An unexpected reward from a Big Year: More creative urges

Nearly two-thirds of the way through my first two Big Years, I quiz myself: worthwhile or not? I’m not sure whether it’s this self enquirer or the stimulus of a certain kind of travel (I’ll write about this stimulating topic sometime soon), but weird ideas have begun popping up.

Sitting in a Lake Como cafe, at an outside seat under a white umbrella, tourists promenading before me, fat middle-aged local men behind me gassing on, leg still sore from yesterday’s fall, I read the 20th of 50 interviews in Danielle Krysa’s Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Why I’m reading this is a mystery, because it doesn’t consider writers but visual artists, and not only am I a Pictionary disaster, I’ve struggled all my life to “understand” paintings, drawings, images, etc. But then I find this piece of “unblocking” advice from illustrator Justin Richel:

Take a couple large pieces of paper and cut them down into smaller parts between 5″ × 5″ and 10″ × 10″ (12 cm × 12 cm and 25 cm × 25 cm). You should have somewhere between twenty-five and fifty small pieces of paper. Without spending too much time on content, begin making marks or drawing loosely with your preferred medium on the paper. As you complete the marks, you may need to set them aside to dry; simply move to the next piece of paper and repeat until you have moved through the entire stack. Once you have moved through the entire stack, sort the pieces into three different piles. Ones that work , ones that don’t work , and ones that need work . In no particular order, finish the ones that work by adding the final touches. Work on the ones that need work and continue by making the ones that don’t work, work, by discovering what went wrong and how it can be “saved” if possible. Continue to work on the pieces until all or most are finished. You should now have a pile of fun starts, finished pieces, and some failures to learn from.

Flash . . . could I contemplate a Sketching Big Year even though my drawing/painting talent is demonstrably zero? Why does that thought excite me like it does? If contemplated, should the notion be pursued? Is 2017 a suitable candidate?

The accompanying image is of one of Justin’s works, reproduced with permission.

Meditation & the Headspace app

Meditating is meant to do good in so many ways but me, I’ve adored my busy monkey mind. Who wants to quieten the buzz?

Well, for some reason (a specific reason I won’t discuss now) the notion of being more mindful has beckoned. There are no yoga or meditation or mindfulness classes nearby, so on impulse, I picked up a free app recommended by Doctor Michael Mosley, whose ideas I value. The app? Headspace, 10-minute meditation “lessons” by Andy Puddicombe.

Shouldn’t meditation be more serious? Isn’t ten minutes frivolous? Surely this is just the territory of shallow apps!

In fact Headspace works a treat with me, some two months in. The sequenced “meditations” always succeed in leaving me relaxed and strangely self-aware, beyond what my normal fizzing mind can. Puddicombe’s intellectual framework seems true enough. I’ll keep going (but it’s not going to be a Big Year, okay?).

Is diet a suitable Big Year target?

Nutrition and diet are the modern middle class’s hidden burden. We eat and drink badly and too much, and we lie about it to ourselves but especially to others. I’m genetically lucky – thin, that is – but unlucky – borderline cholesterol numbers. I’m no nutrition sinner but also no saint, and I’d love to do better. Should I do a diet big year?

No! A big year addresses what’s in our heart – the yearnings, the hidden loves, the passions and those values and ideas we don’t honour but know we must. A big year is a one-year obsession. Diet is something else. More like cleanliness or manners, it’s something to address forever in the future.

Yes, diet is tough and, yes, it’s all about habits, but it’s more “I must fix diet or I’ll die early” rather than a big year’s “let’s dream, dream for twelve months.”

Cristina snatched moments

Five days of hiking in the Dolomites, based in Santa Cristina, was always going to be too busy to do any meaningful work. But I spent stray moments pondering who are the heroes and villains in my book. Varying opinions could be held. On a cloudy day we took a chair lift high. The clouds interrupted vista views but watching them swirl, I finally made all the connections. Out came the notebook.