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What is a Creative Individual?

Definition – ‘creativity’

‘The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.’


Oxford Dictionaries


I consider a creative individual to be somebody who spends time regularly in creative pursuits, thinks creatively, or identifies themselves as being creative. There may also be those who consider other people to be creative, as in a well-known creative person.

How to protect the integrity of creativity?

There are some things I associate with a creative mindset, and others I do not.

  1. Creativity always benefits from time, whether this is from making time to pursue creativity or taking a break from non-creative work.
  2. It’s also about balance. Too much non-creative work will exhaust you and stifle your creativity, whereas too much time engaged in creativity may leave you uninspired or lost.
  3. If you’re looking for immediate creative results in a creative project, as opposed to a flash of inspiration, you may be approaching it the wrong way. If creativity doesn’t require perseverance and patience, then it ceases to be a journey and becomes instead a role carried out for another purpose.
  4. There should be an intention to share creativity with others. There is a time when your pride and joy is only yours and there is a time when you should release it, in an acceptable form, for others to appreciate and enjoy. It’s a form of communication of what is most dear to you, and if you stop that communication or withhold it you burden yourself, hiding who you are.

What is a creative lifestyle?

Living a lifestyle conducive to creativity could be said to be a lifestyle free of routine, repetition, and standard practices. It can be an environment where new ideas spin around and the individual thrives from them, moving creative projects forward. It’s where you always feel you’re moving forward, following the feeling, cementing the old, experimenting with the new, and finishing with one part only to begin another. You’re never finished. The old informs the new. In this sense you could say that creativity is timeless.

Should I choose to be creative?

That’s a difficult question to answer, in part because for every person who identifies as being creative there may be as many, if not more, that do not identify in this way. Some of the things that are seen as the antithesis of creativity include routine, repetition, traditional ways, conformity, rules, and black-and-white thinking. These modes of thinking are prevalent in society and perhaps in every individual, to some extent.


It’s possible to enjoy the antithesis of creativity because it can offer reliability and security in an unpredictable world that is changing at a fast pace. It’s also of use to governments, administrations, and large businesses to create a structure for success and the carrying out of important tasks. It’s a way of making sense of the world and getting answers but it’s not what we would call creative.


Some of the advantages of creativity include thinking out of the box, developing new ideas, practising, experimenting, collaborating, embracing difference, appreciating art or objects of value. Many creatives are isolated, though some decide to make an active effort to network or reach out. It seems creative pursuits do not often conform to established systems of working and socialising, and time spent on creativity is time lost on scaling the system of work and social life.


It seems almost banal to choose creativity when there is much to be lost, and yet lots of people, including myself, do choose it. It offers self-fulfilment, individuality, expression, and a particular branch of skill or knowledge that you may not get elsewhere. You have a feeling you’re moving forward and that feeling is sometimes all you need in the absence of physical or visual evidence. Creativity can be synonymous with happiness, in this sense.

How does society view creativity?

Society does not often place high value on creativity unless you’re well-known, or you have an established audience. In this way creativity itself is measured by numbers, of people or money, in determining the value of its contribution.


How society views creativity does not always stop people from engaging in creative pursuits and it shouldn’t. It’s my view that if there were more creative people or what they did was accepted in most of society, people would be rewarded or appreciated by society for offering something different and unique in a world that demands the same, regardless of how far their contribution had travelled.

What is Success?

Definition

‘The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

1.1 The attainment of fame, wealth, or social status.

1.2 A person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains fame, wealth, etc.’

Oxford Dictionaries:https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/success

Why is it important to know what success is?

Many of us have wanted fame, wealth, or social status at some point in life, for whatever reason, and if not those things then we have certainly wanted to accomplish one or more aims or purposes.

Success is important, if only to know what it means to us out of the definition. The easiest thing to do is to assume other people’s success either is or should be our own just because it makes other people happy or they want it. You may have seen models of success in mainstream media, successful people, or your own friends; but unless this success means anything to your life and what you may want out of it then it’s irrelevant.

What does success mean to me?

Knowing what success is can be a process of re-thinking. For me discovering success is a journey of experience and it’s about what makes me happy or elicits feelings of joy. There are things I associate with success and there are things I don’t. I gravitate towards the former and stay away from the latter. Sometimes I put myself into a situation where I try to understand why I don’t associate something with success, perhaps because it’s something other people think is success. Success can often be what I’m doing, who I know or who I’m with, or where I’m comfortable.

Do I want more success?

Maybe you don’t want more success or you feel you’re achieving the maximum success you want at this moment in time and would not like to pursue new areas of success and that is absolutely fine because you’re getting what you want out of the moment, at the maximum level you can.

Nobody should be pressured into being successful, to adopt another’s model of success, and it’s at this time it may be wise to look at how comfortable you feel and whether you’re doing enough to achieve what you can. If you’re comfortable then don’t pressure yourself into doing something that will not fit your model of success, in any way that you can see. If you think you can do more or you see no harm in experimenting then take small steps to explore or expand your definition of success.

How do I become more successful?

Some helpful tips:

  1. Look at the definition of success and decide which parts are relevant to you and which are not. This will help you keep a focused understanding of your success while at the same time removing assumptions that do not relate to you.
  2. You must have an understanding of what success means to you. Write a list of activities you associate with success.
  3. Discuss the topic with close friends, in person or online, and ask the same questions posed in this blog post. See what answers you come up with.

Can you plan success or should success come naturally?

1) There are people in life who succeed by having plans and organising, or automating, their tasks and their goals in life, perhaps in a structured way.
2) There are also people who succeed without worrying about complex plans and instead find the most appropriate or enjoyable path to success.

There are times when you may wonder which of these people you are, or which can offer you the greatest success if you can do both.

The first approach requires a critical effort at becoming a better, or more organised and efficient self, for the purpose of improvement. It involves an element of personal change.

The second approach maintains the essence of self and builds on it in order to take advantage of the natural strengths of the individual.

Both approaches can work, but the question is which approach works for you. If you can make time to build on both then you can measure the success of each and see which one you enjoy and/or which one offers you the greatest results, in the hope you’ll find one that offers both. If you’re struggling to decide which approach to tackle then effective time management, and therefore planning (ironically for the second approach), will help you decide which to prioritise and how much time you spend on each.

Can you have too much success?

Yes, if you’re moving forward too fast, putting too much pressure on yourself to perform, becoming overwhelmed with tasks, and forgetting to give yourself proper time for breaks. Too much success can become too much ‘work’ and that’s when the creative spark that drives you can start to desert you or hamper your efficiency. As you can read on some sites, it’s what you do that moves you forward, not necessarily how long you do it. For example, repeating a repetitive strategy involving hard work that produces no results will not likely bring you more results if you work longer and harder at it.

Some people love the buzz that comes with long hours, stress-oriented work, and success for the sake of success; perhaps accompanied by a feeling of exhilaration. All of us may have felt this at some point but the nature of our individual lives can mean some of us don’t favour this lifestyle and we wish for another route to success.

Success is what it means to you!

The Road to Corlay by Richard Cowper – 4/5 Stars

The Road to Corlay by Richard Cowper - front cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a fantasy story set on the British Isles, now the Seven Kingdoms. The Drowning has already ended the Isles we know. The setting is in a time we would categorise as the dark ages, with the Church Militant, soldiers on horseback, peasants in homesteads, inns, and hard times for all.

To be honest, the first thirty pages were bizarre – a wondrous boy with pipes and a special forked tongue trained by a deceased dark wizard is the focus of a family’s attention. Tom, the Piper, goes to York, on the advice of his trusted and yet selfish guardian, the experienced Peter the Tale-Spinner. As Tom plays his special pipes stories of their performances follow them on their journey and the coin they receive from peasants makes them rich. Tom is said to be the harbinger of a prophecy regarding the White Bird of Kinship, foretold to come at the beginning of the third millennium.

This is all to the dismay of the Black Bishop at York, who fears his order and its teachings will be undermined by their presence and performance at York. He wants them dealt with, with subtlety. The contrast between light and dark is seen through tormented soldier Gyre, conflicted between his duty to the Black Bishop and the joy he felt at hearing the pipes play. This same conflict is repeated through other important characters later in the story and is mirrored by a theme that is a wish to either escape into fantasy or return to reality.

My attention waned through new characters, places, and situations and I wasn’t always sure where the author was going and how the story would tie up together. That being said, I’d say it was a novelty read, and I liked thinking about the possibilities of reality it brought up, combined with mysticism, along with the dark ages setting. The last sentence really got me thinking about what really happened, and I do think it concluded the story and removed doubt, but it’s up to interpretation. The Road to Corlay isn’t your typical dark ages fantasy. After all, the entire story is set in the future!

Richard Cowper books on Amazon

A Switch in Time by John Paul Bernett – 4/5 Stars

A Switch in Time - front cover

A Switch in Time (ASIT) is a ‘switch’ in lifestyle for two siblings, who swap with another two. We see through the eyes of 19th century coal barge workers John and Alice, how strange our modern world really is to the average Victorian young person: a world of motorised vehicles, mobile phones, global warming; and of noises, people, and futuristic buildings. It’s a time of great opportunity, but gross inequality and I think inequality is the main message in ASIT.

Much of ASIT is about spoilt, wealthy, and hateful Alicia who treats people ‘beneath her’ like dirt in modern times. She is chosen to leave these times with her brother Jamie, perhaps so she can see the value of a proper day’s work, doing as she is told, getting her fingers dirty, and of being in a loving family. She must live on the coal barge vacated by John and Alice.

Some of the values author John Paul Bernett shares include the benefits of being poor, of having more love for people than possessions, valuing hard work above reward, and respecting other people. These themes fit in nicely with the Victorian setting, where it brings forward the toil, suffering, and hardship. It’s not a Victorian novel that conforms to modern times and attitudes, and I think that’s the point.

If I thought anything could be improved in ASIT, I thought the inclusion of some scenes that related to the author’s Reaper series stuck out and didn’t conform to the general feel of the story, in my opinion. These scenes were very few. I feel the same about how some elements of the story concluded in the last chapter.

One of the things I liked best about A Switch in Time was the level of research and care taken into giving it that Victorian feel, with steam engines, barges, coal, museums, and canals. Note that my words do not do the author justice in the last sentence. Many of the locations were set in Leeds, such as Armley Mills, where I’ve been fortunate to have seen the author at steampunk events and I know and trust that he knows his steampunk as much as his horror. This is why he’s the best person to have written A Switch in Time.

Author’s Amazon Author Page

Writing Fantasy Heroes – Edited by Jason M Waltz – 5/5 Stars

Writing Fantasy Heroes - front cover

There was informative and practical advice in Writing Fantasy Heroes, from masters of the craft. Each chapter is written by a different author, and many of the authors use past heroes as examples or relate heroic deeds to how we feel as heroes and how society perceives heroes.

I found the cinematic action scenes chapter by Brandon Sanderson particularly practical and useful, by taking it in stages and making the scenes more meaningful. The examples here were superb.

Of interest to my writing was a chapter written by Jennifer Brozek on how to involve NPCs, your supporting characters, in helping to construct a story and add ‘character’ to them that can also impact how we view the main character or what it says about the main character’s personality. I found this really helpful in looking at the bigger picture of writing stories as opposed to focusing on a single main character.

Glen Cook wrote a chapter on ‘Sh*t Happens in the Creation of Story, Including Unexpected Deaths, with Ample Digressions and Curious Aside’. I found this chapter one of the most interesting reads because it was about that aspect of writing, and life, that isn’t often acknowledged: sh*t happens. And sometimes you can’t do anything about the fact that sh*t happens, only that you need to respond to it. There were enough ironic examples here to keep me fascinated in the chapter and point of view.

Writing Fantasy Heroes on Amazon

Publisher’s Website

Writing and Work Balance

When you’re writing it’s a good idea to dedicate time to it, and this has to be factored in to your schedule, whether you’re self-employed or employed. It can sometimes be a problem working out how much time you should spend on writing and its associated tasks such as planning, reading, and thinking about your writing; among other things.

How do you view your writing?

It can also be a challenge working out how you view your writing, as a hobby that you spend a few hours on occasionally, as a hobby you spend nearly every day engaging in, or as a serious vocation that takes up most of your day with writing and author-related tasks.

How much writing is too much writing?

I would say, after having experience writing full time, concentrating on your writing many hours during the day to the exclusion of many other activities or engaging with people is not healthy because it doesn’t give you that break from your creativity and inspiration. Your creativity and inspiration may dry up, only having your own mind as a resource.

This is more the case if you’re writing for yourself and not anybody else such as an agent, publisher, or client: where you’re expected to produce a story within a deadline because you know you’re obliged to do so, even if you enjoy it at the same time. When you’re writing for yourself, left to your own devices and detached from any external concept of obligation or accountability, you can overdo it.

If you’re writing 6,000-8,000 words a day, that is a lot of writing, but if the inspiration is there and it works well within your time schedule, why not pump out all those words. If you’re getting tired of concentrating on your writing, you’re overthinking it, or it’s affecting other important tasks, including daily life, then this is a clear sign for you to stop and do something else for a few hours, few days, or few weeks. If your writing is exhausting you and distracting you then you’re spending too much time on it.

Writing shouldn’t be a priority if it’s a hobby; it should be done for enjoyment. When you obsess over your writing, or put it before everything else that you could be doing, it’s when it’s on a path to taking over your life. It’ll damage you and it’ll damage your writing when that happens; you’ll notice when you reread it. I’ve had experience of this myself, and I think you have to be in the right frame of mind to produce writing that you will later enjoy and feel relieved about. Something to look out for is when you’re tense when you’re writing! You should not be tense when you’re writing or convince yourself that being tense is normal because you’re letting out so many ideas … take a look at yourself!

Not enough time to write?

If we all have time, we run out of inspiration. If we have inspiration, we run out of time. It can be sad when you don’t have enough time to write and explore parts of your imagination that you would like to, but this doesn’t mean you have to forget about writing completely.

Setting a short amount of time, such as ten or twenty minutes, can be enough to get a pen and paper and write down some of your ideas. If you persevere with this, you could end up with a two-hundred page planning fact-file after six months. I did this!

Spending just one hour on your computer can be enough to get at least 500 or 1,000 words jotted down. You may even manage 2,000 or 3,000 in that time if you’re a fast typer or the ideas are strong. This is tremendous progress. Keep slotting in a period of one hour over two months and you’re looking at the first draft of a novel.

Spending a few hours writing each day can be an excellent choice for maintaining a writing routine and making good solid progress in terms of word count. It can increase your chances of doing other writing associated tasks such as planning, reading, self-editing, thinking, and research.

How I balance writing and work

I enjoy writing best as a hobby and so I need to set it off from work-related tasks, making time for it when I decide I need free time, and at the same time limiting how many words I type out at a time to ensure I don’t go overboard with it. Unfortunately, if left unchecked, I would use the energy of half a day writing, producing anywhere between 1,500–8,000 words or a substantial number of paragraphs of planning. As you can imagine, I don’t have a lot of time or energy for anything else when I do this, and I get a bit carried away with it, which I don’t think is conducive to work, and it’s not a healthy option.

I have a pattern that works for me. I work for 2–3 hours, and then I have a break of 2–3 hours, before working again for another 2–3 hours. In this break sometimes I’m organising or planning work, which I shouldn’t be, or I’m doing what I like doing, be this reading, playing games, listening to music, going for walks. Notice I didn’t say ‘writing’. I don’t schedule in writing in my break, though I often do think about it and actually write. If I scheduled writing in it wouldn’t feel pleasurable to me, and I wouldn’t get the full satisfaction from the hobby, but that’s just a personal preference. Many writers are comfortable scheduling writing in, and indeed have to in order to get it done among many other commitments.

 

Augmented Reality by James Jackson – 5/5 Stars

Augmented Reality by James Jackson - front cover

What was remarkable about Augmented Reality was the ideas and how they evolved throughout the book, changing society in new ways and giving the characters new problems to tackle. As a science fiction reader, I felt I got more out of it than just any dystopian society with characters fighting the status quo. Events run at a fast pace in first person, present tense. The story reads a bit like a film, based on fast-moving description with events brought to Joe’s eyes in real time or moving so fast that each chapter is relevant.

Joe is being manipulated, for the reason that the Central Authority is trying to rid itself of enemy subverts. He’s given a job position predicting stocks and a suite in a prestigious block, and is acquainted with beautiful women. Joe is shocked at his newfound success, but he keeps having dreams about coming to the rescue of a young woman and her daughter. Learning the truth about human society and the past will bring Joe revelations he could only have imagined. Acting on what he finds, with the help of many talented people, is the real challenge if they are to escape the augmented reality they were brought up believing in.

Unlike most dystopian society science fiction, author James Jackson lets us know from the first chapter that hiding the truth is normal, almost hinting that there will be no conspiracy or betrayal to come, as in Philip K Dick novels. Why is the truth being hidden? Most science fiction blames a government or corporation, but we don’t often hear the reasoning, with a mind to accept it for its virtues. At first Augmented Reality seems to be about how happiness and perfection in society is just an illusion, but there is so much more to the book than illusion. The hidden truth may be the literal opposite to happiness and perfection.

I took a lot of pleasure from reading this book, and I couldn’t stop reading the last third to see how the characters would end up because their situations kept changing in response to new problems. That being said, I especially liked the scenes with Joe, Miranda, and Gordon earlier on because they brought out Joe’s innocence and I got a good sense of what was at stake. I suppose I was curious where the story would take me. I got more out of Augmented Reality than I expected. Author James Jackson is full of surprises in his fiction.

Author James Jackson’s Website

Augmented Reality on Amazon 

Write When The Inspiration Comes – Time On Your Side

muse

‘1 (in Greek and Roman mythology) each of nine goddesses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who preside over the arts and sciences.

2 A person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.’

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/muse

It’s a much debated topic in writing circles and often the advice given by authors is not to use lack of inspiration feeling as an excuse for not writing, and I can see the proactive merits of this argument in encouraging writers to keep writing, and to keep to a writing and publishing schedule. However, in this post I’m also going to discuss the merits of the other side of the argument.

1. There is no compelling reason to write all the time

Beyond enjoyment, if you’re not a career author who earns a living then there is less pressure on you to deliver a number of words by a specific time. It’s probably at this time you need to ask yourself why it is you’re writing: for the deadline, for the income, or for the enjoyment. Perhaps it’s all three, but if it’s only for enjoyment and time is on your side, why pressure yourself to write all the time, no matter what?

On the contrary, I think regular breaks from writing can put things in perspective more and you can be more in tune with the feeling rather than the words or a trusted story template.

2. Not every writer is on a publishing schedule

Not all writers are at the stage where they must publish a book, so making them believe they should feel forced to churn out maybe 1,000–5,000 words at least three or four days a week is a big commitment to writing: a toe dip in the deep end of the pool. That example was a bit ambitious, but I think many writers do want to become ambitious, to be published authors like the greats, and this system may not be conducive to their growth as writers.

3. Writers who tell you to write all the time have to write all the time

A lot of the writers who are career authors and are on publishing schedules and deadlines will tell you to ditch your writing muse and to stick to a schedule for the completion of your story. It works for them; they can complete stories using this method. They ‘have’ to complete stories using this method to meet deadlines, and sometimes their advice is edged with a cynicism: sick-of-listening-to-new-authors-and-their-inspiration-when-I-have-work-to-do.

That being said, if you want to complete your stories to a deadline, using a schedule like this can help. Writing muse or no-writing muse, completing stories is possible. There is a choice.

The disadvantage of this method is that sometimes you find yourself automating the writing process, as you would a job, to meet a schedule or deadline, and this can detract from the enjoyment if you feel ‘compelled’ to write rather than you ‘wanting’ to write.

4. Writing with muse is to blame?

This is how many professional writers say it works with writing muse: after a specific length of time you’ll run out of ideas and be left lost, and you’ll ‘never complete that story’. The word count apparently stops, there is no writing routine to get the writing done, and you end up convincing all your friends you will eventually get round to some writing or to completing that story. You can’t write one thousand words in a free day without feeling lost and uninspired. You don’t really know what to write about.

When the muse comes you spend a full two weeks writing a twenty-thousand word story, but it’s not complete, and the process in the above paragraph repeats itself. I have experience of this cycle myself!

‘Muse writer’ changes into a ‘proper writer’

It doesn’t have to be like that. It shouldn’t be like that. When it is, something is wrong, and your writing muse is blamed – the very thing that got you writing in the first place. The writing muse is squashed; it’s not working or expanding in the way it did at first and you’re confused and frustrated why. There is all this pressure to be the writer you were or know you are, and naturally you blame the muse for not delivering results. You end up in the Writer’s Block Station.

Your muse got you here, you say. If you just pulled yourself together and wrote like a proper writer, then it would be fine. In fact, you realise you need to re-learn how to write, away from instinct, feeling, and art into the realms of craft, template, strategy, demand, results, word count, and deadlines. You now know how to be a ‘proper writer’, measured by results you achieve and the demands expected of writers in the publishing industry, be this traditional or indie.

That’s how it often happens.

5. Writing with muse completes stories?

It’s time for a change of perspective. What if the muse was developed instead?

It’s the word count that may be the problem, and the reason why you blame yourself and your muse for not completing your story: that pressure you put on yourself to complete a 60,000 or 70,000-word novel or more, for all the difference the exact word count really makes to you as a writer and not a recognised/published author. You can choose to develop the muse and see where it takes you or to fit the mould. Most writers are advised to do the latter.

If you think about it, a novel is a huge beast to tackle, and this is why all writers tackle it in smaller pieces. When you stick to a schedule, you’re getting the words down, and it all adds up. You may be aware you’re only working on a first draft, and getting those words down is acceptable, but you can lose motivation with a schedule as much as with relying on writing muse. You can argue that this is why you have made a schedule, but it may not make a difference to you when you want to write what you enjoy, instead of expecting yourself to write what you ‘should’ be writing.

I favour a step-by-step approach to writing, based on enjoyment and inspiration, and being in tune with your development as a writer. When we lose all three of those things, it’s the path to writer’s block or seeing writing purely as ‘work’; something that has to be done for a specific purpose. Why lose the foundation that got you started writing in the first place?

Writing with muse completes stories too. I wrote my first four self-published novels with my muse, and I’ve continued to write numerous drafts with it. When I stop going where my instincts take me, or I tell myself I have to complete a specific project or get x number of words, then this is when I have problems and my writing grinds to a halt. It has happened every time, now I think about it. The real task is finding your source of inspiration and getting in touch with it, which a lot of writers don’t know how to do, not blasting out the words. I think it’s the pressure that’s to blame: that pressure perpetuated by writers and industry professionals who are under pressure themselves. It creates generations of insecure writers who are too afraid to share their writing, be published, or to go with their gut feeling.

Conclusion – writing tips and publishing tips
  • Put time on your side and develop your writing voice and style without pressure of expectation.
  • It’s easy to expect too much of yourself and to prepare to publish straight away.
  • Prioritise your writing before publishing, and only approach publishing when you’re ready.
  • Take breaks from your main projects before rushing to make decisions on them.
  • Listen to advice from friends and writer acquaintances on anything you’re unsure about.

Kaizen – Continuously Improve

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen is the Japanese word for ‘improvement’ or ‘good change’, but it has come to mean ‘continuous improvement’. In business, kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions such as eliminating waste, promoting innovation, and encouraging worker purpose and accountability. The idea is to put quality control directly into the hands of the workers in order to deliver small improvements. You could say that these are the aims of Kaizen.

Kaizen differs from business improvement programs used in the twentieth century, as it has no large scale planning and lengthy implementation. Instead small experiments are used that can be rapidly adapted. It puts the power of quality into the hands of those carrying out the work, in this sense.

The history of Kaizen

In World War Two there was neither time nor resources to radically improve the production of war equipment on a large scale, and the USA’s Training Within Industry program came up with a new approach: to improve the use of existing workforces and technologies.

To improve management skills in Japan, training films and programs were prepared. Titled ‘Improvement in Four Steps’ (Kaizen eno Yon Dankai) it was introduced to Japan. The most well-known example of Kaizen in practice is Toyota, in the prevention of defects, as a direct response to American management. W. Edwards Deming argued that quality control should be put in the hands of the line workers.

Kaizen was brought to the West in 1986 by Masaaki Imai via his book Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success.

Implementation

Some of the core purposes behind Kaizen, mentioned above, inform its implementation. In order to promote innovation the status quo must be ignored, and a system or cycle of continuous improvement is formulated. This system is meant to repeat through the same steps to create an ongoing system of improvement, which involves making a list of problems, testing solutions, analysing if they work. If they do work they are standardised throughout the company, if they don’t the process is repeated. The same process is repeated regardless to tackle other problems or test solutions.

The Five Whys asked questions about why a failure has occurred, basing the next question on the answer to the previous to attempt to get to the root cause. This system can be used as a tool for self-improvement. In practice it can be turned into a diagram, and used as a system of continuous improvement.

Other systems include the Kaizen 5S framework aims to create an ideal physical workplace in order to improve efficiency: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardise, and Sustain. There is the PDCA – Plan, Do, Check, Act – also called the Deming Cycle or the Shewhart Cycle.

How does Kaizen relate to anything else?

What Kaizen means to a large business may not always relate to individuals and those who have yet to learn about and adopt the approach, but it can be a model used for many purposes such as in effecting personal and business development. Its advantages can include rapid improvement, thinking outside of the box, and gaining a new understanding of how things work without the restraints of culture, status quo, or traditional assumptions.

As a freelance copy editor and proofreader who enjoys to work independently, I particularly like the idea of putting more responsibility for improvement into the hands of workers because I think it can be liberating and it can allow for organisational change in a system at the level where work is done. If you’re self-employed you’re also a worker and must make continuous improvements if you are to succeed: see what works, ask why, and develop models that may improve your method.

Kaizen for personal improvement

When I started reading about Kaizen, one thing I was struck by was how much I had always been invested in my own self-improvement, since being a young adult, without actually being aware of it or reading self-help books. For example, improvement in health and creativity has always been important to me, and I often fostered a hope of branching out in these areas for the sake of improvement, knowledge, happiness, and well-being. As I got older, I applied this same need for improvement to success as a copy editor/proofreader, and author.

There are likely many people with the same challenges towards improving their lives in their unique way, who are struck by some common pitfalls that have been identified by Kaizen. Kaizen for self-improvement aims to change the mindset that leads to those pitfalls, based on the same philosophy of small continuous change rather than tackling and achieving life goals immediately. Here are some of the main points:

  • Success is not a destination; it’s an ongoing process towards continuous improvement. You’re never done. It can be tempting for many to work really hard in the expectation of reaching a time where success leads to a relaxed state of life, where no achieving goals or working is necessary. I suppose the reason for this expectation could be the mind’s attempt to balance out a work-oriented life with a future hope of relaxation.
  • Don’t aim to tackle big life-changing goals in a short period of time because they won’t be achievable. Instead, focus on tasks in the present you can do that can help you on your path to achieving your goals. Aim for a gradual ‘1% improvement’ every day in whatever you want to do. In practice it doesn’t have to measure as a single percent, I don’t think. The point is to improve at a gradual and comfortable pace. This can be spending a small amount of time doing a task, ten minutes each day, and then adding an extra two minutes when you’re ready. It could also involve adding related tasks to that task, fitting it into a routine that works for you.

The point is that Kaizen’s philosophy of continuous improvement can be used on a day-to-day basis for improving your life or freelance business just as much as it can help a large business by focusing on what can be done in the present to improve how things are done instead of improbable large-scale business changes or life-changing achievements.

To me this means letting go of restraints, such as cultural beliefs or the status quo in how work or improvement is to be carried out, creating an organised workspace, and encouraging innovation in life. It’s not about sticking to a single system as the template for success, but improving on that system as time goes by. I think the point of ‘success is not a destination’ could mean that there should be balance in your approach in implementing success, improvement, or Kaizen, otherwise routine towards those things may lead to stagnation or a new status quo. Kaizen can help to remind you not to expect too much in present action when concocting new goals and not to be too disappointed if they fail to deliver immediate results.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen

https://searcherp.techtarget.com/definition/kaizen-or-continuous-improvement

https://medium.com/the-mission/get-1-better-every-day-the-kaizen-approach-to-self-improvement-b79c9e045678

https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/get-1-better-every-day-the-kaizen-way-to-self-improvement/

How Personal Matters Affect Business Success

Introduction

In this blog post I’ll be talking about personal weaknesses and how they can impact on the running of a business if you’re self-employed or work from home. Weaknesses can include poor skills, emotional or social problems, and health conditions; basically, anything that can affect the mind and body. The same principle applies even if your problems are slightly different. Sometimes it only takes one rupture in the system, and the whole ship goes down!

Personal matters can affect short-term and long-term success

The link between personal matters and business success hit me with force in early September 2018 when I realised they were holding me back, in the present to some extent and certainly in the long-term. In the present it can be like being burdened with a perpetual problem, causing you to brood, or it can be like a glitch that shows your personal weakness before it is ignored and life continues. Often there is a link to unhappiness or past problems that you know exist and you haven’t resolved. Why would you resolve them when you’re trying to run a business?

In the long-term personal matters are intrinsically related to your happiness as a human being, your performance, and your business skills. Any serious rupture that repeatedly causes problems should not be dismissed because they will crop up when you least expect it and perhaps sabotage a situation you could have used to your advantage.

Is it possible to ignore personal matters when building a business?

The short answer is yes, it is possible and likely you will be able to ignore personal matters when building your business. You see the activity of business much like a manuscript or any activity you put sufficient effort into, as something external that relates only to you in so far as it enables you to achieve your goals in life.

How personal matters affected my business success

As somebody with Asperger Syndrome many of my weaknesses were interpersonal. This wasn’t helped by the fact that in early life I struggled to forge many friendships, and I was often perplexed by the behaviour of other people and I suffered social anxiety; none of these were conducive to interpersonal growth. I’ve lived most of my life since without needing to build relationships or ‘contacts’, being occupied with routines and hobbies in my own comfortable bubble. I then became a freelance professional copy editor and proofreader and many people in this vocation struggle with getting out, meeting people, and taking time away from their work.

I became comfortable in my bubble because it was familiar. It defined my strengths and weaknesses, who I was even, or so I thought. To me the realm of people was one of potential misunderstanding and failed interaction. Losing people and being rejected by them was a fear but it was also expected by me. I suppose, in hindsight, I didn’t emotionally care for myself much and never had, so why would others care? Everybody was a potential stranger and categorised mentally as ‘unfamiliar’.

I would lose some friends and contacts, but more often than not the problem was with finding new friends and contacts. When it keeps happening the problem inflates and paralyses some of the relevant mental faculties, allowing anxiety to take its place. As you can see, this mindset is not conducive to making new contacts and building a business. People skills should not be overlooked in any area of life, but certainly not in building a business, where you have to be one of the main reasons potential clients will purchase your services, and becoming a familiar, friendly, and well-known person is essential.

What I did – one step back solution

It’s frustrating when you’ve spent so much time on business-related tasks and then you realise you’ve ignored how your personal life is tied to it. You need to analyse this new problem from step one, going back a few steps, and this can take time. In my case, I began to realise my approach to other aspects of life wasn’t doing me any favours personally, never mind in connecting with people for business purposes. I took a few good days thinking hard about why it was I thought the way I did, and what I was doing wrong. Sometimes help from an outside perspective can be beneficial too in allowing you to see that you cannot continue on the path you are on, and this can be in the form of friends, mentors, and support organisations.

I tend to think building a freelance business is not always about a simple linear path to constructing your success, or even about a massive expansion of clients. It can be as simple as building, seeing what went wrong, and then building again. Each time you’re widening your base and creating a model with more success that is more in line with your goals and can withstand the test of time. This model should have factored in personal matters too and how they describe you as a person, where they are letting you down and where they are giving you an advantage. Eventually, it is hoped your client list will expand and you’ll have greater choice over type of clients, and greater income.

Conclusion – how to tackle these types of problems?

You’ve got to take care of yourself, and that means not existing in a vacuum, and it means reaching out to friends, family, and support networks. It isn’t enough to know you have weaknesses; they should be addressed at the earliest possible time and with the right support. Escaping from personal matters won’t help you in the long-term. The longer you leave it, the more difficult and upsetting it can be when it is finally confronted.

Building a business is about you, foremost, and your health and wellbeing is intrinsically linked to your ideas, performance, and long-term success. It can be easy to lose sight of this when you’re too engaged in present tasks or pressured into doing work that isn’t necessarily helping the ‘bigger you’ that cannot be defined by a limited model of business.