CHAOS THEORY: A Review of ‘ORGANIZING FOR CREATIVE PEOPLE’ by Sheila Chandra

REVIEW by Robert Beck 

51yPU7t7VxL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve been working my way through Sheila Chandra’s book Organizing for Creative People: How to Channel the Chaos of Creativity into Career Success. The book is a veritable bible of helpful tips and ideas to turn someone from a walking disaster zone into a streamlined and employable creative powerhouse.

The best thing about this book is that Chandra knows what she’s talking about. After many years as a well-known and respected singer and song writer, she is now turning her hand to helping others achieve the success that she has enjoyed. And what does she put her success down to? Organisation. 

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There are a lot of very talented artists out there who make fantastic work but who never get the recognition they deserve. Often, this is because their work space resembles a war zone and they can no more knock together a press release or impactive marketing campaign than fly! This is where Chandra’s book is so helpful.

What’s even better is that this is not a long book, nor is it particularly dense. The author doesn’t waste much time pussy-footing around the issues and gets right to it: if you want recognition for your work and you’re looking for success then you should ditch the idea right away that chaos results in creativity. It doesn’t!

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Whether you’re a painter, a singer, or an actor, it’s vital to maintain a tidy working space and to treat yourself like a business which needs to be constantly managed. It’s the total opposite to the oft-touted stereotype of the “lazy creative” – the kind of person who lies around all day, smoking, drinking, and just waiting for that one idea to strike them which will make them rich and famous. In this scenario, all that usually happens is the “creative” slides deeper into the mess they’ve made and even if that idea does come – eventually – they have no idea how to produce it, market it, or sell it.

Chandra’s opening section – “Physical Space” – starts with ways that you can organise the places you work in. Some tips may seem blindingly simple like clearing room on your desk so that you can actually work on it, or throwing away that pile of magazines you’ve been keeping on the off-chance you’ll actually read them one day.

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Others may take a little more effort such as laying your studio/room out as a series of work-stations – one for each of the creative tasks you do on a daily basis – based around factors such as where is the best light, proximity to certain tools you might be using, or even just proximity to the kitchen so you don’t waste time walking back and forth to grab coffee. Each idea is carefully designed to systemise your working environment and create a clutter-free space to create in.

Only once you have a tidy space, where you can access the implements you need to create the work and where you’re not spending half the day searching for that one A4 page that’s got lost amongst the rubbish, can you begin to think about some of the more complex tasks that go hand-in-hand with being a self-employed creative. It boils down to that old adage – “tidy space, tidy mind”.

Chandra’s argument is that you can’t possibly have the brain space to deal with creating a PR campaign or doing a tax return if your physical space isn’t organised. So while the first half of her book might not seem particularly ground-breaking, it’s a vital step for any creative person to take to ensure that both your physical and mental spaces are efficiently ordered.

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With your working environment now organised, the second half of her book – entitled “Head Space” – is where it gets interesting. Drawing for her own experiences as a creative professional, as well as from being on the other side of the table and working with creatives like the street artist STIK (who incidentally wrote the foreword for the book), Chandra lays down some of the dos and don’ts when it comes to launching a creative career.

These involve managing yourself and your brand effectively, learning how to make social media work for you, and surrounding yourself with the right people who can help you with tasks such as accountancy and publicity.

Again, the concepts are far from revolutionary and are largely just common sense, but the style of writing is open and honest and the advice is sound and easy to follow. In a world where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to break into the creative industries, Chandra is determined to give as many people a leg-up as she can. One of the book’s charms is how orderly and methodical it is (for a book about being organised, this isn’t a huge surprise).

It’s recommended that you treat the book as a guide and read it from cover to cover. While there may be sections that you don’t need to read in quite as much depth as others, it’s a process and one that is best absorbed whole, rather than in bits.

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The only way to truly judge the book’s success is to read it and try the ideas out for yourself. However, take it from me as a creative person, one who is on his own journey to achieve recognition and career success, this book was a great little companion that has genuinely given me some practical tips that I can use to ensure both my physical workspace and mental headspace are running as efficiently as they can. Ultimately, the book isn’t going to teach you how to be a better artist – that comes from you – but if you are struggling to be creative then maybe it’s because you’re still stuck in a chaotic pattern.

What Sheila Chandra has done is show us how to use that chaotic creativity and to channel it into career success. They’re simple tricks but all highly effective – give them a go and find out for yourself.

‘Organizing for Creative People: How to Channel the Chaos of Creativity into Career Success’ by Sheila Chandra is published by Watkins.

14908327_10210355251256100_1014946024230999709_nRobert Beck is a theatrical director and performer living in London. He also works as PA and admin assistant for urban LIFECLASS. Follow him on Twitter @robertjamesbeck

Brace! Brace! . . Flying High with the Universe. Breathe! Breathe!

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Words : Robert Beck

Ask any freelancer and they will tell you that one of the greatest struggles is not knowing where or when the next job will turn up. Working in theatre and performance, I am often faced with periods of extreme productivity followed by periods of very little work. It’s pretty terrifying sometimes and can lead to bouts of depression and feelings of not being good enough or strong enough blah blah blah! It was a period such as this that I found myself in at the end of March this year and I genuinely had no idea what I was going to do.

13238879_10208928531268992_7241278699584094363_nTo provide some context, the beginning of the year had been busy for me. January had brought with it a lot of performance gigs; February had seen me direct two shows, as well as mounting my own production, Prevail, with my theatre company, Plain Paper Productions; and in March I turned 24 and seemed to spend a large chunk of the month celebrating (and drinking…lots of drinking!). So that by the time the end of March rolled around, I barely realised that I hadn’t got any work lined up and my bank balance had been worryingly depleted thanks to all the aforementioned “celebrating”. I didn’t know what to do – all I knew was that I needed to work.

images-1I’ve done breathwork for nearly three years now and have worked closely with David Parker and the rest of the UrbanLIFECLASS team. Through working with them I have learnt to “trust in the universe” – a phrase that sounds very spiritual but is really just common sense. I’ve learnt over time that worrying about the future too much isn’t conducive to anything and can stop you from focusing on the here and now.

Yes, it’s important to have an eye on what’s coming up but the things I’ve found most useful for my life as a freelancer (and as a human being more generally) is maintaining clarity and focus in my career and life. If I work to maintain those two things then it doesn’t matter what happens in the future because I know, whatever I do, that I’m moving in the right direction.

So what did happen? Well ask David, and he’ll tell you that I fretted for a bit and offloaded some concerns to him about not having enough money to last me through the year and feelings of not having the tenacity or the talent to drum up more work but then I calmed down and I stopped worrying. I am enough, I do enough, and I’m worthy of the work that is given to me. I have clarity on what I want to do with my life and I am focused enough to go out and get it. Therefore, every action that I take is a positive step in the right direction and I have to trust that the universe will deliver in some shape, size, or form…and it did!

11215718_10208717353469679_7581717721461493015_nIn the space of one afternoon I went from having nothing lined up to having two jobs – one for the day and one for the night.

My day job as a schools outreach officer for The Shakespeare Schools Festival would improve my administration skills and my work with young people and my night job as a drag queen performer for the show The Gingerline: Chambers of Flavour would allow me to express myself creatively and develop and hone my performance skills.

The universe had delivered – and twice over at that!

UrbanLIFECLASS was set up to help people living busy, urban lives cope with the stresses and problems of every day life. The training it offers gives you a tool kit for dealing with issues like mine and for learning strategies for keeping on keeping on.

images-1Without the breathwork experiences and support from David, Mel, and the other ULC team members, I may well have allowed myself to get bogged down in worry about the future and not opened myself up to the possibility that good things come to those that wait.

The end of the story is that I’ve just spent a happy two months working two fantastic jobs, developing my practise and skills, and making some wonderful new friends and connections. Now the two jobs have both come to an end and I’m, once again, looking at a period of quiet. However, this time I am CHOOSING to keep it quiet because I intend to relax and enjoy my summer but I trust that, when the time is right, the universe will deliver again.

12974535_10208666932129177_2027884504200471924_nRobert Beck is a freelance director and queer performer living and working in London. His recent show ‘Prevail’ was part of Camden LGBT Forum’s History Month programme and is produced by his company Plain Paper Productions. As well as this, he is a drag performer and has appeared at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, The Bethnal Green Working Man’s Club, and various pubs and bars around London.

He is also the UrbanLIFECLASS PA and admin guy and has worked with David Parker for the last three years developing workshops and administrating the annual trip to Marrakech, Morocco.  Follow him on Twitter @robertjamesbeck

GINGERLINE : http://www.chambersofflavour.co.uk

Chambers of Flavour from Richard on Vimeo.

Prevail the VOGUE

12190055_10207470476658538_705248153394542532_nUrban LIFECLASS specialises in working with independent creatives, freelancers and Live Artists, as well as those who don’t perform, paint, design or dance, but they all learn that creativity is not always about performance, it’s about ideas, risk and ACTION.

Many of our participants would know Robert Beck, our PA/Admin, through email or by attending our Breathwork Events, and would recognise Ted Rogers who assisted on our Maroc Retreat and participant on One Day Seminars, ( both 24 years old ) and Atabey (Carlos) Maria from Margate, attendee of our London Evening Breathwork Groups. ( Yes – he travels up every month from Kent to attend group).

All 3 are prolific users and regular attendees, of Evolutionary BREATHWORK, the core practice of Urban LIFECLASS, and have turned IDEAS into ACTION.

8977481In the space of a week, their actions are coming to fruition, Rob, first with his showcase PREVAIL @ Westminster Kingsway College on Thursday  February 25th BOOK TICKETS below.  http://www.plainpaperproductions.co.uk

Written and directed by co-founder of Plain Paper Productions Robert Beck, and starring Tigger Blaize and Jon Hands, Prevail is a movement-led exploration of acceptance of the self.

Prevail is running as part of Camden LGBT Forum’s Camden & Islington LGBT History Month

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10649781_10156359372435257_807422757331047974_nWhile in sunny MARGATE, KENT, Carlos & Ted, in conjunction with TATE’S Turner Contemporary Gallery have a created a unique combination of skills and ideas in a community based project for anyone over 50. READ ALL ABOUT IT BELOW.

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50+ in KENT? . .  WORK IT with these Boys!            . . . STRIKE A POSE!

Vogue-Chi mixes movement and lifestyle elements of both Vogueing – a dance style based on fashion poses – and Tai Chi to create a dynamic, self-affirming, meditative practice. Fully find new versions of yourself whilst exploring gender, unconventional beauty, and shameless self-indulgence in a loving and safe environment. VOGUE-CHI offers a gentle work out for the soul and a good ol’ stretch for the mind.

Turner Contemporary MARGATE

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This is what happens when you erase and BREATHE OUT fears with Breathwork, develop confidence and just BLOODY DO IT!!

Time for a Spirit Jog?

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Robert “Bubble” Beck is a returning guest-blogger for urban LIFECLASS as well as being a member of our CREATIVE COLLECTIVE. When he’s not writing, he’s busy chasing his dream of becoming a theatre director on the West End. However, this seems to involve drinking a lot of wine and not doing much work… Follow him on Twitter @robertjamesbeck where he once in a while makes a profound(ish) comment. . .

Blog write-up by Robert Beck

The beauty of breath-work is that it allows me the chance to work on helping others, as well as myself. While I have only been on this path of personal development for a relatively short amount of time, the profound effect it has had on me is something I am keen to help others discover, especially within my age group.

I often say to people that those who are most sceptical have the greatest reactions to the breathes… and boy was I sceptical when I started. Yet look at me now, a few months on, and I am totally devoted. I breathe myself, I have done a load of reading around the science of breathing, and now I am beginning my training to become a fully-fledged facilitator. Pretty impressive for someone who used to believe that meditation and self-help seminars were for hippies and people who didn’t take showers.

Our workshop on the 27th of April was a special one for me because it was the first time I was allowed to assist on a breathe this size. The previous assisting work I had done had been small and intimate and I had been safe in the knowledge that David was always looking over my shoulder and there to deal with anything that came up. For a group this size it was not going to be like this. Having 15 people breathing at the same time meant that I had to be able to trust myself to provide that comforting hand or to guide someone through an integration independently while the trainers were off in another part of the room. While I was supported by the other assistants (the fabulous Luca and the gorgeous Catherine) and the trainers who were on hand should something big come up, this was a real learning-curve for me and taught me so much about recognising and appreciating the stunning effects that evolutionary breath-work and a bit of positive thinking can have on a person.

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As is usual with our seminars, we began by asking ourselves some difficult questions, supplied by our facilitator, David Parker, that we may not really want to answer. ‘This is what I want to ACHIEVE’ seems like a simple enough question to answer but comes with all sorts of caveats like “but I won’t achieve it because…” or “achieving that would be great but I don’t have the time…” We all build walls around our dreams that stop us from going out there and trying to make them happen.

Similarly, a question like ‘This is what I want to LET GO OF’ can throw up issues where we recognise something is bad for us and yet somehow are unable to let go of it. How many of us have been in a relationship that we know is no good and yet are unable to walk away from? Stopping to ask yourself these questions and forcing yourself to articulate answers can allow ideas to formulate that you probably already had but have been hiding from. This is why I love this kind of work – because it is truly soul-searching and gives you that space to really get to know the person you are and the person you want to be. As a creative this is an invaluable exercise.

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These questions also allow you to structure your breathe a little bit. While I’m not advocating trying to force emotions out when you are breathing it is only natural that, if you have been thinking about what you want to achieve and the aspects of your life that you’d ideally like to let go of, then they may well form a large part of your breath-work experience. I know the first time I breathed that focusing on my creative blocks beforehand meant that when I went into that state of being inside my own body I became acutely aware of what it was that was stopping me achieving my creative goals and what I could do to break the chain of me blocking myself.

This is something I have found myself explaining to people who are new to breath-work time and again, that while there is something deeply spiritual about the work which can’t be controlled or manipulated, there is a very strong scientific element to it as well. Rather than being completely hippy-dippy woo-woo, which I know works for some people, I prefer to think of breath-work as a practical tool that can be used to help recharge my creative self and reinvigorate my mental state. Just like meditation or going for a brisk jog!

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So, to conclude, I seem to be reiterating something I’ve been saying a lot recently which is that if someone like me – and I like to consider myself as quite down-to-earth and practical – can reach a point with breath-work where he wants to use it to help others as well as himself then it must be doing something right.

Every time I assist people on their breathes, I am blown away (no pun intended!) by their reactions and am always glad when I can be there to provide a bit of support to those who are brave enough and strong enough to say yes, I want to improve myself.

Coming OUT of Shallow Breathing into FULL SPEED AHEAD

1972351_261858887317309_799607384_nAs with many people who lie down to breathe for the first time, I was filled with a mix of scepticism and uncertainty about what was going to happen. Surely the simple act of breathing couldn’t bring about as strong a reaction as I had been promised? It was difficult not to feel a bit daft as I began to inhale deeply, taking in large amounts of oxygen, and then releasing only a third of my breath, leaving the remaining oxygen to flood my brain and body like water gradually filling a jug.

For about fifteen minutes I lay there, fighting against the urge to regulate my breathing which felt forced and unnatural. How was I going to last another three quarters of an hour breathing like this? Then something strange began to happen. It started slowly and then became more and more noticeable. A tingle in the finger-tips that spread up my arms and washed over my chest which somehow felt lighter and buoyed up, like a freshly inflated balloon. My breathing was also easier despite the fact I had not adjusted my rhythm. Was it actually happening to me; this strange and wonderful sensation that I had been told about but had doubted?

I lay there, excited for what was happening. Outside noises seemed to melt away and I was left completely inside my own body. It was as if my consciousness has retreated inside my brain, no longer aware of what existed beyond the shell of my own skin. It was dark and warm and felt safe. Occasionally, the darkness would be penetrated by a white light or a colour spectrum that seemed to whirl above me, forming shapes and even faces. It was a hugely multi-sensory experience that, when it was over, left me feeling calm and collected, as if I had slept particularly well and all my troubles seemed lessened thanks to how relaxed I found myself.

It was not until some time later, when I was given the chance to assist on someone else’s first breathe, that I was able to witness this ‘tipping point’ and observe how tangible it is. You can physically see the body’s initial resistance to the journey as it reacts against this strange way of breathing. Then as the time passes and breathing in this way becomes more natural and the body is flooded with oxygen and the consciousness begins to retreat in on itself, you can watch as the breather drifts off to a place where they are fully in touch with themselves – a place where you are able to get some perspective on your life and come back fresher and more able to tackle the crap life throws at you. And all from breathing – who’d have thought!

1002087_10152899205155371_2132921410_nWritten by Robert Beck.

https://urbanlifeclass.me/the-creative-collective/robert-beck/