Create First.

I open my iPad in the morning to check up on something and emerge hours later after falling down the rabbit hole of the internet. Again.

I try not to be too hard on myself. Social Media is designed to draw us in, to keep luring us back, to reward us for liking, clicking, scrolling, swiping. It is designed to turn us into addicts.

I take steps to minimize this influence in my life. Notifications are off. I keep my iPad and laptop away from the bedroom. I still don’t own a smartphone.

And I still find myself distracted more often than I’d like.

Starting my day on the computer or tablet is productivity poison. I am swept away by a deluge of bad news, nasty people and comparisonitis.

Checking my email first thing sets me up to be in a reactive mindset for the rest of the day, letting my inboxes dictate my to-do lists for me.

I relied on this so heavily last year that I started to forgot how to create for and from myself. Creative juices and muscles shrivelled away. Finding my way back to my own creativity, bringing something new into the world, fleshing out my own work instead of gorging myself on inspiration porn, has been incredibly hard for me.

 

Right now, I’m trying to raise my standards for myself.

Create First.

Share Second.

Consume Last.

 

Working to build this little mantra and habit is helping.

First thing, before I check my inboxes, I try to create something of my own, no matter how small. Even if it’s just three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness journaling. It might be a small sketch. Or a blogpost draft.

But I create.

 

Second, I share.

I am notoriously crap at sharing and promoting my work even if it’s crucial to my business. I do okay on word of mouth referrals, but I’m crippling my own potential by not putting more of my work out there.

Sharing comes second, whether it’s something I created that day, or something older I want to showcase.

 

Only when I have done those two things do I get to consume.

It’s never perfect.

I still fall down the internet rabbit hole, but now I end more days knowing that at the very least I have taken steps to bring something of my own into this world first.

And that can make all the difference.

Minimalism Game – Wasted

January 2018, I completed a 31 day challenge where you throw out one item on the first day, two on day two, three on the third and so forth.This was inspired by The Minimalism Game, my Mum and I just extended it for an extra day. 496 items later, here’s what I’ve learnt.

*

“It’s a pity though,” she said. “All that food going to waste.”

I’d just told her about helping my parents purge six shopping bags full of food stuff from their kitchen, most of which was past the sell by date.

Way past the sell by date.

 

I absolutely agree with not wasting food, but I’ve come to realize I’m actually wasting more food by hanging on to the old stuff.

Food that is 3, 6, 8 and more years past the sell by date is already wasted.

Keeping it means I can’t see what is in my cupboards that is still usable.

Keeping it means I am buying duplicates because I can’t find things I thought I had.

Keeping it means things get lost behind crap and end up going to waste along with it.

I am wasting more food by not throwing away what is already wasted.

 

However.

Letting go of it I am now able to use up what is actually usable.

I am able to cultivate awareness of what I do and don’t need and am now able to shape my  buying habits accordingly.

I’m buying less.

Using more.

Cooking is more fun, organized and pleasurable.

I’m more likely to cook that fancy pasta because I actually remember it’s there.

I’m using the special sauce because it’s not hidden behind 20 jars of jam I don’t eat.

Meals feel more special every day because I’m actually able to use some of the fun, fancy and exotic ingredients I was previously unaware of.

 

Food waste is a terrible thing and I try my best to keep it to a minimum.

But keeping food that is older than my little brother isn’t going to suddenly make it usable again.

It’s just taking up mental and physical space.

I’m trying to learn from the things I wasted so I don’t have to waste more of the same in future.

And admitting to myself: “No, I probably do not need three pots of shrimp paste.”

Minimalism Game – Fantasy

January 2018 I completed a 31 day challenge where you throw out one item on the first day, two on day two, three on the third and so forth. This was inspired by The Minimalism Game, my Mum and I just extended it for an extra day. 496 items later, here’s what I’ve learnt.

*

Oftentimes what is hardest isn’t letting go of an item itself, but disentangling myself from the identity I have attached to it.

Items I have purchased and kept for an idealized, romanticized version of myself.

I would like to be the kind of person who uses those cute heart shaped silicone shapes to make pralines for her boyfriend (who actually isn’t that into sweets, and would be way more excited about a good steak).

I would like to be the kind of person who romantically sits on the couch leafing through her cookbooks, but the reality is I have better shit to do and there’s an app for that.

I would like to be the kind of person who creates amazing mixed media art with all the wonderful art supplies she has, but the reality is my preferred medium is pencil, paper and some watercolour.

I would like to be the kind of person who fills myriads of beautiful handbound notebooks with prose, but the truth is that fancy notebooks paralyse me, and I’d prefer to just scribble around in a 50ct writing pad rather than risk marring those pristine pages with something mediocre.

I would like to be that person, but the truth is:

I’m.

Just.

Not.

Those things belong to a romanticized vision of the person I would like to be, but can’t be arsed to become.

Letting go was painful, because letting go meant admitting “I am not that person”.

The first time I experienced this I was clearing out my room after finishing school and came across a box of magic tricks for kids. I’d owned it for years and barely used it. I was in love with the idea of being able to do those tricks, but it dawned on me that I didn’t want to spend the days and months and years it would take to actually be moderately proficient at that skill.

I would rather be enchanted myself than spending my life perfecting my sleight of hand to enchant others.

I would rather find joy in actually cooking than in thinking about cooking.

And I would rather have fun making good art on crappy paper than never making any art at all because the paper is too good.

496 items later, I haven’t missed a single thing.

Dear 2017

Dear 2017,

You were good to me and you were also hard.
Hard when I thought you should have been easy.

You were the wild freedom of motorcycling under the open sky and the feeling of being more trapped and uninspired than ever before.

***

You were love and connection.

Laugh out loud tea parties with best friends. Family. Baking and crocheting with my Mum. Motorcycling and geeking out about motorcycling with my Dad. Deep conversations and big life decisions with my partner.

***

You were disconnection and loss.

Hitting goals I thought meant something to me, but that were probably someone else’s goal to begin with. No fanfares. No fairy glitter. Just a vague sense of loss and mild disappointment.

You were the reluctant and cathartic purging of certain structures, obligations and people from my life and the gentle thrill of subtle new beginnings in their place.

You were stability. You were safety. You were distraction and boredom and yearning for more but feeling too tired and burnt out to do anything about it.

Craving fullness while running on empty.

***

Dear 2017, you were surrender under protest.

Hibernation and the slow, uncomfortable and joyful process of reconnecting to my body and soul after months of disconnect, overwhelm and busyness.

You were funky new hair, freshly pierced ears and the same boring outfit every day.

Embracing the shift while clinging to familiarity.

***

You were doing the work and resisting doing the work.

Taking first tentative steps towards old dreams and being pleasantly surprised.

Resisting the truth harder than ever even while reaching out for it like my life depended on it.

Being utterly broken on the wheel of my own resistance.

***

Dear 2017, you were watching so much coming undone, in my life, the lives of others and the world at large and feeling helpless to do anything about it.

Waiting for someone else to save me, and the painful realization that no one could.

You were the shedding of the skin, an arduous peeling back of the countless, colourless and brittle layers to uncover what is good and real and true.

***

Dear 2017,

You were good. You were hard.
You were amazing. You were uncomfortable.

You were an important year and I hope I will understand you and your role in my journey a little better soon.

Right now I’m mostly confused.

Goodbye 2017.

As uncertain and wobbly as it may be

And as reluctant as I may be to take it

I am ready

For the next step.

Mr Wrong, Mr Right

J and I arrive first.

We sit, chatting, in a neat little flat on a dozy warm day in May.

I don’t remember who arrives next.

 

I do remember my first impressions.

Mr Right: Love at first sight.

Mr Wrong: “What a dick.”

Mr Right immediately brightens any room with his presence.

Mr Wrong just gets on everyone’s nerves.

Mr Wrong tells me his sob story.

 

Arrogantly, I decide to save him.

***

After our first cotton-candy sweet kiss after a day at the fair, I come home, collapse on the floor and cry.

Everything feels wrong.

Still.

For two and a half years I fight a fight I never wanted to win.

A fight to keep a relationship alive that was dead before it began.

***

Post-weekend: Relief.

Five days to convince myself I’m happy.

Saturday: Pitching back into despair.

***

Two and a half years of trying to stop thinking about him. Trying to forget someone I deeply care about for someone I alternately loathe and pity.

Sobbing “I’m happy” as my life falls to pieces.

I cheat. An innocent brush of the lips on a sleep warm cheek after a silly, sweaty, breathless tickle fight.

And against everything I believe, that wrong makes everything so right.

 

===

This piece was written during Week 1 of Laura Jane Williams’ fabulous writing course “Don’t Be a Writer, Be a Storyteller”. Laura really helped me get over myself and just start writing, as well as providing a fantastic toolkit for improving my work. I would not be posting this stuff without her. #srsummerschool

Between

Birdsong weaves itself between the beats as I don my headphones and start walking.

A giant maple arches its branches towards the sky, its leaves glow green against the blue. Sprinkled between are the beginnings of reds and yellows.

A little further.

Through the little patch of forest. The air is cooler here, and damp. Dead leaves crunching underfoot. Many are still fresh and golden, not trodden down into the soggy, compost-scented mush they will soon become.

A promise of that scent hangs in the air.

The lawn ahead is soaked with sunlight, incandescent against the gloom. Leaves flutter from the trees, flecks of golden fire as they catch the sunlight. Twirling. Falling.

I stop to pick up the first whole conker I have seen this year. Its fellows lie nearby, floury corpses mashed into the tarmac of the road. I turn it over and over, its greasy brown skin pockmarked and pitted with marks of lighter brown where it struck the road. Grains of sand hide an otherwise perfect smoothness.

I brush them away, flicking my fingers and rubbing them together to remove the grit, enjoying that smoothness, the place where the texture changes, becomes drier and rougher and white.

I pocket it. My feet beat the pavement in time to “Let’s Dance” from Lady Gaga.

Roses, death-defying, a bold display of crumpling petals that still glow a translucent, almost supernatural pink.

Other roses long gone without a trace, their branches heavy with rose hips.

I stop by a butterfly bush. What’s left of its panicles is darkened and dry, dashed here and there with some last specks of purple. A butterfly alights, wings working.

It flits momentarily harder as my shadow falls across it, stays put, uncertain, the next movement of mine sends it tumbling away all a-flutter, all powdered paper wings and soft, soft hairs.

I brush my hands along a bush in passing. Leaves resisting their death, clinging to their branches like stubborn old men to knobbly walking sticks. Tough, hardened, no memory remaining of the soft green fuzz, the delicate growth of spring that dreamed of life.

A stray cobweb tickles my nose. I sneeze.

A tiny yellow leaf, spinning, spinning, trapped in the strands of a web.

A fat spider. Watching. Waiting.

Nature at once dying and full of colour. Naked branches scratch the sky. Late bloomers brighten the roadside, a nearby bush hangs heavy with ripe red berries.

A strange time. Not summer. Not yet autumn.

The watered down sun warms the hazy air.

Sweat beads on my skin beneath my jumper, without it I know I’d be bordering on too cold.

My heart clenches.

I want to capture every single instant of this between, this beginning and this ending, this dying, this becoming.

My heart would explode if I could.

I smirk. Nod my head in time to the music. Winter is coming.

The year is trapped somewhere between the seasons.

I feel as if I’m stepping out on the other side.

===

Hi, I’m Ffion. Welcome to my little writing playground.

Right now, it feels like that “Between” stage I’ve been stuck in for quite some time is finally becoming something new.

Not quite yet a writer.

No longer not a writer.

I started this blog in order to explore personal writing projects, hone my writing skills, muse about life and creativity and just have fun.

You can also find me over on Instagram, where I post about monsters, tea, books and travelling.

Join me for a chat over a cup of tea?