Day 4


When I was going through an intense bout of writer's block, a friend offered some simple, but helpful advice: "Get out of your head, Lauren. Get out of your own way." 

The trick to creativity is letting yourself be creative -- letting the ideas work through you. In Julia Cameron's wonderful The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, she guides us in tackling the hardest part of any project: starting it. (Case in point: I had planned to launch The Fail Feed a good six months ago...)

"Judging your early artistic efforts is masochistic artist-abuse," Cameron says. (Listen to this delicious wisdom from Ira Glass on the secret to creative success). "All too often it is audacity and not talent" that moves a person to produce art or move closer to his or her goal.

In other words: the key is not to overcome your self-doubts. They key is to move through your self-doubts. 

We dig the following letter from writer Elizabeth Gilbert (yes, of Eat, Pray, Love fame), whose book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear shows us how to tackle what we most love and conquer what we most fear. Reply to this email and we'll enter you in a drawing for a copy.

Dear Ones,

Do you want to be a writer? A musician? An artist? A maker of any sort or variety whatsoever?

Do you long to express yourself, to create, to innovate, to  "experience becoming"?

Well, then. Today I introduce you to the most important tool in your arsenal: The humble kitchen timer.

Do you own one of these? If you don't own one, can you afford to go out and buy one? Do you maybe have a more modern interpretation of this device already on your smartphone? [Lauren highly recommends the Pomodoro App].


Now here is what you do. At some point today, you sit down and set that timer for 30 minutes. Work on your craft or your project without interruption or distraction. Doesn't have to be major work — just has to be focused work. Don't get up from your seat until the timer dings. Then do the same thing tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. And the next day…

The immortal John Updike once said, "Some of the best books in the world were written in an hour a day."

I disagree. You can do it in 30 minutes.

And I'm telling you — you HAVE 30 minutes a day. For some reason, an hour seems impossible to most of us, but 30 minutes is in reach.

You don't need to quit your job to be an artist. You don't need to take out a heart-stopping loan in order to get an advance degree in creativity. You don't need to move to Paris. You don't need to change your life.

You just need to bow down before the humble kitchen timer, every single day.

I bring this up because this week somebody asked me how to learn discipline, and I remembered the way my mom taught it to me. My whole life as a child was determined by her little white kitchen timer. And I seem to remember that it was always set to 30 minutes.

30 minutes for piano practice. 30 minutes for math homework. 30 minutes to study French verbs. 30 minutes to write thank you notes after Christmas. 30 minutes to finish that goddamn diorama for 5th grade social studies class of Hannibal crossing the alps in a shoebox. 30 minutes to practice hitting balls around in the backyard in preparation for softball season. 30 minutes to clean your bedroom.

Do you have any idea how much you can get done when you focus your attention on something for 30 minutes a day?

Can you imagine the shape you would be in, if you exercised seriously for 30 minutes a day? Can you imagine the languages you could learn in that little block of time, if you kept it up? How much your drawing would improve? How much better your garden would be? Your guitar playing?

How much ANYTHING improves, in 30 minutes a day, honored consistently?

Is it glamorous? Nope. Is it dramatic? Nope. Is it effective? THE MOST.

I am 44 years old and I am working on my seventh book right now. I am busy with other things. I don't have the hours I long for to devote myself completely to researching and writing this story. I may have those hours at some point in 2015, but I don't have them now. My inbox is filled with emails. My desk is covered with mail. I am behind on a hundred promises. I have not unpacked my suitcase this whole year. But fuck it. I'm not waiting around for life to be perfect before I work on my vocation. And 30 minutes isn't going to make or break anything.

So I set the timer on my iPhone for a half hour every single day and I work on that novel. I've been doing this for months now. I do it in airports, in hotel rooms, in taxis, between interviews, backstage at the TED conference, whenever I can find that little humble block of time. It is not the ideal working environment. It is not the ideal block of time. And you know what? It doesn't matter. My new book is GROWING LIKE A WEED.

Don't wait for the world to clear out time and space for your dreams and your art. It doesn't happen that way. The world rushes in, and always will. Wait for things to be perfect and you'll die waiting. Push back a bit. You go get yourself a kitchen timer and clear out your own little space. You'll be amazed what happens.

Every single day. 30 minutes. I'm serious.



Keep Going
Failtastic dispatches from some rockstars in the FailFeed network. Send us yours so we can feast! I'll likely bedazzle them with snap-stickers...
Creativity exercise, courtesy of Julia Cameron (h/t the wonderful Lisa Reppell, whose talk on embracing Plan B is a must-watch)

List three old enemies of your self creative self-worth. Your historic monsters are the building blocks of your core negative beliefs. This is your monster hall of fame. It's necessary to acknowledge creative injuries and grieve them. Otherwise, they become creative scar tissue and block your growth and production.

What the heck is The Fail Feed?
The Fail Feed is the baby [parent] of Foreign Policy Interrupted, an initiative to amplify female foreign policy voices.

For the past few years, FPI has been mentoring and training some of the world’s brightest and most accomplished women to interrupt the conversations we have about that world.

But I (co-founder Lauren Bohn, a recovering perfectionist) soon realized that before we could do that, we'd first need to interrupt the conversations we tell ourselves.

We’ve heard it time and time again. We've received countless emails from high-profile, hugely successful and talented women (and men): social media’s endless torrent of mediated, filtered moments of triumph and “success,” regularly throws them down spirals of self-doubt. Highlight reels have distorted our self-worth. We too often compare our insides to other people’s manufactured outsides.

Before we can meaningful contribute to society and live out our purpose, we must reclaim our self-worth. In short, we need to start getting real.

In that spirit, we want The Fail Feed to be a much-needed unfiltered space to share and feast in our vulnerabilities and failures. Rejection letters, fuck-ups, panic attacks, fears, tears -- let’s talk about them, let's share them, let's feast on them. They’re not the opposites of success. They’re crucial parts of success.

Most of all, we want FF to be in service of you -- your work and your dreams. Tell us what you're lacking in today's 24/7 content frenzy. Tell us want you want to see and hear. Tell us what you want to learn. We're not sure exactly what FF will become, but we're leaning into our vulnerability and getting the conversation started. Join us. 

Talk to us.
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