instead we should take action and endeavor to grow it like Marie curie. How? Simply by devoting ourselves to work that gives us deep fulfillment through meaning, flow and freedom. … Over time, a tangible and inspiring goal may quietly germinate, grow larger, and eventually flower into life.

I am completely and utterly assured about my life purpose and calling. We just have keep working, keep our minds open and keep our eyes open for the next best opportunity.