Meditation

The heat still radiated out from the walls, although the sun had ceased to blaze about an hour ago.  Lee could feel the sweat sticking to her, evaporating all too slowly.

But how are you going to do it? she thought.

It amused her:  she worked surrounded by books, with the ability every day to take home a new writing, and yet something had stopped her from even opening anything that wasn’t based in reality.

Nearly every day, she tried to write, and even then found herself avoiding what she had once been happy to resign herself to, as life’s work.

Somewhere, buried under mountains of excuses, fears, and projections, lay the reason why.  But she didn’t know it, couldn’t see it.  There was too much in the way.

I have to open up if I want to be creativeWithout it, my work will suffer.

How many generations of artists had lived through eras of their work being constricted by the pressures of the market?  For how many years had Lee lived with the spectre of her own…shall we say…mental irregularities?

She hesitated to call herself “insane.”  Insanity was a legal term.  It meant a person couldn’t tell right from wrong.  She wasn’t insane in that sense.  But her fear,

if I let them see who I am, I’ll just show the world I am insane,

that stopped her.  Over the years it was possible to learn how to blend in, how not to frighten people by being too friendly, how to avoid glares as a reward for eye contact.

Even the word for it — schizophrenic

The vast majority of people, even educated people…even her professors — didn’t know what it meant.  They had a tendency to link the term with multiple personalities, which was not even close to what she meant when she used the term in a clinical (not pejorative) sense.

So she just didn’t use it.

Due to complications, she couldn’t even say, though, that when people did use the term wrongly, based in 19th-century dogma, that they used it inaccurately.  No one’s mind is wholeSo why am I so scared of opening the door to…that?

I’ve stood here, watching you, every day…writing these things out.  Have you forgotten your primary purpose?  Since you have gained to fortitude to begin to live, your fear has overwhelmed you.

Because now my employment depends on…

depends on appearing “normal?”  That’s why you chose the field you did.  You know it is normal within the arts and within letters not to be “normal.”

But I don’t know if I’ll stay,

You are not trapped.  Believe me when I say that I hear you where you fear becoming another like the ones you try to separate yourself from.  But you are not them.  You have not reached the point of spewing diatribes from upturned cartons on the sidewalk.  And I know a thinner line than you would like, divides you from those you smell before you see.  But you have care.  They don’t.

Then what separates us?

Lee looked over her shoulder at the dimming twilight.

I’ve never been hospitalized.  I’ve never been homeless.  I have access to medication and mental health facilities.

I don’t want to be hospitalized.  I don’t want to be homeless.  I don’t want to lose access to medication and mental health facilities.

This world was not made for me.

But you live here.  And if you want to be an artist — no.  If you want to make an impact on the world, you have got to face the idea that people will come to know you.  I know you’ve been hurt in the past, but you’re no longer a child.

I only live among children.

Listen to me.  Which part of you/I/us are you talking from, now?

STOP BEING CONTROLLED BY FEAR AND DO YOUR DUTY.

can you live fearlessly?

Creative process and psychology…

I devoted six hours last night (stopping at around 2:00 AM) to devouring a book I found at the library — it’s amazing how much faster I can read writing intended for a general audience, now, after having gone through a semester of reading textbooks and journal articles!

I won’t say which book it is — yet — I have my own reasons, which you’ve probably seen before.  However…so far as my curiosity around the psychological or neural aspect of creating goes, this book was very enlightening.  No need to refer back to religion or spirituality to explain what happens in the creative process!  (Apparently, I am more comfortable in a “spontaneous” creative process which can appear spiritual, as I may have no memory of working on creative problems prior to the results springing forward out of “incubation,” into my conscious awareness.)

And what I had thought there was no material on — that is, a psychological explanation of creativity — happily enough, I’m finding I was wrong about.  (Then again, this book was copyrighted in 2010, possibly way after I had asked professionals how creativity worked and was told that psychiatry didn’t fully understand:  2010 was around the time I was first hired.  The question first arose around 2002, unless I’m mistaken and it arose before that:  I was obsessively creative for years, prior to undergrad [though I believe it started at around 14 years of age, for me].)

One of the more interesting parts of this is the possibility that perhaps as an undergrad, my illness could have been setting me up to write…that is, the obsessive writing could have been a symptom of my illness (mood disorders and psychotic disorders can light up the same parts of the brain as are active in creative process).  This would explain why it became so much more difficult to write creatively after I started taking medications targeting my psychosis (psychosis just means becoming detached from reality; it does not mean, “wanting to kill people”).

That is, I can turn off the neural firing that caused me to write creatively, now.  Actually, it seems that its default is “off.”  Just because it isn’t on all the time, doesn’t mean that now it’s gone, or that now it has to be “hard.”  It’s just controlled, and I have to make the decision to step back and allow my creativity through if I want creating to happen.

What happened with one of my recent Creative Writing attempts, which I had been curious about, is that I allowed my Executive function (pre?frontal cortex) to step back and allow a different part of my brain to speak…explaining why it didn’t feel like “me,” but not meaning that it was not “me.”

This is actually fairly fascinating.

I have a couple more books to go through which deal with the psychological bases of the creative process…I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull a marathon reading session again this soon, though!

Yeah: getting out from in front of the computer

So, I ended up signing up for an LIS class, for Summer.  There’s a weird story behind it, but basically…I found out at 2 AM last night that I could register at 7 AM, and picked out a class.  When I got up…whenever I did (?) I was able to grab one of the three seats (out of 30-something) left in it.

DID I SAY “SERENDIPITY” LAST NIGHT, OR…

This class is on User Experience, which I hope will be engaging.  It’s also a 10-week class, so it shouldn’t be too compressed.  Why am I taking it?  Web Development is my aim after and if I attain the Master’s.  At least now, that much is clear; and UX should help with that aim.  At least, I’m hoping.  I don’t know the intricacies of the different job titles surrounding Web Publishing, yet.

In other arenas, I also forgot to take medication until 2 AM last night (I was reminded at 9 PM, but forgot), so I was fairly wiped out, today.  I did listen to two lectures today — er, yesterday — anyhow, and got a good survey of what needs to be done before next Monday (it just keeps coming).  The major problem is that I have days when I do a lot of schoolwork, and then days following where I don’t want to even think about schoolwork.  The dynamic then states that the work gets backed up and the cycle repeats (when, that is, I don’t miss an assignment entirely because I stubbornly refuse to acknowledge college at all — it wouldn’t be as possible at a traditional school).

It’s magnified as things are now because I do have one significant assignment to do (I can’t just let it slide like the Discussion post; it’s worth 15% of my grade), the material for which I’ve forgotten:  so I’ve just got to re-do some readings (these were readings I did in Hawaii, and I was so burnt out from Hawaii after getting back, that I couldn’t do the corresponding work on time [my brain was not functioning adequately.  I guess you could say it was off-balance]).

So today has mostly been spent in front of the computer — like yesterday — and I know that’s a recipe for depression.  I probably shouldn’t even be awake now; it will soon be 1 AM.  Because I seem to have cheated myself out of the relaxing art class I wanted to take during the Summer, I’m also now a little irritated with myself.  I have a couple of weeks to back out; but it was necessary to reserve a space in this class, if I wanted to take it.

My major issue is that on one hand, I have a limited amount of time to fit all this training in; on the other hand, I’m a bit…angry that I have to grow up?  Finishing the Art AA did give me a sense of completion; on the other hand, if I had dropped everything to re-enter the MLIS program as soon as I thought of it, I’d have a bit more wiggle room.  Right now I should be taking three classes per semester until graduation.  If I had started a semester prior, and worked through Summer Session, I would only have to take two.

I’m also a bit irritated that the Art degree seems relatively worthless, although I obviously invested in it and enjoyed it, and respected it.  I still respect it.  It’s just really…it feels not-right that Art can’t be a way of life.  My valuations and broader society’s valuations do not match; I might be wrong, but it seems like, at least in the U.S. — and at this point in history — the only thing that’s important is money.

Tonight I did do some reading in the book on mokuhanga — which might be interesting even if I don’t intend to make woodblock prints.  It’s much more specialized knowledge than I got from either of the books from the Honolulu Art Museum.  One of them in particular…it’s kind of like, “Japanese Art for People Who Know Nothing About Japan.”  But I didn’t have time to read that deeply into it, at the Museum.  It’s just weird that there’s this cultural divide where I can’t really see how a lot of the information in that book would be new to anyone.  But then, there are people who think that the only kind of ramen that exists, comes out of a $0.90 package.

Anyhow:  mokuhanga.  I’m not sure if the book is topical enough to my interests to buy (although it is indeed beautiful), but it would make a nice companion to Shin Hanga, depending on the content.  But then, why would I have it, if I wouldn’t use it?  (or is it just that I don’t actually want to mix rice-starch paste?)

Yeah…I’m a bit concerned about bugs eating the colors…

Right.  Anyway, I also did go looking through my (art) archives, if they can be called that — they haven’t really been organized.  I found my good markers, as well (the Copics, along with some Staedtler Lumocolor drawing pens).

So I was looking through that stuff and thinking back on what drew me away from fantasy storytelling:  there is a lot of work building up to a graphic novel project there, which was abandoned at one point or another, for reasons I can guess at, but which I don’t fully recall.  Chances are that I was thinking about it too much, or it was getting too real for me…or I realized just how big a workload it would be to write and draw a comic.  Or, it could be, I began medication and it quieted all of that.

I did want to say something about how I don’t know how learning works.  Particularly, reading.  I know that my life is a lot better in quality because I read, but that doesn’t mean that I know how information gets into my brain and stays there.  That, though…could just be me tripping out, like I trip out over being embodied, and why anything exists, and this.  I just don’t entirely “get” why or how language works.  I’m sure that studying XML may do that to a person, though.

So now I have some old drawings to work through — I’m not starting from zero, I had to remind myself.  Particularly interesting to me are the possibilities in abstraction, and what might happen if I use full value ranges (almost possible with markers, but not quite:  it’s hard to get a very “black” black, but I do have some jarred ink which may work…it’s also possible to use a carbon black watercolor, which I might try on hot-press watercolor paper and/or Bristol board).

I decided to hang back from the sumi ink and watercolors, for now…I’m going to try drawing again.  At least, that’s the plan.  (Even my Neocolor II and Prang drawings looked nicer than I remember them, but I’ll try and stick with dry media, for now.)  After that, I’ll work back into sumi and the soft-hair brushes, and then try watercolor again…maybe.

Maybe something will strike me, in the next two weeks…and cause me to maybe drop UX…it’s just that it seems so much like it was meant to be, though…

Ah, right. Tests necessitate review.

And…I didn’t really do that great of a job at taking notes on the Cataloging lectures; I just read and highlighted them.

Positive point:  I’ve made it through all the Metadata lectures, to date.  Now, for that class, I can focus on just the 1-2 Discussion Posts to complete.  I’ve also located the necessary lectures to answer the Cataloging test questions, and have labeled what I could label.  So this should help between now and Monday morning, when I’ll need to submit my answers.  I’ll want to review the sections in question tomorrow, after work.  This will free Sunday to do the actual answering (though I should make notes to help myself as I review).

(I forgot that there is a Help session I can watch, though I can do that — and maybe read the Dewey manual — after my lecture review.)

On Sunday, I should try and assemble my thoughts on the Discussion Prompt and then write out an answer and submit it.  If I get this out of the way first, I will have the rest of the day to refine my answers for the Cataloging test…on which I should aim for a high grade (that is, I should try and care about it).  Last time, I wasn’t aiming for a high grade, I was just trying to get it out of the way, and it showed.  I wasn’t betting on all grading being tougher because I’m in a Master’s program, but at least I avoided getting a 0 — which some people did get (I’m not going to get into the bizarre box-and-whisker graph which showed the grading statistics, but let’s just say the statistics broke the graph).

For reference, the grade was a reflection of the massive drama which is my Cataloging course.  I don’t want to get into it, but I will say that I got an extremely bad grade and my prior GPA was 3.7:  higher than normal for me, but I usually hover around 3.4-3.6.  Below 3.0, and I will get put on Academic Probation and kicked out if I then get a B- or below.

It doesn’t help when, out of self-protection, I start telling myself that my grade doesn’t matter because this situation is ******, because getting below a B average can get me kicked out of the program.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  It will require rethinking my career path if it happens, which is what I’m trying to avoid (though because of Metadata and the introduction to programming I’m getting, I’m now thinking of training in Web Design, and moving up from there.  It’s less lucrative, but it might be less bizarre, or a better fit).

So, I didn’t get any creative work done today, but I did get 5 lectures out of the way, and as such have significantly narrowed the gap where it comes to catching up.  I’m now only one Discussion Post behind in Metadata (I was freaking out so much about Cataloging that I got a week or more behind in my other classes — to say the least.  The stress triggered an episode of mental illness which I’m still recovering from, which for a couple of weeks prevented me from concentrating, which meant that I couldn’t comprehend what I was trying to read).

And yeah, being ****** at the Cataloging Professor isn’t going to really help me, here.  I’m in school for me.  I’m not there to let his issues obstruct my goals, although I know now that my past aim of becoming a Cataloger is laughable, so long as I train at this University and don’t go out of my way to learn elsewhere.  And as I’ve heard, there is another Professor teaching the same course who is even worse:  not in the manner of being unreliable, but in the manner of being cruel.

Anyhow, I don’t mean to stew, but I should record this somewhere.

I also have work, tomorrow.  I’m wondering if I really need to stay in my current position:  I feel like I’ve learned what I can, and that if I’m going to have to do customer service anyway, maybe I should look for additional experience that differs from what I’ve had to deal with for the last six years.  The sweet part of this job is the scheduling flexibility…but there are a lot of little irritations.

What’s ironic is that my vocational program may be holding me back from moving forward (by limiting my options and encouraging me to commit to something in which I had no prior experience), more than it is helping me.

And…now I’m just really angry again.  But it could be the illness.  Chemistry, you know.

Maybe I’ll try and do some art before bed, and see if it helps…

Reflexive creativity

I am obviously not being creative enough, because last night I got the urge to do something I haven’t done in a long time:  I attempted to visit a forum which caters (or catered — it’s now mostly abandoned) to people with marginalized and controversial identities.  Then I realized that I was falling back into the pattern of reflexive creativity (that is, turning my creativity back upon myself, as happens when I don’t use my external creative outlets [drawing, painting, writing, beadwork, jewelry] enough), and instead of writing about what I wanted to write about online (where negative attention would be much more likely than positive attention, and may make my online surroundings unsafe), I went back to one of my paper journals.  Particularly, the identity journal…which I hadn’t used for about a year.

With things going the way they are now, it will likely be safer for me to do this when these urges come up, instead of publishing under any unique user account like WordPress or Facebook.  It will also be easier to keep things straight where it comes to my particular perspective (that is, I won’t have to play along with the groundrules as I basically had to, when I was dealing with talking about this in groups [for the sake of inclusion] — thing is, without the groundrules, it sounds a lot more sane, and can probably progress much further than it was originally taken).

Part of what prompted this was some input I’ve been getting from a blogger or two on WordPress.  Nothing direct, just indirect, “it’s OK to think and say things others wouldn’t,” type of support.  I don’t feel safe enough to do that in public, let alone connected with a traceable identity, but then I realized that paper journals preceded blogs and may be superior to them in at least one sense, which is privacy.

I could only stand writing for about twenty minutes, last night…then, I think, I lost sight of what I had originally intended to write (I need to make a habit of making quick notes when I start…how am I supposed to remember why I started writing when I’m off on my third tangent), or I had encompassed the reason I started to write, and reached a natural breaking point.  The second sense in which paper journals feel superior to blogs (to me) is in the ease of drawing and easily adding visual input and notation into their pages.  It isn’t as easy with a lined journal, but I looked into my art journal after having written the entry in my identity journal.

I was…seriously…that stuff still blows me away.  It’s like, how can I have this talent and not be using it (and the answer is that I want to use it for good, not evil, therefore my options are limited and I need to find a secondary route of employment).

In addition, I have the seed of a story (at least its beginning) in the art journal, and was reminded of it when I looked over it again.  In turn, I had been building up to that seed, for years.

It seems that when I’m either 1) off medication, or 2) in an active phase of illness, I’m much more creative than I am when I’m stable.  I don’t really know what lies behind that — if it’s an impetus thing (something, for some reason, causing me to work things out creatively), or a coping thing (whether I’m really coping with the outside world or with some distortion of it which my imagination has made), or a brain-chemistry thing…I really just don’t know.  I know that it’s generally harder for me to function in society when I’m less-medicated, but then I gain the ability to shift back toward a generative stance where my thinking is more free than seems to be tolerated…at least, online.

Anyhow, I also asked someone today for help with finding books on creativity where someone could be trying to write, but something like trauma keeps coming up every time they try to.  Yes, there are a couple of designations in the Dewey Decimal system for that!  (I figured that if there was a cookbook specifically on seaweeds, then maybe there was a chance that there was a book on being creative while mentally ill, and how to do it without making things worse.)

I’ve basically been avoiding creative writing for a really long time…since I graduated with the degree, I think.  I had noticed that since I began the second medication I’m still on, writing was much harder for me; my mind just got a lot quieter.  In addition, and I’ve said this before, it engages part of my brain which makes up what it sees to be the most likely scenario for a given incomplete data set, which doesn’t help me in real life.  Mostly because my core beliefs are skewed because of years of peer abuse, and then the illness that kicked in (probably because of the abuse), magnifies that.

Because of this, I’ve been thinking about Dialectical Behavior Therapy…which doesn’t sound fun, but does sound as though it could help me function better…and maybe get off of some of these medications (particularly the ones which aren’t related to anxiety, though it would be a trip if I could lower that one, too).  …Though I am not sure I would still be functional off of the medication which quieted my brain:  it takes care of multiple symptom classes.

I’m trying to think of how long I lived with overt symptoms without recognizing them or treating them with meds…I really can’t remember how old I was when I began, but I had to have been at my latter University in undergraduate work.  My memories from that time (of noticing my brain working differently) are from inside college classrooms…and I know that my judgment was flawed before then (although I couldn’t tell, at the time [actually coming to recognize that I had substantial cognitive impairments took about 10 years down the line…or it felt like that]).

It would probably be clear from the above, but I just realize now that I only implied that I would like to write, again:  I didn’t actually say it.  (Show, not Tell?)

Ya huh.  In any case, one of the books we found at the Library, I already own, so I can take a look in there…and see if I’ve read it already.  My ultimate goal would be to be able to write creatively again without making myself sick, in the process…