Money can’t buy joie de vivre, but it can buy a ticket to Paris!

“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.” – Albert Einstein

Paris diaries 01.

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Travelling slows down time, everything is new again. Your routine, your surroundings, your perspective, everything, changes. I don’t think it is always necessary to leave your city or country to have a refresh, a reset, but I do think it can help to get there quicker and with more effect. Which is why I went to Paris by myself for 10 days (with a hiatus for a few days when my friend joined me). 10 days felt more like a month (in a good way).

Maybe this feeling or need, to get away, to leave, to change, isn’t for everyone. Maybe you are ok with time slipping away so quickly before you, where weeks go by in a flash, and you are quite content with everything staying roughly the same. For me, it is like an internal itch, to get away, to see something new, be somewhere new, encounter new people. I’m sure this could be seen as perhaps unnecessary or extreme, however, if it spurs me to do things and make changes, I guess I’m ok with that.

 “When you’re travelling with someone else, you share each discovery, but when you are alone, you have to carry each experience with you like a secret, something you have to write on your heart, because there’s no other way to preserve it.” – Shauna Niequist

Over the years I have often embarked on adventures that probably seem strange or even foolish to others. (side note – somehow I have always been really lucky and can think of a number of times where I look back and think, thank goodness I had some weird luck following me or that could have turned out a whole lot worse!) Travelling alone for some people is probably a foreign concept, and at the same time for others, a beautiful and exciting one, with total freedom. I think I’m somewhere in between on that front. But what I do think I have is an internal compass of sorts, or maybe it’s more like an alarm clock, and after a while it compels me to book something, there and then. With not much of a plan, and frankly, very little thought, I go ahead and book something, I set my heights super high and usually have some grand vision of how wonderful it is all going to be…. And then the time comes around and it is the night before I am due to leave, and everything changes. Excitement and hope quickly changes to fear, anxiety, and general unease at the sheer unknown of what lies ahead of me. Then I will be thinking, ‘why, why, do I need to make myself do things like this?!’.

“Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to require the most from you.” – Caroline Myss

But, this is all part of it. Not that I have the insight to think that at the time, I’m too busy being scared or beating myself up. Only once I settle in, and meander along my bumpy path, with doubt and a whole lot of unknown, that I realise that it is an adventure. You can’t have the adventure and the glory without some of the fear and mishaps. Instead take the plunge, give into fear and surrender to whatever lies ahead. It is a (necessary) voyage out of your comfort zone and into a new arena, and often, a new time zone. By which I mean literally, but also metaphorically, abandoning your usual time restraints and restrictions. I personally find it easier to just drift and not be concerned with what time it is, or even what day it is. To no longer feel tied down by the day of the week, or hour of the day, to me, is a pure joy, which no doubt with practice can be brought in to our every day lives, but it is something I find very difficult to do. This is time to slow down, let go of time, and expand. Expand into new ideas, new perspectives and new levels of creativity. Getting out of your comfort zone in this way helps in many ways, sometimes it will help you see something from a new angle, or perhaps tackle a problem from a new angle, and it will definitely build your confidence. Once you look back and remember the fear, that you then changed and settled into, you can build on that and recognise the strength within yourself that you have created.

“How do the geese know when to fly to the sun? Who tells them the seasons? How do we, humans, know when it is time to move on? As with the migrant birds, so surely with us, there is a voice within, if only we would listen to it, that tells us so certainly when to go forth into the unknown.” – Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

Many of us in the western world, busy ourselves along day by day, week by week, hardly looking up to take a moment to notice anything. This is not a way to live. By taking an hour out, to go for a walk, or take a weekend off to drive to the countryside, or, if you are able, leave the country for a week or longer. And, if you are brave enough, do this alone. Only when you are alone can you see things as you alone would see them, let them seep in and let them conjure up new views, new ideas, and breathe in a new lease of life.

If you do this alone, it probably won’t be all roses, especially if you are not used to solo time. But now, more than ever, it is important to physically get away. If you are an amazing yogi, or meditator, maybe you don’t need to physically remove yourself. You probably have it sorted where you can just sit down, close your eyes, and bliss out to anywhere you want by not going anywhere at all. However, with the growing number of distractions we are near enough constantly faced with, this is not easy for most people – it is for sure something to practice though.

I know this idea of getting away, or of shutting yourself of from the world isn’t a new one, but it is a great one, especially if you are trying to pursue anything creative.

So I will end there, and encourage you all to take yourself away from it all, even if just for half an hour, whatever/ wherever is accessible to you. Allow yourself that time. I read/ listen to so many successful people say that their best ideas come when they are not trying, when they go for a run, or have a bath or generally slow down and take time out, time off.

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” – Rosalia de Castro

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog, and I hope it got you thinking, (and perhaps even doing!).

To follow in a blog post soon – a little more about my time in Paris.

Holly

http://www.hollysharpe.com

Find Your Space.

Brick Lane.JPG

Brick Lane.

Notes after a recent break in London.

The importance of getting out of your bubble, to travel, even if not very far.

Slow down time.

Break up your routine.

Open your mind.

Put things in perspective and be reminded that there is a whole world out there, made up of lots of individual lives with different paths, ideas, and dreams, by all sorts of different people.

I was strongly reminded of this when I went to London for a few days at the end of April, it was busy, but it was a good busy, I was away from all my usual ‘stuff’ and I let myself get lost in a book, which I never usually make time to do (fyi the book is amazing, even if a little twisted!, and is by a Scottish writer, – ‘Fallow’ by Daniel Shand), I saw an array of friends, I walked down lots of streets, went to galleries, and generally just wandered, like time was endless, even if only for a few days.

One highlight was by far the David Hockney exhibition, it is on until May 29th, if you are able to get to London to see it, 1.Book 2. Go. I didn’t even necessarily consider myself a Hockney fan, but it seriously blew me away. There is almost nothing I like more than meandering through a big exhibition by myself and trying to absorb it all. I think this could be a whole other blog post, so all I will say for now is that it lit me up, it lit me up and it made me see everything differently. I felt different when I came out of the gallery and walked back to the tube station, I actually saw things differently. And, I even started sketching in my little sketchbook, trying to record this new way of seeing things, drawing things I would never usually think to draw, or ever want to.

Hockney Postcards

 Postcards from the Hockney exhibition

You don’t have to go to London to get this. You just have to do something different, go somewhere different, it doesn’t matter how far, change your routine, even a little, even for one day. Even if it just means walking to work a different way, or going for a morning run and seeing what that feels like, or start a new class, or change an old habit – like swapping tv for reading a book, or swapping time on your phone with time with real people, or spend time doing that thing you actually want to be doing with your life. Everything takes practice, and with that takes time. But imagine if you could even dedicate one hour a day to that thing, you would slowly become better and better at it. Or just stop, stop your crazy cycle of constant busyness, just stop, even for 5 minutes, to look around you, and actually look, to see who is there and what is there and take some time to actually think about that. Sometimes all it takes is to slow down to see things clearly.

Whatever you do, wherever you go, the key thing is that you do it with an open mind. Be ready for whatever new ideas and inspirations and insights will come your way.

I think creating this space, allowing yourself to be refreshed, in whatever way that means for you, is important for everyone, but probably even more so for creative people, we need to keep in the loop, stay open, be inspired and stay inspired. And sometimes, that is hard. Sometimes, we can become so caught up, so swept away by being busy, by being distracted and by running some sprint to try and achieve something in some record time. And I think when you try to step away from that, even just metaphorically, or even just for a short amount of time, to get enough distance to view it from afar, and to question it. To ask why you are doing what you are doing, and is it still how you want it to be? Or maybe you would be content earning a little less and having more time to roam, or to just be.

For this reason, and for your general mental and physical health, but mainly for you to be able to keep on keeping on, to keep coming up with great work, and new ideas, you need to give yourself some space. Space being everything that word can mean, in every context. Get away. Or maybe your getting away is closing in, shutting yourself off from the world, from the internet for a day. In your own little space.

Things are so different these days when it comes to creating work (and obviously in many other ways). We can instantly share something we have just created, or even share photos throughout the process. And this is amazing. But sometimes it can be detrimental, it can leave you placing too much importance on how many likes it gets on social media, it can undermine your hard work as it just floats on through the internet stream and becomes just another image (or blog post!) in the vast array of images. And actually, if we are talking visual art at least, you are allowing people to judge your work when they are, for the most part, viewing in on a tiny screen on their phone. I listened to a talk on http://99u.com/ (there are loads of great talks on there by the way!) recently, which was , in part, about Dr Dre’s headphones, ‘Beats’ and Dr Dre said he would spend years making a record for everyone to just listen to it on rubbish little white headphones that don’t play the sound any where close to what he intended. Which is where I drew the comparison of creating visual art work, for example a painting, which can never be truly appreciated through a digital screen, it just can’t. So I for one, will try to remember that, and take any social media, or general response online to any work I post, with a big pinch of salt and get some perspective about what that even means. And I will also endeavour to get my work seen, in person, by more people, around the world. Because that’s the way it should be viewed.

If you are passionate about something, hold it tight, protect it in a way that means your passion for it will never cease. At least some of it must stay close to your heart so it cannot be trampled on by people who don’t know, or who just don’t understand quite how precious it is to you. That is what you must protect. But also make sure you do, at times, open that up, just long enough to help other people try and understand how precious and important and beautiful a thing it is.

Or, in short:

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place” – Iain Thomas

Thank you again for reading, if means so much to me that you are.
Holly
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http://www.hollysharpe.com

This talk (http://99u.com/videos/28133/sarah-lewis-creativity-solitude-go-hand-in-hand#comments) by Sarah Lewis also touches on this idea of creating that space in which you can work, physically, but also a metaphorical space.

“Much of modern creativity advice focuses on “getting your work out there” and networking with others. But great work often requires that we work in isolation.” – Sarah Lewis

Stand out from the crowd.

Coco

‘Coco’ 2016

Everyone discovers things in their lives at different ages and different stages. Hence, to compare one’s life with another is completely futile. The lessons you have to learn are complex and unique. The time and methods you take to learn them are also unique to you. So let go of thinking that things should be one way or another, of measuring experiences and achievements. Life is not linear, so we must stop treating it so. 

Something I wrote down sometime last year in my notebook of scribbles, ideas, thoughts and things I need to put down to get out of my head, and to help me when I look back at them. (So pretty much just a manual version of this blog in fact!)

On the one hand the words I wrote are stating the obvious and are so simple. Yet they keep coming up in my life and now seem quite profound. I’m pretty sure most people, if not everyone, at least in the Western world anyway, struggles and stumbles over this at different times in their life. It’s like there are these invisible pressures all throughout our lives. You have to do this, and then that, get a degree, get a car, get a mortgage, and meet the ‘right’ person and make a certain amount of money etc. And if you haven’t done all of this by a certain age then you have probably failed at life. At least that’s what society, or our inner subliminal pressures make us think. When in fact, there are examples of the very opposite all over the place. It is actually the people who intentionally ignore these pressures, or fight against them and listen to what their own being actually wants,  that are really succeeding at life. The people who question all this stuff and resist it, who fight to understand what makes them happy rather than trying to buy it or just doing what the person on instagram is doing because they look happy. Who cares if you rent where you live anyway. And, if you think about it, what an insane idea that you should find one person on this massive planet that is somehow supposed to fill up every area of your life, and keep doing so, your entire life. We keep chasing money, chasing things, and ending up back where we started, wondering why we aren’t happy and why we followed this stupid, tired, and well trodden path that has been dictated to us our entire life whether we are aware of it or not.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

It also comes down to the Paradox of choice. Watch this amazing TED talk which hits the nail on the head with this concept. This has become more and more the case every day in our current world, we are told that we can do anything we want, be anything we want, go anywhere we want, have anything we want (and put the whole country in a recession, but hey, you got the car you wanted), live anywhere, date anyone, wear anything… you get the idea. And at first glance this is freedom, so much freedom. But actually, it may just be the opposite. Because if you have even a shadow of doubt, about which dress to buy, or which person to marry, of which city you should live in or whether to quit you job and take off, well, that is debilitating, and can often lead to inaction instead of being proactive. Indecision is crippling. When you can do anything, it is often easier to do nothing, change nothing, or constantly question whether you made the right decision. And that can slowly lead you to insanity, depression and a constant anxiety over your own life. Yes I do think we can do anything, go anywhere etc, but wise words to remember are that ‘you can do anything, but you can’t do everything’.

The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. “Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.”

Instead, we need to take control and make decisions, but also be content with the decisions we make. And look back and realise that even if we have regrets, tell ourselves that we did something because at that point in our life it was exactly what we wanted, or what made sense to us at the time with the information we had. And that’s ok.

It takes courage to take time to step away from the mainstream and question what actually makes sense for you, but when you do you will be so free with the liberty of doing what the hell you want and where you want and why, that your whole life will change.

“He who is brave is free” – Seneca

It is so easy to be overwhelmed by choice in today’s world, there are too many distractions, too many options, with everything.

One minute I can be happy and feeling on track and then quickly get swept away on social media and suddenly I am questioning everything.

So do not compare yourself. Do not compare your one precious life and belittle your own achievements and virtues. Everyone is on their own path and we should be working harder to make our own path unique to us, and to celebrate that. To be true to our own person and personality and to not just follow the crowd and follow what someone else is doing or being.

Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are. – Kurt Cobain

Be yourself, don’t try to copy someone else, who they are, or what they do.

The world needs you to be you.

-Holly

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(Watch another brilliant TEDx talk here on ‘The art of being yourself’ )

If you liked this here are other posts with similar ideas why not to compare yourself and Go your own way.

Limited Edition prints of ‘Coco’ available HERE

When your ideas exceed your time = creative dilemmas

too many ideas

I posted the above photo on my Instagram earlier and a lot of people commented on it saying they felt the same. The response to my sharing of this feeling, inspired me to write a blog post about it, because apparently that’s what I do now…

Sometimes I have so many ideas going on in this little head that I feel like my head is going to explode, or my brain, or my heart,… SOMETHING is going to explode. It can be so all –consuming, so overwhelming that I literally don’t know where to start. This is becoming a problem which often presents itself in one of the following two options;

1. I don’t know which idea to pursue, or proceed with, so I don’t start, I do nothing, I procrastinate, I tidy my studio, I reply to emails, I do yoga, I do anything but create and follow through with the idea/s. I am quite sure this is a common thing for creatives and has been written and talked about a lot (for example in ‘Turning Pro’, by Steven Pressfield, he talks about this amongst other things…), = resistance.

2. I start loads of different things, and don’t finish any of them, or finish some of them, and get all confused again because it seems to have no relevance to what I actually want to do, or to the ‘path’ I previously thought I was trying to take my work and career on. This happens a lot, and the trouble is knowing, and figuring out, and deciding, which ones to carry on with, which ones will I gain the most from, personally, for others, and financially (which unfortunately has to come into it on occasion)??

So, one of my ‘new years’ resolutions’, if you want to call it that, is to try and be more focused and try to not go off on tangents and get distracted as much… If I start an idea, I would like to decide fairly near the initial commencement of said idea whether or not it feels right, if I feel like I have enough fuel, and excitement for the idea to see it through. And if yes, I want to almost force myself to make sure I finish it. This is going to be a delicate balance, because if it is something creative we are talking about, rules and regulations don’t tend to mix well with it (not for me anyway). I think one solution, for me, is to create enough space from the work, I generally always have more than one project or commission that I am working on at any one time, and this can be a good thing, as when I feel a bit tired with one thing, I can work on something that I feel more excited about (sometimes this is not an option when deadlines are involved of course…) and therefore hopefully always keep things fresh. I think a good idea to make sure I can sustain my motivation to finish things, is to allow myself time here and there, to just off load ideas, to sketch, paint, write, whatever, with no plans, no pressure on the outcome or the success of whatever it is. This way, I can go back to focusing on the things I want to see to the end and finish, whilst having ‘side projects’ that don’t need to mean anything, or necessarily go anywhere, but I guess act as some sort of release. And if they turn into something more than that, I guess that can only be a bonus.

This focus and drive to see things through to the end, also means facing the fear of the idea/s failing, which I think is often an underlying reason for the aforementioned ‘resistance’ whether we are aware of it or not. And failing, or not being afraid to, is an all important aspect to staying creative. If something fails, this is a learning experience and it usually means you have pushed yourself, so, I would like to try and maintain my focus on the ideas I decide to follow through on, irregardless of whether or not there is a chance they will ‘fail’. Whatever ‘fail’ means anyway.

I would be really interested to hear any of your views or thoughts on whether or not you feel like this sometimes? And if so, do you have ways of channeling it or ‘coping’ with it? And any advice on how I should manage my own hectic head full of ideas would be very welcome!

Thanks for reading,

– Holly
x

Email: hollysharpe@live.com

Twitter: @hollysharpe

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