In-between… and other things

The In-between

Life is not all moments of honor. Most times, there are no spotlights, no paparazzi or yelling crowds. No, you’re not necessarily working on something big. Sometimes, that big project you anticipated to be successful will not come through. So it’s just you, and your active imagination. What do you do at these times? How to you keep from being frustrated?

“The journey is as important as the destination.”

It’s easy to think that the quality of an excellent life is measured by the number of big things you accomplish and it’s easy to join a wagon of people who are trying to accomplish something while missing life in the process. There are moments I call the in-between, where there is no noise, but just you, doing your thing. If you find yourself breezing through life like lightning bolt, waiting for the next big thing, you might just be missing the whole point of a life of purpose.

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The in-between is the bridge between the last big thing and the next. You don’t wait out the time, you invest in the future you want to see. But many people, who’d rather bask constantly in the spotlight, would almost throw a fit or pass most days frustrated because nothing big is happening.

The journey

“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for.”
-Louis L’Amour

Honestly, the journey is the purpose. Do not travel too fast or you will miss the real thing you are traveling for. The in-between period is time to calm your heart, and live daily life in full. Peel off your sheets every morning excited to look for the divine in the mundane. Enjoy solitude, hone your craft, then get out and form meaningful relationships that may not immediately yield financial rewards. Its okay to fill your creative bank account, engage in side projects and community service. Go to work, study your books and explore the beauty of God’s creation in nature.

Often times, the in-between phases consist days of humility. You will be required to remember that when your peers seem to bag achievements in their life endeavors while you feel like you are stuck in a rut, your life is not a competition with anyone else’s but a race to achieve purpose as your maker intended for you.

And, heads up – after humility comes honor!

“Before his downfall a person’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.”
– Proverbs 18:12

This passage above has bugged me. So much that I wrote it down, and thought hard and long about what it meant to me. I’m still thinking about it and trusting the father to help me remain prone before him through the in-between times and the spotlight moments. Since my last post about the practice of diligence and consistency, I took my own advice and revived some long over due projects and began to take consistent and daily practice of my craft very seriously.

The painting

I painted the quote from the scripture as a reminder to always remain humble. it has received quite an attention on Instagram and also a request for the design to be printed on a shirt. I’m thinking about it and will let you know where that goes.

It’s not been easy, with the demands of graduate school, social commitments and general life but I am motivated to continue this streak. I have a huge community I am accountable to and do not want to fail them.

Current Projects

The #inktober creative inking challenge inspired me to make consistent illustrative projects I will be sharing on my instagram. I do not always follow the designated prompts  but I try to draw what inspires me every day. Check it out @studio1352 to share my progress.
Donut
: I’m working on an expanded edition of my first published book, Donut. More details as I draw out a plan and works towards release probably very early in 2019.
Joyride: A graphic novel project I’m working on with a friend in development.
GrandHeights Initiative: Wait for it.

Very soon, I will be sharing exciting details on projects I am working on. For now, I will let you go ruminate on what you just read. Shoot me a comment if you’d like to share.

Cheers,

Toluwanimi

Creativity tips for a productive 2018 (II)

Read part 2 of my two-part series on productivity in 2018.

Hello readers,

I’m sure you’re excited about the new year 2018!

Did you see yesterday’s post? Okay, it was not yesterday and I apologize for that. However, it’s great that we are here today. I’m excited to share this productivity tips with you and this part will be plastered with infographics you can download and share. The previous post of this two-part series can be viewed here.

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Today, I’ll continue by debunking the myth of the “Once in a Lifetime Opportunity.” Heard that one?

I think a “once in a lifetime opportunity” happens more often than we are told to believe.

Imagine a world where you are banned to a life of misery if you do not take a once in a lifetime opportunity at 23 or 15 (because I heard that when I was 15). I guess whoever coined that term was just trying to get his kids to be serious and not play away their lives. He wanted to say “do not waste your life!” with a bit of drama.

There are many opportunities to do deep work, share your passion and create masterpieces so do not be rushed. However, there’s no better time to prepare and hone your craft than now!

And if you missed today’s opportunity, start tomorrow.

I perceive that the reason why the idea of a once in a lifetime opportunity seems widely accepted is that, while opportunities abound in life, you may not always be prepared to walk into them. Often, when the so-called door of opportunity opens, many writers do not always have the assurance of mastery and a box (or hard drive) full of first drafts but are full of mere intentions.

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Start today. then repeat tomorrow.

Stop thinking that “consistently and “daily” are two separate words.

Why do you think most people bathe and brush every day? The simple but elusive answer is that most people have been doing it for most of their lives. I am one of the hundreds of millions of people who find it difficult to hold my brush and hit the showers the second time (at night.) Why? Is it because I have unhealthy practices? No, I do! I think it’s because this is something most people try to learn after they are formed. Give that same person some motivation and time – and it will promptly become practice.

You surely remember a drill that you had to undergo while in elementary school – the multiplication table. Why do you think we were able to all memorize up till 12 X 12 by the time we graduated from primary school? Were we all smart? No!

Well, yes – because we did it every day! Smart move!

I  discovered that unlike 1 to 12, we were not required to learn 13 X 13 onwards and as a result, only a few people do know the multiplication table from 13. We were not required to read and learn it every day but introduced to calculators! So mastery is curated in the furnace of consistent practice.

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Consistency is a great virtue to help 2018 be a productive year. However, I must be quick to point out that writing consistency is not the same as publishing frequency.

Stop feeling like you need to get out your message right now!

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Write consistently, but you do not have to publish what you write a few minutes after you do. A few cases may differ, but for 99.99% of writers including me, we can wait a few hours to edit, scratch that – and rewrite; show our peers for critique before sharing if we choose to. While publishing frequency depends on your purpose, writing consistency should always go on.

Take copious notes.

Most of my completed works started as paper clippings, ideas scribbled into sheets, several journal posts and in recent years Google Keep, Apple Note, and Evernote entries. Sitting down to write or create is what you must do, but the short insights that come to you on the go as you practice daily life often become the spice that infuses realness into your work. They will seem sketchy at times, but only until you sit down to flesh them up.

Keep a notepad handy or download a note-taking app!

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Stop giving people permission to gauge your dreams

I met more people that did not believe that Donut could be produced and distributed free without debt than those who cheered me on. But it didn’t matter to me because, at that point, the passion that prompted me was too strong to be checked by expectations or peer pressure. I wish I have that pump every day!

Not everyone will understand or agree with the magnitude of your dreams, and surely not everyone will encourage you to take the steps to achieve them. In fact, in my experience, more often than not, you will find you are surrounded by well-meaning loving but complacent family and friends, who would rather play it safe. Often these people have put out discouragement not from a place of contempt but a place of fear  – they have dreamed but have not been courageous enough to pursue or stay on track.  They dropped out of the race and their misery only loves company. Do not join the band!

Step out of the judgment zone. Step out of the pressure. Let the expectation that compels you to be internally generated. Do or Do not. There is no try.

Record your voice and try writing prompts.

This is one huge productivity hack I have found useful. Sometimes, when ideas for work in progress hit me while engaging in an activity that makes it difficult to put a pen to paper, I simply pick out my voice recorder app and pour my mind. Then I can transcript later. Hearing your own voice boosts your morale and gives you hope for what’s possible. If you hit a block of ideas, try writing prompts. You can find great ones over the internet.

Unplug.

You cannot create masterpieces in front of the world. Trust me, distractions were present in the creative life before technology, and internet only makes it worse. Remember that for every one of the planned writing time you spend on the internet (except for research), you are shortchanging yourself. You are basking in the transient delights of internet communication, wallowing in self-pity when you view the plastic pictures of your fake virtual friends and making zero progress. Only deep work becomes a masterpiece and I have learned from experience that the greatest secret to creating deep work is to completely engage your mind in the process – this made possible when you unplug.

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Create a community

I have found creative communities help boost motivation. While I can’t always reach my mentors I have creative friends who are always available to add stokes to my fire. By their critique, my work becomes better. This year, find friends who you can learn from, bounce your ideas off of, share insights with and enjoy mutual edification. Sometimes, they are all you got, and all you need to supercharge!

The next step

While life is a continuum and the yearly demarcation of time merely serves to give us a framework to structure life, there’s so much to look forward to in 2018 – Yes, YOU can start fresh and intentional!

Happy New year!

Toluwanimi

 

Creativity tips for a productive 2018: Part 1

Want to make 2018 a productive year? Read my selected Creativity Tips before 2017 ends.

Hello Writer and Creative,

If you live in the real world, you will agree with me that great feats are hardly achieved accidentally. Historical and current examples of men and women who have done great things with their lives show us that more often than we realize, excellence requires intentional diligence and consistency.

A few days ago, I posted the image below on my Instagram:

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As we pack shop out of 2017, I felt everyone needed a reminder to introspectively evaluate 2017 and plan to maximize the opportunities of 2018 (because there will be lots of them). If you still think that opportunity comes once in a lifetime, you need to read my last post here.

“2018 is going to be a great year for the intentional creative.”

In 2018, I want to be a better writer, an intentional creative and an enthusiastic learner. I have been researching tips on how this can be possible and I felt to share with you what I found proven and practical. In this post, I will be sharing a trait I observed is present in all successful writers and creatives, called Consistency.

Consistency.

You probably know that one of the secrets to staying fresh and energetic is to write on a regular schedule (and the most consistent example is daily), and though every good book on writing maintains this as crème de la crème of writing advice, most writers find it difficult to practice. Yet, I can with near certainty, say that more than half of wannabe and accomplished authors will add any form of this golden word to their new year resolutions as 2018 draws near.

So what can we do about this?

They say, it all starts in the mind. I agree.

Start by agreeing with the fact that you will not find the time to write. The time to write will not show up like a lost toy you found inside the sofa while spring cleaning the house nor will you find it like a digger in a gold mine. You will have to create the time. Understanding this is the beginning of successful hustle. Though it feels good to bask in the delights of the few and far between child prodigy stories that have not gotten us anywhere than make us dreamers and wishers without any fire in our bones, I’d say that in 2018, start working on your craft. Whether you are talented or not, you need to put in the work.

I was not known to be the coolest guy in elementary, or high school (at least I didn’t think so), but I was known to be the guy that was very gifted in the arts. Anyone who wanted something drawn in school, or painted at church came to me. Friends who needed essays written, re-written or edited came to me. I have worked on many books, magazines, design projects for individuals and organizations since high school and I am a published author. Some have called me a naturally talented creative.

Guess what? It doesn’t matter.

It does not matter because I have met people who are not “naturally talented” but are now well-respected experts in the career they chose, simply because they put in the work! Interestingly, I also discovered that many people who are considered ungifted are just lost. Wait until they find their path and realize the power consistency.

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While you cannot overemphasize the importance of a consistent practice of craft, your writing does not need to be perfect. What prospective medical student thinks he can perform open heart surgeries while still taking pre-med biology?

It’s… wait for it... the stupid one.

Sounds harsh, but it’s true! And I’m not saying the writer who thinks he can produce a masterpiece fresh off the start is stupid. I am just saying it’s okay if your first few compositions are not perfect. So, step one – Decide to consistently practice your craft – every day in 2018. How?

Just do it.

I know it sounds cliche, but the moment you remember you have to write, just write. The world will not end, and surely that episode of Stranger Things you are watching will wait.

Sometimes this writing practice will not always have a purpose other than to hone your craft.

We often wish every stroke of our pen or clang of the keyboard results in a masterpiece that will be adored by millions. Writers who consider themselves missionaries – who favor a specific sub-genre or theme – more often than others fall prey to this mindset. That is why we stare at the blank screen or paper and wait – for the muse – but end up writing nothing. You do not always have to write according to your selected theme. Your writing practice today may merely be to fathom the world sanctimonious – by finding ten synonyms or antonyms and using it in different ways within a conversation. On other days, it may be putting a backstory into your lead character’s life. Sometimes, it may be reading a prose written by someone you respect or writing the draft of the story you aren’t sure how it’s going to end. Sometimes, its using computer-generated writing prompts!

Quality is often extracted from quantity.

I secretly wish everything I create becomes a masterpiece, but I know that nothing in life works like that. We celebrate the great artists, composers, and writers of old but do you realize that for every famous work of Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simon, there are hundreds of paintings that weren’t so famous? Have you seen how many sketchbooks accomplished artists keep? Ever heard of rough drafts? No one sees those, yet they form the foundation for masterpieces and bestsellers.

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The thought that the world has to see everything you write is the beginning of frustration, because, truthfully, we usually start with nonsense. Get used to it. One of the most celebrated American writers of the last two centuries, Ray Bradbury reportedly said “every writer has a million bad words in them.  The sooner you get through that first million, the faster you get to the words worth sharing.” Another writer, Malcolm Gladwell proposed that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed to become world-class in any field. While I do not necessarily fix an arbitrary number to it, I agree with the attitude of consistent deliberate practice behind those words. The sooner you can get beyond 10,000 words or 10,000 hours, the earlier you can start creating enthralling masterpieces.

The movie Starwars was not shot a few hours after the scriptwriter came up with the story – it surely took months and years of work! An accomplished athlete is not one who stumbles onto the Olympics but spends hours practicing for the games.

So why should your writing be different?

I will pause here so you can digest the words above. Tomorrow, we will dive deep into the nitty-gritty of Consistency. Stay creative!

Cheers!

Toluwanimi

Take your work seriously! (The principle of Creative Diligence)

Hi dear readers!

I’m especially excited to be sharing this post today. It has sat in my blog drafts for months because the post wasn’t ripe yet, but the recent turn of events in my life has spurred me to reopen this muse.

I am so passionate about this principle I am learning every day and I think you need to see this, especially if you consider yourself to be a creative. This article is a little lengthy but I assure you – it’s worth reading to the end.

My post is not an attack on the wonderful professions of medicine, law, engineering, economics and many more which have immensely contributed to the progress in our world today – and professionals will continue to break grounds. So, if you are very passionate about your professional or conventional path, this post is not for you. However, you are welcome to glean the principle for application in any area of your life.

My post is tailored to the innate creative who is stuck in the stereotype.

If you consider yourself to be a creative in thought or in practice – if wonderful ideas daily tug your mind seams and threaten to burst forth, if your hands are tremulous until you have penned down those lines of prose or those sketches, if you have been misunderstood by family and friends and repeatedly accused of daydreaming or being unserious, this post is for you.

You don’t have to think long or hard before you realize that every aspect of daily living thrives on creativity. We all have, time and again, benefited immensely from the imagination of creatives – from writers, artists, broadcasters, podcasters, musicians, movie producers, photographers, publishers, writers, audiovisual content creators to app developers/programmers, video game creators, animators, scientific innovators and tech gurus. Yet, the age-old conventional stereotypes have classified these pursuits in many people’s hearts as mere hobbies or at best side-gigs.

Growing up in Nigeria, I can authoritatively say that one of the surest point of parent-teen tension is when the JAMB* forms are about to be filled. Chances are higher that the typical parent will be more delighted to hear the child has chosen to be a doctor rather than a creative designer, and a few teens have, sadly, had guardians stand over their shoulder as they filled the forms so they would pick their parents unfulfilled dreams.

Very little has changed over the years, as many people feel that the professional careers, while difficult, promises financial security upon graduation. I agree. The admission requirements into college for “professional” disciplines are stringent and the competition remains record high. I also agree – I went to Medical School! The discipline exerted by the professors, the structure of the discipline, the rigors of the long years of study and the importance of the subject of the discipline (human life in Medicine for example) makes the professions very noble. I agree.

On the flip side, many perceive the creative path to be flippant, not requiring diligence and surely not noble enough to be a career path or a full-time thing. For parents who fear for their children, you will have a hard time convincing them that art is more than a childhood hobby, possibly because it is usually associated with beauty, intrigue, exhilaration, its results appeal to the soul and seems to be mostly enjoyable to the consumer, and the creators seems to be having a fun time creating, they conclude that the process should not require diligence.

Somehow, I think this mindset has slowly crept into the minds of creatives and non-conventional people like me that we seem to be complacent and submit ourselves to the cage of stereotype. We are not taking our creative crafts as seriously as we should and we feel very ashamed about it among family and friends.

We believe the lie that it’s just a hobby. Come off it, creative one!

Statistics show that the creative industry is a major driver for economic growth. In America for example, the creative industry contributed $698 billion to the nation’s economy and 4.7 million jobs (a 2015 report of the the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts). I can only assume that many other countries have similar data.

Think about an area of your daily life where the creative industry is not relevant? A “special” area that creativity cannot help? I’d like to see your findings in the comments below.

The myth of the starving artist is over (thank you Jeff Goins for that!) Certainly, the myth of the “unserious” is past due too. Now is time to wake up, hone your craft, launch your dream and bring beauty and impact to our world with the power of your trans-formative creativity. The potential of your creativity is only limited to the extent of your imagination and tenacity of your diligence.

The creative industry wields so much power and it requires diligence! The creative path is more self-directed as opposed to the profession, but it doesn’t take away an ounce of diligence required to thrive and create beautiful work. In fact, it should inform it.

A doctor, lawyer or any other professional will always be respected and at least be able to pay the bills but I will dare say that what makes these career paths prestigious is the thoroughness that is constructed within the fabric of training and the impact these professions have on the world.

And Creativity has that! SURELY.

I have heard of families torn apart by a promising child’s revelation that he wants to go into some form of creative industry. I feel the pain writers go through to conceptualize the many ideas that brims into overflow in their wild minds. I see the disappointment in the faces of parents when their children take on a paintbrush rather than a scalpel, and the colicky pain that surges though the hearts of a misunderstood creative.

Do you say that a writer, artist or musician (or whatever kind of creative you are) has no impact or is less important in our world?

I don’t think so.

Rather, I opine that not many unconventional people have given due diligence to pursue their paths with dignity so the society does not see it. We do not take ourselves seriously so the world emulates us!

Here, I speak to you, creative one. Gone are the days of waiting for inspiration and complacency on talent. Tim Notke is spot-on when he says that “hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard.”

Take your creative work as seriously as a physician would take his procedures and patients or an attorney will take her depositions or court hearings…

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.

You may not be a street sweeper but Martin Luther King Jnr has you covered when he says that “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

If you’re called to be a writer, painter, artist, musician, or minister (yes, this applies to spiritual ministers too) in any aspect, you must realize that your generation needs you as much as it needs the doctors, engineers, lawyers and other professionals. So, the least you can do is to dignify your strategic societal position by pursuing your path not like a hobby but with much diligence and thoroughness as a conventional professional would.

Even though there are fewer formal options of training, take your calling serious, study and learn all you can from the best mentors you can find. Spend un-clocked hours honing your craft and chart paths for posterity. Show up to work even when you aren’t inspired and Sit under the Muse till wonderful ideas drop in your spirit.

Creativity is tagged unconventional for a reason – Learn to chart the trail and set your milestones as you go.

When you become an authority in this, doctors will pay to view your exhibitions. Your books will touch millions and cross more borders than you will. Lawyers will use your words as anecdotes. Engineers will pay to listen to you. Intelligent Business school graduates will queue to apply for positions at your successful start-up. Professionals will sit under your voice and listen to you deliver counsel and your compositions will sanitize the most insane minds.

“Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.” Proverbs 22:29

If you give due diligence in your work, you will stand tall among peers and kings and command confidence.

Please, carry your calling with dignity and you will see what fulfillment lies in a job well done!

You are important. The world needs you!

Cheers,

Toluwanimi

P.S. If this post does not make sense to you, then you are conventional, but it’s okay! But at least, you can be diligent in whatever path your life will take and you MUST respect the unconventional people in your life.

*JAMB – former name of the University entry exam in my home country, Nigeria.

No big promises

Hello.

One of the first things I heard about inspirational writing is that you “write for an audience of one.” Write as though your reader is sitting across your desk. That way, you actively and specifically address an individual rather than just the public. It helps to release deeper creativity and words that are more impactful.

However, it can be quite depressing if you are not sure that even that one reader is paying attention. Seeing “zero likes” or “no comment” on your blog posts is enough to make you miserable the rest of the day. Moreover, it becomes easy to whine.

When I started writing “Donut,” I had fears and such questions like, “who will listen?” or “what impact will these words make?”

Now, eight months later, there are no big promises or fat checks yet. The work is not done, but I am grateful for the little blessings I get from time to time.

People are beginning to ask about Donut: that means I am saying something and people are listening. Only one or two people may mention it per week, or it may even be just a passing comment. They may not give towards it yet, but I know my message is clear.

… there are no big promises or fat checks yet… but I am grateful for the little blessings…

People want to get involved. They are asking, “What can I do?” Though, the responses are few and sparsely spread, I have figured that it is never about me, but it is God doing His work. Rather than whine, I will allow Him to lead me through uncharted territory to destiny.

Please support the Donut project by requesting for The Motif. Email me on joshuababarinde@gmail.com. This blog first appeared on my book’s blog http://www.eatyourdonut.wordpress.com. Click here to learn more.

Cheers,

Toluwanimi