Category Archives: Artist

The Artists Life – Getting Paid to Exist

Art Maintains Momentum

Corbett Barr asked in a comment on When Is It Time Enough how to help maintain momentum when you’ve started something.

Slacking off mid-project is a big problem for all of us.  I know it is for me and I’ve left many projects unfinished because I didn’t have the motivation to really stick with it.

These days I have a few tricks up my sleeve to keep myself focused when my energy dwindles and one that I really love is using different forms of art to keep myself motivated.

Here are a few of them and why they work for me.

1) Sufjan Stevens – You Are The Blood

Listen to it on my Blip.fm station.

This song just strikes a chord with my creative center.  I plug in my headphones and put this on loop and next thing I know two hours have passed and I’ve crunched through a ton of work.  It shifts tone and style throughout the song which I think helps keeps me shifting gears and moving forward.

It helps me enter a state of flow when I’m working, keeping me focused and dedicated to the task at hand.

Find a song or an album that resonates with you creatively.  Often times when you are hitting a wall putting on an aural creative trigger will help you push through it and get on to the next step in your process.  Even better is that it will keep you engaged with your work and focused so you don’t slip out of the process.

2) Flobots – Handlebars

Handlebars Art Maintains Momentum

Not only does this song resonate with my creativity but the music video has such striking motion graphics and imagery.  It inspires me to action far more than the song would on its own.

It is full of revolutionary images and the theme pulls out of me that drive to create change in the world.  As a liberation artist who wants to spread the passion to create a life worth waking up for this music video hurls me towards that goal.

Find images or video that resonates with your goals.  When your motivation wanes hit the play button and feel the rush of inspiration.

3) Walt Whitman – Song of the Open Road

Nothing says motivation to a vagabond like this poem by Walt Whitman.  While it isn’t necessarily a quick read or a quick fix it definitely helps me keep me on track with my goals as a vagabond.

The imagery that Whitman conjures has played out for me in as I travel and when I’m feeling stuck or that persistent ennui from a late night spent alone it keeps the fire stocked with fuel for the long run.

Find a poem or series of verse that resonate with your lifestyle.  When you find yourself slipping from your desired life take a moment to reconnect with what helped spark those dreams in the first place.

What types of art do you use to keep you motivated, focused and inspired?

For more on how to keep a Slacker from slacking Subscribe by E-Mail to get it delivered directly to you or Subscribe with the RSS feed.

Nonconformists – We Merry Followers

If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it’s another nonconformist who doesn’t conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity.

~Bill Vaughn

I’m a fan of getting out of the traditional lifestyle.

Quit the 9 to 5

Escape payday

Work from anywhere

Liberate yourself

Finance your freedom

But when does all this freedom and liberation become it’s own band of merry followers?

Are you a follower?

In our nonconformist bubble it’s easy to fall into a Guru follower mentality where we find our savior in nonconformity and fall in line behind them.  Whether it’s Timothy Ferriss, Leo Babauta, Chris Guillebeau, Clay Collins or others (there are many possible gurus to pick and choose from).

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

~Buddha

Three artists of nonconformity who stand out from the crowd for me are Clay Collins, Jonathan Mead and Chris Guillebeau.  They cut to the chase and don’t let you run blindly behind them.

Chris runs The Art of Nonconformity and is a world traveler who has always been self-employed.  He has become a full time writer in less than a year and the products he sells are accessibly priced and genuinely designed to help. He offers two exceptional e-books free, the latest documenting his transition to becoming a full time writer in 279 Days to Overnight Success.

Jonathan Mead is a name that I see coming up over and over again recently.  His own blog, Illuminated Mind, runs counter to a lot of lifestyle and unconventional life blogs.  My favorite post of his lately is Non-Conformity, My Ass; or Why We’re All A Bunch of Posers.  Read Jonathan.  He’s bursting the bubble for us.

Clay Collins is one person that has been great to interact with and learn from.  One thing that sets Clay apart from other liberation artists and internet marketers is the directness of his advice.  It is occasionally harsh but it is advice from the right place.  Latest kick in the ass: It IS Your Fault.  Clay works hard and expects you to do the same.

Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government!

~Monty Python

Make sure you aren’t just collecting swords.

When you undertake a lifestyle choice make sure you take the time to examine it in the context of your own life.  What may work for Tim Ferriss in automation might not work with your particular ethic in life.

The most successful liberation artists spend a time analyzing their lives and systems, deconstructing methodologies and finding the roots from which to grow their own process.

A follower accepts systems blindly and without question.

A liberation artist deconstructs systems and uses what works for them.

It’s easy to follow someone you respect.

It’s hard to say no to someone you respect.

Make sure you know what you’re getting into when you start down a deliberate life.  Make sure that each step is deliberate and chosen by you.

Slacker Reform Into The Future

Hi Everyone,

I’m exceptionally excited lately to be working on a variety of projects which will continue to liberate me from having to hold a 9 to 5 “job” ever again.

The first is improving upon Slacker Reform by working through Darren Rowses 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series.  I’m a bit behind as I’m working on a borrowed laptop while mine is in the shop but my plan is to catch up during this week.  For anyone who has been through this process before or is working through the series now, good luck to you.

Second, I have started working with Clay Collins, of Finance Your Freedom, on Project Mojave.  It is currently in preliminary stages with about 150 founding members working together on online business development and internet marketing.  Clay Collins is very generous and straight shooting with his knowledge of internet based business.  He cuts through the hype and delivers tactical and strategical advice on creating a freedom business as he calls it.  I look forward to working with the great people there.

As for my own personal projects, I have committed myself to creating a free e-book for readers of Slacker Reform.  I’ll be documenting my progress through the creation process and am open to suggestions for topics that you would like to see covered in both the e-book and here on Slacker Reform.

In the meantime Subscribe by E-mail to get the latest updates from Slacker Reform.

How Calligraphy Clears My Mind – Focus From a Pen Nib

Fingers stained with ink I set the fountain pen down.

An hour has passed.  My mind is clear and aware.

Alphabets are arranged over and over again down the sheet of paper.

I have been practicing my calligraphy.

No pen, no ink, no table, no room, no time, no quiet, no inclination.

James Joyce

fountainpen How Calligraphy Clears My Mind   Focus From a Pen NibIn an age of fonts and typography (including the wonders of kinetic typography), there is something very simple about calligraphy that takes me out of time and place.  It is practicing my penmanship as if I were six years old. It is mastering the easy flow of my hand across the page. It is sculpting each letter to form as if carving letters of stone. It is sitting in class and doodling my name every different way I can see it.

When I sit down with my notepad and fountain pen my focus is scattered and often I am feeling stuck.  Unable to move forward with action whether it is writing, choreographing, or editing a design.

Setting nib to paper the letters take shape.  I become active.  Each stroke draws me in farther and soon pages are full and an hour has disappeared.  My mind is clear of distraction and my attention is sharper.  No surprise, I am happier.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this as a state of flow.

Mihaly, a prominent psychologist on creativity and happiness, explains the power that challenging creative activity can have on our sense of being.  With a high level of challenge in an activity which you have a corresponding level of skill you can enter a psychological state of flow.

Flow is described by athletes, composers, programmers and artists alike as a state of being where action flows without needed direction.  The focus is so intense time and the feeling of self fall away so that there is no barrier between the actor and the activity or the artist and the art.

“Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Interview for Wired

Practicing calligraphy pulls me into a state of flow.

When I am struggling in ennui, a moment of adversity, or just scatter-brained, taking up an activity which is single-minded and purposeful, one that can always challenge me, and pouring myself into it clears away all the obstructions.  I forget about the bad day, the pressure to write, the calls I should make or the lack of ambition I have to get out of the house.

I come out focused.  Ready to move.

What is your focus activity?  What do you do to find clarity and calm?  Let me know and comment.

Tweet to Beat: Tim Ferriss Raising Money for American Public Schools

Tim Ferriss has just announced an effort to raise money for the United States public school systems.

Ferriss has participated in other fundraising efforts with exceptional success raising $250,000 dollars for LitLiberation in a month to spread literacy worldwide.

It is called Tweet to Beat and you can read the full explanation in Tim’s words here.

How it works:

Here’s how the Tweet to Beat campaign works:

1) For every new Twitter follower in the next two weeks, I will donate $1 to DonorsChoose.org, and an anonymous supporter will match $2, for a total of $3 to U.S. public school classrooms per follower. For now, the matching limit is tentatively capped at 50,000 new followers, though I’m open to increasing it later. 50,000 new followers would mean $150,000 to U.S. public school education, and I hope to double or triple this total with a few twists.

The goal is directly helping 25,000 U.S. public school students in low-income and high-need areas in two weeks. This timeline is half the time dedicated to LitLiberation. My current follower count is, at the time of this writing, 22,782, so we’ll round down and begin the count at 22,500.

2) There is a simultaneous competition for those who would like to spread the word. Just do the best you can (Facebook, blog, e-mail friends, FriendFeed, etc.) and detail what you did in the comments here. Tell your friends who are teachers and encourage them to do the same. Bonus points go to people who act sooner vs. later. Deadline for comments is March 23rd at 5pm PT.

Try to spread the word as far as you can, grand prize is an Around the World trip on Continental Airlines and second prize is a brand new MacBook Pro.  Help me out by spreading the word and this link: http://bit.ly/18w974

Share it on Facebook, StumbleUpon, Twitter, DiggIt, or on Google.

Follow Timothy Ferriss on Twitter and help out America’s education, we’re far behind where we should be.

How to Be Eccentric: Be Aware

Part of living an unconventional, or as I like to call it eccentric, life is to culture habits that stand out and shape your world view.  This is a mini-series on habits of eccentricity, the first is Awareness.

Be Aware

Awareness is imperative if you want to be eccentric.  Being aware of details others miss or pass over as commonplace gives you the advantage of seeing the world in broader perspective and sharper detail.

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.

The Buddha

Be aware of details.

Make an effort to notice the little things that are overshadowed.

Think of it like cooking.  While the main ingredients are obvious, say chicken, rice and vegetables, what truly seasons the dish, what makes it stand out, are the pinches of spices and herbs.  Each little bit of rosemary, pepper or garlic fills out the experience of the meal.

Details in our environment or the details of a friends life are what gives fullness to our experience.  They add depth to our understanding and our relationships.

Be aware of difference.

Differences challenge our assumptions.  They expand our horizon of experience, broaden our perspective by contrasting the norm.  We often assume negatives from difference when it should be an opportunity to look for understanding.

Be open to difference in life and people.  Don’t overlay your expectations.  Noticing the differences from prior situations or acquaintances frees you from the burden of the past dictating your perceptions of the present.

As Albert Szent-Györgyi, discoverer of vitamin C, noted: genius is seeing what everyone else sees and thinking what no-one else has thought. Recognizing differences in the normal is how we can reshape our perspective of the world.

Be aware of minutiae.

When the train schedule actually reads 8:44am instead of 8:44pm and you miss the 8:30pm train and have to wait 45 minutes till the next train that one letter makes all the difference.

When that $1.99 8-piece chicken nugget deal isn’t actually the deal you think it is when a 5-piece chicken nugget costs $.99 (I noticed this on a Burger King menu once).

Minutiae are the typos that are missed when a writer rereads his work, the flipping of time from AM to PM, the misplaced apostrophe, the forks in the spoon drawer, and all the other little things that are seemingly insignificant.  Sometimes those minutiae make all the difference.

Be aware of everyday.

When the sun sets over the city, or when the smell of fresh cut grass permeates your office, or how milk swirls when poured into tea, these things give value to simple things and enrich our daily lives.

Taking the time to sit in quiet and observe the world as it is.  Tea ceremonies, Vipassana (walking) meditation, are all methods to cultivate this simple awareness.

On my roughest days the simple act of sitting outside or going for a walk and just taking in everything around me without judgment breaks me out of the rough patches and shows me how connected I am to the world.  It is this choice of simple awareness which gives me that gift.

Be aware of yourself.

Know thyself as Plato’s creed goes.

Being aware of what drives you, what upsets you, and what habits you have developed is essential to being eccentric.  The lack of self-knowledge equates to having a map but not knowing where you are on it.  You can see the world around you and pick a direction but we might as well shoot into the dark for all that matters.

Understand your own vices and virtues.  Reflect on your being and your actions.  You are the center of any eccentricity and without that center you can easily become lost.

Awareness

(the lack thereof being a pet-peeve of mine) shows you the world and your life in richer detail.  When you upgraded from a regular T.V. set to an HDTV you noticed the crispness, the clarity of the images; when you upgrade from living on the world to living in the world you notice the density of experience all around you.

Slacker Reform Reborn

Slacker Reform was initially an outlet for my personal venture into reform.

It is now my story and advice in a form that I hope will help people create the life they want to live.

It focuses on the idea of Lifestyle Design.

How we consciously choose to travel through the world in a meaningful and self-reflective mode.  By leaving behind our 9 to 5 jobs, vagabonding across the U.S. or just taking a more direct and involved approach to living life our way.

Inspired by work from Chris Guillebeau, Timothy Ferriss, Clay Collins, Leo Babauta, and writers from sites like Lifehack and LiveDev – this is my contribution to the movement of people who aren’t willing to stand idly by and let the world live their life for them.

The motto: Live, Learn, Succeed.

Spread the word, spread the movement.  Live outside the box.

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Jazz Minded – Creativity from Wynton Marsalis

Garr Reynolds has a great series of posts (1, 2) on Wynton Marsalis‘s new book “Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life” which has me itching to pick up the book.

The points Reynold’s brings out of Jazz’s mode of creativity as a method for creativity for design and for living I can personally testify to.  As a jazz dancer and amateur washboard player, the affect living in a jazz-immersed culture has drastically changed my perceptions of the world and of myself.

From the perspective of a new designer I had never explicitly brought together my understanding of jazz and the creativity of jazz with my far more limited understanding of design and presentation.  The notions of simplicity and accessibility coupled with the deep and intelligent naturalness of jazz make for a solid principle of design.

One of my favorite quotes that he pulls out:

“Our desire to testify through some type of art is unstoppable. A palpable energy is released when inspiration and dedication come together in a creative art. The energy is transformative in an individual who is innovative, but it is transcendent when manifested by a group. There are no words for the dynamic thrill of participating in a mutual mosaic of creativity.”

Wynton Marsalis

The notion of communal artistry is even more provoking for me as I meet and get to know more creative artists, teachers and people from a variety of fields.  The energy that I gather from being around like-minded artists who have had the influence of jazz in their life amounts to something unassailable by words alone.  It is an immersive experience where I feel enriched and have at my disposable a previously unknown font of creative energy.

Blogging as Creative Outlet

Over on LifeDev Glen wrote a piece on how blogging shouldn’t be seen as a job.  Sure, we want our blogs to be successful but in the long run they are an expression of ourselves.

I ran into this problem when I was working on Lindybloggers.  Once it felt like I had to put out a certain type of content with a certain tone it became restrictive and lacked the freedom I had enjoyed with my writing.  I kept putting off finishing an event review and a month passed.

After a bit of reflection and free time I deleted the old draft and rewrote my review from scratch in a much shorter time.  I took the work out of the writing and made it a creative process again.

Whenever I’m in a crunch for writing I’ll definitely have to keep this in mind.