I’m not exactly afraid of the blank page…

I have heard a lot of writers and artists talk about the terror or intimidation they feel when facing the blank page.

I get what they mean but my challenges with getting started don’t really manifest that way.

A blank page is full of possibilities, I could put anything on there!

I get stuck in pre-draft mode though, imagining that I need to do a lot more thinking than I actually do before beginning a project.

I’ve learned that there is no point in my thinking process when I’ll say ‘Time to get this down on paper!’ Instead, I have to pick a time and get started, even if I fill my paper with doodles or my screen with rambly text.

Sooner or later (usually sooner) something will click and I’ll have a place to start.

Then I start (literally or metaphorically) moving that idea closer or further from the other ideas I have and the action of moving that idea around helps the others fall into place.

But getting myself to that point where I will commit something to paper or to screen can be a challenge so I have started ‘ruining’ my page* to help me get started.

On the screen, I’ll type (or dictate) the question I’m trying to address or I’ll copy a quote or I’ll type what I *don’t* want to say about this topic an why I don’t want to say it.

On the page, I’ll make some weird headings or if it is a drawing, I’ll add a line that has nothing to do with what I’m trying to create. (The line below is in ink because I am just playing, I might do it in pencil for a drawing for a public purpose.)

a top-down view of a notebook, a silver-coloured teapot, a cup of tea, and a spoon on a wooden table.?
Image description: a top-down photo of a notebook, a silver-coloured teapot, a cup of tea, and a spoon on a wooden table. The cup is decorated with tentacles on the outside, and small drawings of people clinging to the edge on the inside. The notebook has a thin, curvy black line drawn from side to side on the open page. The line looks like a very sloppy W.

Once I have ‘ruined’ my page, I find it a lot easier to break out of thinking mode and into doing mode.

And my friends and coaching clients who are intimidated by the blank page find the same thing.

Something about getting those first marks out of the way helps me (and them) get to the next steps.

I highly recommend ruining your work.

*I teach a workshop called ‘start by ruining it’ – it’s big fun!

On 30 days of blogging

Well, I’m going to call this experiment a success.

I’ve written something in here 30 days in a row.

That’s a clear victory, habit-wise.

Sure, every entry hasn’t been a gem.

And I didn’t always have a lot to say.

But I showed up and I did the thing.

Overall, it got easier to find things to talk about.

In fact, the real challenge was when I had ideas for a post that were too big for my time or my energy level.

And that’s something I want to work on a bit – figuring out how to handle the bigger ideas without wearing myself out.

In fact, that’s something I need to consider in most areas of my work – breaking down bigger tasks and ideas into smaller ones and working on them over time.

I’m going to keep writing daily but I’m going to think of a type of post for each day of the week. – to give myself a container to fill rather than trying to develop container and contents all at once.

Decisions, decisions

Someone asked me yesterday if I ever just did ‘nothing.’

I find it really interesting that I give the impression that I am ‘always busy’ or that I don’t have any downtime.

It’s true that I am always up to something (muahahaha) but it’s not a matter of seeking to be busy or productive, it’s a matter of finding ease by making a conscious decision about how to spend my time.

I know that some people can wander through their day, going from task to task, allowing their intuition to guide them to their priorities.

Thanks to ADHD, that’s not an option for me.

That kind of wandering would be stressful and depressing for me because I can’t rely on my brain to cough up my priorities when I need them.

I *could* spend a whole day filing papers even though I have a deadline because my brain is convinced that I need to get the filing ‘out of the way’ before I get to my writing.

Instead, I choose my tasks in advance so I can be reasonably sure that my efforts line up with my priorities.

A white person’s hand holds a mug  in the foreground,  in the background, a light-haired dog rests on a winter-dried  lawn.
This morning, I chose to have my tea on my sunny front porch and I could let my mind wander because I had turned off the imp of ‘What should I be doing instead?’

Even when I don’t have a deadline, I consciously choose (as much as possible) how I will spend my time so my brain will be quiet.

If I say ‘I’m going to draw until 11’ or ‘I’m just going to lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling for 15 minutes,’ then I can do what I planned (most of the time.) But if I just grab my pen or fling myself on the couch, one part of my brain will be constantly searching from planning errors ‘Is this the right thing to be doing right now? Is there something I’m forgetting? Should I be getting lunch ready? Maybe I should read?’

Not having a plan or schedule might be relaxing for you but for me, it’s like inviting an imp into my head. Making a decision in advance is actually MORE relaxing for me because it frees me from the stress of endless options of what I *could* be doing.

And, like I said above, it’s not as if I need to choose a ‘productive’ activity – I just need to have made a conscious decision about what to do.

Of course, doing things this way doesn’t cure my ADHD, it’s just a tool to make things a little easier. It reduces the challenges involved in managing my time and my brain, it doesn’t eliminate them.

Long stretches of time with no decisions attached are frustrating and they’re bad for my mental health. I spend plenty of time relaxing and plenty of time doing ‘nothing’ but making a decision about it in advance makes it true relaxation instead of an exercise in frustration.

PS – I can also change plans if something more fun arises (I am very much pro-fun) but at that point it just becomes a choice between a) the thing I am doing and b) the thing that I could choose to do instead of an endless scroll of all my possible options.