Choosing

Happiness and Creativity

A person is who they are for a number of reasons, one of the main ones being that they are influenced by their inputs. What you consume has a huge influence on what you produce, and being deliberate about your consumption means you will be deliberate about what you create.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I am quitting my day job. One of my objectives for this new journey is to focus on developing my ability to choose happiness over wealth, creativity over recognition.

Happiness and creativity must be kept separate from wealth and recognition, because the former are things you can control, while the latter are not.

To Help Friends

Another part of my journey is to focus on helping loved ones, with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

This last weekend, I helped my cousin take a load of garbage to the dump. This wasn’t just any garbage. This was disgusting mattresses and moldy carpet covered in cat piss.

But, I didn’t mind doing it. In fact, I kind of enjoyed doing it, because it felt good to help him. Afterward, I felt energized to do more.

That being said, this new adventure may take me to dire straits at some point down the road, but having friends to lean on is a comforting thought.

The takeaway for me is this: I should expect to ask for help at some point down the road, without expecting to receive it.

Future Prospects

I am becoming increasingly of the mind that I never want to go to another job interview again. However, this may just mean I need to shift my perspective about possible job interviews in the future.

The thing is, I’ve always approached job interviews from a place of scarcity and desperation, which makes me nervous and anxious. This is now how I wish to show up in the world. I want to get to a place where an interview means I am the one interviewing the company.

I don’t want to see if I’m a good fit for them; I want to see if they are a good fit for me.

While the thought of being an employee again grows less and less attractive, I am aware of the possibility that I may end up hating self-employment. If that ends up being the case, I’ll need to be sure that my next job search yields a beneficial outcome.

A job is an input. It takes up space in your brain. If that’s the case, I want to be deliberate about which jobs I allows into my life.

The same could be said for my relationships.

Solitude

Both writing and spending time in nature are activities of solitude. The different is that one is output, and one is input.

I’ve been listening to “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport on Audible. One of the key purposes of practicing digital minimalism is to re-claim solitude.

Solitude allows us to think our own thoughts, free from input from others.

Part of the problem with social media is that it robs one of solitude if they spend too much time on it. This is a result of not being deliberate about inputs.

Final Question

Today, have you:

  • Helped someone else?
  • Spent quality time with your loved ones?
  • Spent time in nature?

Time Has Value, Too

At the beginning of the month, I’m quitting my day job to become a full time creative. This is a long time coming. I don’t know what’s in store for me, but at this point, I feel like it’s the right decision. The way I spend my time is important, and my day job takes away from what I could be doing.

Of course, now I won’t have a regular income. So, what am I going to do about that? 

For starters, I have been saving up for a while, so I have a buffer. My finances will definitely be taken into consideration whenever I make an important decision about my time. But that won’t be the only consideration, nor will it be at the top of the list. Money can’t be the only thing that guides my decisions. I realize that there will be a significant amount of time in which I will be making little to no money at all. That’s okay.

I’ve reached a point in my life where my time is more valuable than money.

If I fall below a certain threshold in my bank account, that’s how I’ll know it’s time to start looking for another day job. 

However, in the meantime, my primary focus will be on sharpening the tool set, refining my skills, learning new things, and spending time with the ones I love.

I don’t quite have a concrete plan set in motion. I have a somewhat vague direction I’m heading in and a few projects I will focus on, with the hope that one of them may one day bring in some amount of revenue. I realize this is a bit of a gamble, but like I said, if my bank account falls below a certain threshold, I’ll get another day job, and I’ll be in pretty much the same place I am now…except for the key difference that my skills will be a lot sharper. 

And maybe I’ll even get a gig that I somewhat enjoy and am good at.

Anyway, I’m not super concerned about that yet.

The possibilities are endless at this point. I’m just going to move forward, and try to optimize my time.

I want to see how far I can take these projects, and no time like the present.

I anticipate a rough journey, but at least I have goals to aim for.

And I have people to support me, so I’m not alone.

I’m just giving my creativity the chance I’ve never really been able to before. My day jobs have always used up too much of my time, not to mention physical and mental energy, so my creativity has always been left with the scraps.

I know the day job isn’t the only thing to blame. The other key problem was that I was never disciplined enough to develop routines for my creativity…until I started writing, that is.

But, now that I have, I see how important my time is. If I don’t spend the time doing the thing, the thing won’t get done.

So, that’s where I’m at this week.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with this:

Is your time more valuable than money?

Minimalism, Social Media and Convenience

I recently moved out to a rural area, and while I have internet, it’s not exactly optimized for streaming video, which means I watch far less TV and read a lot more than I did when I was in the city. To me, it’s a perfect example of how your environment affects your behavior.

More and more I’ve been realizing how detrimental the excesses of convenience can be to my personal development, so I’ve been trying to use “inconveniences” (like limits on internet usage) to my advantage. When I have less to work with, I find creative uses for what I’ve already got. In short, I’m more likely to take action because there is less out here to distract me.

I took a social media detox last July, and wrote about my experience here. I’ve rarely logged in to social media since, and am quickly reminded why every time I log in.

I also quit Netflix over a year ago and have never looked back. Netflix and other streaming services are included in those excesses of convenience I mentioned previously. For the most part, I avoid TV shows like the plague because it’s so easy to binge. I’d rather read long form stories than watch them.

Filling Your Pockets

I see life like a jacket with a shit ton of pockets which society pressures us to keep full at all times. There is no apparent reason to fill these pockets other than the person next to us is filling their pockets, too. And so is everyone else.

The problem, of course, is that the more you have in your pockets, the harder it gets to move around. It takes significantly more energy to take a single step, than it would be if the jacket was less full. I guess I’m just trying to pay attention to what I’m carrying, and fill my pockets with the right stuff, without overflowing them.

Moving into a tiny home prompted me to get rid of a lot of junk. Not having as much stuff in my physical space has allowed me to focus more on what matters. I view work in a different way, and consistently return to the question of why I do any given task. The purpose is to create purpose.

To help me get into this mindset each day, I make my bed first thing in the morning. This kicks my brain into gear, so I can move on to my next task, which is always either writing or exercise (depending on the day).

I’ve also been using Google Calendar to organize my days, so each hour, I know what it’s time to work on (or if it’s time to take a break).

The Perceived Relevance of Social Media

I don’t use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. — basically, all of the tools that many say are required to be “relevant”. I’m not exactly sure what that even means. From what I’ve seen, most content on social media is relevant only to itself and inconsequential to all else. It’s junk food for the mind.

Any value equated with social media can be acquired in a much cleaner way from physical, social interaction, nature and books.

These services have tricked us into believing they are necessary for us to live meaningful lives. And I take issue with that, especially because each of us could do more good for the world if our default state was something other than “distracted”. Everyone is looking for answers inside the screen, when the answers aren’t there to begin with.

That’s my belief, anyway. Of course, I’m always happy to engage in civil discourse on the subject.

Your Time is Yours

There are a lot of resources out there that tell you how to write a book. These resources can be helpful, but they will only take you so far.

Whether you’re a newbie, or an old pro, I doubt you’d disagree that the best teacher of writing is writing itself.

You could watch every single how-to video on YouTube, or read every book on writing, and still not know how to write a good story, because the best way to learn how to write a book is to…write.

You can’t get better at playing the piano if you just stare at sheet music all day and never actually play. You can’t get better at painting if you only go to art galleries and never pick up a paintbrush.

The hard truth is this: Getting good at writing takes time and effort. If you really want to get better, you have to make it a priority.

Be consistent. It’s no secret that quantity leads to quality. Maintaining a consistent practice, whether daily, weekly, or every other Tuesday, is paramount to your success as a writer. If you’re unable to stay consistent, can you identify what’s holding you back? Maybe it’s your living situation, your work schedule, or other obligations. Or, maybe it’s something internal–a mental block or some sort. Whatever it is, there are things outside your control and things within your control. Where do you think you should place your focus?

Change Your Environment. Your environment has a direct effect on your behaviors. So, try experimenting with it a little bit. Move the TV to a different room. Set a cut-off time for phone use. Let your family know you’ve set a block of time dedicated to writing and you can’t be disturbed. An environment that’s not conducive to writing will make it that much harder to get anything done.

Evaluate Your Downtime Activities. The next best thing to do besides writing is reading. Books should be your default downtime activity. If you say you want to be a writer, yet you spend more time watching TV or using social media than reading, well…good luck, I guess.

So, take a look at where you’re at, currently.

Your time is yours, no matter how it may seem.

Don't Beat Yourself Up

This last weekend was the first day in two years that I’ve missed writing.

I had gone to a friend’s house the previous night and stayed up way later than I normally do, and then I had to drive back home early in the morning because my daughter’s mother had to work and my daughter couldn’t be home alone.

The result was that I only got about five hours of sleep, was super tired (and slightly hungover) all day, so didn’t write at all.

I didn’t beat myself up about it, though, because that would’ve just been a waste of time. I had a good time with friends and that’s what matters.

I was able to get back to my writing routine the following day because I’m consistent.

You don’t need to write every single day, but if you want to get anywhere with your writing, you do need to be consistent. This means something different for everyone. Whether it’s once a week, twice a week, or on your lunch break, consistency is key.

The moral of the story is that while consistency is good, it’s also easy to get locked into the trap of being overly productive, and trying to work too hard. Writing is important, but you’ve got to live your life, too, y’know? It’s okay to miss a deadline every once in a while. The world will continue to spin.

Just try not to consistent in missing out on what matters to you.

Writing and the Day Job

Writing Lessons

Creating threads. I find that as I go through subsequent drafts, I add more things, and re-arrange them. For instance, midway through the story, I might think of something and create a new thread to add more depth to my characters, and then go back to an earlier part of the story and write in the kick-off to the thread there. It’s like putting together a puzzle. Finding where things go, removing pieces that don’t quite fit and placing them somewhere else.

Writing Every Day. This, to me is one of the most important things you can do as a writer. Otherwise, you waste mental energy deciding whether or not you want to sit and write in any given day. 

Reading More. Reading helps me write better. Knowing the right words to put down on the page takes practice and an understanding of good prose.

Social media is a destroyer of attention spans. Everything in our society has to be acquired right now for little to no effort. This is detrimental and anathema to being a good writer. To write well requires a large amount of focus and attention to nuance, which are all mostly lost on social media. Maybe I’m just an old man, but for me, social media does more harm than good. On top of that, it takes people away from reading books. So does TV. 

Writing 1000 words a day

Getting out all my thoughts on the page is really important. I find that it helps me process things and arrive at conclusions I wouldn’t have otherwise. My life is a process of experimentation right now, and reorganizing my schedule has been the result of figuring out what is important to me (and what’s not) by writing out my thoughts.

This is better than just sitting and thinking about these things, because thought without action is nothing, and writing is action.

But, it can’t stop there. In order to have interesting things to write about, you need to have interesting experiences. 

Day Job

I guess that’s another thing about my day job. Being chained next to my computer all day prevents me from doing a lot of things. I can’t have certain experiences. It would be very difficult to garden or just take a nature walk, for instance, with my current situation.

There is so much I’d be able to do if I didn’t have this day job nipping at my heels. So, yeah…I’m going to get out of this really soon. I need to. 

Then, I can finally write about shit besides my day job. I’m tired of writing about my day job. There’s nothing to speak of that I haven’t already said. I know how I feel about it. I need to quit. 

I just need to hold out until I’ve saved up my target amount. Quitting will be a bit of a scary thing no matter how much I save up, but as long as I keep up with the flow of my creative work, I’ll be fine. And If I need to look for another day job down the line, I will, but I’ll do everything I can to make sure that does not happen. 

I sure as hell don’t ever want to work in an office again.

Thought + Action = Change

Your Environment Affects Your Life

Earlier this week, I noticed I started playing video games in the morning. This is not something I ever used to do on weekdays. Before I moved into the tiny house, I read actual books during breakfast. After I moved, my new environment made it a little awkward to eat and read at the same time, so I’d listen to an audio book or podcast with breakfast.

Then, I moved my computer up to the loft. This is where my bed, TV and video games are. Now that I have everything in one place, more of my time is spent here. Naturally, my eating routines moved up to the loft along with my computer. Since I eat breakfast while playing video games on the weekends, my brain associated the two things and I just wanted to do it. So I did.

The good news is that I was cognizant of these things. I’ve been a lot more aware of my habits and routines recently, which makes it easier to determine where I am, what I’m doing, where my behavior needs to be fixed. I found it interesting how significantly my actions changed because of a small change in my environment.

This morning, I chose to read instead of play video games.

Writing to Solve a Problem

One of the reasons I write every day is to work things out in my mind. When I write down my thoughts about certain subjects as they come to me, it helps me look at things in a new light, and arrive at different conclusions than I might have otherwise.

For instance, I’ve been thinking about quitting my day job for a while now, and yesterday I had more thoughts about it. I’ve managed to move into a remote position, which has vastly improved my quality of life. However, I still have days where I throw my hands up and tell myself I don’t want to do this anymore.

So, I spent about an hour or so writing out my feelings, and soon I was breaking down each of my worries, coming up with solutions to each one, and creating a plan for my next steps.

The conclusion I arrived at is that things won’t be as bad as I imagine they’ll be if I quit. I have enough saved up to last me quite a while. I know that I will quit, I just haven’t decided on the date that will actually happen, though. I’m still working things out. But, I’ve realized that if I continue writing my feelings on the subject, eventually it will lead to further action.

All that to say, writing is great for dissecting and analyzing your thoughts.

Work that shit out.