Small Tasks

My life has become a little hectic as of late. Between the move, my partner being called back to work 300 miles away, and the little bumps in life like the pet guinea pig chipping a tooth; things start to fall by the way side. Unfortunately, the thing that got pushed back was my hobbies which includes this blog. The weeks were I can update it on time and make sure I have time to write are great ones. Although its brand new I did feel like I was letting myself down when I didn’t write. Those feelings start to wear you down, it’s not the big things that may have a chance of not working out. It’s the little things that you set out to do with the thought “I will accomplish this today”. I’ve talked about starting something and picking something back up after a hiatus, but what about the time in between?

I handle these little let downs by journaling; full disclosure I started recently and have missed a few days as well. I always liked the concept of journaling; I would search for the perfect notebook and be eager to fill its pages with the goings on of my life. I’m a history nerd and one thing you find out is you never get the account from the layman. The person who is just trying to get by and be as happy as possible with what is happening around them. I wanted to be that guy, the one who journaled so extensively that 200 years after I’m dead and gone some student would be able to find my journal preserved in a library and base an entire paper off of it. That was my thought when I was in 8th grade.

It turns out I suck at it. I can never commit the time I feel it deserves and I am never content with my writing. So I usually get about a month into a new notebook and miss a weekend, which turns to a week and then a month. Which is when I give up and pick the hobby back up at the beginning of the year (a horrible cycle). You might be thinking ” Wait, didn’t you say you conquer the small missed tasks with journaling?” or you could be thinking “Get to the point and off the soapbox”. Either way here it is.

I bullet journal and have been for 4 months now, a new record! I miss days here and there but for the most part I stick with it. When I wake up in the morning I fill in what tasks I need to get done for the day and check them off as I go. Simple. But here’s how I use it keep track of the little slips. Bullet journaling is basically writing down short blurbs about your day with a different symbol at the beginning of each entry denoting what it is about. A common example its using the exclamation mark to denote an idea, insight, or inspiration.

I also mark the tasks I don’t get done with an arrow pointing to the right from writer’s perspective (stage right for the nerds). This means that I will get to it tomorrow or in a literal sense on the next page. By keeping track of the little slips I realize they have been set aside before my mind thinks “what’s the point now”. It’s basically setting a reminder for myself to get around to it sooner rather than later.

I also use it to keep track of things like self care, something I think everyone struggles with at times. This lets me see the last time I did a small action that made me happy, like writing for the blog. It’s important not to let to much time pass in between these small acts, without them easing our minds the small pains can grow. In the long run it will help you get to know yourself; you’ll see a task written down that starts to match up with your self care actions. Seeing them paired allows you to identify your stressors, which can lead to eliminating them or at least working toward easing them.

So while bullet journaling isn’t for everyone, it’s the way that I deal with small stressors and planning out my day. If your like me and want to journal but don’t have a lot of time or will stress about missing days, go ahead a try it. Maybe I can break down my journaling process for you all, if anyone would like. In the meantime, I would love to hear from anyone who reads this how they deal with the small missed tasks in their life. What are the tips and tricks you all have that I can learn from?

There is no Failure in Trying

I started a blog like I do with every other passion in my life: with reckless abandon. If you asked my friends (anyone who actually reads this blog) about the projects I have done in the past, they would say that I am always starting something new. I start new projects all the time; but my passion for them fizzles out, and they are abandoned to be half-complete ideas. I don’t find anything wrong with this; in fact, I would encourage others to do the same. It’s not that I can’t complete a project–I am just willing to try anything that catches my interest to see if it can become a life’s work.
I joined a local writer’s group in my area (although I need to go to more meetings to really call myself a “member”), so most of my friends come from that group. Those I see and speak to most often are all accomplished writers, which is a huge boon to someone just starting out. They put up with an endless stream of story ideas that I talk about passionately and want to pursue, only to abandon them after a month. But no matter how many months of story ideas go by, they are always eager to hear my next idea.
This has taught me a few valuable lessons, all of which can be applied to daily life:
1. Any idea, no matter how unlikely, is worth exploring.
2. Just because you abandon the idea does not mean you have failed. It simply means you are continuing to search for your true passion.
3. All steps you take towards a goal are forward. Even the setbacks have something to teach you, and abandoning an idea all together does not mean you have given up on your goal as a whole.
No one in history ever set out to do something knowing with 100% certainty that it would work. Yet they still tried. Going against the odds is a remarkable human trait, a trait we take for granted. All projects, no matter how small, start off as unlikely to succeed, due to our lack of experience, knowledge and confidence. Yet we witness so many successes that started off this way. If you don’t explore the chance, you never know if it will be your next success.
Moving on from a potential passion does not mean you failed. You have simply come to the realization that it was not for you. You should be proud of that fact! You’re willing to step out of your normal routine and put a little bit of yourself on the line to pursue an idea. That’s no small task. You willingly opened yourself up to the possibility of defeat to broaden who you are as an individual. The best part of this practice is that it will become easier with time: you will build a tolerance to “failure” and strengthen your resolve toward your goals.
All steps show your forward progression, even the setbacks. That is a hard concept to apply to your daily mindset. One of my favorite quotes comes from a deplorable person (a topic for another time), Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I try to apply this quote to every project I start with a few modifications: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 pursuits that don’t work for me.”
So when you start a new project or explore an idea, remember that failure is not on the table if you look at it from a different perspective. You are instead taking the time to learn more about your interests and what your true passions are, no matter the outcome. Trying out your ideas is a form of self care and working on yourself. All knowledge you gain on who you are as a person is good knowledge to have–it allows you to make more informed decisions on what you need and what you need to avoid.
So go pursue a project, something you have your doubts about finishing or even getting past the planning stages. No matter the outcome, you will have learned something about yourself. I can guarantee that the next idea or passion you pick up, no matter the outcome, will be your life’s work: finding out who you are and what you need.

Starting Somewhere

A few years ago, my parents gave me a beautiful notebook for Christmas: a special edition hardcover Hobbit Moleskine. Cream-colored pages wrapped in burgundy leather with Smaug and the map of the Misty Mountains embossed on the front cover. At first, I was hesitant to use it. I didn’t want to sully the pages with my meager writing attempts or a quick sketch. This book was made to contain art. I still own it today. After multiple moves across multiple cities, this notebook was kept on my bookshelf for me to admire, hoping I would write something worthwhile in its pages.

I had the same fear while trying to write this first post. I made the website, got the layout just right, picked a palette I enjoyed and then…. I had to write. Writing was always the goal obviously, but actually doing it? I was struck with the fear of defining this blog with a poorly thought out first post. I knew going in that I would make spelling and grammar mistakes, those I could live with; but content is everything. I bummed around the house for a day thinking of content and possible titles for a post I had yet to write. Until I realized that I couldn’t be alone in this feeling.

The fear of starting something new, to forever be judged on your first attempt, is a common one. Even though we all have been told, “failure is how you learn,” “No one gets it right on the first try,” “Third time’s the charm.” Why don’t we take those sayings seriously? I know plenty of people who produce amazing work in a wide variety of mediums that all started by making mistakes. Just like the rest of us.

Those first steps into anything new define everything and nothing at the same time. For the time being, this post will be the only one on my blog–front and center is my first try. But it will also be the first thing forgotten, lost in the posts to come, buried beneath my new and improved work (hopefully). The first failures being buried are the foundation of your experience in whatever new thing you take on. They become the work you can look back on and say, “Look how far I have come.” To which people will say, “Wow, you’ve worked really hard at this. Good job.” We’ve all had this conversation at least once in our life, even if it was with ourselves.

So now what? The fear is still there. I may have acknowledged it, but facts don’t always change feelings. What now? Well, for me I write, not only this post but more to come. Learning and letting my first few steps be stumbles as I try out this path. I choose to immortalize this fear of starting something new and use it to help people around me, supporting them as best I can with encouragement to get past their own fear. The best thing we all can do is acknowledge that we have all felt this and can help others overcome it, simply by giving the one thing we all wanted: a little support.

As I sit here in the morning with my laptop and a freshly poured cup of black coffee, I realize I can’t fail at this. I’ve already accomplished what I set out to do. So what’s holding you back? You know you can do it, or you wouldn’t even think about the attempt. You have at least one person rooting for you, even if it’s the strange guy on the other end of this blog.

So go out and do the thing. Make the mistake knowing that this may be your first attempt, but it won’t be your last. I want to hear all about it!