From birth on, my baby already had her traits: nice and quiet, patient, only using the sound of “crying” to “tell” us to check in with her needs.
She’s almost six months old now. Every day she’s become a little more like herself.
But there are still moments where something else takes over her. I can feel that she’s fighting that thing, whenever she’s tired, hungry, anxious, or scared. It’s like only one of them can be in front of the stage and she’s fighting for the right to stay.
What helps her at this moment is some kind of distraction.
If she shifts her focus on something else, away from her hunger, tiredness, or insecurity, she could stay.
Is distraction helpful to pull us out of our own obsessions too?
When we feel we are stuck, trapped, or swamped in something – “taken over by something” – can we use distraction to pull us out, too? In the end, our obsessions are just one aspect of our realities.
When I was a child, my mother told me once that I have to play by the rules of the system, the world, so that I can stand out and, well, “get picked”. Only after getting picked, stepping up to a position in that system, that world, can I have the power to change the rules. Playing by the rules to eventually change the rules. That became my motto for a few years.
Until i found out how much I hated doing that. Pleasing the people who have the power to pick, to judge, to make decisions. What’s more, I noticed that I didn’t have to change the rules, the system, the world I’m trying to get in. Because the rules are changing by themselves, too.
And this topic – do we please the middle person or the person at the end of the line, the readers and viewers – is proof that the rules have changed. There’s still the way to get picked by The New Yorker; but it’s not the only way.
It’s not the only way. What a relief!
I am writing for “selfish” reasons in the first place. I am, like many others, creating because we want to please ourselves, to make our own worlds better, more interesting, shinier, with confetti maybe. But then we are looking for the most important souls out there whom we are desperately speaking to, reaching out for some echoes, some resonance, some sparks.
I can still try to get my article picked by some publishers, since it’s still easier and faster to reach more eyeballs through their platforms. But it’s important for me to know I don’t have to do it to reach others, the second most important person(s) in my creative life – my audience, readers, and viewers.
You are a professional at doing it, because the stakes are high.
It’s not your hobby. Because you certainly can make money from your hobby, if you like. Your livelihood doesn’t depend on it; your quality of life — financial and/or mental — won’t change much if you don’t carry on with it.
It’s not private. Hobby is private.
Being professional means having a standard. It means you voluntarily put your work in front of others and say “this is my work. I have a standard.
I am on a professional level.
I have a principle.
I do what I like. This is what I like to do. But I also do it for others. And get recognised for it. And most of times, I get paid for it.
I don’t do it just for fun.
It’s not necessarily my profession.
But I’m a professional at it. I do my work when I don’t want to. Because I’m doing it also for others.
“Cooking dumplings in a tea kettle” is what the Chinese say when they want to describe someone who has much to say but unable to express it.
You must have had that feeling. It’s like you have much to say and to express, but somehow you just can’t let it out.
“I’ve got it.” You say. “I’ve got the idea but I’m not really sure…”
See, your problem is right there.
You can’t expect to let the dumplings out from the small opening of the kettle. You have to open the lid instead!
So, how do you open your “lid” to let out all the good stuff in your head?
Answer: have an idea generating session!
But not a 45-minute sit-in while having a staring contest with your blank paper.
A 10-minute quick but intense session of jotting down anything that pops in your head.
This is how you do it:
You can write the main topic on the top of the page. Say, “creativity”.
Then you note numbers from 1 to 15. Like the following:
Then you give yourself a 10-minute timer. Write down anything that you think is related.
Be specific if you can. Write down essential words so that you know what you mean.
For example. Some of the things I wrote down are: use of time, coming up new ideas, comparing self with others, sleep or no sleep?…
No matter what, fill in all 15 of them.
There will be some that spark more inside of you than others. When you start to create, start with those.
This is what I call the blitz-brainstorm session. The brainstorm session fast as a blitz. 🙂
The reason why this is an effective way to generate ideas is simple: you shut down your need to “be sure” about something, which is in your “mind”; instead, you let things out without filtering them, from your subconsciousness or simply your “gut”.
Not all of these ideas are worth going deeper and eventually becoming something. But you’ve got at least one good idea. That might be the one idea you’ve been searching for the whole time. It’s been hiding in your brain all along.
Like the dumplings in your kettle, you just need to find a way to let it out.
Being in the middle of creativity means being in the flow. And I was never so often in the flow like when I was in junior high.
In my junior high, we had a weekly writing class. The writing class was two 45-minute classes combined together with a 10-minute break.The teacher would use the first 15 minutes to talk about the composition we wrote in the previous week’s session. Usually the best work would be picked out and also read out loud by the teacher to the whole class. Then we would get a new topic, and use the rest of the time to write a new piece.
I normally took about 5 minutes to think about what I would write. And then there went my pen, on my notebook.
The words started coming out and then they were pouring down from the tip of my pen. I had no need to pause. I didn’t need to think. I guess the magic was somehow that I wasn’t thinking so that the words could come out by themselves.
I wrote fast when the scene I was writing got intense; I slowed down when everything in my character calmed down. I couldn’t hear anything happening around me. I remember once my deskmate asked me whether I was writing about boys.
“Why?” I asked. “Your face is all read,” He grinned. “and your ears too!”
I felt drunk. Now if I look back, I think how I felt was similar to a light drunkenness. It’s like he just woke me up from a dream. I felt warm in my body, the world around me felt blurry.
I never used the 10-minute break to go to the bathroom or drink water. I just kept writing. There’s no decision needed to be made. It’s just flowing.
The worst of the worst at this moment was my pen dried up. But my pencil was there ready to fulfil its duty for my creativity.
I used up the whole 70 minutes and finished the composition just on time. I had to, because we had to hand our work in right after the session.
The writing class was definitely one of my favourite classes. Not just because my works were very often read out loud and praised by the teacher. Nothing else – NOTHING – has been more enjoyable than being in the flow like that.
And every week. Same time. I was in there.
Like I was “possessed”, taken over by something.
Like for a short moment, I didn’t exist anymore. There was just words flowing out. And maybe I was in the words.
Since I was a kid, I longed for a room of my own. I needed a space for myself from everybody else. In our apartment, there was a room for me but I didn’t have a room of my own. Everyone could enter without my permission. I had to hide my things in order to have a sense of privacy.
Privacy was hidden things for me. The things I don’t want others to see, or not yet ready for others to see, but have to be hidden. Privacy was who I was deep down, what I didn’t want to express or share with others, because it’s my own and it’s nobody else’s business.
Privacy was a room of my own. Privacy was the space to create. A safe one.
That’s why I treasure my own space like it is luxury.
It doesn’t even need to be a room. It can be a corner, a quiet one.
Or a desk in a cafe. As soon as I can be alone there with my pen and paper, I’m ready.
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.