When Drive is Detrimental

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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! 🎉 🎉 🎉

  1. 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…
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

New Year’s, Planners, and the Culture of Perfectionism

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Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

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.

At least now I can pencil it in.

The New Year, Executive Functioning, and This Blog

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

Manic Energy

I’m having one of those days where I want to take on everything, but wind up doing nothing.  That stagnation that results from having too many things to do rather than nothing at all.

Today hasn’t been a total bust; I’ve wrapped up a few small projects and got brainstorming on a few others.  But I’m ping-ponging around from one to the other like crazy – I get no sustained momentum on any of them, just fits and spurts and sudden bursts of activity for each one in succession.

Every once in a while I have to get up and pace, because I’ve lost focus, but not drive.  It’s maddening.

Sometimes I think these moments would be less frustrating if I had an infinite (well, infinite-within-our-finiteness) well of time from which to draw.  If I had no other obligations – no job to get to, no chores to do – then I could just ricochet endlessly from project to project and maybe, eventually, see some of them through to fruition.

I guess I’ll never know.

 

Reclaiming Creativity: Bucket Lists and Mail Art

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I know that I mentioned in my last bookhaul post that post-vacation, the nascent habits – which, honestly, had very, very little time to really take root – had essentially shriveled and died.  That wasn’t totally unexpected – it was too early in their development for them to survive such a massive upheaval as what wound up being an incredibly whirlwind week 1,300 miles away from home.

That being said, though, all the scaffolding is still here and still in place – I have my checklists, and a household that is still in decent (not perfect, but decent) shape, and there remains no excuse not to just jump back on the bandwagon.  Tonight I go back to my Good Night routine, and tomorrow I’ll wake up to my Good Morning checklist.  I also have a Breakfast, Lunch, and Snack planner (that I haven’t yet posted, but will once I pretty it up  bit) that I plan to start using to get me back on track eating right, and I spent a good chunk of the weekend at the gym.

So – Food and Exercise, back on track.  Habits, on their way back on track.  Cleaning, well, we’re close; we’re getting there.

So now it’s time to try to tackle some Creative stuff.

Ages and ages ago, on a now defunct site known as SuperViva, I was introduced to the idea of Bucket Lists – the things you want to do before you, well, kick the bucket.  Since then, across various services, on various websites, and in various pen-and-paper planner, I’ve been jotting lists of “someday” goals.

And then just, not doing them.  Like, at all.

You know the one time I kept a bucket list and actually made significant progress on several of my goals?  When I kept it on LiveJournal, and had actual people actually reading the entries, seeing the progress (or lack thereof), and holding me accountable.

So I decided to make and post one, here and now.  The link to the bucket list is here (it will also be linked in the nav menu!)  It’s not full of crazy or extraordinary items – just real things, big and small, that I’d like to accomplish or make progress on.

One of the things on that (sure to be ever-growing) list is to send and receive mail from all 50 states – it’s a goal that combines my love for hoarding small trinkets, and for making handmade cards and care packages.  It’s something that’s creatively fulfilling, because I get to mix, match, and make little pieces of art, and emotionally fulfilling because I know the person receiving that mail is going to love receiving a piece of real mail amidst the bills and advertisements.

So I went and resurrected my old profile on my favorite snail mail trading site, and found the first profile that seemed appealing – a woman in Texas who loves stickers, uplifting quotes, elephants, and bullet journalling.

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Relevant recipient info:  favorite animals are elephants and penguins; they love their happy planner and bullet journal, and they like receiving inspirational quotes.  Pictured: personalized card (with penguin/elephant doodle), bujo/planner stickers, color-it-yourself inspirational postcard, double-side typographic art, two sew-on strawberry patches.

It is perhaps not the most artistic or creative piece of mail I’ve ever sent out, but after several years on hiatus, hey, I’m pleased with it.  It got me pawing through my craft stuff (which is the first step towards getting actual ~⋆crafty⋆~ ideas), and I know it will put a smile on the recipient’s face – and honestly, that’s the whole point.

I’ve set up a gallery to collect/document the mail I send and receive – it’s linked through the main navigation menu, and you can also find it here.

Feels good to be doing something creative again.  Hopefully this, like everything else, can be developed into an actual part of my lifestyle, and not just something I keep swearing I’ll do “someday.”

First the Forest, Now the Trees (an Update)

organizing my lifeI have trouble compartmentalizing my life.  I guess it makes some sense; in some ways, the different threads of my life weave together in a really obvious, organic way.  The state of my home, for instance, affects how stressed I feel, which affects my sleep, which affects my work performance, which affects my feelings of self-worth, etc. etc., but by the same token, struggling slightly or hitting a stumbling block in one area shouldn’t completely waylay my progress in any given other.

But it often does.  This is a continuing issue I need to work on – dusting myself off after a set back, moving forward, and forgiving myself for stumbling.  But it’s also very much an internal struggle that is not the focus of this entry, though I do imagine I will write about it, eventually and possibly extensively.

But right now, I’m still in the early stages of macro-organization: just establishing a routine for the most mundane, bare-bones, most-people-don’t-think-twice-about-these-things aspects of my life.  Checklists to make sure I take a shower, pick out my clothes, brush my teeth, get a good meal in, do my chores, and have a chance to have some creative/restorative time to myself.  As I’ve said before, having to lay out many of those things probably seems ridiculous to some people, but for me, I need to see it written down in black and white and be able to check it off to ensure it gets done.

I used my checklists for the first time today – specifically, my Morning Routine checklist and my Before You Go checklist.  It was not a perfect first outing; my “wake up at 5:30” didn’t get checked off (I woke up at 6:05), but hey – I did morning pages.  Nothing, sadly, got checked off under Get Moving, but I glanced at the list – pinned to the fridge – as I prepped breakfast, and I downed a big glass of water to start the day.  And, I remembered everything I needed to bring to work, including earbuds and a book (which I always forget) that made the two hour-plus-long waits that bookend my work shift infinitely more enjoyable.

So, not perfect.  But without those lists?  So much worse.  I’d have been plagued with morning breath, dehydrated, stressed out, and bored, all before one pm.  I’d say Day One was a success, in that, the system works.  The system made my day objectively better.

And maybe it’s time to move on to more focused aspects of my life – specifically, my relationship with food and exercise.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a whole extensive history there – which, again, I will share eventually – that is not going to be suddenly resolved with schedules and checklists; internal struggles and issues that will take time and support to overcome.

But my usual pitfalls – not being able to “find time” to exercise, not having a plan for any given meal, not having healthy snacks on hand (whether I’m home or out and about), not looking at restaurant menus ahead of time to be informed of options – these are all things that can be, at the very least, helped with some thoughtful planning to create useful resources.

My first steps – I’m back at the gym, and I’m making a pick-and-pair chart for lunch and breakfast foods designed to maximize satiety and mindfulness, and minimize impulse binges on crappy foods.

Wish me luck.  I’ve now got an indication that this system is effective, so I’m hopeful.