What am I willing to be bad at?

I’m deliberately taking the time out to write, now, because there has been a lot of movement in my thoughts over the last few days. None of this is definite; it’s more like a nebula that may or may not form stars, which may or may not be torn apart by bigger stars. 🙂 I can see patterns and clusters forming, but I can’t predict the future.

So I’ve begun training in Python, which really isn’t a bad thing! I’ve also resumed reading — surprisingly, much of this is turning out to be psychology, even though I didn’t intend it to be that way. I’ve restarted Spanish language review, and now know I need to go back to the beginning (instead of restarting at an advanced level), in order to be reminded of vocabulary. I’ve done some drawings and scanned them in, and have been able to play with them a bit — which I’m taking as my offering to my R-Mode brain, which is much less prone to unhealthy patterns, as compared to my L-Mode brain. (“R-Mode” and “L-Mode” were coined by Betty Edwards, author of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. “R-Mode” refers to the cognitive style usually [but not always] found in the right hemisphere of the brain, while “L-Mode” means the same for the left.) I’ve also gotten back into The Long Game, by Dorie Clark, which — among other things — asks the reader what it is they’re willing not to do well. Amazingly, I have an idea of this, at this point.

Let’s start with the last one. Although I am not particularly enthused about Clark’s rationale for becoming an author (given in the Introduction, page 15…), I’ve continued to read this text. Yesterday, I believe I made it through Chapter 3, and realized that if there were a skill set I’d be willing to let languish in order to let others flourish…well, Fiction writing might be among them, if I can’t get my own emotions in hand. (Of course, the chances of my actually not writing, are pretty low.) I know a bunch of people here wish to see me keep writing, inclusive of my Creative Writing. I’m not settled on this yet (and in fact have thought of some ways around the problem, which I list at the end of this post); just hear me out.

I know that it’s important to keep up my Nonfiction writing skills; they at least help me puzzle things out, and make connections that I wouldn’t have otherwise made. Although I have more to say on this, it’s going to have to wait, for now. I may have gone into parts of it, before.

There is something about Fiction writing — in specific — that sets my brain free to catastrophize and work its way into corners it can’t get out of. Maybe this is due to writing without an outline or a known future for the storyline; maybe it’s due to an overactive amygdala, or similar. I still have not been able to access help around this (though I may be able to get help with this through a provider — we’ll see fairly soon).

Without working my way through my stories’ crises, I tend to stop at a point where the apparent danger level (in the narrative) and stakes are so high that I just want to stop writing. I mean, I want to avoid the situation; and I’m the writer! I can make anything happen in this scenario, even some stupid, “poof, and it’s better,” (which maybe I should try, when I get overwhelmed) but I get put off by the possibilities of what could or might happen, or might have happened. I keep building myself up and then hit an uncomfortable part of the story, or something that triggers my own trauma, and have to withdraw.

Given what I now know about myself, however…I’m not surprised. I am apparently very sensitive to this sort of thing: I score almost as Neurotic as Neurotic can get on the, “Newcastle Personality Assessor,” given in Daniel Nettle’s Personality, also mirrored in the, “Ten-Item Personality Inventory,” in Brian R. Little’s Me, Myself, and Us. (Note that this doesn’t really mean much by itself, because the authors are associated with each other…but this is also not an unfamiliar assessment, to me.)

Once having stumbled onto the worst possible outcome in the storyline, I tend to fixate on it and have a hard time thinking of realistic alternate outcomes. If I were able to envisage possible scenarios which would save and redeem my characters (meaning everyone has to have some virtue as well as some flaw…although some people are particularly good at hiding their virtues), that’s one thing…but I mean — seriously. I have a lot of messed-up characters. And my mirror neurons don’t particularly like to see them suffer, even if they are being harmful.

That, itself, could be a story: a Hell where everyone was always happy, and a person would not feel pain. Though LeGuin did that in The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. My version is closer to being pulled from depression, which — even though it’s essentially a chemical storm (or drought, I’m not sure) — seems, “real,” into a healthier scenario related to medication and therapy…which the body resists, at times, and the brain most definitely resists.

Yeah — maybe I should write that out?

I can see how this would appear: that I do have more than one good story in me (though I need to honestly develop the first one — in my adulthood — sometime). 😉 Then we enter into the whole Social Responsibility angle, though, and…ugh. Maybe I should just forget about Social Responsibility. I mean, no one attacks the TV show, “The Simpsons,” for normalizing idiocy…

I wonder, frequently, whether I really want to deal with all of this. Why am I writing, that is, and for whom? What am I trying to say, or play out, or experience? Is there a message? Does there have to be a message? These are questions I don’t have solid answers to, at this point. There is also the point of the identity blurring I’ve experienced between myself and my characters which I spoke about earlier, to which I still don’t have a great answer.

I guess you can see there’s some tension here. One side wants to maintain a hard-won peace, while the other side is busy scaring itself and reliving old traumas (maybe to attempt to maintain that hard-won peace, while simultaneously, though unintentionally, destroying it).

Hey, there’s another story. (What scenario would go well with illustrating that, though?)

What’s interesting: when I draw a story rather than write it, I seem to be able to circumvent this. In effect, I’m thinking with a different part of my mind, and the part of my mind which makes art, is apparently much less troubled.

Which leads me into another topic: L-Mode versus R-Mode. Edwards hypothesizes that the visual and perceptual functions of the brain (or R-Mode) are separated from the logical, organizational, mathematical, and language-oriented parts of the brain (or L-Mode). She further hypothesizes that L-Mode tends to suppress access to R-Mode, this being why so many people believe they can’t draw.

It should be fairly obvious that I spend most of my time in L-Mode (reading, writing, organization, now programming), and that this part of myself is fairly dominant. However, I’m thinking that whether I ever publish (or sell) anything or not, it’s still worth it to participate in R-Mode, just to give my “Right Brain” a break from being overrun by my “Left Brain” all the time.

The biggest question about this…is probably sourced from L-Mode, which is, “Why practice drawing (at all), if you’re not going to do anything with it?” (It forgets that my stories are accessible through drawing.) This may just be that intimate, toxic snippiness, never meant to reach the ears or eyes of other (judgmental) humans, that caused Edwards to speak of L-Mode in less than endearing terms, in more than one of her books. Apparently, it can say some really damaging things in an attempt to retain control.

I’ve also been reading her Drawing on the Artist Within, as well as Color. I haven’t re-done the assignments in the books yet, especially as they change over the different versions: I’ve done them before in Drawing classes.

I feel like I may not get back to reading, if doing all the exercises is a barrier. I know at this point that I can draw, but I don’t want to draw the same things over and over again, for no reason. Edwards suggests doing these as a benchmark measure to see how much you’ve improved by the end of the program…but isn’t seeing the effect of the program more to her benefit, than to mine?

As mentioned: art, to me, is work; and not always pleasant work, at that.

(But okay, drawing flowers is almost always pleasant work…)

In my own experience, I think (my) L-Mode is a jerk mostly because it can’t understand (my) R-Mode. Not only does R-Mode pose a threat by its very existence to L-Mode’s continued dominance; and not only can R-Mode do what L-Mode can’t (though L-mode can do what R-Mode can’t — and likes to exercise that privilege frequently); but L-Mode fears that R-Mode will take over, thus destabilizing the life that (largely) L-Mode has built.

In the last sense, we are looking at a part of the brain which may be trying to hold onto control because it is concerned about the overall well-being of the organism. Maybe it can’t see a stable future where it isn’t in charge — which sounds very much like another person who is my model of Neurotic, right now.

It doesn’t help that artistic jobs are less-well-compensated than, say, computer programming jobs. Given what I’ve experienced, seen, and read, I think this may be due more to artists being unable and/or unwilling to “sell themselves” as well as others (which I do understand), than any actual lesser contribution to society. Art plays a valuable communicative role. It also doesn’t lend itself well to verbal explanation; you’ve just kind of got to, “see it,” and, “get it.”

When other people can also look at your art, “see it,” and, “get it,” then you’re into a space where you can do something. It takes a while to attain that level of skill, though.

What’s amazing as well, is how little time and energy it takes to “read” and understand a visually-told story, as versus how long it takes to create it — both in terms of skill-building, and in terms of the time it actually takes to draw and/or paint and/or sculpt the thing out, if we’re talking about a static form. (That’s not even to mention all the time, energy, and money it takes to create an animated movie, which is over in — what, two hours? — and not talking at all about live action or games.)

Though I guess I shouldn’t forget that first language acquisition starts before Kindergarten. Art is not as central to the society. We don’t force kids to practice it, and when they do practice it, it tends to be not-serious, and, “for fun,” rather than to build skill or to communicate. It’s very different from the way we teach language skills. People are expected to write term papers outside of English class, for example, but very few of us have to come up with creative compositions at quarter’s, or semester’s, or program’s end — unless they are specifically, Art classes.

As for programming and second language acquisition: I’m kind of surprised how much of this is accessible to me, given that I have had, essentially, fairly little post-secondary Math training (Statistics, some Accounting, and the beginning of a semester of Calculus, excepted). This was basically because I had been traumatized in Math in High School (not necessarily because I couldn’t do it, but because, under stress and with great effort, I could; and the other students thought I shouldn’t have been able to).

I’m not sure how much not taking a Hard Sciences/Mathematics track when I was 18 is going to come back to bite me; I’ve just realized, however, that I should not go into a profession just because it’s socially approved for “women” to do. That’s like going into a career path because it’s socially approved for “minorities” to do it: it’s a method of social control. It may have to do with socialization, but I’ve bucked the current of socialization for most of my life.

It actually is important, that is, both for myself and for those that come after me, that I not participate further in constraining myself to jobs considered socially acceptable for females. My amygdala foresees conflict and insult every step of the way moving forward on that path (which may not be true), but I also see that I have allies there, particularly in Tech.

Besides; I’ve already been the first “girl” in a lot of the activities I’ve done in the past (most particularly, martial arts…and the style of weight training I did at one time), and been begrudged for being successful at it. That much is not new to me.

Of course, being female with an upper body bulging with muscles can kind of be intimidating enough that you don’t get all that much flack. What I need to watch, there, which I didn’t know about in my twenties, is range of motion. The little muscles matter as much as the big ones, and I’m wondering how to get that fluidity with strength without, say, going into something like Ba Gua Zhang…which (along with most Martial Arts) I’d stay out of, for now.

In the sense of doing something I need to do even though I get the message from some quarters that I shouldn’t be doing it, working in Python — even as much as it is based on math and logic — is pretty awesome. I had to draw on my knowledge of permutations yesterday, but it was not painful — especially when you can try as many times as you need to (and are expected to try as many times as you need to), and see the outcomes of your attempts in real time. It’s more like a puzzle.

Spanish is…different. But I’m drawing on probably six years of training, accomplished over 20 years ago, with a bunch of kids that I really do not recall with much fondness. Study of Spanish has been problematic for me in a number of ways.

I mean, seriously, it’s tough enough dealing with inequality in your day-to-day life as a kid in English, without having to deal with (even more) gender and race and political stuff on top of it. That’s not to lessen any hispanohablante experiences, but to say that I acknowledge that it is painful to deal with, and in a school setting, may magnify existing troubles with inequality by concordance and implicit reinforcement.

After all, there has to be a reason why I was not given the choice to learn a non-Colonial second language, in school.

I’m running out of time and want to post this tonight; so I’ll end here. If anything, writing this has shown me that I actually do have a good font of material. If I can get through my issues in order to write without triggering myself; or work past the trigger, or make fun of the trigger, or if I can draw my stories out, rather than writing them out, they should be accessible. I’ll be sure to talk about this with someone who may be able to help.

%d bloggers like this: