What Rules Rule You?

When updating my Brainfoods page recently, I recalled one of my favorite quotes from Essentialism.

“The ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away—it can only be forgotten.” -Greg McKeown

At first glance it might seem the quote is about societal and cultural rules. For example, most of us grow up believing we must achieve the following:

  • College
  • Job after college
  • Family after job
  • Monogamy
  • Retire
  • Hopefully travel, etc. etc….

Then there are the “rules” we apply to the minutiae of daily life:

  • Read something every day
  • Exercise 5x per week
  • Style hair such-and-such way
  • Go to bed by 10
  • Call mom once a week
  • Eat dessert infrequently
  • Attain X progress with Y project
  • Etc. , etc…

But let’s face it: we don’t have to do anything in any particular way. Especially random personalized rules we’ve arbitrarily instated upon ourselves.

(We also don’t have to do the big societal ones, but they can be more difficult to overcome. More on that later.)

a cement wall w/ "stay off wall" spray painted on it

For most of the past year, I journaled everyday. Somewhere within that time, I unconsciously decided that journaling was a requirement for my “productive” existence. I made it a part of my narrative, of who I was as a writer.

Though I enjoy journaling, the thought of “you must journal” eventually caused me to rebel. Yet it had become such an unspoken requirement that once I began veering, it felt I was screwing up my life somehow.

Nobody was holding me accountable. Perhaps we could say I was, but I hadn’t even consciously created this rule. Instead, I’d created a formless godlike point-keeper to leer down and judge my break from routine as wrong.

I worried, I chastised, I tried different hours and different techniques to win back my journaling passion…but the rebel was too strong.

For a month or two, the journaling stopped, but the guilt remained.

Then I read about the Bullet Journal. It incorporates the written techniques I use every day to stay organized (calendar, to-do list, note-taking, etc.), but everything goes into one notebook. And, you know…if you feel like it…you can journal, too. Here’s my favorite webpage explaining the bullet journal.

Anyway, I tried it…and I’m a convert. A quick one. And I’m journaling again. Not like before, but more than nothing.

(At least until I begin losing interest and once again beat myself up during the time it takes to find something new.)

Or maybe I’ll have learned my lesson by then—that changing preferences isn’t a sign of moral and productive decay. Sometimes things just exit our lives.

bullet journal journaling style

So this bullet journal is Spanish, and thus is not my own. also, I am not nearly so beautiful about it. But you can be.

We don’t have to judge ourselves for losing interest when we’ve given something a fair shot; deep down, we’re making an unforeseeably important choice. We decide to unclasp the hand.

It’s not giving up—it’s choosing. Habits don’t abandon us because we become unworthy, we abandon habits because we make a choice, conscious or not.

I chose to give up a certain style of journaling, and in the process of [self-flagellating] release, I found something even better. The abandonment was necessary, the self-flagellation was not.

What are the things you’re unwilling to let go of out of fear that something else won’t come along?

In an era where psychological evolution moves more quickly than physical, if we commit to mental stagnation, then stagnant is how we’ll stay.


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Creativity Stalemates

Maybe this is a stalemate.

When you set out on a creative quest, you’re told it will take longer than expected. And somehow you think it uld

n’t quite hold true for you.

For me, it’s my book. I figured that when I finished the first draft last October that I’d be done with the rest come Spring.

Well, I was wrong.

I’ve never really had to work like this, creating something that comes wholly from me.

Past jobs came easily. I cared (sometimes), but not like this. I wasn’t throwing myself on the line. They were easy, calculated risks. I would succeed, all was well.

messy chalkboard with formulas

Pursuing writing has always been weighted against the extreme doubt, the undeniable knowledge, that it relies on my subjective mind and little else.

No hacking or charming my way into this one, no specific skills or formulas to apply. I’m just working with general overall ability.

I’m slowed by the nebulous weight of that requirement. Similar, I guess, to how it would be for any pursuer of creative exposure—a painter, entrepreneur, musician, dancer.

We’re all bound to encounter resistance when trying to put our inside stuff out.

My current book is nonfiction; it’s relatively safe. Still, calculated measures might not equate to guaranteed success. That is not an okay feeling for this star student.

I suppose this is less about being a writer and more about how to be a person.

 


 

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 photocred:photopin.com

Being in a Relationship with Yourself

Does everything that feels creative eventually fall to a place that feels dead?

My love for writing has grown disproportionately to my ability to understand what I’m doing here.

This time last year, I was embarrassed to tell people about my blog. I was embarrassed to tell others I was a writer.

But also this time last year, I wrote with fervor. I pushed and pushed to be who I said I was.

Now, I believe I am that person, but I have little more to show for it than I did back then. Now the shame is gone, but the fervor is, too.

What has changed, if nothing has changed? If I’ve grown in security but shrunk in creation? Do those results cancel each other out?

I’ve settled into the person I desired to be. I’ve accepted her. Does that mean I grow bored with her—the same way I treat most partners when the relationship becomes “normal”?

I don’t want to be that kind of partner.

hourglass sandglass timer

All these things must tie together. A series of romances that ended similarly—crash-burning when fantasy didn’t hold up to reality—must relate somehow to the relationship I began with creativity around when the first of the love charades began.

In them, I went along saying,

“Hey, the way we’re treating this isn’t realistic; you don’t know me well enough for these proclamations of love.”

And eventually—predictably—the strain of false hope weighed too heavily on ties that require the strength of years .

Yet typing that also reminds me of this: I was also the one saying,

“Hey, this is not realistic of us, but I will push forward anyway. I will give this a fair shot.”

Which means I’m usually not the one to leave—for better or worse.

And in a relationship with myself, maybe that’s exactly what I need. To be here, writing in the most boring of ways (edits, edits, edits) and know that on both sides, both Meggans are saying:

Hey, this is not realistic of us, but I will push forward anyway. I will give this a fair shot.


Your thoughts? I’d love to hear form you below…

photocred:photopin.com

Writer’s Block if There’s Nothing at Stake?

There are seasons for all things in life. I think someone wrote a song about that.

Moments to work like a hound, moments to rest. Times for sugar, times for health.

There’s falling in love, there’s solitude.

Lately I’ve been waking up, grabbing my journal, and finding I don’t have much to say. Classic writer’s block seems a doubtful culprit since there are no deadlines or responsibilities with my casual morning writing.

What I fear, then, is emotional block. If I can’t dump my straying accumulated thoughts on to page each morning, are they even there?

Since I believe that emotions—repressed or not—are a human fuel, I can only assume that indeed I have something to write about, somewhere. So why can’t I hear it?

My irritating tendency is to paint things in black and white: If I’m not journaling well, it must be because I’m losing touch with my emotions. If I’m not in touch with my emotions, how will I be a good writer? 

Next? Panic.

messy easel with paint

So, I try to work on my color palette, to reframe the situation.

Perhaps I don’t have to slap an analysis on this season of less journaling. Stop worrying now and trust that the season will change in its time.

If morning journaling is the subconscious “dump,” maybe my subconscious is occupied with something else, something more important than daily thought drifts. Perhaps it’s busy hatching a plan that will change my life completely.

There.

I’ve assumed the best instead of the worst (i.e. that I’ve become cut off from my emotions so my writing career is over).

There’s also this: when I began journaling last September I was living alone in a foreign country. I remained solitary and essentially without social life until May, albeit stateside.

But since May, I’ve been getting more involved with my partner. Talking to someone for hours a day may be an outlet for all those thoughts that would have gone to paper.

Also, reflecting on his mind takes the place of the thoughts I was spending on myself, and that’s probably a good thing.

There was an unhealthiness in the amount of de facto self-reflection time I had before Derek. I should have been volunteering more or fostering dogs—something to take my mind away from the pressures I put upon it.

So while I’m nervous about less journaling, I’m trying to give space to the idea that I don’t have to define what’s happening. Maybe it’s simply adjusting to sharing life with someone. It’s certainly been a while.

Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

I guess we’ll see.

 


 

I barely know what I’m saying with all this, but I think it has something to do with not trying to be so controlling and critical toward myself. If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them below.

Another thing I’d love? You subscribing 😉

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Inception Points

It was this time last year when the thought of being a writer first crept into my mind.

My sister and I had spent two weeks traveling through Southern France. She left and I continued to Genoa, Italy. I couchsurfed with a young and lovely psychotherapist for 11 days. We drove up mountains on his motorcycle, swam in the Mediterranean, became expedited lovers.

When he left for work during the day, the apartment was mine for hours. I was an actor then, so no job at home awaited me. There was nothing “official” to work on, the days were utterly open.

meggan and sister overlooking nice france

Jessie and me standing sweaty above Nice, France

On one of these days, a short story appeared in my notebook. My first, I think, since a three-pager (typed, double-spaced) from sixth grade.

I didn’t realize I was remembering as I wrote it, but those minutes are carved into my brain.

Lying belly-down across the futon in Federico’s guest bedroom. Letting in the last bits of breeze before closing the window from summer heat. A cup of Darjeeeling. Sweating.

Clearing the checkered kitchen table cloth of his clutter–rolling papers, Italian notes scrawled on paper corners, shards of tobacco, an extra set of keys.

Pulling the squared wooden chair across the tile beneath me. Sitting down, writing.

The first line: She stared at the set of keys.

The words that followed are less memorable than the moments. The output was food untasted. Something was happening.

Still, I didn’t notice until after, when the story stayed.

Heart-heavy, I left a dream and returned to Los Angeles. I turned 30. I didn’t want to see friends or go out for auditions. I didn’t want to step onto the rushed and smoggy streets. I didn’t want anything there.

Only one desire stood among the fallen: I wanted to be a writer.

And so we began.

 


 

Do you remember when you decided to do your thing?

Tell me about it, if you please.

The Beans of Overanalysis

My psychologist tells me I tend to overanalyze things. She is not the first loved-one to do this.

I finally asked her, “Do you mean compared to other people?”

“Well, yes.”

This surprised me. What do others do during the quiet stretches of mental solitude? What do people talk about?

Years ago I might have taken Carole’s comment as a badge of honor, but not anymore.

Overanalyzing doesn’t lead to answers, it leads to the illusion of answers. It’s like stirring a pot of beans and expecting them to become something other than beans. They only become more mushy.

Analysis has it’s benefits. It gives us space and time to empathize, strategize, and creativit-ize.

But analysis is also an excuse for inertia. Analyze instead of act.

Or a way to feel an [often false] sense of control over current situations or outcomes that don’t yet exist and may never come to be.


I forgot to write a blog post last week. Since October, I’ve written at least one weekly, but suddenly–poof— the habit disappeared. Realizing this, I began to catastrophize:

“What’s going on with me? How could I forget? Where is my mind? Do I still care? Am I losing heart? Am I letting love distract me too much? Am I weak? Emotionally detached? Hiding from myself?”

These thoughts have been visiting me now for five days. I finally sat down to write about it, and lookie here, I’m writing a post. I’m not coming apart at the seams.

Failing to do something I love didn’t mean I don’t love it anymore.

In fact, maybe last week’s issue was that my family was visiting while I was simultaneously preparing for an open-ended trip to Asia and Africa that would last at least two months.

Maybe it was just that.

Analysis often has little to do with the plans life actually has in store. But the living continues.

I’m going to just try to live.

meggan feeding a monkey in bali


On that note, what do you think about most of the time? I have a feeling a lot of my readers are fellow over-analyzers. But what else? How do you deal? Leave a comment!

 

photocred: photopin.com & my friend in Bali