Happy New Year!

It’s the new year, la la laaaa…

What are your resolutions?

For the longest time I resisted having resolutions for the new year – it just seemed to cliche for me, and besides, I’m already re-evaluating my life and planning my future on a more-or-less seasonal basis anyways. It seemed to me that this was just the time of year that everyone else did it, and heaven forbid I do something at the same time as the rest of society. Well, I’ve stopped trying to be an anti-conformist just for the sake of being different, so here is my resolution for the new year: to chill out.

The last few months of my life have been so hyper-focused on being productive and achieving things that I haven’t spent that much time just enjoying life. Since I’m pretty much booked with contracts and projects until September 2012, I think I’ve got the productivity thing in the bag for next year, so my objective is to spend more time relaxing and enjoying life with my friends and family.

Productivity and Art

I came across this blog post on Twitter, and it seemed pretty apt to me, considering my recent post on living with a full schedule. The author makes an excellent point that forcing yourself to be constantly productive keeps your brain in a kind of vice.

First of all, you won’t experience much of the Good Stuff of Life if you’re always worried about optimizing the productivity of each moment. Some of my favourite memories involve time spent just hanging out in the kitchen with my roommates and friends, spontaneous photo walks, or book club meetings. Less memorable are the days when I ran from one commitment to another, packing it all in.

Secondly, according to the author, you’re going to exhaust your brain! He argues that every hour spent being insanely productive detracts from the next hour’s ability to do the same. I’m not sure if I agree with that as a rule, but it does make some sense. Mental work is at least as exhausting as physical work, if not more so. I’m reminded of my Dad, who often comes home from a long, busy, productive day at work and says “Okay, I just need to zone out in front of the TV for a while.” I’m reminded of him because I now often do the exact same thing. Our brains need rest! They need idle time that is spent wandering, imagining, or engaged in easy chit chat with a close friend.

I’m going to add to this argument that our creative juices need this down time as well. I don’t know how widespread this idea is, although I’m sure I’m not the first person to voice it, but I believe strongly that real art takes time. An artist whose in a rush isn’t allowing themselves to be an artist anymore. They are simply producing art-like work. Art needs to simmer beneath the surface – that’s how disparate ideas find their connections and how the true core of the piece bubbles to the forefront. Sure, I can slap something together in a week that will be a decent piece of art, but if I’m really trying to say something. If I’m really trying to reach people, the only thing I can say for sure is that it is probably going to take some time.

As an example of this, I’m going to present Lady Gaga. Now, I know a lot of people have different ideas about Lady Gaga and where she stands on the “artist” continuum. Personally, once I discovered the depth and breadth of her work and witnessed some of her liver performances, I was convinced: Lady Gaga was a true artist. She had a strong vision and used it to challenge our societal conceptions of gender, religion, and beauty. Sure, she’s not the first person to do that, but I don’t think anybody in the world is going to be the first person to do something, so that doesn’t matter. She was original in the only way one can be – by being unabashedly true and honest about the way they see the world.

Have you noticed how I keep referring to her artistry in the past tense? That’s because, in my opinion, her newest album and the subsequent work is not really art. Or at least not art on the same level she produced before. The main reason I see for this? She rushed it. She released two albums that were a brilliant whole, spent two years touring and producing relentlessly, and then immediately released yet another album. There was no time. What resulted is a pretty okay dance pop album with a couple of amazing tracks, but overall it has no soul. It had none of the overarching vision and artistry that her previous work had. Her newer videos feel obvious and frustrating in their concept and execution, and has anyone else noticed how “Judas” sounds a lot like “Bad Romance”?

It makes me sad to see something that could have been brilliant, had it been allowed time to breath and grow on its own, turned mediocre simply because the creator was worried about being constantly productive. I understand the panic, as a creative type. We want to keep creating. We want concrete evidence of the work we do and the thoughts in our heads. We want to prove to the world that we are still here, and we are still making things. But sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to set the creation aside. That’s when it will grow on its own.

Living with a full schedule

Wowee, life is full sometimes, isn’t it?  There’s lots of theatre on the docket in the coming months. Here’s a sneak peek to my upcoming projects:

Top that all off with a yin yoga teacher training at Semperviva Studios and teaching 5 classes a week and… well, things are going to be busy.

So how does a person manage all of this? Let me share!

  1. Write everything down – your schedule, your to do lists, everything.  Don’t waste valuable brain real-estate on remembering things that can be put on paper.
  2. That includes keeping a painstakingly up-to-date calendar that you can always access (electronic or “analogue”, that’s your call)- you want to know exactly when you need to do things at a moment’s glance.
  3. Review your calendar frequently – look ahead over the next couple weeks in spare moments to make sure that you’re not missing anything, and jot down any “to dos” that come from these browsing sessions
  4. Practice being in the moment.  You’ve written everything down, you’re keeping track of your duties as efficiently as humanly possible.  That means that when you are in the middle of doing something, you don’t need to worry about other things on your calendar.  A full schedule is only stressful if you let your mind move to all the other things on your list.  Be where you are.

If you haven’t guessed it, I think number 4 is the most important item on the list, but it’s not possible if you don’t do numbers 1-3 as well.

Oh, and make sure you schedule time for yourself.  A morning  yoga practice, time with friends, time with your favourite book – whatever feeds  you.

Take a Morning

I’ve been reflecting lately on mornings and how my morning habits have changed considerably over the years. I used to operate on the “sleep as late as humanly possible” principle, which is just as it sounds: I would set my alarm for the last possible minute so that I would have just enough time to get ready and get out the door. My theory was that I was better off having an extra half hour of sleep than a half hour of sitting around in the morning.

When did that change? You guessed it, during my yoga teacher training. During those three months, I started getting up a little earlier every morning to fit in a quick yoga practice before I started my day, and let me tell you, it had an impact on me.

Aside from getting the benefits of starting my day with yoga, it was wonderful to take some time for myself every morning before rushing off to work. Suddenly I had this little extra pocket of time in the morning that was mine, and even though it was usually only about 30 minutes, it made me feel like my day was about more than getting to work.

While I am obviously biased towards thinking yoga is the best way to spend your extra time in the morning, there are other great things to do: you can write, you can go for a run or do your other exercise of choice, you can meditate or pray, or you can just relax and read the paper for a while. Whatever you do, do it because you want to and not because you have to – this time is yours!

A New Perspective

This photography series is called “Pencil vs. Camera!” and it kind of blows my mind. Aside from producing a series of arresting and fascinating images, photographer Ben Heine has given me something far more valuable: a reminder to look beyond the obvious and see the world in a different way.

I get really busy. Really busy. The busier I get, the less I let my brain wander and the more I look at the surface qualities of an object or a person. No matter how busy I am, however, these images remind me to let my imagination run wild and see things for what they could be, not just for what they are.

Via Beautiful/Decay.

A New Blog! The Research Project

I’ve started (yet another) new blog! This one’s called The Research Project, and it’s all about learning new things. Every month I plan to pick a new topic, to learn about it, and write a report/paper/how-to based on my findings. The only rule is that the topic has to be something that is outside of my current areas of expertise, which is why my first topic is computer programming – way out of my area of expertise.

Check it out: http://research-theproject.blogspot.com

Drive-By (in a good way)

This is a more-or-less cross-post from my other blog, something I almost never do, but I feel like the sentiment applies here as well.

Today I was paid a random compliment by a stranger walking down the street. There was clearly no “agenda” on his part, as evidenced by the fact that the compliment was paid entirely in passing. He didn’t even break his stride for a moment to try to engage me in further conversation – it was a drive-by (or rather, a walk-by) compliment, and it brightened by already bright day considerably.

Then it hit me: this is what we’re all missing in life: compliments paid without agenda.

So I am issuing a challenge to myself and everyone else in the world: if you see someone and appreciate something about them, be it their looks, wardrobe, sidewalk dance moves, or whatever, give them a drive-by (or walk-by) compliment. In fact, let’s just make a point of trying to find something to appreciate in every single person we encounter, whether or not we tell them about it.

It’s sort of like what we learned in my Yoga Teacher Training, to approach each student by first looking for the good before we correct their postures. By starting from a place of positivity and appreciation, we were able to treat them more as a whole human instead of something that needed fixing. Wouldn’t that attitude be beneficial in day-to-day life?

Then, one good thought/compliment at a time, we will humanize each other just a little more and maybe even bring about world peace.

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you live in Canada, then you know what today is: Thanksgiving!

The other day I decided to look up the origins of Canadian Thanksgiving, since most of our Thanksgiving imagery is pretty inundated with pilgrims and Native Americans, and while I’ve always known that’s not what my Thanksgiving was all about, I was never quite sure where it began.

Thanksgiving originated in 1957, when the government made the following declaration:

A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.

The specific religious affiliation of that declaration aside, isn’t that one of the most positive things you’ve ever heard come out of legislature? A day of general thanksgiving – how wonderful.

There are a few historical events that contribute to the declaration of this day of thanks:

In 1578 Martin Frobisher attempted to traverse the Northwest Passage and set up a colony in what is now Nunavut. A very unfortunate series of incidents lead to them losing one of the ships an much of the building supplies before the remaining 14 ships separated and got lost. When they found each other again, they had a special meal and communion, giving thanks for their “strange and miraculous deliverance” to come together once again.

By 1604 when French settlers had landed on what is now Canadian soil, an annual feast of thanks was such a regular thing that the men had formed an Order of Good Cheer, and they were glad to share their meal with the First Nations of the region.

Then of course, it is a long-standing tradition among many First Nations group to have celebrations at the end of harvest to give thanks for their bounty.

So it turns out celebrations of gratitude have been a part of our society’s practice for hundreds of years, both among the “pilgrims” and the First Nations they encountered here in North America.

Let’s all give thanks!