10 Lessons From 2015
For the second year now, I sat and looked at my year straight in the eyes, saw what I did, what I didn’t do, what went well, what went wrong and took time to reflect on the past journey before heading on to the next one (aka 2016).
This exercise, inspired by Chris Guillebeau‘s own Annual review has had, I believe, a profound impact on the overall quality of my year 2015.
Making the effort of paying attention to what I did and choosing to learn from it has helped me gain focus and feel less unprepared in some ways. A lot of things happened this year; and most of the things that happened this year were unexpected and I couldn’t have foreseen. But I believe planting myself as an active participant of my own journey made me willing to take risks and helped me resist the shaky winds and embrace the good news when they presented themselves.
Overall, 2015 was intense, rich, and took me by surprise. It’s a year where the hard work I had been putting for years started to produce results in many areas.
It’s not done yet, and hard work is still always will be necessary, but seeing results definitely helps for the long run.
I was planning to do like last year, and look back at my year chronologically, but it felt more suited to share 10 lessons I got out of this year. I could probably write a mini-essay under each bullet point, and maybe I’ll break it down in the future, but for now, I thought I would start with the lessons themselves, some of which might inspire you or echo your experience. (And if so I’d love to hear from you!)
10 Lessons From 2015
It’s Ok to Say No
I am always excited by new ideas, new projects, new possibilities. And while this has allowed me to juggle with many balls at the same time, it’s also made me feel at times unfocused and fragmented.
Although I don’t want -and probably can’t- erase this trait of my personality, I’ve discovered the official terms for three concepts I had been struggling with, and this has helped me put words on behaviors and probably avoid mental exhaustion.
1 – Decision Fatigue: using your daily quota of decision on trivial things rather than saving them for what matters, thus reaching the end of the day unable to prioritize anything. There is this famous anecdote that Steve Jobs always wearing the same clothes was a way to avoid decision fatigue. When I can feel my brain boiling over trivial choices, I stop.
2 – Shiny Objects: being attracted to new things presented as a one-in-a-lifetime-opportunity and going for it even though the timing is wrong for you at that exact moment, losing time, energy and probably money. Think new apps, new social media account, new trainings etc. I literally have to stop myself from buying ‘knowledge’ (books, masterclasses etc.) when I don’t have time to finish those I already purchased. Reminding myself that this is the shiny objects effect definitely helps to stop.
3 – FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out): it connects with #2, although FOMO also pushes me to try keeping up with everything.
As a ripple effect, I realized that what connects those three phenomenon was my tendency to say “Yes” without weighing what was hiding behind it. And if ‘yes’ is a beautiful word, it can become poisonous when you know you won’t be able to keep your word.
Learning to say ‘No’, and being at peace with it is a very powerful weapon. I am far from having perfected the art of saying no, or yes as it turns out, but 2015 was the year where it got put into motion and I worked the ‘guilt’ that came with saying no.
Your Creative Voice Lies Where You Feel Vulnerable
There are several books that have been entertaining the idea that being vulnerable is an essential component to being an artist and having a creating voice that cuts through the noise; the Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, which was a massive game changer for me, and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, whose talks only have also had a profound impact on how I think and live Shame and Vulnerability.
It’s crystal clear to me now that the only way to create something unique, to “make good art”, is to tap in the pool of what makes-us us, and that can’t be done without taking risks and not pleasing everybody.
For me, this meant using a publisher’s rejection to create a Live Instagram Graphic Novel (i’ve just created that concept)
If You Stay Fluid, Bruises Will Become Lessons
I’ve seen many friends getting badly hurt, metaphorically speaking, because they fought so much against life’s unpredictability. Life is chaos. Filmmaking is a great echo chamber to that statement actually. You can plan as much as you want, it will never go the way it was wished or written on paper.
When you try to fight that idea, you only give more power to it, and each time Life reminds you that people will die, natural disasters will happen, meetings will get canceled, contracts will get broken, funding will fall apart, screenplays will be shelved, you will take it personally and the impact will be that much deeper, and the bruise bigger.
I’ve discovered that accepting that the game is fluid helps not only to heal faster but also to leave doors open to possibilities.
Find Your Own Habits and Stick to Them
I’ve always been interested in habits and rituals even though up until this year, I’ve been unable to implement any clean and clear one.
I would pick and chose habits for a little amount of time, which is a good way to go, up to a certain extent. I’ve always felt like I needed some kind of grounding elements and this year I’ve found two.
I’ve introduced meditation as a daily morning routine for a few months now, and it’s transformed so many aspects of my mind, I’m sometimes wondering how come 15 minutes of silence and breathing can impact my life so much.
Meditating has helped me feel more energized throughout the day (I’m an insomniac), it’s been helping me feel more focused on every task I tackle, and it’s been key in me staying calm.
You know when you’re in a hurry, you have ten minutes left to complete 14 tasks, and that’s when you spill your coffee on you, or your computer, or both, because why not. Well, this things always happen, at one point or another, but the way you react to them is what will kill the day or not. Since I’ve been meditating, those incidents have had much less power over me, and I’ve been able to recover from them very quickly.
The second habit I’ve implemented is the way I handle my notebook. I’ve always had notebooks, and I love them. But I’ve never found a satisfying way to keep them. Sometimes I would mix stuff, sometimes I would try to dedicate one notebook to one topic, sometimes I would skip pages leaving blank pages for a specific topic I would never go back to, and it would always feel like even more chaotic than before.
This year, I started a notebook that I’ve named ‘Creative Chaos in Chronological Order‘, and this statement opened up a whole new way of keeping my notebooks. No matter what I write down, from a to-do list to a quote, to an idea, to a drawing, I now put it in chronological order.
Going back through my notes, finding ideas and finally using what I put in my notebooks has never been so easy. This might be just for me, and that’s where #4 comes: find what works for you. And do it.
Always Be in Motion
Do something. Every day. Even if it seems small, irrelevant, or not enough.
Shut down the voice in your head that wants to give you 1,000 logical reasons not to do ‘it’, and do it instead.
Before you’ll know it, you’ll have plenty of material to work with and stay in motion. Being in motion isn’t about speed, it’s about consistency.
Some days feel better than others, some days feel full of promises and others pointless, but staying in motion every day has been a huge game changer for me.
Creativity Is a Muscle, Not a Gift
I wrote a post on Creative Live about the things I’ve learned being in a creative burnout, and this was one of them.
Discovering and accepting that my creativity needs nurturing has been a Eureka moment. I also realized that creativity was a topic I felt passionate about, and that I wanted to help creative in burnout to get back on track doing practice things, things I wished I had stumbled upon when I felt I had nothing left in me. This put in motion The Creative Break, which is only at the beginning of its journey that is going to really start and expand in 2016.
This year was central in showing me how important it is to produce quantity to find out the pearl you want to keep, make connections in my mind and understand what I feel strong about.
In 2015, I’ve done a 100 days project -creating daily for 100 days, a 60 days project -creating daily for 60 days, I wrote three drafts of a feature screenplay, I’ve done a 10 pages graphic novel in 3 hours, creating and publishing one page every 15 minutes on instagram, and all those actions have helped me create new things for GizLie, my co-shared creative adventure with Gizem.
I wrote some more about this at Stage 32: How to build a community and stay creative even if you don’t live in a big movie town.
Be Kind to Yourself
Be kind to yourself.
Be kind to yourself.
Be kind to yourself.
It’s as simple and as complex as that.
Connections Can Be Life Changing, IRL Connections Are Vital
This year was massive in expanding my circle of people. I’ve done three meet-ups, two in London, one in Paris, where I’ve met you, the very real people reading this blog.
And although I had a relationship via email with many of yous, meeting in person, being able to put a voice, a face and build real-life memories together is a whole other game.
Thanks to the site, and bridging online and in real life connections, I’ve done many things I had never done before like giving a masterclass at l’Ecole de la Cite in Paris, writing for and going to the Raindance Film Festival (and I was kindly hosted by one of you!), doing a podcast interview and meeting a bunch of storytellers from all origins, backgrounds, nationalities etc.
Know the Intention Behind Your Decisions
This is something I need to remind myself for my life in general, and for creative projects that develop over months or years. It gets really easy to lose sight of why we do what we do in the first place.
From one decision to the next, you can be very surprised when you turn back after too long to see that you’ve lost sight of it all.
It can be painful, especially when shooting a film, to realize in post-production that if you had just taken a moment to step back and ask “Why I am doing what I am doing?” you could have saved a scene, or a film. Talking from experience here.
Same goes with life in general. I don’t always remember to do it, but 2015 has been more about wearing a three years-old hat and asking ‘Why?’ all the time than heading in a direction at full speed for the sake of doing something.
Ask why to your adult-self, find your intention and adjust your next step accordingly, that’s a set of actions I’ve been integrating this year.
And that’s it. Kind of. I tried to keep it at a decent length, but feel free to react, comment, ask questions in the comment section if something echoes or doesn’t make sense.
Everything didn’t go perfectly this year. On a creative level, I didn’t shoot any film for the first time in a long time. On a business level, I’m still living an alternative life that allows me to create, gives me a lot of freedom and that I love, but that doesn’t allow me to rent my own place, pay adult bills or have a sense of security. That’s a reality too, and something I’ve been working on in 2015, and plan on keep working on in 2016
Last but not least: last year I extended an invitation to the newsletter readers to email me their creative goals for 2015; I emailed them mine back, and then we tried to keep touch every 3 months or so, to see where we were at.
It was a great experiment that I will repeat this year, so if you’d like to be part of it, join the newsletter, and check the Edito in the next few weeks, you’ll have all the details there.
To a badass year friends!