2018, Zita style

This year was one of my most difficult, yet best years in my life so far. Since I live here in Iceland, my typical "resolution" period has shifted to the summer. Buying Elise's planner, that starts in July reinforced this habit, and 2018 had started in July for me.

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So here's my half-year summary

In the middle of June I started to walk to and from work, listening to audio books, and also started to exercise every morning by the end of the month. I figured I had about half a year until the end of 2018, so I downloaded Elise's goal tracker (sign up to her newsletter to get it free) and made a promise to myself: I will exercise at least six days a week for a whole year to see what my body is capable of if I don't quit after a few months. These few things have changed my life in many ways, and I'm only at the half year mark (here’s my goal tracker, pictured last week). 

  • 189 days have passed since then.

  • I exercised on 167 of those (roughly 5.640 minutes, or 94 hours of exercise, that averages in 34 minutes per exercise).

  • I have listened to 7 books (will list the worthy ones below).

  • I have listened to 32 podcast episodes (will show you the best ones).

  • I walked an average of 12700 steps daily.

  • I slept an average of 6 hours per day.

What this means

Exercise

I LOVE exercising, especially in the morning. I'm not a morning person, but I love mornings. I know it's strange. I have a love-hate relationship with sleep. I love sleeping, but I hate how much more I could do had I not needed it. But I started to wake up early, so I can squeeze my 30-minute exercise in before my kids wake up, because I was unable to keep it regular when I waited until they went to bed at night. I more often fell asleep too than not. exercising in the morning was only difficult for a while, then I started to feel more energized throughout the whole day, and felt accomplished already by 6 in the morning. (It turns out I did something very useful without knowing about it, as research shows if you have "small wins" in the beginning of your day, you'll more likely feel great later. I can only agree with this). I have gained stamina, muscle, and what's more important: I'm better at handling our messy life in general. I'm still far from my goals in managing my anger, but I'm on my straight way to them. I started to believe in myself, and realise how much I'm able to do if I'm focused enough.

Books

Though it's only seven books in six months, it's still more than zero. And some of them turned out to be life changing. They are all in the "self-help" category, so if you prefer fiction, skip this part.

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It was recommended to me by a very good friend, a long time ago, but I was hesitant. The title is very misleading. It suggests that you have to change who you are in order to win friends and even influence them. (There's nothing I hate more than lies). But this book is much more than the title suggests. It shows you how to turn your attention to others, how not to be self centered, and how important it is to care about people. It still sounds strange like this, because these are more or less obvious things for a lot of people, but it opens up your eyes to your weaknesses and helps you figure out a way to develop them. I'd recommend it to everyone, just as an occasional cleaning and maintenance of your moral compass.

  2. The 5 second rule by Mel Robbins. I heard about this rule briefly in a podcast. It was playing a role in me starting exercise in the morning, and only after a month into that I started to look for the actual source of this rule. What I found was a treasure chest. If you only read one book next year, read this one. Or rather: listen to it in Mel's interpretation. It was soooo inspiring for me, I can't express. It's a simple thing, again. A very simple one. Skeptics will say there's nothing new to it. But Mel has to be considered as the Alchemist here, because this simple thing turns into gold in her hands. For some reason it's very easy to accept things when she says them. Probably because she's authentic and relatable. And we all need some tough love from time to time, because we often suck at parenting ourselves. 

  3. Kick Ass with Mel Robbins: I was listening to it on Audible, but it's not a book. I would say it's a series of podcasts, where Mel plays the role of an interviewer who's quite close to a therapist. You hear about so many great revelations, you can't not review your own life and make changes. I recommend this one too. No secret: I love Mel, like thousands of other people out there. There's a reason for that.

  4. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Wow. This book is such a good mixture of (neuro)scientific stories and motivational facts, I couldn't stop listening to it. It explains a lot of things about our behaviours, habits, and it gives you a very good idea about how to form good ones. Along with the 5 second rule this one takes the first place.

  5. Made to Stick by Chip & Dean Heath. Another book about marketing and business. I loved it a lot. It's all about how to make our messages stick, be it a speech or something we want our kids to learn. I will listen to it again soon.

  6. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know anything about it, but it came up everywhere I went, so I stopped resisting. And I'm happy I did. There are many many good advice in this book, especially for women who are raising kids, but I think anyone will find value while reading it. There's a story in the book that was so painful for me, I had to turn it off and then cry on the whole way to work – because it was so relatable and so eye opening. I wish I read this when I was about 19, it would have helped me avoid a lot of situations where I didn't appreciate myself enough to stand up and speak up for myself. If you're in your twenties, read this book right NOW. And learn from it. Even if you don't agree with everything in it, it has a lot of deep and important messages for women of any age. 

Podcasts

I don't listen to many podcasts, because I believe that less is more when it comes to sources for learning online (I use podcasts for learning, mainly about business). At least at the same time. If you enroll to too many things, you end up not doing any of them. So I chose baby steps here too. I already mentioned the Elise gets crafty podcast and the Courage and Clarity podcast. I mainly listened to them. But I have also found Creative Biz Rebellion, and enjoyed a few of their episodes too. Here are my favourite podcast episodes of 2018:

Finding more in less on the Elise Gets Crafty podcast

5 steps to side hustle without wrecking yourself (even with a family & job) on the C&C podcast

How To Stop Fighting Against Your Life & Fall In Love With It Instead this is an older one from the C&C podcast (from 2017), but I’ve listened to it three times already, and you should too.

Walking

My new love. It's my me-time every day, and it helps me so much. I'm more productive because of it, my mind is clearer, and I don't care about the weather any more, which comes very handy in Iceland. Try it!

Sleeping

This is something I have to improve in the upcoming months. 6 hours is not enough, so I will make radical changes. This is my only new year's resolution. Otherwise I will just continue what I have started in July. 

Word of the year

Every year I choose a word for myself. In 2017 it was "Now". In 2018 it was "Do". In 2019 it's not only one, but two words: "Love and Patience". Go and listen to Elise's podcast about it, because I like the way she explains how she's using this method. I use it very similarly, and it works so well. She has collected her yearly chats with Ali Edwards on this topic here.

One thing that ties into this one very well is that I've joined #MindsetReset with Mel Robbins, and I'm curious what it brings me in January. If you'd like to know more about it, check out this page. Let me know if you're doing it too! It inspired me to collect all my wins and difficulties from this past year, because we so often just rush to the next one before reflecting a little bit on the past. We have to celebrate our wins, and learn from our mistakes. They help us set better goals for the future, which I think is very important.

Happy new year everyone!

10+1 steps to make reward charts work

Do reward charts work for your kid?

They didn't work for us for a long time. I'll tell you why, and how we fixed it.

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Reward charts are incentives for nudging the direction of a certain behaviour. We all work better if there's a prize at the end. We work for our salaries, we workout for feeling better and being stronger, and if we stick to our own goals, we treat ourselves for the achievement. At least that's how I do it. But we as adults can comprehend the concept of future, and we know without doubt, that the reward will be there waiting for us if we're consistent enough. Children are more spontaneous creatures, and their sense of time doesn't go further than right now until the age of two, and even after that they only slowly develop their knowledge about tomorrows and next weeks. This is an important thing when we want to work with reward charts. When we first tried it, Aron was about three, and he was angry when he didn't get the star when he didn't complete his task. He couldn't connect behaviour and reward, and he was living in the moment. On top of that we weren't consistent enough. Our reward would have been the behaviour change, but since it didn't seem to come this way, ever, we gave up the whole thing almost immediately. So the cute house fairy cards I drew for him ended up in the rubbish. And our struggle began.

What I didn't see at that time was the fact that he simply wasn't mature enough for the sophisticated concept I created for him, even though he was already amazingly bright and seemed capable of understanding. I was also convinced that consistency wasn't that important. Oh how wrong I was! Kids on the high functioning end of the autistic spectrum tend to be little geniuses, and it's easy to think that they understand more of the world than they really do. Especially when you have no idea yet, that your child is on the spectrum. We're just proud parents, who think their kid will definitely be the next Einstein. And there's no problem with that. We just have to understand a few basic things first to help them achieve their best.

How to start?

Start by setting up a regular schedule for your child. It doesn't have to be complicated. Do pizza night every Friday for example, and be consistent with it. Seriously. It can be your gluten and dairy free version, or you can switch pizza with anything. The key here is consistency. One day a week, on the same day, every week, for at least two months. Your child will start to have a sense of how a week feels like. Try to do it with something that you haven't done before, so it stands out from your weekly routine.

Put up a monthly calendar on the wall/fridge/whiteboard, mark the special days distinctively, and let your kid cross the day that has passed every night before bedtime. This way they develop multiple things at the same time: a sense of how days are passing by, what one week means and how to be consistent. It took a lot of time for me to fully understand that boundaries and consistent rules for a child are the most important things, especially for children on the autistic spectrum. If we offer too many options, too broad space (I mean mental space here) to wiggle, they won't feel safe. They need our guidance. More than we think they do. I will tell you a story about it at the end.

How to not stop?

For me, this is the hardest part. My self-discipline is excellent. In regards of many things. But when it comes to raising a kid, my patience evaporates and I give up too quickly. So I had to fix (or at least improve) that first. I don't have a bulletproof method that works for everyone, and maybe you're already a star in it. But here's what helps me:

Results

It's a catch 22, but when you see results of consistency, you more likely continue what you're doing. So pay close attention to your child, and try to notice the smallest difference. Celebrate it, and keep going.

Imagination

Paint a vivid picture in your mind about what it would be like to succeed with the ongoing project. Believe me, change will come, but you need to be patient.

Love

I talk about it a lot even though everyone thinks it's the obvious one. Yes, of course we love our kids, no question. But when it comes to pushing our buttons (which they are champions in), our kids can drive us crazy, and amidst those wacky moments we tend to forget that maybe (just maybe) letting it all go, and hugging them would work much better than shouting their heads off. I have to remind myself all the time. Especially when I'm tired. But I feel like I'm getting better and better at it, and it helps a lot. It helps to notice those small changes, I was talking about before. It helps becoming patient, and patience is also a key factor.

How to do this?

Our first reward chart four years ago consisted of a piece of paper with a table on it, drawn by me. It listed at least six things that needed to be done, and the reward was a little star in the correct cell. It was planned for a week, and if enough stars were collected, Aron would get a special card from the house fairy, a creature I invented so I could blame her. It was lame on so many levels. I tell you why, but I'm sure you know by now.

So this is the "how NOT to do this” list:

  • Out of nowhere: no consistent schedule preceded this action. Aron didn't have a clue about consistent schedules or sufficient sense of time.

  • It was way too much to ask for (and it wasn't clear enough). Six tasks for a whole week, every day. Holy shirt. What was I thinking? (And I remember including one: tantrum free DAY. For a three-year-old. I hope he'll forgive me one day).

  • I didn't think of it, but when he started to get the cards, he started to ask questions about this house fairy person. How did she get in? Is she nice? Why would someone sneak in while we aren't home? Why can't he meet her? I told you he was bright. And paranoid. That's why we had to tell him the truth about Santa only a year after this.

I gave up very quickly. I had a few other attempts after that, but they were all very similar, so they failed just like the first one. I didn't sit down to learn from my mistakes, and I was way too frustrated that they didn't work. Probably I should have read up on it before I started to implement it, don't even know why I didn't.

and here are the most important steps:

  • Start with creating one new and fun but consistent routine (e.g. pizza night every Friday), and do that for at least two months. 

  • Use a monthly calendar, mark the special days distinctively and let your child cross the days as they pass (try to do it in the same time every day)

  • Celebrate small wins (when he/she remembers to cross the day; when he/she seems to get the idea of what a week means; etc.) and give them positive feedback often.

  • Create a chart with 1 or 2 tasks per month, or even bi-monthly. Some tasks may even take several months to master. Be patient and let go of everything else. Multitasking is the enemy of productivity.

  • Be precise and clear. The tasks should be simple and your kid should understand them. (e.g. "Wash your hands after you go to the toilet". "Put your clothes to the laundry basket every night"). 

  • Give small rewards every day (a star, a sticker, a heart, whatever your child is interested in), and give one bigger reward every week if at least four smaller ones were collected throughout the week.

  • Set up a "main prize" they can get if they collect the bigger rewards every week for a month. (This will only work with older kids, because younger ones don't get the idea of a month. With them just throw a little celebration after a month, and tell them they did an amazing job). This doesn't have to be an object, I recommend experiences, that you do together with the kids. I will write about ideas in another post, but I'm sure you know a few right away.

  • Make it fun. You know what's fun for your kid, try to incorporate it in the process somehow.

  • Do it with them. I'm not kidding. Make a reward chart for yourself, and tell them about it. They'll love the idea.

  • Remember why you're doing this. Imagine how fun/easy/good it's going to be when you master a task. 

  • LOVE your kid and be patient.

here's a cheat sheet you can print out to stay on track:

And remember: you can do this.

You have to put some work in it, because every valuable thing requires work, but when you'll see the results, you'll be over-the-moon happy. Promise! Do you know how I know? Because just a couple of weeks ago we had a break through moment thanks to our consistency (which by the way is not something we are able to do with everything, but focusing on one thing at a time helps a lot).

A few months ago we decided that our kids will only have screen time twice a week, and that it'll be twenty minutes per day. We discussed it with them, and started. They were never getting too much before either, but we felt like it was too much for them anyway. Of course they didn't like it, and of course it was a struggle in the beginning. But after a few weeks they started to get used to it, and even though they were asking if it was screen day every single day, they didn't throw a tantrum anymore when it wasn't. It became a habit, and it worked well. Then two weeks ago we were going to IKEA on a Friday afternoon after school (it turned out to be a bad decision, so don't try to do it unless you're in zen mode). Peter was driving and the kids were talking to each other in the back. Hanna told Aron that she was going to go to the play area (Smaland), and asked him to go with her. Aron said it was OK, if Hanna didn't watch TV inside. Then Hanna said: "I won't, it's not screen day". BAMMM. I could hug her and do a happy dance, but instead I just glanced at Peter in awe, and we mentally high-fived. That was such a great feeling, I can't tell. Just to make it clear: Hanna is four. This was a clear sign that consistency pays off. And the good thing is, that it's true in every segment of life. (Unfortunately it works with negative things too, even better, but let's stay on the positive side now). So we've got this!

Please note that I'm not an expert. These are only based on my own experiences, and I share them because I'd have been happy to read something like this when I started to plan reward charts four years ago. I understand if these tips don't work for you for some reason, and I'm happy if they do. Either way, let me know how you do it!

Have a nice rest of the week!

So. Many. Things.

Life

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As you can see in the December calendar, we’re trying to slow down in this month. December is always busy. Aron’s birthday is only one week before Christmas, and everyone wants to finish everything by the end of the year. So there’s a push from every direction.

After coming back from our holiday in Spain, we had a difficult few weeks with Aron. With changes always comes the downhill ride, but we’re still not always prepared for it. We tend to forget it. But it never fails to remind us. Even if he has fun. Or I should say especially when he has fun. We had two meetings in the school since then, and things are getting better. But I heard something for the first time from Aron: he said he wanted to end his life, because he was so stupid. Even now, more than a month later I have to cry as I write it down. He’s not even seven. It hurts as hell. Autistic people often feel depressed and anxious, especially on the high functioning end. They are well aware of their difficulties, that’s one of the reasons, but they can also be nagged too much because of their weaknesses. We, as parents have to improve on that one. With a family background of high achievers and control freak perfectionists it’s hard to get rid of these programs in our brains. But we’re doing our best.

We have a good relationship with Aron’s teachers, and his special teacher (Hanna) is an angel. She knows how to deal with him, and she teaches us too. With a kid like Aron usual methods don’t work. Love, love a little bit more, and be extra-hyper patient. That’s the recipe. Sounds sooo freaking simple. I will not go into details why it’s not. If you have a kid, you have a slight idea. If you have a kid on the spectrum, you know this too well. (I have thought about tattooing love + patience on Aron’s forehead, so every time I look at him, I’m reminded, even when my lizard brain wants to take over).

Work

That all said I also have a new role at work from October. Which was kind of a surprise, for I was told to prepare for leaving from January because of reorganization. I’d been doing as I was told, taking on huge side projects, so I could stand on my own after losing my job. This resulted in a sleep deprived situation. But I’ll manage. I put the Emotiblot cards aside, didn’t hold a brush for more than a month by now, but I thought it was OK. I’d restart in February, I believed. And then came 5th of December.

Growth

I received the first message before we left the house in the morning. I didn’t think too much of it. I was never written about on a Hungarian news site before. I though it was like blog recommendations fifteen years ago: would disappear in 10 minutes. It didn’t. People started to congratulate me, I received emails from strangers. And the funny feeling started to emerge from my stomach. An hour later all I wanted to do was curling up in a dark corner and cry after I deleted my website. Can’t explain why, it felt strange to be looked at by so many people at the same time, even virtually. Never felt this way before. And it was before I even read the negative comments. So amazing how our brain grabs on negativity so much quicker than on the positive things. Bottom line: don’t read comments on social media if you’re exposed to a huge amount of people. Fortunately I had the strength (have no idea how) to not respond, and because of it I was only struggling with destructive feelings for one day. I still have this slight fear (sitting on my shoulder) of not being enough, not being responsible enough, not handling things well. But thanks to my wonderful friends I’m OK by now. I know that if I’m doing what I love, and what I believe in, then nothing can happen. I continue being myself, opening up even more. Hence this post.

I want people to realize that I’m a human being, with faulty manufacturing, like all of us. That’s our imperfect perfection. I don’t want anyone to have a distorted image of me. I’d like everyone to see the struggles just as much as the happiness we experience.

From now on I’ll write more about autism, mainly because I want to learn more about it. I’d like to see how I can use my abilities to help Aron the most. If I help others along the way too, then I’ll be thrilled. I know, because it happened. I’ll write about it next time.

Cheers.

5 things that makes building a business easier

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If your answer was yes, think about where you stand in building your business right now.

  • What kind of struggles do you have daily/weekly/monthly?

  • What was the best thing that you've learnt about business lately?

I've been quiet these days, because I'm also working on my business. (It's probably the first time I'm "saying this out loud"). And I'd like to share a few useful things I've come across in this past year or so. It seems that things are clicking in their right places at the moment, and it feels great. I wish all of you, who are in the same situation, could feel like this.

So here's the list for boosting your productivity while keeping your sanity:

1. Goal Setting: Elise & her Get to Work Book

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I already wrote about Elise before, but I can't emphasize her awesomeness enough. On her instagram account (@elisejoy) she had shared one day of her life in her story. Please check it out (day in the life - a saved story), and let her inspire you like no one else before. Her momentum is contagious, and that piece of story shows you how much can be done in a day if you're focused enough. Goal setting is her thing, so check her out if you need some quality help with that. She also has a planner, called "Get to Work Book". I gave it a try in January, ordered a July-June version, and I'm in love with it (already have my next one ready for the next 12-month-period). Together with a planning method (which I'm also going to talk about) I found the duo that's working for me finally.

2. Planning: The 15-minute Weekly Planner

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This goes hand in hand with my previous suggestion, but I wanted to have it separate, because it works on its own as well. A while ago I've found a podcast called Courage & Clarity (will write about it later, too). It's created by Steph Crowder, who also has a weekly planning method, that's clean and simple. She'll have a 5-day free challenge, starting on 23rd of July, if you'd like to try the method with her guiding. Check out her website, and get the method now - see if it works for you. One thing that I have to add: like every good solution, it only works if you're willing to make some effort. Get the momentum from Elise, and do it!

3. ENCOURAGEMENT: COURAGE & CLARITY PODCAST

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As I mentioned before, Steph has a podcast. And it's brilliant. If you need some encouragement, listen to a few episodes. It's a podcast (mainly) with interviews that focuses on two halves:

  1. One called Courage, because it takes a ton of courage to find your vision

  2. And one called Clarity, because bringing a vision into the real world requires a crystal clear process (written in her own words, taken from her website).

Here's her introduction in the beginning of the show, that tells you what these interviews are about:

"Real honest stories from online business builders. These entrepreneurs had the gumption to go for it, and they're brave enough to share what it takes
to earn an independent living doing something you love."

Her new Business Wisdom series is also a great place to find answers to your questions about building a business.

4. LEARNING ABOUT BUSINESS: FIZZLE

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I heard about Fizzle in Steph's podcast and I'm giving it a try right now. It's a site where you can learn about business in a very good pace, using a terrific interface. You can also talk to the community to not feel so lonely, and get some advice too. I like how goofy, yet knowledgeable the creators are, and I like the fact that this isn't another bullshirt "buy this and we'll teach you how to cold call people" I have bumped into a lot lately. I like how well structured and free of fluff it is. I'm quite new to it, so I will talk about it later for sure, but you should try it too. Let me know if you did!


5. DON'T GIVE UP, YOU CAN DO IT!

I know it's impossible to do everyhting at the same time. I can't do it either (I tried, believe me). And I still have to make peace with it. But with the help of these brilliant people I've found a way to get there. I have a dream, and I know I'm making it happen, one day at a time. You can do it too!

Tell me about your methods and solutions. What works for you? What didn't?

 Love,
Zita

Home

Hubert Roguski

Hubert Roguski

I've been thinking for a while now that I should also write in Hungarian, since that's more like me, and that's still my best tool to express my inner self. Now that I spent a few days at home (meaning: in Hungary), this feeling is even stronger. I had several conversations about how difficult it is to continuously  think and communicate in a different language. About how difficult it is to have a deep, yet funny conversation with someone who have no idea who Vágási Feri is (Google will never tell you exactly). When you first have to explain all the nuances to have the other person deeply understand and feel what you're about to say. Now this is something I miss. Tremendously. When I go home, I try to stock up of these conversations for indefinable lengths. I usually don't sleep much for a few days, because I know I only have those brief moments to express fully what's in me.

I of course have Peter, but we don't talk about all the topics I love to talk about, naturally. And you don't realise this until you're far away from home. My heart is always heavy for a few weeks after I come back and even though my batteries are charged, I know I have to economize on the energy to have it last for enough time. Especially until the end of the Icelandic winter. What even refuses to come this year. I especially miss my artist friends. Those I started my life with, those who struggled and celebrated the same way as I did, while we were going through our character building years. Whose values are still very similar to mine to date, and who are going through the same difficulties when it comes to art. Those, who know how was our art school in 1995, and what was Hungary like in 2005. Those who know what place was there before today's ticket vending machines on Kálvin Square. Or simply know who Vágási Feri is. Maybe I'm growing old, and maybe I just have to let it go. But maybe I don't. Until I feel like these people can still give me a lot (and hopefully vice versa) with all the layers we've collected ever since, I can hardly imagine that this is not a valid need. Exupéry's sentence rings in my ears often: "...there is only one true luxury, that of human relationships.”

So either someone invents teleport for me, or I obtain a huge amount of money in a short period of time, but I definitely have to visit home a lot more. Even if we don't move back, I have to be there to inhale spring, summer, the smell of trees, the smell of the warm rain, the oh-so-many faces of the staircases, the humming streets, the happily crowded nightlife, and anyway, all the nooks and crannies of the smelly, loud, but forever wonderful Budapest. To show this all to my kids. To bring them to the museums I grew up in. To show them the forests we were hiking in. To let them explore those thousands of buildings we visited throughout the years. To show them where we, their parents come from. To decrease the space between us. To let them meet our friends. And our friends' kids. To let them bathe in lake Balaton more. To let them travel by train. By tram. To let them sit on the stairs of the museums, the bank of the Danube, on Gellért hill, on the alley, on "Moscow Square", on Móricz Square, on Kálvin Square. Of course, it'll never mean the same for them, but to let them drink a bit more sips of it, than they do now. 

It hurts a bit, writing about it, because I know it would even be difficult if we lived there. We wouldn't be able to hand everything over that builds us up. But maybe if we could continuously share our thoughts that incubated there with those who were part of them for so long, we wouldn't feel this pain so sharply either. Then maybe this lightness of being would be a bit more bearable. If I might say so. 

Anyway, thank you everyone, who has charged me this time. (I could write it in English... even if it's sloppy.)

Dreams

Dreams first, goals next

Do you know what's on my mind for a few years by now? That I used to have dreams, and I also used to write them down. And they became reality. Somehow in these crazy, running years I forgot about my dreams. But I have them, and I will write them out here now, shout them in the silence of this white surface, to let them be free and find their way.

So here they go

My first and foremost dream is to work as an illustrator, in a sunny studio, where everything has its place, and where I can live in my dreamworld. In that studio I would have a printing press, as that's the other big dream of mine. And I'd use it for my personal projects, while experimenting with techniques and tools. In my dream there's also a cat. I used to say that I'm both a cat and a dog person, but I think I'm rather the first. In this dream of mine I don't struggle to make ends meet as an illustrator, so I'm very calm and patient. I choose my projects, and I love all of them. Naïve, I know, but that's what dreams are for. I only have to remember to notice when I'm there. Many years ago I wrote down a dream like this, about Paris. A totally crazy one, that wasn't realistic at all. And a few years after that, while sitting in a mansard above Paris, where I was living at that moment, I realised that it was all written down once before. That was my last big dream. I was daydreaming about it on so many days. So here it is. I was clueless for a while, didn't know where do I want my life to go. But in these past two years I'm getting more and more assured, that I'm an illustrator deep inside. That drawing is my main thing, and if I'm given enough time, I can do whatever I dream about. I also dream about our little family. I dream about a happy childhood (and life) for my kids, and a lot of sun for all of us. I dream about a slow, happy and healthy life - who doesn't? I hope my son's magic wand that asks me sometimes about my dreams, will hear me and help me out. Because I need new dreams soon, these ones are on their way now!

Elise and the girls, or mid-march momentum hunt

Here I am, with a quick post about how things are going with me, and as I promised, a bit more on Elise Blaha. These are mainly notes for myself, but maybe there's something interesting here for you as well.

It's mid-March, and I'm still stuck a little bit in the beginning of the year mode, which is quite annoying. It means I haven't found my momentum yet, and I hate being in a state of waiting for it. There's always an excuse of course, but I'd like to be a little bit more productive in every aspect of my life than I am nowadays.

Elise

When I have this feeling I often turn to Elise, a creator I admire a lot. She is a young mom of two, living in the United States. She seems to have endless energy and momentum, and she inspires me every day. Unfortunately sometimes it doesn't show at all, but she really is inspiring. I couldn't tell you what she does, go and check her instagram. She creates things. All. The. Time. She's writing a book at the moment, but she also has a planner (which I'm trying out right now), and a continuous urge to create things. I love her transparent and energetic personality that shows in everything she does. Yes, we are always reminded that people's life is much more than what they show us on social media, but she really does seem to me like she has it all. And not because she's perfect, but because of her contagious energy.

Yesterday she posted about a few books that have changed her life, so I've decided to jump on them, and start this year's reading with them. Here they are, I hope you also find some good read. I also realised that I'm again spending too much time on consuming stuff online (instagram is my time-waster), so it'll be a good way to ditch the phone. There's of course a very good reason I'm using my phone much more lately, and I really wanted to write about that too...

The Girls

A few weeks ago my secondary school classmates started to organise a twenty-year-reunion. We started to chat more and more, until nine of us have formed a little "girly" chat group, which quickly became my everyday drug. We reconnected so quickly, and we created something very intimate and beautiful in a matter of just a week or two. It's been a very long time since I felt this good in "company", and though in one hand it makes my heart very, very happy, on the other it makes me a little bit sad, because I'm so far away from these beautiful relationships - physically. Once again in my life I realise that keeping an interesting and loving relationship going takes a lot of time and energy if it is based on typing your thoughts out multiple times a day (and reading others' in the meantime). I absolutely love this connection, but I admit that I have to regulate it a little, so I'm not that ad hoc when it comes to the usage of my phone. 

Going Home

And because I told you this story, I also have to mention, that in May I'm going home for the reunion!! This is something I'm waiting for like Christmas when I was a kid. Not only because I will travel alone and I feel like I really need some me time, but because I will meet these beautiful ladies, and because I'll finally be able to go wakeboarding with my brothers again. These four days will be the charger of my year for sure. I think you can see how much I miss home and the relationships with my favourite human beings. There must be a solution for this on the long run, and I'm working on it.

Finding that momentum

Something else that's quite important is that learning from last year's mistakes I'm trying to reorganise my priorities. Though I drew a lot in the beginning of last year, I became really exhausted, even when I gained a lot of energy from doing what I love the most. I have to admit that I don't have enough spare time to... well, spare, and that our relationship, our kids and my health worth lot more than my instant happiness that comes from drawing and creating. I somehow have to find a healthy balance, and I dedicate this year to that quest. I still draw, even if not every day. I've started a second illustration course, mainly for having three hours a week when I can draw uninterruptedly, so the other nights can be spent in bed, sleeping enough. That's a thing that I'd been lacking for quite a few years by now, and I think my body had enough of it. Icelandic winters surely don't help, neither the flu I got two weeks ago, but I feel like I've started to get a little bit back of my real, rested self. 

Exciting event

Though I have to mention, that at school I've been invited to participate in an illustration fair in April, and I will have to have a few sleepless nights until then to be able to put something out there. And it's exciting. I've sent five of my last-year-portraits to print, and waiting for the letterpress cards (it's very, very exciting), and I also plan to finalize my rabbit cut (yes!), my painting, and also create another drawing that's in my head for many months by now. So it's possible that for this short period I will once again turn into a zombie, But it's only for a month. 

Summary

So the takeaway of this whole thing is to be more patient, yet energetic; consume less and create more; sleep enough; focus on people around you and let go of things to be able to do all of these at once. 

Have a great week,

Zita

Minimalism, Zero Waste, Jack Johnson and 96 sketches

Do you know how they connect?

96 Sketches

96 sketches is the project I started last September. I didn't have any rules for it, I only wanted to create one sketch a day for 96 days. I couldn't keep up with the planned pace, so I decided that I will just finish it when I'm able to. A lot of things happened since then, and I was drawing regularly, but this project has stopped for a while. Now I'm reviving it, but this time I created some structure, because it's much easier to follow some kind of a rule, than just let my mind wonder every day. I'm drawing stylized, simple portraits of famous people (dead or alive) who celebrate(d) their birthdays on the given day. I've also decided, that I'm not going to spend more than an hour on it daily, which means I have to compromise on "perfection" and focus on progress instead. Letting things go before they are perfect is my weakness and I'd like to work on it. I'd also like to get better in character design, and drawing these different characters might help with that.

Jack

Today's birthday person is Jack Johnson. I chose him for multiple reasons. The first was because I'm in love with his music for about 10-11 years by now. And I was also planning to write about minimalism and zero waste, two topics he fits in quite well. (96 sketches and blog post illustration in one sit, time is precious you know). So here we go.

In my previous post I wrote about being present, and I mentioned how the clutter in our minds can restrain us from being present. I also said, that by being proactive and taking actions at the earliest point we make room for possible spontaneous things in our lives, because we'll more likely say yes to them if we don't have thousands of things on our "list" already. This isn't only true for mind clutter. Physical clutter around us can slow us down (in the negative sense of the word) in many ways, even if there are times, when it helps creativity. I'm kind of an OCD cleaning freak, or at least I was, before my kids were born. The Monica type. (Perfectionist issues). Fortunately my kids cured the urge of being perfect all the time, but my need for a clean, organized and - well - spacious space is still here, and I don't think it's a bad thing. In the past few years I read a lot about two things, that's very close to my heart, and that supports my feelings about this subject.

Minimalism

The first is minimalism. I was a "micro-hoarder" in my teenage years. I'd collect all the small memories I could, bus tickets with certain (important) dates on them, threads, leaves, chestnuts, cards, photos. Mainly in my diaries, that's why I call it "micro-hoarding". But still, I put a lot of things in small boxes too for just in case I'd need them at some point in the future. When I met the concept of minimalism, I knew it was something I would welcome in my life. I knew the feeling that comes with freshly de-cluttered spaces and I always loved it. It's lightness and calmness. Clear thoughts and focus. Minimalism is to keep it that way. Minimalism for me is to keep the clutter away by not hoarding things, and lift my soul by surrounding myself with minimum amount of stuff I love to look at. I'm far from this, mainly because I have kids, but we're getting there slowly. I'd like them to see that stuff don't equal happiness. I'd like to give them the ability to think about experiences and relationships as the main things that need to be treasured.

Zero Waste

While learning more and more about other people's view on minimalism, I met the term zero waste. It does make a lot of sense to me as well. I always hated the fact that we're throwing away so many things and they go... somewhere. I always needed answers since I was a kid, and learning that we bury our trash under the ground was giving me troubling thoughts. I can see that my son, Aron has the same problem. He's always worried when he sees garbage on the streets or in nature. It's not just something he has learnt. It's coming from his personality. He was collecting trash on the playground at age two and throwing it to the bin.

So as much as for myself, for them as well - I'm trying to reduce our waste. I'm even further from perfect in this than in minimalism, so there's a long way to go. But at least I'm on the path and doing the best I can.

And Jack again

Picture from Jack Johnson's website – Jack Johnson among pieces of garbage found in the ocean

Picture from Jack Johnson's website – Jack Johnson among pieces of garbage found in the ocean

I always knew Jack Johnson (as an active surfer) was aware of environmental problems, but I only found out yesterday, that his tour this year will be a huge supporter of "more than 140 non-profits through his environmental campaign and social action network, All At Once. One of the primary aims of Johnson’s tour is to provide greener alternatives during his shows in order to lessen their impacts on the environment and the cities in which he’s performing." (Quote from here)

I love to hear these kind of things. I love when influencers raise their voice in order to protect nature and raise awareness about environmental issues. It also reminds me to work harder and pay more attention to it. One step at a time. I believe that if we all make small adjustments and pay more attention, it generates the flow around us, and makes others do the same. Not by talk about it, but by doing it. Now please, go and listen to some Jack Johnson while you're sorting your clothes and donating or selling the excess. You'll feel better, I promise. (In a later post I'll expound how, but I hope you'll know by then).

Goals – Word for this year: Now

Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming    (May 15, 1857 – May 21, 1911)

Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming (May 15, 1857 – May 21, 1911)

I wanted to write about this for a very long time, but the layers of this topic are so complex, it's difficult to pour them into simple, well-formed sentences. In addition to that it triggers so many thoughts, it's hard to decide where to begin.

As any good perfectionists, this kind of uncertainty usually blocks me, and I do nothing instead. But now I've decided to take the "one step at a time" approach, and break it into digestible parts and don't let my brain jump from one thing to another in the meantime. So note to my dear brain: I'll write about that other thousand pieces of this puzzle as well, just be still and concentrate on what I really want to say now. Thanks.

I heard about an interesting project in one of my favourite podcasts, Elise gets crafty. (My brain: write about Elise, please, you always wanted to write about her so much! Me: Shhh, I definitely will write about her. One step at a time, you know). So this project is the One Little Word by Ali Edwards, and it's about choosing one word in January that you will focus on that year (it's a very short description, but this summarises it in a nutshell. Here's the website of the project, and here's the podcast episode if you're curious). I never really liked new year's resolutions, but this concept is close to my heart. So this year I chose the word NOW.

After choosing it, it already started to shift shape, and never stopped ever since. And I think it's the power of flow. When you start exploring something, it suddenly comes to you from every direction, and you realise its power and you become more and more humble towards the topic, or concept. Because as I started to think about the word "now", many, MANY things have started to happen in and around me. My main reason for this choice was to be more present in every moment, especially whenever I'm with my kids (I still haven't succeeded, but hey, that's why this is my word). But as I was thinking and reading about it more, I realised that being present affects many other aspects of our lives. It's a snowball effect. That's why I was feeling so overwhelmed when I was trying to write about it in the first place. Meditating on one single, little word brings so many thoughts, so many feelings, so many acts, that you can't do anything but stop, and listen, without judging, without sticking to any of them. You start observing yourself as an outsider, a stranger who has nothing to do with you at all. And then comes the first stage of peace. Peace from your thoughts, peace from the urge to reflect on all of those thoughts right there. And for me, this was such a beautiful thing, because it resonated with everything I already knew about "now" after reading Eckhart Tolle's book (The Power of Now) for the first time a few years ago.

Trying to stay present I realised how many things are dragging me away from that moment. I slowly started to pay attention to those thoughts and urges, and I was observing them very closely. And I knew I had to do something to eliminate them. I needed a plan - I thought. But the idea of planning ahead seems strange when you're trying to focus on "now". So again, I did nothing because of the wriggling nature of mind-boggling thoughts. At least I thought I did nothing. Until I realised that this process I've started with that short word was planting a seed that becomes a beautiful and enormous plant, hopefully a blossoming one, too. You don't need to plan ahead that much when you're able to experience the flow inside and around you. Because if you're listening to it, you'll know what the necessary next step will be.

Of course I also wanted to make long-term plans, because it's in my nature. I can't really help it. I love spontaneous things, hell, I LOVE them, when I have at least a vague idea about the whole picture it's planted in. That's my security belt. And that's also my fuel to act - right now. I had two different discussions lately about this. One with my mom, and one with a friend. With my mom we've been talking about the goals we set for ourselves, and how it affects our attitude and life. We agreed, that goals are needed, but you have to enjoy the ride that brings you there, otherwise it's not worth it. On the other hand, that goal will probably keep you from falling whenever you feel like you're not strong enough to reach it. It works so beautifully. We also agreed that it's better to break your goals down, and go ahead slowly, one step at a time. And we both know the feeling that comes when you start meditating on your goal and you feel like everything around you supports that aim, but only, ONLY if you put in the work. Then I brought up the movie "The Princess and The Frog". It has touched me so much (when I saw it a few weeks ago - I know, I'm a tad late with movies, as always). It reminded me the other conversation I mentioned before. That you HAVE TO work on things. You have to put a lot of effort in, if you want something to work. Yes, we were talking about relationships. But I think it works with everything. Whenever you put work in something, it'll become yours more than anything given to you as a present. You'll learn to appreciate it more. You'll learn to love it. Be it a relationship or a project you're working on. That's why we almost always learn the hard way. But I'd rather call it the more beautiful way. Because that way things have depth and layers, they're not just shallow rewards for nothingness.

These thoughts led me to another thing I've discovered through the word "now" (and also bumped into it while listening to Elise in this episode. By the time I will write about her, you'll know more about her than me). And it's acting now. "Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today." - this sentence from Benjamin Franklin (thanks Google, I never knew this comes from him) was quoted for me million times as a child. I hated it. I thought this was invented by adults to insult kids. How little did I know about life. I find this advice beautiful by now. It's something that helps you cut procrastination, that's the arch enemy of being present. Acting now means being proactive, and it also means you get rid of that thing and you don't need plans. You make room for possible spontaneous things in your life, because you'll more likely say yes to them if you don't have thousands of things on your "list" already. It's another perspective of the word "now". And another layer of working towards your goal. You can make plans, you can write to do lists, but if you don't make actions, they'll never work. So I'll stop here for today, and wish you a fruitful and active week. 

Next time I'll continue with this exploration, and one day I'll write about Elise, I promise.

By the way! Let me tell you about my illustration a little bit. I chose Williamina, because I think that her words are exactly what I think about the relation of work and success: "Labor honestly, conscientiously, and steadfastly, and recognition and success must crown your efforts in the end." - She was born exactly 160 years ago today, and you can read more about her here. With this drawing I'm bringing #96sketches back to life. Woot! 

Exercise & Food

Drawing by Zita @ Nünü & Pó

Drawing by Zita @ Nünü & Pó

What do they mean to me? A lot. Together with sleep they help me keeping my sanity.

If you haven't guessed it already, I'm quite an introvert. I love meeting new people, and be around people: whenever my energy store is full and I have a lot to give. Because being around people means double deplete for me. For every minute spent in company of others I need at least four minutes alone to recover. This is a simple thing, but a possible source of misunderstanding and quarrel. Especially when you are a parent, and you have a kid who is hyperactive, and another one, who's fairly social and extroverted. I'm struggling a lot to forgive myself of not being super patient and 100% attentive all the time.

But over the past few years I've learnt a lot, and constantly trying to develop myself. One thing that I've known for a long time is that I love exercise. It wasn't a conscious thing until I started doing kung-fu. There I quickly realised that challenging my body and my mind at the same time makes me hyper-focused, which means my mind is free from everything else for that period of time. And that makes me happy. Very happy. Because my mind is full of things by default. Full of crazy ideas, stories, memories, todos, and stuff. Crazy amount of stuff. It's quite difficult to be focused when you have a mind like that. I learnt to control it more or less over time, but I still need some help every now and then.

Exercise and healthy food are two things that always amaze me. Every time I start exercising and watch what I put in my mouth, I can see the positive effects almost immediately. Then I wonder why I don't do it continuously. Three days ago I bought myself a fitbit tracker. I'm way too excited about it at the moment to give a useful review, but I dare to say this is something that definitely will help me stick to a healthier lifestyle. I will probably be less enthusiastic in a few weeks, but I feel like it gives me a nice little push that I would normally take as offence if it came from a person. So stay tuned, I'll talk about it again in a few weeks.

The other thing that helps a lot when it comes to a healthy lifestyle, is the presence of a supportive partner. It can be anyone, who keeps you motivated and accountable, but if it's your spouse, that puts the whole thing on a new level. With Peter we shifted many times towards our better selves, but never really together. And it's difficult to stay away from that cake (or any other things you want to stay away from) if your loved one is eating it in front of you on a regular basis. This moment we are on the same track, and it feels amazing. Doubles my energy and makes the whole thing more effortless. Try it if you haven't done it already.

So with all these things I feel like I'm back on track with my personal projects, though the sleeping part is still a little bit fragile. Night is the only time of the day when I can make progress and usually I spend more time than planned. But hopefully this will improve once my kids are a little bit older.

Tell me, what do you do for a healthier life? How do you fit your favourite things in your days? What do you say no to? 

The Flow

"In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterised by complete absorption in what one does."

Throughout the years I met this expression many times in many forms. And it happens to me more and more frequently since I started drawing regularly again. As I wrote about it before, when I'm drawing, my perception of time changes in a very strange way. It's almost like I could stop it, because it passes by unnoticeably. 

My son is drawing a lot lately. I never forced him to draw, and he didn't even seem to like it in the beginning. I was a little bit sad (mostly because I didn't draw either), but I always thought he'd be good at something else. Then one day I noticed that drawing calms him down in a millisecond in the middle of a temper tantrum, when I asked him suddenly to draw me something specific. This was a last desperate try to calm him down in the morning, when I was supposed to get ready to work, and he was angry and upset because of something I couldn't figure out. I'd tried this before, but never with a specific thing. But this time I asked him to draw me an octopus if I remember correctly. "Could you draw me an octopus Aron? What do you think?" And he could. He stopped his tantrum, looked at me excitedly, ran for paper and pencils and showed me he could.

From that day drawing is our main tool to keep his feelings under control. And I realised that drawing is my main tool as well. Drawing makes me happy. As simple as it is. Only one other thing can clear my busy mind as well as drawing, and that's exercise, I thought. But then I thought about it a little more, and I knew, that every other thing I enjoy doing with hyper-focus makes me feel the same way. Cooking and baking (when I'm alone with that jazz list of mine in my ears), solving an interesting problem at work, learning how to do cross country skiing properly (this goes under exercising though). So I figured out, that the emphasis is on joy and focus. Then I remembered the flow experience I first heard about when I was in high school I think. Beautiful thing in the story is that it was named by a Hungarian man, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.

The more I read about it, the more I'm fascinated with it. It's such a simple way to happiness. It proves that simplicity is a key to many things. And it's so wonderful to see things click together around and inside me, because it feels like the flow waves out of the person who experiences it, and resonates with others, spreading the feeling almost unconsciously in its environment. I'd like to be able to experience it every day, and also encourage my kids to find their passions and feel the flow as much as they can, so they seek it consciously later on.

Holiday and the beauty of art

I was on holiday for a week. My mom had visited us for the first time here in Iceland (I haven't seen her since May). We were talking a lot in the evenings and also watching movies, the kind of movies you want to watch with your mom. Before she came, I only watched one (1!) movie in the last two and a half years, so I really needed this now. I didn't draw too much, but it's OK, because I was exhausted before, and I could use this rest.

Movies are great for allowing your mind to shift from your daily struggles, I have to do this more often. It's good for creativity too, to be put aside for a little while. It felt good to draw again after six days. I also had more ideas and realised that #96sketches is a perfect project for experimenting with different techniques and discovering new ways of creating art. When drawing this latest piece I noticed how comfortable it is to detract things from a bulk of material. This might be the root cause of why I love linocutting so much. And I guess this is what a sculptor feels when he or she is carving a stone. It also reminded me of one of my favourite books, "Terre des Hommes" ("Wind, Sand and Starts" in English) from Exupéry. In that he says: "It seems that perfection is attained, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away." – when he's talking about the design of a plane.  I love how things are connected, especially when you're involved in art. Movies, drawing, sculpting, writing, design, music – they all inspire each other, and I find it beautiful. This is the main reason why I decided to make art again. It opens up my eyes and heart at the same time, and makes me more sensitive to everything that's happening around and inside me. 

Third

I wanted to give this post the fancy title "What I have learnt through the first month of a three-month challenge", but I realised it wasn't fancy at all, and also that I don't really like these kind of titles. So here it goes, my first supposed-to-be-normal blog post here, waiting for too long to be written, which happens to be the third one, when it's also marking the one-third of "96 sketches".

I've been working a lot lately, on various things. First of all I'm trying to figure out how I could be a better mom. Challenging in itself already. Then I'm working a full time job as a production designer. When these two are over, I'm trying to keep our apartment from falling apart, though this part is sometimes quite neglected to enable me to do something else I call my daily sanity keeper. Around 9 PM, or even later I sit down in front of my iPad, and try to create something. A little bit more than one month ago I decided to challenge myself once again, to see if it works this time. I've started "96 sketches" with an aim of creating something small every day. Sketching, drawing, lino-cutting, painting, whatever. I thought an hour can be easily carved out every evening. And it could be. But it turned out that after all these years of not creating constantly I still seriously love creating, and one hour is anything but enough. After an hour I usually feel warmed up enough to draw/create at least two more. Sleep deprivation, here I come again, we've just said goodbye.

Since I received my iPad not even two months ago, I'm quite obsessed with it and an app called Procreate. In the beginning I felt it was controversial, because I thought digital drawing and painting were not real drawing and painting. It felt like I was cheating. But after a few days I started to feel extremely good. Often times I lose track of time (thanks to Procreate, that doesn't show time during you draw in it), and an hour, two hours, three hours later I realise I had fun creating something. Incredible amount of fun.

So after just a short period of time I've learnt a lot of things. About myself, first of all. But also about creativity and discipline. Here's a little list.

 

Creativity fuels creativity

When I started to draw every day, after a few days I realised I don't want to stop. Not because of the challenge, but because I enjoyed it so much. Then, in a period of good vibes, came a moment when I noticed that my thoughts are building up from the energy that drawing induces. I started to observe things around me in a different – I dare to say deeper way. Everything builds up of colours, lights and shadows. Every shape is beautiful. I try to depict everything in my head as I walk around. I remember this feeling from the days when I was doing creative work every day, and I missed it so much without realising what I was missing.

 

Creative blocks are real, but it's possible to get over them

After the first energy burst I felt a little bit of a setback. I was tired, I had no inspiration and I also felt like what I'm doing is useless. This was the time when the challenge came in handy. Without it I might have just stopped there and gave up. But because of it I tried to push myself through this period. I think the key here was tiredness. When I don't sleep enough I tend to think darker and I also doubt things easier. Because I knew it, the first thing I tried was sleeping a little bit more. And combined with the challenge it worked, I regained my energy. But I had to admit, that this thing is not continuous, I have to force myself to go forward, even when I don't necessarily have the energy. It reminded me of two things. One was that when I was much younger, I didn't know this, and felt extremely depressed during these periods. I didn't believe that I could come over them, my first thought was always doubt and that's the main reason I stopped creating things. In these cases it's really nice to have someone (ideally more than one person) around us who reminds us of our strengths and the fact that nobody is perfect, and nobody has it all, even if it seems like that. The other one was something I heard many times from many sources throughout the years, but never really paid attention to: practice makes perfect, or in other words: quantity will bring quality over time. I tend to forget this, and think that if I'm not able to do something right away it's because I suck at it and it doesn't even worth a second try. But it definitely does.

 

Perfectionism doesn't work

Over many years I thought 120% is the minimum goal in everything. I overachieved, or I didn't do it at all. There was no in between. I still struggle with this sometimes, but having kids taught me in the first place that it's impossible to live along these lines. In terms of creative processes it was the iPad, the Apple pencil and the Procreate app that helped me break this habit of perfectionism. Before that I often sat down in front of a piece of paper only to feel intimidated by the empty space. I thought I had to draw perfect lines from the beginning, or I would fail. But with this "trinity" (I had a Wacom tablet before, but that's just not the same) I experienced the freedom of drawing whatever, without the need of restarting over and over again, and with almost the same feeling as it was a sketchbook under my hands. This feeling then helped me being less afraid of paper too, something that I wasn't expected at all.

 

It's OK to skip days

This is part of perfectionism, but it's a very important factor to me. Before "96 sketches" any time I started a challenge that involved the need of showing up every day I almost always failed, because after the first skipped day I declared it as a failure and didn't continue at all. With this one I somehow overcame this and pick it up again and again as I go. I wanted to complete the challenge by New Years Eve, but I realised that it doesn't really matter. The only important thing is to keep going until all the 96 sketches are done. Because I find so much joy in creating them, I'm sure by now that I won't quit even if I miss a day or two. These first few weeks left a strong mark in me, and made sure I stay motivated despite the down periods. I know I don't want to turn back, because drawing gives me so much that I can't ignore the itch anymore.

 

Ideas are flowing

I could have written about this in the first point, because ideas come from creative thinking, but this also is a significant thing. As drawing and creativity became the essential part of my every days, I have new ideas constantly. I have enough for the next few years I think. It's a deep pool I can draw from, and the more I do, the more flows back in its place. It's crazy inspiring!

 

Discipline is important too

One thing I still have to learn is sticking to my plans. Creating plans and evaluating a situation are two of my strengths. I see systems in their entirety, and I'm also very aware of the details that need to be focused on. I'm really good at mapping a process and see its pitfalls. But sticking to these plans is not my forte. I'm constantly improving processes and systems, so I'm not a good executor of my own, often brilliant ideas. I'm like a crazy butterfly with ADHD sometimes. Now I can see it even more, and I'm determined to improve. Strange how a small thing like a(n almost) three-month challenge can change the way you think. Strange, but amazing.

Time is dancing relative

(Sorry, I think I adore Ben Howard too much). So the last thing is that this challenge also changed my relationship with time in more than one way. I already mentioned that I don't feel time when I'm drawing. It feels like I'm outside of time then. But also it slowed that crazy paced time down a little bit. As I grow older, time goes by faster (I read a really good theory about this, here it is), but when I have a task to do, and it's challenging enough, my perception of time is a little bit different: it feels like it's slowing down. Just to give you an example of what I think here: when it's weekend and you (you lucky people without kids) can sleep as much as you want, or do whatever you want to do, two days are passing by in one blink of an eye. But when it's Monday, and you have two days of challenging work in front of you, on Tuesday morning you feel like time has stopped. So in my opinion if we find an activity what we enjoy, but what's also challenging enough, time won't fly by so rapidly. It can also be because we're focusing more on the moment instead of looking back or worrying about what's coming next. So time really is dancing, but it's also relative, and we can do a lot with it. I choose to use it as wisely as possible at the given moment.

So. Although I'm in the beginning of this journey, I encourage everyone to find the thing they are good at and love doing it enough to challenge themselves. It's pretty rewarding and fills up the soul. It makes me feel less lost and more focused. Let me know if you try it, and tell me about your experiences!

Work in Progress

I started to upload my sketches here finally, but I'm still not ready. As a good perfectionist, I have to remind myself over and over again, that I'm unable to do everything at the same time. And also that I shouldn't be paralysed by this fact and move forward with tiny little steps instead. I tend to be "all or nothing", and the #96sketches project is teaching me a lot about the advantages of ditching this habit.

I still haven't decided on every detail of the site, but I've started to add background stories to my sketches, and make them look pretty. Please check back from time to time, because I'll improve this place a lot in the upcoming weeks, now that I managed to fix my issues with squarespace (their customer service rocks by the way).

First

Because writing is essential. I’ve been writing since I was fourteen. On different platforms, in different styles. Pursuing my dreams I've resuscitated my creative vein, and it has to come with writing. So many ideas, so many thoughts cross my mind during the creative process that I've started to feel insane lately. I need to organise and store these ideas somewhere to empty my head enough to fill it up again with new ones. 

The word "thinkbreak" means two seemingly controversial things:

  1. A break during the day, when I sit down to think and write about my thoughts. Because writing is comforting.
  2. A break from thinking. I often over-think things, so I need to stop thinking about them. But because writing helps getting my crazy and overwhelming thoughts together, I can get rid of them from my head while still having them “on paper”, well organised.

Of course there will be more objective, article-like posts here as well about my working process, but I think "thinkbreak" also covers those, as they will be about things I’m thinking about a lot.

So welcome everyone, enjoy!