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How to get out of a creative block

Hanging monkey relaxed
19:00 | June 14, 2020

The blank canvas is your worst enemy

How to get out of a creative block

Hi beautiful soul, I got a beautiful new inspiration today. Hope you enjoy it!

As a creator you will face creative blocks. It’s completely normal, but how can you get out of it? Well there is just one simple solution. Read it in this story. 

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Yet again nothing comes out. Really. Nothing. A blank canvas is your worst enemy. It daunts you and tears you apart. For the last two weeks, this blank canvas has been scaring me. It has bullied me and made me feel like shit. Yes, a blank canvas can do that to you. Especially this week. I am at the beginning of writing a book. I’ve written three chapters so far, yet the forth is killing me. It is that hurdle on the road you can’t get over. At the same time, your ego is laughing at you. It feels a bit like a hurdle runner that stops midway, right in front of a hurdle. Looking at it and not knowing what to do. Even when it already ran half the race. He already crossed three other hurdles. The crowd is confused and out of that confusion, it starts to laugh at him. That crowd, that’s the ego. That ego is necessary to win the race because it cheers you on when you feel great. Yet if you feel absolutely shit, it laughs at you. Boo’s you and makes you feel even less than you first felt. The runner is all of us trying to finish something. Trying to get something done. There are no exceptions to this because we will all face hurdles in our crafts. Whether you are a smith, an accountant, or a painter. None of these are excluded. 

It does happen more often with creative jobs. The ones that work for themselves and need to come up with new ideas themselves. Why is it this way? Why do you come across more hurdles as you do it yourself? That isn’t that hard. Go back to that hurdle runner. If he were to run for his financing nine to five jobs the hurdles he takes will be the same every time. His work is the same almost every day. At least most of it. That doesn’t make him any less than the creatives. Far from actually. These people have come to understand the power of habit. At first, their hurdles feel rough. That’s the initial setup but as they come to know the height of every hurdle they will continue to be the same over and over again. Now you might start to hate the job and therefore the hurdles become harder again. That is just the way for everyone. Hurdles can be easy but if your mind starts to change and think of them as bad or negative they will become that way. That’s why at times the hurdles you before found easy to jump over are now making you crawl underneath them because you fail to jump over them. 

Artists on the other hand mostly work when they are inspired or motivated. So their hurdles change with each moment. When they feel inspired or motivated their hurdles are small and they can easily step over them. The biggest bullshit of it all is that they even blame motivation and inspiration when they can’t create anything at all. If they are not motivated or inspired, well it is really easy for them to blame the hurdle for being too big. Yet it didn’t change in size. It is just the same as always. Only the running up to the jump has changed. That’s the difference between these two groups. The first runner has a continues speed. He jumps one after the other hurdle. The second runner is dependent on motivation and inspiration to jump the hurdle. That’s why if the motivation lacks his speed will decrease and eventually stumble over the hurdle instead of jumping over it clean and easy. I think blaming motivation and inspiration for that is pure bullshit. Yes, I’ve just said that and probably made a lot of people mad by it. Now I speak of experience, to be precise I’ve blamed motivation and inspiration when I was writing this very story. It is such an easy way to give yourself an excuse to not start creating. 

Dark clouds above mountains
Photo by Daan Uijterwaal

Feeling shit tells you something

Doing something creative isn’t necessarily hard. It is part of us humans. We have been made creative, so we can come up with solutions for the problems we created. It’s a continuous cycle that keeps us busy. For an artist, one of those problems is that they do create out of motivation and inspiration. It is just the way creativity works. Creativity starts from a spark in the brain. Something outside us that triggers us. Whether this is something born from passion, emotion or a problem doesn’t matter. Everyone has their way of creativity. Mine is creativity coming from emotion and problems. I just love solving problems and dealing with emotions. For a friend of mine, this is more born from passion. Creating music because he loves it. The main reason is that creating starts with something inside ourselves that meats the outside world. From there on motivation and inspiration are created. Then it is easy to create. So for beginner artists who just do it for their hobby, it is easy. It feels like they have mastered creativity. That is because they do it whenever they feel motivated. For the more advanced artist, this starts to be a lot more difficult. His intentions have shifted from just creating whenever they feel like, too creating to make a living. Which means you kinda need to become like the nine to five guy working behind his desk. There must be consistency so you can make a consistent living doing what you love. 

That doesn’t mean you should work every day from nine to five, or more. Most of us started doing this because they wanted to feel free in some sort of way. With that freedom comes making choices. These choices are a lot narrower now. You can not choose to work less and still buy a lot. Nor can you choose to buy a lot and at the same time have more free time. That only works for a few people who first started working a lot and made a name in their business and then got paid so much that they didn’t need to work as hard. So being a free creative put you in a position that forces you to make choices. It isn’t that free after all. It all comes down to how you make money so you can keep on living the life you love. That means consistently creating. Creating a painting every week or writing a new book every year. Those are choices you have to make. You can’t just postpone the book for years and expect people to generously donate you some money for postponing it. That would be a lovely life, and I would be a master at postponing my book then. If that would make me money. 

This isn’t reality though, it is a bit more complicated. If you want to make money consistently that means being creative consistently which means being motivated consistently. But being motivated was something we couldn’t force right? It comes whenever it wants. When something on the inside meats something on the outside creating a spark in the brain. Well, there is nothing more bullshit than that. Being creative in that way is just the same as a nine to five job. You need to be consistent with creating. And that does mean consistently feeling shit. I am sorry to disappoint you with that. But feeling shit is part of being creative as well. Maybe even with being human. If you want to create, that does mean that there must be times where you don’t create. Not as in free time where you play video games, no rather times where you do the opposite of creating and you break down. Moments where that blank canvas is your worst enemy. This feels shit. It terrifies you, so you just don’t create when you aren’t inspired or motivated. You place it in a big bag and tie it. Which you place in a big metal box locked with heavy chain locks. Then you place that box in the cupboard and lock it. So you don’t have to be terrified of it getting out. In the end, it will Houdini its way out of that bag, box and cupboard so it can terrify you ones again. Trust me. You just can’t be motivated all the time, and that is something to be incredibly proud of. 

Road into the sun
Photo by Daan Uijterwaal

Why you can be proud of not being motivated!?

You should be really. From that shitty place, you are in, comes the best of ideas. Really it helps you. This Friday as I sat down to write the initial story for today I felt absolutely shit. No concentration, no motivation, nor inspiration. So I opened my list of ideas and just choose one. That didn’t work out. It felt unnatural and the words felt cliche and overall bad. So I stopped and continued to write on my book. Yet again, that didn’t work out. It just didn’t feel right. So I started to edit some images. Again, yes you guessed it, that didn’t work out either. I felt stuck, and I hadn’t felt that in a long time. My mind felt full of thoughts like there was a thick liquid slowly swallowing it. That was it, a writer’s block and a creative block all at ones. Nothing seemed to work out. Yet I set myself on this goal to post every Sunday and it is finally working out again. So I had to write something. I forced myself through it and continued to write a story. Luckily you don’t have to read it because it is, horrible as fuck. So I decided to quit and let the demotivation take over. I gave in. No that is not the same as giving up, that is completely different. Giving in is going with the flow so you can get out of it. That is the same as running a bad race as a hurdle runner just so you can learn to run better next time. If I would have given up, I would be the hurdle runner who stopped and left the race court. A creative block is nothing more than you resisting to give in. As I was experiencing this creative block I started to google how to get rid of it. 

As every young teenager does, googling all of their problems on YouTube. So I came across a lot of videos that told me how to get rid of it. Writing, journaling, even sitting in front of your screen for as long as you need to until you write one good sentence. That was one of the worst ways of doing it. That was just using brutal force to get to the result. Man, I was astonished by how many different ways of getting rid of that creative block were there. I realized that I had done a lot of these and none of them worked. So I tried something new. Something that felt counter-intuitive and that would only bring me a worse result. 

Doing nothing. Yes, you are right, doing nothing. That doesn’t exist in my vocabulary. It just ain’t there. I always want to be doing something for a purpose. I don’t just play video games, no I play them because they bring me joy. I write because I feel good doing it, it brings me joy and fulfillment. Doing nothing feels like a complete waste of time. Especially, because I don’t know what it will bring. But this was a moment of pure bliss. Really! I just sat down on the hot, black, bouncy trampoline. Feeling the sun on my skin and watching the clouds move by. Forming new shapes every time I looked at them, some even morphing together. For just a few minutes I didn’t think of anything. Not even about my creative block. It felt like nothing was wrong. Like I would just get up after doing it and continue writing again. Of course, it wasn’t that perfect. The stress of not knowing anything to create was still within my body and I could feel it tens up my jaws and limbs. Yet I accepted it fully. Not seeing it as something bad, but rather something to be proud of. It made me feel human. Right at that moment, inspiration struck me again, and within like an hour I wrote this entire story. That’s how powerful motivation and inspiration is. You just need some time doing nothing.

What a simple solution isn’t it? Well, that is what I am all about. I don’t want to bore you with real time-consuming solutions or things that will take you half your day to get out of this rut. I want you to do something and feel results without really forcing them. I am all about that simple way of living. So I could highly recommend you just do freaking nothing. I know that is shit because it feels like you are losing time. But really how many options do you have? Look at a blank screen for a long time, thinking of why you can’t come up with anything, or doing nothing and enjoying it then let inspiration hit you in that boredom. Cause really that doing nothing eventually makes you feel bored quicker than expected. For some that might be two minutes, for another an hour. Still, as an artist that wants to make a living off his craft, you should know the power of doing nothing and making a habit out of it. Don’t blame the motivation for not being there. Blame yourself for not giving the motivation time to arise. So sit back a bit. Relax, do nothing, and well let the motivation and inspiration come to you as you are creating figures in the clouds. 

Door
Photo by Daan Uijterwaal

How can you do this?

Find a spot where you can just sit or lay down. Like your room, outside in the grass, or like me on a trampoline. Try to find something to focus on. The clouds, a light, a candle, maybe just your wall. Try to keep your eyes fixed on it. Then just stay there doing nothing until you feel bored. You know you are bored when it starts to feel awkward. You want to move, grab your phone and do something. Resist that. Resist the temptation of doing anything and simply sit. Then, trust me after a few minutes your mind starts to wander. Allow it to do that. This ain’t a meditation. This is a way to get creative and feel inspired again. When your mind starts to wander you can start to look around, maybe even walk a bit. Just don’t grab your phone, talk to someone, or do something that takes you out of your mind. After some time, depending on your personality, you will come up with an idea. Bam that’s it, you got it! Great job! Now go and create right away. Don’t let that initial spark die out, grab it, and hold on to it. Because you felt like you were wasting your time you now have an insane drive to work. So you will probably finish your creative process quicker than you would normally, you are just straight fire. Feeling fired up and jamming away on your craft. 

That sounds doable, right? It ain’t that hard, just try it. It is a really counterintuitive way but worth the try. Let me know if it worked for you!

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About me

Today I lived is a three word quote that reminds me and you to live. To enjoy this life and look for the sunshine in your day! Cause “beauty is everywhere”

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7 Tips to improve your focus at home

Glasses on a book
19:00 | May 31, 2020

7 Tips to improve focus

Simple things to do to improve your focus at home

Hi beautiful soul, I got a beautiful new inspiration today. Hope you enjoy it!

You are probably working from home, attending school from home or just working for yourself in the comfort of your own home. Anyway we have to sit home a lot, that doesn’t mean we should be lazy and do nothing. I have had a lot of struggles with focussing on my work these are 7 unusual tips that will help you!

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At about seven in the morning, the alarm would go off. Jay gets up at this time every morning. He dresses, goes to the bathroom and splashes some damn cold water in his face. “Woeeww I am awake” He would say. Then he packed his bag for school. His laptop, water bottle, chargers, and a book to read while commuting from home to school. Going downstairs he grabbed his shoes and put everything nicely on the kitchen table. Then it was time for breakfast. Your standard yogurt, fruit, and granola combination. He’d eat it and then go poop for about 15 minutes because taking your phone to the bathroom means that it becomes a dangerous time-wasting device. After a few minutes, his leg would start to tingle and that was his cue to get up. He’d brush his teeth after of course washing his hands and then grab his bag, shoes, and coat and cycle to the train station. He had done that for well over half of the last three years. Day in day out. Except for the vacations, of course, that time he spends in his bed to about 9 am. 

After doing this for about 600 days, which is about three years of school things started to change. The first three years of his school were easy on him. It was just like doing your job day in day out. He followed the rules and after school would spend some time doing what he loved. Which was painting and writing poems. He wanted to become a professional painter at that time. The rest of his spare time was spent playing video games with Tha Boyz. Yup, that’s what he called them. Because he loved painting and poems so much he started to dislike school more each year. So when he had to choose what to do in his final year he didn’t know. He decided to follow a half-year course on writing skills. That would massively improve his storytelling capabilities. That just wasn’t meant to happen yet. The thing he wanted to follow so damn badly was closed already. So what to do next? It was almost the end of the year and all other options were closed already. Okay fuck, this means I was gonna have to take half a year off. No school. 

“Wait a minute,” Jay thought, that doesn’t sound as bad. I could focus on painting and becoming better at it. He set out to write down his intentions for that upcoming half year. Which where: become better at painting and earning money with it. Wow, good job Jay very clear goals. That was sarcasm. These were unrealistic goals and completely unclear on what to do. Jay thought differently and started just as he would normally. On his first day of school, or rather the day when everyone else continued school he got up at seven. His alarm clock had woken him up. This time, he smashed it to oblivion trying to stop it. “Let me snooze it for about half an hour. There is no big rush on getting up right now. I can do whatever I want!” So the story goes. Each day he would get up later. By the end of the first week, his schedule had completely changed. He got up at nine sometimes even at ten and then go down in his sweatpants to eat breakfast and watch YouTube videos till about twelve. Then he would have lunch, but… he had promised himself to focus on important things in the afternoon. 

He ate lunch and watched an episode of his favorite show, chefs table, on Netflix. Then clean up the dishes and go attend to his ‘important work’. “What exactly might that be?” He asked himself. In his drive to focus on ‘getting there,’ jay forgot to write down specific goals. The entirety of the next half year he spend doing absolutely fucking nothing. He sat on every couch and chair in the house watching YouTube video’s on how to earn money online. He would then try one method for just a second and got distracted again by the shiny red icon on his home screen. At the end of his half-year off he looked back. There where only five weeks left until his next semester would start, and what had he done? NOTHING! None of his goals become true and he felt shit. The next five weeks he wanted to focus but couldn’t. He couldn’t think of anything but his failure. He was so furious on himself that he started to blame others for his own mistakes. After all, they had made him lousy, unfocused, and lazy. 

Skip forward about half a year and he would be on top of his game. Not working productively but effectively. Starting his workday at 10 ending it at 4 or 5 and then continue to work on his projects. It had finally worked out for him. He started on his long-awaited project to create a book full of poems and he started to look less at his goal of earning money and focused more on the art of painting. He wanted to become a master at it. 

This fucking dude was me. Not complete of course. I can’t paint nor am I a good poet. I did start creating a book, only on the topic of gratitude. I called him Jay because I didn’t want you to think of me at first. I intended to write this story just as an example for you. I didn’t want to be this vulnerable and show my bad qualities of the last year. Then I thought to myself, nope I am gonna say that this story is about me. I want you to see that everybody is beautiful yet has his ugly sides as well. A lot has changed over the last months, I learned my lesson from doing absolutely nothing all day long and got back on track. When I then heard so many people struggled with getting to their projects I decided why not share my personal story. So I have gone through the same struggles as you did. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I want to give you some ways to maybe learn from me instead of making the same mistakes. I have divided them into three useful ‘yet overly accounted for’ tips and three extremely useful ‘yet less accounted for’ tips. 

cassiano-psomas-BIQqTZjG-zA-unsplash
Photo by Cassiano Psomas on Unsplash

Three highly useful 'yet overly accounted' tips:

1. Get out of your bed

As you can probably tell from the story my morning routine was great. I got up early and took the time to eat breakfast and sit on the toilet for more than 15 minutes. Perfect morning routine don’t you think? Well, when I had to do it on my own it turned out to be awful. How could you sustain something that is not making you happy? You just go through it unconsciously. So I decided to change some things. I still get up at 7 am, yet I decide to always put on fresh clothes and splash some cold water in my face. After that, I would make breakfast and sit down with it. No phone has been touched at this point. I just simply sit there and eat my delicious porridge. Then after finishing my breakfast I am allowed to finally touch my phone. I still sit on the toilet way too long and often grab my phone before finishing breakfast but that’s completely okay. Then after doing my thing there I move on to reading about twenty pages a day. There it ends. I make myself a cup of coffee and then start to work on my book and blog. 

Oh, by the way, I would highly recommend getting ungrounded coffee beans, a grinder and a French press to make your coffee. The taste of freshly grounded beans is nothing compared to filter or machine-made coffee!

Crafting a routine that you both love and motivates you has proven to be essential to getting shit done. 

2. Craft your ACHIEVABLE To-Do list

The second thing that is incredibly powerful is a To-Do list. It’s such an easy tool. You can write it on a piece of paper or download one of these nifty apps. I love using TickTick, just because I can schedule task per day and have a build-in habit tracker. It doesn’t matter what you use, just try to find your way of doing this. There is one catch to it. Write it so you can ACHIEVE it. Take that in for a second. ACHIEVE. Don’t be like ‘go hard or go home me’ that wanted to achieve the world in only half a year. Write a to-do list of small individual tasks. Don’t go beyond more than 2 big tasks a day. It just doesn’t work to do more than that. It will either make you go insane out of pure anxiety of not finishing it or make you go nuts and not start at all. Both have no benefit to your productivity or health. 

So craft one that you can achieve. Make it as simple as 4 tasks you know you can finish before noon. Yes, only 4 things. If you can tick those boxes before twelve it means there is so much time for you left that you can not resist but do more. Well most of us. Some will take this advice way too literally and just do four tasks which consist of: making breakfast, going upstairs, sitting down on my chair, and looking at my screen. Those are four things everyone can do. Yet they don’t benefit your productivity nor effectiveness. So get those suckers off your list and start doing some real work. Start small and build up to a larger to do. 

3. Work towards something you are passioned about

The last one that is kinda obvious, but that is hard to neglect is working on something you are passionate about. Now I don’t mean that you should just quit your job if you are not passionate about it. I mean that you should take time out of your day to work on this. Especially if you work on it at the end of your day. That way you are working towards something you love. For example, if you work for a law-business and absolutely hate the job because you want to become a gardener then spend just a few hours a day, maybe even at work on gardening. Because no one actually spends his full 8-hour workday on working for the business. You browse through the internet at times or talk to your colleagues. Then just take half an hour of that at google places to work as a gardener. Next to that try to work on it once your home. Create a mini garden or just work in the garden you already have. It’s an easy fix to getting more energy out of the day. 

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Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

Three highly useful ‘yet not mentioned often’ tips:

4. Watch a YOU CAN DO IT NOW video also known as motivational videos

If the satisfaction of ticking off boxes doesn’t make you more effective and focused then this might help. If I ever feel like not doing a damn thing and clicking one after the other ‘recommended YouTube video’, I decide to watch one of these. A motivation video. One of those a bit cheesy video’s where famous people who build up million dollar companies from scratch scream or talk loudly. Those are the kind of things that will get your ass fired up. You will find your heart lighting up knowing that it is damn powerful and you start writing one after the other essay for school. Trust me this is freaking powerful. 

5. Schedule not doing anything

Normally people would tell you to schedule your time to go hard and work on your dreams. I like to think of this differently. Try to schedule the time when you can be your lazy fucking self. We all have this characteristic within ourselves. At times that demon of laziness comes out and tries to lure you into doing nothing. The best way to help him is to give him a schedule when to come out. That way the demon can rest during the day, leaving you alone. You can go hard at school and feel focused. Then, let’s say 4 pm, that demon is allowed to come out till 7 pm. Viola, there it is. Your demon of laziness. Perfectly satisfied with only coming out of its cave for about three hours. There is nothing wrong with him, you will find him quite useful. He kinda feels relaxing. So try to schedule your off time instead of your on time. Sound counter-intuitive, just try it. 

6. Don’t look at others

Don’t you dare compare yourself to someone else? Your beautiful as you are. I don’t just call you a beautiful soul for no reason, right? You carry all the skills and powers within yourself to start doing it. It’s okay to look at others for inspiration or go through self-development videos or blogs to learn something new. Just don’t forget that it is more about implementing that knowledge than just getting it in there. I love that you are listening or reading this story, but I hope that after this you start to implement it instead of going on to the next video or blog post. 

I know that can be hard because you will be lured into one after the other post. The titles of some of these videos are just to catching to dismiss. What I am trying to say is, just try to love the other for their progress or ability to focus. Then take what you love from them and implement it. Don’t let it bring you down because you aren’t there yet. You will be, only it will take you the same amount of time falling and getting back up again. 

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Photo by yns plt on Unsplash

Last tip

7. Sit the fuck down

Yes, sit down. Not the entire day of course but sit down and do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Just stare at a wall, a flower, the ground, a picture, or the calendar on the toilet, you probably spend 15 minutes on their anyway. I can’t be the only one to do that right? 

I am not kidding just sit for 5 minutes a day. Quietly observing everything happening around you. The word meditation has a ‘woshy washy’ sound to it. Although I adore that, some might find it scary to even attempt or just find it plain stupid. “Who would want to be with their thought anyways? That won’t change anything!” It might not, at the same time it might as well. You don’t know. The key to meditation is the act of sitting down and doing nothing. Calming the mind. Now that is something we can all appreciate. If you want to focus that means that all the outside distractions and voices inside your head should just hone down on one individual task. Not at a million at the same time. 

If you want to read a book thoughts like “did I close the door behind me? or what shall I eat tonight?” are not useful at all. They distract you from reading and in that means from being here with your attention. Not doing anything forces you do focus on these thoughts and just allow them to flow. In the end, if all the thoughts have been gone through your head there is nothing for you to think of anymore. You have just answered all of their questions. You now know that you closed the door and you decided to eat taco’s tonight. Well great, that is two fewer thoughts. There might come up a few more and that is okay. Just answer them and let them leave again. 

Now you have all the tips I can share with you. Go and focus on what you adore! “You still can’t focus?” you say. What? Why not? I just gave you all the tips I have for you. Okay, I get it, this is the final thing I will add to the list. It’s not a tip but something you should take into every aspect of your life. 

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own!” ~ Bruce Lee

The thing is I as well as so many other individuals on the internet can give you list after list of how to developer yourself. Yet you will not get any better if you don’t make it your own. If you just take everything from the other person you will try to become the other person. Instead, try to mix what you love about the other person with what you hate about yourself. Then you can discard the things you lacked and kept the things you loved about yourself. You could love to make a better to-do list and feel that is the best way for you to focus better. That doesn’t mean you should also use the other six tips. Just take that one and implement it within your life. 

Absorb what is useful and discard what is useless. It’s simple yet the most effective way to become a more effective human being. With these tips or at least one of them I can assure you, you will not be that lazy prick, Jay (or me), at the beginning of the story.  

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to the email list!

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About me

Today I lived is a three word quote that reminds me and you to live. To enjoy this life and look for the sunshine in your day! Cause “beauty is everywhere”