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Eating the Frog, Big Girl Undies, and Nike Slogans

// Found this gem at Birch Bay //

Ever heard of 'eating the frog'? This phrase is attributed to Mark Twain and it goes a little something like this, "Eat a live frog the first thing in the day and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day".

I love advice like this. "Eat the frog." "Pull up your big girl undies."* "Just do it."  I revel in this kind of advice, because I'm productive, internally driven, self-managed, and efficient. My personality type on the Meyers-Briggs test is INTJ, the rarest kind for everyone, but especially women. I eat logic for breakfast, research and discipline for lunch, and my dessert of choice is getting things done.

I am self-structured enough to exercise 4-5 times a week religiously, wake up two hours every day before my kids to write, study, read, and check/respond to email and social media. I can actually hit these targets like Annie Oakley playing a carnival bullseye game. Mainly? I rock at eating the frog.

Just like we all see better in hindsight, I can identify seasons in my past where this type of You-Can-Sleep-When-You're-Dead mentality clicked into overdrive. In college I had a semester of 21 credit hours, working 20+ hours a week, nurtured my new marriage, and did all the regular things like buying groceries, making meals, cleaning the house, laundry, and lawn care. What? Most 20 year olds don't do that? Could've fooled me, because I nailed it. But at what cost?

I'm starting to recognize this mindset in myself again, and although our culture praises us for productivity, I've seen the detriments, firsthand, from the god of efficiency, and it, surprisingly, stops at the dead end of lack, loss, restlessness, and brain melt. It leaves nothing for creativity. I don't want to be one more person writing about how we need to stop the celebrating of busy. We get it.

 But what if you're really good at lists but there's a niggling of creative desire?

When I was a kid I spent hours and hours of time making collages--cutting out pictures I loved from magazines and gluing them all together on one piece of construction paper. I kept these for years (my mom and I had a good laugh about how many puppies were represented). I also spent a lot of time designing clothes, drawing, and organizing (a serious art form for a kid). I made perler bead magnets and woven hotpads as gifts when I was under 10 years old. I embroidered hand towels for gifts before the age of 9! When I got to high school, I took nearly every art class offered, even creating my own independent classes and making a hodge-podge darkroom in my mom's laundry room. Later, I learned how to knit, and have been doing that on and off ever since.

I've come to realize that I'm driven enough to do all the stuff that 'needs' to be done, and I do get it done, but at the end of the day, after kids, family, school, life...there is no time left for me and my creativity. There is exhaustion, and a fading buzz from 'finished', and a Jon Stewart episode waiting for me before I collapse into bed. The last time I got my sewing machine out was to mend holes in pants. I can't remember when I doodled last. A decade? My daughter invited me to color with her new markers and it was the first time in a long time I just sat and enjoyed art, freely.

I love reading about personality types, and understanding how different people tick, and especially finding out my own type was really helpful to figure out why I do certain things the way I do them. It's not navel gazing, it's playing on your strengths and knowing (and working on) your weaknesses. It's also not a crutch to be an asshole, either, although my type seemingly gives me a free pass in that area.

I have a lot of goals to learn new things, especially goals in the art world that includes weaving, cooking projects, and design ideas, but at the end of the day, these always take last priority, because there is no immediate practicality: monetization (either saving or gaining), solving a problem, taking away time from other 'day-to-day life' time that is required for our family to run smoothly.

 Here's where I can't stop eating the frog. I can do the things that need to be done, but big picture, what is more important in the long run? For a healthy lifestyle, we NEED play in our lives. Art is play to me; imagination, trial, repetition, experience and outcome all live in that space, and I haven't been allowing myself any of it, because I fed the fire of 'necessity' for so long. And it's really boring.

For personalities who find accomplishment their adrenaline, we can use our disciplined minds to say Just Do It Art, even when (gasp!) it might not do a thing for your bottom line. Eat the Frog, and give yourself those full two hours of free time over to an artist date, without feeling like it's a waste of time. Fact: It took me six weeks of going through The Artist's Way to tell myself to "do it, it won't be a waste of time". My discipline ruled, but dictated in the direction of my desire for creativity. I felt like that was a huge step.

The professional world will tell you to get things done, the main thing is you have to show up and...get them done. Millions and millions of dollars have been made with books, courses, audio lectures, and conferences on how to make yourself more productive. For those of us who are already productive, but don't allow ourselves free space and time for creativity (Type A-ers, I'm looking at you), a swath of blank time on the calendar feels luxurious and extravagant, but also like a guilt-inducing, megalomaniac binge party. I'm a proponent of fake it 'til you make it. I'm training my logic INTJ self to value those creative messes, whether that time produces anything, or not. Butt in chair.  

Now, pull up those big girl undies* and just do art. Eat the frog, and don't forget time to digest.

*You can thank me for not saying the dreaded word panties, instead. 


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