During these first days of 2018, which I am living as in a retreat – a new time in which I can finally explore the pleasure of doing nothing, I’ve been thinking of everything 2017 has given me and what it has taken away from me.
It was a decisive year for me, from many points of view, and I did not really realize it until I could stop and relax completely, finding myself here, in front of a crackling fireplace in Tuscany.I can state with certainty that this was for me the first real year as an entrepreneur, in which my business turned into a real full-time job, with profits worthy of giving me an economic stability that I had never experienced before. (This was before discovering I will have to pay more than 50% in taxes, but this is another story that can be summed up in “this is the price to live in Italy as a freelancer”). In any case and despite this, I can certainly be proud of what I have done, especially if I think how much I’ve worked and how much I demanded from myself in order to reach my goals. I’m a Capricorn, with Virgo ascendant… if you know what I mean. Perseverance is for sure one of my best qualities.
I worked hard, sometimes more than how I should’ve done, and often by giving up on what my mind and body were asking for. I have set myself beyond the limit, because sometimes the goals we set ourselves dazzle us, like a bright and distant star. But at what price? With this question I inaugurate the new year.
So I am recapping this year and feel as when you have the clear perception that a circle is closing, while another one is just about to open. A new year that begins – this is what represents, after all. My birthday on New Year’s Eve always reminds me that I am celebrating a rebirth.
So, while I find myself evaluating how much has cost me to reach my goals, among which I could list: loneliness, isolation, wasted times racking my brain to figure out how to do things that I did not know how to do and I did not want to do (but had to), creative blocks due to stupid bonds that sometimes we self-impose without any logic reason, wasted energies in badly managed activities (well, what the hell, you can not always be able to do everything!)… and I could go on (but I better stop here), I have also developed some simple but precious tips I want to share with you, and use as reminder for myself too.
- NEVER FORGET WHAT YOU REALLY WANT TO DO
Have you ever found yourself doing things you never wanted to do, or being in situations where you would rather not be? It happened to me lot of times.
In those moments I regret having said YES, and I wonder why sometimes I was just not able to just say NO thanks. I wonder if I ever needed to say yes so many times in order to learn to say no to some things. Maybe.
Anyway, being able to recognize when it’s time to decline an offer, whether it’s work or not, because it causes you mostly stress and discomfort, is certainly one of the most important things I learned this year and something we should never forget.
- FIND YOUR EVERYDAY RITUAL
If your body tells you it’s tired, if you can, listen to it! Sometimes what can really make the big difference is just a break, a short time during the day where you can do something just for yourself. You don’t need to do anything exceptional, sometimes even just stopping and taking a brief distance from everything around us can be enough. (*More on point 10!)
Everyone can create their own ritual, which could last just a few minutes or more. What’s mine? It’s going to the garden, when the weather is good, with a cup of coffee in my hand. I sit under the persimmon tree for about ten to twenty minutes and I do nothing but be present, letting all my thoughts flow without ever dwelling on any of them. No phone, no music, no noise.
- FIND YOUR SACRED PLACE TO RECHARGE YOUR ENERGY
Energy is what feeds your own creativity. Is there anything that can recharge your energy when you’re seriously exhausted? Sleeping can be a solution, but it is not always enough to recharge your body’s vital energy. What really works for me is to immerse myself into the nature, the wildest and least contaminated as possible. Specifically, water is my element.
A complete recharge for me happens when I can soak myself into waters of some isolated places I like, such as the remote areas of the Venetian lagoon, a lake or a river, or the thermal baths of Saturnia, in Tuscany. It’s like a ritual, where an energy exchange takes place between me and water, and usually works best when I’m alone.
All the places I have experienced and where I have been able to recharge myself are for me my sacred places, natural temples with ancient powers in which I like to come back every once in a while. Everyone can find his own sacred place, in nature or elsewhere. When you are loaded with new energy, creativity flows better and effortlessly, and brilliant solutions become surprisingly at hand! Guaranteed.
- DO NOT LOSE “THE MAGIC”
This phrase is often spoken by my magical mom. The magic to which she refers is not what can influence us on events and dominate physical phenomena, but it could be described as the wonder of children facing something unexplored. The joy of doing something crazy and unexpected, the ability to know how to play even when you’re an adult, and to be genuinely surprised by the good things in life. Magic is also trusting the unknown. Magic is the contagious laughter of someone. It is what makes us shine. Magic is essential and is part of your creative being.
Don’t forget to explore your magic, embrace it and play with it!
- DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR HANDS AND EXPLORE WHAT’S AROUND YOU
There are days when I realize that I use my hands only to push keys on a keyboard or camera. There are days when I use my eyes just to watch a screen. But my hands are able to do wonderful things! They can sow new flowers in the garden’s ground and weave eucalyptus crowns or wicker baskets. They can make fresh pasta with the rolling pin, for delicious tortelli Maremmani.
My eyes can relax, look far away, beyond the screen, beyond the window and over the road. When the view allows it, they can sight the mountains in the distance. There are such beautiful things around us, things that deserve our (my) attention. It’s so easy to be absorbed by the work, especially when it’s a creative work that requires our total mental presence. Sometimes time just escapes us and we lose most of the beauty we have under our noses, like the things of everyday life, those more ephemeral and simple*.
(*See the next point!)
- DO NOT FORGET TO LOOK AT LEAST ONE BEAUTIFUL THING A DAY
No matter where you are, just stop and look around you.
You just need to find a bit of beauty around you. Whatever that may be – even the simplest thing. Close your eyes for a few seconds and take a picture with your mind. The most beautiful images I took are all there.
If you happen to find yourself into an uncomfortable situation (but remember point 1 and say NO before you find yourself there!), you can just have a unique and private space of wonders where you can dive in. Easy, isn’t it?
- SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE THAT MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD
People around us have an influence on our mood. Their presence can help or not. I’m not talking about conversations or interactions that are more or less interesting to us, but more about just the physical presence of someone next to us. There are people who, even in silence, are able to transmit us positive feelings and for me they are invaluable chargers of good energy. Sometimes even just someone’s laugh can improve your mood … and when your mood is clear, inspiration finds room!
- DON’T FORCE YOURSELF TO BE CREATIVE WHEN YOUR MOOD IS OFF
We all have bad days, and our own mood plays a decisive role in our lives and work, especially if you are a creative.
For all I care, there are few days a month (which usually coincide with my hormonal changes!) in which I feel exhausted, frustrated and depressed for no reason, and this seem to be quite a common feeling among women. During these days, it is not unusual that my work requires me to be equally creative and efficient, and creating wonderful content like pictures, articles, recipes and whatever. So, very often I tried so hard to change my mood on command and quickly, in order to give my best and make my job great. But it never works this way!! It always ends up with me striving 10 times more than usual and getting a mediocre result. Maximum energy and effort for a minimum yield. Is it really worth it? Nope, not for me.
I prefer to give myself time to change mood first and feel good again, and put my own creativity in the condition of “working well” again. Only in this way I can get the results I aspire to.
- DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF IF THE RESULTS YOU GET ARE NOT WHAT YOU WERE EXPECTING
Asking yourself more than what you’d ask to any other person is wrong, even and especially when your ambition is huge and you would do anything to get what you want.
There is a time for everything and this time must be respected. Everyone has their own, and if you don’t get what you expected today, there is always tomorrow to try again. Sometimes failures teach more than successes, they are part of every paths and they can be very useful. Accept the failures as part of the process, consider them a means for knowledge. Often the best results come only after accepting our limits.
- SET YOUR LIMITS AND TAKE SOME RIGHT DISTANCES
This could be the hardest point of all, or at least for me it is so.
When you do something – whatever it is – with passion and pleasure, and maybe it happens that fortunately it is also your work, everything else disappears.
There are no more timetables, no limits of tiredness, nothing, the only thing that matters is to achieve a satisfactory result that can somehow may be defined like “the end” of what we were doing.
What I understood this year is that as far as I am concerned, there is no end. NEVER. And even if I delude myself into thinking that I have finished, there is something else to do next.
When you are a freelancer and a creative at the same time it’s easy to fall into this terrible trap and become an insatiable workaholic. The idea that in some way I am “working for myself” and I have no one telling me what to do, somehow makes me feel highly responsible for my results, which this way they must always be live up to my higher expectations. And do you know what I tell you? It is right that this is so, but setting limits is incredibly important. This does not mean that you have to interrupt your work flow as we did at school at the sound of the bell, but it just means giving yourself a stop and putting some distance between you and your work. Distances are necessary, indeed they’re fundamental. They help us to see things clearly, allowing us to achieve our goals better and with less energy waste!
Having said that, I just wish you a very creative, happy and MAGIC 2018, hoping some of my tips/thoughts could be useful!