Tag Archives: motivation

Don’t Hate and Fear Criticism

I will admit it plainly: I don’t usually respond well to criticism. I may not rage and throw things like a child, nor do I throw temper tantrums as I actually did in childhood, but I don’t take it well. There are times where I’ve worked to put heart and soul out there on the Internet, only to see it torn to rags by the slavering opinions of others. In those instances, I’ve often just deleted the content, hiding it from further opinion…or I’ve just sat at the computer and cried. Neither response is a healthy response to criticism, yet it appears to be the first response for me.

I would venture to say that most of us probably dislike criticism; I don’t think anybody likes to admit that their work has flaws that someone else saw. But we can change our response to criticism to a healthier one, if we work at it. That’s what the following post is all about.

Step 1: Admit How You Relate to Criticism Now, and Why

Taking criticism “like an adult,” not letting it bother you, is the ideal for most of us. But unfortunately, that ideal is very, very hard to attain, especially if you can’t admit to yourself that you don’t deal with criticism well.

Like I stated at the beginning of this post, I myself struggle with it, though I thought it bothered me less these days than it did in childhood. I was wrong, though; I may be able to hide my reactions to criticism better, but I still hurt over it. So I sought to discover my personal reasons why criticism hurts me more than it should, and I came up with the following three:

My Three Reasons for Hating/Fearing Criticism in the Past

  • I am a sensitive person, far more attuned to emotions and to everyday life than most people I know. This sensitivity makes me a much better artist; others have found my music and writing to be unusually cathartic and soothing. However, being this sensitive also makes me hyper-aware of others’ opinions, especially the negative ones.
  • I am both obsessive-compulsive and perfectionistic. My flaws and failures haunt me, sometimes keeping me from sleep and normal emotional function, and I experience strong compulsions to either eradicate the flaws themselves or to punish the person who failed–myself. (Example: as a child, I struck myself on the back of the head 30 times because I made a 99 instead of 100 on a test. The memory of that almost-but-not-quite-perfect grade still makes me irrationally angry at myself, two decades later.)
  • I was bullied often and brutally by my classmates in childhood, partly because of my sensitivity and partly because of my visible perfectionism. The only way I could get my bullies to shut up? To make better grades than them, to be academically better than them. That mentality has carried forward into my adult life, in the form of being a well-prepared, conscientious, and yet overly anxious person.

What are your biggest reasons for hating and fearing criticism? Note these for yourself; really dig into your own thinking, as I have done above, and root out the basic causes. It’s surprisingly enlightening; I didn’t think my childhood experiences of bullying were still that important to my thinking, but they are!

Step 2: Acknowledge This Reaction as Human

The reasons I detailed above have shaped my art and my personality over time, in positive ways as well as negative. But to people who have harder shells and thicker skins, I am a laughable excuse for an adult. Some cynical people in my past (and my present) have labeled me a coward and a crybaby, or have laughed at my sensitivity and told me to “grow up.” Others have critiqued my most highly-polished works with a throwaway comment like “your work sucks” or “you’re stupid,” and the only comeback I can think of is “Well, YOU try it if you think you can do better!”

The thing is, I’m secretly terrified that the ones who criticize me are right. I’m scared that my absolute best efforts are not worth anybody’s time, and that no one will like them. In my mind, I associate myself deeply with my opinions and works–they are part of my self-worth because they come from within me. If they are attacked, then in a very real sense I’m being attacked. If they are found lacking, then I am found lacking by association.

To my obsessive, perfectionistic, sensitive brain, to be found lacking is a cardinal sin. But this is still a very human reaction to criticism. No one truly wants to be seen as “less than”–we all want to be the best at something, to have the admiration of others because of something we do well. Failure, in the form of criticism by others, makes us doubt our own self-worth, doubt whether we can keep doing the work that was critiqued, or even lash out at the person who dared to critique us.

However you react to criticism, whether it’s to doubt yourself, quit trying, lash out, etc., it’s a human response–acknowledge it. Know that while it isn’t the best part of your personality, it is part of it, and it doesn’t have to be a ruling trait in your personality, either. I’m finding that out for myself.

Step 3: Rethink Criticism’s Purpose

Is criticism by others really a personal “failure?” Actually…it’s not.

Think about this for a moment. When you receive criticism–and I don’t mean thoughtless, throwaway criticism, but really thoughtful and thorough criticism–haven’t you just made someone else think and feel enough to want to respond? Didn’t your words, your art, or SOMETHING in what you said or did strike a chord in someone else, even if it engendered a little disagreement?

I would say yes. And if that’s true, then how could that be failure? After all, your efforts have made someone else respond, and that someone took enough time to put together their opinions on what you said or did–you affected them, quite possibly in a positive way, by making them think.

(One side note here: when you receive critiques on your work, it’s important to sift out the people who just left you a one-line “this sucks” kind of comment. Since these people didn’t take any time to enumerate their reasons behind their opinion, who cares what they think–they are likely only jealous that you did something they couldn’t. Instead, focus your attention on those who have given you thorough critical feedback.)

This more thoughtful kind of criticism, what is generally called “constructive criticism,” can actually help you make your work even better. Of course, most of us would prefer for our ideas to be “right” or “good enough” without anybody else’s help, but just as jewels must be polished to see their brilliance, sometimes our ideas must be polished by others’ opinions and input to bring out the best that the idea has to offer.

For me, this was a difficult but necessary realization. Just because I produced a flawed work that has garnered some criticism does not mean I am unworthy of anyone else’s friendship, time, or love, as I have so often feared. Thoughtful criticism, instead, can be used to make the work even better, to bring the idea to its full flower instead of killing it. The useful kind of criticism is more about shaping and honing the work rather than critiquing the mind behind it.

So when someone else takes the time to critique our works in depth, perhaps the better response is to thank them and ask them to elaborate on what they would change, add, or delete. We get very protective and defensive of our ideas, precisely because they came from within us–but if we realize that others’ opinions are helpful to the process of creation rather than a reason to quit, our ideas and works just might be better for it.


We human beings don’t like criticism very much, especially when it’s directed at something we’ve worked hard on. But as much as we might hate it (or fear it, in my case), it can be a useful tool for us as we come up with new ideas of every sort. Perhaps that rough-cut diamond of an idea in your head is going nowhere, but with the helpful opinions and ideas of another person (or 50), that diamond might just start to sparkle. 🙂

Slaying the Clutter Dragon, part 8: Where the Beast Hides

Throughout this series, I’ve been cleaning and de-cluttering, reclaiming my bedroom inch by inch.

Wait, let me rephrase that. Throughout this series, I’ve been moving junk around and not really dealing with it, getting one space clean at the expense of another space. LOL!

This is how a lot of us deal with clutter, actually–we move stuff around instead of getting rid of it, or we shove it into corners and under furniture so that we don’t have to look at it. Neither approach treats the disease of “too much stuff;” it only makes the symptoms a little easier to live with.

In my case, my bedroom’s dumping ground has been part of the finished basement, seen below:

Yeah, all of that mound of toy clutter came from my closet upstairs. I stacked it all down in the basement instead of dealing with it weeks ago, mainly because of low energy levels and wanting to get closet shelves clear first. But as I decluttered the closet, I ran into a problem:

The closet clutter did not just confine itself to one section of the room, but began to crawl into other areas…

…hiding in plain sight…

…spilling forth onto the floor…

…commandeering other tabletops and various surfaces…

…and generally taking over the basement room, as it had taken over my bedroom closet so many years before.

I surveyed this with a weary eye in my last installment; I thought I had been routing the Clutter Dragon, defeating it where it lay, but instead, I only moved its habitat. Now the Clutter Dragon reigned over its hoard in the basement, rather than my closet. 🙁

I simply could not put off the job of sorting and donating/throwing away any longer. If I kept delaying, I would end up with nowhere to put the rest of the clutter from the unfinished closet, nor would I be able to use the basement space for anything. So, with a tired sigh, I began to attack the clutter problem directly, finally dealing with the cache of childhood that had been stored so long.

Invading Clutter Valley

Since I knew I would not have the energy to deal with all the items today (especially not the mound of items in the first picture), I decided to tackle what I could–the valley of clutter between the coffee table and the love seat (both of which are hidden by clutter in these pictures).

This floorspace absolutely had to be cleared first before I could even begin to scale “Clutter Mountain.” Thus, I began to sort and deal with items as I could.

Zoning the Room: Keep, Sell/Donate, and Toss

First, I established part of a nearby tabletop as the “sell/donate” zone, with several small boxes to hold items that still had good life in them. For instance, the box above holds small toys, dolls, and game pieces…

…while this box holds various children’s literature, and so on.

I even did establish a “keep” zone as well (the seat of a broken computer chair), though I made sure it was a lot smaller than the “donate” zone. (Since this basement room has been pretty cluttered anyway, I had to work with the zones and the space I had–thus, why a chair seat functioned as the “keep” zone.)

As for the “toss” zone, that was the big black trash bag I carried around the large room with me, which you’ll see later in this post. This was possibly the most important zone of all, the one I had to make big decisions for, and the zone that, as a hoarder, I hate and fear the most. There’s just something so wrong about throwing away items one has paid good money for, even when they’re irreparably broken or otherwise ruined.

And yet, I couldn’t just leave them scattered about. Not if I wanted to be able to live in my house rather than just tiptoe around teetering piles of junk. If I was truly going to reclaim my room from the Clutter Dragon, I had to start actually chasing it out rather than just chasing it around the house.

Sorting, Tossing…and Surprising

So, with the makeshift zones established, I began to slowly fall into a rhythm of picking up items and deciding where they went. I did not move on from one item until it had been solidly put in one of the three zones, and I forced myself to move quickly through the items, making decisions that should have been made years ago.

Nor did I allow myself to fall too far into sentimentality as I categorized. Some objects that did have fond memories attached were put in the keep pile, but anything that didn’t have a memory with it, or didn’t absolutely have to stay because of the memory, got put into the sell/donate pile. Not only that, but I kept the trash bag with me so that if I found an item that was too broken or ruined, I could quickly put it in the trash and be done with it.

I really hated this part at first. My ankle was hurting, I was tired already, and I detested having to make quick decisions. But I also knew that if I didn’t do it right then, and do it quickly, I would never get it done at all. My record of cleaning and organizing (or rather, procrastinating about such tasks) showed that plainly.

So I kept moving…and as I did, I began to enjoy myself. It felt–GOOD to purge some of this old stuff. (Yes, I just admitted that; I just admitted that it felt good to throw stuff away. You may check my identity later. XD) The rapid decision-making, the firm, decisive action being taken after years or decades of hem-hawing, was in some way electrifying. The process became easier and easier, until…

Clutter Valley Cleared!

While it may not look a lot different from the “before” picture of Clutter Valley, now you can at least tell that there are furniture pieces and floor under there! And now I can walk through without stepping on Legos or tons of other tiny little toy pieces! YAY!

This is the “Donate” pile, rife with toys–the other items seen in this picture are not part of the “Donate” pile officially, but there was nowhere else to put them in the room. This pile will grow larger in the weeks ahead!

And this is the itty-bitty “Keep” pile–it’s mainly made up of empty boxes and small crates that I can use for categorizing later, as well as some very special memory items. Can you believe it? I have committed to keep less than 10% of what I categorized today! :O

And this is the “Toss” pile, stuffed inside this giant black bag. It’s pretty much stuffed to the brim…

…and this picture proves it! WOW!

The Real Victory Today: My Mindset

Though it may not look like much of the war on clutter was won today, there was an important mental victory scored–me actually learning to like the de-cluttering process. I’ve put it off for weeks and weeks, hating and fearing it because of its time-consuming, hair-tearing decision-making…but I learned that it can actually be a rapid, freeing process, if you let it. That just might be the most important lesson you can take away from this whole series!

Next Week: Scaling Clutter Mountain

You remember that big mound of clutter on the hidden coffee table? Well, it’s getting conquered in next week’s post–just wait and see!

Slaying the Clutter Dragon, part 7: A Desperate Sally Forth

Despite pain from old injuries in my right wrist and right ankle, this clutter warrior managed to battle the closet enough to clear one more shelf. This post, while being just a little shorter than usual, does represent one more victory.

The Constant Thorn in My Side: An Incomplete Shelf

About a year ago, I partially cleaned off the most accessible shelf in the closet (a little below waist level), just enough to store my HeroClix and other gaming supplies.

The problem?

I didn’t clean off the left side of the shelf…

…or the right side of it, for that matter.

Plus, there was a little stuff piled up in front of the shelf (sitting on top of massive stacks of junk, lol), which made it hard to get to the parts of the shelf I actually am using these days.

So, with braces wrapped around both my wrist and my ankle, I studied the closet, and determined that today was a good day to finally clean off those three un-cleaned areas. I figured it would be an easier task that wouldn’t strain my injured joints too badly.

I Crammed HOW MUCH Stuff On That Shelf?!

After a little work to clear the left side of the shelf…

…and a little more work to clear the right side…

…and even getting that middle stack a little lower…

I ended up with all of this spread across the bed. My powers of junk hoarding and compacting are unsurpassed. XD

Most of it is remnants of schoolwork, old projects, a few books, and the like–a childhood time capsule, if you will. I threw out all the obvious trash (such as a box of super-old Halloween candy corn…God only knows what year it was from, ugh), and carried the rest of the items down to the basement, where the Clutter Dragon’s infamous closet hoard is currently stashed.

A few avalanches of junk happened as I shifted the closet’s junk topography (LOL). This is one of the many little crashes I heard and saw as I moved junk and set it on the bed. Ah, the hidden dangers of cleaning! The closet never fails to try to attack me with the only weapons it has–clutter! 😛

The Shelf Finished at Last!

Finally, after moving all the junk off the bed, wiping down the shelves to get rid of any dust (or worse), and readjusting the remaining items, I had a finished third shelf in the closet. YAHOO! At last! I have yet to use the space I reclaimed, but I’m sure I’ll find something. You know me, there’s always a need for more storage in my room!

Next Week: The Part I Hate The Most

As I carried my burdens down to the basement, I realized something…the basement room is beginning to overflow with all this closet clutter. The LAST thing I need is for the Clutter Dragon to find a new home in my house! >:C

So, next week, you will see the true carnage begin, as I start to sort these remnants of childhood into “toss,” “keep,” and “sell/donate.” This is the part of de-cluttering that I have been avoiding for too long, and it can’t continue. If I don’t remove these items from the house in some way, then all this effort has just moved stuff around, like a kid avoiding eating vegetables by moving them around on the plate.

This is the takeaway lesson for this week, and for the weeks to come: if you want to de-clutter, then you have to actually GET RID of items. Hoarding them won’t make you happy, especially if you move them to another part of the house only to keep tripping over them. Stay tuned as I begin to toss, sell and donate items from the Clutter Dragon’s horrible cache!

Slaying the Clutter Dragon, part 6: A Swipe at the Dragon’s Leg

As late as 4:00 yesterday, I resisted working on the next part of the closet, which I’d ambitiously assigned myself last week. Procrastination plus a stomach bug and a series of headaches kept me away from the task, and by Monday afternoon I was seriously doubting whether I’d even have a blog post for you this morning.

I even parodied this song with a few appropriate lyrics:

“Looking at the closet,
Feeling down, down, down
Looking at the closet,
Whew! Don’t wanna work now
Looking at the closet
Feeling down, down, down
Looking at the closet,
Whew! Don’t wanna work now

5:00 in the evening
I gotta get this blog post done
Lord, I’m so tired
I don’t wanna start this now

Because I’m looking at the closet
Feeling down, down, down
Looking at the closet,
Whew! Don’t wanna work now…”

LOL! But after staring at the huge mess that awaited me within the closet for a few minutes, trying to psych myself up to tackle it, my thoughts took a different tack. “What’s keeping me from working on this, really?” I wondered. “What’s so daunting about this?”

Then, my eye lit on this area, directly in front of one of the closet doors:

This pile of junk has been sitting in front of the closet door for a good while now (at least 3 years), and it blocks the door from swinging completely open. Plus, it makes standing in front of the closet very awkward. In a way, I dreaded working on the bottom section of the closet because I knew I would not have room to work or to even stand comfortably, let alone get anything constructive done.

So I decided to fix that, with the little amount of energy I had left to my name after the week I’ve had. If I couldn’t do the bottom of the closet this week, I reasoned, then at least I could remove the last obstacle to getting it clean so I could do better next time.

Picking Up, Cleaning Up, Et Cetera, Et Cetera

I began by picking up all the items from the floor, throwing away all the obvious trash and paper clutter as I did so, until my bed was covered again with keepable items:

Yeah, that all came from that area behind and kind of on top of the TV. Amazing how much JUNK I can cram into such few square feet of space! XD

LOOK AT THAT! I FOUND MY CARPET!!! [/inordinate amount of excitement]

But seriously, folks, this is the first time I’ve seen that corner’s carpet in several years. Once all the keepable stuff was up out of the way, and all the big garbage was dealt with, I could actually see the floor. Small victory, but a victory nonetheless!

Side Quest: Sweeping Up Packing Peanuts and Other Floor Clutter

Unfortunately, not only had I found my carpet, but I had also found a huge mess of packing peanuts back behind the TV. The only thing I can figure: at some point in the (distant) past, I had a shipping box full of packing peanuts set on top of the TV, and the box had overturned at least partially. The box was likely carted off, but the packing peanuts hid in the corner, just waiting for me to find them.

Yep, packing peanuts plus a few other random trash items…this was what lay behind the TV.

So I set about sweeping all these little nuggets up and out of the way, recruiting a broom, dustpan, and a tall kitchen trash can for the job. (Pro tip: get small floor clutter out of the way ASAP, otherwise you’re going to end up tripping over it the whole time you’re trying to get the “big stuff” done. Learn from my fail.)

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate packing peanuts? Especially when they randomly jump away from the broom because of static electricity, and end up underneath other furniture, underneath your feet, and pretty much everywhere BUT the dustpan? *sigh* LOL

Getting Back to Business

But finally, after lots of sweeping (and grumbling), I had a clean corner behind the TV. Now, all I needed to do was to move the TV so that the closet door could finally swing open fully.

…Yeah, you can see what began to happen as I moved the TV. Small closet avalanche, ahoy! xD But at least the door could finally swing open, which is a small miracle in my room these days.

With both doors now free to swing open, I took the liberty of arranging hanging hooks so that I could use the hanging space temporarily.

Newly-freed Closet Door #2 is now an impromptu coat closet, at least till I can make room for these coats elsewhere in the house.

As you can see, the doors do not close fully because of the junk still left on the floor of the closet (which I was too exhausted to start tackling yesterday). But they DO open fully, allowing me lots of room to work when I do start working on it!

Random Stuff I Found While Cleaning

The corner of the room seemed to be a trove of hidden gems. For instance:

I found this little beauty (an old half-dollar coin) trapped partly underneath the TV. 😀

This candle holder screen, with electronic candles, was a gift several Christmases ago–a gift which I thought I’d misplaced permanently. YAY for finding stuff! (Double wow: it’s not broken! :O)

Also found: a hoard of super-old makeup. This dates back to at least early high school (1999-2000). Need to toss, much? LOL

The Fruits of My Labors

After a little repositioning and closet configuration…

The corner was finally finished, or at least finished enough for now. At last, there’s space for the closet doors to swing open, and I can finally begin work on the bottom of the closet, where childhood lies in wait for me. 😛

Stay Tuned!

Next time, the bottom of that closet WILL be tackled. Hopefully. “Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise,” as my Nannie used to say. LOL!

Slaying the Clutter Dragon, part 5: Nitty, Gritty, and Dirty

This post about didn’t happen–but determination (and frustration/anger) won the day. 😀

Despite feeling generally awful all week (again, I was not about to let this project down in the middle. I’m a little bit infamous for that around the house–I get all gung-ho about a project, only to quit in the middle of it because I begin to lack the energy, support, and time to keep moving on it.

So, having conquered one shelf in the closet last week, I resolved to strike at the next shelf down, which you’ll see pictured below from left to right.

…Yeah. THAT’S what I had to tackle yesterday. I thought, “Well, okay, this will probably be a little more involved than last week’s effort, because there’s more stuff on this shelf, but I can still manage it.”

The (Gross) Discovery Lurking in the Closet

Well, I thought I could manage it easily, until I took the first big bin off the shelf. Below the big bin, which I thought contained everything on that part of the shelf, was a layer of junk. And not just any junk. Mouse-poo-covered junk.

I wanted to laugh, and then I wanted to cry. I used to love mice…now I wish I’d let my indoor cat run wild in my room and kill all the little critters so they wouldn’t poop all over everything. I really wasn’t prepared for the sheer amount of mouse poo, either. (I know this is disgusting to read–it was even more disgusting to confront!)

I was disgusted with myself for having let the closet get this way, and disgusted that I had to deal with this RIGHT NOW…ugh. I stood there thinking, “Really? I have to get into THIS and make sense of it? I have to TOUCH all this?”

Anger Takes the Place of Determination

After a few moments of mental whining and cringing, I finally just started pulling stuff off the shelves in a mad scramble for cleanliness–the things I was mumbling under my breath aren’t fit to be written here (LOL). The disgust and shock of what I had found had resolved itself into anger.

In the process of going all RAWR at the closet, this small avalanche of junk happened. In that angry state, I was just tearing toys and junk off the shelves, shaking off the dust and debris as best I could, so inevitably some of the stuff began to free itself of its own accord. I kept working, picking up the fallen stuff off the floor as well, until finally…

…I was left with these random little items. I didn’t really have a good place to store them all, but there they were–obstacles to wiping down the shelf and really getting it clean again.

*heroic music* But never fear! A random shoebox is here!

During one of my earlier episodes of Slaying the Clutter Dragon, I had found and kept a lot of small boxes like this one, knowing that I’d probably need them for organization and storage purposes. I thanked myself for this, now that I’d found myself in need of a tidy way to store these little knick-knacks.

A Tip for Fellow De-Clutterers

As you de-clutter, keep any sturdy empty boxes just for situations like this; you’re probably going to run across tons of little itty-bitty stuff that needs to be moved and sorted later. This way, you can store the small things neatly until you have time to sort them all out. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later, just like I did!

And this is what the bed looked like, after only half of the shelf was cleared. SIGH…junky, dusty bed, yet again… :c

Half The Shelf Conquered–The Other Half Remains!

With the aid of a couple of paper towels (one damp with cleaner and one dry), I finally had half the shelf dusted and wiped down of all the mouse poo. Now for the next part of the shelf, which consisted of two old closet storage system units. (Forgive the blurriness of this pic–didn’t realize it was this bad till I uploaded it from my phone. :/)

After moving one of the units, look what I found–two random, tiny laundry detergent boxes stuck behind it. *shrugs* Who knows? This is just more evidence that the mess in my room randomly gobbles stuff up and spits it out in the most unexpected of places. LOL

Once I moved the other (surprisingly heavy) storage unit, I finally had a fully clean shelf to work with (once I had wiped it down, of course).

Using the Newfound Space

Now that I had yet another empty shelf in the closet to work with, I was temporarily at a loss as to what to put on it.

As you can see, that temporary uncertainty was quite temporary, indeed! LOL!

For this shelf, I chose to store some miscellaneous items that keep getting lost in the piles of junk in my room. This shelf’s contents, like the rest of the closet in general, will likely change as I work with the other shelves and areas in my room, but for now these items are up and out of harm’s way.

Last Step: Dealing with the Bed

As always, the bed held all the junk I’d removed from the closet. But I learned my lesson from last week–this pile of junk was going downstairs to the basement immediately, so that it would not stand in my way of doing the next shelf.

About 10 minutes of hauling boxloads and armloads of junk downstairs ensued, in which I sweated about as much as I do at Zumba classes (LOL). But at last, the bed was clear, and the floor was clear. The stage was now set for my next challenge in the Closet of Horrors:

…Um, yeah. There’s a reason I’ve waited to tackle this until now. xD But I have less fear of it now. After all, if I get this closet floor cleared, I can actually close the closet doors for the first time in 20 years! GASP! :O

And all this closet clearage IS having an effect–the piles of junk are slowly getting smaller. Soon, all that junk will either be donated, thrown away, or stored in the closet. Oh, what a day that will be when my carpet I shall see! 😀

The Most Dangerous Thing Any Artist Can Do…

…is lose faith in their ability to make art.

Seems too simple, or even nonsensical. How can someone who makes art of any kind lose faith in that ability? And how can that stop you from creating, if you’re truly an artist?

Oh, it can happen, and all too easily. I’m stuck in it right now, as a matter of fact. And there is more than one path to this stupidly terrible mire I find myself in these days:

  • Suffering from self-censorship, and/or the fear that your art is “not good enough” for others to see
  • Making “art creation time” feel more like work than fun–over-thinking it and over-planning it, especially
  • Allowing someone else to bully you into making the kind of art they like, rather than what you like

Any or all of these things can strike you, as an artist, and they can all make your passion for creating art shrivel up and die. And when you’ve lost your passion for your art, no more ideas will come to you till you get it back. Thus, you lose faith in your own ability to make art, because the ideas aren’t coming. And all too soon, you stop even identifying yourself as an artist entirely.

Remember, Only YOU Can Make Art That Expresses Yourself!

[/shameless parody of Smokey the Bear’s “forest fires” slogan]

It doesn’t matter what kind of art you make, whether it’s poetry, paintings, choreography, sculptures, dramas, or jewelry–you have to have faith and passion for your art, otherwise the creative juices just won’t be there. You have to remember that you have a unique voice, a unique spirit, which is expressed through your chosen art, whatever it may be. You must let that come forth however it will, if it’s going to be truly representative of you.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you push aside help from other people. Others can guide you along, give you advice, and act as sounding boards for your newborn ideas. But only YOU can create art from that advice. God gifted you an amazing ability; only you can bring forth that idea that sprouted in your brain.

How to Get Your Faith and Passion Back

So, what to do if you’ve found yourself suddenly without the fire for your art that you used to have? Here are two things that have helped me:

  1. Re-experience your own artworks. Try to re-create that beautiful painting you did a few years ago; play through that old song you loved writing so much. Do whatever it takes to reconnect with what made you love making art. For instance, I took to my digital keyboard and played through a few of my more involved compositions, playing them in different keys, experimenting with their forms.
  2. Show or talk about a few of your most recent artistic attempts to friends you trust and/or friends who do the same kind of art. They may be able to offer a fresh perspective on the work you’ve lost faith in. In my case, I’ve been talking about my novel with a few more trusted friends, and slowly gaining a little more pride in what I’ve created when they give their reactions.

Remember, art is your personal expression, mirroring your experience of the world. No one else has quite that expression–will you then hide it or push it aside because it’s not “as good as” someone else’s? I hope you choose to keep working at it…your efforts ARE worth it, as are mine, as are every artist’s. Be proud of your identity as an artist!

Slaying the Clutter Dragon, part 2: The Valiant Sword Sweep

I’m back with another installment of defeating the Clutter Dragon in my bedroom! This time, flushed with the success of last week’s efforts, I endeavored to clean off the top of the plastic dresser next to the catchall bins.

This is what I planned to clean up, anyway. But there was a problem.

…THIS pile of junk was on the floor in front of the dresser. I could not even reach the other side of the dresser to clean it off without slipping and falling on the pile (and believe me, I tried). There were literally no places to put my feet, and no floorspace to work within.

The Clutter Dragon had struck back at me with its vicious tail. If I were to get anywhere with my original project idea of cleaning up the dresser top, I had to clean up the floor first…and that meant tacking on much more work than I had expected.

But it had to be done. I was heartily sick of living this way. And, after all, I didn’t want to disappoint myself, or you, my faithful readers! 🙂

Uncovering the Floor, and Hidden Treasures Galore

I began by picking up most every item off the floor, throwing obvious trash away as I did so, until my entire bed surface was again full of items that needed to be sorted.

Again, I amaze myself at how much utter crap I can cram into such a small space. Argh. >_< But surprisingly, I found that about half of this stuff did not actually belong in my room at all--I had just stored it on my room floor because it was a "temporary" storage spot. (Note to self: no place I set any item in is going to be just a "temporary" spot. If I've learned anything about my organizing habits, it's that.) Thankfully, I was able to take some items out of the room entirely and put them back where they belonged. AWESOME! 😀 (The less junk in my room, the better.) Other items just needed to find another, more permanent home within my space, so I took time during this first step to find each misplaced item a home to belong in. For instance: several travel bags, which were lumped in with the clutter, but which actually need to be stored with the rest of my luggage in a corner of my room. Once all these big items were dealt with (or stored on the bed for the moment), I discovered that there was a hidden layer underneath all the keepable items: a layer of paper clutter, unbeknownst to me.
Did I mention how much I hate paper clutter? Especially having to stop and read through it to see whether I need to keep or toss it? Drives me nuts. It’s the worst part of cleaning, I swear. >:(

Anyway, the trash bag again came in handy, as I slowly sorted through all this detritus pictured above. For this part, I had to sit on the floor; my ankle was beginning to complain, as was my back, from having to bend and lift as I had done for almost 45 minutes thus far.

But, once all the random paper clutter was cleared up (either thrown out or put aside for sorting/shredding), I had this lovely vista to gaze at:

This is what was left behind after clearing away the larger paper mess–little bits of paper randomness, crumbs, and general dirt. (How all that dirt got in underneath all the clutter, I will NEVER know. I think it just burrowed under there or something. SIGH…)

Lacking a working small vacuum cleaner that can maneuver into these tight spaces, I improvised with a broom and dustpan. Though my floor is carpet and really does need a good vacuuming, this will have to do for now.

As you can see, I did a pretty good job of sweeping up most of the crumby dirty mess. You can actually tell that the carpet used to be white, now. xD

First small win of the day: in the process of picking up and sweeping, I found about $2.50 in coins hidden on the floor. Hidden treasures, indeed! Every little bit helps! 😀

Tackling the Dresser Top, At Last!

With most of the obvious trash gone, and most of the large items sorted, I was left with less of a pile on the bed. I then deemed it was time to tackle that messy dresser top. So I took all the stuff off the dresser and put it onto the nearest available surface…the bed, again.

Um, yeah. I know this looks pretty terrible. But all this clutter carnage was necessary…see what happened?

See? Proof that there WAS a surface under there, and that I DID clean it off completely! 😀 I even dusted, which is a small miracle in and of itself. xD

Once everything from the dresser was on the bed, I began the sorting process again, throwing away obvious trash, laying aside important financial bits and papers (pay stubs, receipts, and the like) where I would not lose them till I have dealt with them, etc.

One of the unexpected wins I came across during this cleaning spree was a selection of shoeboxes, shipping boxes, and a few organizational bins I had purchased in a futile past effort to clean.

Each of these little boxes and bins came in handy to sort out and store little items from the dresser top which could easily get lost. (Pardon the blurry picture…my hand must have been shaking or something. 🙁 )

In the process of organizing, sorting, storing, and throwing away, I found even more treasure hidden by the Clutter Dragon:

Yay! I think there’s close to 4 bucks in there now. 😀

At last, when I finally got everything from the dresser top sorted and/or dealt with, I put back just a few items that were meant to sit there:

Mainly, the dresser top holds mail, my cell phone (especially while it’s charging), some assorted arts/crafts supplies (because I don’t have desk space for them yet), and other things I’m generally using on a daily basis. I even have a mail/paper sorter off to the side for bigger paper pieces. But I’m never going to let it get so stacked up again!

YAY a clean bed! Proof that I did actually do some real cleaning, right?

The floor beside the bed, which I worked so hard to clear, just has a couple of bags set there so they will not get damaged elsewhere in the room (because I am prone to accidentally trampling on stuff). Ultimately, they will both go somewhere else in the room…but that must wait for next week.

Next Week: The Cluttery Abyss

What horrors next await me in my battle with the Clutter Dragon? This picture does not even do it justice. Next week, this procrastinating warrior will face the hardest challenge yet: the Abyss of Closet Clutter! Stay tuned!

Slaying the Clutter Dragon: The First Sword Charge

Hello, my name is Robin, and I’m a pack rat.

I really didn’t intend to let it get this bad, but here it is. This is the first of my set of “catchall” bins, situated right at the door of my room to catch my purse, library books, Sunday school texts, and anything else that kept getting lost in the black hole of my room.

It started out as a place of organization, about a year ago. You can see what’s happened since then…it’s lived up completely to its “catchall” nickname.

I REALLY don’t like this habit of mine, but it happens every time. First, I get a clean, flat surface available in my house, and I enjoy its cleanliness for a few days. Then I start thinking “COOL, I have a place to put [insert random object here]; I’ll just set it here till I have a permanent place for it.” Repeat this process about 1,000 times, and soon my “clean flat surface” is a “junky flat surface” again, often overflowing its junk into the floor at random intervals.

And when I say that every clean flat surface in my room is covered with junk, I mean that…

every single…

flat surface…

in my room…

is covered…

with JUNK.

And yet, it’s seemingly all “necessary junk.” I can’t really get rid of it, even when I search through it, because when I do check through this junk, it’s all stuff I need access to, or need to categorize, otherwise I’ll forget about having it in the first place.

Wait, How Can You “Forget” About Your Stuff?

When I put things away, I tend to forget about them. Out of sight, out of mind, LITERALLY.

This is one reason I can’t put library books anywhere but RIGHT at the door, easily visible from my bed, because if I put them somewhere else, they’ll never be returned, or even read. Items have to be staring me right in the face if I’m going to think about them (and even then, sometimes I still walk out of the house without that library book I’ve been meaning to return for a week).

The Intent of the Catchall Bins

Because I apparently can’t put things away without forgetting that I even have them, I got this set of open catchall bins. I will say it’s done its job fairly well, keeping my Sunday school books and Bible from being stomped on or lost, keeping me from forgetting about library books, and keeping my purse out of trouble on the floor. It just…well, it just looks like the rest of my room now–overflowing with junk.

The Solution: Clean Out, Categorize, Replace

So, this past Friday, I finally tackled these messy bins, marking the first “sword charge” in my battle against the Clutter Dragon, who had claimed my room for its domain.

The first thing I had to do was to take everything out of the bins so I could sort it all. (I also had to dust out all the bins, especially the bottom one…for being so crammed full of junk, it sure got dusty!)

The following picture shows the result of cleaning out the bins:

My full-size bed is almost completely covered with the junk from these four small bins. :/ I hadn’t realized, until this moment, just HOW much stuff was hiding in open storage. Yes, yes, I know, my “Severe Pack Rat” certification is in the mail as we speak. xD

It’s a terrible jumble of old bank statements, church bulletins, Sunday school textbooks, random books, magazines, and DVDs, even past Christmas gifts (the two red boxes in particular). But most maddening out of all this junk was the paper clutter, the stuff I have to read through to see if I still need to keep it. Paper clutter is probably THE reason I live such a cluttered life–it just takes so much TIME to read and sort through all of it, and it just makes me tired to look at it.

Anyhoo, once the bins were emptied…

(proof that they WERE empty at one time, lol)

…then I had to begin the unenviable task of sorting and throwing away–i.e., the most difficult part of organization and cleaning.

I put back the necessary stuff onto the bins, all the stuff I knew I was keeping there; my purse, Kindle, Bible, current magazines, and gym gear, mainly. Then, I just had this remaining stuff left:

Most of this was old Sunday school texts, random old magazines, a DVD or CD here and there, Christmas gifts, and, of course, paper clutter. I sorted through all the paper trash next, mainly because I was getting mighty sick of looking at it. (Sad to say, some of the paper clutter got shifted to yet another flat surface because I need a shredder before I can throw it out. SIGH.)

But, once that was done, I was left with two piles: old Sunday school texts, and past Christmas gifts.

A Side Quest: Creating a Display Shelf

The old Sunday school stuff already had a future home: back at the church, where it belonged. But the Christmas gifts? I devised a whole new plan on the spot to deal with those.

See, the Christmas gifts were all little statues and figurines my boyfriend has bought me over the last couple of years, and because of the lack of clean flat surfaces in my room, I’ve never even unboxed them; there was no point in doing so. But as I glanced across the room, to the desk which has stood there since I was a little girl, I caught sight of the shelf just above the desk surface, and had an “A-HA!!!” moment.

Cleaning off the shelf of girlhood detritus (a couple of small dollhouses) was the work of about 10 minutes; I was left with this blank, clean canvas. Thus, I unboxed the three figurines at last, and added to that total another figurine I’d been wanting to display as well.

Here’s the result: my new display shelf!

From left: Belle looking at the Enchanted Rose under the glass; Belle and the Beast dancing (from the iconic scene in Beauty and the Beast); Dove II (Dawn Granger), still in the toy packaging. (I’m going to get a stand for the Dove figure at some point, but I didn’t have one handy for this shot.) Pardon this shot’s slight blurriness–it’s very hard to get pictures in a room as cluttered as mine!

Sadly, the biggest statue my boyfriend had gotten me was just a wee bit too tall for the shelf, so I had to put it on the desk below.

She’ll get her rightful place on a display shelf someday, I swear it! 😀

The Result of the First Epic Cleaning Quest

Here’s the result of my hard work:

This is the top bin, which stores my purse, Kindle, CDs, and anything else that usually leaves the house with me. (My ankle braces are hung on either side to remind me to wear them as much as possible.)

The books/magazines bin, second from the top, which contains all that I’m currently reading and working on. Great for keeping library books safe, too!

The third bin holds only my Bible at the moment, but will soon hold my current Sunday School textbook for the new quarter–again, to keep it safe from the floor and my clumsy self.

…And I don’t have a picture of the bottom bin because it kept showing up very dark and blurry. Lighting in my room is terrible for pictures. But all that’s in there are my gym shoes anyway. LOL! That is a triumph in itself–now I no longer have to hunt through the piles of crap in my room every week to find my shoes!

I am immensely proud of this first effort, even if it doesn’t look like much. It’s the first time I’ve been able to DO anything with this room in months, and admittedly it was very difficult to get started. But now that I AM started, now that I have charged in and stabbed at the clutter dragon…I find myself eager to continue, before it gets the better of me again.

Next Epic Cleaning Quest: The Dresser Beside the Bins

Next week, I’ll be tackling the top of the overflowing plastic dresser unit near the door. I’m not even worried about what’s IN the dresser; it’s what’s on TOP of the dresser that’s bugging me. Tune in next Tuesday for the next installment of “Slaying the Clutter Dragon!”

Exercise to Fit YOUR Life

One of the stupidest things I think I’ve ever tried to do is take up early-morning running as an exercise routine.

Why do I consider it stupid for me? Because I’m a) not a morning person, AT ALL, and b) I hate pointless walking and running. And yet, I attempted it, for a few days at least, because I had been coached by every fitness guide and every social more that running was a “real” exercise, regimented, routine, and perfect. Even though I hated every minute–no, wait, every SECOND–I kept trying, because I thought this was the only way to start getting “really” fit, to be considered “working out.”

You can imagine how long it took before I gave up on that particular exercise routine, and with good reason. It simply didn’t fit my life, my personality, my schedule–it just didn’t work for me. I believe that many people are making this same mistake when they choose their exercise routines.

Why Would We Force Ourselves to Do Un-fun Exercise?

There are many reasons for this, I believe. Maybe we’re all hearkening back to gym classes of yore, doing the exercises we were taught were “good” for us. Maybe we’re merely mimicking what friends and relatives do, or what society’s social guidelines tell us is “real” exercise. Heck, maybe we’re just doing what our buddies are doing because we don’t want to be alone while we exercise.

But when we do not put real thought into matching our exercise to our lifestyle, our personalities, even our likes and values…well, we end up giving up on it after a while, don’t we?

Choosing a Fun Exercise Does NOT Mean You’re Weak!

Exercise is not punishment. I’m going to repeat that–EXERCISE IS NOT PUNISHMENT. And yet, this is how many of us view it, because pain and humiliation is all we have experienced in association with exercise.

For instance, the sharp pain of shoulder bones, spine, and hip bones grinding against the glossed gym floor beneath you as you try to do crunches. Or the incredible pressure in your wrists, hands, and toes as you try to lift yourself up off the ground into a push-up; grunting and sweating as you try and try (and fail and fail) to lift your own body weight, feeling the silent judgments of everyone else in the room as you do so. (I recount merely my own experience with such grinding, tedious exercises, and yet I’m sure I’m not the only one with such a tale to tell.)

When this kind of exercise routine is touted as “real” exercise, with no “fun” alternatives for the layperson, is it any wonder most of us who need exercise the most have given up on it entirely? When exercise is associated with severe discomfort/pain, plus the feeling of “never being able to get it right,” who in their right minds would WANT to inflict this on themselves?

I’ll admit, exercise, especially for the person who is out of shape (like me), will involve SOME pain and some extra effort–but it should not leave you absolutely bedridden the next day. Maybe “real” athletes and fit people will think I lack willpower and am just whining, but I speak as one who is not training for the Olympics or trying to win a marathon. I just want to be able to walk down the stairs without pain in my joints, and walk up the stairs without being out of breath.

I think most ordinary people would agree with me on this score. It is not that we are weak or unworthy folk–it is that we are not as far along on the “fitness” continuum as others may be. And that is not a crime, to have to start at the beginning when it comes to fitness.

Choose an Exercise That You Can Enjoy and Actually Do

When I say “start at the beginning,” I mean both physically and mentally. We must start with exercise that trains the muscles gently at first, getting us used to exercising again; we must also start with exercise that we enjoy, that fits into our schedules and brings out the best in our personalities instead of the worst.

For instance, I never succeeded with a workout routine for very long until I joined the Zumba class, as I have mentioned in this blog before, back in April of this year and June of last year. Being as musical as I am, and enjoying Latin dance music and R&B music as I do, Zumba appealed to me from a mental and emotional standpoint. Not only that, I love to dance and like to learn about different dance moves; I usually pair simple physical moves with the music I’m listening to anyway.

So it was natural and logical that I should enjoy the Zumba class, because it appealed to a natural strength in me (music) as well as an interest (dancing). Though it was difficult at first, especially when I tried to do absolutely EVERYTHING that the very fit instructor was doing, I still had a little fun attempting the moves. That little bit of fun, plus the unexpected camaraderie I found with my Zumba classmates, brought me back the next week. And the next. And even the next.

I don’t think I’m unusual in continuing with an exercise that I enjoy, versus trying and failing to keep to an unnatural routine. But everyone is different: there are people who will enjoy a 5 a.m. run much more than they would enjoy a Zumba dance class, for instance. I may not understand why they would choose to get up so horribly early, or why they would choose to run pointlessly, but I can’t put my judgment on their choice of exercise; it’s what works for them, just as Zumba works for me.

Selecting Your Perfect Exercise Style

Think about your body’s natural state.

Are you a night owl or an early bird? Do you find yourself energized by exercise, or soothed towards sleep? Asking these kinds of questions about how your body normally is will help you figure outwhat time of day you should exercise.

For instance, I’m a severe night owl (if I’m up at 6 a.m., it’s probably because I haven’t been to bed yet), and exercise makes me all warm and sleepy. Thus, an early-morning exercise routine would not work for my body’s natural state (I’d be a very cranky zombie all day), but my Thursday evening Zumba class fits me just fine–I can wake up later in the day if I need to, and after Zumba I can come home, shower, and actually get to bed before midnight. 😛

Think about your favorite hobbies, especially anything involving physical movement.

What do you like to do with your free time? What are your interests? These can point the way to a general style of exercise you’ll enjoy best. A love of basketball or affinity for watching basketball games may just translate itself into a daily half-hour practice at the local basketball court with a few friends, for instance.

For me, my love of music and dance translated itself perfectly into Zumba; I get to hear about an hour of good dancey music, and I get to learn new moves, all while dancing in the same room with other people. It’s almost like rehearsing for a dance performance, the way I did when I was a little girl–there’s the same kind of social group formed by the class, and the same kind of rush when you finally learn how to do that stinkin’ turn just right. 😛

Think about what you realistically have time for.

What does your daily schedule look like? How about weekly, or monthly? Being realistic about what time you can carve out for exercise is important to fitting it in and making it part of your life. If you’re always running around doing errands from morning to evening all week and barely have any time to breathe from Monday morning to Friday evening, then trying to fit in exercise during the week is probably not going to work for you. But doing some exercise on Saturday and Sunday might be just the ticket, instead.

I wasn’t sure that the Thursday night Zumba class would work for me in the beginning; however, it fit into an “empty” night that would have otherwise been a night for me to lay around being bored at home. Though I’m involved in other church and community activities on other weeknights, Thursdays have stayed my Zumba days (thankfully!). This has kept me coming back to class, when perhaps otherwise I might have let it go after a month or two.

Think about your exercise personality.

Do you enjoy the serenity of a solid, unchanging routine, or do you get easily bored without something different to do every time you exercise? Do you prefer to focus on perfect form and pinpoint muscle toning, or do you prefer to do exercises that feel more like useful, everyday activities? Answering these questions will help you figure out what specific kind of exercise you’d enjoy doing.

For me, I hate doing pointless, repetitive exercises that seem to have no bearing on real life (I have the same problem with math, LOL). Zumba is neither repetitive nor pointless–I get to learn new moves every time I go, which keeps it fresh, and the dance moves can be translated to my free time (and music-listening time) very easily. 😀


Exercise must be fun if it’s going to be done. It may sound trite, and the rhyme may sound dumb, but it’s the first truth about any physical activity–it must be enjoyable. It also must fit into your life, blending with everything else you do and everything you value. After all, if your exercise routine isn’t fun, doesn’t mesh with your life, and feels pointless, it’s probably not going to be “your routine” for long!

The Stupidity of Trying to Produce Art Alone

For weeks–maybe months, now–I’ve been trying to bring my novel to fruition by myself, trying to continue the story I was once bursting to tell. Sadly, it’s not working out that great. It almost seems like I’ve lost the fire for it. Some days, I just look at the filename and feel sad; I feel like nobody will like it, or that nobody will want to read it.

During the years I’ve been writing this novel, I’ve been scared to show more people what I’ve written, either for fear it’ll get stolen/ripped off, or afraid that others won’t like it. It’s a ludicrous feeling, like a pregnant woman being afraid to give birth because she fears her baby will be ugly, while at the same time she fears that her baby will be stolen. And yet…it’s a valid feeling, too; this half-finished novel is a product of my hard work, and I don’t want that hard work credited to someone else, or cast aside as unworthy.

Why Artists Can’t Create in Complete Solitude

Pop culture (and even some art about artists) generally paints artists as loners, but that’s at least partially untrue. As much as we might need peace and quiet to finalize our ideas, we actually can’t produce art in a vacuum–other people help and influence us, even if they never realize how much they’ve helped.

So many times I’ve been in public, for instance, and heard an exchange between people that reminds me of something in my novel, or reminds me that I should put something similar in a certain scene. Not to mention my friends’ opinions on the bits of novel I do share with them, the snapshots of scenes I’m not too scared to share with them. Talking about our art with other people is a way to keep us believing in what we’re doing; isolating ourselves, or our art, slowly kills the budding artistic expression.

And yet, creating in isolation is precisely what I’ve been trying to do for the last few months. I love my little novel baby, but I’m afraid she’s not good enough for others, or that she will be stolen from me, so I’ve isolated her and hidden her from the world. How silly and stupid of me, in retrospect. No wonder I can’t write anymore; no wonder I get sad when I look at even just the filename. The novel is becoming synonymous with failure and sadness instead of joy, because I only have my opinion to go on, and my opinion becomes more negative by the day.

This is, as I have unfortunately discovered, dangerous territory for me, and indeed it’s dangerous for any artist. We who make art simply can’t hoard it to ourselves; art is for sharing with other humans, whether that’s a small group of people to a worldwide audience. I have big dreams of this novel going worldwide and brightening lives everywhere, and I would wager a guess that other artists dream of showing off their works, too. But in order to get our art to completion, it’s almost necessary to let a few, trusted friends see it, to help us shape it and better it. And, much as a mother-to-be needs help from others in the last months of pregnancy, an artist’s friends surround him or her and help keep the process grounded.

Breaking Out of the Isolation Shell

As artists, we have to realize that it’s okay to share the knowledge of our unfinished art “babies,” even if we’re afraid of the feedback. I suppose it’s much like an expectant parent showing off ultrasound pictures–people will still ooh and ahh, even though the little one is not yet fully formed, because we respect and admire the miraculous process.

Likewise, people at least know a little about the artistic process, and sometimes are willing to help, to offer feedback that will bring our baby projects into the world at last. We just have to be brave enough to let someone else see the ultrasound pictures first. Others, and others’ opinions, are not to be feared; that fear is actually the enemy of art itself.