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Reasons to Create – Besides Views and Likes

When it comes to being an artist, I’m not a fan of social media. If you read my views concerning Instagram and using it to get follows and likes, you probably gathered this already. But, in a climate of so many creaters, its probably crossed your mind once or twice to just down tools, and find something else to do. Or, maybe you’ve been tempted to sacrifice what makes your work unique for something more uniform, more sharable. More potentially viral.

This has happened to too many. Sometimes, a born artist just isn’t a born advertiser of their own work. Maybe modesty gets in the way, or the paranoia that many will say you think you’re better than you are puts you off. For me, self promotion is just a nightmare, and I can’t do it. I can’t be one of those people who sends out their own work to the personal accounts of potential audience members. I tried it once to see how it went, and I just felt like a double glazing sales person.

On the flip side, I also question why being an artist means, to other people, that you should get your art out there. Now, hear me out. I know what you’re thinking, what is the point? What is the point in creating artwork if you’re the only person who sees it, or at most, the friends and family who follow you on your Facebook page?

The thing is, self promotion can be exhausting. I’ve said it before, I think some artists *ahem content farms ahem* but more effort into social media and making sharable content than actually putting effort and passion into their work. Its disheartening to say the least, but you shouldn’t stop.

So why should you keep creating, even if you don’t want to advertise?

1. Its nice to have a talent – I love creating. Its something I’ve always done, and it’s one source of self pride I have when I feel a bit rubbish. Whether it’s painting, sketching or pottery, I’ve always found myself feeling much better after doing something; as long as you like it and feel proud, what else matters?

2. An outlet – creating can relieve stress. Whether its a mindful exercise or just something to take your mind away from something causing you anxiety, having that time away to just make something with your own skill can be highly cathartic.

3. It doesn’t mean you can’t make money – over the last few months I’ve had a few commissions; birds, family portraits, and pet portraits. Sometimes, family can be very useful for singing your praises, and soon the requests start rolling in.

4. Its not how it used to be – one of the most widely used anecdotes artists use to console their lack of sales is that Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime, to a man called Julien Tanguey. But we are not in Van Gogh’s lifetime, and now, so many styles and methods are accepted that if Van Gogh were of today’s generation, his success may have been different. Who knows. Its mere speculation. But, again, there’s just so many artists battling for follows, recognition, views… who knows whether Van Gogh’s work would have been so unique and distinctive in today’s climate?

5. It might happen one day, so keep going – as arduous as it might be, if you’re that sure you want to get recognition, then just keep going. Stick to your principles and style, don’t be afraid to try new things if that’s what you want to do. Work up your portfolio, and stay true to yourself. Utilise your imagination. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to stumble across you.

6. You can still inspire – a couple of months ago, I went to London in something I can only describe as escaping. I just felt generally rubbish, and needed a change of scenery, people, all that. One day, I was walking around a very quiet National Gallery, and got a ping through Facebook. Someone had spotted the below painting on a page, and she was asking permission to try and recreate it. It was a lovely moment, and I was more than happy to give permission.

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Adulthood is Who You Are – Not what You’ve Achieved

I got accepted for an apartment yesterday. This might be no big deal for many my age (27) but it is to me. This is not only my first apartment. I’m moving out of my family home.

I’ve been self conscious about this fact, because so many people I know are already married with kids, a house of their own. All that adult stuff we’re told makes you an adult.

But most of my friends haven’t got that far yet. And yet, they still felt like more adult to me. They drive, for one. I don’t. I’ve settled on the fact that I’m just not meant to be a driver, and frankly, I’m okay with that. I’ve failed my test enough now to know its not meant to be.

I have been treated differently for this reason, however. Because I don’t drive or have chosen to stay at home until I could save enough for a deposit, I’ve often been called out for my lack of life experience. But this isn’t life experience. Its just a different life experience.

I’m sure loads of people my age have confronted this… this self anxiety, for want of a better term. Lying awake at night, wondering whether that person is more adult because they’ve done this, or done that. But now I see the use in having these thoughts. It really makes you see just what makes an adult. Is it a belief that as long as you have a car, house and bills, you quality as the font of wisdom? Or is it an awareness that often, these are just drilled into us to keep us spending, because apparently adulthood is so desirable?

So what if my life experience is different? I’ve still done my degree. I’ve still been in full time employment for my whole adult life. I’ve still paid my taxes. I’ve known work stress and anxiety, I’ve travelled much more than those who boast more life experience and have the driving licence to prove it.

So I say this; don’t be self conscious about where you are in life. I’ve gone too long thinking that I’m deserving of the condescension. If I’d followed that path, I wouldn’t feel what I feel now. Being an adult and being a grown up are two different concepts.

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My Favourite Classic Novels – And Not Because They’re Classics

There are people who read classics, because they’re classics. And yes, when you say you’ve read something and you get called well read because you’ve read that particular book, its nice. Even when the individual doesn’t seem to have a very good grasp on what being well read means, it feels good, because you know what it means.

But there are some who only read the classics for that reason. And that might mean spending hours on a book, not really enjoying it. So I’ve decided to make a ‘in no particular order’ list of some of my favourite books, that just happen to be classics.

1. Persuasion, Jane Austen – I went through a Jane Austen stage a couple of years ago when I read each completed novel, back to back, starting with Pride and Prejudice. That, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion were my favourite ones. I never really gelled so well with the others. But Persuasion remains top, because of its maturity. While the others focus on a girl or a woman in her late teens/ early 20s, Anne Elliot is a woman of 27, who has alot of regret. She’s the relatable one in a family of snobs who’s sole care is connection’s and vanity. A bit like a parody of many of the Austen families that came before them. The book sees Anne reunited with the man she turned down years before (because of her family status), during which she deals with the regret of potentially seeing him married off elsewhere, believing he no longer loves her. The draw for me was that for most of the book, I just wanted them to interact. So much is spent in that awkward phase of strained politeness and pining, that the resolution is a huge relief, and I’ve read that ending multiple times. Side note, the 1995 movie, available on YouTube, is just perfect.

2. Villette, Charlotte Bronte – there’s something about Charlotte’s work that seems to draw me in better than Emily’s, and I think its because her characters were based on herself, which gives the lead character dimension. Villette is the story of Lucy Snow, as she grows up to work at a French school as a teacher. The love interest, M. Paul, isn’t perfect by any means, and can be a little loathsome at times. But, he is essentially kind and good, and that just makes his suggested fate all the more tragic.

3. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky – It’s a bit of a grim story, but not all good stories make you feel good things. It tells the story of a student in need of money, planning and committing a murder to attain it. We spend the vast majority of the book watching this character’s descent into madness over the guilt of his crimes and the paranoia of being caught, despite having covered his tracks. It studies a man driven to crime despite what turns out to be an otherwise good and kind character who has shown heroism, and who ultimately seeks redemption.

4. Anything ‘Jeeves’, P G Woodhouse – I’ve talked about these stories in one of my previous posts, and for good reason. I just love them. The style, the way of talking, the narration by Bertie Wooster. They’re all short stories within themselves, with quietly absurd plots and a bunch of rich people getting stressed over silly things like moustaches and posh relatives. The interactions between Wooster and Jeeves are wonderfully comical, particularly when Jeeves is unhappy about something Bertie has done. It’s always lighthearted, too. And we need a bit of that in our lives.

5. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens – it’s short and wonderful and one of my favourite stories of all time. I watch every adaption I can get my hands on at Christmas. Reading it just extends the experience, prolongs the anticipation of his redemption, and is just a lovely, cosy festive read. With candles, and a fire. And a blanket. And cake.

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‘Today I Did’ Lists – Like To Do Lists, But With More Possibilities

I love to do lists, and I loathe to do lists. Making a to do list can make one feel so productive, so important. You can look upon it and think, there. Now all I have to do today is to achieve all these things, and I’m productive. I’ll be achieving something. I will go to bed tonight, and I’ll sleep soundly.

More often than not, however, my lists go incomplete. I’ve not done my 15 minutes of Duolingo French, or put my washing away, or any other apparently essential task that will take me one step forward to being a fully functioning adult who feels smug with all the things they’ve managed to achieve before tea time. Not achieving these things make me stressed, no matter how little or unimportant they are. It means going to bed with no sense of achievement at all, and that is toxic productivity for you.

So I’ve had a brain child today. This evening, actually. I’ve realised I’m much more productive without a list, and so the ‘what I did today’ list is born. Its basically making a list of, well, what you did that day. It’s probably already a thing, and nonetheless my present brain child probably needs a snappier name. But even if it is already a thing, this is why you should be doing it.

1. No set up for fail – it’s tempting to put too much on a to do list. Five items doesn’t seem enough, but 10 does. 15 – even better. But sometimes, a small task (such as my 15 minute Duolingo sessions) can seem daunting when written down. Only doing 10 minutes might mean not being able to tick it off. But, instead of focusing on what you didn’t do, at the end of the day, making a list of all the things you managed to achieve in the last few hours could make a huge difference. A 10 minute Duolingo session can finally make the cut.

2. Better quality – if I put myself down to do something, I’ll probably feel like doing the bare minimum, just so I can tick it off. It counts, right? But it doesn’t always feel good doing things that way, and can take the fun out of it. In contrast, doing something spontaneously, like a run or a big cleaning session, can probably turn out better than if planned. We’re doing it because we want to.

3. More productive – for me, this has made me more productive, and I see things as less of a chore. This evening, I cleaned the kitchen, recorded a video for my YouTube channel, designed some Christmas cards for my mum’s care home, and cleaned my office before bed. I felt like I was doing something, and it felt a damn sight better than squeezing everything in before six just to be able to relax.

There’s probably a ton more reasons I could come up up with, but at the end of it, everyone’s different. To do lists do have their plus points, but in the age of toxic productivity, we tend to place more focus on what we fail to get done. And in the age of toxic productivity and the mental strain of a pandemic, surely we should be cutting ourselves some slack, and drawing on the positives?

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How to Not Lose it While Remote Working

I’ve been working from home now since the first lockdown began, and, i’ll be honest, at first the idea was exciting. I’d never worked from home before, and my head was filled with plans of all the stuff I was going to get done with my time. I’d finally be able to have a proper healthy breakfast, instead of a packet of breakfast biscuits on the train. I’d be able to swap sitting at my desk staring at my phone during lunch for a jog, or yoga, or taking the dog a walk. Anything active. But, as time has gone on and the company I work for has evolved in its strategies to keep us all connected, we’ve all expressed feelings of isolation, and actually missing the social aspects of office working.

But, for me anyway, and as for many, remote working might be here to stay, at least in some context. It’s been a mixed bag, but there are some ways you can not only cope with remote working, but make the best of it, too.

1. Take control of your work environment – an office is a public space. While that’s pointing out the obvious, while we’re feeling lonely and cut off, it might be an idea to remind yourself of the more negative points of sharing a work space. If you want a window open, open a window. If you want music, play it. If you want all the lights on, power to you. In an office, the control of the environment either comes down to the management, majority, or that one person who throws awareness for others to the wind and opens a window when everyone else is shivering in their coats.

2. Wake up early…but not too early – take advantage of the fact that your desk is only a few steps away. That might mean staying in bed for a few minutes more, doing the housework, or a getting a workout in.

3. Get dressed – I’ve made the mistake of slipping into the habit of staying in my jams a few times, and those are the days I feel a bit rubbish about things. I love getting ready, and putting the time into one’s appearance can make a world of difference. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to be on camera; jams are for sleeping in and lazing around when you feel like it. But a productive mindset might just start with a shower and fresh clothes.

4. Split the day with something active – whether you get an hour or half an hour for lunch, that time can have many possibilities in how it can be used, that just might not be accessible in normal office circumstances. Go for a run, or find a workout on YouTube. My office has become my gym, too, with a desk treadmill at the side. This has also taught me that I dont need a gym membership, so in the long run (huhuh) I’m saving money, too.

5. Screen breaks – Take them! – I never know what to do during a screen break at work, and end up either working through it because I don’t want to look like skiving, or dashing to the toilet. Because making a cuppa doesn’t take 5 minutes. But now, I do a bit of reading, knitting, or just something else that tickles my fancy.

6. Meetings – particularly during company wide meetings, with one person talking while everyone else is muted and no ones camera is switched on, I’ve done something else. Commissions, finished books, made paper flowers, made apple pie… I’ve had naps, too. Under a blanket, earphones in, lovely.

7. Mindfulness/ meditation – while I’ve been remote working I’ve been listening to a lovely classical radio station called Scala radio, and every day at 2pm they have a mindfulness session. Whenever I put this station on, I get myself comfy, maybe grab some cake or pie that I’ve made, and just listen, all in the moment. Its only about 10 minutes long, but its worth it.

8. Meditation in the morning – branching off of the last suggestion, a bit of meditation first thing does help. Particularly during these anxious times, its nice to just create a moment and breathe. Meditation used to stress me out, because I thought your mind has to be absolutely clear of thoughts to work. Like, you couldn’t think of anything. That’s what alot of guided sessions said, anyway. So I gave up. But thinking you can’t think of anything makes it worse, and you end up thinking because you’ve been told not to. This is the White Bear effect; don’t think of a white bear! Did you? Now, more practices encourage you to acknowledge the thoughts that occur to you, and then recentre. I’ve found that my days are much more relaxed after doing this for around 10 minutes, even if I’m not great at it yet.

9. Make taking care of yourself a priority – it’s easy to get frustrated with the situation. Its easy to allow one run in to effect your day; I know I have. And I know how easy it is to let yourself get worked up over one minute mistake, and maybe you’re worked up because someone has placed disproportionate importance on that mistake. I’ve lost sleep over mine, and thats were vicious cycles begin. But don’t let them throw you off. Eat as healthy as you can, but allow yourself a lapse now and again. Take time out for your creative endeavours, and at the end of your day, relax and think of all the good things that happen. Treat where you went wrong as learning curves, teachable moments.

10. Have fun with it! – play your music loud (be considerate of the neighbors, mind) and just sing, or dance, at your desk. I do. No one can see or hear you (if you’re alone, anyway) and if they do, like the window cleaner did earlier today when I had no idea he was cleaning an open window, shrug it off. It probably gave him a laugh. People need a laugh right now, so good deed to me!

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So what if you’re not a career type?

I’ve had a few jobs in my time. Not as many as some, but maybe more than others. That makes me sound like I can’t hold down a post, but I spent 5 years at my first company while I studied for my degree part time. It was clerical, mundane, and same old. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.

There’s a comfort in repetitive jobs. Whether yours may be desk post like mine, or production operative (I’ve done a bit of that, too) or call centre job, we’ve probably all had a moment (or moments) where we’ve doubted the importance of our role in the wider scheme of things. Scrolling through Instagram doesn’t help, watching your friends, or strangers for that matter, apparently ‘doing life’ better than you. All these phrases and buzz words start emerging for what we see; living their best life, winning at life, life goals. Career types who travel for work and wear sharp, flattering outfits. Al fresco breakfasts on the patio of the villa they’re staying in for the week to get away from the hustle.

It can make one feel quite inadequate, can’t it? But the grass isn’t always greener, as they say.

As I’ve said, I work a desk job. Its dull, and for now, a bit dead end. But I can listen to books on Audible, and go for a job in my lunch break. I can work at home, and I count it as a blessing that my work has gone otherwise uninterrupted during the pandemic.

I’ve known some of these career types, however, personally. It isn’t always pretty, and there’s a lot of sacrifices. My fiance was a teacher for about a year, and goodness, he hated it. The good intention was there, and I’m sure he was a good teacher, too. But that was only a small part of a job that demanded too much evening time, too much weekend time, and holidays that could only be taken at certain times of the year. He made himself ill for a long time, and finally he quit to work for my old company. Someone else I know has no hobbies, and has never travelled out of the country (we live in the UK) because he just doesn’t see the point. That’s okay, but the career he has placed so much importance on is actually going nowhere.

Now, I am only speaking from my point of view. There are many people out there with careers and lives they enjoy, and have found that balance. But I reckon there’s more of us who have had those doubts late at night, knowing we have the potential. Sometimes, knowing we have potential is good enough. But sometimes, it makes it worse. It makes it feel like we’re wasting a gift.

But I think, from my experience, careers aren’t worth it. Last year, I had the opportunity to work in a counselling setting. I’m a qualified counsellor, and I’d be getting the chance to interact with patients. I was also assured in the meeting that in time, I might be referred to train as a counsellor myself.

But I hated it. I dont know what it was, but I hated it. I missed the safety of mundane, repetitive, no stress. I felt guilty, because I’d looked forward to this job so much. But then, I learned that maybe educational endeavours and professional don’t always mix. I learned that sometimes, your aspirations might not always be what you want to do, but what you want to want to do. What you think you should want to do.

So now I’m content with my desk job. I’m well travelled, studying for my masters, with a load of hobbies and I’m writing stories. And I dont think i’d be that person if I was a career type.

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Being an Artist on Instagram – Is it Toxic?

I’ve been drawing, painting, sketching literally since I was a kid. When I was 5, I drew a dinosaur from a book, and I was so proud of it I glued it to my dad’s birthday card. That was all I needed. As long as I was proud of what I’d done, that was enough.

However, today is a different day. Art is something wider, further reaching, than it used to be. Today, we often judge our talent by the number of likes we get on a post on Instagram. We judge our capabilities on the number of followers we have.

But more doesn’t always mean better.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s some wonderful, talented artists out there, and their work speaks for itself.

And then there’s Follow for Follow.

So a few weeks ago I decided I wanted to get my work out there a bit more. More often that not, I’m content with creating at my own pace, when the moment strikes.

But sometimes, I wonder what the point of creating is if no one’s seeing what I’m creating. Essentially, its an argument at the root of most, if not every creator since creating began. To be seen, to be approved… to make money.

And this was how I learned about follow chains (probably the term, but self explanatory). Basically, you added yourself to a list and sent it to a number of people, who were meant to do the same in some context. Or, you’d post your account link to Facebook groups and promise to follow back. I found out that many people probably put more effort in this part than the actual creating.

Now, it did work a bit. But it didn’t feel good. I knew that these people weren’t looking at my work, which was what I wanted. That’s all we all want, really. But numbers talk.

I want to say that I’m not judging these people. The Internet is so full of creations that we have to come up with ways just to be seen. But what I dont like is the sense of failure that comes with it, and the disappointment of not being seen more.

I had to take a social media break after that stint. It was disheartening, seeing so many sacrifice their creativity, their originality, for something sharable. Something that was going to be approved of, understood instantly, something in the hope of getting likes and followers. Art, to me anyway, should be a projection of oneself. Or, it should be something we are ultimately proud of by ourselves. Regardless of social media performance. If we haven’t got pride in ourselves, what is it worth?

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Classic Movies – Why I Recommend Them

I love old movies. When many people hear this, or they think of an old movie, they think of something made in the 80s, or even the 90s. I still struggle with the concept that really, those movies made in the 90s, the ones that came out around the time I was born, are now considered old.

But the old movies I’m talking about were made back in the 30s, 40s. Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart. Fast spoken comedies, everyone in suits regardless of their jobs. Random dance scenes. No CGI whatsoever. To me, this was the best of cinema. To me, too many people don’t give them a chance. So here is a list as to why I think you should. Yes, I know. But I love lists. They’re so organised!

1. The storytelling – many romcoms that come out today use tried and tested formulas. Boy meets girl, fall in love. For the classic movies, these formulas were fresh, new, lacking the convolution of what we have today. Sure, some of the screwball comedies had certain common traits; ‘Made for Eachother’ and ‘Vivacious Lady’ both feature James Stewart falling in love with a woman and marrying her after one night of knowing her (both happen within minutes of the film starting, so no spoiler there), while Cary Grant remarries his ex wife in both Philidelphia Story and His Girl Friday (yes spoilers, but both are delightful watches and predictable anyway). But nonetheless, these films were where the ideas started, where the cliches began.

2. It’s probably been remade – You’ve Got Mail is a remake of The Shop Around the Corner, and predictably i think the latter is better. Now I do like You’ve Got Mail, and it’s so similar in its concept that its impossible to dislike it too much beyond certain cheesy moments. But The Shop Around the Corner takes place in mostly one place, and gives the romance the scale that fits it. It’s not a lowly book store owner falling for a millionaire competetor without realising. Its two people working in a store, always around each other. Its plausible in ways that You’ve Got Mail isn’t. And it’s modern in its writing; the shop staff are fleshed out. The main characters are intelligent and well read, and not because they work with books. They don’t, but Meg Ryan knows all there is to know because she works with books, and thats kind of it.

3. A different time – these movies were made in a different time. Standards were different, the age was different. Today, some ask for the deletion of these movies because they do not match up to todays standards. But I think this is why we need to watch them, and keep them around. I watched a movie the other night in which a character put black make up on his face as a disguise, but that was okay then. While we might cringe now, I think these films should be around just to see how far we’ve come. And that goes for the treatment of women, too.

4. The Style – just the look, the sound of everything. Quick quips, sharp suits and equally sharp dresses. Everyone was so well dressed, and spoke so fast, and with such wit. It was classy, and fashionable, or at least it was on film.

5. Just storytelling – Frankenstein (1931) was one of the earlier uses of contact lenses in film… and they looked so damn uncomfortable. Sounds were made using materials at hand rather than a computer, and invention had to be used for the rest if something new was to be made. The Lady Vanishes, for example, was groundbreaking for showing dream like visuals such as double vision. It was relevant to the story, and didn’t distract from it in any way. Besides that, movies focused on the story, acting and dialogue. No distractions to increase the run time, and if we were shown something truly mindblowing, chances are it was a first.

A new take – novel adaptions were very popular back then, but they werent always faithful to the book. Sure, they were essentially the same story, and ended in much the same way, but there were also some tweaks. For example, Pride and Prejudice (1940) made one certain cretinous character ultimately act in the interest of the characters’ happiness, rather than social conventions of the time. Little Women (1949) almost entirely focused on Jo’s story, creating a sense of perspective as opposed to dipping in and out of the girl’s lives like subsequent adaptions.

The drama – finally, just the drama of it all. Today, many romcoms go for the understated quirky characters, quietly neurotic and loudly mundane in their lives. But classic characters wear their hearts on their sleeves, swooning all over the place and being all passionate and all that. And they could make drama out of anything too, with the right lead.

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