One of my favorite parts of any creative project is the brainstorming part.
This can take many different forms. With a refashioning project, I have to stand in front of the mirror for a few minutes, holding the item that is to be refashioned. Sometimes, as I do this, it will trigger the memory of something I might have seen somewhere. Sometimes, I get nothing. So I might turn it upside down, or play with the seams a little bit, examine how it is constructed. See what I’m up against, as it were.
When it happens with a writing project, it usually all happens at once: bits and pieces of dialogue, setting, plot that I must write down as quickly as possible before they disappear into the ether. Once I have gotten down as much of the initial inspiration as possible, I have to start looking for order. Examining who the characters are, what the context is. See who I’m up against, as it were.
Brainstorming to solve a problem
Neither in refashioning nor in writing do I have a real problem to solve, I will readily admit that.
One of the things that I find most dissatisfying about being out of the workforce is that I don’t have what I perceive to be real or significant problems to solve anymore. Solving other people’s problems using my creativity, and getting paid for it…that was the life. When this was my job, I felt so full and happy that I would often (and I know this sounds nuts) feel like I had to hide my work from my colleagues because I was afraid they would see what I was doing and how much I enjoyed it and think that I wasn’t really working. I liked my job so much that I felt like I was getting paid to do the grown-up equivalent of playing video games all day.
No, refashioning and writing novels are simply creative outlets for someone who has committed to raising a not-always-merry band of scalawags. There is no satisfaction of a paycheck at the end (at least not yet), and there is a lot more talk of poop and testicles than at any other job I’ve ever had.
Lots of problems, extremely boring solutions
This may be an unpopular opinion, perhaps, but I am of the humble opinion that being a parent really stinks. Like, literally, at least three times a day I will catch a whiff of something and say, “what is that?” (Actually today it was, very specifically, “what is that smell of death emanating from the boys’ room?”) But also, it can really be the worst possible scenario for someone like me. There is no financial reward. There is no great problem to solve. There is too much togetherness.
Little problems + little people = a tangled web of tiny stresses
However, I committed to this life and there is no way around it but through. I guess I just never expected that my life would become as boring as it has. My Ideal Life is not boring.
Taking a clue from my Ideal Life Exercise
My life over the last almost six years has become very very small. Again, there’s not much to be done about that, since there is no taking the children back to the store and getting our money back. What this tiny, rather boring life has revealed is that even in the small things, there are still problems to solve. They may not change the world, but they could possibly change my world.
As I wrote about my Ideal Life Exercises in depth over the last few weeks, I discovered just how problematic some of my little problems have become to me. I mean, that meal planning thing…it brings me to tears nearly every single time. That family scheduling thing is an enormous pink elephant sitting in the middle of our living room. Having a clean house? My attitude about this is pretty rotten. The fact that I expect anyone in my family to notice what I am wearing and get my panties in a wad when they don’t is not their problem. It is mine.
And while it feels like I am stepping back into the Stone Age by trying to make progress in these unthinkably boring things, I realize that right now, inthis season of my life, these are where I need to make progress.
Solving my itty bitty problem solving problem
Yesterday, I got out a half used-up notebook. Because I started using a journaling app in 2019 (which I totally love, don’t get me wrong!) this was the first time I had sat down with pen and paper in far more than a year. (Ironically, the app was a solution I came up with for my multitude of notebooks that I constantly was lugging around…but I digress.)
I wrote down, off the top of my head, the Ideal Life Themes that had left me in tears when I wrote about them over the last month. I also wrote down some of the little nagging dissatisfactions I have been feeling lately. I wrote down some of the habits that I was lagging behind in putting in place and one or two of the goals I had hoped to establish.
This was the first step in my brainstorming process: to see what I was up against and, in some cases, see who I was up against (sometimes me, sometimes a family member!)
I know perfectly well that if I am up against someone else, then there is no careful problem-solving that I can put in place to make any difference. So I crossed off my list anything that would require someone else to change.
I was left with my list of problems to solve.
A teeny tiny little ray of hope
I’m going to be honest with you: I know how boring this is. I know that none of this is spellbinding reading. So if you check-out for the summer, I will not be offended.
However, just being willing to admit that my life has gotten this small is a big, big, big step for me. I needed to arrive at the conclusion that without solving some of these foundational, everyday little problems, I will not be able to make progress in the bigger, more exciting projects, like getting my books published or releasing my podcast. I need to take a few steps backwards if I want to take a few steps forward in the future.
I have resisted even considering that there was anything I could do about these areas. But here I am…willing to try. It’s a huge blow to my ego to see how small I have to become in order to make progress. But I guess that is part of how this works.
God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.1 Peter 5:5-6
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that he might exalt you in due time.
Starting tomorrow, I am going to outline some of the areas where I believe that “going small and going home” will help me make some much needed progress.