#loveyourblog challenge: Beginnings

It’s not lost on me that there’s something deeply ironic about being late in posting this because I didn’t know where to start. And when I’ve gone and looked at other people’s posts, I feel that, once again, I’ve managed to completely miss the point of the prompt! But as that happens to me a lot – as a crafter, as a blogger, as a person – I’ve decided not to worry too much, because I refuse to believe I’m the only person who hits these kinds of blocks.

A Playful Day

Historically, I’ve been really, really good at starting things and really really bad at finishing them. Until recently, I’d have twelve or thirteen yarn projects on the go at once, and let’s not even talk about the sewing ones. After getting rather overwhelmed a while ago, I cut back that number drastically, trying to get some kind of control. That seems to have backfired a little, because I now have three or four projects that need starting, and I can’t quite seem to manage it.

P1040566It was more or less at this point, with the project bags stretching down the hall, that I realised I might have got a bit carried away…

At heart, I think I prefer the planning to the doing, the thinking to the acting. I love research, plotting, drawing up lists and diagrams, scheming and dreaming. But recently, as the plans I’ve been making have been taking me outside my comfort zone – write a pattern, publish it properly, record a podcast – I’ve been pulling back, scared to move from thinking about doing things into actually doing them.

If you suffer from anxiety, you’ll know that it goes beyond a vague “feeling worried” feeling. For me, there are very physical symptoms involved. My chest gets tight, my stomach drops away, my face tingles and in really bad attacks, my vision greys out. For no obvious reason (because anxiety isn’t rational and doesn’t always rise and fall with actual, objective reality), my ‘background’ levels of anxiety have been high lately, and it’s been keeping me from making a start.

I refuse to believe that it’s just me who gets like this, so I thought the pep talk I’ve been giving myself might apply to other people as well. Mine starts with a lot of prayer and a little crying (I’m sure you have your own starting place!), then:

~ Pick three things. If you’re like me, you already know the whole “how do you eat an elephant? In very small pieces” aphorism, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed, that doesn’t help, because the list of small pieces is mammoth (see what I did there?) So pick three things that you can do. Just three. Easy things. Things that don’t involve research or thinking or any extra information to do them. Then cross them off the list and pick three more. You’ve broken your little things list into even littler pieces, and that can make it a lot less manageable. I find that once I get going, it’s then easier to tackle the next thing.

~ For me, this is about ‘activation energy’. Chemical reactions often require a certain amount of energy to be put into them in order to get energy out. On a bad day, the amount of activation energy required to just tidy my desk can be overwhelming, and I don’t have it in me. So I clean my computer keyboard, or rearrange my yarn into colour/weight/yardage order, or clear out my Ravelry queue, or tidy my sewing box. Once I’ve done that, I go through my to do list and cross out what I’ve done, or what is so far beyond its deadline that no one but me remembers it. This is usually enough activation energy to get me to send an email, which in turn gets me to look up something I need and so on and so forth. It’s finding the little job that will spark off all the others.

~ Leave it half-finished. I know, not exactly one from the productivity manuals, but seriously. If you’re doing something and it’s taken all your energy or anxiety control to get to the halfway point, leave it half-finished. The other half will be there when you’re up to it. When I know it’s a bad day, I only start jobs that can be abandoned in the middle. Then I cross them off and re-write them at the bottom of my list, so I know I did something, and I don’t forget to come back to them. I think this is especially important with creative endeavours. If it falls off my list completely, I forget that I’ve started it, but if it keeps popping back up, I remember, add a little, then put it down until it’s ready to be worked on again. We all know about putting projects in ‘time out’ or hibernating them on Ravelry, and I think there’s a lot to be said for tackling something rather than putting it off completely because we don’t have the time or energy to do it all in one go.

Those are all sensible, practical ideas for getting started when you can’t, but above all lately, I’ve been coming back to this:

Being scared is not a good reason not to do things.

Bunnell_Point_Cliff

There are good reasons not to do things, and some fears are well-founded. If the cliff is high and the rope is frayed, fear is the right response, as is not starting to climb! Not having enough oomph in you to get past the fear right now is a good reason. The cliff will still be there when you’re ready. But if you’re standing at the bottom of the cliff, with the right equipment, enough energy, and you want to climb? Being scared is not a good reason not to do it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go clean my computer keyboard.

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16 thoughts on “#loveyourblog challenge: Beginnings

  1. Not just you! I also get the anxiety because I can’t do it all now – especially with things like blog posts. I want to blog about X, but I didn’t blog about Y which I was going to do, so I don’t blog at all. Slowly getting passed the anxiety by jumping into the middle and skipping the start πŸ™‚ Doesn’t work for everything though.

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    1. Absolutely. There are some things that have to be done all in one go, or have to be done NOW and can’t wait until you feel ready. But I think having strategies for the rest means that when that stuff comes up, I’ve got enough energy to deal with it.

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  2. I love this post – not that you grapple with anxiety, but I love how well you articulated it and your approaches to it. I know exactly how you feel and this was very helpful to me.

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    1. Thanks. I admit I don’t manage it every day – sometimes I really don’t have the energy needed to even think about climbing – but when I can, I need to know where to start, so that I don’t waste the precious little energy that I have.

      Glad it was helpful to you πŸ™‚

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  3. I have friends who suffer from anxiety….and for me, I’m lucky that it is not something I have…and I try to be understanding…my life motto, It Is What It Is…..I work hard, I do my best, I try not to compare myself to others (this is something I have struggled with my entire life, but much less as I got older)…and if you don’t like me or can’t accept me for who I am, well I don’t need you in my life (well I usually curse there…)….so all I can say is just to do the best that you can do….and I love your whole “being scared is not a reason not to do things.”…that’s a great way to look at it..

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  4. Fantastic post! I think this works not just for anxiety but even if your just overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do. Great tips. Thank you!

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  5. I can relate to a lot of what you describe – it is horrible to feel paralysed by anxiety and I think your tips for working through that are great. “Being scared is not a good reason not to do things” – I love that.

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    1. I think it’s helpful to have a pithy phrase like that for when you get really stuck. It’s easy to remember, but says so much, and helps ‘change the tape’ in your head πŸ™‚ Thanks!

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  6. Reading this post – this is exactly how I felt when I wrote mine for this week! I’m not a strong finisher, let’s just put it that way. I think your three productivity/anti-anxiety tips were spot on, too. Organising the laundry and wiping down the kitchen are my go-to activities if I start freaking out a bit. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚ x

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  7. It is certainly not just you! I get the same way about many things, and yes I also struggle with anxiety. I tend to get overwhelmed, paralyzed, and ultimately do nothing…or nothing productive. Thanks for the pep talk!
    Oh. Your WIP queue looks a lot like mine!

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