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Posts from the ‘For Artists’ Category

Interview: Lydia Sohn, Writer and Minister

Interview with Lydia Sohn, Writer and Minister

Recently, I had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Lydia Sohn, a writer, minister, and speaker who lives in San Diego, California with her husband and young son.  I fell in love with Lydia’s blog last fall, when I discovered her wonderful blog chalked full of wisdom, that I look forward to reading each week.  Below, Lydia shares her thoughts on creativity!  You can learn more about Lydia here.

 

KATHERINE CARVER: How did your journey lead you to becoming a minister and writer?

LYDIA SOHN: It all happened very naturally.  Neither were careers I considered for myself, even up until my college years.  Looking back, of course, it makes complete sense because spirituality and writing were always sources of great joy for me.  And then I experienced a lot of resistance towards the ministry once I did have an inkling that might be the path for me.  I grew up in a fairly conservative church with only male ministers around me.  I didn’t even think women could be ministers for most of my life, much less young women! 

Writing as a profession came with less resistance but there was still a lot of self-doubt.  I thought one had to be a bookish introvert with certain literary tastes to be a “real writer” but I eventually discovered that to be false as I began to write regularly and for the public.  With both of these careers, one step simply followed the next and the outcomes unraveled organically. 

 

KATHERINE CARVER: What artists/writers inspire you?

LYDIA SOHN: Julia Cameron was really the first artist/writer to release the writer within me through her books, The Right to Write and The Artist’s Way.  Prior to reading those books, I relied upon a lot of external validation to legitimate my craft.  Those books empowered me to write simply because I wanted to and for no other reason than that.  She suggests these powerful exercises that help the artist with every person emerge. 

Before Julia Cameron though, my writing style had been greatly influenced by Lauren Winner and Anne Lammott because both of them are spiritual authors who activated a latent desire and potential within me to articulate my own spiritual journey. 

More recently, I have been so greatly nourished by Elizabeth Gilbert and her ideas about creativity.  Much of her ideas about creativity are in her book, Big Magic, but she also riffs on these ideas a lot in her talks, interviews and podcast.  She’s similar to Julia Cameron in that she believes that what we long to write about pre-exists so it’s not something we have to think up but rather, listen closely and download.  I find this idea to be incredibly liberating because it takes the pressure off of us to produce amazing ideas.  We just need to follow our curiosity, observe where it takes us and then document it. 

 

 

KATHERINE CARVER: Do you have any rituals and/or practice that you implement while writing?

LYDIA SOHN: Yes, I rely greatly on time-blocking to get all of my writing done.  I am a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique.  I discovered it when I was juggling a lot of different projects and it’s the only thing that has enabled me to keep writing and a full-time job while at the same time, raise a small child.

 

KATHERINE CARVER: Do you have any favorite, go-to books for inspiration?

LYDIA SOHN: I definitely have a canon of books that have changed my life and return to whenever I want to be re-grounded.  Included in this canon are Eckart Tolle’s The Power of Now and Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak.  A book that radically helped my marriage is Alison Armstrong’s The Queen’s Code.  Another book that was a godsend is Intuitive Eating.  I struggled with an eating disorder after I graduated from college and that book put my debilitating struggle to an end.  It also transformed my entire worldview and moral philosophy.  You have to read the book to know what I’m talking about. 

 

 

KATHERINE CARVER: How do you not let fear hinder you from beginning a new endeavor?

LYDIA SOHN: I have so much fear and so much doubt when I’m about to begin a new endeavor!  What soothes my anxiety is a belief that what will be will be.  Another Elizabeth Gilbert idea I love is that we as artists and designers of our own lives must do what we can on our ends but we have to let God (or the universe, whatever metaphysical reality that resonates with you) take care of the rest.  The way she puts it is, “our labor is the contribution to the miracle.”  In that way, I do my due diligence by being faithful to my responsibilities and then let God take over the rest.  If it’s meant to be, it will unravel accordingly.  If it’s not meant to be, doors will close fairly quickly.  God is so good to me in giving me really helpful signs to guide me and show me which endeavors I’m supposed to pursue and which I’m endeavors I’m supposed to let go of. 

 

KATHERINE CARVER: What inspires you to keep going and what keeps you motivated daily? 

LYDIA SOHN: What inspires me to keep going is a sense of deep joy and fulfillment I derive from my work.  I do the work I do now—ministry and writing—because it fulfills me so much and I feel that they are the perfect channels for expressing my interests and strengths.  There is perfect alignment with my internal desires and my external work so it’s easy to just keep going.  My work becomes a grind when there’s misalignment in some way or I’m over-working.  Whenever I notice myself avoiding or resenting my work, I take those as clues to look closer to see where I’m misaligned with a certain project or whether I just need some more rest.

 

 

KATHERINE CARVER: How has becoming a mom impacted your creativity, writing, and ministering?

LYDIA SOHN: Parenting is the most awe-inspiring and at the same time, challenging experience of my life.  This experience then, inevitably provides abundant material for me to reflect, write and preach about.  It has been said by many parents that our love for our children gives us a clarifying lens through which to understand God’s love for us a little more.  This has most certainly been the case for me.  Whereas before parenting, I spent most of my life striving to earn God’s love and favor, I soon realized after I had my son that God’s love and favor have been with me from the very beginning, and is non-negotiable.  In that way then, my life is no longer a test with loaded temptations but rather, a generous gift for me to enjoy. 

Being a working mom has also helped me to create better boundaries.  I am much better at saying “no” to projects or commitments I’m not fully passionate about because if I’m not protective of my time, I will wear myself down and subsequently, hurt my family.

And finally, because I’m a type-A kind of personality who derives a lot of satisfaction from work and productivity, parenting has forced me to slow down and trust in the process of life; to focus less on producing and focus more on being present.  I know I only get one chance to parent each phase of my son’s life and I won’t ever be able to rewind time so this reminds me to be here fully. 

 

 

KATHERINE CARVER: You help people cultivate their authentic selves.  What advice do you have for others trying to do this?

LYDIA SOHN: Oh my goodness, I teach an entire workshop series on this so it’s hard for me to encapsulate it here now.  In a nutshell, the theme is: march to the beat of your own drum.  Stop measuring your value and worth based on others and social expectations.  Follow your joy and align with your own values, not others’.  And if you don’t know what those are because you’re so disconnected from your true self, observe what lights you up and fulfills you and start doing them.  Take small steps and slowly, those small steps will open up an entire path for you.  I’m going to release some workbooks that give step-by-step instructions on how to do all of this so subscribe to revlydia.com if you want to be in the know about those workbooks. 

 

KATHERINE CARVER: You have some of the most thoughtful blog posts, which I find to be especially helpful.  How do your blog ideas come to you?

LYDIA SOHN: They come to me in exactly the same way that Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron describe.  I don’t sit down and think them up.  They come to me at the most random and odd times, like when I’m driving or at 5 a.m. in the morning.  They are, of course, ideas I’m experiencing in my own life so those ideas are not external to me but the way those ideas coalesce together and show themselves to me feel like a process that’s external to me. 

 

 

KATHERINE CARVER: One of my favorite blog posts you have written was on the topic of surrender.  How has a practice of surrender impacted you personally?

LYDIA SOHN: If I didn’t practice surrendering in my life, my whole life would be a major struggle.  I love to control my life and its outcomes.  Part of this is a sign of healthy self-confidence because I really do see myself as the agent and artist of my own life, which I believe God has bestowed upon all humans to craft as they wish.  At the same time, I have to hold this truth in balance with the other truth that there are some things in life we can’t control.  Along with that, God’s ways and perspectives are so much greater than our own so I continually remind myself to trust that my life will unfold according to God’s timing and ways rather than my own.  As frustrated as I get, it is ultimately marvelous that there’s something so much bigger than us with a greater wisdom and perspective who always guides us. 

 

KATHERINE CARVER: What is your favorite quote and why is this your favorite quote?

LYDIA SOHN: I just love Marianne Williamson’s famous words, “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” Of course, the entire paragraph from which this sentence comes from is amazing but this little sentence is the one that always stays with me.  One’s inner light is a theme in almost all religious traditions, including my own, Christianity, and Jesus says something similar to Marianne when he says, “You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-16).

The reason why I derive so much comfort from these words is because I struggle a lot with the “who am I” kind of thinking.  Who am I to be doing what I love and pursuing my dreams when there are so many people struggling and suffering out there?  This kind of thinking probably derives from my conservative Christian background that glamorizes suffering and sacrificing your dreams and comfort for the sake of others.  Intellectually, I know that this is all crap and that life doesn’t actually work like that yet of course, it’s a long process to let go of entrenched beliefs one was raised with. 

 

KATHERINE CARVER: What advice do you have for living a creative life? 

LYDIA SOHN: Follow your joy.  If you don’t consider yourself a creative person or don’t know where to start, I would recommend beginning with small projects so as to not overwhelm or intimidate you.  Try the Pomodoro Technique.  So if you want to write, just do it 25 minutes a day on a random subject like what your kitchen looks like in the morning.  If you want to dance and have stopped, just do it a few minutes each day or once a week.  As hard as it may be, try to detach yourself from what others think of your work.  It’s natural that we should want to refine our crafts but don’t let others’ perception of your work determine whether or not you pursue it.  If it gives you joy, then that’s the whole point, the only point. 

 

 

All images are courtesy of Lydia Sohn.

You can read more interviews here.

Accept: Quote of the Day

 

It has been an incredibly chaotic week here, and I came across this quote this week from one of my favorite books by Rachel Snyder, that really resonated with me, and maybe it will with you, too.  Happy Thursday!

Accept – Recognize what you can change and what you can’t.  In every moment, accept that everything is as it should be.  Accept that your body is round and fat and glorious.  Just love it.  Accept that you don’t do things the way everyone else does.  Just embrace it.  Accept that sometimes your belly hurts, sometimes you don’t have enough money to pay the light bill, sometimes life is hard.  Just cry and move through it.  Accept that you can’t do it all — and who would want to anyway?  Accept a kind word.  Don’t apologize.  Accept a gift — no matter how big, how small.  Say Thank you without embarrassment.  Accept that life isn’t always fair and find the wonder in that, too.  Don’t accept things that aren’t yours, like misdirected shame and blame.  Like credit for someone else’s accomplishment.  Like disrespect.  Accept everything you are and nothing you are not.”

Good Read: Rest


 

Recently between feedings, naps, and reading before bed, when I can, I recently finished reading, Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang.  It was a good read and also enlightening and insightful, especially entering this year, 2019, where I hope to make more time for rest, despite having a baby, where things always seem quite busy.  The premise of the book is how rest and work are integrally connected and that you actually can be more creative and efficient when one gets proper rest.  I highly recommend it, for all, especially creative persons!  It certainly changed my perspective on rest, work, and creativity.  I think dogs have a great perspective on rest that we can learn from as well!  Some favorite quotes from this book are shown below!

“…it is not constant effort that delivers results but a kind of constant, patient, unhurried focus that organizes the investigator’s attention when at work and is present but watchful during periods of ease.  Devoting yourself only to the first and neglecting the second might make you more productive in the short run but will make your work less profound in the long run.”

“Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost super human capacity to focus.  Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work.  The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking.  Their creativity and productivity, in other words, were not the result of endless hours of toil.  Their touring creative achievements result from modest ‘working’ hours.”

“We think of routine as the opposite of creativity: things done by routine require little thought and leave no room for creative interpretation of flexibility.  In reality, German sociologists Sandra Ohly, Sabine Sonnentag, and Franziska Pluntke argue, routines can enhance creativity.”

“A combination of routine and freedom, a world laid out to support creative work while reducing unnecessary distractions and peripheral decisions, nicely describes the world that focused moorings and routines make.  And if creativity is supported by routine, rest is absolutely dependent on it.”

“In order to keep rest from being invaded by work or crowded our of your day by a long to-do list, you need to use your routine like a fortification to protect your time.  That same routine also lets you get more done and makes you more creative.  It’s another example of how work and rest are subtly connected and mutually reinforcing.”

“Naps can provide an opportunity to have new ideas.  The studies show that you can learn to time your nap to increase the creative boost that it provides, make it more physically restorative, or probe the traffic between the conscious mind and unconscious mind.  Napping, in other words, turns out to be a skill.”

“Frank Lloyd Wright likewise advised architecture students that in the afternoon ‘a short nap was a must,’ as it ‘divided one day into two and helped to refuel the creative spirit.'”

“Dalí argues that the real work of painting happens while the artist sleeps, particularly in the nights before starting a new painting.  He urges readers not to regard this sleep as a period of ‘inactivity and indifference.’  To the contrary: ‘It’s precisely during this sleep,’ he says, ‘that you will secretly in the very depths of your spirit, solve most of its subtle and complicated technical problems, which in your state of waking consciousness you would never be humanly capable of solving.’  It is in the dream that ‘the principal part — that is to say the sleep — of the work is already done.'”

“Naps are powerful tools for recovering our energy and focus.  We can even learn to tailor them to give us more of a creative boost, or provide more physical benefit, or explore the ideas that emerge at the boundary between consciousness and sleep.”

“The deliberate stop also makes you more productive over the long run.  Many writers start their careers believing that the best work is done in bursts of inspiration only to discover that they do higher-quality work and get more done if they pace themselves.”

“Creative work is a marathon, not a sprint, as writer (and marathoner) Haruki Murakami put it.  In both running and writing, ‘once you set the pace, the rest will follow,’ Murakami says.  ‘The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed — and get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage.”‘

“Whether they’ve looked at memories of creative people or measured the effectiveness of breaks on performance on divergence tests, they’ve found that breaks provide a fairly consistent boost to creative thinking.”

“But you don’t do great work by sprinting to the finish; you’re more likely to accomplish great things by stopping at a strategic point and continuing the next day.”

“Sleep turns out to be important for the maintenance of the brain’s physical health and the growth of new brain cells.  It’s essential for the consolidation of memories and processing of new skills, and for the interpretation of experiences.”

“Sabbaticals give creative people a chance to reanimate their creative lives, explore new interests, and make life-changing breakthroughs.  Together, they help intelligent, ambitious people stay curious, engaged, and productive, and help them lead long creative lives.”

“At first, researchers mainly investigated the benefits of exercise for healthy aging, but studies now show that for people of any age, gender, or athletic ability, exercise can increase brain power, boost intelligence, and provide the stamina and psychological resilience necessary to do creative work.”

“Exercise generally has indirect but positive effects on creativity.”

“Workaholics are more likely than other people to feel anxiety about work when they’re out of the office, and exercise provides an outlet for nervous energy and a different focus for mental energy.”

“We shouldn’t be surprised that people manage to be physically active and do world-class work.  We should recognize that they do world-class work because they are physically active.”

“Because play is voluntary, intrinsically rewarding, mentally and physically engaging, and imaginative, it’s often absorbing and effortless; even when it’s physically challenging or uncomfortable, it’s not difficult in the same way a hard day at work is.”

“Deep play is a critical form of deliberate rest and an essential part of the lives of creative people.  It provides a way to unify what might otherwise be disparate and scattered activities into a unified whole, a life that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

“For creative and prolific people, seeing outside activities as expressions of the same interests that guide their professional lives builds a bridge between the worlds of work and rest and help turn these activities into deep play.”

“Deep play is also striking because even if it speaks to the same profound interests and uses common skills, it also establishes clear boundaries between work and play.”

“Sabbaticals can also play a critical but easily overlooked role in one’s intellectual development.  These don’t have to be the scheduled well-organized sabbaticals that are a prized feature of academic life.  Some of the most powerful life-changing sabbaticals are relatively short.”

“The most fruitful sabbaticals, like other forms of deliberate rest, are active.”

“Yet a weeklong sabbatical can be restorative when done skillfully, and even a monthlong sabbatical can be life-changing.”

“A life that takes rest seriously is not only a more creative life.  When we take the right to rest, when we make rest fulfilling, and when we practice rest through our days and years, we also make our lives richer and more fulfilling.”

“Taking rest seriously requires recognizing its importance, claiming our right to rest, and carving out and defending space for rest in our daily lives.”

“Deliberate rest is not a negative space defined by the absence work or something that we hope to get sometime.  It is something positive, something worth cultivating in its own right.”

“Deliberate rest help organize your life.  It also helps calm your life.”

“Deliberate rest helps cultivate calm.  It deepens your capacity to focus, which helps you complete urgent tasks while driving off anxiety.  It encourages you to work steadily rather than wait for a burst of inspiration.”

“Deliberate rest also gives you more time.  At an everyday level, deliberate rest helps you work more effectively.  It frees time in your calendar by helping you maintain stricter boundaries between work and rest time, and use your leisure time in more fulfilling ways.  By helping you find forms of rest that don’t compete with work, deep play and deliberate rest reduces your sense of time pressure.”

“Finally, deliberate rest helps you live a good life.”

“Rest is not idleness.  When we treat rest as work’s equal and partner, recognize it as a playground for the creative mind and springboard for new ideas, and we see it as an activity that we can practice and improve, we elevate rest into something that can help calm our days, organize our lives, give us more time, and help us achieve more while working less.”

Videos: Creative Insight

While working on the final edits to my long-term photography project, there were days when listening to other artists came in really helpful.  Below are a few favorite, good listens, if you are interested.

 


 

Sally Mann:

Interview with Charlie Rose, 2015.  One of my favorite quotes by Sally Mann, “Yes. Again, I don’t know if it’s an intellectual process, although I may ask myself intellectual questions.  I think the difference is that I used to be taking pictures to save things.  The impulse was to either take pictures to save something or to try and see what something would look like when it was photographed.  It was really just kind of an aesthetic exercise, and now it’s a lot more important to me to actually say something as opposed to save something.  I’m working from an intellectual construct and I’m trying to use the photographs in service to a concept, which I didn’t start out that way.”

Another favorite quote by Sally Mann, “I’m frantic.  I don’t waste any time.  I don’t waste time.  I work all the time.  I never leave home.  I mean, I just — I just stay honed in on what’s ahead…It’s the only way.”

 

Dani Shapiro:

Dani Shapiro: Office Hours, 2017.

Good Life Project, “Writing as a spiritual practice,” 2014.

Marie Forleo, “Dani Shapiro’s Writing Process & the ‘Myth of Inspiration,'” 2018.

A favorite quote from Dani Shapiro, “In order to do what we love — whether we are woodworkers, legal-aid attorneys, emergency room physicians, or novelists — we must first know ourselves as deeply as we are able.  Know your own bone.  This self-knowledge can be messy.  But it is at the center of our life’s work, this gnawing, this unearthing.  There is never an end to it.  Our deepest stories — our bones — are our best teachers.  Gnaw it still.”

Another favorite quote by Dani Shapiro, “It is in the thousands of days of trying, failing, sitting, thinking, resisting, dreaming, raveling, unraveling that we are at our most engaged alert, and alive.”

 

Elizabeth Gilbert:

TED Talk, “Success, failure, and the drive to keep creating,” 2014.  One of my favorite quotes by Elizabeth Gilbert, “The only trick is that you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it.  And if you should someday, somehow get vaulted out of your home by either a great failure or great success, then your job is to fight your way back to the home the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next.  You just do that, and keep doing that again and again and again, and I can absolutely promise you, form long personal experience in every direction, I can assure you that it’s all going to be ok.”

TED Talk, “Your elusive creative genius,” 2009.  Another one of my favorite quotes by Elizabeth Gilbert, “And what I have to sort of keep telling myself when I get really psyched out about that is don’t be afraid.  Don’t be daunted.  Just do your job.  Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be.”

Another favorite quote from Elizabeth Gilbert, “I live a creative life, and you can’t be creative without being vulnerable.  I believe that Creativity and Fear are basically conjoined twins; they share all the same major organs, and cannot be separated, one from the other, without killing them both.  And you don’t want to murder Creativity just to destroy Fear!  You must accept that Creativity cannot walk even one step forward except by marching side-by-side with its attached sibling of Fear.”

 

Brene Brown:

99u Conference: Why Your Critics Are Not The Ones That Count, 2013.

Chase Jarvis: LIVE: Daring Greatly to Unlock Your Creativity, 2010.

A favorite quote from Brene Brown, “Unused creativity is not benign.  It metastasizes.  It turns into grief, rage, judgment, sorrow, and shame.”

Another favorite quote by Brene Brown, Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation, and change.  It’s also the birthplace of joy, faith, and connection.  To create is to make something that has never existed before.  There’s nothing that is more vulnerable than that.”

Let Nothing Stop You From Your Work

 

 

Below are some ways you can consistently create space to complete your creative work!  I am in the process of working through final revisions of my images for my project, which is getting close to complete, but very tedious work nonetheless.  Below are some concepts that have helped carry me through this home stretch.

1. Set a Schedule – Setting and sticking to a schedule to work on your creative endeavors is really important.  Otherwise, too often, time slips by with little work completed.  Take advantage of little bits and chunks of time, even if that is all you are able to work into your schedule.  Small, incremental progress adds up over time, and you will be amazed how much you can get done in a small amount of time, if you put your mind to it!

2. Dedicated Work Space – Having a dedicated work space frees you from distractions, while providing a place where you can surround yourself with items that inspire you and make you feel the most comfortable.  Also, don’t be afraid to mix things up every now and then — working from the deck on a nice day can be a refreshing break in the routine, particularly when your creative juices have stalled.

3. Be in Alignment — It helps me significantly to be in the optimal frame of mind while I am working.  As a result, I have found working early in the mornings provides me the best time where I can focus and be most productive.  Finding your ‘optimal work time’ and sticking to this schedule really does work to facilitate progress in one’s work.

4. Explore Other Creative Interests – Working everyday on the same project or types of projects can become a drain, at times.  It is easy to get stuck in a creative rut and fall into patterns that you may not even realize exist.  Exploring other creative interests, can provide you an outlet that is different enough to keep your mind stimulated, while still keeping you thinking about your creative work from a different perspective.  Thus, it is a good idea to pursue other creative endeavors that you enjoy simultaneously.

5. Get Ample Sleep – Sleep deprivation can make it difficult to focus on anything, let alone your creative work.  When you are tired, you are not going to have many creative insights; and when your body is not at its best, neither is your mind.  Thus, it is important to have ample daily sleep to help you continue to steadily pursue your creative projects.

6. Take Breaks – If you find that you are in the “zone,” and you find yourself working for hours, then embrace it.  During these times, you often can produce your best work.  However, a couple of regularly scheduled breaks, throughout your work day, can serve as a great way to re-energize.  When you get stuck, it is a good idea to take a break, as it forces you to stop and step away and, during these breaks, you are more likely to see the problem you are trying to solve in a new light.

7. Regular Exercise – Daily exercise is a great way to get your creative juices flowing.  It provides space and many people devise ideas while they are exercising that they would not otherwise discover.  So, if you are stuck in you creative project, go take a walk or run, and you will be likely to solve the problem or road block that you are facing.

No matter what, if you truly want to start or complete that project you have always wanted to start or finish, you will find a way to make sacrifices in order to make it come to fruition.  It will not be easy, but it will be worth all of the effort and time that most people can never discern that went into creating the work.  Here is one of my favorite quotes from a dear mentor, Deborah Samuel, “Follow your passion, even if you do not know what lies on the other side.  Passion is infectious to people; and passion is at the root of creating art.  Keep believing in your work and use your passion to help you push through and keep going.  The right thing(s) happen when it is supposed to happen.  Most importantly, put your work on the line and keep pushing your boundaries.”

Most of all, just keep going and . . . let nothing stop you from your work!

Happy Monday!

Uplifting Quotes

It is officially spring, as of yesterday; however, we are currently getting a large amount of snow here!  It feels anything but spring-like!  Our fur girl, Victory, is not a fan of the snow; and we are honestly ready for spring ourselves.  We hope that spring will appear really soon and stay!  As such, below are some uplifting quotes!

Happy Wednesday!

 

Photographer, Tomio Seike, Overlook

Have you see these beautiful images from the series Overlook by the Japanese photographer, Tomio Seike?  Taken from a window in Seike’s holiday apartment in Brighton, England, Overlook documents the changing light and muted color tones of a particular stretch of beach, as well as capturing its regular visitors.  At first glance, the photographs could be mistaken for paintings.  Each image features a large expanse of water, overshadowing the unidentifiable figures in the image, visible only as dark spots in the shapes of two or four-legged beings.  Seike waits for the picture to present itself, observing the people who come daily to the beach to spend some of their time.  Seike occasionally waits hours at his window for nature to contribute to the pose, for the rough waters to calm, for the light to clear, for the sand to make evocative lines.  Importantly, Seike combines the abstract and traditional, using only natural light, while simultaneously capturing the quiet moments in life most people fail to notice.

 

 

All images by Tomio Seike.
Tomio Seike is represented by Hamiltons Gallery.

A Necessity: “White Space”

 

 

“White space” is negative space.  In design, it is balancing the remainder of the design by providing some relief on the page or screen, which helps focus your visual attention.

What if you analyzed your daily schedule with an eye towards design?  Some questions one can ponder are: Have you preserved enough “white space” within your daily work?  Or does the way you design your day look very busy and cluttered?

We all need white space in our daily lives just as much as we need it in designs because the concept is two-fold: If our lives are over-cluttered and over-booked, we cannot focus properly on anything.  Importantly, this way of working actually diminishes our ability to think creatively.

In their book Scarcity, the researchers Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir make a compelling case for how “time scarcity” — the state of being constantly over scheduled lessens our imaginative powers.  Below is an excerpt:

Because we are preoccupied by [time] scarcity, because our minds constantly return to it, we have less mind to give to the rest of life.  This is more than a metaphor.  We can directly measure mental capacity or, as we call it, bandwidth.  We can measure fluid intelligence, a key resource that affects how we process information and make decisions.  We can measure executive control, a key resource that affects how impulsively we behave.  And we find that scarcity reduces all of these components of bandwidth—it makes us less insightful, less forward-thinking, less controlled. And the effects are large.

If we want to create an environment that nourishes innovation and imagination, we need to build quiet points into our daily rhythm.  These small moments of “white space,” where we have time to pause and reflect,  go for a walk, or just breathe deeply for a few moments  are what give balance and flow and comprehension to our lives as a larger whole.

It is important to see how you can open up your schedule and let some white space in.

But what exactly is white space?  Ultimately, that is up to you to define what works best.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Sitting quietly and letting your mind wander
  • Free drawing with no specific objective
  • Going for a walk around the block
  • Doing a mini-workout
  • Journaling and writing
  • Taking a short nap
  • People watching
  • Meditating

Ask yourself: Do you have enough white space in your daily routine?  Or do you plow through an over-cluttered schedule day after day, unconscious of how much this pattern is cramping your creativity?

Consider building a few white space blocks directly into your schedule weeks in advance so that no matter what meetings or deadlines come up, you still have time blocked off to take a few moments and think about the big picture or think about nothing at all.  Not having enough “white space” in one’s life will eventually lead to immense burn out and significant fatigue.

We’re All Pros Already

Here is a little inspiration for today from one of my favorite books…

We’re All Pros Already

We’re all pros already.

1) We show up every day

2) We show up no matter what

3) We stay on the job all day 

4) We are committed over the long haul

5) The stakes for us are high and real

6) We accept remuneration for our labor

7) We do not over identify with our jobs

8) We master the technique of our jobs

9) We have a sense of humor about our jobs

10) We receive praise or blame in the real world

— Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

 

Mornings…

Mornings.

Over the past few months I have been rising in the mornings with Doug, around 4:45 a.m.  At first it seemed quite early to rise, but I have adjusted; I pretty much wake up now on my own around this time, on most mornings during the work week, and even sometimes on the weekends.  (We do make sure we go to bed early during the work week).  I am working on final edits for my photography project, and I find that I work best in the early morning, versus other times of the day, while the entire the house is very quiet, Victory is back in our bed resting (after potty), and meanwhile, it is still dark outside.  It is also nice to watch the sun rise.  So if you are trying to get a project done or trying to find extra time in your day to get something done or begin something that you always wanted to do, I highly recommend utilizing the early mornings.  You will be amazed how much you can actually accomplish during this time frame.

What I have found from this practice is that it is best to show up every single day, even when it’s hard.  I have also found that it is best to suspend expectations and the be present and in the flow of work and not be occupied or concerned with what gets done or how.  Some days you will be ‘in the zone’ and everything will flow; and other days, you will feel tired, the work will feel more difficult to wade through, and it feels like little progress is being made.  Sometimes, however, when you hit a roadblock, it helps to step away and work on something else and come back to the issue that is giving you a problem or difficulty; giving space, during these times, will help the issue resolve, without much effort.  It is amazing.  Sometimes I will be stumped on an image that I have been working on for a long time, without resolve, and them I step away for a couple of days, and it finally resolves, i.e., I figure out what I need to do to make the image work.  Nevertheless, just keep going.  Roadblocks are not permanent, they are chance to persevere.

“I work all the time.  I never leave home.  I mean, I just stay honed in on what’s ahead.” — Sally Mann

“It is the thousand of days of trying, failing, sitting, thinking, resisting, dreaming, raveling, unraveling that we are at our most engaged, alert, and alive.”  — Dani Shapiro