MUSINGS: Against Fake Inspiration

In ‘Hey, Internet: Stop Trying To Inspire Me’, Jamie Varon expresses how tired she is of people trying to inspire her to have a better, bigger, happier life.

She notes that there’s a monumental wall of stuff out there which attempts to make us feel inspired, but ends up leaving us feeling inadequate and ashamed.

You may have heard some of this stuff in your travels around the web and beyond.

Life is an adventure! Happiness is a choice!

Jamie asserts that while sounding well-meaning, positivity slogans and inspiring quotes and mantras can make us feel ashamed that we can’t be more positive, happier, better, stronger. Their meanings dry up the moment life happens.

Jamie says that rather than surrounding ourselves with cheap, easy, flowery inspiration, it’s time to embrace realness, community, and wanting to feel understood and heard.

“Let me exist. Let me fumble. Let me find the patch of light in the long tunnel of darkness. Let me figure out some shit on my own” she opines.

I have to agree.

In a world that slings ‘how to be a better person’ mantras our way every minute of every day, and spews forth endless ‘positivity slogans and ‘lists to inspire greatness in you’ it’s refreshing to read some honesty amongst the BS.

And that whole ‘happiness is a choice’ thing. No it’s not. Its hard work and it can be fleeting. It’s ok to not feel happy every single moment. It’s human. Note to self: you don’t need to fix yourself if you’re not smiling every moment of the day. Life isn’t a pink fluffy cupcake.

We don’t ALWAYS have to strive for perfection, no matter how many times it’s drilled into us by social media and in everyday discourse.

We shouldn’t feel compelled to pine over pinterest or instagram and wish that some stranger’s perfectly curated life was ours. No no no. Your experience, YOURS, alone, defines you. Good times, bad times and everything in between.

Life isn’t an infomercial for bubblegum. It’s bumpy sometimes; scary, complex, weird, and sometimes its just plain dull.  We shouldn’t feel disenfrachised from feeling every nuance that life has to offer just because social media tells us that we should ‘look on the bright side’ and ‘strive for greatness’.

As Jamie says “I’d rather see people fucking up than trying to act as if they never do.”

Of course, there is nothing wrong with positivity. Looking at things from a ‘glass half full’ kinda vibe is often a good thing, if it is felt honestly and authentically – and not forced upon us by someone else as a prescription for how to be, all the time. If we feel that we have to be positive all the time and fail at doing so, it only serves to negate our real experience and make us feel like failures.

In the authors words, ‘less fake inspiration and more realness.’
Give me some of that.



LIFE INSP: Inspiring quotes from creatives- THE ULTRA

Be inspired by my favourite quotes from musicians, artists, photographers & designers from 2014.


“I came out of the gate projectile vomiting my demons all over the place. It felt like immediately a weight had been lifted.”

 – Angel Haze

“I don’t have time to be a bitch to people, it’s so unproductive. I know there are so many people out there—fans and artists—who think it’s cool to be a cunt, but you’re so fucking dumb if you think that’s cool.”

Charli XCX

“His Buffalo style was a huge influence. Keep it classic, keep it edgy, keep it real, keep it mean.”

– Neneh Cherry, on her mentoring stylist ray Petri who died of AIDS right as ‘Buffalo Stance’ exploded

“You have a little light inside you – you have to put it in your fucking work.”

—James Victore, designer


“The most powerful stories are the stories that unite us rather than simply divide us. This is what motivates people to action.”

 Ami Vitale, photographer


“I hate that word. Legend, icon, diva. I hate all those fucking words. They’re meaningless. I prefer Cher.”

– Cher, on being called a ‘legend’


“In every person’s life, around 27 to 29 years old, the stars and the planets align themselves to exactly the way they were when you were born. You’re faced with yourself. There’s no running away.”

Lykke Li

“I feel like humans are a disease. It’s a hard thing to communicate in a pop song. I mean, who wants to hear that?”

— Zola Jesus

“If you get a little bit of creative freedom, charge at it as hard as you can.”

—James White, illustrator

“I’m glad things are getting better, but I’m going to push and be pissed off until they’re perfect. That will probably never happen, but I feel some weird duty nonetheless. Even though I can get married in Seattle, I could go to another country and get the death penalty just for being myself—I’m not making music just for fiancés in Seattle.”

Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas,_Kim_Gordon,_Supersonic_festival_2012.jpg

“The American Dream has completely changed. It used to be like, ‘Work hard and you’ll achieve – you’ll be able to provide for your family.’ Now it’s all about trying to get on reality TV shows and becoming rich and famous by doing as little as possible.”


“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

—Trina Cintron, designer

“You never know where your work will end up if you don’t do it and just put it out there. Just give it a shot.”

—James White, illustrator

“The whole trend of white girls appropriating black culture was more corny than it was offensive. Trust me, I’m not offended: All the things I’m trying to run away from in my black American experience are all the things that they’re celebrating. So if they fuckin’ want them, have them; if they want to be considered oversexualized and ignorant every time they open their fucking mouth, then fucking take it.”

Azealia Banks

“Do the work that you love, do the work that you believe in. You never know when that next thing is going to let you shine.”

—Lee Hirsch, filmmaker

A different thing happens when women scream. It’s not always seen as powerful and it’s not something everyone is attracted to. It’s something a lot of people are even repulsed by. I’ve been told to shut up my entire life. I’ve always had to be loud, and I’ve always been scorned for it. So when I got to release that in a noisy setting onstage, and people didn’t tell me to shut up—and they were happily applauding me—it was super powerful and satisfying.”

White Lung’s Mish Way

“Tunnel vision can kill creativity.”

—Ami Vitale, photographer


What’s your favourite quote?


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WARRIOR LESSONS: Goal setting- eyes firmly on the prize!

I read this quote recently –

“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.”

It’s one I keep in my little treasure trove of words for the wise. Those ones you read back on and it’s like a lightbulb flicks alight.  You freeze for a moment in time and then everything falls back into focus. ‘Oh yeah’, you think, ‘that’s why I’m doing this’.

I barely think this point needs much expansion, really: its pretty self explanatory. When you forget what your goals are and where your dreams and designs are leading you, its easy to get distracted and let setbacks and negative comments and missed opportunities get to you.

They can take little tiny chinks out of your armour, one by one, if you let them.


Focus on that prize at the end with a steely gaze and do not let anyone or anything take that out of your reach!  Planning something big, and special, will give you the focus and determination to plough through the mundanity of everyday life on those days when it all seems too much.

One trick I deploy is that when life starts to swallow me, and I’m feeling like I’m not moving ahead or progressing, I try really hard to turn that thought around into gratitude. I’m thankful for the fact I have a stable job that allows me to have the time (occasionally) to do my makeup artistry and my other pursuits outside of work.  And allows me the time and energy (again, occasionally) to write and focus on things that mean much to me.


I’m also planning a trip to Europe next year to catch up with a wonderful, awesome friend of mine whom I haven’t seen for over a decade yet it seems like no time has passed. I’m planning on seeing some of the countries I’ve always wanted to visit- Spain, Italy,  Germany. I am super excited to start planning this trip! It will mean a lot of willpower and hard work along the way, but if I keep my eye on that destination, the journey will be worth it and I’ll climb that darned mountain to get there.

Also, know this. There will always be people in the world who like to see other people fail, and who will give every ounce of their energy to try and trip you over on your path to glory. There are others who, better still, SHOULD support you but for some reason, don’t.  They just don’t care, don’t take an interest, don’t encourage you.  They just basically ignore you. Whatever. You got this far without them right? And go further you will, if you keep your eye on the prize and your mind on the game.

Kick the haters to the kerb. Better still – use their negativity as a springboard to make you better. Detractors and haters CAN play a part in your game. If you’re like me, you’re the type of person who is competitive and you get motivated and inspired by criticism.  I personally enjoy proving people wrong and turning negative situations into wins.

Don’t worry so much about the setbacks.

Missed an opportunity and taking it personally? Look at how you could have done things better to prevent that from happening – I guarantee you will turn that negative circumstance into an area for improvement, which will ultimately make you better and stronger and more fierce at what you do.


MUSINGS: On the creative process

I’ve been pondering a little of late about the creative process; more specifically, how to exercise that reflex and how to keep the creative tap turned on. Once we’ve found (and have learned how to entice, not spook) our muse, what is it that sustains and nurtures creative flow?

Are there any specific practices or processes that successful creatives put in place to ensure that their stream is as constant as it possibly can, and give it the best chance to flourish?

Many of us, especially when we begin a new year, promise ourselves that we will commit to our practice more. We’ll finish that short story. We’ll aim to write in our blog every single day. We’ll fantasise about drawing and painting every day, finishing that studio piece, practicing our instrument without fail.

Like those proverbial plateaus we often hit when working out, we sometimes lose the steam that once powered new and exciting ideas. So we take a day off to ‘rest’, which can turn into two; until eventually we sometimes find ourselves opening up a notebook or picking up our guitar only to realise it hasn’t been touched in two weeks – or more.

So how to break the drought? How do we implement some changes that will allow us to produce not only a bigger volume of work, but better work?  How do we get into a “growth mindset”, so essential for success?

I find in instances when I am running dry or feeling flat on my creative intuition, I turn to the pros for help. Success breeds success, and if we seek lessons from those who are achieving and succeeding now, we can find a range of ideas and tips on how to bring that creative spark back with a vengeance.

Learning from the pros is imperative, but if you don’t put their lessons into practice, it won’t take you far.

Professional creatives can offer a wide range of ideas; however, a common thread to their success is more often than not the two D’s- discipline and determination.

What does that mean in practice? That means making the time for your craft. It means not believing in writer’s block. It means turning off the television, silencing your phone, and finding that secret zen bubble. Easier said than done?

I was reading recently about Nick Cave, one of my absolute favourite multi-faceted creatives – songwriter, novelist, film-score composer, screenwriter – a brilliant, prolific and true modern-day Renaissance man. His genre-bending legacy is that of a highly creative and somewhat obsessive lyricist whose songs and stories never suffer for a lack of vividness.

With an astounding command of the English language and a seemingly unlimited pool from which to draw inspiration, Cave’s creative output in it’s quantity and quality is truly inspiring not to mention his weight as a performer. Although obviously inspired by many influences, his creations are uniquely his.

Claiming that “writing is a necessary thing for me, just to keep myself level”, Cave sees writing as a means of self-definition and self-preservation. Without creativity, Cave feels he would be “less of a human being”. But whilst he celebrates the creative process and claims “I can write certain stuff in my sleep”, there appears to be an element of toil in his art.

He has stated that lyric writing is often the most difficult for him, an agonising activity from which he derives minimal enjoyment. “Writing a song, I’ve always felt, right from the start, like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel. I don’t ever feel there’s a font of ideas to fall back on.”

That said, Cave has proven that he is not the type of songwriter to sit around waiting for lightning to strike.

Apparently he sits down to write daily, even it’s a mere few lines or a scrap of an idea or a ponderance. ‘‘I go into my office every day that I’m in Brighton and work. Whether I feel like it or not is irrelevant.”

Cave has committed to his writing for many, many years; through times of wild touring, excess and near-self destruction in the Birthday Party years, through the passage of marriage and fatherhood.  The muse beckons as strongly as ever, and projects of all kinds keep bubbling out.

Extraordinarily gifted, the two beacons that shine through and have been a constant for Cave are his discipline and determination to practice his craft and flex that creative muscle, ‘whether you feel like it or not’.

I find this so motivating; I’ve heard it echoed from varied sources of authors over time and I’m sure it applies across many other disciplines. It reminds me of esteemed funny man Jerry Seinfeld; poles apart from Cave, you’ll agree- he has also talked at length about the creative method that worked for him, and enables him to create new material, often at short notice.

Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity tip is called “Don’t Break the Chain”; perhaps you’ve heard of it? His method for success is simple enough to execute: at the start of each year, he hangs a large calendar on his wall and, for every day he writes new material, he takes the exquisite pleasure of drawing a big red “X” over that day.  Over time Seinfeld found that drawing those Xs got to be pretty rewarding, so he kept doing it. Eventually, he began to create a chain of red Xs. The idea was to never break that chain.

This approach programs the body and mind to sit down and do something daily.  It also motivates you to continue that beautiful string of big, red Xs. If you don’t practise your art on any particular day, you don’t get to draw the X.

It doesn’t particularly matter what you do, whether you write blogs, articles, scripts, your memoir. You could be an illustrator, struggling to find the time to finish a piece. You could be a painter, desperate to find the time to get into the studio and lock the door on the world. Or you could be like me, wanting more than anything to be able to create artistry on a face or body, if not every day, then as often as possible, with the rest of the time working on concepts, retouching looks, reflecting and writing about the process.

The common thread here seems to be as long as you’re actively and routinely pushing to try and observe and practice what you love as often as you can, you are going in the right direction.

First and foremost, it means making your creative outlet a major part of your life.

To do that, you have to make it a habit, just like going to the gym, eating healthy food, or flossing- but of course, it’s not that simple. There are countless excuses, most of them completely acceptable, which hold us back from practicing our passion. Often, it’s our never-ending To Do lists, whingeing at us at every minute for attention, that take precedence.

However if we commit to exercises like ‘Don’t Break the Chain’, our art, too, becomes a daily task to cross off that To-do list. Methods like ‘Don’t Break The Chain’ are a constant reminder that, if we want to succeed, we must acknowledge our craft and respect the process.

Of course, there are other ways to maximise creative energy, clear obstacles, transcend the ordinary and harness your true creative power.

Making the time and making the space seem to be common game changers. Being willing to try and fail as part of the creative process is another biggie.  Finding the balance between being carefree and careless, and visualization and affirmations, are other powerful tools you can add to your arsenal to help you empower yourself with the strength to become successful in your chosen creative field.

Because the reality is, if you do work at your craft obsessively, you will find success.

In the words of Cave, “inspiration is a word used by people who aren’t really doing anything. Keep going, avoid “starting”, never wait for inspiration, accept failure, carry on”.

Sage advice, indeed.

Happy creating xx



WARRIOR LESSONS: Go and Be Awesome

One of my blogging heroes and life inspirations, Chris Guillebeau (who actually IS awesome, by the way) discusses the concept of ‘going and being awesome’ on his site, the Art of Non Conformity.

At the heart of this premise is the notion that nothing else really matters, if you embody ‘awesome’.

If you really think about it, on a bigger picture macro level- how much does that degree or that long climb up the corporate ladder really mean in the scheme of things? At the fundamental level, should we really invest that much importance in these supposed milestones, big ticket purchases, new cars, mortgages etc?

Guilllebeau, as much as he is inspirational, is a realist. He understands the frustrations and challenges that telling someone to “go and be awesome” can pose, even to people who are completely capable of being awesome.

So that’s why he’s composed a list to help us on our way along the path to being bigger, better and more awesome. A cyber hand hold to show you how to really “be awesome”!

Thanks to The Art of Non Conformity for the forthcoming very useful advice:


Think about this every day: “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” ~ Ayn RandIf you aren’t comfortable with this attitude, it’s hard to be awesome. Sorry. You can be good enough without being assertive, but to a large extent, being awesome requires that you initiate, take action, and chart your own course through the norms of mediocrity.


Working your ass off, at least during specific seasons in life, is also a prerequisite for being awesome. This is huge-  if you don’t like hard work, good luck. I hung out with J.D. Roth in Portland a few weeks ago, and we talked about the big success of his personal finance site. Guess how many hours a week he has worked on the site since going full-time last year? 60 HOURS EVERY WEEK. That’s right, aspiring bloggers – you too can have 70,000+ readers and write your own ticket to internet fame – but it won’t happen by playing WoW every night. The same principle holds true with most other work that is worth doing. Yes, I know about things like life / work balance, taking time off to rest, and so on. Those are things you do after you’ve created your world of awesomeness. Jason Calacanis put it best, “If you want to work 9-5, get a job at the Post Office.” Still reading? As mentioned, those first two are prerequisites. They also serve as filters, because lots of people give up on self-determination and hard work. Assuming you can stick with it, it gets easier from here on out.


In any given work environment, almost everyone is focused on one goal: to make themselves look good. If you can change things around and focus on making other people look good, you’re well on the way to being awesome. In some environments (certainly academia), this is exceedingly rare behavior. Showing up to work is expected. Showing up early, prepared, and with a good attitude is remarkable (sadly). Present solutions, not problems. If you can present solutions to other people’s problems, you’ll go far. Contribute big ideas, including some that you know are likely to fail. You’ve probably heard this before: “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it.” To be awesome, be the busy person who gets things done.


A wise person once told me, you don’t have to be the first person replying to every convoluted email thread. That just shows everyone that you live on your email. Instead, show up at the end and contribute something of value. Your comments will come to be viewed as the deciding word instead of the kneejerk reaction. The next time, people will look forward to your response and wonder what’s wrong when you haven’t written in. Don’t use rude autoresponders. A rude autoresponder looks like this: What were you thinking in writing to me? I am too important to be bothered by inane requests like yours. I may or may not get back to you, and if I do, it will probably be a while. Have a nice day. Those are not the exact words (usually), but that’s the implied message. If you must use an autoresponder, like when you are traveling or otherwise not checking email very often, be polite and gracious.


Overdeliver in your personal relationships. Give more than you get. Never find yourself in relationship debt. Never make excuses about being too busy, not having enough time, etc. People who are awesome make time for what’s important to them. From time to time, you’ll screw up. This is how you apologize: “I’m really sorry. It was completely my fault. I hope you’ll forgive me, and here is how I am addressing this in the future.” If you forget to do something you’ve committed to do but remember it later, do it right when you remember. Buy thank-you cards and write 2-3 every day. Use your calendar to keep up with the birthdays of as many people as possible. Write real birthday notes or cards instead of Facebook posts. Whenever a casual relationship is coming to a close (the class ends, colleagues move to another project, etc.) write the person a quick email. “I enjoyed working with you… thanks for doing a good job.” When bad things happen, you can forgive the following: mistakes, weaknesses, shortcomings. (No one is exempt from these things, even awesome people.) When bad things happen, you should worry about the following: dishonesty, passive aggressive behavior, chronic tardiness, whininess. (These patterns do not usually get better with time.) Practice the art of radical exclusion with people who waste your time. This is NOT being impolite – it is showing respect for the people you have committed to serve. Remember that people will basically act the same no matter who they are around. If the people you hang out with are always complaining about other people, chances are they probably complain about you too. The point is: don’t put others down when they’re not around, or at least make sure you’re comfortable with whatever you say being repeated.


Reward the behavior of other awesome people, and stop rewarding mediocrity. Tip 20-25% for good service at a restaurant. For the rare occasion when service is awful, don’t tip at all. When you find yourself in a conversation with someone who likes to argue all the time, you may be tempted to respond, but you’ll regret it in the end. Just walk away. Always focus on core motivations. When presented with a request, analyze the situation by thinking about exactly what the person wants from you. (Hint: it is not always what they are explicitly asking for.) Keep up the positive momentum. Look to the future, not the past. Never be a critic without presenting an alternative. Remember that no statues are erected to critics, and no one is remembered for shooting down other people’s ideas.

Got that? Good. Now- go and be awesome, its well within your reach!


YO! Please feel free to send me your comments!!!

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