The magic, imitation, and creativity

what have you thought was “like magic” and then found out there’s no magic involved, but just knowledge, work, and intuition?

For me, cooking is one of them. Taking care of a baby is another one.

“After doing it myself, I realised there’s nothing magical about it at all. It’s amazing how these seemingly banal things can create something so beautiful together.” That was what I thought when I cook a dish from a cook box.

The cook box demystified cooking for me. It gave me confidence to cook stuff by myself.

I guess it’s easy to imitate, but creativity comes way, way after that.

Creativity would mean work, work, and work by yourself.

You have to know every ingredient as a cook. Like you know every key on a keyboard to be a pianist.

You can play a classic music piece, but composing by yourself is another story.

You can do it according to the recipe. Only knowledge and experience gives you the skill and sense to twist the recipe and makes it your own.

Magic is made that way.

Never forget your “why”

“We’ve come so far, that we forgot why we started in the first place.”

We have limited attention every day. People get easily distracted these days, but we are still good at getting fixated on something and forgetting everything else at the same time. Especially when we are frustrated if things in front of our eyes are not going our way.

But why we started is far more important than why is the bike not working properly. I mean, if you want to get somewhere, you can ride a bike, walk, drive a car, take a bus, train, plane… just get there. The more time you spend being frustrated about something that doesn’t really matter (because there’s another way to do it), the longer it’s going to take you back to your journey.

That’s why it’s always important to revisit your “why”.

My suggestion: setting a reoccurring event to revisit your why in your calendar. And set the reminder of the event as via email. You can do it how often you need it. I’m setting it every two weeks for now. And it works very well. I’m always reminded of my big why and it motivates me every time when I look at it.

Streaks: good or bad?

Now I’d like to write my thoughts on “streaks”.

The platform I’m holding my blog has the notification of announcing your posting streak every time you hit “publish”. It is motivating to see that streak number goes higher and higher, especially when it’s over 30, and then 50, and then 80.

I didn’t care about keeping streaks until I did it without knowing it. I was used to ignore things like that, since I didn’t like that pressure a single number puts on me. A two-day streak or a five-day streak doesn’t matter. Since it’s not difficult to achieve, it doesn’t hurt to lose it.

One day after publishing a post, I noticed I’ve achieved the 30-day mark. “This is doable. I might just keep it.” I thought.

But there’s immediately a problem. Keeping the streak for the sake of “keeping the streak” in the system can make you do some insincere things. You can post some random words and then hide the post immediately, to get the streak going; then you can add content to the post the next day. The good thing is the streak is kept and you can keep going; the bad thing is it’s… cheating. And cheating the system is meaningless, and stupid. Yet you feel compelled to do it anyway.

The purpose of keeping the streak to post is meant to keep me moving, at least a little bit every day. But the streak itself – the means – gets in the way of the real work and blurs the real purpose.
Just when got overwhelmed for a day, I missed that post. The 80-day streak is broken. And it’s been hard for me to keep going since then.

So, is keeping streaks a good mechanism to motivate or not? How should we balance the work itself (creating) and the means (keeping the streak to create ever day) to get to our goals?

Are you ready to go PRO?

Have you ever been lured into clicking the “Go Pro” or “Upgrade to Pro” or “Upgrade to Premium” button?

Why would you do that? It costs more for sure. Sometimes much more than the “free” version.

For services like wordpress, Hootsuite, and Canva, there’s a free version and different “pro” plans. If you are using the free version, you only have the basics. You don’t have many of the functions that might really make the products and services “worth the money”.

You can use them. But you are on the “free” plan. Which kinda make you “unserious” about what you do.

Because if you go pro, it’s serious. You will be able to use the services ads-free or unlock many other features, getting more cloud space… all the things a pro would need and do.

When is the time for you to go pro?

I’m not talking about you should buy all the pro plans for the services you are using. Just think about why you would do that in the first place.

Are you serious about what you are doing with them?

Are you sure you want to invest money in something that you are not sure if you want to commit to?

Being a pro is not about how you want to see yourself.

It is about what you do.

I can settle with the free plan with some services because I know I have been trapped in a yearly “pro” plan with them before. And I wasn’t able to commit to the use.

So how about you?

“Go pro” means to commit. With time, energy, emotion, and resources.

Don’t go pro easily with gadgets and software.

Go pro with your attitude with your craft first.

If you are a writer, are you ready to go pro with your writing? Taking on more responsibilities and no matter what you feel, but keeping writing?

If you are a photographer, are you ready to keep training your eyes, learning about the cameras, getting up early in the mornings to take pictures of the empty streets?

Are you ready to commit, and go pro?

Hobby, job, career, vocation

If your hobby is to cook, you are not a professional chef who works in a restaurant.

If your job is to cook, you are making money off doing it. But you don’t have to love it. If you don’t like it, you can change to another job.

If your career is to cook, your job is automatically cooking. Now you’d better love it. If not, you will suffer.

A career is a job you want to do again and again, better and better. For life.

What’s your vocation?

You don’t have to have a vocation. But if you do, you are so lucky.

Vocation is something you have to do not because you can make money out of it. It’s something you want to do because you love it. It’s the feeling you get when you do it. It’s the person you are being when you are doing it.

Vocation is something you do it just because you are less yourself if you don’t do it.

It’s something you just have to do it because you have no other choice. You do it no matter that.

It’s the love drama you have with the universe: you stick together with this one thing through sick and health, thick and thin.

It’s a commitment, needs no paper to make the bond official, no approval from others.

It’s private, and sacred.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a vocation.

Treasure yours.

Unblock the dried up well?

Elizabeth Gilbert has been very open about her process of writing while not knowing what would become clunkers and what would work. She said in multiple occasions, that she had a long period of time receiving nothing but rejection letters. The only thing she could do was to go back to her work even if they were not picked by the publishers. This is the same as what Seth said about shooting: you can’t hit without having misses. And to be realistic, you will have more misses than hits. And after you hit the target, what you do? Well, you can put down your hands and say “I did it” and call it a day; or most likely you will keep shooting, keep missing, until you hit again.

I gave up believing in the myth of a Writer’s block after listening to the episode of Akimbo podcast (episode 4) where Seth debunked it. To me, the reason that I used to think I had a block in my creative process is kinda universal: perfectionism. Perfectionism comes from an ego that’s bigger than it’s healthy to be: “I have to come up with something good to say, something brilliant to draw, to put in front of others. Because I am good. And everybody should know that from whatever I produce now.” Because we were lured to believe that all artists should be egocentric who create the work of their lives that must inspire generations? Maybe. But again, they are the hits and not the misses.

It’s interesting to me that there’s no term equivalent to “writer’s block” in Chinese. “Block” indicates that one can “unblock” it. In Chinese, the words to describe a writer who cannot write is like: the thoughts/idea of well has been drained (like a dry well in the desert, it’s dead); and an artist who cannot create anymore: “talent being used up, drained up. One becomes empty and career in art comes to the end.” If you can’t create anymore, it’s final. Gosh are the Chinese super harsh with their creative minds…
One of the most intellectuals in modern Chinese history, Liang Shiqiu, wrote about “writer’s block”:  lack of imagination, slow association, unclear analysis, and lack of vocabulary&expression are the four main reasons of getting a block in your creative practice. The way to unblock? Read well and read more. To ensure one’s never blocked again, and doing better work with time: Read, analyse, write, edit. Repeat.

Are you a dried up well? Or can you keep reading, analysing, writing, and editing, to unblock your creative stream?