fill your glass by focusing

Sometimes I pull myself in too many directions. If I’m working on the one thing I tell myself needs to get done today, inevitably I’ll want to do something else. I like to fool myself into thinking that I’m multi-tasking, but that doesn’t really exist.

You literally can’t focus on more than one thing at a time. Focus, by definition, is having a single object very clearly in view. Many things will vie for your attention, but they can’t all have it. Choose one thing at a time, or it will all be blurry.

If you’re going to do something well, give it your full attention. Go all in on one thing instead of being a jack of all trades. Don’t half-ass a bunch of things instead of doing one thing well.

Me, trying to do all of the things

I think of it like filling glasses. Imagine a coffee shop. You’d expect them to sell a small range of coffee and coffee-related beverages, right? Now imagine that you order a cup of coffee, and while the barista is fulfilling your order, he goes off and starts filling another cup with soda. Then he decides that he’d like to make a batch of lemonade and start filling cups with that. Before long there’s a long line of cups, each getting a different kind of beverage. But there’s only one barista, so only one cup is getting filled at a time. Each cup is only getting a few drops at a time because the real goal is to fill that first cup of coffee.

If you’re the customer, you’re pretty pissed by now that you haven’t been given your coffee. It’s a coffee joint, so the expectation is that they’re going to deliver coffee.

As creatives, it can sometimes feel impossible to just hone in on one thing. But if you’ve declared to your audience that you’re going to do something, you had better deliver.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t do all of the things that you love. Make time for things that fulfill you and scratch your creative itch. Just be sure that you’re making forward progress in the thing you want to be known for, and share things that feed that. You don’t have to project all of the things you do; it’s confusing enough for people notice what other people are all about. Make it easy on them by being clear about what you do…then do more of that.

baby steps

Slow and steady wins the race. Action beats inaction. Taking small steps is so much more important than thinking about big steps. Sometimes I have to remind myself that tiny positive things add up and that’s so much better than stressing about making big progress (which adds up in a negative way).

I think of it like driving veeeerrrry slowly in your car: eventually you’ll get further than just sitting there revving the engine and wasting gasoline.

I have a huge project ahead of me, and it’s daunting. It’s so big that sometimes it’s paralyzing. But I know that I need to chip away at it a little bit at a time.

So I am making a bit of a pivot in the content of this blog, and I want you to know what you can expect in the future. I will still be writing about creative resistance, but it will be more along the lines of what I’m specifically encountering in my current creative projects.

First of all, if you aren’t familiar with the idea of overlapping (working a day job for financial stability while you work on what you’re passionate about on the side until it can support you), I highly recommend the book Overlap by Sean McCabe.

My passion is to make big ideas accessible to young people. I believe that the ability to think critically is one of the greatest gifts we can bestow on future generations. I’m writing and illustrating a series of young adult and children’s books making the ideas of the Great Books (Plato, Dante, Augustine, et al) super digestible. I want to normalize what used to be a standard education but has unfortunately become very rare. Everyone is capable of learning big things and no one should be scared or ashamed to be exposed to “smart people things.”

I want to get kids excited about reading through book related products, as well. Hand-lettered bookmarks, handmade book bags, and crocheted animal plushie characters that introduce kids great literary characters and their authors.

I’m making myself publicly accountable for making this vision a reality, and documenting the process. I invite you to follow along, to sign up for updates on the book release, to join the conversation in whatever way you’d like and ask questions about what makes actually doing creative things so dang hard sometimes.

It will be messy. Most things are before you get to the finished product. And that’s okay, because perfect is an illusion that keeps you from doing the important, messy things. Thanks to those who have stuck with me thus far, and thank you/welcome to those who are newly jumping in.

I invite you to make messes and take baby steps with me. 🙂

helping harvey

In lieu of a post about creative resistance, here instead is a small list of ways to help people in Texas if you feel as helpless as I do. I’m on the west coast and can’t physically lend a hand or give food or shelter, but I know giving money is the fastest and most reliable way to make sure resources get where they need to go. Here are a few ways to help.

Other places to give:

  • Americares and Direct Relief provide emergency response, first aid, emergency kits, and more to people affected by poverty and disaster.
  • If you are in Texas, you can give to your local food bank.

 

 

There are many places and ways to give. The above are charities are verified and rated highly with the BBB for their efficiency and efficacy.

There may not be much we can do against a natural disaster such as this, but if we all do a little, the relief will be great.

 

*Update: Pantsuit Politics has increased the cap on their matching to $1000.

Slow to Anger: How to Keep Offensive People from Derailing You

Do you ever have days that you feel completely derailed by someone’s words, actions, and/or attitude? Maybe they have a point of view you vehemently disagree with. Or they refuse to hear you.  Or (one that upsets me more than anything) they assign bad intentions where there are none. How do you keep cool? How do you step back and not let it ruin your day? How do you rid yourself of the negative feelings that are keeping you from being able to focus on more important things?

Some hard medicine to swallow is that in their eyes, you are the asshole.

Yes, you. Always, always consider the possibility that you are wrong.

But I’m not! They’re the one who…

It doesn’t matter. Blameless and well-intentioned as you may be, they are coming at the world from a different angle. Maybe the best thing was to not engage in the first place. You may never see eye to eye with this person. You may never understand how they can see the world from their perspective. But it’s prudent to try. It’s prudent to take a stance of humility and realize that they may be just as angry at you as you are at them, even if it seems totally irrational to you.

You do not grant them the power to ruin your day. No one can make you feel something. It’s your choice to either internalize the situation or let it roll off of you like water off a duck’s back.

Don’t be a hypocrite.

Avoid fault-finding. Even to yourself, never assign intentions to what they’ve done or said. Only they know their intentions, so take their behavior at face value. Making assumptions about their motives could only result in making you more upset, and really isn’t fair to the other person. Always keep the Golden Rule in mind.

And do your best not to take it personally. Chances are, a person in the habit of creating conflict is someone who takes only their own feelings into account. Don’t be that guy.

They only have so much energy to get through their day, too. They’re most likely not looking for ways to upset you. They probably aren’t thinking about you at all. Just be as kind as you can be as you float through your day, and let them float through theirs in their own way.

Boundaries

If they are the type of person that can’t avoid creating conflict, remind yourself that it’s not worth your energy to be around that person. This may sound callous, but if the only way to avoid conflict with them is to disengage entirely, then avoidance is an act of civility.

You have to also love yourself enough to not let them upset you. As a human being, they have a right to their point of view just as much as you do. But it doesn’t have to be at the expense of your well-being.

Sometimes they won’t hear you or respect your boundaries. This is tiresome and anger-inducing, but take a deep breath and tell yourself that they don’t have the power to make you feel a certain way. You have a choice in how you respond emotionally, even when you’re seeing red and emotion seems like something utterly out of your control. You do not grant them the power to ruin your day. No one can make you feel something. You can either internalize the situation or let it roll off of you like water off a duck’s back.

Fake it ’til you make it

Grit your teeth if you have to, but at the very least stay calm on the outside while you defuse your insides. Fake calm until you are calm. Don’t mirror them, and don’t feel like you have to respond in any way. Silence never killed anyone. (Though someone with a short fuse may be confounded–likely even pissed off–at your total serenity in the midst of their anger. And sometimes that is reward enough.)

If you know you don’t share many viewpoints with this person, absolutely abstain from voicing your opinion. Whether or not you agree with what they’re saying or doing is irrelevant to the situation, especially if they’ve given you their unsolicited opinion.

You don’t have to convince them of anything. You don’t have to shame them, you don’t have to change their heart, you don’t really even have to respond at all. Silence is an option if they have proven incapable of respecting your boundaries.

But you will never regret being the bigger person. You may secretly hope that they’re embarrassed and that karma bites them in the ass one day, but you are mature enough not to express or act upon those thoughts. “Man, I wish I hadn’t taken the high road,” SAID NO ONE EVER.

Validation

Is there anything else contributing to your anger toward this person? Did other little things start forming a bad day and this person was just an unfortunate tipping point? Are you projecting? Sometimes without realizing it, it feels safe to make a person that we don’t care for a vessel for all of the characteristics we dislike in ourselves.

Think about why that person upset you so much. Did they strike a nerve? Are there deeper roots to what made you upset?

To be clear, this should all be happening internally. You’re not looking to be right, and you’re not looking for other things they’ve done that made you mad. You just want to put your reaction into perspective. You might as well learn from what you’re feeling.

Catharsis

Go ahead and feel your anger. Don’t deny yourself that and salve it with fake positivity. Acknowledge it first, then ask yourself if your feelings are valid. Then after all is said and done, treat yourself to whatever form of stress relief usually works for you. Write about your experience. Do some meditative yoga. Go for a run or walk. Spend some time with your pet or loved ones. Play some games. Commit a random act of kindness.

(Or scour the internet for pictures of ducks. It’s pretty hard to be mad at anything when you look at cute animals.)

Give your mind and body a break from dwelling on negative feelings. Get outside of yourself and get some endorphins in you.

 

If you’ve been mature enough to get this far, take comfort that even if you are still an asshole in the other person’s view, it’s out of your hands. It’s up to them to deal with how they feel about it.

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