It’s still early

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Experiment: Life

I keep getting frustrated with myself.  Bogged down, feeling like a toddler, I DON’T WANNA!  Don’t wanna get up, or decide what productive thing to do, or wash dishes, or … or … or write, of course, because that’s there too.  Or worse, I want to write, but I don’t want to tear open the vein and feel what’s there.  Or I don’t want to keep banging my head against a wall.  I dunno.

I’m trying to rewrite my vampire story, and I’m stuck on this scene.  Do I just need to bang my head on it harder?  (That’s my default assumption, it may be faulty.)  Is it the wrong scene and I can’t see it because that’s always been the scene?  Or am I just writing the wrong story right now?  What’s the right story?  How would I know?

The other morning I woke up grumpy.  I was tired (I’m always tired when I wake up), and I was thinking of all the things I haven’t done, should’ve done, should I get up and wash dishes, should I help Ben with breakfast, should I should I?  Or worse, I should I should.  And some of the grumpy got turned outward on Ben, because that’s what happens.  So then I wonder, is there some psychological reason I’m grumpy?  I should do something to get un-grumpy, because I shouldn’t be judging myself.  So now I’m judging the judging.  o_O  Seriously, my brain.

I haven’t worked on the story in days, and I haven’t worked on anything else either.  Because my brain is judging and saying “You should be finishing this vampire story!” and instead of some other part of me saying very linearly, “But that’s the wrong story” or “But I’m coming at the story wrong” or anything so useful, I just don’t want to write, and I feel miserable and grumpy.  Because the part of me that can determine whether it’s the right story isn’t linear, so it doesn’t communicate in whole ideas like that.  It just gets grumpy.  Or stubborn, and some other part of my head gets grumpy.  (When I’m in it, I can’t always tell which part of my psyche is having which reactions.  And notice the part of my brain making that sentence thinks I should be able to tell, and is judging me for that.  Oh, the judgment how it swirls.)

Anyway, so I was telling Ben about my grumpy morning, which actually started with a grumpy evening the night before, after he went to bed, but it’s not much different from the grumpy morning so I didn’t bother telling you about it before, but I was telling him about the grumpy evening and the grumpy morning.  And he said*, “I guess I’m not surprised that you’re having tough emotions and doubts at this stage in your experiment.  It’s still early.  But I have no doubt that you’re going to succeed.”  And then he went away to do something else.

And I remembered I also have confidence that I’m going to succeed.  And I have confidence that it’s going to suck sometimes, because learning a new thing always sucks, and I’m learning a whole new way of living.  It always gets rough before you make a breakthrough.  I’ve been having a lot of rough, these past few weeks, interspersed with awesome.

And today I read this blog post by Amanda Palmer, who makes awesome music, who’s married to Neil Gaiman, who makes awesome books, in which she reviews his latest book and their marriage.  Two artists married to each other.  Two artists who had long solo careers of being creative in a particular way before getting married, and not always knowing how not to hurt each other while doing their own things.  And I’m so envious of them, because they know how to do their things already.  They’ve had years and years of making art for a living, in which to discover that they work best alone, or in short bursts or long bursts or intense obsessive** weeks of Making Art, or whatever.  And I’ve had one month, half of which was actually vacation.

It’s still early, yet.

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* He didn’t actually say it like that.  I don’t remember his words.  But these words get me to the same feeling I had when he said his words, so they’ll do.

** This word is never spelled the way I think it should be: obssessive.  Or maybe obsssesssive.  If you’re going to be obsessive, you should have tons of extra esses.  I’m just sayin’.

My New Way of Life

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Experiment: Life

I’m starting an experiment§.  It’s a life-sized experiment to discover how Liza* lives best, instead of how a “normal person” lives best.  It’s an experiment, so I’m going to be tracking metrics and adjusting variables.  Since there’s only one of me, the comparison will be between weeks.  Also, it’s entirely subjective, being about me, and I reserve the right to change my metrics at any time.  🙂

My starting assumption is that I work best when I don’t constrain myself with restrictions and rules.  E.g. “I will exercise every day” or “I will write 500 words every day” or “I will be at work by 10am and work for 8+ hours” are all restrictions that I resent, and then I do the exact opposite (or sit in front of feeling miserable… see “eating my vegetables”, below).  I rebel against perfectly reasonable self-assigned rules, even just “I will go out for a walk today”.  :-/  In order to stop these constraints, I’ve decided to quit my day job**.

Most writing exercises are really just a set of constraints.  The constraints suggest ideas I wouldn’t have thought of if I were just facing a blank page with no constraints.  On weekends when I don’t have any goals and I can do absolutely anything, I often dive into the first interesting thing that presents itself and don’t come out for hours… regardless of whether it was an activity that was actually worth those hours.  NOT the most productive thing.  Putting those two experiences together, my theory is that I’ll give myself constraints within which to structure my life.  Not rules for me to rebel against, but constraints that expand my options in the direction I want to focus my energy.

Examples of constraints I would like to try out:

  • Don’t push myself if I don’t feel like it.  On the other hand, do check in periodically to see if I feel like doing something other than what I’m doing now.
  • Have one day a week planned for running errands — I can run errands on other days, and I don’t have to run them on that day, but it’s an anchor point for thinking about errands.
  • Have one day a week planned for thinking about food.  I can make food on any day, and I don’t have to make food on the scheduled day, but it’s an anchor point for thinking about food.
  • Have one day a week planned for thinking about cleaning.  I hope to do a bit of housecleaning every day, say 20 minutes.  So on days when I don’t feel like cleaning at all, I can think of one small thing to do.  And on days when I don’t mind cleaning, I can think of bigger things to do.
  • Every day, think about my stor(y|ies).  Sit for at least five minutes in front of {the story | a notebook | a keyboard} and write a stream of consciousness.  If it turns into hours of writing, yay!  If it doesn’t, then I can do something else instead.  -> Note: My goal is to spend at least 4 hours writing every day.  But I want them to be fun and energetic hours, not miserable hours where I feel like I’m forcing myself to eat my vegetables***, and you will sit here until they’re all done, young lady† .  So if that means I spend at least 5 minutes hating the peas, then I know today is a pea-hating day and I should do something else fun and/or productive, guilt-free.

This is really the crux of my plan for myself.  The least valuable thing I do to myself is make myself feel guilty.  When I feel guilty, like I OUGHT to be eating those peas, then I can’t make myself do anything else that would be more fun or more useful.  All I can do is mind-numbing things that help me avoid the guilt, like watching TV or reading a fun book or playing a video game.  Creativity goes right out the window.  So, I’m not going to allow myself to feel guilty about deciding not to do the things I don’t want to do.  I’m going to trust that it’s a short term not-want-to, and that wanting-to will come back eventually.  And if I never do want to do that thing, then why on earth should I have it on my list††?  If it’s so important, can I hire someone else to do it for me?

The foundation of the crux of the plan††† is trust in myself.  Trust myself to know what I need to do now, and trust myself to do everything in the right time.  Trust myself to have the creativity I need when I need it.  And trust, always, that “This Too Shall Pass”.

I have a lot more thoughts about trust, productivity, creativity, and how Self works.  I’m sure I’ll share them as I go along.

 

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§ …in about a month.  I’ve just given my two week notice, and then I’m taking two weeks off.  So Experiment: Life will start on April 29!

* Yes, this experiment relies on me referring to myself in the third person.  …  Why are you looking at me like that?

** This means I will have no income.  Eeek!  This is a whole nother subject, but suffice it to say that I have enough savings to live on for a while, and I have faith that through my experimentation I’m going to find ways to earn money doing things I want to do.  And if I don’t… I will go straight back to having a day job.  This is an experiment, and I am aware that it could fail entirely.  I’m trying not to run on self-delusion.  🙂

*** FYI, I’m going to use this as a metaphor a lot for things I don’t want to do.  Short-handed to “eating my peas”, even though I like peas a lot.  The context is that when I was little, I could sit for hours (it felt like hours, though I imagine it wasn’t more than 30 minutes) in front of my vegetables at dinner time, refusing to eat them (because I didn’t like them as much when I was little) and being told I had to, and eating just one slow bite at a time.  I’m not even sure how often this happened… it could’ve been once, for all I know.  My memory is pretty spotty.  But I do have a memory of this happening, and it perfectly resonates with how I feel when I’m sitting in front of some task I absolutely do NOT want to do, but have to because it’s expected.  At work, usually.

† I don’t think anyone in my family ever said that or called me “young lady”, but it sounds right for the story.  :o)

††  Note that I’m not talking about things like doing my taxes.  I’m aware that I do have to do them eventually, regardless of how I feel.  But I also know that I don’t really mind doing my taxes, or paying bills, or any of that.  Sometimes I have the right headspace to think about money, and sometimes I don’t.  When I don’t, I shouldn’t be doing my taxes.  When I do, I don’t mind doing my taxes.  So do understand, I’m not talking about never doing the required things ever.  I’m talking about doing them when I have the mental capacity for it, and not when I don’t.

††† Am I taking this metaphor too far?