I must focus on the most important things and channel my creativity.
My brain is very often a cluttered place to live. I’ll have a bazillion ideas at once, and it feels like I need to do them all, right now. It can be pretty tremendous pressure, especially when paired with the things already on my task list.
I understand this is a common pitfall as a creative person with my personality type, but I also understand it’s important for me to have some control over the brain clutter. I have learned a few important things in trying to tame the mess.
First, write it all down. I have a journal just for ideas. Random midnight genius inspiration? Put it in the journal and go to bed. Brilliant shower thought? Put it in the book and go on about the day. Putting it in a central idea space makes it easy to go back and pull out later when I have time to consider it and work on it.
The idea journal also gives me the gift of space. It frees my head space to work on the task before me first without losing that random inspiration thought. I don’t have to worry about forgetting it while I finish the open project. It also gives me some distance from the initial idea, so when I go back to it, sometimes I discover it wasn’t as brilliant as I initially thought. (I know, I’m as shocked as you are that all my ideas aren’t perfectly genius.)
Second, just say no. I say this like it’s going to be more effective than it was on the war on drugs when I was in middle school. It probably won’t be effective at first, but it will as you practice more. I’ve learned that if I say yes to every opportunity and every idea that comes along, I won’t do any of them well – if I manage to complete anything at all.
By limiting what I work on, I can be more productive because I can actually finish what I start. My pile of unfinished crafts is proof that all the things all at once is no way to live. The good news is, since I’ve limited the new projects I’ve allowed myself to start, I’ve been working through the old unfinished piles and completing more of them, too.
When we allow everything onto our radar at once, our capability and vision are limited by the sheer volume of stuff on the screen. If we narrow that down, we can channel more energy and creativity into a single project, making it stronger work and completing it more quickly than if it were one of a dozen projects open at once. That focus also makes it possible to move on to the next idea sooner.
If you’re anything like me, it’s a giant happy to finish a big project. That happy far outweighs the frustration of limiting what I take on, so I choose to focus on just a few things at a time.
Do you find it easy to say no to give yourself room to work on the most important things in your life? If not, what can you say no to that will give you some freedom to work on what matters most?
This Three Things Thursday, let’s think about that “New Year, New You” mindset. Most of us love the fresh start of a new year – new calendars, new goals, new resolutions, new you… But can we really just do a hard reset January 1 and be brand new people?
Thing 1: We can be made new in Christ, and God promises us new mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). We don’t need a yearly restart; we can start new every day.
Thing 2: Old you is no slouch. Old you has made it this far, so don’t discount your past and what it can teach you.
Thing 3: Do you really want to be all new, or do you want to steadily improve? I look at my life and see a gazillion things I’d like to improve, but I can’t do any of them instantly. Even if I could, it probably wouldn’t help me long-term because I would have skipped over the work of building the habits that make those changes successful.
I quit making New Year’s Resolutions long ago. Instead, I make goals throughout the year and work on building habits that will get me closer to those goals. To that end, I love a good planner, and I created my own last year that’s worked brilliantly for me. So, if you’re a creative type who needs a little structure to keep your spiritual health, mental health, and meal planning running more or less smoothly, maybe it will work for you. Here’s a link to download the planner for free (no strings, no e-mail subscription, just a free pdf):
What are your biggest and smallest goals for 2020? My biggest goal is to get my book published. My smallest is to get the Christmas decorations down sometime this month. On second thought, getting the book published may be easier for me…
I am growing. Whatever is in my path today is a tool.
Working through depression has taught me that mindset is everything, and I can choose my mindset. It’s not always an easy choice, and I don’t always make the best choice, but it is indeed a choice.
Real life doesn’t run perfectly according to plan. In fact, the more I plan my days, the more God seems to enjoy showing me my plans are nothing compared to his. I can view the kinks in my schedule as obstacles, or I can see them as tools.
Traffic is an opportunity to practice patience (and mercy…); an unexpected phone call presents a chance to develop a relationship; emergent issues at work sharpen my professional skills.
If I look at whatever comes my way as a tool to sharpen my skills or develop my resiliency, then I control how my brain accepts the obstacle. It’s an opportunity instead of an obstacle. It’s a good or neutral thing instead of a harbinger of doom. I control the narrative instead of depression brain. Depression brain works more like Eeyore, which is fine some days, but it’s no place to live every day.
Choosing the narrative also keeps me from being the victim of circumstances. I can’t control my circumstances, but I can control how I react to them.
I don’t have to eat a metric ton of chocolate because I had a bad day at work. I can choose to eat a half-ton instead, or none at all, and find a way to learn from the bad so I don’t keep repeating it. I know it sounds hopelessly optimistic, and extremely Miltonian to my fellow lit junkies, but I can make myself miserable or happy based on how I think about something. Taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ is definitely a Biblical perspective on positive thinking (2 Corinthians 10:5).
No one else can say enough good things about me for me to believe it if I don’t already believe for myself: that I’m a beautiful person and a talented writer and anything else that’s true about me. No one else can fill you up if you aren’t seeking your identity from your Creator and believing what he says about you: you are a beloved, chosen child of God.
It has taken me years of repeating that to myself and building on it to get out of depression brain mode all the time. Mindset and how I talk to myself have been the biggest game changers in my coping toolbox. I choose to listen to and repeat the positive until I believe it. I choose to give less volume and air time to the negative. I choose to evaluate and learn from negatives as a tool instead of letting them be an obstacle.
It’s simple work. But it’s not easy work. It gets easier as I go, but it was hard work changing my thought patterns. It’s also ongoing work that I can never slack up on – depression brain is just waiting for me to fall asleep at the wheel and run me right back into the mess I’ve worked through. As long as I keep growing, I won’t be crashing out of the race.
How do you see obstacles in your plans? What thought patterns do you need to change to grow from them instead of letting them hold you back?
Yesterday was hard, but you survived. Today is a new day.
There are variations of this thought in my journal all the time. The Navy SEALs famously say, “The only easy day was yesterday.” While experience bears this out – every day presents new challenges and new skills to develop that would definitely have made yesterday somewhat easier in retrospect – sometimes yesterday just sucked and there’s no getting around it.
But… Yesterday is done; it’s officially history now. Even better, you survived and made it to
today, so good job, you.
Now that yesterday’s ordeal is over, how can you improve
today by applying something you learned yesterday?
If you deal with depression, surviving today could be as
simple as deciding to keep living and to get out of bed. If that’s where you are, that’s solid
work. Improving might be seeking out a
counselor or going for a walk in the sun.
When your days are super hard, everything feels impossible,
so just focus on doing 1% better today than you did yesterday. 1% isn’t that much. If you survived yesterday, chances are great
that 1% more today will not kill you, either – and you’ll be a little better
off. Just focus on one single thing you
can improve on today and let yesterday go.
“…I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
Paul reminded the Philippians that we have to let go of the
past in order to move forward. Moving
forward is far more important than looking back. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t deal with
your past and make peace with it; it just means that whatever your past holds,
your present and your future depend on the actions you take today. Yesterday may still be delivering
consequences today, but your actions today aren’t dependent on what you did
Every action or inaction is a choice you’re making, no
matter how intentional you are about those decisions. When you face today as a new set of decisions
– each one an opportunity to be 1% better – it’s easier to not just survive but
We can’t improve yesterday, but your life tomorrow can be
better if you improve on today.
No, I’m not actually planning to take over the world. Though sometimes it’s fun to imagine what mandatory weekly painting sessions would do for world peace…
This rundown is more of a public promise to myself and a promise to anyone who comes to Mabbat for encouragement and creativity.
I’ve been working for weeks even though I haven’t been posting anything, and I’ve been planning a few changes that I think will offer more help to other people like me who have been muddling through depression brain. It’s also no secret that I love to be creative, and I think everyone is created to be creative in some way. I try to share how creative outlets like writing and painting have helped ease my depression, but I want to be more intentional about that process and why it works.
So, here’s the plan:
I’m keeping Mindset Monday posts, and I’m adding Three Things Thursday. Sometimes those three things will be mental health related, sometimes art, and sometimes just some interesting things. And I’ll keep sharing what I’m working on.
I’m going to e-mail a “Toolbox” once a week (on Tuesdays, most likely, because alliteration helps me remember what I’m planning to write…) that will include a mental health coping tool discussion, some creative prompts, and a creative Bible study tool. If this is something you’d like to see, sign up here:
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Also, I’m going to be consistent about posting in the Mabbat FB group so we can have a fun and safe place to discuss depression and creativity and everything in between. It’s a closed group, so request to be added, and I promise I’ll be quick about it: https://www.facebook.com/groups/773975689656609/
If there’s something you’d like to see, please say so in the comments. I’d love to hear it!
Because I am not a golfer (despite my putt-putt grandstanding) I looked up the word “mulligan” to be sure I was spelling it correctly and not misusing the term. I discovered on Dictionary.com (Mulligan Definition) that mulligan refers to a stew made up of whatever happens to be lying around as well as the more common – at least in my orbit – do-over term from the world of golf. The mulligan has a fun backstory if you love etymology like I do, and possibly refers to two different golfers named Mulligan who for different reasons requested to take another shot at the first hole (Mulligan Origin Story).
Apparently, there are some occasions in the PGA official rules that require a mulligan, and one player this year has been penalized for not taking his mulligan shot (Pro Golfer Penalized for NOT Taking a Mulligan). If you have read my blog for a while and are suddenly worried that I’m turning to sports writing, never fear: the mulligan references are just the perfect illustration for how I’ve been feeling about my writing and my life in general lately.
#1 – As both Misters Mulligan could attest, there’s no harm
or shame in asking for another shot.
I’ve started and stopped this blog so many times that it
will be a minor miracle if anyone comes back to read since I’ve been rambling
for such a long time. I feel like I
haven’t had a good grip on what I should be writing, and I haven’t made time to
do any real writing for several months.
I feel no lack of guilt and shame about that since the one consistent
gift God has given me and put me in a place to use is my writing.
Here’s what I need to remember about that shame: it’s not from God. It’s a wretched emotion that blocks me from writing and sharing again here on Mabbat, and it does nothing productive in my life. What is from God? The guilt of conviction that asks me to start again, to pick up where I left off and turn away from whatever was holding me back from his purposes – that’s from God. He gives each of us new mercies every morning to start the day fresh with him (Lamentations 3:23).
Every day is a mulligan.
We get new mercies every day. Whatever
you are facing that seems insurmountable, tell it the truth that God is
starting every day new with you, and all that old baggage need not ride along
for your mulligan today.
#2 – As Jesper Parnevik discovered, sometimes you HAVE to
take a mulligan. It’s in the rules.
Do you ever feel like you’re fighting the same battles over
and over again? I do. I am always making the same to-do list for
days on end because I don’t accurately plan for the time each task will take in
the real world. (I am much more
efficient in Anne-land without any interruptions or people or…) I feel like I will always be cycling in and
out of depression, and every loop back into it knocks me off track and requires
another run at rebuilding good habits (because maybe this time I will be
so well established in my routines that depression brain can’t knock me on my
duff – it’s a brave thought, at least).
I have been on and off again so many times with diet and exercise that
there’s not a diet plan out there I haven’t read about and at least briefly
All that guilt and shame I described about neglecting
writing? It’s equally applicable to my
habits, my depression brain, my healthy weight management, and any other aspect
of my life that feels like it runs on repeat mode. And the shame is equally destructive to all
those things, too. But guess what? New mercies apply here, too.
Not only that, but there are very real obstacles we run into
that require us to take a mulligan. Like
depression. And loss. Or life changes like job transfers, budget
shortfalls, aging, and a million other things we’ll encounter as long as we’re
alive on this earth.
We can try to play through, but ignoring the need to take
another shot will end up penalizing us somewhere down the road. Lining up a new shot with fresh perspective
doesn’t make you a failure, but failing to restart and floundering where you
Take the mulligan, get a read on the new shot, and get
moving. You only fail if you give up.
#3 – We are all a mulligan stew of our lived experiences and
the lessons we’ve learned from them.
I could list a lot of things I regret saying or doing. I imagine we all can. But I don’t think we should spend much time
on the regret. Everything I’ve lived
through has made me who I am today, and if I could go back and change the
things I regret, I wouldn’t, because they’re all a part of me now. Who would I be if I hadn’t learned the
lessons those regrets taught me? Who
would I be now without walking through all those years of loss? It’s taken a long time to get here, to feel
this free and this strong. I’m not going
It’s not the regrets that built who I am today, though; it’s what I learned from living through them. Remembering that I was cruel to someone who didn’t deserve it in middle school still pushes me to encourage and build up others instead of gossiping. Living through the worst of my depression brain taught me to ask for help when I’m struggling and to offer a lifeline to anyone I can. I have never been nor will ever be perfect.
I’m a hodgepodge stew of lessons learned, hopes, dreams,
failed good intentions, faith in the God of new mercies, and so much
coffee. What makes my particular stew
tasty rather than bitter is the salt and light of faith that has given me fresh
starts and God’s big-picture perspectives when I’ve needed them.
Here are three things for you to ponder this Thursday:
What kind of mulligan stew are you?
Where do you need to take a mulligan today?
How does the knowledge that God provides new mercies for everyone every day change your opinion of taking a mulligan?
Progress is progress. Keep moving and never give up.
Do you ever feel like you’re stuck on a hamster wheel and
never really getting anywhere with any of the things you want to accomplish in
your life? Me, neither. Ha!
I think we all feel like this at some point whether we admit to it publicly or not. Today’s Mindset Monday comes from my planner on a day when nothing had gone right for at least a week. At least that’s what I thought until I sat down and reviewed my daily evaluations in my planner.
I felt like I had done nothing to speak of because I had
nothing to mark off my goal checklist.
What I saw when I spent some time reviewing what I had accomplished that
wasn’t written on my goal work list was not as insignificant as it felt when I
was feeling mopey about it. I had taken
care of my household, worked, done some writing, and mostly stuck to my food and
exercise plan. That was plenty!
It may have felt like nothing was happening when I looked at
what I had done on my book writing, but I was still making progress there,
too. It just wasn’t the lightening pace
I had set for myself when I planned out my goals.
I’ve been taking a new approach to goal setting and
achievement for this season of my life.
I’m not setting deadline dates as often.
If there’s no outside reason for a deadline, I’m leaving it open ended
rather than pacing it out on a calendar.
Think of goals as a roadmap rather than a timeline.
I’m still going to get to the end destination, but my pace
won’t always be the same or predictable.
Some days I can speed down the highway at 90 miles an hour, while others
I’m on a leisurely stroll. Both are
getting me closer to the goal result, and I need to be happy that I’m moving
towards it, even when it feels like a snail could outrun me.
With parenting and work and volunteering at church, I’m just
not in a space in my life right now to narrowly focus on much else. Whether I like it or not, that means writing more
than my daily journal pages will be the thing that slides down the list of
important things to do. That’s okay,
because it won’t always be like that.
In fact, here’s a story of a woman who published her first
novel at the age of 95.
She never quit. It
took her 63 years to write her novel, and she did it. She is my hero and a brilliant example that
you’re too old or too late until you’re dead.
Whatever it is you’ve been avoiding because you think you don’t have time
or will never be able to finish it, just start.
Start with something small and then just chip away at it little at a
time until you’ve achieved your goal.
You can’t accomplish anything if you never start. It may be slow and feel all kinds of ugly, but slow and ugly progress is still progress. You only fail if you give up.