The Dumbest Good Advice I Ever Got

As a writer and an artist and a creative person in general, one hears a lot of advice on how to complete projects.  A LOT.  A LOT A LOT.  And I’m even thinking back to before there was the internet.  But now everyone with a blog is trying to cash in on how to help their fellow creatives be more productive.  There are a bajillion blogs out purporting to teach you how to stick with it and finish that screenplay, complete that painting, or write that book.

All that advice boils down to one seemingly necessary and unbreakable axiom:  work on one project at a time and stick with that one project until it’s finished.  Devote time daily to work on that one project and do that every single day for however long it takes.

ONE project.  Only one.  Attempt more than one at a time and you’ll scatter your energies and end up accomplishing nothing.

Moreover, stick with that ONE project until it’s finished.  Don’t quit.  Don’t swerve.  Allow no detours or distractions.  No matter how long it takes.  Forever.

Until you die.

Okay, maybe I added that last bit.  But it might as well say that, because that’s how I feel if I am stuck doing only one single project.  Or if I feel I can’t do anything else until that one thing is finished.  I feel trapped and like I’m going to suffocate to death.  No thanks.

That took me years to learn, though.  And until I learned it, I always felt as if there must be something wrong with me because I couldn’t finish anything, because I’d get stymied on the one project, feel trapped, feel suffocated, feel stuck.  Sitting down to work on only one project felt like torture, like practicing piano as a kid, alone in my room, with the kitchen timer ticking off my 30 minutes and forbidden to do anything other than the assigned exercises.   Oh my god let me out already!

My mind has never worked that way.  And there is nothing wrong with me.  I know now that I have a designer’s mind, an explorer’s mind, a scanner’s mind (to use the term coined by Barbara Sher), a mind that must be allowed to explore and learn and create and run free, a mind that should not be locked in a cage and forced to do one thing over and over ad nauseum, ad infinitum, ad mortem.

But for years, I tried to keep myself in that stultifying cage: do one thing and only one thing until you finish it.

Even thinking about it makes me restless and looking for escape routes.

Perhaps that works for some people.  But not me.  I’m too curious.  One thought or question opens the door for a thousand connected thoughts down endless rabbit holes.  But if I don’t allow myself to explore and enjoy rabbit holes some of the time, I don’t get anything at all done.  I shrivel up and die inside.

So, I have several writing projects that I bounce between, sometimes jumping back and forth between two of three a day, in the same writing session, following the stream of consciousness that flows through whichever storyline dominates at the moment.  I have several paintings and drawings in several mediums ongoing all the time, and I work on them according to whichever one calls to me at that moment.

You may think that working like this, I never finish anything.  It’s true that I have a lot of unfinished pieces, abandoned because I lost interest in them, or couldn’t make them work the way I wanted, or just set aside and forgotten.  But also, I’m constantly working.  Constantly learning, improving, and actually enjoying the process.  And, surprisingly, getting much more work to a state of ‘finished’ than ever before.

So, for me, the advice to do only one thing is dumb if for no other reason than it made me unhappy for years.  Now, my body of ‘finished’ work is steadily growing.  More importantly, I’m creatively productive and happy.

And happiness is worth ignoring any dumb advice for.

“From My Heart” Card Series is now available

My Cold Little Heart Belongs to You

One of the cards in my “From My Heart” Series available on Etsy

I am excited to announce that my “From My Heart” Card series is now available at my Etsy shop.  As of this morning, there are three cards listed (one is picture above).   The series will be an on-going project, so I’ll be adding cards as they get created indefinitely.

 

Can I Hear You Now?

After years of my ability to hear declining, along with increased ringing in my ears, I decided to go to an audiologist just to see what the real deal is and if anything could be done about it.  So, in the week between Xmas and New Year’s, I made an appointment and had my hearing tested.

Turns out, it wasn’t my imagination.  According to the audiologist and her fancy computer hearing testing machine thingie, I have mild to moderate hearing loss in both ears, especially for frequencies above 2kHz.  So now, I have hearing aids in both ears.

Hearing Aid

(One of) my hearing aids

I’ve had them for just over two weeks. They make a big difference in certain circumstances.  For example, at a busy restaurant the other day I could hear every word my husband said across the table, despite the music playing and the hum of conversation all around us.  I didn’t have to ask him to repeat every other word.  I easily understood everything the waitress said.  Everything was crisp and clear.

All the bells and whistles of all the electronic devices – the blinker of my car, the ding of the microwave, etc – all have a much higher pitch than I was aware of before.

I’m hearing the full range and nuances of music more than I could before.

And just now, as I was sitting out on the deck in the breeze with the chimes jingling, I took them out and listened – put them back in and listened – took them out and listened…  omg.  Without them, I was deaf to the rustling of the leaves on the trees and most of the ringing of the chimes.

One last example:  For years, I’ve been aware that my birding friends – most of whom are older than I am – could hear a lot of birds and other sounds that I could not.  Blackpoll warblers & blue-gray gnatcatchers are two specific birds I could never hear, but there were others.  It was frustrating even when I would go out birding on my own and I knew there had to be birds but I couldn’t hear them, so I couldn’t find them.

Thing was, I could barely hear blackpolls and gnatcatchers even on recordings, even when all else was quiet and I held the speaker up to my ear.

Now, with the hearing aids, I can easily hear the recorded songs of the birds that were silent to me before.  And I’m looking forward to spring bird migration season when I hope to be able to hear all the little birds in the trees and have more success at finding the little buggers when I go out in the woods.

My husband was concerned that my having to get hearing aids would discourage me, like make me feel old or broken.  But honestly, that hadn’t crossed my mind until he asked and hasn’t been anywhere near my feelings.  I feel more old and broken down by the changing texture of the skin on the back of my hands and around my eyes, although I’m not so vain that those things depress me… those are just changes that takes some getting used to.

But no, requiring hearing aids hasn’t make me feel old or broken.  They haven’t fixed the ringing in my ears yet (nothing can really do that, I’m told), but having them has made my life less frustrating.  And that’s a good thing.

Is this is or is this ain’t a blog?

What constitutes a blog, anyway?  And what aspect of myself should I be recording in a blog?  This is a question that has plagued me for a while now, at least since blogs changed into a inane monetized clickbait.  Now all the blogging advice is about converting readers into customers.

Question Mark

 

I started blogging long before all that, long before a blog was expected to be a revenue stream.  In the beginning, it was just a daily journal that one shared with friends and family.  They could be pithy and insightful, or mundane and dreary.  But they weren’t sales-oriented.

It’s easy to get swept away on the tide of turning a blog into a revenue stream: imagining some ideal reader out there, creating value for that reader, converting her into a customer; that’s what blogs have become.  But whenever I buy into that mode of thinking, I lose all interest in blogging entirely.  I stop wanting to simply write things to share, to share what’s on my easel or my drawing board or seen through the lens of my camera.  I don’t want this platform to be that sort of blog.

If I am to do this blogging thing, it’s only going to work for me if I write or share what I’m making, doing, thinking, learning, or seeing at the moment with no regard for what anyone wants from me.  If anyone out there enjoys reading about all that stuff I do, then I’m happy for them and hope they continue to enjoy it.

That’s not to say I won’t mention things that I make that are for sale, but those things aren’t the focus of my blogging.  They’re just things I make and do and will be covered like anything else.

And that’s my new blogging philosophy.  Maybe this isn’t a blog.  But it’s what I enjoy.  I hope you enjoy it, too.  But if you don’t, there are a bajillion-jillion other sites out there on the internet for you to discover.  Happy trails.

Must be Thursday

Everything is changing.  Hold on to your giblets.