Friday, April 22, 2016

Starting Fires

A recent fire in our garden...
I've always enjoyed lighting fires. Not arson, I hasten to add - there's just something satisfying in laying up a fire and then seeing it gradually take light.

Growing up I had plenty of practice in fire-lighting, as we had a big open fireplace in our lounge which would often be lit on winter evenings.

I have fond memories of sitting cross legged in the lounge folding sheets of newspaper into zig-zag concertinas on to which I'd then place kindling and small logs before lighting.

The secret, I found, was to set fire to the newspaper in as many places as possible, as this gave the kindling the best chance of taking light, and therefore the fire the best chance of getting going. I learnt my lesson about trying to get a fire going with not enough kindling, or with logs that were too large or too wet. In truth, there's definitely an art to getting a fire burning well.
"I've always enjoyed lighting fires. Not arson, I hasten to add..."
Three key ingredients...
Like any good recipe, you need a few key ingredients for a decent fire. The classic "fire triangle" is fuel, heat and oxygen.

Without any one of these your fire will struggle, and I've learnt my lesson on each ingredient. In the past I've smothered fires with too much fuel, not allowing enough oxygen, and just ended up with a meekly smoking pile.

Alternatively I've not used enough newspaper or kindling to spread the heat. I've used wet wood which just dribbles and smokes, leaving me red-eyed!

I'd add to these three requirements that you also need suitable preparation - you need to lay it up first - and patience, as a blazing fire doesn't happen in an instant.

The reason I'm saying all this is that whatever your side-hustle may be, whatever your passion or craft, I think it's a lot like lighting a fire. Skills aren't acquired overnight and our ambitions or dreams rarely blaze into being fully-formed. Instead we need to start small, lay up some suitably sized kindling that we know will take light, before adding larger or more complex elements to it.
"...whatever your passion or craft, I think it's a lot like lighting a fire..."
I began to think about this comparison a few weeks ago. We'd been tidying our garden, and I'd been sorting through my wood stack - I tend to collect useful pieces of scrap wood for my various making projects, but along the way I'd also acquired plenty of not so useful pieces. So having taking a big load of old chipboard to the tip, I was left with a pile of scrap wood to burn in our fire-pit.

The Jubilee beacon... took a while to light!
My children were desperate to toast marshmallows, and were most disappointed to learn the lesson first hand that fires take a while to light!

Even at public displays it can take longer than planned for a fire to get going. For the Queen's Jubilee a few years ago a big beacon was to be lit on a nearby hill to us. We went and looked at it in the day and it was just a big pile of brush and branches (or at least that's all we could see, maybe it was laid up better underneath).

Unsurprisingly that evening it took a long time to light, by all accounts. We were watching from our upstairs windows in our house, and thought we just couldn't see it when the appointed time came (cue disappointment all round). However, by an hour or two later we could finally see it as the blaze eventually got going.
"What lessons can we apply to our passions and projects from lighting fires?"
So what lessons can we apply to our passions and projects from lighting fires? Well, in the first instance don't try and do too much too soon - overloading a fire smothers it. Don't put all your firewood on in one go - pace yourself! Perhaps you need to split your logs into smaller chunks? If your goal seems too big and overwhelming, can you 'chunk' it down into smaller sections which might 'burn' more easily?

Secondly do allow enough space for your fire to grow. Actual fires need oxygen to circulate, to fan the flames - so can you get your dream out into the open? Is there a way you can create a vent for your work? Perhaps this might be about going along to an open-mic night if you're a musician, or exhibiting your art somewhere, or submitting poems... whatever your passion how can you go public to give it room to breathe and fan the flames further?

Light several places at once..
Thirdly, perhaps you haven't got enough heat! I think this is about working to deadlines - is there some way you can apply some extra heat in that way?

This could be linked to going public - or committing to a regular routine (for instance my promise to you is that I'll write a new blog post each week). How can you heat things up?
"Is there a way you can create a vent for your work?"

In the meantime, have patience, keep folding up your metaphorical newspaper and light several places at once - you never know which part is going to "take" first...


Thanks for taking the time to read Starting Fires. If you've enjoyed it please share it with your friends on social media! Why not subscribe to The Potting Shed Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher for expanded musings and much more (direct RSS feed is here). 

Don't forget my new book Sight Lines: Clearer Vision, Closer Dreams is now available to download from Amazon, along with my previous book Life Space: Give Your Dreams Room To Grow.

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My Random Musings


Anonymous said...

I like this, funnily enough I was having discussion similar to this with my hubby today. My cousin has started business venture after venture only to give up so quickly and get on to the next great idea. None of them pan out, she asked me advice and so I gave it, and like you say here it takes time and I believe you need to m=be passionate about what you are doing and be willing to keep it fuelled. I grew up with afire place and we always camped also. My dad was a fire fighter most of my life and so we were taught to respect fire. #anythinggoes

Luke Strickland said...

Hi Mackenzie, small world! Thanks for dropping by, Luke

Wendy said...

I'm do glad I discovered your blog through #anythinggoes, your posts always inspire me. I cam definitely use thus advice when it comes to projects on my own life, I always try and do too much too soon and end up disappointed when I fail. Love the chunks idea x #anythinggoes

Unknown said...

This is great advice and will sit well with me as I go to sleep soon. I've a new blog. I'm 10 weeks in. I love and have so many ideas. I just need to take a step back from it every day or so to check I'm doing what I set out to! #anytingoes

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks Wendy that means a lot! Take care, Luke

Luke Strickland said...

Glad it connected - all the best with your new blog! Thanks for dropping by, Luke

Random Musings said...

I used to love sitting around a camp fire, it's so mesmerizing! I love how you always link these stories back to life lessons, brilliant :)
Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks Debbie!