Start with a big fat lump in your throat and run with it

Posted on May 27th, 2015

As an angsty teen I read Robert Frost’s The Path Not Taken and would feel all kinds of profoundnesses. I would also read the bible, looking for the same depth.


I’ve liked to think I’ve moved on from such binary thinking. But I recently came across a reference to Frost’s approach to poem creation:

“It begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” 

Illustrator Debbie Mailman then references this in her book, Self-Portrait As Your Traitor. She pivots her creative process from this notion: Starting with the big fat lump and then running with it. “Start now, not twenty years from now, not two weeks from now. Now,” she writes.

I totally know the fat lump in the throat, and the ill-at-easeness that Frost refers to. It means fear. It means dread. It means things are bigger than anything our little beings have previously encountered. And we cry out, “This is not right!”. Read more

Why I like my unsettled life and have no hope of finding balance

Posted on May 6th, 2015

We keep seeking balance. But it’s a false goal. We have it wrong. For one thing, it’s just not possible. I’ve written about this before – how life balance is elusive.


Image by Katia Bellomo

But more than this, balance or settledness, doesn’t see us grow. We grow and become better, and have a better life, from the very act of tending to our imbalance and unsettledness.

Get this bit of quote into you:

“People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ll also quote poet David Whyte, who I’ve referred to a bit lately (catch up here and here). As a fun aside, David is in Australia next weekend and I was invited as a guest…so I managed to wrangle a few double passes for you guys here on this blog. Head to my Facebook page for details. Anyway. The erudite Whyte points out that Read more

The best advice to creatives ever: you have to go through a volume of work

Posted on March 10th, 2015

When I lived in Byron (writing my first book) I used to drive to my friend Annie’s house in the hills for dinner on Sundays. I timed it to listen to Ira Glass on This American Life. I’d time it so I could pull over in the really mind-expanding, precipace-thinking bits. Not listened to one of Ira’s meandering, whimsical interviews about life? You should.

Image via Skipholt.

Image via Skipholt.

I love Ira. And I don’t think I’ve come across better advice than this for anyone who hurts, frets, doubts doing creative work. Which is most of us, really.

The gist is this:

1. Creatives know they have taste. They know they have a vision, an idea that could be special. It burns in them.

2. But when they start out in their respective realms, their output doesn’t match up to their vision. There’s a gap. They know their work isn’t special enough… and so…

3. Creatives hurt, fret and doubt… and then often quit.

But Ira shares:

4. This is normal.

5. The most important thing you can do is… more work. The only way to close the gap is to “go through a volume of work”. Read more