Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Doing the meaningful things first

Sometimes we don’t get around to doing our creative work.

We get busy doing all the things that need to be done and before you know it it’s 3 in the afternoon and we are too tired or have a headache or think we might be more creative tomorrow.

It’s never going to happen if you do it that way. Let's face it, you’ve tried it, and it didn’t work.

Instead, make a small commitment to do something creative every day, and do your small creative commitment first thing. I know some people who even do it before breakfast, but I need food and caffeine too much for that. But you do need to move your creative expression right up the list, right to the very top. Then things will start happening.

Be aware of how you’re spending your time and who you are spending it with. Create your days with some intention – don’t let them drift by in chores and distractions.

Let’s answer these questions:

What did you learn to do better this year?

What activities have been taking up more of your time than you would like?

Do you have enough time for the people you love?

Are there any things you’d like to be doing that you don’t do?

Is there any way you could make faster progress in doing the things you’d like to be doing? 

These questions come from p. 9 of David Riklan’s excellent book 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

40 days of journal writing....

Yep, that's it.

I am making a pledge to journal every morning for 40 consecutive days, and I will chart my progress on here. Of course, I journal 4 or 5 times a week as it is, but I want to explore this as a creative and spiritual discipline and see where it might take me.

We need to create a habit of journal writing.

I would invite you to join me, from today, in your own 40-day challenge of journal writing.

The best thing about a challenge is that, if the well really is dry, we can write about that very sense of not knowing what to do.

But in our creative life there is always something to write about – some challenge, some question, some joy, some realisation.

If we are on the creative path, every day offers a new insight – at the very least a sentence we can write.

Even if we did a sentence a day – what a fascinating 40 sentences that would be!

But I would urge you to consider 40 days, 5 minutes a day, simply asking the page: what do I need to know right now?

There is no right or wrong answer!

Sometimes our creative spirit is expressed in the quotidian. Perhaps the very best and most powerfully creative thing you could do that day is the ironing – it’s been piling up for days.
But write about how you feel – what were your thoughts during the ironing? How might we have made it a creative task? Or perhaps it already was?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Journal Your Challenges - an exercise

Sometimes our challenges really build up and begin to suffocate us.
And sometimes we are not in a position to share these worries with other people. Sometimes sharing them with others is not the right thing to do.
But we can always share them with our journal.


Write down a  few sentences about a challenge you are currently facing in your life.

Write down the principal emotions that challenge evokes in you.

Can you turn this challenge into a question? Or is there some specific element you need to work out? Write it down.

Now lets sit together in meditation for a few minutes, our eyes closed, asking ourselves that question, looking for answers. But please just stay in meditation – no writing anything down.

Keep asking yourself that question, over and over. It is your mantra, your koan.

Now write down any responses or answers you received. They don’t have to make sense. They don’t have to be the perfect answer, or any answer at all. Just write down what came to you as you sat with that question.

Any insights?

Were you prompted to take some action?

I want you to review the observations that come to you during this process. What doesn’t make sense today may be perfectly clear in two days time.

These responses have come from somewhere deep inside you – or perhaps outside of you.

Either way, this is a process that makes you realise that your journal is an invaluable practical friend. And it will never get bored with your silly questions – and it cant be hurt by your doubts or annoyed by your anxieties.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

MONDAY, 8th February 2016 at 7.30pm - Walter Mason will lecture on Om Mani Padme Hum & the Dragon Kingdom of Bhutan



MONDAY, 8th February 2016 at 7.30pm at the Academy of Light

Walter Mason

Walter Mason

Om Mani Padme Hum & the Dragon Kingdom of Bhutan

Walter has recently returned from the remote and mysterious Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. In this tiny Buddhist nation almost everyone is devoted to the practise of the mantra of “Om Mani Padme Hum,” and believe it brings them good health, luck, enlightenment and peace of mind.
In this talk Walter will discuss the practise and meaning of this mantra, and how we can incorporate it into our own lives. We will also explore the crazy wisdom of their beloved sage Drukpa Kunley, devotion to the Medicine Buddha and some of the other fascinating elements of the spiritual lives of the Bhutanese.

Where : Mosman Arts & Community Centre, Cnr of Art Gallery Way and Myahgah Road. When: Monday Nights 7.30pm – 9.30pm Entry : $15.00, Concession $10.00 Finish time is 9.30pm


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The 16 books I'm going to read to inspire my creativity in 2016

I just read Danielle Duell's post on Linkedin in which she listed the 16 books she plans to read in 2016, and I thought it was a terrific idea. So here are the 16 books I have selected to read next, books that I think will especially stimulate my creativity throughout the year.

1. Walden by Henry David Thoreau - I've never read this classic of American literature, and I feel it's time.

2. One Day My Soul Just Opened Up by Iyanla Vanzant - I read this back in 2010 when I was travelling around Cambodia, and it had a profound effect on me. I feel it's time to re-visit it.

3. Fear Not by Carol Tice - I think it was recommended in a blog post or on a podcast, but I just feel like this might do me some good. My confidence waxes and wanes.

4. The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod - I don't actually need much convincing that early rising is a great productive habit. I do need to discipline myself more, though.

5. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill - I have actually read this one a couple of times before, but not in a few years, so it's time to see what I might be able to get out if it right now.

6. The Achievement Habit by Bernard Roth - You can tell I am having anxiety issues about productivity.

7. All of P.G. Wodehouse - OK, this is a bit of a big ask, but at some stage in 2016 I want to teach a course on the English comic novel, and this just has to be done.

8. All of Ian Rankin - Another mammoth project. I am working on a crime novel of my own, and everyone says that Rankin is the one to study.

9. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke - Never done it, and it is a glaring gap in anyone's library of creativity. Plus I'll be able to look my friend Stephanie Dowrick in the eye, as she wrote the book on the subject.

10. The Cruise of the Snark by Jack London - I loved Jack London novels as a boy, and I still think he is an absolute master. This is a book of his I haven't read, and hadn't even heard of it till I saw Susannah Fullerton give a lecture on the Mills & Boon company, who originally published this.

11. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

12. The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr - Because I am a memoirist, and because I teach memoir writing and love the form.

13. The Art of War by Sun Tzu - I've never been able to finish it. But I'm meant to know a lot about Chinese culture, so it's kind of embarrassing.

14. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield - I love it, and this will be my third time. I always get inspired by this book.

15. The Art of Work by Jeff Goins - Because he's a nice guy and one of the thought leaders I've decided to follow closely this year.

16. Bleak House by Charles Dickens - I adore Dickens, and I am a member of the NSW Dickens Society, but I have never read this one. More gap-filling.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Todd Henry's Die Empty - a review

I don’t think I have ever endorsed a book with such a controversial title. For me it is without any import – I rather like the idea of dying empty, having used up each and every ounce of creativity and passion. But a surprising number of people react negatively to the title and the concept. I have used this book several times now teaching creativity courses, and there is always one or two people who shrink from the title.

If you are one of those, I apologise, but I also urge you to overcome you initial reaction because Todd Henry’s book is really quite exceptional and has been a major source of creative inspiration to me for some time now.

Todd Henry

In Die Empty, Todd Henry offers some indispensable advice on avoiding the aimless life and recognising the potential for happiness here and now. Henry is one of those ubiquitous modern marketing gurus in the Seth Godin mould who have sprung up in the age of podcasting and social media with a unique style of life and career advice specifically aimed at a media and technology savvy generation. He is always interesting, and never more so than in this book.

It is also quite brutal advice, encouraging people not to be self-deluded. Henry offers the example of the hapless, hopeless contestant of the TV reality talent show, the one destined for the “worst of” show who is surrounded by well-meaning mothers and friends who encourage them in their delusions. Yes, well have innate talents, but in any cases these talents require a great deal of careful discernment, and can potentially be overshadowed by externally-imposed (or confected) dreams of greatness.

Neither is success necessarily about wealth or possessions. Henry is not of the “3 Ferraris” school of motivation, with a cheque for a million dollars pasted up on one’s ceiling. Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting some sort of material comfort, it is just that Henry suggests much of what fulfils us and uses our greatest talents may not necessarily be big moneyspinners. It is ultimately more important to create energising personal narratives built around more lasting motives.

Henry advises us all to take “small, calculated risks” each day in our quest to become greater and to be of greater use in this world. It is passion for our actions that drives us and makes us happy. The age of duty is perhaps over, at least for those of us living in the more privileged world. If we are not bound to take on work that will support our families and guarantee their welfare then we find our moral obligations in other places, principally in the direction of those vocations where we find ourselves belonging. Our moral duty has shifted to an obligation to make the most of our talents, and to use them in life-celebrating and fulfilling ways. To ignore these talents and focus instead on a mundane life is its own sort of sin.

It’s a challenging book, as the title indicates, and is not for readers who want to look for excuses. Henry tells us we have to acknowledge the areas of resistance in our lives (echoes of Steven Pressfield’s work here) and move on through them. Perhaps at heart we all want to be great, or at least to contribute something to the greater good of humanity reading Die Empty might make you start taking this destiny more seriously, and convince you to start planning the final years you have left. An uplifting and motivating read, this is a book I am certain to return to again. Check it out.

Monday, November 9, 2015

20 Ideas a Day

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

One of the daily practices that has enriched my life and convinced me that I am an endlessly creative machine is the ’20 Ideas’ ritual. It is something that still excites me, and I love it so much I can’t wait to sit down and do it – on the train, at my desk, at a coffee shop and sometimes even in bed just before I go to sleep at night.

It’s a simple idea, and one which I first heard listening to one of Brian Tracy’s audio programs. Much to my shame, I can no longer remember which one, and it is one of my projects to re-listen to them so that I might be able to reference it more properly.

It is also an idea that had popped up again more recently in a book by Claudia Altucher called Become an Idea Machine – one to check out. Writing out ideas harnesses the power of intention – we make solutions seem possible, and remind ourselves of our own incredible resourcefulness. And we provide ourselves with physical evidence.

So, now to explain this radical method and how it works. Prepare yourself to take copious notes as I expound on it in intricate detail. Here it us:

Sit down at some point, every day, and write down 20 ideas about a subject that is worrying you.
Or anything at all.

That’s it.

20 numbered points, one beneath the other.

Then go and get a cup of coffee or listen to an old Chantoozies song. Your work is done for the day.
I do it every day. Beginning a project, in the middle of a project or deep in the detail of trying to make a project work. I simply sit down and think of a problem or challenge or event that is happening in my life. And then I think: “What are 20 things I could about this, 20 ways I could approach it, 20 ways to make it happen?

And then I list them. The thing is, it needs to be 20. The first 4 or so are easy. The next 5 get harder, and the last few are impossible and you start writing down crazy stuff, or consulting other resources. And that’s where the magic happens. You must make yourself write down 20 possibilities, no matter how ridiculous. Interesting things can often crop up right at the end.

Now don’t get stressed. This is not a “To Do” list. You don’t have to do anything with any of the ideas. They are there to prove a point – the point that you are an inventive, resourceful person who has a practical response to anything. And sometimes we need that proof.

Let me give you a practical example, using a real-life situation and an actual list.

Topic: I want to sell more copies of my Destination Cambodia ebook


1.    Do a blog tour

2.    Do some Facebook ads

3.    Do some more talks about Cambodia around the place

4.    Get people to review the ebook on Amazon

5.    Pay some attention to my Amazon author page to see if I can attract more readers

6.    Do a blog series on Cambodian topic with this as the call to action

7.    Review some more Cambodia-related books

8.    Take a new trip to Cambodia to give me some more material to write articles etc. and so remind people about the book

9.    Host a travel-writing workshop at the local Cambodian temple

10.    Lead a Cambodian-themed food tour through Cabramatta

11.    Teach my Cambodian history course again at adult education places

12.    Do my talk about Angkor Wat at some more places

13.    Do some more library events

[OK – these all came easily. But right here I was officially stumped. So this is when I draw upon my resources – either start dreaming or look up some ideas online or in my own notes]

14.    Lead a tour to Cambodia [having already failed to get one of these tours up it is a painful and quixiotic idea, but it is still an option and still something I’d like to do].

15.    Get some ideas for promotion from Success magazine [this from a master list I keep of things that I have done before to promote things. Success magazine is a great resource for ideas, which is why I have subscribed for years].

16.    Publish some Cambodia-related pieces on Linkedin [from Fauzia Burke’s blog post 7 Great ways to Promote Your Ebook, which I just Googled].

17.    Do some promoted posts on my Facebook Fan Page. [I’ve never actually done this before, and have no idea if it would work, but I am here to try new ideas, right?].

18.    Send a special reminder to my email list [from Denise Wakeman’s blog post 19 Ways to Promote Your Ebook, which I just discovered online. I normally don’t send such sales-ey emails, using my enewsletter to promote events, blog posts and interesting things I have discovered. I am sure my list would forgive one such].

19.    Use Canva to create some really eye-catching images for Google+ with a link in the description. [OK, I know Google+ is pretty much a spent force, but the people left on there seem really committed, and I know for a fact that most of them have never bought my book. Some might not even be aware of what I write about. This could result in a couple of sales]. 

20.    Create a list of friends, fans and supporters and approach each of them individually and ask if they would send out an email or social media message on my behalf [this from a blog post on okdork.com called How to get an eBook to #1 on Amazon. I sometimes do ask friends to help spread the word, but I have never compiled a proper list as this writer suggests doing. This has worked quiet well for me in the past, and I have also recently been approached by someone to do just this, which I was more than happy to do. Some people like being asked to help].

So there you have it. 20 rather good ideas that I am actually going to take the next step with and turn into a real Campaign. But maybe more on that process in another blog post.