Random acts of creativity.


Love Is2

Sometimes, just being alive is draining enough.

I’ve been bunkered down for most of today with an earth shattering migraine, while pulling together work for a range of different clients and answering emails. My eyes honestly feel like they are going to pop out of my head, and I have begun to see spots. This is a bad scene.

i took a twenty minute break though, over my lunch, and sat down with some cotton thread and a few needles. The piece above is the result. Why do this? It’s my new strategy for dealing with frustration, pain and general whatever-ness. A random act of creativity.

Most of the time, what we make as creative professionals has such a specific purpose. Am I right? We’re creating copy for a website, a logo for a startup, a marketing plan for a new cat food. It has a clear end goal, and it can often feel like we’re being closed in. A brief is nothing to laugh at - I need ‘em, and I need ‘em bad. The thing is, it’s so important, the harder you work, to take time out and make things. Make things that have no point. Make things that won’t generate income or change the world.

Participate in a random act of creativity.

I challenge anyone creative out there to sit down once every day and make something/anything. Make it, finish it, don’t perfect it. Then put it out there. If nobody clicks on it, that doesn’t invalidate your work. If nobody cares about it, that doesn’t invalidate your work. Make something.

Have a kick ass week.

Collaborative calm.

Creating, Culture, Dreams, Lifestyle, Online, Writing

The startup I have been involved with has slowly geared up and launched. This is a very exciting time for us! If you’ve ever been involved with a creative project, you know that even having an idea for something and then taking the courage to set it free can be so draining.

So far, Tuteable hasn’t kicked off any panic attacks for me. Yet.
I do find though, that projects on which I am working with a collaborator tend to be a great deal calmer than projects that I tackle solo.

I’m not saying they get finished more often. But at least trying doesn’t feel quite as pointless or problematic when I have someone with whom I can share the dream.

In realising lately that this means I’m not necessarily the completely independent person I always wanted to be, I have begun to wonder if some of my other projects and ideas might have actually been successful had I tried to collaborate instead of doing everything myself.

If I had to go back and redo some things, these are just a couple of things I think I’d do differently now.

1. Share the dream.

That can be hard. But it’s also worth it. This would have helped me find people who wanted to get involved with my work, contribute to it in a meaningful way. I believe when I was younger I was trying to somehow protect my work from the world. No. Wrong. Don’t do it. Spread the word. When people ask what you do, the first thing that comes out of your mouth should be your dream.

2. Respect other contributions.

In the past, I have been very good at finding ways to denigrate the work of others. Not for any good reason. Not for the sake of constructive criticism. More just as another way of protecting my own work. This isn’t a healthy habit. It makes you blind to the flaws in your own projects, and it means you miss out on the amazing things that other people could do for you and with you. Try to show their efforts the respect you want shown to yours. And I don’t just mean publicly. I mean in private too.

The post project slump.

comics, Creating, Culture, Lifestyle, Online, Writing

I recently found a project that I had worked hard on for a number of months suddenly placed on hold. I was okay with that. But it did precipitate a bout of what I call the completion blues. And this happens with a degree of regularity every time I finish work on something. First, I tend to be relatively elated. It feels amazing to have signed off on something creative that I have put myself out for.

Unfortunately, next comes this need to be busy with something else. To find a new project that will keep me both occupied and satisfied. I find myself drawing panels for comic books that I have not yet written, leafing through sketchbooks and feeling discouraged by my art, glancing over short stories that I have begun but that fail to capture my interest or excitement in the moment.

I begin going through my phone and looking up contacts to see what they’re working on, hoping to find something cool to get involved with. These jitters are enough to drive you crazy! What it comes down to eventually though, is something of a slump.

I start to feel pretty burned out, and unable to think clearly, unable to focus on stuff. Which is why, as of today, I am implementing a new policy. From this day forth, every time I finish something, I do solemnly swear to take at least one day away from creativity and just play roleplaying games, read books and sing songs of good cheer.

I’ll be back to my usual crazily overly annoyingly productive self before long. But recharging is a good thing. For anyone.

When not to be calm.

Creating, Lifestyle, Writing

Sometimes you need to feel everything.

I find that I have a natural inclination, and I believe this is something I have in common with many of my family members, to push aside the things that bother me or drag me down, and try to remain calm. I will do this even though I am caught up in the most confusing chaotic personal turmoil, and I can tell you it is draining. It is exhausting.

Sometimes I have to let go. I can’t keep journeying through my life brushing things aside, because they will get through to me. Eventually. If you stand on the rocks and refuse to acknowledge the ocean, the waves will soak you just the same.

Of course, it’s not like I can throw open the doors and the windows and let in absolutely every panic and fear and sliver of rage. I can’t just let myself go completely 24/7 and become an emotional wreck. That wouldn’t help anyone. I need to know when not to be calm though. I need to know when I should just release the tension from my shoulders and turn to face the feelings that hide in the corner of my eye.

I don’t think you can ever really forge a meaningful relationship with another person if you aren’t able to let go of the calm sometimes. You need to express and release that raw, blistering emotion. When it’s good as much as when it’s bad.

This year has been a year of great upheaval. It has been chock full of situations that are way out of my comfort zone. But I am proud of how I have dealt with that. I think I’m proudest of the way I have made some steps towards accepting my emotional responses as being valid.


Ups and downs.

Art, Creating, Culture, Dreams, Lifestyle, Writing

I have learned that life is full of ups and downs. That’s something that people tell you all the time, I guess I’m telling you now. But you never really understand it until the realisation hits you on your own.

I always had this idea, when I was a younger and far more arrogant Jon, that things were only going to be “down” until I reached a point where I had “made it”.

Somehow, I think I had convinced myself that life couldn’t possibly be happy and cheery and fulfilling until my band was successful or my art was popular and so on. There was some event on the horizon that would, in my mindset back then, wash away all the bad and leave only the good.

I’m tempted to believe that I was right. That the only reason things just didn’t just go up and stay up is because I never made it to those distant goals and dreams. But that just isn’t true.

I think I missed noticing a great many good things because they weren’t the good things I was waiting for. I think I let myself believe that nothing was going my way because things weren’t going exactly the way I planned. I was blind to some things that made me lucky.

What I’ve come to understand, the hard way, is that life will just be whatever it is. No matter where you are or what you are doing, there will be moments where you ride a high that feels like you’re on top of the world. And you know what, then there are going to be moments when it all comes crashing down and you feel like you could never fall so far and so hard again.

And that’s just the way it is. You can’t change it.

So how does that all relate to art? I want to say this. Your art has to be made for all of the up moments and all of the down moments. It can’t be made because you think it will solve all your problems and make everything better. Your art, whatever it is, can’t be made because you think it will get you a lucky, life changing break.

Life is never really going to change. You could have everything you wanted and still fall down.

The only thing that will change is how you interpret life. Of course, you won’t fully “get” this from my ramblings. You just won’t. Not until you reach the point where you start to understand everything on your own terms, through your own experiences.

I’ll tell you though when that starts to happen, it’s bloody amazing!

Merchandise: we don’t have to buy it.

Art, Creating, Culture, Dreams, Lifestyle, Music, Seriously Dude??, Writing

It came to me that I have lived a life that operates through accumulating and then forgetting objects. This is a human behaviour, and it is something we all do. However, in my case, it has been more specific in that the nature of the items I have gathered is the same. I own branded items in their thousands. Keychains? I got ‘em. T-shirts? I got ‘em. Sneakers, sippy cups, collectors items, action figures, hats, albums, DVDs, video tapes, books and pamphlets. Even my notebook that I have been using lately is branded by Disney.

So what does this mean? Well firstly, it means that if all the items in my life that are emblazoned with logos were ever to reach sentience and rise up against me, I wouldn’t have a fighting chance. I would go down within moments of the coup. There would be no warning shot. My Star Wars straw holders would strike first, positioned as they are near my bed. I fear it would not be a bloodless victory. Strength through sheer numbers would win out.

Secondly, and somehow even more scarily, it means that my life has been, to some extent, a long attempt to define myself through the acquisition of items. Items that have a cultural or artistic significance that in my mind will give me an identity that I can wear.

I have always struggled with identity. I have struggled to recognise, in my mind, exactly who and what I am. This has manifested itself in many ways. I have, in the past, had great difficulty committing to many of my artistic endeavours. I chop and change so quickly and so constantly that many of my closest friends have likened my creativity to a character in a certain song by Katy Perry.

But I think the clearest way my struggles with identity have appeared is through my buying habits. I buy or have bought so many items that just do not add value to my life, simply because I thought they would make me into a certain kind of person.

I see you there, looking sheepish. You’ve done the same thing at least once or twice.
And we often are just a little manipulated by the things we see around us. We are bombarded by public relations and advertising professionals. And I should know, I didn’t study three long years of public relations at college for nothing.

There is good news though. There is something I have, very slowly, become aware of.

I think Fugazi said it best. “We don’t have to buy it”.

And we don’t have to buy into it. We can, if we are conscious of it, take over the ownership of our buying and our impulses. This isn’t a long rant about how we should never spend money etc etc. I’m just saying there are better ways to spend it than on merchandise branded by Nike, Adidas, McDonalds, Formula 1, a football team, whatever. There are artists bands poets writers performers and more out there who are struggling to create the culturally important work that could some day have the power to pick you up and drag you kicking and screaming from the darkest moments of your life. The $160 sneakers you (and I) are mulling over could go a long way towards funding their work. Think about it. Think about the value of a night watching a group of people who believe firmly and thoroughly in the music they are making versus the value of a mass produced pair of shoes that you saw a blogger wearing at fashion week.

We. Don’t. Have. To. Buy. It.



Creating, Culture, Dreams, Writing

I have seen so many films and read so many books that talk about journeys of self discovery. The most obvious to most of us is of course the whole Eat Pray Love shebang. These are all very inspiring. The idea of gaining a great insight into ourselves from a lofty mountain or while chowing down on a plate of unimaginably scrumptious pasta is super appealing.

Unfortunately, the past few years, no matter how much I have wanted to embark on such a quest of my own, I’ve never quite managed it. Why? Well there’s a lot of reasons. Some of them are pretty unavoidable. I’ve had a rough time of it with some issues my family have been working through, and my studies have definitely been an obstacle. Not to mention money. Oh, money.

Probably the biggest reason has been that it has just seemed way too hard to pack up and go. And that is something I will have to work through on my own. But in the meantime…

I’m not entirely convinced that you do have to be on a mountain to actually “be on a mountain”. I think it is entirely possible to realise a few home truths about yourself and change the course and nature of your life without leaving your home city. I know that is something I have done myself.

Let me take you back to last year. 2012. Not an easy year for me at all. I was going to law school after having graduated with a bachelor of arts. And things weren’t going well. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the issues I had dealing with in my personal life had slowly eroded my positivity and my motivation and I had become a very difficult person to be around. I mean, even I didn’t like hanging out with me, I can’t imagine how everyone else must have felt!

I knew that something had to give. Something had to change. I couldn’t just keep living my life in a negative space and mostly on autopilot. I couldn’t just run from my problems. And at that stage of my life there was no way I was about to get a book deal and head to Rome. So how what did I do? Well I didn’t just kickstart my life overnight. That is just not how these things work. I wish.

No, it took about 11 months for me to get to a place that I was happy with. The first thing I did was look for the most immediate and obvious thing that was stressing me and using my good old 10 seconds of courage rule, I just got out of it. It was actually a job that had become a very unhealthy workplace for everyone employed there, and I found it quite soul destroying. Leaving that job wasn’t easy, financially speaking. But in the end I realised that it was either leave or just keep going down a really negative road.

The second thing I did was the proactive one. I looked for the most immediate and obvious thing I could do that would instigate positive change in my life. I left law school and started studying media and film at UTS. Such a good decision.

The effect that those two choices had on my life is remarkable. One plus one minus. After thinking about that for a while, I adopted it as a rule of thumb. If you need to change your life, operate on a principle that requires you to minus one thing, remove something from your life, and then plus one thing, add something of value.

If you need to quit that job you hate, like I did, you need to add something new to your life as well. Taking on a new course, a volunteer role, golly-gosh-darn it even going to a therapist or picking up yoga.

Same if you need to cut someone toxic out of your life.
Same if you need to change your diet.
For every negative add a positive.

It just helps keep your life balanced and even, and trust me, it will keep you sane.
Even the most insanely talented artist cannot realise their dreams without a touch of sanity. Somewhere.