life advice

be intensely yourself

A rose I spotted at Hobart’s beautiful Botanical Gardens early one morning a few weeks ago.

A rose I spotted at Hobart’s beautiful Botanical Gardens early one morning a few weeks ago.

"Eventually I discovered for myself the utterly simple prescription for creativity: be intensely yourself. Don't try to be outstanding; don't try to be a success; don't try to do pictures for others to look at - just please yourself."

- Ralph Steiner

to have succeeded

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

words help me to be in the world

Photo of Laurie Anderson by Clifford Ross, via  BOMB Magazine

Photo of Laurie Anderson by Clifford Ross, via BOMB Magazine

I listen to the radio most days. Today on BBC Radio 6, I listened to Laurie Anderson interviewed. Her voice had a lovely calm quality, listening to her was like hearing a bedtime story read to you when you were a child, but some things she said made me jolt to attention and reach for my notebook to scribble them down.

She said that life can be so intense and overwhelming, for many of us, and we often aren't sure of the right thing to do, so she and her late husband Lou Reed came up with three rules to live by. I loved them and thought I'd share them as you might love them too.

Don't be afraid of anybody.

"What would your life be like if you were afraid of no one?" Laurie asked the airwaves. It's quite a sobering thought.

There has only been one time in my life where I can honestly say that I steamrolled over fear and didn't let it stop me doing anything. It was a brief, golden time when I was 25 and 26, in the immediate aftermath of the end of my first marriage. That period certainly had its dark times, but the fear that had so defined my life up to that point was suddenly on mute because I no longer felt I had anything to lose. I no longer 'over thought' anything. I just did things and didn't really consider what anyone else might think. It was wonderful.  And so freeing. 

Get a really good bullshit detector. And learn how to use it.

This is something for me to work on. I need to trust my gut more and be less afraid of making it known that something doesn't sit right with me. I need to switch the discs on my cerebral mixing deck and stop overthinking everything. If I overthink, my bullshit detector's batteries get low. 

Be really tender.

I love this one. It's a nice antidote to the harshness of everyday life. I want to apply it to my art too. Hannah Kent told me that one of the best things you can have as a novelist (and as a human being) is empathy. I've been absorbing myself in research for what I hope will be my next book and the characters are slowly making themselves known to me as the notebook I started just as a place to scrawl the occasional line is nearly half full already. The challenge for me with this work is exploring the worlds and inhabiting the minds of women who are so different to me, who are going to make choices that I don't think I could. So I'm keeping 'tenderness' in mind as I read, scrawl and get to know these people.

I think I need tenderness for myself too. It's very tempting to keep pushing myself, make life centre around "the next Big Thing" but, again and again, being present and in the now is what frees me, unplugs me and helps me move forward. The minute I stop all the pushing, all the pressure, is always when all the good stuff happens. Patience, and tenderness. 

"Words helped us both, a lot, to be in the world," said Laurie towards the end of her lovely interview

Me too, Laurie. Me too.