Day 430 – 24 Hours.

One day.

One day I will . . .

. . . Learn to play the bagpipes, write a novel, learn how to sing better . . .

The list that can easily be added to at least once a day.

What if you took 24 hours and focused on just one thing?

Maybe not 24 hours in one sitting, but if you devoted 24 complete, undistracted, hours to one single thing.

What would you spend your 24 hours doing?

Day 426 – Distracted.

A study, led by Harvard, claims that an average ‘knowledge’ worker works in a state of distraction for 47% of their time.

Flip this around. By being more focused they could accomplish the same amount of work in half the time. Or potentially double their output.

How effectively can you focus?

Any habits or disciplines which impact that 47% will result in a significant improvement.

Log/record what you do in the time you devote to your creative endeavours.

Review it and do what you can to delete the clear distractions.

(The distraction of keeping the log doesn’t count!).

23 Days in July 2019 – Le Tour – Stage 3.

This stage of the Tour leaves Belgium and enters France, travelling on one of the longest routes of this edition through the famous Champagne region. Dom Perpignan will watch over the riders as they pass through the vines of Moët and Chandon.

Also in this stage there is the relatively recent invention of time bonuses over some specific climbs, as a way to spice up the race. Interestingly, perhaps one of the reasons why not much happens in some of these early long stages is exactly that – it is an early stage in a three week race and it is ridiculously long.

Over recent years there has been much publicity attached to the design of each year’s Tour and the organiser’s attempts to break the control of the winning teams – well Team Sky really. It also happened before with the various incarnations of the teams of the now disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.

This always seems to be the reverse of what should happen.

The weight of tradition and teams who carry on doing what they have always done – and not being successful or at least only being partially successful – seem to apply pressure to the race organisers to adapt the course to try and ‘defeat’ the top teams/contenders.

Surely those teams missing out on a final podium place and/or the Yellow Jersey should be adapting the winning habits of those teams winning?

One of the key developments in the Creative world recently is surely the amount of information which can be shared/learned from other creatives?

In the past there have been ‘schools’ of art and music, mostly from the physical proximity of those people involved. Now we can link up with creatives from all over the world at the tap of a screen or press of a keyboard.

What remains, however, is the individual’s uptake of those lessons, which I suspect is read/seen but then not fully adopted. You can see this in sport all the time.

I am not suggesting that we all follow the same blueprint and become clones of each other, but if a sports team/person, or Creative, is producing great results from following specific habits or actions, why wouldn’t we want to add that to our armoury also?

Here is my Tour inspired Creative list of things to do to accomplish your aims:

1. Be clear about the desired end result – e.g. at the end of 90 days you will have a 90,000 word story complete, or you will have a fully completed canvas after 3 days, or 12 song ideas for development after 12 days. The length of time does and doesn’t matter. It is the time frame which you set and will complete the task by.

2. What do you need to do to prepare undertake the task? Think planning, materials, schedules, letting people know you will be engaged upon your creative endeavour for a specific amount of time each day etc. Do you need to plot in detail or just have the basic skeleton of your story? Do you need certain paints or new strings for your guitar. Once you start your creative ‘tour’ if you don’t have it then it is to late.

3. Be clear about the route – each of the Tour riders have a handbook which contains every detail about each stage route they could possibly need. You need to think like this too. Each day you will write 1000 words and spend 20 minutes reviewing the previous day’s efforts. You will spend 3 days sketching and 5 days painting. Each song needs to be between 3-4 minutes and you will lay down the basic guitar chords and a hummed melody for each.

4. What do you need to do each day to optimise your performance? Make sure the cupboard is well stocked with coffee. A short walk before you start writing, or walking and feeding the dog before you paint. 20 minutes of warm-up on the guitar before you start with new ideas. Whatever works best for you.

5. How will you celebrate the wins along the way? Stage winners and Jersey leaders on the Tour get to stand on a podium, shake hands with the local dignitaries, wave at the crowd. What are you going to do? A meal out at the end of each week with your wife if you hit your target. Watching your favourite tv show at the end of your painting session. PlayStation with the kids once you have rough recorded the chords and melody.

Stage Summary:

215km – Binche to Epernay – Essentially flat apart from the one Cat 4 and three Cat 3 climbs right towards the end. The breakaways were kept on a short lead for most of the day but then the peloton were caught napping by J. Alaphilippe. Egan Bernal gained 5 seconds over Geraint Thomas from a small break in the chasing pack and the Tour press seemed keen to try and make something out of this. Potentially Alaphilippe could hold onto the journey for a few stages.

Day 419 – Why Are You Doing This?

Why?

I am a writer, therefore I write.

You maybe a painter, therefore you paint.

Simple.

A writer might see stories where ever they look.

A painter might see the colours and textures around them.

A musician hears the melodies in conversations and noises of life.

The ‘this’ is whatever it is you are doing creatively – imagine it is a blank line and you need to insert your creative project or endeavour.

Why you write, or draw, or play an instrument, might just be because it gives you joy.

Or it might be because it is your career, or you want it to be your career.

Both reasons are fine.

But both have different expectations of you.

Realising this might help you save time in the long run.

Know why you are doing your creative thing and act accordingly.

One is a job and needs to be treated as such. The other has wriggle room and can be the subject of whim.

Day 417 – Walking Slowly.

I read a list of productivity hacks. One of them was to walk faster.

Bruce Lee teaches a young pupil in Enter the Dragon and points at the moon with his finger. The pupil is chastised for looking at the finger and ignoring the splendour of the moon.

We can get wrapped up in either the process or the destination.

As creatives, both the process and the destination are equally important.

Walk slowly and take in the journey. Walk slowly and get to the destination.

Be the tortoise. A steady word count wins the day.

You can be the hare, but what did you miss along the way?

Your audience is just as interested in the journey as the destination.

Show those sketches and early versions, as well as the finished painting.

Some musicians have been releasing demo versions of songs on their special edition albums for a while now. They get the importance of the journey as well as the destination.

Walking slowly is okay.

Day 416 – Blank.

A blank page isn’t good. Writer’s Block. A failure in creativity.

A blank canvas is good. Prepped for those first sketch lines, that first application of paint. Then you layer until the image takes on form and is revealed.

Writing works in a similar way.

The blank page is waiting for those first words. That first layer onto which you will add or take away to reveal the completed image.

How much you add or take away is probably dependent upon your style.

The first rule of being creative is that you create – you have a blank then you add something to it.

So take that blank page, or screen, and throw some words at it.

DAY 414 – The Saturday Answer and Other Stuff.

So The Friday Question was, What is the one immediate thing you need to do for your creative endeavour to improve?

And The Saturday Answer is, Be Consistent!

What was your answer?

For me, I need greater consistency in my writing habits and in the words which go down on the page. Creative thinking time and writing time can vary too much for consistent output. Sometimes I focus too much on the dialogue and other times I focus too much on the narration and descriptive details.

The Other Stuff:

With news the The Long Way Up had begun, I started back through the first instalment of Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman going a very long way on motorbikes with The Long Way Round. London to New York – about 20,000 miles – what a trip.

Lots of folk music listened to this week – Imar, Julie Fowlis, Breabach, Talisk, and Calan, mostly.

By some miracle Wigan Warriors have moved up from joint bottom of the table to 4th in Super League. What’s also incredible is that only four of the twelve teams are in positive points difference.

After his Glastonbury Headlining performance most young people would probably vote for Stormzy to be the next Prime Minister of the UK.

I finished an Audiobook on The Irish Identity from The Great Course series – very informative!

I’ve started reading The Outrun by Amy Liptrot.

Day 410 – Schedule.

There is a difference between an amateur and a professional in any endeavour.

Money isn’t the differentiating factor anymore. Both get paid; although you would expect the latter to receive more.

The professional is clear in what their job is. They have to meet specific expectations and everything else in their life works around those expectations and commitments.

The amateur has to fit those expectations and commitments around their actual day job. These are their add-ons.

With creatives, those add-ons can end up sacrificed to the circumstances of life and work.

So how do you solve this tension between probably being an amateur but wishing you were a professional.

The secret sauce is scheduling.

Any successful leader or entrepreneur will tell you that they live by what’s on their calendar. If it isn’t on the calendar then it doesn’t exist. Meetings, golf, family time, it is all in the diary.

If you are serious about your art and you want to make it into the professional leagues, then act like a professional.

You might only be brave enough to write up on the family planner for a twenty minute slot – but that’s fine.

7pm-7:20pm – In the Writing Cave – I can write with this pencil or use it as a prod/Painter armed and ready to paint the canvas or you!/Musician with Noise Cancelling Headphones – I can’t hear you even if you scream.

Scheduling also tells everyone else you are being serious about your art.

It also holds you accountable.

You’ve got twenty minutes – GO! – you don’t have time to waste.

You are a professional now, so act like it.

Day 408 – Migrate Like Elk.

You mention Elk and you get comments.

Elk are one of the largest species within the deer family apparently, and a they seem, to an untrained eye, to share in a lot of deer-like behaviour.

One of the origins of the name Elk is from the Old Norse Elgr. I mention that because my wife has Norwegian Viking in her ancestry.

Elk tend to migrate towards the higher altitudes in the spring time and go in the opposite direction during autumn. During the winter they prefer wooded areas for shelter and protection.

So like writers then.

Spring. The weather starts warming up and the snows start to retreat. New ideas spring up like the new growth of plants and bushes. Wandering writers gather attracted by the newness of everything around them.

Summer. Having found an area particularly fertile and suited to their needs, they stay, they enjoy the abundance of words which come easily.

Autumn. The cool winds start up and the ideas become scarcer and words are easier to find. They get spooked and start the journey back to the safety of the woodland.

Winter. They gain protection amongst the trees – I’m taking this as a metaphor for books other people have written – and wait it out until the spring returns.

When you write there is a flow. Different seasons. It is easy to get frustrated and be hard on yourself.

An Elk knows that there is movement and seasons in its life.

You should accept that to and accept that whatever the season there is always something going on which sustains your creative life.

Day 406 – The Little Things.

The little things matter.

What did you read today? What did you write today?

What did you see as you were travelling? What did you listen to?

What conversations did you have?

Keep a notebook, write these things down. Electronic or pen and paper. Your choice.

Record and use.

Creativity is always with you.

You just need to recognise it and remember it.

Which reminds me, I just need to go and write something down . . .