2015 Update the Second: CBT and Support Groups

So, about a month into the year, I figure it’s time I put pen to word processor and put another entry in here. I’ve started seeing a counselor at my campus (better late than never), did an intake assessment for potential learning disabilities or ADHD, and joined a CBT Anxiety Support Group. On top of that, I’ve been working my way through some CBT modules that my counselor gave me to try and re-program a lot of the self-negative, automatic thoughts that tend to characterize my inner monologue.

Turns out there’s like… a bunch.

I’ve filled out say… five or six of them at this point, and that, plus some of the behavioral methods for physical relaxation I’ve been learning at the meetings (specifically stuff like certain breathing techniques) have been a big help. I had what is (for me) a big milestone this weekend: I didn’t do a whole lot productive, and while I do have a little bit of guilt about it, on a scale of 1-10, while it’s normally like an 8 (and with a heaping dose of shame on top), it’s down to about a 2 or 3.

Right now, I’m trying to organize a little get-together with a bunch of people from said support group. They seem like a nice group of people (aside from one guy who frankly could do with a nice cup of shut the fuck up) and I think it’ll be nice to get to know them.

I’m doing my best to work on not being so inflexible in my expectations of myself. Being aware of the fears of “not enough” when they come up and trying to just consistently do one or two things a day consistently, instead of expecting myself to do five, get three done, then feel like shit and get depressed/anxious for the next few days where I impulse spend or eat poorly. On a micro scale, trying to do the same with exercising. I got a pair of kettlebells for Xmas, so those have helped me be able to just do a little bit of a workout at home when I want to be active, but really don’t feel up to going to the gym. Even when I DO, I’ve been learning to be more okay with just doing two or three exercises while I’m there, instead of expecting myself to do (again) five or six and feeling so intimidated by my own expectations that I don’t go at all.

I feel weirdly paranoid in saying that I’m doing better, since it feels like at any point depression could hit me with a spring-loaded boxing glove at any moment. It’s becoming a special challenge figuring out a way to honestly answer the question, “How are you?” Which I find kind of funny. Anyone else have experiences like this?

‘Til next time, my lovelies.

Advertisements

What to Write About (When There’s Nothing to Write About)

I want to make writing in here a regular practice, but I have this problem of not knowing what to write about when I’m neither in the middle of a full-blown meltdown and need to do the creative equivalent of venting nuclear gas (bonus points to those of you who, like me, got a mental flash of that episode of the Simpsons where Homer becomes morbidly obese), nor inspired by a particular idea.

Though many people use their blogs as a digital journal, which is totally fine, I kind of want this to be something more than that. Given, a big part of the content is me talking about the emotional comings-and-goings in my head, but I feel like that’s such a huge part of what goes into my creative work that it’s something beyond a simple “Dear yawning abyss of the internet, today I X’ed…”

“What to write about when there’s nothing to write about.” Hm. I mean, that in and of itself is an interesting topic, given how many creators (myself included) have a crippling fear of a blank page. It’d be easy to ascribe that to a human fear of the unknown and be done with it, but I feel like the comfort of unused potential is a particularly artistic flavor of psychosis. It’s like… so long as the page is blank, I lose nothing. But the moment I start putting something down, trying to realize something in my head, or even just noodle around in my sketchbook, I make myself vulnerable by simple fact of engaging in the artistic process.

I feel like that’s a big part of why it’s so difficult to be creative or artistic when you’re intentionally TRYING to be. It’s like TRYING to be happy, in the sense that it’s something that happens out of the corner of your eye when you’re not expecting it, and then suddenly “I accidentally a whole editorial.” I forget the person who said the quote (it occurs to me I could take two seconds and Google it, but I’m on a roll here), but the idea that “the moment you ask yourself if you’re happy, you cease to be.”

I think a similar sentiment could be applied to art. I mean, in some sense you have to make a conscious decision to start drawing, or writing, or filming, or whatever, sure. But when you’re in the middle of the process, the moment you start second-guessing yourself, the whole thing comes to a screeching halt while you erase that eyebrow 50 times because IT DOESN’T LOOK QUIZZICAL ENOUGH, DAMMIT.

A lot has been made of the idea of Flow, the state where you’re utterly lost in the moment of whatever task you’re participating in. I find it a useful concept, and it gels well with the readings on Zen and Taoist philosophy that have informed my current worldview. However, I do find myself having trouble reconciling it with the necessity of conscious practice to develop skill. When we (or… I, I suppose I should just speak from my own experience) feel stuck and unable to create, there’s a good chance that it’s because I’m thinking too much about it, and just need to breathe, go with the flow, and see what happens. The thing about practice, though, is that you NEED that conscious self-reflection to process the new techniques you’re acquiring. To refine them, straighten out any kinks, and to truly connect the dots and gain a deeper understanding.

So how do you Flow enough to get out of your own way, but be present enough to get everything you can out of it?

Anyone?

Seriously, I was asking you, because I’m still swamped by the question as much as anyone.

Well, if I can just spitball here, maybe that letting go is crucial to the INITIALIZING of the creative process. Like, if you’re scared that no matter what you put on the paper, it won’t look as good as in your head, that you don’t have your ideal materials, or workplace, or you don’t have enough time… something will ALWAYS find a way to get in the way. So that’s the point where it might be useful to take a breath, set out your tools, and see what happens. When you’re in the midst of making something and you hit a roadblock, or something isn’t coming out the way you want, maybe then it’s time to put away the artist brain for a moment and ask yourself why. Is it a perspective problem? Plot? Characters? Inking? Deconstruct it into as simple components as you can, try different things, access some resources online or otherwise, whatever. Try looking at it as a puzzle instead of proof that Uncle Gary was right all along and you’ll never amount to nuthin’ tryin’ to draw them funny pictures.

Do I know if it’ll work? Not even slightly, but it sounds at least plausible. At the very least, it’s better than sitting in a steamy stew of existential dread, staring at a blank page.

The quote was John Stuart Mill, by the way.

Vince Smith is an aspiring writer, podcast host, psychology/philosophy student, and dyed-in-the-wool geek of all trades. You can check out articles and Let’s Plays by him over at The Rogues’ Gallery, or drop by his Facebook Page, Vincent Smith: Writer, Scholar, Gentleman for other musings from the catacombs of the Internet.