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Friday, February 05, 2016

Fear and Big Magic

I just started on this book, as part of a resolution to read more non-fiction and reflect on them. I have only just finished the first chapter but already have a few thoughts.

The first chapter is about fear and how it stops us from having a more creative life. We have many fears in our life that are valid, eg, fear of getting mauled by a bear. At the same time, we also have fears that do not help us but instead keep us back. These are fears like "I fear I will not be successful", "I fear people will see me as a loser", "I fear that I will fail". Elizabeth Gilbert singles these out as fears that we should not harbour, as they hold us back from having a more interesting and creative life.

This I am all too familiar with. For example, my film photography hobby. If I want to take good photos, I have to, well, take photos. If I want to take photos, I have to use film. But film is getting rarer and good film is especially hard to come by, like my favourite Lomography XPro 100, which is out of production. (Sacrilege and travesty!) So whenever I think of taking photos, I will think,

"Are you sure you want to do that? What if your whole roll sucks? You would have wasted an entire roll! Keep it there until you are sure of your skill."

This goes against the words of Henri Cartier-Bresson, whom I admire:

"Your first 10,000 photographs will be your worst"

This is the part that keeps me back from fulfilling my full potential. Cartier-Bresson's point is that we have to keep practising and practising many times before we start to take good pictures. My fear doesn't want me to start at all, instead preferring that I do better first before I take more pictures. But then,

How do you know when you are actually good enough?

Do I wait till I get 10,000 likes on my Lomo or Facebook account? Do I wait till I hold an exhibition? Or until I sell my first photograph?

Put these words on paper or a computer screen and they seem ludicrous. Yet the fear of failure in them is palpable enough. Stand a few minutes with this ping-pong ball in your head and no wonder lying on the sofa with the TV seems preferable. 

So yes, sometimes you have to tell your fears,

"I acknowledge what you are saying, but I am going to go ahead and do it anyway." 

Take the example I mentioned of film photography. One of the very first photos I uploaded on the Lomography website was this:

Can you even make out what the photo is???

No point of interest, too dark, no flash used... A pretty bad photo. 

What if I had stopped there? Concluded that I sucked and that buying film was a waste of time?

I might have never started to get good stuff, like:

This was my most liked album and it was taken with Lomography XPro 100 film.

I had plenty of failures after that first one, but if I had stopped at those early failures, I might have never taken the better ones too. 

Success is never just in terms of awards or number of likes. Success can also be seen in terms of where you have come from and the progress you have made. Over the course of my photographic journey, I realised that choice of camera, film and a lot of things count before you even take that first shot. I met with like-minded people who gave me advice, accompanied me on photowalks and inspired me to do more. All these I would never have experienced if I had stopped at that first roll and left it at that.

So the next time I listen to my fears and insecurities about my creativity, I'm gonna tell myself:

"Thanks, but I'm going to do it anyway."

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January's Book I Read


Out of all the resolutions I ever made, the one I successfully held to were the ones for reading. At my age, in my comfy house and sofa, there really are few pleasures better and rarer than curling up the whole day with a good book and a stuffed cat. It also helps me to unwind and sleep at night and has become part of my weekday sleep routine.

It doesn't help much if I happen to be reading a particularly gripping thriller, but.......

Anyway, looking through my list, I realised it would be too long-winded to blog about every book, so I've decided to choose the best one I've read this month, and that is...

This book was designed to be read as an iPad app, but it works as a linear storyline too, if you don't get confused by all the different characters and points of intersection. I've read Stone's Fall and Instance of a Fingerpost by the same author and they were all magnificent stories. Arcadia combines the genres of science fiction, fantasy and spy thriller into the same book, along with 3 different worlds which exist at 3 vastly apart points of time, past, future and way-into-the-future future. It sounds confusing but Iain Pears does a good job of spinning solid characters and immersive storylines out of all of them in one solid tome. Great read and worth the reservation fee I paid on it. :)

February's book plans include a slowly growing pile of library books (oh oh) but I also want to read at least one self-help book of my own. Can I continue like that for the rest of the year???

Manifesto 2016

It's been a long time since I was on this blog. Reasons/Excuses include work, life, etc etc... 

So why did I decide to come back to the blog? 

1. Stuff in my life
Just because the blog is empty doesn't mean that nothing was going on with my life. I travelled a bit, I crafted, cooked, sewed, read, took photos, socialized, got crazed by work, ate, ate some more, visited fleas, watched shows etc, etc, etc. Out of all these things I did, I did some great stuff, I did some not-so-great stuff and I did stuff that looked like my primary school art projects. Out of these stuff I did, I learned some about the way to do things, which leads me onto...

2. Journalling
A lot of times, I have too many thoughts and ideas whirling through my head and nothing I do can keep it still. I have ideas for photo projects, craft projects, writing projects, books to read and I cannot settle on one! And even sometimes when I finally start something, I stuff it away somewhere and what I learnt out of it is lost. So my other idea for reviving the blog is to treat it as a journal, to journal my successes and failures.

3. Plain creativity
Last year, I downloaded an app called Grid Diary, which supplied journalling prompts to document what goes on in your day. After I started, I realised that I really miss writing for the sake for writing. So this is one thing I want to start again with the blog. 

4. Just to be me
With all the shit that went on last year, I think it is important also to remind myself of all the other things that make me Me. This is what I plan with this blog, as a reminder that there are all these other great stuff that I do with my life, and that my work isn't really the only thing that defines me. 

So here are my plans:
1. Document as much as I can the creative pursuits in my life. Whether I did well or whether I sucked or totally failed, these are still the little Legos of Life and I should not forget them. 

2. Publish my plans, to make me accountable (dirty word) and to make me do them. (already started with this manifesto, hehe)

3. Journal my life and the stuff I do. Get out of the daily grind every now and then. 

Will this work? Like all NY resolutions, you just have to give it a go. At least I can say that I've tried it once rather than never having started at all. Wish me luck!