I’m going to come out with a possibly controversial statement…
Worrying helps our creativity.
Ok... think about it like this: most breakthroughs, whether they were in technology or art or anything else for that matter, came about because we were worried. We were worried we’d starve, worried that the other tribe would conquer us, worried that the Gods would be angered by our actions and so on. The main difference between overthinkers and the rest of the population – is imagination.
Now imagination doesn’t lead directly to creative flourishing. For us to make use of this gift, we need to combine our imaginative inspiration with action.
And here’s where it gets tricky.
Taking action, especially when we’re worried and all we have is ourselves and a blank canvas or blank page in front of us is… bloody hard.
Our worries can be a blessing and a curse.
Unless… we tackle them head on, removing the resistance and allowing us to crack on with our creative work.
I really did hope I’d stop moaning about the heatwave long before recording this podcast. I now can’t remember a time when I wasn’t uncomfortably warm.
And I resent the fact that I’m now doing the stereotypical Brit thing of talking about the weather, but there IS a reason for it: because, it was the prompt that encouraged me to push this bucketlist Year of Fun activity right up to the past week.
Originally, this was on my list of things to do in this YOF, but I wasn’t expecting to hit the sea until later in the year, when our dear channel gets acceptably warm, having had the summer to heat up.
This week reached all new highs in sweaty bettyness, and on Thursday afternoon, I finally caved and dug my swimsuit out from the depths of a chest of drawers.
Over the top went some easy to remove clothing, and a pair of slip on trainers for dealing with the stoney beach. I’ve learned that flip flops are NO GOOD when it comes to stones, the blight of the Brighton coast.
I left my phone, headphones, everything I’m normally comfortably distracted by at home, and padded down to the sea (all of 5 mins from my door) with keys wedged in swimsuit and towel on arm.
Even this part felt uncomfortable for me. For so many reasons I imagine, even though rationally I realise this is not something that’s meant to fill someone will anxiety.
For one, I felt semi naked without my backpack and phone and all that. I just didn’t want to bring anything that could be swiped on the shore while I went solo into the sea. I also felt weird doing something I haven’t done in like… 5 years? And even then, that was on holiday - not on a weekday afternoon.
But rational Cat told me to quit whining, it’s a holiday for someone somewhere, you’ve finished your work for the day according to your Asana calendar, and you live 5 minutes away from a sea you haven’t stepped foot in for the 2 years you’ve lived in Brighton.
Oh I should tell you the other reason I was probably quite anxious: I can’t really swim. OK I could swim if my life depended on it - I hope - but I’ve never been a strong swimmer and certainly don’t like being out of my depth.
I have ambitions to get over this story I’m telling myself that I have very dense bones that sink like lead, and that it’s genetic (my entire family are aquatically-challenged) and I guess this is the first step I’ve made in a long time to getting myself a new story.
So I made it. I awkwardly hobbled into the sea, across the cursed pebbles, hat and sunglasses still on because there was no way my face was going anywhere near the surface.
And it was really fucking cold! I had heard it was heating up unusually early this year thanks to the heatwave, but this was like ice water in my opinion.
And I won’t lie: it was… OK. I happily discovered the stones gave way to sand once I was in beyond my waist, and the surreal quality of staring out and seeing nothing but sea and sky around you, bar some annoying kids who were having no problem swimming - well, it was quite fun.
I stayed there, moving my arms around like a weird fitness video from the 80s, until I got bored enough and headed back to land, emerging from the sea like a cross between Ariel in the Little Mermaid, and swamp thing.
After drying off, I headed back to my laptop, enjoying the buzz my nervous system got, and felt slightly less hot and bothered, and a gratifying sense of accomplishment for finally tackling my sea anxiety.
I think if I keep this habit up I’ll find it more fun than fearful, we’ll see.
In this week’s episode of the Creative Introvert podcast I talk to Danny Gregory, co-founder of Sketchbook Skool and author of nearly a dozen internationally best-selling books on art and creativity.
I personally came across Danny from his podcast Shut Your Monkey, in which he interviewed fascinating artists, psychologists, authors, all kinds of folk who gave me the inspiration to push on with my creative work.
I'm be giving away a copy of my favourite book from Danny, The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are to one lucky listener.
Here's what you can do to enter to win:
You can leave a rating and review on iTunes (here's how to do that) and I will be as happy as a lamb frolicking in sunshine (or sob into my pillow, depending on what you write.)
I’m back to the somewhat New Agey Year of Fun experiences this week, this time with a Sound Bath.
OK for those of you unfamiliar with this sound-bathing thing, like I was until very recently, I’m going to read what’s on the website of the place I visited, The Tree of Life, Hove.
"Lay back and relax as the beautiful sounds and tones of Gongs, Himalayan Singing Bowls, Crystal Singing Bowls, rainsticks and other therapeutic percussion instruments wash over you whilst you rest on a comfortable yoga mat with cushions and blankets. Therapuetic Sound Baths are proven to relax on a deeper level than other relaxation methods.
Bringing calm to the body and mind, and helping brainwaves lower to levels that are similar to meditation or those experienced just before you fall asleep. The sound can induce a state of deep relaxation and allow you to rest there with the effect that cortisone (i.e. the stress hormone) reduces, blood pressure and heart rates are lowered, potassium & sodium levels in the body are rebalanced and cellular regeneration can take place which, in turn, helps our autonomic nervous system to restore.
After the session, you are invited to share your experience with the group if you wish.”
Sounds pretty harmless right? It’s actually got some science to back it up, too.
The theory goes: brain signals are transmitted through frequencies, kind of like music through a radio. Studies show that these signals, or “brain waves,” correlate to particular states of consciousness such as focus, relaxation, meditation, and sleep. Generally speaking, slower brain waves are associated with more relaxed meditative states, while faster ones correlate to alert and active states.
Scientists are now discovering that brain waves can be modified by externally produced sound frequencies through a process called entrainment—when the frequency of one object synchronizes with the frequency of another. This means sound can be used to tune brainwaves to specific frequencies and achieve desired states of mind.
This likely doesn’t come as a massive surprise, given that you’ve probably had the experience of listening to music and feeling calmer or listening to another piece and feeling pumped up and ready to dance, run or my favourite: mosh.
As for serious psychic healing or anything that mentions clearing space or raising energy or anything else that sounds vaguely woo, while I’m open to it, I’m not making any claims about that here.
But for an hour on a Sunday morning to lay down in a nice-smelling room with several other people and listen to some calming gongs, I thought it was worth a punt.
So I get to the Tree of Life Centre, somewhere I’d passed many times but had yet to venture into, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was nicer than I thought, cosier, less clinical, woo without the need to overdo it.
The lady at reception was lovely and welcoming,also turned out to be the Sound Bather - Ruth. I’d say she was responsible for 80% of my comfort - I really loved her balance of gentleness without any of that hippy guru, holier than thou bullshit. She explained a little about what to expect, and didn’t force any esoteric ideas onto us, just hinted at them, which was perfect.
Everyone was already lying down on their yoga mats when I entered, which was nice because I didn’t have to make eye contact with anyone, always a plus.
We were given a pillow, blanket and bolster so I was very comfy. And we were given a headsup: if any of us start to snore, then give permission to be woken up. The woman next to me said ‘Just wack me’ which instantly made me warm to her.
I said ‘me too’ but really I knew it was highly unlikely I’d be so mellow I’d fall asleep - and actually I doubted whether anyone could.
So the sound bath began. Ruth started with singing bowls, I think, and made her way to the gongs, which were… unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Truly.
After about half an hour, I realised I couldn’t feel my body. In a good way - I was so chilled I couldn’t imagine moving. Which wasn’t ideal, because the nice lady next to me DID fall asleep and DID start to snore. Quite loudly!
So the battle in my head began over whether or not to wake her, at least for the sake of the rest of the group, or to let her be, given that waking a stranger seems harsh unless you think they’ll miss their stop on the bus or train.
I gave her a 3 snore rule, so whenever she made 3 loud snores in a row, I’d gently tap her. Which required me to stir from my glorious stupor, but I learned a lesson: don’t take the place next to snorey mcGee again, no matter how nice she seems.
One more thing to report: visions. Yes, actual scenes happening in front of my closed eyes. OK - it wasn’t ayahuasca-like visions, these were just games our eyes play on us when we’re very relaxed and have nothing else to look at. You might have seen similar when you’re drifting off to sleep.
They’re basically geometric patterns, as well as a strange tunnel-like phenomenon that, depending on what you read, is either a result of awakening the third eye OR a well-known result of phosphenes, an effect that occurs through activation of retinal ganglion cells in a very similar way to how they activate as a response to light. Can also happen when you’ve had a blow to the head, have low blood pressure, stand up too fast or rub your eyes really hard.
But yeah, you could say it’s your third eye chakra opening too.
The bath ended with a rainmaker and rattle, which was less pleasant than the gongs, but I got used to them. It was a nice way to bring us back to the room, and reality I guess.
At the end, Ruth asked if we’d like to talk about our experience, and after a few silent beats (something I cannot STAND) I had to raise my hand. I mumbled something like ‘it was my first time and I’m really surprised by how great it was!’
Not so useful I’m sure, but it was something.
After that we made our way to our feet, slowly, and headed out.
This was the perfect balance of group activity, without any necessary interaction, and it left me in such a good mood all day long.
Part of my fascination with the term ‘introvert' as I define it is how it describes how I understand where we, as introverts, get our energy from.
Now I’m far, far from scientific when it comes to these energy matters. And that’s OK: any scientist who’s worth his salt will admit he or she still doesn’t know all there is to know about matters like energy.
As a general rule of thumb, an introvert gets their energy from spending time alone. Solo activities, low stimulation, with plenty of time for some introspection.
An extrovert on the other hand will get their energy from spending time in the company of others, sharing ideas and absorbing a stimulating environment with lots of excitement.
The unfortunate part about this simple definition is… it leaves very little room for the grey area: the spectrum of introversion—extroversion that we all fall on.
You’ve heard it before, let’s hear it again: “There is no such thing as a pure extrovert or pure introvert. Such aman would be in a lunatic asylum.”
Thank you Dr Jung, that’s quite a relief.
So why does it matter where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum? If you’re 51% introvert, you’re an introvert!
Not so fast.
This is one that might strike some of you as a bit… odd. I mean, your idea of Fun might be very far from planning the logistics of a holiday and actually indulging in the research involved in making the most out of a short break.
Truth be told, I was at a bit of a loss of what to report on this week, as it’s been… rather uneventful. I mentioned my energy slump last week in the Museletter, that all of July and a little of June - which I had, mostly, attributed to the heatwave here in the UK. It was strange: I knew it wasn’t a depression, I’ve experienced much darker times before; this was just a mild resistance to doing. Which for me, someone with a tendency to be a bit of a workhorse and actually derive joy from that, now that I love what I do, came as a bit of an upset.
I kind of didn’t know what to do with myself, that’s the best way to describe it. But on Monday this week, I finally broke through my fog of apathy, and got my mojo back. I was motivated to work again, I felt like I was making some progress on my book, I rearranged my room and I found my energy last long into the evening, no temptation to vegetate in front of youtube.
Ok so that said, I’ve actually just been a bit of a workhorse this week. And even though that has been fun for me, I doubt it’s going to make for much of a YOF podcast I’m afraid.
Which brings me onto planning a holiday. I have to admit facts: I just love this part of travelling. Sure, getting to see and experience a new place is the best, but I often wonder how much of the fun is simply in planning and anticipating it, for me.
So, for today’s YOF I'm indulging myself in my love of planning , and I invite you a long for the ride. May be it will be of some use to you if you get stuck in planning holidays especially if you’d like to take a solo trip and have some concerns about that, and I can indulge the rest of my fellow trip planning geeks who might just get a kick out of hearing someone else’s approach.
I selected a rather lovely, quirky cafe/antiques shop out in Portslade. It’s quiet, friendly and has lots of interesting things for me to look at - it kind of makes me feel like I’m already away.
I actually booked my transport a while ago, but for me this usually looks like opening up an incognito tab on Chrome (or private browsing mode in whatever browser you use) so that cookies are’t stored and airlines can’t advertise flights to you for the next 6 months. This may be added paranoia, so feel free to ignore that step.
I like using Google flights these days, but Skyscanner or Kayak also do great jobs of scowering the internet for cheapest flights. I like to view flights for a whole month or for a big a time period as possible, so I can nab the cheapest deal, but a lot of this is dependent on your schedule. I find that travelling in the week is cheaper, but it’s also the quietest time to see most places and for a city break, you might consider that if you want a slightly quieter trip.
I’m a big proponent of Airbnb, I’ve never had a bad experience personally, and I’ve been to over a dozen places using their service. For my trip, which is 3 nights in Edinburgh, a new city to me, I had to allow for a slightly higher price than normal because I’m going during the Edinburgh Festival - yeah, the festival.
I was super surprised to find places that looked pretty decent for under £40 a night, which is kind of insane considering the price of hotels at this busy period. Anyway, I read my reviews (that’s my number one tip for Airbnb - make sure you pick places with lots of 5 star reviews, and read a good number of them to get an idea of what to expect) and booked away.
If you have any qs about booking with Airbnb as a solo traveller, feel free to shoot me an email. I’ve also got a promo code for you in the show notes, should you want to save some cash with your booking.
This is my favourite part: deciding what I want to pack into my visit.
Because this is during the Festival, I know I’ll have lots to see that I wouldn’t at another time, but some of the things I consider when picking my tourist activities are:
This is one of my favourite parts of travel, and something I have to indulge in.a bit when I’m away. I think it’s one of the best ways of getting to know a place: through it’s cuisine. I like to try and pick at least one classic traditional place, so for Edinburgh… you know there’ll be some haggis involved.
And I like to pick a few spots which are quite casual: somewhere I can go and not feel too weird that I’m on my own. Dining alone can be a big fear for some people, and while I don’t mind it, I’m not exactly going to book a table for one in a fancy French restaurant only to be surrounded by couples. Or worse, a family restaurant surrounded by screaming brats.
TripAdvisor is usually where I go for ideas on restaurants, but I don’t recommend this for London because I’ve had a look and the top 20 or so are not where I’d recommend people go. I think some cities have learnt to game the system, paying for reviews etc, and London is clearly one of them.
Ok, both consumable so far but hear me out: finding great cafes is a serious speciality of mine, and I’m always blown away by the places I find abroad. Again, it’s lovely to get an understanding of the local culture, while chilling out and doing some reading about the place or just giving your feet a rest.
So I’ll be looking for some of the most hipster looking places, I won’t lie, and a good place to try to find these are actually blogs. So I tend to search google for things like ‘top coffee spots in Edinburgh’ or ‘best cafes in Lisbon’ or wherever you’re going. There’ll be a bunch of travel bloggers who have compiled decent lists with photos and so on.
So one thing I love to do when I’m away, especially if it’s a city break, is to make sure I squeeze in some time in nature. I discovered this love in Japan, when I became mildly obsessed with finding the small but perfectly formed green spots in Tokyo, a city you might think is all concrete and glass. Actually, it has some incredible parks and gardens - some are huge too - and I had some of my best times just exploring in those.
So I’ll be looking for green places, botanical gardens, parks and so on.
4) Places of Worship
Oh how I love a good cathedral! This is likely some subconscious Catholic bias I have, which I haven’t shaken, but I’m open to all sorts of religious structures. I loved the temples in Japan, I loved the synagogue in Budapest, and I loved the strange mosque/cathedral hybrid of Cordoba.
I love to find some real silence in these places, and have a little moment when I’m not thinking about my next meal or where I can charge my phone.
OK, this is something you might wonder why an introvert is putting on their list, especially one who is chasing to travel alone, but I have learnt that tours - yes, group tours - really make a trip into a memorable experience.
I don’t exactly make friends for life on afternoon tours of a city, but I’ve had some great encounters. If you’re planning a longer trip to a more exotic place, then I really recommend a tour group, at least for part of it. I went to South Africa in a group tour, and Japan, and I can’t imagine enjoying the places as much without the people I met.
It’s also a great way to learn about a place. I find my mind doesn’t really take in info from guide books and travel blogs that well, but having a real live person in front of me who I can ask dumb questions to, is amazing.
Now, other than national treasures that you’ve already heard of or somewhere you’ve been recommended, I think leaving the rest of your schedule open to chance is the way to go.
You might note I personally don’t include museums or art galleries, and might think I’m off my rocker given that I’m a self-professed visual creative and lover of art and cultural type things… but… I can do that stuff AT HOME.
There are still places on my doorstep I haven’t explored as much as I’d like, but the idea of walking through a museum just to see a painting of a place in another part of the world, strikes me as a bit disrespectful to the place I’m in.
It may be a strange philosophy, but I feel like museums and galleries are for locals, who ought to expand their knowledge on where they’re currently living, and tourists ought to see the parts of the city that usually only the locals see.
Each to their own, that’s just my approach.
OK That’s a wrap, I’m all planned up now - and I will have an update on what I actually end up doing in Edinburgh in a few weeks time.
For now, take care and I’ll catch you next week!
In this week’s episode of the Creative Introvert podcast I talk to someone I’ve actually met in REAL LIFE, which is always a treat, a fellow seaside dweller and creative introvert, Rachel Shorer.
Rachel writes and performs as a way to channel her tendency to overshare about her personal life and rant about stuff like feminism and culture. She’s about to go on a tour of women’s living rooms with her spoken word show 10 Mistakes Every Girls Makes in Her Twenties. She’s also working on a first novel, The PeaceWeaver’s Wordhoard, which I’m personally, very excited for.
I'll be honest: I was a bit reluctant to record today, partly because I'm simply not in the mood, and partly because I was feeling some guilt around the actual subject of today's Year of Fun.
I think I've gotten into the habit, particularly in recent YOF episodes, to pick things i think will be in some way beneficial to my personal growth - they might be a bit challenging, or require me to fly to Peru, you know: run-of-the-mill personal growth stuff.
But today I had to be honest and say: I have not done anything remotely growth related, I wasn't pushed outside my comfort zone, I wasn't made to purge lemongrass water... I just had a nice trip up to London with my friend.
And then, upon explaining my conundrum to someone else last night, I realised that actually: this is exactly what the Year of Fun is about, at least in part.
It's about me doing things for the sheer fun of them, it's about challenge too, but it's totally OK not to feel adrenaline every single week.
I went to a cat cafe. This is Lady Dinah's cat cafe, one of the first - if not the first - in London, somewhere I'd been meaning to go to since it opened.
I'll admit I have been to cat cafes before, one in Japan, one in Budapest. But I'd never had a full on afternoon tea in one.
Two of my most favourite things: cats and cake!
So the place itself is in East London, fairly easy to get to. We waited for a wee bit before being led to our table - they're quite specific about timing so you have to book in advance.
The cafe is spread over two floors, and has a kind of Blue-Peter chic quality to it, which I think is trying to be like Alice in wonderland style but may be not quite nailing it.
There are meant to be 14 cats according to the website, but I don't think I saw more than 5 or 6, and mostly they were asleep. Which is what I expected, having been to similar cafes before and wondering if they had drugged the cats slightly to make them more docile.
But we know cats like a good sleep.
The afternoon tea arrived quickly, a bloody good spread. We had a tier of little rolls with tuna and egg salad, then the scones which were perfect and warm, and then a tier of cakes and macarons.
The cakes were so-so but the scones were perfect, and that's what counts.
The service was great, you get free refills on any drinks you want so I feel like you just about get your money's worth.
And that was that. I snapped a couple of pics of some sleepy kitties on our way out, and we headed across the street to the pub. A very fun afternoon, and a reminder that it's OK to do something fun, just because.
Full show notes here: https://wp.me/p5bc9S-2p8
You might have heard/read the adage ‘What gets measured gets managed.’
It’s the idea that we can’t change or improve something unless we’re keeping track of it.
The simple act of paying attention to something will cause you to make connections you never did before, and you'll improve the those areas - almost miraculously, without any extra effort.
And it doesn’t mean only things with numbers can be measured: there are ways of turning more qualitative, subjective aspects of life into a measurable format.
This approach to personal development or creative business progress isn’t going to appeal to every introvert, I know. For ISTJs and ISTJs this approach might come naturally - but for other types like INFPs there might be some resistance to this more left-brain tracking habit.
But bare with me! This tracking business is seriously powerful - and it can be fun, if you decide to make it so.