Tomorrow is my first convention of the season, and as anyone who’s followed me knows, I always come home from cons feeling super creatively energized, though often directionless in terms of where to channel that energy.
This year, with two projects already under my belt, I feel like I have gained enough momentum and have enough ideas to carry me through another two or three projects on my own, so my hopes for this convention are a renewed sense of creative energy, and maybe some new inspiration for subject matter for the future.
I also hope that it will help me to put into words a few things I’ve been wanting to write about, and should that be the case, I’ll be back with a few new posts in about a week.
Also, woo, long weekend! Hope you all have a safe and happy one.
I got it in my head several years ago that I fancied myself a sculptor of sorts, or at the very least, a kitschy clay artist. I spent some money, bought some Sculpey (a weird, Costco-esque bulk block of white clay), and spent a lot of time crafting some charms. Charms that I sculpted, baked, painted, and deigned good enough to photograph and put up on StoreEnvy for sale.
Before the store ever went live, though, things in my life got hectic and complicated, I got pregnant, and most of my creative hobbies got shoved to the back-burner until fairly recently. It’s only in the last few months – probably around five years later, at this point – that I began to become interested in clay work again. I asked for and was gifted new Sculpey tools and glaze for Christmas, and started work on several projects just after the new year.
Now, in the intervening years, despite not working with Sculpey, I’ve watched videos of other artists creating art using clay, I’ve scoured Pinterest boards and read how-to articles, and recently have even found some books on the subject. When I finally sat down after a week of preliminary sketches and brainstorming, the end result of my first attempt was a reflection of several years of absorbing and processing that information and those techniques, and it showed.
I was so dang happy with how my project turned out, I got online and logged into my old StoreEnvy account, and hey, what do you know, there were all my old projects, photos and listings just waiting to go live.
Oh… my God. How did I ever think those thing looked good enough to sell??
Now, let’s backpedal a bit. The things weren’t atrocious. They were recognizable for what the were supposed to be (cupcakes, in this case). And in most cases, the ideas – and even the designs themselves – were solid. Like, yes, these were good concepts. Even my overly critical, knowing-what-I-know-now self could recognize that.
But the execution was very, very emblematic of what I was talking about in a previous post – the mad rush to produce, at the cost of the quality of the product.
I admit, I had a moment of embarrassed realization – oh God, I plastered pics of these things all over Facebook. I showed them to people, proudly. I gave a few as gifts. Oh, man. Don’t even look at me.
It took me a few days to really process it, but eventually I realized a few things.
I am my absolute worst critic. I nitpick and analyze and overthink everything. I am/was likely the only person to notice all but the most egregious flaws.
Part of the reason I am judging myself so harshly in hindsight is because I am looking at my creations through the eyes of someone who knows so much more. I know more about using tools, about texturing techniques, about tinting and shading. I am judging work done by someone who wasn’t privvy to any of that knowledge, and who was doing they best they could with what they knew at the time.
That I can look at my past work and be able to ennumerate the aspects in which I could improve, and explicate in specific detail how and why I would make those changes is a very real testament to the fact that I have grown as an artist.
The very fact that I can look at my work – despite my own hypercritical tendencies – and see value in the concept proves that my ideas, even in the nascent stages, have value.
However embarrassing I find the photo evidence of my past failures, I now have a blueprint to create new and improved versions, should I chose to do so;and if not, I have the skills to move on and develop new, fresh ideas.
I’ve always been told, usually with reference to writing, never to actually get rid of your work, as you never know when you’ll use it. What usually isn’t said (maybe it’s meant to be understood?) is that the further along you get in your creative journey, the less likely you are to use any of your previous creations in their original form – you will outgrow them, you will move beyond them, and they will seem embarrassing and inelegant to you.
But they will remind you that, once upon a time, you had this thought, and maybe it was a good thought, and maybe it’s time to revisit it with all the things you’ve learned in the interim. Maybe this time you can get it to work.
And if nothing else, at least it reminds you of how far you’ve come.
I think with it being a new year and all, I might be due for a new Friday Friyay image. I’m not in love with it, and if I’ve been learning anything recently, it’s that I should only keep around things that spark joy.
So, welcome to the new year! It’s probably a shock seeing something from me three days in a row, but you know that “new year, new me” energy that buoys you up for the first two weeks or so of January, right? I’m just bursting with that at the moment. My house is clean, I have ideas for things I want to make, and I feel good about things.
Things that have been making me feel good:
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, which premiered on Netflix on January 1st. I’ve only watched the first couple of episodes, but I would kill, I think, to be as organized and cheery as Marie Kondo is. I think her methodology is a little intense, but I also don’t disagree with it – I don’t want to even talk about the amount of stuff I got rid of in the week prior to the new year, and it wasn’t even a matter of that stuff not “sparking joy.” It was stuff I didn’t use, couldn’t remember why I had, or was legit just broken. So why was I hanging on to it? I love home transformation shows, and this one so far has been super relatable, in that it’s mostly just people going, “I have no concept of how to organize/conquer this myself.” It speaks to my little executive dysfunctioning-heart on a deep, visceral level.
We submitted our son’s application to charter school’s kindergarten lottery! I can’t believe Bear is old enough for us to even be thinking about kindergarten, let alone applying, but if all goes well, he’ll be enrolled for the 2019/2020 school year. I think my mom is already mourning the loss of seeing him everyday, but I think overall it will be better for the both of them; she’s getting older, and while she adores him, I know he wears her out.
As a holiday treat to ourselves, my husband and I bought this wall-mounted, magnetic Scrabble board. It’s been great to take turns at our leisure, and I think it’ll be a fun talking point when guests come over. It reminds me of the quiet leisure activities my husband and I used to do together before we had a pet or a kid, like 500 piece puzzles – the kind of thing you can sit and consider in quiet contemplation together for hours, or pop a piece into place while you’re waiting for dinner to cook. Sadly, with a four-year-old and a cat, puzzles are off the table (literally; that’s the problem), and this is a nice alternative.
We’ve been getting new Steven Universe episodes weekly since Christmas Eve, and will have new episodes until January 21st (we don’t speak of what may come after that). I have said and continue to say that it feels dangerously close to endgame, given the current plotline, and while I would love for SU to continue indefinitely, I don’t want it to grow tired with endless attempts to “top” itself (…looking at you, Supernatural). Still, this past season (which ends with the episode on the 21st) has been intense. If Season Six is in fact the last one, I am hopeful it will go out with a fittingly epic finale.
I have so much to do on this blog! I’m still moving over all my OctPoWriMo posts to a side blog that will, from now on, host all my attempts at writing challenges and other creative writing endeavors, and I’m working on some organizational planner sheets/checklists/layout both for my own life and for sharing with you all.
I hope you all have had a hopeful, happy start to the new year, and I look forward to sharing 2019 with you all!
This is going to sound like a complete contradiction to my previous post, but rest assured, I live both experiences, and if it’s confusing or frustrating to read about it, imagine living it.
I spend so much of my time creatively stalled out, that when The Muse™ hits me, I grab that shiz by the horns and ride her as far and as fast as she’ll carry me.
Sadly, this rarely yields quality results.
When I get something in my head that I really want to do (and that I think is a really cool or exciting idea), I jump in with both feet, often so eager to reach the end product I neglect to put any real thought into the process. The last time I tried to teach myself to paint, for example, I jumped in with the most ambitious project in my mental repertoire (because it was the one that excited me the most!). I spent no time reading up on or experimenting with the medium; I didn’t draw up a sketch, or an outline, or rough draft; I tried to complete the whole painting in a few hours; and when I was about three-quarters of the way through and realized it wasn’t exactly as I envisioned it, I grew agitated and gave up (see my previous post about being a raging perfectionist).
Part of the problem is that there is a natural appeal to the excitement of a new idea, and it makes me want to see that idea materialize so eagerly that it’s all I can do to produce it as swiftly as I can. The planning stages: learning about the medium I’m working in, gathering appropriate materials, brainstorming, drafting are not nearly as exciting as the making.
And they don’t feel as real. You know? I don’t know if this is a quirk of my neurotype or a nuance of my own personality, but there’s some part of me that views the planning stages of something as lesser than the doing – even if the planning is integral to the doing, even if the planning is necessary scaffolding in order for the doing to be successful. It feels, in some ways, like just sitting and spinning my wheels.
Maybe because that’s so often what it turns into. Maybe I rush into projects because I know that, if I don’t, it’ll become just another entry on my Eternal To-Do List, and I’ll never see it through to completion.
But my ideas deserve more than that. They are project that deserve to get done, but they deserve to get done well, you
🎉 🎉 🎉 Let’s Pace Ourselves 2K19! 🎉 🎉 🎉
Remember that there will be a tomorrow. I mean, not forever, obviously, but let’s not dwell on the existential bummer that is mortality. My point is, yeah, sure, you don’t want to drag your feet on getting things done, but let’s, like, set up a timeline, or find a consistent chunk of time to devote to working on projects. On that note…
Find a reliable time to devote to working on projects – a little time each day to brainstorm and work through ideas, and a larger chunk of time at least once a week devoted to actually working. Knowing that you have that time coming up (instead of perpetually asking yourself, “when am I going to get this done?”) mollifies some of that anxiety and restless energy that normally makes jumping into a project just to get it done seem like a good idea.
Find a place to work, and keep your supplies on hand, organized, and accessible. Good job, Jess, you are actually making some headway in this direction already. The craft room (ahem, basement) is starting to actually look inhabitable, and your art supplies are corralled, organized, and easy to find (for once in your life). Now you can find what you need when you need it, instead of getting frustrated, grabbing whatever’s on hand, and regretting it in the finished result.
Carry around a notebook (for me it will be two, one for art, one for writing) to jot, sketch, and plan projects. Date them. Choose one (two, tops) at a time to work on. You have a huge problem with 1.) forgetting your “best” ideas, and 2.) having ideas that are woefully un/underdeveloped. Jot them down. Flesh them out. Let them sit and come back to them. See if you can improve. Cycle through this process at least once before you even think of sitting down to work.
Do not start new projects until you finish the current ones. No, not even if you get stuck. If you get stuck, open that notebook back up. See where you went wrong. See what you could do differently. Run to your blog or Twitter or your artsy friends on Facebook and ask them to take a second look, ask them for advice, ask them for new perspective on the problem. It feels better (and is better for your mental health) to have one or two projects in meaningfully and thoughtfully in production than to have a dozen nascent projects being hastily and sloppily thrown together.
I don’t think I’ve asked you all yet; what are your creative goals for this year? Is there a particular project you want to tackle, or are you like me, and interested in developing a reliable method to make creativity as a meaningful part of your life?
I devour what I’d call “Pinterest culture” gluttonously; picture-perfect home decor walkthroughs, DIYs that transform Dollar Tree items into chic dupes of designer products, and seemingly preternaturally organized households with color-coordinated storage solutions. I know that even for those people who actually are devoted to organization and successfully keep their lives in order, this is still the most pristine, painstakingly staged depiction of their lives, put together with the intention to inspire.
But for some of us (even those of us well aware of the care with which the image as cultivated), it intimidates.
I’ve always been a sucker for the allure of a new year; I love the symbolism of new beginnings, and the idea of having a fresh start, or a slate wiped clean. But the problem for people like me when it comes to a clean slate is that, along with it, comes the overwhelming fear and anxiety of sullying that slate with anything other than absolute perfection.
One frustrating trait of mine that I’ve grappled with all my life – never realizing it was a common trait among people with ADHD – is a crippling need for things I try to be perfect, if I’m going to bother investing time and effort into it. If I’m going to stay on a diet, it’s calorie-counting and going to the gym everyday, or I might as well just lay on the couch and stuff my face with pizza. If I’m going to keep an orderly house, everything needs to be organized by color, size, and purpose, or I might as well just throw all my trash straight on the floor. If I’m going to embark on a project, I need to be certain that every word, every line, every turn of phrase is Pulitzer worthy before I write it, or I might as well just, what the hell, sit and fart on my keyboard.
It’s very black and white thinking, and as you can imagine, is absolute hell come New Year., and it has not, in any way, been helped by Pinterest culture.
Even something as simple as committing to a planner is just a battle fought against this awful, existential, function-versus-aesthetic-versus-purpose mental backdrop. Everywhere I turn (YouTube lifestyle vloggers especially are a big vice of mine), there are people talking about their planner layouts – their stencils, their stickers, their special pens and pencils and markers – and yes, they are absolutely gorgeous, and yes, they make me want to get organized, and yes, every year I go out and get a planner with all the bells and whistles, and yes – then I fail to really actually use it.
It’s the same with stationary, notebooks, canvases, sketchbooks, especially if they are of high-quality or aesthetically pleasing themselves. I know some people are inspired to use items because they are drawn to or attracted to them, but for me, it actually holds me at bay. It feels like nothing I could ever put into it would live up to the standard of the vessel.
I don’t need to tell you why this is warped thinking, but I also don’t know what to tell you about combating it long term. It remains difficult for me – painful, even – to write in a planner or a notebook if my handwriting isn’t pristine, the quality of my words isn’t up to par, everything isn’t perfectly bulleted or color-coded, etc. But I can tell you, this year, I opted for a much lower key planner.
Instead of a planner with day, week, and month views, inspiring quotes on every page, a dozen pages of stickers to decorate, a plush leather cover, etc.,my planner this year is bound in a heavyweight cardstock, features a simple monthly layout (and that’s it, no day or week views), and has back-to-back, a single dotted page (for bulleted lists, charts, habit trackers (what I’m using it for), etc.) and a page with four simple boxes: Goals, Tasks, Tracking, and Notes. The habit tracker I drew has smudged lines, and the highlighter bleeds through the margins, and you know what? I don’t love it… but it doesn’t kill me.
And it doesn’t overwhelm me. I like my little planner, and it’s not ugly, but it’s not loaded down with unnecessary features and it doesn’t feel like a piece of art – it feels like a tool, which is what it should be. I don’t care if the damn thing was gilded in gold and studded in diamonds, if it’s not helping me keep track of my crap, it’s worthless.
So if you’re like me, put down that leather-bound Moleskin journal, and stop Googling Pinterest spreads that give you heart palpitations from just considering their intricacy. More, more, more doesn’t mean better, better, better. Do you really need a 200 page planner with hour-by-hour time allotments on the daily pages?? Are you actually going to spend hours tracing stencils and positioning stickers to track your Girl’s Night!-s or Yoga Class-es? Or do you just need a pre-constructed, pre-determined place to write down what you want to do, and cross off when you do them? Then take the stress of expectation (and perfection) off your shoulders and downgrade. It’s ok, really.
Is staying away from “pretty things” a long term solution? Of course not; expecially when, to me, a “pretty thing” can be as simple as a blank page. But if I’m trying to build a habit and routine, then the tools that are supposed to help me do tht need to be something I can reliably and comfortably use, not something that (paradoxically) makes me feel like a hack when I use it, and like a failure when I don’t.
I’ll unpack all the other worrying issues with perfectionism and such later.
I hope everyone had an amazing holiday! (For those who don’t celebrate, I hope you still got some time off to relax and spend with loved ones). After some touch-and-go moments the prior week where Bear seemed to be picking up every contagious stomach bug, cold, and infection known to man, he was feeling like himself by the 23rd an had a wonderful Christmas. My family (in particular, my husband and my mom) also made a point on going crazy when it came to gifts for me, so I’m coming out of this holiday season with a ton of crafting supplies (so much paint!) and a lot of inspiration.
Speaking of inspiration, it’s been a goal of this blog since the beginning to be a tool to help with recovering my sense of inspiration and creativity. As someone with a neurodivergence, time management and organization are notoriously hard, as is the “simple” act of sustained attention on certain things – even things I ostensibly want to do. Keeping a blog introduced me to some great creative challenges that had enough external structure and gave me enough positive, affirming feedback that I was marginally more creatively productive than I have been in the last several years, which is great.
However, that self-same neurodivergence meant that, going into this, the purpose of this blog was incredibly vaguely defined. I’ve said before that I don’t love niche blogging – I like to talk about whatever comes into my head – and that remains true. However, I’ve noticed that a number of my followers come here during my challenge months, when I’m posting poetry or creative writing, even though the rest of the year I’m not a creative writing blog. I started to wonder if maybe posting fiction and poetry on this blog wasn’t the best idea.
When I started this blog, my whole “thing” was, I didn’t want to feel boxed in as a “niche” blogger. I didn’t want to feel like I could only post poetry, or only write about children’s literature, or only post recipes. I kind of just wanted a space to talk about life and share my interests. I still feel that way; I just also feel like, without being boxed in too rigidly, I should step back and think about perspective: who am I? I can write about my life, sure, but through what lens am I experiencing my life?
At the beginning, when I chose the name of this blog (Rarely Tidy Ramblings), I loved it because it encompassed the messiness that was the inside of my mind due to my ED et. al.,, and because it came from a wonderful quote (of ambiguous attribution) framing a disorganized mind as the hallmark of the creative individual. I thought, initially, that this could give me leeway to post just about whatever I damn well pleased.
But really, what Rarely Tidy Ramblings should be about is my life through the perspective given to me by being neurodivergent. Parenting with ADHD. Working with neurodivergent kids as someone likewise ND. Planning, organization, list-making, goal-setting. Trying to be creative when your brain works against you.
Does that mean I can’t post my son’s weekly book rec from the library? No. Does that mean I can’t photo dump when we take a fun family trip? Of course not. Hell, even the niche-est of niche bloggers have chatty and personal posts, sometimes. It just means I can’t forget that I’m writing about my life from a perspective colored by something particular, and I should use that as a way to focus my writing, and as the impetus to produce new writing.
It also means no more posting creative writing. I can talk about the process, about the pitfalls and difficulties and successes, but I can’t post the finished work (here. I’m considering opening and linking a sideblog for those interested that would be accessible via the navigation menu).
This is not an overhaul, or a revamp – just a refocusing. I’ve gathered enough followers through endeavors like Inktober and NaNoWriMo and OctPoWriMo that I thought I’d perform a courtesy and explicitly let you all know that those instances were the deviation rather than the norm.
Relatedly, I’m currently working my way through The Adult Executive Functioning Workbook, which has made me really think about organization, focus, and goal-setting, and in part is what spurred me to really think about what I’m using this space for and if I could use it better, with more focus and purpose (the answer was “yes”).
I doubt I’ll be back before the New Year (I might! I have something I’d love to post either prior to or very, very early in the new year, but I make no promises), so I will wish a happy, safe New Year to my followers, and I look forward to being more active and productive on this blog (and overal!) in 2019
I had meant to have so much up on the blog this past month. Another small round of Dollar Tree Gift Basket ideas. Updates graphic organizers, including holiday/gift giving ones. A personal guide to planners. Thoughts on the upcoming holidays. The debut of my DeviantArt, where I hope to store my weekly sketches as I continue my journey to become semi-competent with a pen and pencil.
Sadly, between my new program at work being incredibly draining (but also a lot of fun and so satisfying), last minute holiday prep, Bear’s birthday, and the stomach flu running through both my classroom and my family (Bear still has no appetite, and is now coughing himself to the dry (and not-so-dry) heaves), and I haven’t updated in nearly three weeks.
I mean, sorry? But while I want writing about my life to be a priority, living my life comes first. So, sorry-not-sorry (but also kinda sorry), I guess.
I’ll be working the remainder of the week to create a queue to carry the blog through the holidays, and will take some time over break to develop a more regular posting schedule. Until then, I hope your run up to the holidays has been more enjoyable and less filled with toddler puke than mine has been.