Art with Disability

8 Nov

My touring has mostly wound down for the season and I’ve been awarding myself a lot more time to do one of my favorite things: writing. I’m working on Splatvocate (the next Splat book, this time for advocates), but I’m also working on my novel.

The novel is based on a character I’ve carried around for 12 years. I co-wrote a television pilot script about her. Then I went back to my original intention of a novel with this character, and started scribing a disastrous mess for NaNoWriMo several years ago. I finished the first draft and never even reread it.

In the years since, this character has waited dormant within me. She’s waited through a non-fiction manuscript (which isn’t terrible and I hope to revise and publish it next year), waited through my somewhat-return to stand-up comedy. She waited through me starting my own business, working extra jobs, building the business to my full-time thing. She waited through my creation of Splat and me finally publishing a book: Talking Splat: Communicating About Our Hidden Disabilities. It was the seventh book I’ve written.

This character has survived through my onset and struggles with fibromyalgia. And it turns out my fibromyalgia has inspired a major change in who she is and what her story is. It inspired me to give her special powers (like me!).

I’m 15,000 words in on this manuscript, and this one will be done and will most certainly see the light of day, and the lamplight of cozy evenings on your sofa. It’s going to be great.

I’m having so much fun writing it, and I’m at that flow of creativity where I can’t wait to finish up my regular business tasks so I can dive in to my writing. I want to slack on household chores and hide from my friends.

What a joy it’s been!

And you know me, I love to find ways to maximize, replicate, and/or share joy, so now it’s time to squeeze my current novelling thrill and see what juice comes out.

Novel Self-Care Ideas

From ways I make writing work and ways writing works for me, there are lessons learned about simply making your day a little better.

Cultivate a favorite hobby to end the day with.

Having something I love to do, to look forward to doing at the end of most days, definitely helps in my daily joy.

Use the hobby as a motivating reward.

My writing time is the “dessert” I’m not allowed unless I “eat my dinner,” so I’ll get all those items on my to-do list checked off every day. Not only am I being productive and efficient, but also I have an easier time relaxing into my writing time because I know everything else is taken care of.

Set a relaxing stage.

Like I said, I have an easier time writing when all other tasks are completed. Then I can take my staging a little further by adding to this pleasant atmosphere. Whether you’re writing, engaging in another hobby, or simply relaxing with a favorite television show, what can you add to make it even more enjoyable? I have certain lighting, certain music, and certain drinks and snacks I like when I write.

Doing just a little still counts.

When I don’t feel well, when my Splatus is heavy, I tell myelf to just write a paragraph, at least, to keep up the habit. Most times, I’ll end up writing at least a page anyway. Other times, it’ll just be the paragraph and that’s OK, too. This same idea applies well to other things that bring us joy as well as dreaded chores. My basement flooded last week, washing out mud from my crawl space, and the cleanup is a daunting task. But I did go down and clean one little area so far, and that’s progress. That’s a feeling that I’m accomplishing the task, even if it’s slow going.

Give tomorrow a head start.

A writing tip I’ve heard is that when you’re done for the day, when you finished writing a chapter, write the first sentence of the next chapter. Then when you sit down tomorrow you’ve already begun. It’s a nice little head start. What’s something you can do today to get a jump on tomorrow? Set out clothes? Arrange ingredients for your breakfast in one area of the fridge? Paint the background on your canvas?

It’s actually good to obsess.

I think about my novel constantly right now. I wake up imagining scenes. My mind wanders when I’m doing other things, like writing this article. And you know what? That’s OK! I’ve learned that thinking about my book makes me happy, and that’s given me a great tool to manage negative thinking, anxiety, and worry. When I catch myself thinking about something that brings me down or stresses me out, I can now easily redirect my thinking to my novel and I feel a lot better. If there’s something you do that brings you great joy, use it as a place to redirect your thoughts when that negative thinking starts to creep in. If you love to travel, plan a dream trip in your mind, or replay a favorite memory, instead of thinking about what your annoying co-worker said about you (she’s a putz anyway, and her words have nothing to do with how awesome you are).

What can you learn from your own hobby?

I could go on all day brainstorming and sharing ways to apply what I know as a joyful novelist to ways to live better. I mean, don’t even get me started on story structure!

I wonder, what are some methods to your own hobby or passion that you can apply elsewhere in your life to bring more joy and success?

The Disabled Artist

If you’ve been around my Splativerse at all, you’ve seen my Impact Map and know how much I love to use it and teach it. It is a fabulous way to keep a routine no matter what your Splatus may be.

While I love to share things that work for me, I will never insist you do things my way, because you’re not me. The Impact Map maybe ain’t your thing.

I have a weird brain in that while I’m a thoroughly creative person, I absolutely love math, too. I find structure to be not only immensely helpful, but also calming and fun. I also believe that the involuntary “structure” of my fibromyalgia has been beneficial to my life. (Read “What Has Your Disability Done for You Lately?”)

But what if you don’t want to bother with the structure of the Impact Map for getting things done? Or let’s just put the idea of routine or goals or any of that entirely aside and just address, how can we manage to be artists when we have chronic physical or mental pain or illness?

We have to trust ourselves. We have to trust that the art is still in there, and whatever mess our brains or bodies are being, it’s no match to to the power of our art that needs to come out. One of our superpowers is making something out of nothing, and that’s exactly what art is. I take a blank page and turn it into an adventure. You take a a simple landscape and turn it into a composition of line, color, shadow and light.

Yes, sometimes it comes with more difficulty. Sometimes you can only write that one paragraph. So write that paragraph. Even if it’s terrible, just do it. You can go back and fix it later. Don’t worry about being as good as you were yesterday. Be as good as you can be today. Give yourself the love, respect, and permission to be the artist you are, today.

I wish I knew who said this, whom to credit it to, but I have a favorite quote. It was just something I heard one day years ago when I clicked through channels and paused at PBS where artist husband and wife were being interviewed. They asked the one what to do to find inspiration, what to do when there were no ideas of what to paint, and the answer was,

“Go into the studio and sharpen pencils.”

Whatever your “studio” may be, get in there. Show up. Sweep the floor. Light a couple candles. Be present as your favorite you that you are. I promise, it’ll always still be who you are.

Now watch just this one minute of Karate Kid, a perfect dialogue that I discovered a couple days ago while clicking through my two channels… “If come from inside you, always right one.”





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