when things get in the way

I have two laptops. One of them is heavy, doesn’t fit into my backpack, and has a lot of loading issues. I named that one Roger. the other one has keyboard problems; letters t and y don’t work unless I repeatedly press them, and it’s nearly impossible to capitalize them. Hence, the lower case t that I started the previous sentence with. I haven’t given that laptop a name, but it’s blue, so I refer to it as the blue one.

I don’t write on the blue one most of the time, but sometimes Roger’s problems test my patience too much, or I don’t want to carry it with me around campus. When I do write on the blue one and have to press t and y between 7 and 15 times every time I need to use one of them, I have to pat myself on the back because I worked extra hard to get my words on the page.

Sometimes, as a creator, there are things that get in the way of making art, like malfunctioning keyboards, or for me, mental health. It’s awfully hard to write in a really negative head space. Sometimes it’s hard to write in a positive head space, but when my mind is being extra critical of the work I’m creating? It’s just downright painful. There are days when I try and just give up, and then there are the days where I push through. In either case, I remind myself that I tried, and sometimes that is more than enough.

Being a musician is like that for me too. Practicing is difficult even when I’m in the best mindset. to have an effective practice session where I’m really getting work done means many things. Focusing on tone, tonguing, and practicing runs of notes in ways that actually help me to retain them? That’s a lot to pay attention to in short spans of time. But that’s just what practicing is like. And on days where my head space is extra critical or just plain sad? the practice room becomes a very tricky place.

But I try to go there anyway. And on those days I sometimes still try to write. And I still write on a laptop with a bad keyboard.

Sometimes things get in the way of creating, but when you’re fighting those things, remember that if your work isn’t what it might be on better days, it’s probably because you had to work so much harder just to begin. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether the art you create on bad days is your best work. You’re a trooper just for trying.

finding the joy of music again: a new journey

As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I believe that the arts can be very helpful to those who are dealing with mental health conditions. With the arts, I can express my emotions, set goals, practice fulfilling activities, and sometimes find that sense of being lost in a creative flow.

Yet, as a music student, I find that my motivation to work as a musician is often hindered by my mental state. Yet, when I’m struggling to find passion for music, I still have a drive to make visual art, to learn more about fashion, or to write. In fact, I think I have even more of a drive to practice the other arts I enjoy when I’m feeling down, though my motivation as a musician struggles.

The difference is that, because I am in music school, music doesn’t feel like as much of an art to me anymore. It feels like a thing of necessity. It is not an expression of emotions anymore; it is a fulfillment of requirements. For me, music school often turns music into a lifeless chore for me. It makes me tired and it isn’t usually fun.

I want to try and rediscover the fun of music. I wish it was simple, but I feel like I’ll have to dig through years of stress and pressure and perfectionism to find the fun of it underneath it all.

Meanwhile, I can’t stop treating music as an academic thing for me. I have pieces I need to accomplish right now, and techniques that demand to be mastered. I can’t drop the responsibility and treat music as a thing that is solely for fun. So how will I rediscover music as an enjoyable and life-giving activity, while simultaneously keeping up with the demands of my current life as a musician? I am unsure.

I think I need to find some music related activities to engage in just for the heck of it. I need to find some new albums that inspire me, or learn a piece that I like but that I won’t program for a recital. Something that I won’t pressure myself to make perfect. Maybe I need to analyze a favorite piece of mine without the pressure of it being an assignment for class. Or maybe I need to find a way to incorporate the other arts that I’m still excited about into my music making.

I don’t really know.. but what I do know is that I’m in some sort of rut, and I haven’t been able to get out of it for a while. I need to do something, because I’m definitely not willing to give up.

I think this blog could maybe help me. By writing about my journey to rediscover the joy of music, I’ll have a place to document my findings. I’ll have a project to continue with, and projects like this make me excited.

I often look around at the musicians surrounding me and wonder why I’m the only one who feels the way I do. And then I remember that I’m probably not the only one… so in case anyone else needs it, here I am as some proof that not all musicians or artists feel motivated all the time… and that’s okay. 🙂

 

better ways to procrastinate?

Earlier this week, I set some goals for this month, including:

  • practicing my clarinet 5 out of 7 days every week
  • finishing one painting
  • posting on my blog at least twice a week about my progress

I had a few purposes for setting these goals, but my biggest reason for setting these goals was to help my mental health and keep myself busy.

So far, things are going well! Yesterday I painted and practiced, and got a few other things done too. But today… I feel like procrastinating.

I know that I’ll get around to practicing and painting before the day is over, but so far I have done only a few things, including catching Pokemon on Pokemon Go, using a face mask, and crocheting a coaster.

coasters

I’ve crocheted multiple coasters lately (usually while putting off another activity), and it has been pretty fun. One of the main ways that I procrastinate is by knitting or crocheting. You could call it “procrastiknitting”, I suppose.

When it comes to activities that can help better mental health, I find that procrastination is one of my worst enemies. For some reason, I often try to put off activities that will help me, even if they are activities I like. But there are some ways to put things off that are better than others.

I oftentimes procrastinate by simply watching videos on my phone or by going on social media. However, this has never left me feeling any better. Recently, I deactivated my social media in order to take a break, but I will still watch videos pretty often. Sometimes this is okay; there’s nothing wrong with watching a video or two while eating my dinner, but if I waste an entire afternoon on the couch with YouTube, I’ll probably find myself feeling pretty crummy later.

Procrastinating might never be a great thing, but there are ways to procrastinate more positively, and this can actually be helpful.

If you feel like procrastinating, try doing something active rather than passive. Put down the phone and find some way to create something, do something healthy, or treat yourself. These activities can help give you some active momentum. When you’re done, perhaps you’ll be able to do the thing you were putting off with less resistance from yourself.

Today I chose to procrastinate by making crafts and taking a walk outside while I caught Pokemon, and I definitely feel better and more motivated. Not a bad decision, at all. 🙂

What ways do you usually procrastinate? Are there better activities that you could choose?

What are the things in work or your personal life that you put off doing the most?

 

how can I create when I don’t feel like it?

People have claimed that the arts can help those who suffer with depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles. I believe this is true. Yet as an artist, I find that there is sometimes nothing more difficult than actually engaging with the arts while I’m not feeling well.

I know that playing my clarinet, painting something new, or writing will help me, yet these are the things I lose desire for when I’m going through a rough patch. (This explains why I haven’t posted on my blog for a few weeks… Whoops.)

Many people experience this. Depression makes it difficult to put effort into anything beyond simple tasks, yet these tasks are the ones that can help you to start feeling like yourself again. It’s a cycle, and it can sometimes feel impossible to get out of.

The arts demand effort and confidence, and oftentimes daily practice. This is especially true for those who try to make a career out of them. But how can I make a daily practice out of something when I struggle to find the motivation to do it for even one day?

This is one of the things that I most want to explore this year through commitment to daily practice and writing about it on this blog.

I think a great way for me to get started on this is by setting goals. When setting goals, I’ve learned that it’s always important to set attainable goals, and to set small steps along the way. It’s important to be specific.

To get started, here are some attainable goals I want to set for myself this month:

  •  Practicing my clarinet 5 out of 7 days a week
  • 1 painting
  • Posting on this blog at least 2 times a week with thoughts on how things are going

To show how I will break one of these goals down and set smaller, specific steps, I’ll use the example of finishing one painting this month.

1. First, I’ll dedicate an hour to deciding what to paint and drawing a simple sketch of it. To make this even easier, I’ll pick a time to do that within the next two days and commit myself to that as a part of my schedule.

For this painting, I’m going to do this tonight after I get home from work.

2.  Next, I’ll think about my needs for this painting. I’ll need a canvas, paint, brushes, and water. I already have all these things, so my next step is deciding where I will set up my supplies. I don’t have a table for this in my apartment, so I need to get creative

I’ll use a garbage bag as a tarp by cutting open its seams and laying it on my floor. Then I can set up all of my supplies on top of it, and feel good about having protected my floor.

3. I pick a time to begin my painting. If if got leftover time tonight after drawing my sketch, I can start then. I’ll have additional work time tomorrow at 10am.

From there, I’ll decide additional steps as I go. I anticipate this painting to take me a minimum of 12 hours.

I might complete more than one painting this month, but by setting the goal of only doing one, I’ll feel accomplished if I manage that much, and I’ll feel especially great if I can manage more.

Depression and anxiety are hard, but they don’t need to hold me back from doing the things that I love. I can do the things that I love better when I break them down into small tasks.

What favorite activities of yours are difficult for you to do when you’re feeling down?

Do you have any goals for yourself this month? How can you break them down for yourself?

changes for the blog

I haven’t posted to my blog for a while, and this has been for good reason. I’ve been rethinking this site and its purposes, and I have decided to change its course. I’m starting with a blank page.

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This year, I decided to turn my love of writing into more than just a hobby. I have taken classes on grammar, design, media, and editing, and as a result, I’m more excited about blogging than ever. As I have grown as a writer, I realized that I want a more focused blog.

My blog has always been a personal blog, and it will continue to be. Personal blogs can be great, and they can have various degrees of focus. Through my years of experience, I’ve learned that when writing a personal blog, it is often best to choose some specific topics to write about, rather than just writing about whatever comes to mind. This gives a blog focus and purpose.

Focused blogs reach a more specific audience. They attract readers who are interested in the topic of the blog, and this keeps readers coming back. Having a focused blog can also help its writer to have some direction in picking topics. This is great, since picking a topic for a post can be one of the most difficult parts of actually writing a post.

When considering new topics for a blog, I thought that I should pick one or two things that are a part of my every day life and that are personal, but not too personal, to me. After thinking about this for a bit, it became obvious to me. The new topics for my blog are…

the arts and mental health.

These topics include things like:

  • What it means to be an artist (of music, visual arts, writing, and more)
  • Exploring what it looks like to practice the arts
  • Maintaining practice through seasons of mental health struggles
  • Self-care strategies
  • Blogging
  • How media and technology are related to mental health
  • How to promote yourself as an artist
  • How faith is related to being an artist
  • How faith is related to mental health
  • How the arts can help you through mental health struggles
  • What it means to grow as an artist
  • And MORE

As I have grown as an artist, I find that my mental health and my creation of art are closely related. Since I am a musician, writer, and visual artist, this has overlap with many areas of my life.

I’m really excited for this change. These topics are near and dear to my heart, and I can’t wait to see what is to come for this site.

If you are interested, please follow and share with friends who are also interested in these topics.

See you again soon,

Amberly

Sharing too much online?

So many people in today’s culture seem to post everything online, from large life events all the way down to simple details, like what they had for lunch. This was becoming common as far back as a decade ago, but in the past several years it has even become the norm, especially with apps like Snapchat, on which some people record and post their days moment by moment.

This has led to a lack of personal privacy. In today’s culture, people freely give up personal information about themselves for all the world to see. The only work that others need to do in order to gain this information is to send a friend request. In some cases, this isn’t even necessary. In the past, in order to know personal information about someone, you likely would have just had to actually get to know them through relationship, and it would’ve had to be earned through time and trust. Today, however, people give away personal information as if it never needed to be earned by anyone at all.

I’ve been off of social media for six months. At first, it took time for me to adjust to not having a platform to instantly share things. I was no longer able to receive attention by posting details about my life. With time, this resulted in a couple of things:

  1. I began to believe that the details of my life are valuable and to be cherished. They are far more than tools for attention.
  2. I began to see who my true friends are, as I shared important details only with the people who actually keep up with me and sincerely care about me.

Now when life events happen, I have the opportunity to cherish them in my heart, and to share them in person with the people I value. Those who are not close to me may never know the details that I would have shared online back in my Facebook days, but this is okay, because these acquaintances have not earned these details about me. They don’t have my trust.

Oversharing on social media has led people to believe that they are entitled to others’ lives in ways that they are not actually entitled. Real relationships take time and effort and trust. “Keeping up” with someone by following them on Facebook is not actually keeping up with them at all. It is when you reveal yourself as trustworthy that someone should consider entrusting you with the details of their life.

When I left social media, some people were offended and wondered how we would continue to keep up. However, in my mind, I never had much of a real relationship with these people at all. Besides, there are several other ways to contact me, including text, email, phone call, letters, and even… face-to-face conversation *gasp*. The difference is that these methods actually require some amount of effort.

For the attention that comes along with sharing personal details, I feel it is unnecessary. If an enjoyable event happens in your life, is it not enough to simply enjoy that event? However, it is that craving for attention that causes people to voluntarily give up their privacy. This is one of the things that social media thrives on. In exchange for your valuable privacy (which they will most likely exploit), they will provide you with the attention that you desire from other people.

I write this without the intention of offending anyone, but rather with the desire to tell you that the events of your life and your privacy are actually of great value, and that you shouldn’t give these things away as if they were cheap.

Do you share too much online? It’s worth thinking about.

-Amberly

Puppy Love

If you know me in real life, there’s about a 99% chance that I’ve told you about my dog, because I almost never shut up about him and I share a lot of pictures of him.

His name is Auggie, and he’s truly one of my best friends.IMG_5391

We’ve had Auggie for about five years. In most ways, he’s just like every other dog. However, though he is an ordinary dog, he’s been an extraordinary part of my life. As I sat with his head on my lap last night, I thought about all of the ways that God has used this little guy in my life, and I just couldn’t help but be a bit overwhelmed.

Someone once said to me that it’s impossible for my dog to really love me, because he doesn’t have a soul. While I agree that dogs most likely don’t have souls, I do believe that they are capable of love, even if it is not love in the same way that God or humans love.

God has certainly used Auggie to show me that I am loved. If I tried to count the ways that God has shown me love in the past several years, I’d certainly fail to count them all; there are too many ways. While many of these may even be unrecognizable to me right now, Auggie has been an undeniable source of love in my life. My relationship with Auggie is a simple one, but a truly meaningful one. I’ve faced a lot of challenge and change in these years (new friendships, lost friendships, breakups, sicknesses, moving out, a slew of bad decisions, and more,) but nothing has ever changed that Auggie is happy to see me whenever I come home.

Some of my relationships with friends have grown weaker or were left behind as I faced these challenges and grew, but Auggie has treated me the same, with companionship and a care that almost seems human, through it all. In many ways, his love resembles unconditional love. He doesn’t care about the unwise decisions that I have made in the past; he doesn’t even know about them. He only knows that there are some times when I’m hurting and I just want him near.

Sometimes he’s a pain, and sometimes he’s needy, but he doesn’t ask for much. He’s content with not much more than attention, food, water, snuggles, playtime, walks, and love. These things don’t seem like much when I consider how much satisfaction my family receives in calling him ours.

He’s six years old, but to me, he still feels like just a puppy. I’ve had five years to get used to him, but I’m still hardly any less excited about seeing him than I was on the day that we picked him up. Even when he’s being difficult, I can’t help but love him and be proud to have him as my own. I often show him off to others, and say, “Look at him! He’s amazing! I love him so much!” As I thought about this kind of love that I have for him last night, I thought that maybe God looks down on me with the same kind of love.

Sometimes I’m a pain, and sometimes I’m needy, and I ask for an awful lot… but God tells me in His word that He loves me in spite of all these things; that He sings over me and that He is proud to call me His daughter. He’s excited about me every single day, even though he’s had every day of mine written in His book since before I came to be. He’s had a lot of time to get used to me, but He’s still crazy about me. He loves me enough to give me each new day, to give me new mercies every morning, and to provide me with simple joys like beautiful weather, music, and Auggie in my life.

He knows about every one of my mistakes, and all of the times that I have failed Him, but He looks past these because of the sacrifice that He has made in Jesus. Though my earthly relationships come and go, He’s always there, and He’s always excited to hear from me.

Some things in life seem so simple, like owning a small dog. However, even within these things, God shows us love. Sometimes you need to look up close to see God’s loving care woven throughout every detail of life, but it’s there. He’s present, He’s close, and His fingerprint is everywhere.

In what simple ways has God shown you love in your life?

Yours truly,

Amberly