Not really an update

You’ll notice that I didn’t post a check-in yesterday. My bad. I forgot about it until halfway through the morning, and when I remembered, well, I just didn’t see much point.

At this stage, it really just so much copying and pasting. Every week is pretty much the same. I’m rocking my diet, meditation, and family-time goals, slowly improving my exercise habits, and totally suck at pursuing anything creative.

It’s been eight weeks, I’ve been feeling awesome, and I lost another two pounds.

Can’t really ask for more than that.

That said, I can tell you one thing about all this: it’s slow going.

Me and patience don’t often join hands, especially when it comes projects which require a long-term effort. I’m very good at initiating things, but (you might have noticed) I’m lacking in follow-through. I want what I want when I want it, and that includes results.

Given that, let’s just say the hardest thing about my “Refocusing” has been the slow and steady march itself.

There’s nothing very hard about any of the things I’ve been doing, and I can clearly see I’m making constant, incremental progress toward the place I want to be, but I’m just not moving fast enough to satisfy my “Now! Now! Now!” ego.

That’s just a little irritating.

I’m dealing with it, though, so that’s good.

Anyway, I’m going to forgo the check-ins for a while and begin using this blog a little…differently.

So, how are you doing?

Random Angst

This isn’t a real post. That trip to the ER kind of threw my schedule off and I’m still playing catch-up. So, here’s an (unsorted) list of things which have irritated or amused me this week.

  • My stomach has been getting better. Still a bit annoying from time to time, but it’s obviously on the mend.
  • Related to the above, I’ve steered my diet toward the bland side of the street to sort of “baby” my digestive system. That’s getting very old very quickly, but I’m going to finish out the week with brown rice and tofu just the same. I’m doing too well health-wise to have it all go sideways on me due to an excess of peppercorns or garlic.
  • Windows started acting weird the other day (not letting Skype calls go through, throwing an error when I tried accessing the Microsoft Store). Turn out, it really wanted me to apply the new “Feature Update” and wouldn’t take no for an answer. That’s, like, half a day of my life I’ll never get back.
  • I’ve been listening to this song a lot. It’s basically become my chill song in the evening.
  • This one as well. People have asked me to explain the diversity in my musical tastes. I never have an answer.
  • I’ve had a couple of story ideas floating in my head for a few weeks, one of which seems pretty intent on hounding me until I take a stab at writing it. I’ve been trying to suppress that urge, since I’d much rather focus on photography right now, but…yeah. Not sure I have much choice at this point.
  • In an effort to improve my mood and avoid distractions, I’ve taken an extended break from nearly all social media. I uninstalled Twitter from my phone, and stopped posting on Instagram until I’m regularly taking new photos again. So far that’s going very well.

Enjoy your weekend.

Why you should keep a journal

I believe that if you’re not keeping a journal, you’re doing it wrong. This statement is mainly directed at creative-type people (whether you’re a writer, visual artist, or whatever), but it can really go for everyone.

Journaling is great for self-analysis, helps get your mind working, and is just an overall amazing tool to keep you focused. In fact, my journal has become a cornerstone of sorts in my efforts to be healthier and happier. So, it’s not just for angsty teenagers, or “sensitive” adults trying to get in touch with their feelings.

Here, rather than write up some kind of abstract pitch as to why you should keep a journal, let me show you how I use mine. (The entries I’m sharing here have been narrowly-selected and lightly-edited.)

The Obligatory Early-Morning Entry

Every morning, as soon as I have enough coffee and nicotine in me to hold a pen, I crack open my journal and write. I start with the date and time, how I slept, and usually follow this with a gripe about my deteriorating body. After that, I write down any appointments or tasks which must be done that day, and round it out with whatever I want to do or should be doing.

Here’s an example:

4/14/17 – 6:20am

Slept like shit last night. This pinched nerve in my shoulder/back/whatever needs to chill. Whatever. Have an appointment at nine. Awesome. Need to get Alex off to school, hop in the shower, then see if I can get at least some work done on my novel. Need to be gone by like 8:40. Weather’s supposed to be good, though. Maybe I’ll just grab my camera and head downtown early.

Dunno. Sounds like a good idea, though. Sure. Okay. Shower, take off early, walk around downtown, then appointment. Get back around ten, grab something to eat, then depending on how I feel I’ll work on the novel for an hour then read. That’s a good enough plan for now. Time to get another cup of coffee and a smoke.

The hardest part of keeping a journal is actually keeping it. That’s true for everyone. So, planning out my day, every day, forces me to write something. If the only entry I manage to write is the date, time, and “Slept like shit. Got nothin’. Gonna watch Netflix,” then I consider it a success.

A first entry like this is also helps me organize my thoughts, and focus my energy in the most effective way I can. That bit above where I start out thinking I want to work on my novel, but decide I’d be better off shooting photos? You’ll find stuff like that cropping up in these entries all the time, and it’s one of the main reasons why you should keep a journal in the first place.

The Less-Obligatory (Though Still Helpful) “Check-In” Entries

As I go about my day, I go back to my journal and note how I’m doing, or jot down a thought or idea that seemed interesting.

10:07am

Christ, that appointment sucked. No energy. Took a lot of photos and got some exercise walking around, but now I’m wiped. Don’t think I even have enough brain to read. Gonna make another pot of coffee, grab a smoke, then see how I feel.

 

These check-ins are usually much shorter than my first entry of the day, and follow the pattern of: what I did, what I’m going to do next, and why. This helps me re-focus, in light of any distractions, and that helps to keep my creative energy and inspiration flowing as the day goes on.

The Slightly-More-Obligatory End-of-Night Entry

I round out my daily journal habit with an end-of-night entry. It’s basically a recap, with a specific focus on what I did, not what I didn’t do. This is another reason why you should keep a journal: it gives you a place to review and celebrate your accomplishments–important stuff for staying positive, which can be hard sometimes…

8:25pm

Tired. Looking forward to curling up under my blanket. Hopefully I sleep better than I did last night. Today sucked, but I got some stuff done. A bunch of photos, a blog post. Took another walk. Exercise-wise I’m doing pretty good. Just so mentally drained, and I’m not sure I ever fully woke up today. Here’s hoping tomorrow will be better.

I rarely get everything done that I set out to do (especially when I have an appointment in the middle of the morning), but I almost always get something done and that’s what I write down.

 

And Finally, Some Tips!

Here’s a few tips which help me. Maybe they’ll help you.

  1. I use a physical journal and a pen. For journaling, I much prefer the feel of actual writing, as opposed to typing. Other people are totally the opposite. Try both and see which works.
  2. I don’t share my journal with anyone, nor do I intend to ever do so. It’s not that I’m writing state secrets, but I don’t want to feel like I’m writing for an audience–even subconsciously. I want every letter in my journal to be honest, so it’s off limits to everyone but me. (Hence the “narrowly-selected and lightly-edited” disclaimer at the beginning of this post.)
  3. Related to the above, I don’t take my journal out with me. It stays in my house. I could toss it in a bag and be reasonably sure I won’t lose it, but my brain’s not always reasonable about things like that.
  4. Also related to point number two–in fact, the whole point of that point–is that your journal should be a judgement-free zone. Not that you won’t use it to judge yourself (a journal is great place for self-critique) but that what you write in it doesn’t have to be profound or even good. My journal is full of hastily-made grammatical and spelling errors, as well as full-frontal nonsense. I once wrote a three-page rant on how terrible season eight of the television show Bones was. And a few entries before that? A paragraph on how I should eat fewer onions because of how much they make me fart. We’re not trying for a Pulitzer, here.
  5. Ultimately, there are only two rules: write at least one entry every day, and what you write should be honest. It doesn’t matter if you follow my format or not (though I do think it’s a good place to start), it doesn’t matter if you begin with “Dear Diary,” or if only manage to write “Don’t feel like journaling today,” three days running. Just write something, each day, and make sure it’s the truth.

Now go forth and journal.

In no particular order

This isn’t a real post.

Lately, I’ve been trying to make my Friday posts more informative or generally useful, so that this blog of mine isn’t solely a collection of barely-coherent, stream-of-consciousness rants. And I’ve got one of those posts ready to go, but this week? Enough random things have irked me that writing a barely-coherent, stream-of-consciousness rant seems like exactly the sort of thing I need right now.

So without further ado, and in no particular order…

Social media sucks.

Twitter and Facebook have both become that weird uncle your parents warned you about. They’ve never been particularly good, per se, but over the last year they’ve really devolved.

I’d do away with them altogether (and actually have, in past), but the simple, hideous fact of the matter is this: if you have any pretensions at all of running a business in this, the year 2017, you need to be on social media. Sure, you might be able to get by without it, but those who use it are provably better off.

This sucks, of course, but it’s reality. We can (and perhaps should) work to change that reality, but we have to work with reality as it actually is in the meantime. And so, Monday through Friday, I’m on the socials.

The weekends, though, I’m taking off.

It’s my way of separating my needs as an alleged professional something or other, from my needs as a thinking and feeling human being.

Updates suck.

I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom on my phone for a couple of months now, and have been reasonably happy with it. It crashed a bit more often than I’d like, but each incremental update (about one every couple of weeks) has improved its stability. As of a week ago, it hardly crashed at all, and was just about perfect.

So, of course, Adobe went and turned it inside out with the big, 2018 update to their Creative Cloud suite. Now it’s called “Lightroom CC,” and it’s gone back to being crash-happy.

Eff. Emm. Ell.

I suck.

Despite the ongoing process of boiling down all of my priorities to the bare minimum, and focusing on what’s really important to me, I still feel like I’m missing the mark somehow. More specifically, it’s still rare that I go to bed thinking I made the best possible use of my day.

I can accept that, a bit, because I’m still not done cleaning house. But…I’d hoped to start feeling the effects of my new, “efficient” life choices by now.

I mean, think about it this way: you’re carrying a hundred pounds of crap for a while, finally decide to drop fifty, and…the weight feels no different? It’s not a perfect analogy, to be sure, but it works well enough. I don’t feel significantly more productive, though I do feel a little less stress.

Basically, this whole paring-down process has kind of been anti-climactic.

That said, though, I’m mostly doing okay. So I don’t really think I suck, as this section’s heading claims. I just sort of wanted to keep the “_____ sucks” theme going.

Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday Wupdate

It’s Wednesday again, so let’s continue the tradition of me hurling a bunch of gibberish at you about how my week’s been going. Think of these Wednesday updates like the “merchandising” restaurants do, where instead of throwing out their old, gamy food and taking a loss, they turn it into the “Chef’s Surprise” special.

Only instead of suspicious seafood, it’s my life.

That Instagram thing is going well.

“Broken and Beautiful.” I took this photo last week while walking through a local park.

I’ve somehow made it to three thousand followers on Instagram. That’s…really awesome. People seem to like my stuff, I’m often one of the “Top Posts” for my town and many of the hashtags I toss my stuff in–it’s cool. And to be honest, I kinda needed something like this to happen.

I hear a lot of artists rattle off the line “create art for yourself, don’t worry about what other people think,” but I’ve yet to personally meet any artist who isn’t secretly a needy little victim of impostor syndrome who desperately craves the approval of others. Myself included. I don’t need much, but I do need a little love from people who aren’t related to me before I can mentally say: “Okay, I am actually kinda good at this.”

Alex is a teenager today.

I foreshadowed this on Monday, but my daughter turns thirteen today.

It’s kind of freaking me out.

Changing priorities.

Despite the sleep and family health issues last month, things have generally been going well. There is the looming threat of winter and how that’s going to affect my mental health (I have a post about this sitting in my Drafts folder that I’m hoping to get out soon), but overall? I think I’m in a better place today than I’ve been in quite some time.

Which means that I’m starting to re-evaluate some of my priorities. Projects I’ve had kicking around, things I’ve been “meaning to do,” habits I’ve wanted to change–now that I no longer need to just live day to day, I’m taking some time to organize and plan.

If this smells a little like vague-posting, it’s because it is. Even I’m not sure what “organize and plan” means here, or which “priorities” I’m really talking about. I just know that I’m staring down the barrel of some hard choices as to what I’m going to focus on, versus what I’m going to kick to the curb once and for all.

Once I figure out which is which, I’ll let you know.