This journal is my response to this really cool poll
This is a subject I can go on for a very long time about.
I'm bipolar, as in "diagnosed by a doctor as a slow-cycle bipolar/multipolar personality type". Its been a long road to figuring out how to deal with the mental rollercoaster that is bipolar disorder, but I've learned a lot about how to not let depression, anxiety, and self-doubt- not to mention manic pride and unhealthy zeal- get in the way of living life and getting stuff done.
First thing I've learned: Focus on now.
There's a phrase I love, Fait Accompli. Literally translates from French as "fact accomplished", and it basically means "whats done is done, and cannot be changed". So when I'm depressed and start thinking about something embarrassing or depressing or that hurt me, whether it was yesterday or ten years ago, I remind myself its Fait Accompli. Yes, it happened. Yes, it was a bad experience. But it's done. It cannot be changed. Forgive people for their past, forgive yourself for yours, take what you can learn from it and accept that where you are now is where you are, and leave the rest behind. What you can change is the present, so focus on that. Its amazing how much of a difference it makes.
The future is similar- just one of the many awesome bits of advice in this essay:
(which I pretty much consider required reading for "Life 101") is "Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. " Think about the future, but don't be obsessed with it, or try to live there. You'll get there eventually, and it would be a shame to miss everything you could see and do between now and then.
Second thing I've learned is that listening to fear does four things:
- Fear prevents blatant stupidity like teasing rattlesnakes, doing cartwheels on the edge of a cliff, or posting nude pictures of yourself online(Finagles Law dictates at some point both your grandmother and your boss will see them)
- Fear makes you excel by making you do something important like your life or sanity depended on it
- Fear causes stupid mistakes by making you do everything like your life or sanity depended on it
- Fear prevents you from taking calculated or harmless risks like posting artwork that you are unsure how people will react to, trying something you've never tried before, talking to someone new, or talking about something deeply personal like being bipolar
Listen to the first two. Any fear relating to types 3 and 4 should generally be ignored.
To quote Frank Hebert:
I must not fear. /Fear is the mind-killer./Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration./I will face my fear./I will permit it to pass over me and through me./And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path./Where the fear has gone there will be nothing./Only I will remain.
— Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear
You face your fear, you acknowledge any valid points it might have and adjust accordingly, and move on. Don't let it rule you.
Third, don't over do it.
Never let yourself fall into a spike-and-crash lifestyle. Trust me; being bipolar, I take medication to help keep my brain chemistry from doing this on its own for a reason. I don't recommend anyone trying to do it intentionally. Working yourself to exhaustion and then doing nothing for days is not only unhealthy, its unproductive in the long run. Same thing goes for trying to learn everything at once, or insisting on perfection(more on that later). Find a healthy balance between pushing yourself to just beyond what you think you can do, and allowing time each day for your body and mind to recover. Working 8 hours a day over four days gets a lot more done than 24 hours straight followed by three days of recovery.
By all means, if you get on a roll go with it- when I'm on an upswing I can quite happily pull off 12+hour work days several days in a row without a dip in the quality- but I make sure that I stop myself at some point to eat and get some sleep.
The counter to that is that its most important to work when you really don't feel like it- after a strong upswing like the previous example, I usually have an equally strong downswing into depression where I won't feel inspired, or honestly like doing anything, for days. On those days I always have to force myself to work, but generally once I get myself moving the fog lifts and I'm able to get stuff done. I've even found that indulging my depression a little with an "emo session" where I paint with 8 shades of black while listening to the most depressing scremo music I have, can be a great way to "get it out of my system" in a constructive way- it doesn't "snap you out of it" but by indulging in a combination of self-parody and acknowledgement of how I'm feeling that day I can dramatically boost my moral and motivation to work, if not my mood and energy level. Sometimes these sessions actually result in some of my more complex ideas because I have to consciously build a concept instead of pulling it out of a storm of ideas like normal.
Basically, set some minimum and maximum limits for yourself, and try not to very them too much. Habit can be your friend or your enemy, just depends on what habits you create in yourself.
Last and most important, there is no such thing as perfect, and it has little to do with artistry.
Its very very easy to get caught up in wishing and waiting for a perfect chance to do something, or trying to create that one perfect piece of artwork, or to perfect your skills. Here's the thing: it will never happen. A good way to define perfect is "what ever something is like now, but better". When used to describe someone else's work or situation, it can also mean "I cannot find the flaws". Ask a bestselling author or a legendary rock star or a master artist what they think of their own work, and if they're honest, you'll probably get some combination of two answers from most of them- surprise that so many people love their horribly flawed work, and/or that they are just having fun and people seem to like the results.
There's good reason for that. Anyone with half a bit of knowledge about how to do something properly is always their own worst critic, and the more you practice and the better you get at something, the louder that voice gets. That inner critic is a sometimes mean-spirited, but always well intentioned, part of yourself trying to help you do better. There are two ways to cope with it, and what answer a master gives to the question about how they see their own work is how they deal.
The first is to embrace it- listen to that hyper technical side of yourself, and grind away at everything you do until it can't find anything to criticize. This gets harder and harder as you improve, and is a frequent cause of burnout, but if you can keep it up across a career its results can't be argued with: a collection of polished masterpieces, along with a drawerful of extremely good rejects and a serious drinking problem.
The second way is to simply never give the voice anything to complain about in the first place. This doesn't mean that you ignore the voice, or call unintentional flaws "style", or are so good that you never make a mistake- it means that you find a way to create that feels right, and build up from the bottom rather than insisting on perfection from the top. If something feels right at the start and the middle, its easy to carry that through to the end. From blues legends to painters to masters of the written word, they'll almost univerally tell you that their greatest works came out of a weekend of playing with a few chords or an interesting idea, not an attempt at perfection.
The best strike a balance between the two approaches, combining as easygoing approach that lets creativity flow uninhibited, followed by a little hard work and polish until the results aren't necessarily perfect, but are unquestionably beautiful.
So thats my two cents on dealing with things like that, for what its worth.