It feels like a lot of us seem to easily get swept up in the hustle and bustle of daily life. It’s a cliche notion that we seem to be too busy focused on getting the grades we want, earning money, paying the bills, worrying about our futures. Creativity seems to be despised. It seems to be associated with having free time and/or laziness. It’s almost like there’s a stigma against being creative- that if you are, you’re a bludger or a bit loopy and not in sync with reality. News flash for those who do think that- it’s not true. Far from it. Yes, there’s a stereotype connected to writers, artists and the like- then again, there’s a stereotype for everything.

Having a creative outlet is essential. Plain and simple. As humans with working minds, we need to have an outlet where our creative juices should be allowed to flow. We’re so wound up in regimented routines and are working off pent up stress and litres of caffeine that it would more than likely negatively impact our mental and physical health. Creativity has its benefits and they far outweigh the costs. There’s surely a creative path for everyone and before you say it, yes, you do have creative abilities. You have an imagination- use it. You don’t have to be the best, you just have to make a start and do whatever helps you achieve your goals.

Here’s a list of reasons as to why you should get yourself a creative outlet:

Reduces stress and provides an escape:
In a sense, creative outlets allow you to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is often a designated method of dealing with stress and anxiety suggested by psychologists and other mental health experts. It allows you to remain in the present moment without getting overly worked up about the what ifs and what could have beens. Moreover, it provides an escape from reality without being “out of sync with reality”. Most creatives in fact are often more in sync with reality than anyone else. They use their experiences and turn it into forms of art- whether through music, dance, words or drawings (to name a few). Those of us who do have problems with anxiety have the trouble of focusing too much on what is happening in our own reality that it causes us to freak out. It’s more common than many people likely think it is. Hence, being creative allows us an escape from whatever is troubling us and takes us to another world where we can either cope with our worries through creative means or just get our mind off the problems altogether. It really depends on the person. Having a creative outlet can be incredibly relaxing as a result.

Thinking outside the box:
Being creative allows you to think in ways you usually don’t. It allows you to become a better problem solver in different situations, giving you the chance to think outside the box rather than just focusing on a linear response. You’re able to see things differently and from different perspectives and as a result, you’re able to adapt to a greater number of situations than those who don’t work creatively.

You learn about others and yourself:
In many creative outlets, you tend to do far more observing and research- especially about the way humans are. You learn about different types of people and why they think the way they think. You learn about their perspectives and it not only makes you a better creator, but also a more understanding person. This has definitely been something that has happened with me through writing, and I credit writing for being able to broaden my sense of observation and judgement when meeting new people. When it comes to learning about yourself, creativity allows you to see your own potential and learn things that you might not have known if you hadn’t explored that avenue through whatever outlet you have. You become more aware and empathetic to your surroundings and the people in it. Additionally, there have been countless stories of people who manage to ‘find themselves’ again after being stuck in an unpleasant situation thanks to their creative outlet.When you find yourself and perhaps even find your sense of purpose, everything just seems so much better to put it bluntly. Your mood increases, your stress and anxiety decrease and you allow people to get a better insight into who you are as a person.

You keep your mind sharp and it fights ageing:
Scientifically speaking, apparently getting creative helps fight dementia. That’s always a bonus. When you’re creating something, your mind stays sharp when it focuses on getting what you want done. From the rather quick research I’ve conducted, basically creativity helps you fight things like Alzheimers, dementia and other sort of cognitive dysfunctions because it keeps the brain health and stimulates new brain connections (I feel like I’m in year 12 psychology all over again). It also keeps you engaged with others, which, particularly with the older generations, has shown to have numerous benefits. Moreover, creativity= sustainability. You’re more likely to keep going with an arts program in comparison to an exercise program.

Now, I’m probably going to get people telling me that they’re not creative and that they disagree with this sort of thing because not everyone is made to be artistic or whatever. My response to that would be that there are so many different kinds of creative outlets that there’s probably one suitable for you. Creativity isn’t just about painting and drawing- there’s so much more to it. It’s all about just giving it a go and seeing what’s right for you. Step outside your comfort zone and see what’s out there. You never know what you might come across and you don’t know if you don’t try.

 

It was a Sunday in May, 2014. I was competing in the finals of a local tournament against a girl I had fought and beaten before. The first 90 seconds of the fight were dominated by her. For some reason, I just couldn’t get any techniques to work. Whatever I threw at her, fell short. Whatever I tried, was countered successfully. Eventually, I scored a point but I was still 3-1 down. Four seconds to go and in very Monique fashion, I thought it would be a fabulous time to chuck in a spaghetti head kick. It was a bit of a classic manoeuvre on my behalf, usually done when I had put myself in a position that I would rather not be in. It landed perfectly and I was 4-3 up. I was pretty content and it left me feeling quite happy with myself.

One second to go and a punch flies past my head.

4-4.

It came down to the referee’s decision.

She won.

Of the hundreds of fights I’ve had, that one specific fight has stuck with me like no other. Being so close, yet so far. It’s a feeling that many athletes resonate with and as bad as it is, I think every athlete should have to go through it for their own benefit. There’s something almost torturous and cruel about having to work your butt off for something, come so close to finally getting to where you want to be and yet, in a split second, it gets taken away from you. Whether it be unlucky or via your own mistake, it’s unfair. That’s for sure.

It’s most certainly a test of character. It’s a lesson that teaches you resilience, strength and humility. From that fight, I began looking at my losses as lessons. Not that I didn’t before, but I did so more consciously and applied it in every area of my life.

It seems weird that of all the state, national and international fights that I’ve had, it was to be a local one that has taught me the most. Of course, a combination of all my past losses has built me up into the person I am, but this one was the icing on the cake. I think it was the mixture of having not won a tournament in over a year, being riddled with injuries and thinking a few seconds too far ahead that made it as painful as it was. I was so close, yet again, so far and honestly, it was frustrating.

I learnt a lot about myself though and I use the memory of that fight as a reminder.

Firstly, it reminds me to not see a loss as something negative. Instead of wallowing in my sorrows, trying to make excuses and almost giving up thinking there wasn’t much point in continuing, I look at what I did right and what I did wrong. I think of what I can do to prevent the same mistakes. Usually, the more painful the mistake, the more likely you won’t repeat it again. Well, the key word being ‘usually’. It could take you a couple of times to get that part sorted. Instead of thinking, “ugh, why?” I think “okay, now where do I start? What do I do? How do I fix this? What do I need to fix up?”. It’s taught me that I have the potential to go all the way, but it reminds me that I’m still susceptible to mistakes.

Secondly, it was an incredible test of character. It most certainly tested my resilience and my ability to learn from my mistakes. I could have easily just given a million excuses for why I lost. The punch wasn’t even a score- it went straight past my head. I stepped out of the ring so the fight should have been stopped. She threw no clean punches. I could go on, but I won’t. What’s the point of excuses? Yeah sure, they provide a bit of solace for a while but at the end of the day, a loss is a loss. You didn’t win. You will forever have come second in that moment. The test of character comes when you decide whether you want to be that person that will just complain about why they lost without admitting their mistakes, or whether you want to grow from the experience.

When you’re in a high stakes environment, it’s essential that you learn how to deal with losing. Are you going to just whinge and complain? Or are you going to continue working towards your goal, ensuring you don’t make the same mistakes again? Are you going to stay negative, or are you going to tackle it with open arms, excited to be able to learn something and be a step closer towards your goal? It’s your choice. It’s up to you whether you’re just going to leave your loss as a loss, or whether you’re going to turn it into a lesson.


That’s all on you.

WARNING WARNING WARNING: SPOILERS 

The latest episode of Scandal has me as one very happy girl with the return of Tom and Michael. Yeah sure, Michael’s more of just a side character and Tom’s a bit of a creep and you’re probably sitting there questioning what is wrong with me, but I find these two very complex and multi-faceted characters and that I like. If anyone has twigged on, I always seem to like the more complicated, convoluted characters that other people seem to ignore or not take much notice of. They provide that finishing touch to a storyline that would otherwise not be as good and interesting without them.

Anyway,episode 3 had a heap of both Tom and Michael and had a huge focus on Cyrus’ role as the vice-presidential candidate. Here are my thoughts on a couple of things in the ep.

The investigation:
The episode went from normal day at home to national frenzy real quick. Cyrus went from asking Michael which tie he should wear to finding out he was being investigated for Vargas’ murder. The whole episode is basically the aftermath of OP&A’s desperation from sifting through millions of pieces of evidence to try and pin the death of Vargas on Cyrus. I mean, it did have Elizabeth North crawling on all fours like “a snake through grass” and even she was hoping to defend Cyrus and stand up for him. Cyrus was pretty much house bound until he was later arrested.

That video and a bit of potential deja vu?:

So there’s that video of Vargas and Cyrus arguing. In this ep, we find out what the context of the video was and to be honest, are we really that surprised?  Basically, the night when Cyrus somehow managed to win a vice-presidential debate, Cyrus spots Vargas getting friendly and giggly with one of the females on the campaign team. Naturally, alarm bells started ringing for Cyrus as the rest of us instantly thought “is this Fitz and Olivia 2.0”. The last thing he needed was some woman to ruin his chance to get into the White House…again. It’s quite fascinating how alike him and Olivia are. The difference being that Olivia is far more diplomatic in her approaches. Cyrus is quite the fan of violence. He ends up getting the help of Tom to “silence” this woman and he arrives at Frankie’s seeing the woman looking to retain her camera, her face battered and bruised and Frankie shocked and mortified for her. He eventually realises that Cyrus was the one who set it all up and that’s how the video came to be.

Tom and his dodgy love life:
But yes, if you haven’t noticed- I’m quite excited that Tom is back. This episode also reiterated how twisted his love life is too. Since Cyrus ditched him that night when he was announced as Vargas’ VP candidate, he clearly hasn’t stopped thinking nor stopped loving Cyrus. It’s a love clearly not reciprocated and that’s not exactly something you want with a trained assassin. I guess when he falls in love, he falls hard and he had his heart broken in a way that most people would just consider cruel. Yet, it didn’t stop him from coming to Cyrus’ aid when he needed him. In the end though, Cyrus realised he didn’t need him and Tom was heartbroken all over again. At least this time he could give Cyrus “a fate worth than death” so I guess that was some sort of consolation.

Michael being too good for Cyrus:
When Michael first came onto the scene, I thought he was annoying and irrelevant. But then his parents were introduced in that memorable, gut-wrenching restaurant scene and you had to feel bad for the guy. All he really wanted was to feel loved and wanted and not shamed for who he was. Fast forward a couple of seasons and I’m pretty sure he’s a doting stay at home dad to Ella taking her to school, packing her lunches and so forth. Despite everything thrown at Cyrus, he still stands by him and supports him. He’s seriously way too good for Cyrus and it’s about time Ella has someone stable in her life again. That poor kid, honestly.

You don’t trick Tom, okay?:

One particular scene that had me cracking up even though it wasn’t that funny to the average viewer was when Cyrus went to meet Tom in the park. He somehow thought that keeping a gun taped underneath the table was an intelligent way to deal with Tom if he starts getting violent. Of course, it was not. Tom knew the gun was there and by the time Cyrus went to reach for it, Tom already had it and was pointing it at him. I started somewhat squealing at the screen like “did you honestly think you could outsmart him Cyrus, geez Louise mate”. You just don’t trick Tom, okay? And then what followed was the final blow for Cyrus. Tom came forward and confessed to killing Frankie Vargas after Cyrus instructed him to do it.

Mellie is finally a step closer to the presidency:
With Tom’s confession came Liv telling Mellie that the electoral college had no other choice but to vote for her as the next President of the United States. It feels like everything’s finally coming together…well, that is if you’ve only been watching this season without seeing the other seasons or you’re not familiar with Shonda’s work. Surely there’s another turn around the corner. It can’t be over just like that. There’s going to be another twist in the tale and I cannot wait. If (or when) there is, it’ll hurt though. Mellie thought she would finally get the presidency and then for it to be taken away again… come on Shonda, give the girl a break.

Every writer at some point or another has struggled finding inspiration for ideas. Whether it be for a character or a novel plot or what events should take place, we’ve all encountered the struggle. There’s nothing more annoying than have the urge to write but don’t know what to because you don’t have the inspiration you need to do so. Thus, I’ve decided to collate a list of potential places you can go to find something to trigger your imagination and get you back on the right track.

Read:
This one’s a pretty common suggestion amongst other writers and it’s easy to understand why. The more you read, the more information you can gather. This can include anything from reading novels to magazines to newspapers to even just signs. Usually it’s the most minute details that spark that one idea you needed to get things going.

Movies:
Personally, movies have been pivotal in a number of my novel ideas. Usually I pick on the plot line and then end up going off on a tangent, coming up with my own idea. I also find it helpful picturing my characters too and seeing a specific actor or actress in that role. This can be said with a number of TV shows as well.

Get out and about:
Getting out and about, talking to people, doing things, people watching- all of these can help generate a general idea that can later be refined. I’ve lost count at the number of times I’ve seen something or someone and it would eventually develop into an idea. An example that comes to mind was when I was in Chadstone and there were these two nuns. One of them wanted to walk into Bardot, saying she liked the clothes and wanted to see what was there whilst the other was saying “Come on, let’s go” and then sighed, dragging her along by her arm. That then eventuated into a novel idea that’s quite different from the usual dreary sort of thing I write.

TV shows:
Like movies, TV shows are a great source of inspiration. What I find especially good about TV shows is that unlike movies, you have more of a chance to see a character develop over an extended period of time. Shows like The Shield and Once Upon a Time are great for character development and I find this especially helpful when it comes to characters and their traits in novels. As much as I hate to say it, reality TV can also be great for determining character traits and their pasts. However, I would be quite cautious as quite a few reality shows aren’t really reality. But, if you find one that’s more realistic than not, it could be a surprise source of inspiration. (Married at First Sight- I’m looking at you).

Music:
Listening to music have produced ideas for me from two ways. First, through consciously listening to the lyrics and feeling the words themselves. Secondly, just from listening and picturing situations where that song could be used.

Sleep:
The number of times I’ve been laying in bed, trying to fall asleep and then BAM! I suddenly have a new novel idea. That’s how the current novel draft that I’m (slowly) powering through came about. A number of other ideas have come about like that too. When you’re relaxed and aren’t distracted, it feels like all these ideas suddenly just come to you. You’re laying there, thinking about one thing and then your mind goes to all these other things and then you’ve suddenly got a novel idea.

Travel:
Travelling and exploring new places can give you so much inspiration. It’s most definitely not the cheapest idea, but if by chance you are going to another town, city or country, be sure to keep your mind open. See how people interact there, observe the sights and most of all, notice the tiny details that are what is going to make your novel stand out and be more authentic.

Your own experiences:
Again, back to the novel draft I’m currently working through, I utilised some of my past experiences (some intentional and others unintentional from what I have recently realised) and managed to implement it into my writing. The plot itself doesn’t necessarily have to fully rely on your own experiences, but little events that take place, people you’ve met, things you have seen or done can do wonders for your writing.

So I hope your writing rut doesn’t last for long and that perhaps this little list has given you a bit of help getting yourself out of the struggle. Lacking inspiration is something no writer ever likes to go through, but it’s important to remember that A. You’re most definitely not alone and B. To keep your eye on the prize and remember why you started in the first place.

 

I’m just going to say it- the gym is most definitely not for everyone. To a lot of people, it seems big, it seems intimidating and it seems like it’s filled to the brim with protein shake filled men with bulging muscles and those super lean women with the media’s idea of an ideal body. It’s like every genetically gifted human decided to congregate in that one place, attempting to see how far they can push themselves. Then there’s the fact that there are so many different types of machines that could potentially kill you if you didn’t use them right or if you move the slightest bit in the wrong direction. It’s easy to be deterred by these metal clad dens, wreaking of a mixture of deodorant and BO.

I never really went to the gym much when I was doing karate. A lot of my friends did but I was always like nah, I don’t need it. In 2011, I signed up and went to a couple of PT sessions but that was that. One of the reasons I probably didn’t go as much was because I was 13 and when I come to think of it, that’s actually quite intense. Anyway, not the point. Fast forward a couple of years and here I am, planning on going to the Olympics for rugby. This time round, I couldn’t skip out on the whole gym thing so I signed up. I’m no fitness expert, but someone that (I think at least) has learnt a lot about the whole gym process in a short amount of time. I’ve decided to write down a bit of a guide for you guys who are thinking of joining a gym and need a bit of a push/need some guidance, and for those of you who have already joined but have a couple of worries regarding it.

Location:
This one’s huge. It was probably the biggest reason I didn’t go much back in 2011 and I think it will play a massive part in whether you’re actually going to go as much as you really should be. When looking for gyms, look for ones that are the most conveniently situated. Check for ones in areas that you spend a lot of time in- whether it be near your house, work or university. For me, I have a gym down the road from university and then another a quick train ride away. Now you’re probably sitting there like what? Two gyms? Well actually, it’s the same company but different locations. If you can, maybe find a gym that has multiple franchises around your city so you have access everywhere. I’m lucky with mine because not only are there plenty of gyms around Melbourne, but there are heaps around the world. Location is important because when you know that the gym’s close by, you don’t have much of an excuse when it comes to it being ages away. It’s closeby, it’s easy access and travel time isn’t too long.

Cost:
Another reason a number of people hesitate to go to the gym is because of the price. Gyms can be expensive, so it’s more of a matter of prioritising whether going to the gym is super important to you. A number of gyms have pretty good deals, especially for university students. If going to the gym isn’t as much of a priority or you don’t have a dollar to spare, then there are plenty of alternatives to staying fit and healthy. For those of you on the fence, think of the gym as an investment. How many times a week are you planning to go? Is health and fitness a major priority of yours? If you answer multiple time and yes, well then there’s your answer. It’s more about a bit of trial and error and seeing which deal best suits you. Going to the gym is an investment- a worthwhile one when you put the effort in.

General vibes:
When you walk into a gym, you’ll probably suss out the general vibes of the place. How it looks. How it smells. What sort of people go there. The people who work there. Again, I was lucky with my gym when I signed up. The manager was super nice and helpful and made me feel welcomed and at ease. Every time I go and train, I feel comfortable and don’t feel awkward or out of place. People mind their own business and go there to train, not for anything else. It really comes down to you and whether you’ll be able to focus on your own goals without being distracted. This point is really just down to personal choice and is quite subjective. What I might find good, someone else might hate. It’s really just about looking around and see what’s right for you.

Goals:
Once you set up your gym membership, it’s a good idea to set out what you want to achieve. Usually, someone at the gym will likely help you set up your training regime after discussing what it is you want to get out of the gym. Whether you want to make a sports team, lose weight or be able to push yourself- they’ll help you out with the right exercises to boost your fitness and attain the results you are after.

What you need:
You’ve sorted your membership. You’ve got your training regime. You’ve decided when you’re going to go to the gym. Now you just need to figure out what you need to take with you. Generally, comfortable gym clothes, a towel and some form of hydration are the bare necessities. When it comes to me though, you should probably already be aware I don’t really stick to the bare necessities. Aside from the clothes and towel, I take a bottle of water and usually a Gatorade. I also grab a protein bar and take some other light snacks to keep the energy up. A lot of gyms usually have a key pass so don’t forget that either! There’s nothing worse than going to the gym and realising that you didn’t bring the key pass. Like anything else, organisation is key.