Monday, June 17, 2019

A Creative Mind and Life

I have noticed something of late and I wanted to share that. Full disclosure, I had ADHD as a kid. ADD as an adult. I'm getting older, I turn sixty-four near the end of August. I was lucky. As a kid, I had lots of activities that taught me control and discipline.

Myself as a kid
It was torture to master. Years of practice. Years of pain and frustration. Years of delayed gratification. We all need some of that, some of us far more than others. Structure to be unstructured. Discipline to be undisciplined when the right times come upon us.

I noticed as I got older that I had better control over things. Far better than many. Not as much as some, to be sure. I had built good habits growing up. Or they had been built into me. Probably out of necessity so as not to kill me as an offspring.

It was a struggle to figure out, to learn, but in the end, I did figure it out. I found I had a certain way of thinking and that it was more productive to work with what I had rather than to work against it. As we are typically taught in school through K-12.

Once I realized that my life got easier. I also realized I had to hide it. To be perceived as the other kids. To fit in while not fitting on. So I had to work around things, had to work harder and faster than others. Reminds me of that comment on Ginger Rogers doing what Fred Astaire did, only backward, and faster. I'm not claiming to know the female experience in life as I'm male, but intellectually, I do get it.

I learned to make notes for myself. I learned to take responsibility. To not be a victim to my circumstances but to find a way to succeed despite them. I learned that if I had to do something I had to see it got done to completion and if that required extraordinary means, so be it. If I had to walk the extra mile from others, no one cared, as long as I got my responsibilities cared for.

I realized that I was very good at creating in going forward, not so much remembering and regurgitating. I was exceptional in synthesis, in synthesizing things. In taking from one concept and adapting it to many others.

I was very good at taking something and modifying it, making it far better. Eventually creating from scratch myself and then modifying that over time. As they say in the writing field, writing is rewriting. So it is in other fields. To create, you make something and modify it, over and over to perfection. To YOUR perfection.

As you modify you learn. When humans do anything, in doing it over and over they find the flaws and find the enhancements needed. Those who sse that, who apply that, find success. The other end of that is the business side of creativity which is hard for most artists and why so many fail.

My grandmother told me repeatedly, if you start a book, always finish it. I can today count on one or two hands, all the books I've started in my life and not finished. Probably on one hand.

Another side of this is perseverance. Those who give up fail, by definition. Don't be defined by your failure. As Thomas A. Edison said: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." I've heard so many who have "made it" who said it was luck. You do have to, as they used to say, "take a licking and keep on ticking." Persevere.

Being in the right place at the right time, making that happen, so that luck could happen to them. So it is luck, but it's also setting yourself up for luck to happen, rather than failure. They've also said that in their never giving up, while their friends had, who started when they did, some who were even better then they were at whatever their endeavors were, while they made it, the others didn't. Because they quit or couldn't take rejection after rejection.

A famous author once said about rejection in relation to writers, that you should collect your rejections as a positive thing. As a collection. Put them on your office wall where you see them every day. Collect more. Fill the wall. Fill another wall. Fill all your office walls. Then start to fill another wall in another room.

By the time you fill your wall, or your office, or another room, or your entire home, you will have a sale and then another. You have to acclimate yourself to so-called, failures. Because each failure is a success in learning, in moving past that failure to the next and so eventually to the success you want. Or another success you never saw coming. And be sure to see that when it arrives.

Opportunity knocks only once, they say. Be sure to answer when it knocks. Truth is, opportunity knocks in our lives many times. But we often never ever hear the knock because we're looking for a knock at another door. Or listening for a knock when it is a doorbell or a whistle from outside our windows.
My High School Graduation Photo
My sister suggested when I entered high school (and that was the year after she had graduated so we missed one another), that I should write notes and put them in my jeans pocket, the pocket with my keys in them. She said it had worked for her. And I knew she was smart. After some months I found that some days, I would have a pocket full of small pieces of paper with notes on them.

When I was leaving school at the end of the day I would reach for my keys, in 12th grade, it was my car keys to drive home (even better) and I would feel the notes, read them, refresh my memory on what was to come.

Or if it was for the next day, leave it in my pocket for tomorrow morning to refresh again my memory and then try to remember to, remember. Or to keep checking my pocket throughout the day. It got to be a habit as the day went on to just touch my pocket, to feel if there were notes in there. I would remember (maybe) what the note(s) said (which actually helped my memory) or when I couldn't remember, pull them out and review them. Which also helped my memory.

My confidence grew. I made it a point to show up for things on time or a few minutes early. I came to be known as punctual. Also, dependable. A teacher pointed out one day the difference between most kids who sit in the front or back of a class.

I started putting myself on the front line, in the front row. I found I could pay more attention, get more involved. I became more interested. I had always felt I didn't want to engage (a holdover I think from my lower grade school experiences. I found ways to trick myself to, or to force myself, putting myself into positions where I had to learn or to become involved. At first, I hated it. But I persevered and eventually got to relish the interactions.

All this led to a change in how I was perceived by others. For two reasons. My strong desire to be trusted and dependable, and those pocket notes. For a while later on, it became my watch with an alarm. But there were times, without a supporting pocket note, that the alarm would go off and I would have absolutely no idea why. Nowadays, of course, I have my smartphone and calendar app along with other apps for support.

My reason for bringing this all up though really has to do with creativity. Something I studied at university. My major being psychology, one of my classes actually was titled, Creativity. And it wasn't an easy class. I quickly realized that shot name classes were hard and classes with longer names were easier.

I've noticed something for some time now about my creative pursuits. I'm very good at them. I can produce a lot, much if not most being of very high quality. But not always. And, why not?

What I have noticed first, is a change in myself as I age. When I was younger, I had massive amounts of energy. In fact, I seldom got a full night's sleep in high school. I would lie awake most of the night until four or five in the morning. Then fall asleep and wake exhausted to my alarm clock.

I had a night job at a drive-in theater snack bar. I became the snack-bar manager for the last couple of years there. I went to school during the day, then to work in the evening, then home and bed. I learned to get my homework done at school during the day.

Sometimes working in one class on homework for another class. Teachers weren't stupid and they'd rail against kids doing that. So you had to be smart about it. And you still had to pay attention to the class you were in. But I seemed to be good at multitasking and it kept my mind from wandering (ADD again).

But at night, I was usually running at a high rate of speed by the time my head I hit the pillow.

Still, I had the energy to spare when I was young. In fact, being ADHD/ADD I had far too much energy most of the time. I just had to learn to use that to my advantage and not disadvantage.

What I've noticed as I've aged though is that decrease in energy. Obviously. I'm getting older. Regular workouts become ever more important as we age. It's not just that I could be in better shape though.

There is another and well-known component involved. I asked my doctor at a checkup some years ago about changes I'd noticed. I seemed to feel things more deeply. Emotionally. I'm more affected by things than I ever used to be. He said that was really quite normal (normal, there's a concept).

Obviously, as you age you gain experience and so you feel things more deeply, he said.

OK, that made sense. Then I noticed that my creativity seemed to become more problematic. That is, I've always been able to produce quality on demand. I still can, to be sure. Years as a technical writer do that, just as Isaac Asimov had claimed in his first autobiography, In Memory, Yet Green. A book that affected me deeply when it came on the market years ago. But for pure creativity and comfort, I've noticed a change.

Example. in 2016 I sold my house of sixteen years and moved to a rental in another town, Bremerton, WA. I went where the best deal possible was at the time. I had to. I wasn't rich and I was going to retire and live off of my retirement at too young of an age. Because I could.

I was retiring, young at sixty-one I was tired of on call and IT work and wanted to finally take the time and effort (and could) to explore my creative pursuits. Writing fiction, screenplay, become proficient in film production, perhaps shoot my own films from my own writings. And so I am now doing all this and making progress.

I expected to live there a year or two and look around, find where I really want to live after having sold the house, and then move to a more long term situation. I was also retiring from twenty years in IT. Which I did. One month after moving.

Now, if you talk to a realtor, they will tell you that buying (or selling) a house is like dealing with the death of a loved one over the course of that year. There is actually a numeric scale of how much stress you should have in a year that gives you a kind of guide by which to know if you are heading into taking on too much, if not headed into more serious issues.

Friends told me when I retired that it takes people anywhere from six months to two years to recover from retiring. It is a massive changed after all and I had not only sold a house I had moved into with my wife and children, but was now a house I was to move out from without that wife and kids now full grown. And I was retiring. All that in one year was a lot. Apparently.

Yet, I figured, "I'm tough, I can handle it." Maybe a month or two to reorient and I should be good. Several months of partying and doing whatever I wanted and having drinks nearly every day if not more, one day I realized that I wasn't slowing down. It was over six months later that I realized, I was finally getting over that previous summer's house sale and move.

Two years now after selling my house and moving, I moved again.

In the interim, I had to deal with family member situations, my dog of fifteen years dying and within a month, my mother dying. There was more family drama overall going on than I want to go into here but suffice it to say, it took a lot out of me. Now that I look back I think over this last move, even though it was only from one rental house to another and only a mile away at that, it really was more intense and compromising than the move two years previous.

Once again I am trying to get back onto my creative feet and needless to say, it's been difficult. Though to be fair now, there were issues with this move too. I had volunteered to help refurbish the new rental house so I could move in earlier without paying rent for the partial first month.

The guy moving out had three large dogs, hadn't paid rent in several months and seldom on time when he did and he took questionable care of the house and yard. It was a mess. We had to rip out all the wall to wall carpet and replace them and paint the entire inside as well as clean and remove things left by the previous renter. Unused to 10-12 hour days of physical labor and during some very hot summer days, I was pretty beat when finally I moved in.

Because the carpets were put in a week after I moved in all my things were downstairs except for a bed we had to move to have the carpets installed. So I'd been delayed in getting all fully "moved in". It took a while to get my writing desk in place or a working...workspace.

It was a little frustrating. My youngest child (mid-20s) was having problems finding a place and so had moved into the previous house and about a week into the new house before moving to a new location, and suffered the interim condition of the house along with me.

My real point in bringing this all up is... I find when I go through mental duress, and working for a month requiring oneself to ignore the pain and exhaustion of remodeling in sweltering heat at my age, is a mental thing too. I find that it compromises my creative endeavors.

I find I need a period of decompression, if you will. Of relaxation and perhaps, of healing. I can fight it, or I can give it its space, which I did as I happened to still to have that luxury. Lucky me, to be sure.

I have struggled to do what creative things I could. My hardest work is writing. Alone, blindly and boldly creating, if you will. I've done some events and other physical things where I could do something creative. I've worked on and been in a few local small indie horror film projects for instance. Attended some Cons. But my goal has been writing, creating, and film production as in filming and editing my own works.

Here's my mental image of what I'm dealing with.

It's like my mind is a vast and finite cacophony of (as in a murder of crows) eggshells, all arranged in a massive solid structure. Each next to and stacked upon another. When I go through these periods of, shall we say, challenge? Some of these get crushed. So I need time once the difficulties are over, for these things to heal back up. Or be replaced. Whatever works.

If the structure is somewhat crushed I cannot traverse the creative routes. Like trying to wind through a maze in a forest, where there is too much overgrowth and too many downed trees. IF however, I take the time to clean up that part of it, to allow things to heal and grow back, then I'm back to normal and not untypically, even better.

It's just that I find now that it is easier for this structure to get crushed than ever before. Though now that I think about it, there were times in mid-life when I had trouble being creative and I gave that up to laziness. When in hindsight I can now see it was daily stress and just many of life's compromises.

It is frustrating now though because I now have what I've worked toward for some years and I'm unable to be that creative or productive. Still again, my point in bringing this all up is that I know it will pass and I only have to work with myself in order to get back on track and... I will.

I have for one, made an appointment for the first time with a top rated consultant on a screenplay of mine that has been consistently getting high reviews (THE TEENAGE BODYGUARD). I have high hopes for it, as do others. But also I need to be writing every day for a full day at a time and I'm not. Still again, I know it will come... and eventually, I'll get to where I'm headed.

Because it's all a matter of time and allowing myself to take the time I need, to properly heal up and then step bravely into a new stage of my life.

But for now, I feel kind of broken.

Like my fragile list of daily habits has been broken. Floating, drifting, rudderless. I just need to rebuild my list with a new set of habits. Or the same exact list as I had before, which can be frustrating. When you get used to that happening in your life, that urge to rebuild that which shouldn't have been broken becomes more challenging. First world problems, I know.

Taking the time to live the new life, to get used to it, to assimilate it, the list will come, eventually. If I need it faster, then I need to do it intellectually, pedantically. to know that the rest of me will eventually catch up, organically.

It is in not understanding that, where some people go wrong. They become irate, unsociable, irrational. When all you need to do is relax, be patient, and work towards a positive outcome. As best and quickly as you can. No stress, just effort.

No. It's not all wonderful. But it doesn't have to be a big difficult life event either.

You just have to let yourself... Live.

I wrote the above during the third quarter of 2018.

At this point so much has happened. I have produced my first short horror film. I'm about to start shooting my second, more than twice the length of that first eight minutes short. I'm now working with a Hollywood producer on my screenplay, The Teenage Bodyguard. This week I'm shooting an interview of me to hopefully be included in a horror documentary from the UK on horror writers and filmmakers. And I now qualify ss both.

It took me a while but I'm finally in a good place to explore the creativity I had always wanted to explore over most of my life. Those skills and things I've gone through over a lifetime have paid off and I'm seeing hope for a new career. I've met many new and interesting people. I see a path up now.

It hasn't been easy, it hasn't been quick. Not by a long shot. But those who persevere, who set themselves up to be in those places where luck CAN happen for them and others they have surrounded themselves with, who hone their skills and creativity, who take the time to make themselves indispensable to others who can help them...they are the ones who have a chance.

They are the ones who made their opportunities. And when that knock comes, will hear it. Even if it is a whistle.

And I'm just getting started...

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