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Tag Archive: Self-help

A totem of impending creative failure

September 10, 2016

As part of the anxiety counseling I received earlier this year I was given the gentle target of completing a creative project. The logic being sound in that two of the aspects of existence I struggle with are my lack of control over my life and my frustration at not being able to complete the creative targets I set myself. I agreed with my counselor that I would break a couple of creative projects into easy to achieve steps and try to complete just a single step on a single project each week.

At first it worked great. I managed to get the first couple of tasks on a couple of projects done and felt really positive about finally making some progress on projects I’d abandoned as hopeless. But then my self destructive procrastinator kicked in. The first tasks on the projects I’d chosen had been effectively admin: choose a location, order some materials, list out the intents, etc. As soon as the admin (easy) tasks were done, the bits I couldn’t “fail” at I just started creating new projects to work on instead. By the end of the counseling I’d accrued quite a list of projects and made no real progress on any of them. For the record I don’t put this down to the counseling it’s something I’ve always done, I caught myself doing it this afternoon, buying fishing wire and ball bearings on Amazon for a completely spurious project instead of trying to make some real progress on anything I had already started.

This doesn’t help with the anxiety, it makes it worse. A repeated mantra of the evil liar that is my depression is that of “you’ll never achieve anything, you’ll never finish anything” and sometimes even my objective self believes this. The house, my hard drive, my head are all full of bits and pieces of creative projects, ten percent, maybe twenty percent finished but no further. I fear what will happen if I finish one, but I think more than that I fear that I will never finish one.

Today I acquired a totem of impending creative failure. A while back I came up with an idea for a series of photos which required a small selection of props, I did the initial admin by working out what the props were, considered a couple of locations then procrastinated violently. The props are easy to come by and available in most hardware stores for a couple of pounds, but rather than just walk to the hardware shop and buy them I decided to ask on Facebook if anyone I knew had them to hand and could I buy them off them. I had a logic which I won’t go into here. Of course lots of people offered to help and a couple of friends had what I needed so I agreed to pick them up off them next time I saw them, considered the next step of the project done and dropped it. I never found the time to visit the friends and so never progressed. Today in a moment of hope I walked into a hardware store and bought most of the bits I need. Two of them being plastic light fittings (they cost about 70p each). I am considering them a totem, a warning. If they are still sitting untouched, unmodified and unphotographed on my workbench by the end of the year it’s a signal that I’m not sorting myself out and I really need to do something about it.

I will face my new nemesis and destroy it, or at least modify it and take some photos, regardless of the outcome.


(I will probably still buy fishing wire and ball bearings because hey, who the hell doesn’t need those in their life).

Mental Stagnation

March 21, 2013

I’ve been worrying about mental languor. It’s crept up on me slowly like some insidious mind eating creature from a nineteen eighties Doctor Who episode. Cultural and intellectual entropy has taken hold without my realising, leading me into a spiral of apathy and draining what little creativity I had. In short, I’ve stopped trying. I became aware of the problem a couple of weeks back while at work, eating the same lunch I always eat while checking the same website I always check – for the fifth time that day. I’ve allowed myself to get into a routine, something I’ve previously actively avoided.

Routine in some ways is a good helpful framework for existence, there are aspects of life which shouldn’t need constant appraisal: my son’s bedtime, where we buy our milk, how often I clean my teeth. In other areas it can really cause trouble. Without a flow of new ideas, opinions and images I stop coming up with new ideas myself, without new things to feed my mental process my problem solving skills start to wane and to some extent my intellectual processes generally drop.

In honesty I’ve always had trouble challenging myself to read and watch anything outside of my immediate area of interest and comfort (less so with music for no clear reason) and have often felt jealous of those who can just pick up a book on a new subject and dive in – I do have certain mental issues here to do with fear of failure to understand new things but there’s far too much baggage there to go into. Recently I have reached a new low, in my sparse spare time rather than learning something new I’ve been visiting the same very short list of websites none of which have very much in the way of stimulating content. I’ve made no effort to go anywhere new or do anything different outside of my daily routine. It’s killing me (mentally anyway).

Moving forward, I’ve recognised the problem and am making attempts to remedy it. There’s a world out there full of places to go, second hand bookshops, libraries, art galleries, forests, towns, museums and other things. There’s a massive internet of stuff in here, I can learn anything I want to learn and read about any subject imaginable. This is an amazing time to live in, humanity has never had more access to more information and experiences at such short notice, it’s brutally lazy to ignore these opportunities in favour of quick fixes of cheap entertainment and celebrity culture.

(This may have been partially inspired by going to see Robin Ince the other week).

All Resolution, No Resolve

January 1, 2012

Looking at facebook or twitter at this time of year you could be led to believe that the next twelve months will include a monumental change for the better in all of mankind. Everyone’s at it, planning to be, healthier, more rounded, generally better people. I am as guilty as anyone else, a few days holiday and I’m ready to turn my life around by the end of the week.

It’s not just New Year, I feel like I spend most of my life trying to make major life changes, at any one time I’m trying to do any and all of the following: finally write an album, become good enough at illustration to produce a book, do something entirely different for a living, exercise more, eat better, spend less money, own less stuff, work more, go out more, spend more time with my family, spend more time with my friends, be more socially aware, be more politically aware, spend more time on my own (in a positive way), be smarter, be more organised, look after my car better, look after my house better, be more polite, sort out the crap in the attic (both metaphorically and literally), be more charitable, write three blog posts a week, spend a few hours a week out with my camera, learn to edit video properly, draw cartoons, accept more work and handle it better, finish/start all of the several thousand personal projects I’ve planned. Plus a host of other crap that bounces round my head on a near-constant basis.

Most of these things are not destined to happen, those that do, do so to such a small degree it’s immeasurable. Ennui may be a minor cause of this ongoing failure but the real root cause is there’s just too much to deal with. These self-defined expectations compounded with the those from external sources (clients, family, society, etc) become so overwhelming that rather than face any of them, my brain switches directly to standby. I’ve tried a handful of self-help books and techniques, all of which have been at best pointless, at worst they have intensified the shouting in my head. Anything promising a complete life change in 9 hours (or similar) do nothing more than add pressure and things to the big list of stuff to sort out.

I’ve been reading Oliver Burkeman’s Help! in which he takes a skeptical and logical look at the self-help industry. I started reading it for entertainment value, but have learned a fair amount in the process. Primarily I have realised something which should be obvious, people (generally) cannot make huge changes to their lives in quick easy (or even hard) steps, it’s just not in our nature. Tiny incremental changes which over time can build up to make a difference are much easier to fathom.

No more big resolutions, no lists of major life changes, just try a little bit here and there as and when the opportunity arises.

Happy New Year.


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I am Bob. This is my blog. It is an outlet and a substitute for real life. It contains my art, photography, illustration and thoughts on mental health (I deal with anxiety on a pretty much constant basis).

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