Category: Inspiration

It Was A Hand In The Darkness And It Held A Knife

Tree
Photo © Mihaela Limberea

I finally found some time to listen to Neil Gaiman talking to Tim Ferriss in ”The Tim Ferriss Show” (a podcast that I highly recommend, it’s one of my favorite podcasts). The interview is almost two hours long and I wanted to have time, and peace of mind, to really enjoy it. And take plenty of notes.

It’s always such a pleasure listening to Neil Gaiman’s hypnotically soothing voice talking about creativity and writing, books, his friendship with Terry Pratchett, fountain pens (he writes with a fountain pen) and the New York Fountain Pen Hospital (yes, there’s such a thing, the place to go if you want to buy a new fountain pen or repair the one you have).

I have included below a few points that have resonated with me. It wasn’t easy, I could have gone on much longer but wanted to keep the length of this post manageable.

About Ian Fleming’s writing process (yes, James Bond’s creator), who didn’t like writing. His method? Lock yourself up in a not too good hotel, in a not too good room in a town you don’t want to be in (as to avoid distractions and getting comfy), and just write ”like a fiend” until you’re done.

Most important writing rule: you can sit here and write, or you can sit here and do nothing; but you cannot sit here and do anything else. All you are allowed to do is absolutely nothing, or write. You give yourself permission to write or not write, but you end up writing eventually as doing nothing is boring and your wandering mind will start sparkling ideas. Not having to write takes off some pressure as well.

On first drafts: nobody is ever meant to read your first draft. That is just you telling the story to yourself.

Setting up a Groundhog Day: writing (a novel) works best if you can do the same day over and over again. Figure out a daily practice that works for you, and repeat that day, every day, day after day after day. Austin Kleon used the same image in his new book ”Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad”: every day is a Groundhog Day. 

You can read the whole podcast transcript  (and, of course, listen to/watch the podcast) on Tim Ferriss blog.

Neil Gaiman Quotes from the Podcast

All I’m allowed to do is absolutely nothing, or write.

What I love about that is I’m giving myself permission to write or not write, but writing is actually more interesting than doing nothing after a while. (…) I think it’s really just a solid rule for writers. You don’t have to write. You have permission to not write, but you don’t have permission to do anything else.

Part of what I discovered, particularly about being a novelist, is writing a novel works best if you can do the same day over and over again. The closer you can come to Groundhog Day, you just repeat that day. You set up a day that works for yourself. (…) I would do that day over and over and over and over. 

 I also think that the most important thing for human beings is to be aware of the change. The biggest problem we run into is going, “This is who I am, this is what I’m like. This is how I function.” while failing to notice that you don’t do that anymore

The biggest thing, looking back on it, that I learned from Terry <Pratchett> was a willingness to go forward without knowing what happens. You might know what happens next, but you don’t know what happens after that, but it’s okay because you’re a grownup and you will figure it out. 

Bonus: listen to Neil Gaiman’s audiobooks read by himself. Such joy! My favorites: Art Matters (this should be handed out for free in all schools, by the way!), The Graveyard Book, and Coraline.

Complete with: Tim Ferriss interview with  Amanda Palmer (singer, songwriter, playwright, author, director, blogger and Neil Gaiman’s wife); and Austin Kleon’s A Portable Routine.

Wondering where the post title comes from? It’s a line from one of Gaiman’s old notebooks that eventually become the beginning of The Graveyard Book; Gaiman talks about its genesis in the interview.


A Leap Of Faith

The Fear

“Aren’t you afraid?” people were asking when I left the corporate life to start a new career, a new life in fact. And I was. Afraid. Afraid of leaving everything I knew. Afraid of leaving a known, respected persona. Afraid of the unknown. Of course, I was afraid. Terrified actually. What did I think I was doing? I had a good, fun job at one of the greatest companies in the world. I was good at it. After 20+ years, I knew the culture, I knew the people, and I knew what I was doing. Expert was my middle name. I had prizes on my desk to prove it. Why would I leave all that for an uncertain career in a new field? Was that really smart?

The Turning Point

Well, it turned out it was. There seemed not to be enough hours in the day to do all the things I wanted to do: writing my Science-Fiction novels; doing research for all those SF novels; reading all the books I had bought but never had time or energy to read; traveling the world; completing those photo projects I promised myself every January I’d do, and updating my portfolio; creating a new garden (and then garden); and so on. The list of things I wanted to do seemed to grow longer and longer while I was getting more and more frustrated at work. I was working on my book on and off, taking photos during our vacations, but things moved oh, so slowly. I simply couldn’t stand it anymore. I couldn’t stand it, but I was afraid.

Fear is normal and it has a role. It keeps us alert. What started as a survival mechanism in the savannas of our ancestors can be paralyzing in our modern society. But when that burning desire to <insert your dream here> overrides the fear, when the butterflies in your stomach are butterflies of excitement more than of fear – then you know it’s time.

The woods behind our house in Switzerland where I used to walk every day and dream about a different life. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

Last year work became more and more something to be survived, while my notebooks were filling with novel outlines, inspirational quotes, and ideas for new books or photo projects. When we found the perfect house to buy, on the same island we lived before the move to Switzerland, in the same area that we loved so much – I saw this as a sign. I knew then it was time to take the plunge.

A Leap of Faith

You know that moment in the Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade movie when Indy has to jump off the edge of the cliff? You need to have faith. Jump and trust that the net will appear. What you want is on the other side of fear as a wise man (or woman) said. I’m sure it’s one of my notebooks from last year.


Happy Birthday!

For years I would have this image of the Twelve Apostles in my mind, as a placeholder of things to come.

One day, I said to myself, one day I will go back to Australia and see new places. I would be free, I would no longer have a day job to weigh me down; I would do what I wanted, when I wanted it, for as long as I wanted it. I longed for freedom and unleashing all the creative forces that I knew I had, slumbering, in me. Oh, I did take photos or write in my spare time, but it would only leave me frustrated as it seemed there was never enough hours in the day to do everything I wanted to do.

That day was November 30th, 2019. I quit my job at Microsoft after more than twenty years, bought a plane ticket to Sydney and never looked back. Was it hard? You bet! I did like my job; I was good at it and it allowed me to be very creative, travel the world and connect with people all over the globe. Leaving all that, and all those people, was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I simply had to go.

The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Australia. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

On December 18th, 2019 I stepped once again on Australian ground with an exhilarating feeling in my chest, lightheaded and eager for the adventure to begin. My dream had come true. It’s only fitting that I start this blog* on my birthday. Cheers to new beginnings!

*For those of you who used to follow my old blog, I have some bad news. For technical reasons, that blog could not be moved to WordPress (that I use now). I do have the old content, but it could not be integrated into this one. It’s been a hard blow, as it came exactly at the time I was planning my new life. I’ll recycle some of the old posts that are not time-sensitive, e.g. on photography, art, books and so on. If it’s something you miss, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it.