The Brainweird

I have The Brainweird.

It’s not a term I came up with — you see it a lot among neurodivergent folks — and I usually use it on the lighter end of things, for the little inconsistencies and annoying quirks of my brain rather than the more disruptive stuff (which, thankfully, has become slightly more manageable the older I’ve gotten).

Today’s edition of The Brainweird is how I manage to feel absolutely useless and stagnant even when I’ve objectively accomplished a fair amount of what I’ve set out to do.  We (Bear and I) went to my mom’s today.  We each happily did our own things, and then reconvened to happily do some stuff together, and Bear got to spend some more time with Boopy and Goob again (I didn’t come up with those names, by the way, it just happens to be a convenient fact that my friends have given their spawn goofy nicknames that translate well to a certain degree of anonymity).

In our “doing our own thing” interims, I’ve done a fair bit of art, completing one project and starting in on another, and wrote a number of Twitter poetry prompts,  and yet I still feel like I could have done More, in some way.  I can look at the work I objectively did and know that the work is at the top of my game (not flawless, but the peak of my ability at the moment), and still feel like I’ve failed in some way.  Part of me feels like maybe it’s that something so self-indulgent as playing at being an artist, especially at my age and skill level, is almost unacceptably selfish (which is not something I ever project onto anyone else, so this isn’t aconcept that I ever globally apply, it’s really just me who apparently doesn’t deserve to do this for themself. So, yeah.  That’s where I’m at at the moment).

It might be — and I’m hoping it is — in part hormones¹, because it really sucks to not be able to enjoy my accomplishments even when I’ve finally actually accomplished something.  Not helping is the fact that my vacation is essentially over, and there was so, so much more I had hoped to do (even though, again, I did a lot of what I set out to do, which was relax and work on art).

My last finished drawing is something I am incredibly happy with, though I’m dissatisfied with the shading.  Still, I can see how far I’ve come since I started drawing/painting in February of 2019:

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It’s Friday night, and I hope you have something fun or relaxing lined up to treat yourself.  Enjoy your weekend.


¹Lending some credence to the idea that it might be at least in part hormones, I finished The Sun is Also a Star the other night and bawled my fucking eyes out.  So, I mean, something definitely up, yeah.  (I’m still slowly working on The Fifth Season, but I spend so much more time with my phone than me (borrowed) physical copy that it’s slow going.  I’ve also got a digital copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to start).

Bookish

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Surprise!  I feel that this sketch is definitely evocative of surprise, so that’s a win.  I’ve got one more day of eyes (I think I’ll post the full sheet of eyes at that point), and then it’s on to noses.  In the meanwhile, I’ve had about four false starts on another micron piece that I hope to begin in earnest tonight, even if it’s just the roughest blocking out of shapes, and then on Friday night/Saturday, I hope to break out my new acrylics and my new brushes for the first time.

I finished White Fragility today, eleven hours before my digital loan expired (down to the wire!), making that Book Number Three for 2020 thus far, which is, hmm, three times as many as I read all last year.  Yes, shamefully, I only read one book in all of 2019, and even that was only to encourage a student who had been assigned to read that book for class.  It wasn’t for lack of interest, I just couldn’t seem to allocate time for reading in my schedule.  I’ve resolved to make it more of a priority in 2020.

My husband, himself a voracious reader, issued himself a challenge last year.  As someone who reads primarily speculative fiction, he resolved to not read any books written by cishet white men in 2019 (with the exception of new books released in series he was already currently reading).  As a result, he’s acquired a fair collection of speculative fiction by people of color, women, and queer/trans authors, and upon his urging (and that of several other friends), I’ll be starting in on N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy.  I actually attended a few panels with Jemisin when she was a Guest of Honor at Arisia several years ago, and although I haven’t read any of her work yet, I remember enjoying a lot of what she had to say about the process and craft of writing, so I look forward to starting the books.

Side thought:  Sometimes I get a terrible case of choice paralysis when it comes to books.  I feel like, part of me wants to be at the literary zeitgeist, reading all the most current, critically acclaimed novels (either literary award winners or popular, NYT-bestsellers, take your pick at any given moment); sometimes I want to read all the books deemed “classics” in their respective genres; sometimes I want to latch onto one author and read them extensively.  I just feel overwhelmed.  I want to read things that are relevant (i.e., current or popular), but I know a book doesn’t lose it’s merit simply by being older; I want to read the classics, but I’m never sure where to start (or whose definition to take into consideration regarding what makes a classic); when I find an author whose voice I love, I want to explore them deeply, but I do tend to fall into repetitive ruts, and I’m always wanting to expand my repertoire.  You’d think the vastness of the book choices available to me would be exciting — and I mean, it is — but I also feel like I’m drowning in options.  And realistically,no matter how I chose to proceed, I’ll never be able to read all the books that I want.  That’s it’s own kind of tragedy, right there.

Anyway.  All this to say, I’m reading again.  And I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far, and I hope to discover some wonderful books and authors in 2020.  And feel free to leave me book recs whenever.  I’m trying to remain open to literally anything, so go bonkers.

Work has been draining as all get out, and it’s only Tuesday.  I am incredibly lucky to have and wonderful support system of coworkers I genuinely like and appreciate, but I will still be happy to put this one behind me when the weekend gets here.

Tomorrow is Wednesday!  Up and over the hump.  I got you.

Sleepy

Today, I am exhausted.  This is midterms season, and work has me beat, so no daily sketch today.  I know, I know.

However, in lieu of it, I wrapped up a micron drawing.

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I didn’t feel like cooking tonight, so my husband stopped for some quick food before heading home, and in addition to a small salad and some egg salad sandwiches (which I love; I can’t seem to make a good egg salad, for some reason, and our local grocery store make a great one), my husband picked me up a giant jug of pre-mixed Jose Cuervo maragaritas.  That, paired with some popcorn, was a nice little after dinner treat.

Anyway, I know I’m getting old because that one (single, solitary) margarita has knocked me on my ass.  9 pm bedtime, here I come.

Also, I’ve been reading The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan, who is a new-to-me author but is apparently quite prolific.  I’m really loving the book so far.  Has anyone read any of her others?  Are there any recommended follow-ups?

Tomorrow is Hump Day.  You’re halfway there.

Quiet Sunday

The daily sketch:

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After yesterday’s sketch, where I used shadow incredibly sparingly, I wanted to try a sketch that used more drastic contrast, so I found a reference photo of a model in dark shadow and gave that a shot.  It didn’t turn out the way I wanted, but this is after two reworkings, and is a vast improvement over the sketch that was on the page when I first laid my sketchbooks down (I then returned to it after lunch, with a clearer head).  I’m beginning to realize that time and persistence are probably the two greatest determiners of whether or not a piece I’m working on will be halfway decent or not; I don’t have great fluency yet, but returning to a piece over time does, eventually, yield better and better results.  I think I’m going to find reference pics that will allow me to work on light/dark values for the next few sessions.

Today Andy, Bear, and I headed into Waltham to meet his cousin Janice, her husband, and their daughter while they moved her back into her dorm.  We met up at a small Thai restaurant — the kind of hole-in-the-wall with six tables and a storefront right on the sidewalk (step up off the curb into the dining room) — and had an enjoyable lunch.  Janice is an illustrator, and came bearing a gift for Bear, a book she had illustrated called The Little Esrog, which Bear received enthusiastically (for a kid his age, he is incredible gracious when receiving gifts… and he genuinely likes books).  We were late getting started on bedtime routine tonight and it’s a text-rich book, so we won’t be reading it until tomorrow, but Bear is looking forward to it.

Besides that, which was a worthwhile diversion I was happy to have had the chance to share in, today was frustratingly stagnant.  I dressed in gym appropriate attire for our lunch date (black leggings and a nice black-and-white tee), and then stupidly pulled on my boots before leaving the house, and didn’t realize it until I was literally walking down the interior corridor to the gym (luckily Andy and Bear were right next door grocery shopping, but still.  I was — and still am — incredibly angry at myself for such a stupid mistake, and generally frustrated that I didn’t get to have my workout today).

I came home feeling drained, but dragged myself through putting away groceries, cooking dinner, folding the week’s laundry, and packing for Arisia (all our clothing, at least; anything I wont need between now and Friday).  I’ve just been generally down and lethargic this weekend, just very low energy.

On a positive note, last night I opened Google docs and clicked on a few unfinished fanfics from last year.  Two of them I had been working on a bit in November and still had their general shape in my mind, but I was reminded of how silly, self-indulgent, and fun they were, and how I really should continue them just for the hell of it… and then I opened another one that I hadn’t touched since July.  Crowley-centric, in the Good Omens fandom, and something I had struggled with and absolutely hated every word as I commited it to paper (I had been reading a lot of GO fanfic at the time, and it felt like my prose just didn’t hold up to some of the amazing authors in the fandom)…

…But, oh my God.  It was so much better than I remembered it being.  For a first draft, not edited or combed through or revised, it was surprisingly sharp and focused.  It wasn’t the pinnacle of the craft, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a solid piece of writing, and I can’t believe I agonized and self-flagellated so much over that story.  It made me really hopeful that I might actually return to and finish it, possibly after the con (there’s a GO panel I’m attending that I’m hopefully will rev up the fandom in me).

Oh, and the con is on Friday.  I’ll probably reinstall WordPress Mobile on my phone so I can post, at the very least, my daily sketches, but there may be a four-day stretch of little other than that.  I’m sure that comes as devastating news.

Hoping Monday is gentle with you all, with something enjoyable waiting for you at the end (for me, it’s a cup of tea, a 9 pm bedtime, and a stack of trashy magazines to read with my husband).

Doing In Order to Do

As usual, the daily sketch:

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I am, as a whole, happier with this figure than I was with yesterday’s.  As odd as it sounds, I think the shading/shadow under her chin and along her throat is my favorite part?  I’m just really pleased with the facial contours, even though I know they aren’t perfect.  For a quick sketch, I’m strangely content with it.

I’m struggling today with accepting that the spirit of some of my goals is, in fact, more important than the letter.  Meaning, the spirit of my 2020 goals is to lead a healthier, happier, more balanced life, right?  To enjoy things more, expand my horizons, break free of my particular, frustrating brand of inertia.  For example, I went from someone who would read sometimes dozens of books a year in their early twenties to someone who last year, read one (and only then to encourage a student who was reading the same book).

So it made sense, to me, to make “read 50 books” a bucket list goal, the unstated but implicit limitation being, obviously, that meant 50 books in a year.  A lofty goal, probably, given my recent history.  And I knew that when I chose it.  But I wanted to push myself.  I wanted a challenge.

But then I was listening to some of the back catalog of I Don’t Even Own a Television (because, as established — crushing hard on Jay), and they were discussing people who listen to podcasts at 1.5x speed, and Collision (being magnanimous) admitted that while he wouldn’t begrudge people who truly enjoyed listening to podcasts that way, it did seem to him that people who did that more wanted to be able to check “listened to podcast” off some kind of To-DO list, rather than listen to a podcast for the sheer enjoyment of it.

I will admit, I felt kind of called out.  I feel like I’m already, six days into the new year, doing that with books.  I’m eeking out the time I can to read, in between work, and house work, and parenting, and drawing, and sign language, and cooking, and working out, and writing, and… it feels like all the benefits that I’m supposed to be reaping from reading — escapism, insights, knowledge, whatever — we’re being sacrificed for the sheer attitude of Get It Done.  I’m rushing through pages and having to go back and consciously re-read it more thoughtfully, more slowly, until I’m actually paying attention and not just letting my eyes flit over the letters on the pages.  I’m turning pages for the sake of updating my page count on GoodReads, you know?  And while I do want to eek out time to read every day, and I do want to aim for at least a couple of books a month, maybe I don’t need to lean so heavily on the specific number.  Maybe it’s ok — better — if I just read.

I’m going to have to be more conscientious about what other things in my life I rush through just to say I’ve done them.  What other supposedly enjoyable activities might I be sabotaging?

I got in a 20 minute workout on the elliptical at home today while Bear did yoga on my yoga mat, and made this spicy Thai basil chicken with baby spinach and rice, which was very satisfying, and actually managed to get up to Lesson 8 of 10 in my ASL review (I’m going to go through all 10 lessons again this week before moving on).  All this on top of working all day after getting up at 4:30 am, and I am beat.  I’ll probably get in my last two ASL lessons in tonight and then read some magazine with Andy in bed.

Oh, also, my first micron pen project is complete!  I’m going to open a gallery on the blog as soon as I have a few more pieces.  This is a bit of a reworking of a watercolor I did a while back that I was wholly unhappy with.  I’m much happier with how it came out this time.

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Cultivating Creativity

Daily sketch:

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A sketch that took about 25 minutes, that could have been vastly improved by a good set of pencils, a durable eraser, and a straight-edge.  Again, the values are off, and the finger on the shutter button is seven different kinds of messed up, but that was the fourth or fifth redraw, and I had to remind myself — it doesn’t have to be perfect.  The daily sketch is not supposed to be about showcasing perfection, it’s about cultivating a habit, learning as I go, beginning to understand my relative strengths and weaknesses, and taking ownership of the things I create, however good or bad I perceive them to be.

I eeked out some free time today and read the first 108 pages of The Great Spring.  I had read a summary prior to starting the book, so I knew it wasn’t about writing, per se, but there is a fair amount in the book about mindfulness and mental presence that I feel can apply to developing a writer’s sensibility.  Also, these passages, which are about Zen meditation, but can so easily be applied to absolutely any creative endeavor:

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My husband is heading out to his weekly Game Night (different then our monthly Game Nights; different group of people, and only he attends), so I am putting Bear to bed, having dinner, and then I’m eager to continue working on some art with my microns and digging into Fansplaining, which I stumbled across looking for a good fandom podcast.  I recently listened to their episode The Shipping Answers (analyzing the results of a survey I participated in; it was how I first heard of them), and I really enjoy their overall vibe, and the episode descriptions sound intriguing; they seem to talk about a lot of fannish topics that are of interest to me.

I hope you all have a relaxing Friday night to look forward to, and a wonderful weekend.