Justin Heazlewood’s Advice Booth

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On Monday I started running an Advice Booth at Readings. It’s been a lovely ‘ground zero’ experience – mixing with people directly in a post-internet age. The focus is on arts / creative advice – but as I say in my occasional spruik “Free art and creative advice, psychological, relationship, basic health and I know some bus times.” In my two hour window I’m barely alone for longer than five minutes. Meek, kind-eyed strangers sit and we share a cup of tea and some walnuts. I’ve spoken to about fifteen people so far. Here are some of the subjects covered:

  • A guy wants to start a metal band. He wants to ask his mate who is a drummer, but is nervous about asking incase he says ‘no.’
  • A girl plays piano. She would like to play with other musicians, but is shy about asking.
  • A woman is getting painting lessons. She doesn’t like her teacher much. He insists on finishing the students paintings for them.
  • A daughter of a famous Australian painter – she used to paint regularly / professionally, but hasn’t done it for years. She wants to get back into using pastels. I suggested she needs to break the habit of not painting and form the habit of doing a bit each day – a common theme!
  • A musician was nervous that his ‘mad’ music/comedy act might embarrass his children. He’s tailoring the act to feature less on himself personally and more on society in general. He has not done shows for quite some time, but would like to. I asked him to make sure this concern for his children wasn’t the artistic super-villain of ‘fear’ masquerading under the guise of concern for his children. Perhaps it was fear of failure or rejection. Family / children are some of the more powerful procrastination fuel for artists.
  • One intense, softly spoken man said “everyone keeps being aggressive towards me.” He was referring to people on the street and the way they looked at him. I said that one was outside my jurisdiction.
  • A psychologist was about to go six days a week. He was bemused to sit in the booth, as he’s usually the one listening, not asking for advice. He’s gone into a business partnership with a friend, going against the one piece of advice his grandfather gave him which was “never go into partnership with a friend.” He’s trying to move from working for a company to working for himself – so must work increased hours to build a roster of new patients. I spoke about burnout and the danger of harvesting personal time for increased productivity. He said that already his sleep was being affected, and I told him about the months of recovery it can take when you do crash. (We agreed that it’s not something you worry about until it happens). He just messaged me to say he realised six days was too much and will be paring back to four.
  •  A young man stood for a long time asking me questions about The Bedroom Philosopher. After a while he sat, and while glancing around at the wall of spines around us, asked me how I dealt with stress. I mentioned exercise, yoga, strict work hours and counselling. He said he’d just started meditating. He told me about a simple technique of “in for four, hold for four, out for four, hold for four.” (I tried this the next morning…and passed out. It is excellent for slowing down the internal clock – honey on the cogs.) I think I most enjoy giving advice to men in their early twenties. I know how hard it is for them to show vulnerability.
  • A writer / playright was my first customer. Like many, she poured out of Nova, where the power had gone out. I said my plan of sabotaging the fuse box had worked a treat. She was having issues with time management. She was working on her own production and acting as writer, director and producer. We acknowledged how difficult it is to hold down all those roles. She said it was wearing her out and sometimes she wondered if it was all worth it. I suggested being more disciplined / regimented with time management. Her things to do list should be divided into tasks to be completed that day, that week and that month. She should make mini-contacts with herself, of jobs that need to be immediately done. (As opposed to looking at a list of 15 things that all need to be done “soon.”) I also suggested working for 90 minutes in the morning, going hard on the admin – and then not thinking about it for the rest of the day. This is better than dabbling away at it all day and ending up overwhelmed / fatigued. She took notes – and went away a little more empowered.
  • A cute asian girl told me she really enjoys doing pottery. She works in a job helping others, so this is one thing she does for herself. Her teacher says the clay is a living thing. It moves how it wants.