How I handled the realisation I was failing as a creative.
Until recently I considered myself a creative person: writing, drawing, and making music were all things I was interested in doing. But then a few things happened to make me less sure.
Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but I always thought of creativity as a recurring strong desire to express yourself in creative ways. I considered the things I do often – work, games, chores – as distractions preventing me from being creative, which I saw as one of my major identifiers. But take those distractions away and I’m not actually creating more.
This has been a bit of a revelation to me, to be honest. A lot of my identity is tied up in that word “creative”, so if I’m not that, what else am I? It’s like when I told a friend that I like RPGs, then thought about it a bit longer and realised that the last proper RPG I played – with turns-based battles and all that – was probably The World Ends With You about 8 years ago. Before that it was Skies of Arcadia. Not such a big RPG fan after all.
But while I can admit I actually don’t like RPGs that much, it doesn’t mean I’m not playing as many games as I’d like – it just means I’m playing other kinds of games. But there isn’t that balance with creativity: I’m not avoiding writing because I’m producing so much music. I’m just not doing much of either.
That might be unfair, though: when I look at my output this year, I have written more music than I have for the last ten years, and it’s even music that I actually quite like as well. I’m on a decent blogging kick too, and there’s still the usual threat of wanting to write something fictional. Plus a big creative project keeps popping up and threatening to be accomplished.
Reading Scott Belsky’s book, Making Ideas Happen, I realised that “I’m not creative” actually means “I’m not that productive”. I used to think the two were opposites – creativity is play, while productivity is work – but Belsky equates it differently:
Creativity x organisation = impact
My aim for the coming years is to work more on that middle part – the engine room of execution – to help bring my creative ideas to life. I’ll be documenting some of them here on this blog, and I hope you’ll stick around to read about them.
I think most people are smart enough to know that when we promise ourselves that a new product or activity will change our lives, we’re willingly misleading ourselves because we’re in love with the idea that we’re only one purchase away from who we believe we can be.
On 30th October 2006, I worked my first day in my first job, a part-time sales assistant role at a games retailer in York. I’d finished my teaching degree earlier that year knowing I wanted to pursue my passions of writing and gaming. I basically took the summer of 2006 off, relaunching the site in WordPress in June 2006 and then publishing all sorts of odd bits and pieces: complaining about Vernon Kay, for instance. I won’t list the rest because it was weird and hardly seems relevant now.
I’ve made about a dozen posts on this website in the past four and a half years or so. Generally when I do get the itch to write, I get a bit caught up and promise myself I’ll write more. Normally I come back to this site in January or February, romanced by the promise of the upcoming year, then forget about it a few weeks later when something else catches my attention.
So, no more promises. I’ll write what I write, and forget about fresh starts and promises.
I’ve cycled to work every day for about the last 18 months. It’s about 5km, and takes me around 20 minutes each way. My route takes me past a school, through a forest, and on a few quiet roads. It’s direct and I like it. In the morning it’s mostly downhill, and in winter, the rush of cold air is invigorating.
But every day when I come home, I come to the bottom of a long hill.
And every day a voice in my head says, “If you’re tired, or you can’t do this, it’s OK – you can get off and walk. It’s OK.”
And every day I keep cycling and make it up that hill.
Because my brain is quick to forget what I’ve already accomplished, but my legs remember. I tell the voice that I’ve climbed this hill hundreds of times. Every day it speaks up, and on my weaker days it’s tempting to say, “It’s OK to stop.”
But I keep going.
Some people say I look like me Dad
As Elvis Costello said in that episode of 30 Rock about Alan Alda getting a kidney, “when someone starts talking in the middle song, you know it’s serious”, but even more serious talking comes at the start. Like this line from B*Witched’s 1998 masterpiece, “C’est La Vie”, such a gloriously bizarre way to start a pop career.
Apparently the band revealed a few years later that this song is actually all about sex, which makes that opening line even more enjoyable, because who doesn’t want to hear identical twins mention a resemblance to their dad?
More Opening Lines
Last year I got my first smartphone, a Nokia Lumia 735. I really like it, and I’ve especially enjoyed making it look nice with custom lock screens, Start backgrounds, tile layouts and so on. It really is a beautiful looking device when you show it some care.
I thought I could help out fellow Lumia owners with some wallpapers. So if you’re looking for Nokia Lumia 735 wallpapers, you’ve come to the right place.
The album below contains my own favourite wallpapers, all photographs taken with my Nokia Lumia 735. I hope you like using them!
The water’s frozen to ice.
There was a time I believed Danny McNamara, frontman of British indie rock quintet Embrace, was a remarkably gifted lyricist, though this lyric makes that hard to believe. I looked up to him during my late teens and early 20s, when my hair was long and an acoustic guitar was the ultimate instrument of self-expression (these days my hair is rarely longer than a toothbrush bristle, and like most grown-ups I’ve realised self-expression is best eradicated.)
Having scrobbled Embrace tracks over 2,000 times, of course I was curious to listen to their self-titled return, released in 2014 some eight years after their previous album, This New Day.
Imagine you had eight years to write an album. That’s ages: the Olympics come and go twice in that time. It’s certainly long enough to develop the same rudimentary grasp of chemistry demonstrated in those opening lines.
I wish I’d misheard this lyric, or that this interpretation – as found on LyricsMania.com – was the right one:
The watre’s frozing to eyes
While researching this article to make sure I didn’t make myself look an idiot, I actually searched “is frozen water always ice?”, just in case there had been a huge advancement in our scientific comprehension of water in the years since I last opened a chemistry book. That’s how bad this lyric is: it introduced my Google search history to its most stupid question yet.
In the interests of fairness, the writing credits for this song are shared between Danny and brother Richard, both of whom should know better.
More Opening Lines
For Christmas 2012, Hannah bought me a GPS watch. It’s one of the best presents I’ve ever received, as I’ve told her about a thousand times since.
I didn’t run much in 2013; I got to 10km once, thought that was good enough, and stopped. In 2014, though, I did a lot better, completing about 600km over the course of the year. In total I think it was about 70 hours of running (yep, I am very slow) which gave me plenty of time to think. I haven’t run at all this year because of injury, but I still wanted to post this. Here’s what I’ve learnt from putting one foot in front of the other.
If I should stay, I would only be in your way
A lyric we’ve all heard a hundred times – and one that sends me scrambling for the skip button, if I’m honest – but like most great lyrics, follow it back to the source and you find the real story.
That story is Dolly parting ways with manager and former duet partner Porter Wagoner around June 1973. The song wasn’t released until a year later: imagine having to reconnect with that emotion in performances a year after the fact, again and again, as the song grew more and more popular. At the song’s heart is strength masking vulnerability; in the Whitney Houston version, it totally overpowers it.
The song is full of difficult admissions – We both know that I’m not what you need, that (perhaps ill-advised) spoken word section – all stemming from that first realisation: that two people are stronger apart than together.
Interesting story: Elvis wanted to record a cover once the song became popular, but Dolly Parton refused to sign over half the publishing royalties in return. Not many people would say no to Elvis, but then, as this song shows, not many people are as strong as Dolly Parton.