Getting things done: How tiny, daily habits build up (or: what I learned from my January mini-resolution)

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So, we’re one month into the New Year (and if you observe Chinese New Year like I do, we’re also right at the beginning of another New Year), and this means it’s probably a good time to reflect on one’s New Year’s Resolutions so far. Or, in my case, mini-resolutions so far. And, of course, if we’ve learned anything from them. Continue reading

The Myth of the Starving Artist

I am a believer that living a life doing something you love for work every day does not mean a life living on tins of baked beans in a cold and dark bedsit (unless that’s what you want). But I never used to be this way. I spent four years stuck in an accountancy job I hated, because I was afraid that if I did what I really wanted to do – in my case, writing for a living – I wouldn’t be able to pay the bills and end up starving on the street. I have been writing for a living for just over three years now, and have definitely been able to pay the bills – not to mention occasionally satisfy my love of fine dining, foreign travel, and even start investing (yeah, I’m a bit of a nerd – blame the Maths degree).

IMG_3091 (I also like to take many gratuitous pictures of food. You’ll have to humour me.)

It turns out I wasn’t alone: many people are afraid to leave a job they hate for work they love, because they are afraid they won’t be able to support themselves or their loved ones – particularly if the ‘work they love’ involves a creative or artistic career. There is this belief in our culture of the ‘starving artist’: the idea that if you want to make a living from your own creative endeavours, you won’t ever earn enough to pay the bills.

I want to tell you that it’s not true. There are many others making a living from their own creative endeavours – some are making a very good living as well – who will also tell you that it’s not true. I’m not even talking about wildly successful people like, say, Harry Potter author J K Rowling, photographer Mario Testino, or artist Damien Hirst; ordinary men and women like you and me are making a living from their own creativity. So why does our culture continue to perpetuate the ‘starving artist’ stereotype?

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On doing work you love (or: how I quit my City job to become a full time writer and work by the beach while soaking up the sun)

We all know the script. Go to school, work hard, get good grades, get a job, work hard at the office Monday to Friday for several decades… and then you can retire and relax and do what you want. It’s so deeply ingrained in our culture and our minds that anyone who dares to make a living any other way faces a barrage of questions implying that somehow, their work is not ‘real work’ – their job is not a ‘real job’.

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The above photo is of my job – taken last summer as I was working on my laptop on a hotel terrace overlooking St Ives beach in Cornwall, UK. I work as a freelance writer, and as long as I have my laptop (well, MacBook), a good internet or Wi-Fi connection and my smartphone, then I can do my work. Even if I’m outdoors overlooking the beach and enjoying the sunshine. Does that mean my work is not ‘real work’?

The following are the things I’ve heard said to me about my work:  Continue reading