Go on – make something beautiful

January 23, 2017 at 2:45 am | Posted in Andrea Goldsmith, art, creativity, Living creatively | 3 Comments
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I believe that we’re all creative. We can express our creativity through dancing or drawing, cooking or wood-carving. We can express it in how we live ordinary life or in taking beautiful photos of our life, through making people laugh or by writing a blog.

Nigel Andrew once believed that blogs were ‘an outlet for opinionated egos’ but he’s now convinced that they can be ‘a thing of beauty, a repository of interesting and original thought, of humour and pleasure, of amiable interchange among friends’. (Literary Review, August 2016, p. 1)

He writes that the blog is an extension of the essay form, ‘brief and provisional, feeling its way through a subject, written with care but relaxed and not over-polished’.

In a Waterstone’s bookshop in London I came across a little book called The Designer Says (Princeton Architectural Press, 2013). It presented a collection of briefly stated advice from leading creative and design professionals. Erik Spickerman (1947- ) gave the advice below.










I thought it was good advice and later thought: isn’t this what we’re doing when we read blogs and connect with bloggers? We comment on their posts and write our own posts. We’re engaging in a lively dialogue with more-or-less like-minded people. We encounter their ideas, gain insight into their imagination and understand their dreams. Travelling through the psyches of others connects us with them.

So why don’t I do it more? Because I disagree with the contemporary mentality that urges us to blog every day and tweet even more often. It’s a superficial approach that will have ephemeral results. When we wait until we have something to say before we blog it will be of more value. It is saner to slow down so we can appreciate the things in life that deserve paying attention to.

How can we be creative in these times of unprecedented frenzy?

I thought there should be a Slow Blogging movement and when I Googled it I discovered that there is! (I liked www.anatomyofnorbiton which is ‘Put together by Toby Ferris’, who lets us know that ‘New entries are posted at irregular intervals’.) What a refreshing antidote to self-importantly posting every day. Australian writer Andrea Goldsmith – https://andreagoldsmith.com.au/ – also posts like that, and when she does her posts are really worth reading.

See also www.jencarrington.com/blog/2015/3/29/slow-blogging-for-creatives

We need to limit our distractions so we have more time to paint, dance, redecorate, write poetry, cook or express ourselves creatively in whatever way we choose. Slow blogs are sustainable and a sane way to live. (See also my blog, ‘How to be Idle and The Two Percent Solution’ from 5 May 2013, https://penhanley.wordpress.com/2013/05/ which asks the question, how are we to write or paint or practise our art in these times of unprecedented frenzy? And answers it with the proposal that being fulfilled creatively can take only 30 minutes per day.)

It’s good to know that there are many people who believe what I do – that we should all be thinking more and tweeting less, reading more novels and absorbing less news, savouring food high in quality and nutrition (See www.thestonesoup.com/blog by Jules Clancy, for example) and eating less take-away. It would do us good to slow down in general, in most areas of life.

Tim Kreider, one of the ‘titans’ Tim Ferriss interviewed in his Tools of Titans book I discussed in last week’s blog, puts our busy-ness in perspective:

Yes, I know we’re all very busy, but what, exactly, is getting done? Are all those people running late for meetings and yelling on their cell phones stopping the spread of malaria or developing feasible alternatives to fossil fuels or making anything beautiful? (Ferriss, 2016, p. 491)

‘Isolation is the dream-killer, not your attitude’ – Barbara Sher

So slow down, and make something beautiful. When we slow down, even for one day a week, we enjoy life more and can be in touch with our creativity. One of the great things about blogs (and the internet in general) is that we all have access to them, even if only through the public library. And some of the blogs and websites can help us to gain access to our creativity.

In Tools of Titans, the author asks the ‘titans’ what book they most often give to people as a gift? If Tim Ferriss interviewed me, my first would be a basic, practical one: Sarah Key’s The Body in Action (Allen & Unwin, 2006) See http://www.sarahkeyphysiotherapy.com/ where you can buy it and her other books. She writes clearly about what goes wrong with our bodies and why, and how to fix them with simple exercises that really work. I wouldn’t be dancing the Argentine tango like I do without her knee exercises! (Sarah Key is Australian and has been physiotherapist to the Royal Family. She once walked barefoot on Prince Charles’ back.)

A close second choice would be Barbara Sher’s Refuse To Choose (Rodale, 2006) about discovering your creativity and maintaining it. Sher writes in an easy, accessible style with passion and common sense about a ‘revolutionary programme for doing all that you love’. See www.barbarasher.com where you can buy her books, find information on her workshops, and watch her inspiring yet down-to-earth TED talk, ‘Isolation is the dream-killer, not your attitude’.

Barbara Sher is practical. In spite of some of her book titles sounding a bit New Agey, her approach is the opposite of New Age abstractions. She knows that to get anything done you need structure. Arm yourself with Refuse To Choose and a calendar, a ‘day-book’ and sticky notes, and you’re in business.

She points out to those who are too busy or to burdened with professional or personal commitments:

Doing what you love isn’t a privilege; it’s an obligation. By denying yourself the right to do what makes you happy, you may be depriving others of a shot at their happiness.… The things that fascinate you exist because of some talent you were born with. You have eyes to see what many people miss. That’s how talent affects all of us. And you owe it to all of us to use your talents. (p. 43)

A post script: painting with words

The function enabling me to email photos to myself on my iPhone has broken. Until I do the research to get free photos from another source where I don’t risk being sued, my blogs won’t be illustrated. One more example of the fact that (barring brain injury) I can always depend on my brain and never on our ever-changing technology, so I’m unapologetic about recent posts having no pictures except the ones I paint with my words.


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  1. I read with great interest. Thank you Penny.

  2. Marianne Moore wrote ‘The cure for loneliness is solitude.’ Solitude and slowing down go together. As for our sorts of web postings, how can one take seriously something called ‘blogging’? Essay, article….and BLOG. It really does not pass muster. I think we need to come up with a new name for the essay-type blog…

  3. Ha – yes – please do coin a better word! I can think of nothing at the moment. Time to get creative!

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