motivation

What's your soap box topic?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA After writing this post about people who are completely passionate about their work, I got to thinking about things that really get me revved up. Things that make me talk like these people talk: on and on and on, because I'm really into what I'm talking about.

And right away one topic came to mind. It's my go-to soap box topic, except I'm not really complaining about anything. It's something that I honestly find MIND-BLOWINGLY FASCINATING and I am always mildly surprised and a little bit sad when I realise nobody else is there with me.

So here it is. Please imagine me talking faster than usual, and gesticulating wildly, letting my tea go cold or my wine get warm. It's possible my eyes are just a little bit cray-cray. If that scares you (erm, why would it?) feel free to click away now…

One day when the kids are all grown up and the mortgages are all paid off (in other words when I'm 90ish), I want to go ahead and undertake a PhD on the origins of religion and mythology. Proper research study, not anecdotal or speculative "the gods were aliens because you can only see the Nazca lines from above" stuff.

Because to my mind there are just too many similarities in the world's spiritual stories for there not to be a REASON. Look at the resurrection themes in the Christian and ancient Egyptian stories. Or the creation texts of the Jews and the Mayans: there's water, separation, a serpent, so many symbolic parallels. Water and a great serpent are at the centre of a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories, too. Now look at the demigods of the ancient Greeks and the Romans: they are the offspring of a human-divine pairing, and they are great and powerful heroes. Now take a look at the story of the Nephilim in Genesis of the Bible/Torah scriptures: they are the offspring of angels and human beings (other translations say "the sons of god and the daughters of men"), and they are known as "the giants and heroes of old."

I get that some of these stories travelled through cultures through wars and along trade routes, which COULD explain story parallels in, for example, the Middle East. But what about South America? Australia? There are SO MANY stories with similarities, all over the world and throughout the ages. Where did they start? Is there truth in any of these? If so, what IS that truth? Who started this millennia-old game of Chinese whispers?

Once upon a time our ancestors didn't worship any gods, and then one day they did. Archaeologists can trace the beginnings of spirituality and religion in our ancestors, through signs of belief in the afterlife. A long time ago when someone died, we left them and walked away. Presumably we grieved because presumably we loved, too, but once a person was dead there was nothing more to be done for them. But then we started burying our dead, and burying them with items of significance. Items to go with them into the afterlife, to ease their passage or make their existence easier once they got there.

WHY? Why did we start believing in life beyond the material? What happened? Did it happen in just one place and then word spread, or did it happen everywhere all at once and then the different peoples and cultures developed their own stories in isolation from one another? Was it an actual god? Many gods? A spectacular and/or catastrophic natural event? Heck, let's indulge all the theories for a minute. Did aliens teach us how to build the pyramids? Were the "heroes of old" actually just another race that existed parallel to us, like the neanderthals (who, btw, also believed in an afterlife)?

Mind blown, right? Right?

Oi. WAKE UP!

So that's my little soap box rant and probably you won't be that into it and to your face I'll say "that's cool" but in my head I'll be thinking WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD? WHY DON'T THEY GET HOW AMAZING THIS IS?

Deep breaths.

And now I want to know: what's YOUR soap box topic? What gets you REALLY excited, as in, almost as excited as the mystery of the origins of myth? I promise to listen. I do. I really want to know. Go!

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13 ways to reignite your creative mojo

cactus The journey of the days and weeks deep and then deeper again into the winter season feels like a deliberate grinding down. A forcible slowing, as primal as hibernation. It starts on the first morning you realise you're getting up in the dark, and that night blankets the streets outside before the kitchen fires up for dinner. It gains momentum when the garden turns sparse and soil shows, black and hard, under the fallen leaves. When you pull your knitted hats and gloves and scarves out of storage. When your words float in visible clouds around your face as you leave the house in the morning.

Winter is a lesson in slowing down. In taking stock, in being more aware of the present. And I don't know about you but when I finally dial things back a bit, that's when the creative ideas tend to appear. It's as though my creative mojo is shy, waiting until most of the crowd in my mind has gone home and bunkered down where it's warm. Then, in the cold quiet of a winter's morning, ideas tip-toe back in.

So if your ideas have been shy of late too, or if they're just not being heard over all the stuff you've got going on, here are 13 ways to use the winter downtime to reignite your creative mojo.

Tend to your word garden. Or perhaps visiting a word gallery is more your speed, or sitting down to a word craft-table, or sweating it out at a word gym. It doesn't matter. The lesson is to do that thing that teaches your mind to unwind, relax, and let creativity grow. Failing that, just read this piece about "the word garden" anyway. It is beautiful

Notice the good. This tip for parents to "catch them doing the right thing" is actually a wonderful reminder for everyone. Try to look for the good in people, actively notice their better selves

Search for pockets of light. You might just find beauty

Solve an urban mystery. Like this cute story about "the dudes"

Be in the present. This beautiful neon clock, called ThePresent, completes just one revolution in 365 days. It inspires thoughts like this: "It's a reminder to stop everyday. It helps me find some grounding or a moment of reflection, a good thought, a deep breath..."

Unleash your creative soul, by signing up for one of these workshops

Make stuff out of cardboard. It doesn't have to be this fancy (but it could be)

Put down that phone. Step awayyyyy from the computer

And related to the above, start "single-tasking." This video is so funny, but true

Steal time for you. Whether you can grab five minutes or several hours, make the most of "me time"

Let others help you overcome your creative block. Danielle Krysa of The Jealous Curator has just published a book called "Creative Block" in which 50 international artists share their insights and exercises on how to get new ideas flowing

Show your joy. Don't be cool, celebrate it like a toddler

Write a love letter to a stranger

How about you? Do you have any tips for reigniting that creative spark?

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Winter mornings

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It is dark when I wake up, and Harry and I spend our winter mornings together on the rug of the lounge room floor in the gentle quiet of the predawn. I draw the curtains to let the day in but outside, the stars are still bright. Harry wiggles and squeals. "Dad dad dad dad dad," he says. I kiss his impossibly soft cheeks. "Say Mummy!" I tell him. "Dad dad dad." The door is closed to keep the heat from escaping. Through it I can just hear the soft click that means the kettle has boiled and I ease my way off the floor, feeling ancient, and shuffle into the kitchen to make tea. "DAD DAD DAD DAD" Harry yells cheerfully at my retreating form.

I love these early mornings and guard them jealously. Sometimes on a weekend, Mr B will offer to get up with Harry to give me some more sleep. It is tempting. I am sorely tired, and I haven't had a true, decent night's sleep in more than two years. Not one night. But these mornings are worth even more than sleep. So I drag my body out of bed and hold Harry's chubby little hot-water-bottle-body close as we climb down the stairs. Flip the kettle on. Ease Harry onto his mat on the floor. Tickle his ribs. "Dad dad dad dad." "Say Mummy!" And so another day begins.

It is so rare that I am still, in life, ever. Still of body or of mind. I multitask obsessively. I can't even relax doing one thing: I'll draw or craft or write while watching TV. I've never been good at meditating, I'm one of those people guilty of composing shopping lists and having imaginary conversations with people at work while supposedly entering a guided meditatively-zen state at the end of a yoga class.

But these winter mornings teach me to be present in a way that meditation never has. I sit on the floor and smile at Harry. There are books and magazines and my phone and my computer nearby and they call to me, but I have learned that the best mornings happen when I leave all those distractions closed. It's just me and Harry and that cup of tea.

I know I'm not the only one finding the pace of life almost insane these days. It's such a cliche to talk about the progress of time but have you realised that this year is already more than half over? Wasn't it just New Years? Just last month? Life tilts in a dizzying chaos, and any tasks I put off can languish neglected for months that feel like mere days. It's as though the rush and roar of our planet and its moon hurtling around the sun can actually be heard and felt, and in the cacophony of that cosmic journey we all have to yell and scream and jump up and down just to be heard. Even to hear ourselves.

But in the still, dark morning, the planets pause. The world hovers. Venus hangs like a jewel outside my window while the dawn waits to happen. My legs are crossed on the rug beside Harry ("Dad dad dad dad"), my fingers are laced around the Pantone colour mug I have chosen to match the mood of my waking (orange or yellow for energy, blue for creativity, sage green for calm), and it is perfect peace. Dawn can wait.

{All photographs licensed for unrestricted use under Creative Commons}

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Snail mail: never give up

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis morning when I opened my mailbox I got the best kind of surprise: mail from gorgeous person and motivator-extraordinaire, Katherine Mackenzie of The Beauty of Life. Katherine sent me two postcards, one on which she'd written a little message for me, and another that was left blank so that I could send it on to somebody else. My postcard featured a quote from Harry Potter author JK Rowling. "One thing is for sure: if you give up too soon, you'll never know what you'll be missing. Keep going and never quit."

This was EXACTLY what I needed to hear today, as I struggled to get on top of everything on my plate, and grappled with self-doubt.

And it reminded me of JK Rowling's incredibly inspiring commencement address on "The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination," made to Harvard students in 2008. Have you heard it? If you haven't, do yourself a favour and watch it right now. The next 20 minutes may be one of the greatest gifts you could ever give yourself.

 

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

... Or if you're not a video watcher kind of Internet person (as I so often am not, because I don't want to wake babies sleeping nearby), here is a link to the full transcript of the address. Get ye reading!

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What does your workspace look like?

home-office-1 What does your workspace look like? Do you like it clean and organised, or do you thrive on creative chaos?

I love those pictures of great writers sitting at their antique desks, all slumped and drowning under mountains of paper, with pictures in scraps pinned all over the walls, and old coffee cups, stacks of yellowed airmail correspondence bound in old string, desiccated red wine in dirty glasses, dusty armchairs, and dying, drying flowers… and they are invariably writing one or another of the world's literary masterpieces, you know? That would drive me CRAZY. Which is perhaps one reason why I haven't written any of the world's literary masterpieces lately. I can't even start to work until my desk is clear and my office tidy.

I'm the same in the rest of my living and working space. I can't stand it when the house gets too messy: suddenly everything feels like it's crowding in on top of me, I feel out of control and claustrophobic. Which seems a rather melodramatic sentence when I write it out like that, but it's true. That's just me.  First world problems, I know!

Anyway, all this is a lead-up to explain why things might be looking a little different on this website lately, if you've happened to have popped in to take a look. I've been having an autumn clean. I felt like my blog was starting to get a bit cluttered, a bit old and tired. I was uninspired. Like a dingy, messy old office, my blog needed a fresh coat of paint and some creative storage solutions. Some white space to make it feel clean and fresh. And some nice pictures on the walls to inspire me when the fog of creative block descends.

What do you think? Do you like it? I renamed the blog "Naomi Loves," because this space is all about the things I love. I painted a new header in bright patterns and colours, because they make me happy. My enormously talented friend Brandi Bernoskie tweaked these things to make it all work. I've made it much easier for you to subscribe to receive updates via email, if that's your thing, with a simple box on the sidebar. And there is some exciting content in the works, not the least of which that book I was telling you about!

Now, tell me about your workspace (online or offline). How do you make it somewhere you want to be?

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ps. Photos are old Instagram ones (remember when we all went beserk with the filters and the frames after it first came out?) of my home office in Adelaide. That was the most amazing workspace. I wish there was a way to replicate it everywhere I go!

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Positive thinking

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat a difference a day makes. 24 hours before taking these joyful snaps, I was pushing a pram along Drummond Street and wiping away tears with a paper towel (we are out of tissues). That was three for three: I had already been in tears earlier the same morning during two separate phone calls. Call it pregnancy hormones.

Or maybe they were cumulative tears. You know sometimes when you don't even realise the pressure is building up until it's too late and you're in full-on meltdown mode and it's embarrassing, because the tear-soaked paper towel is leaving little bits of paper-fluff on your face for everyone on Drummond Street to see? Maybe it was that. There has been a lot of pressure in our lives lately, and I hadn't really even given myself the opportunity to think about it all at once, so I hadn't realised it was all getting the better of me, until Meltdown Morning. I was that frog in the pot of water that didn't notice the water heating up until it reached a good, rolling boil.

But sometimes a teary meltdown is good for the soul, wouldn't you agree? I got it all out of my system (and into the paper towel). It forced me to take a look at what was going on in my life and restock. It forced me to open up to Mr B about how I (had only just discovered I) was feeling. And I remembered that it was ok to ask for help, sometimes. So I did. And I got the help I asked for. Why am I still so slow to realise these things?

To celebrate my new and improved positive outlook, not to mention the amazing spring weather, Madeleine and I took the tram out to St Kilda the next morning for a bow-legged run on the sand and a paddle in the (freezing! but she didn't seem to care) water. Madeleine toddled up and down that beach like the four-week veteran of walking she was. Or even, her proud mother could say, just like a veteran of, oooh, six weeks. (Madeleine is a very advanced child). She chased some seagulls too. Toddlers do that.

Later we shared lunch together in a grubby, nondescript cafe, and I earned my World's Worst Mother award by treating my baby to a meal of chicken nuggets, chips and cherry tomatoes. Having already completely ruined her nutrition for the day, we followed this up by sharing a choc-nilla milkshake at Crafternoon on the way home. Madeleine drank hers down to the very end, making the slurpy noises you'd expect to hear in a 1950s diner. It was all kinds of cute.

Tomorrow we will eat healthy food. And I will keep smiling.

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Surround yourself with creative people

"Surround yourself with Creative People." That's good advice. It's also no.11 in this video, which you should definitely watch if you need encouragement or galvanising (or both) in the creativity department.

Sometimes, surrounding yourself with creative people is easier said than done. For example if you stay at home and look after a baby every day. I'm willing to admit it, I don't get out much, not socially anyway. Once a week I do head off to mothers' group and these ladies are very nice, but to be honest I don't know them well enough yet to find out if they are "Creative People" or not. We generally spend our time talking about the frequency of poo in nappies, and how fast our babies' fingernails grow (REALLY fast).

So, for the time being, I will surround myself with Creative People via the Internet. And hopefully via some old-fashioned mail. How will I do it?

1. Earlier this week I posted this inspiring video and it made me feel a little better about my own inability to express or create things the way I want to.

2. I joined in Pip Lincoln's (free) blog school to try and refresh myself and my ideas. There are some AMAZING bloggers in this group. Slowly, I'm feeling more lively. Let me know if you're part of this too.

3. And then I saw the My Creative Space project (also from Pip), and it just seemed to complete the trio. Using the list at the top of this page, I am going to take one photo a day on Instagram (I'm @naomibulger if you want to follow me). The photo on this post is my first, for "a creative space." It's the inspiration board I keep behind my desk. I'll use the hashtags #amonthof and #mycreativespace to be part of the project community.

Do you want to join in? You don't have to use Instagram. You can tweet your daily inspiration. Or blog about it. And there is a Facebook group too. Just use the hashtags so everyone can see what you're doing.

Everything seems to get tired towards the end of the year, don't you think? Well, not this year! May November be the month of NEW CREATIVE ENERGY. Hooray!

(ps. The beginning of that video. Does the music remind you of the movie Amelie? I really want to watch it now)

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A word of advice for artists

Have you ever found yourself trying to create something beautiful, but your execution just doesn't match your vision? This happens to me all the time. I know what I want to do and I know it could be amazing... in someone else's hands. I just don't seem to have the skills to make it happen. I can't tell you how many half-written stories I have lying around. How many drawings that are scrunched up in the bin. And how many projects I have never finished. When I was a teenager I wanted to learn the violin, but I gave up after just one term because I couldn't stand the sound of myself practising.

Good news: it's ok! This process is NORMAL. And according to writer and producer Ira Glass, EVERYONE goes through it. Plus, he has a solution (but you'll have to work for it). Watch this little video if you ever feel like your creative output doesn't stand up to your taste.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Do you feel better now? Me too. Now back to work.

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Positive thinking

Sometimes you just need a little positive energy in your life. A little hope, a glimpse of that light at the end of the tunnel. Wouldn't you agree? I can't thank you enough for all your kindness and thoughts and prayers on this post. With all my heart I want to tell you how much reading your words in the comments has helped our family stay hopeful and think positive.

One day when Madeleine is older I will show her your comments so she can know that she was thought of and loved by friends and strangers alike throughout the world at a time when she (and her mama) truly needed it.

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Get on your bike

This little movie has been doing the blog rounds for a couple of weeks now, and I've finally caved. I simply have to share it too. What a wonderful, free-spirited way to roll into 2012. Do what you love. Love what you do. Live your passion. Share your passion. Do all this with the people you love. Hooray! [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/34414313 w=525&h=295]

The Holstee Manifesto Lifecycle Video from Holstee on Vimeo.

Aside from making me feel all noble and hand-on-heart full of ambition, this manifesto also inspires me to get back on my pushbike. The timing is perfect, since I'll have a whole new city to explore as of next week.

The photo at the top of this post is of my ancient yellow Speedwell. I'm thinking of giving her a name. Have you read any of the Flavia de Luce books? Flavia's bike is called Gladys. Any suggestions as to what I should call mine?

And in the meantime...

What is your passion? What do you love? What new experience will you embrace this year? Who will you invite along for the ride?

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