A couple weeks ago I started doing a government funded self management course for people who suffer from chronic health conditions. If you've known me for any period of time you would know that I have fibromyalgia plus have been struggling with PTSD for the past few years which comes with anxiety and depression. I'm not going to be going into that in this post though. What I do want to share is how doing this self management program is impacting my creative life. In this program we learn and practice a variety of strategies that help us positively manage our health conditions.
This post week we covered making an "action plan." According to the several health professionals who wrote this program action planning is probably the most important self-management tool. So what is an action plan? An action plan is an action you can take that is short term, doable and sets you on the road towards achieving a goal. In my program we set goals to enhance our quality of life.
Unsurprisingly, working on creative projects enhances my quality of life. So, while I do set goals that are specific to my physical condition, feeding my mental, emotional and spiritual health is equally important and very much complementary to managing my physical condition. A lot of why I've been creatively dormant for the past year as far as Borg Queen goes is that the goals I wish to accomplish within this project are rather lofty. It's not that I've had a creative block or lost inspiration, it's just that I've been battling the physical effects of my chronic illness which has left me with no energy to work on anything...or so I thought.
What I've learned is that the secret of an effective action plan is to not try to do everything at once. Inside my head I imagine everything all at once, but the problem is that in the physical world I am not capable of doing everything at once, so I've just had to accept that I'm limited and have to work within those limitations. What I've been learning to do is look at what I can realistically accomplish within the next week and base my action plan on what I can realistically achieve.
Another crucial point about the action plan is that it should be about something I want to do, not something that will please anyone else. So when making my first action plan in this course I asked myself, "Jenny, what do YOU want to do?" The reply was, "I really want to write the screenplay for 'A Bionic Holiday Ballad.'"
Of course with me being an obsessive workaholic and wanting to get it done as fast as possible, my initial action plan was pretty unrealistic. At first I wanted to get the whole thing written within a week, but that would have required me to write 20 pages a day. It's totally doable if I push myself and don't have any other distractions, but the likelihood of accomplishing it was 50/50. They say you need to be at least 70% sure that you can complete your action plan, so I asked myself, "what is a number of pages you KNOW you can write in a day?"
I settled on 5 pages a day because I wanted to feel like I was succeeding and not having to stress out about it. Man! What a difference it makes to set up a plan that is easily accomplished! It's encouraging. It fosters hope and builds confidence. Everyday I was able to exceed my goal of 5 pages and that made me feel pretty damn good about myself. I was able to get the screenplay done in 10 days! Getting it done in a week would have put unnecessary pressure on myself, and for what? It's not like I'm working for anyone but myself.
So now that I've written the screenplay I've decided to turn "A Bionic Holiday Ballad" into a musical. I'm gonna be honest that the inspiration to turn this story into a musical is totally coming from my love of "A Muppet Christmas Carol." My version obviously is going to be darker and have a very distinct "Borg Queen" sound to it. My "Bionic Holiday Ballad" action plan for the week is to sift through the screenplay again and determine at which points a song would fit.
Old Jenny would have written an action plan for this week that would have included the aforementioned plan, plus coming up with song titles, plus writing all the lyrics in one week. Old Jenny would have set themselves up for a stressful week and would be motivated to complete their action plan out of a fear of failure.
Fear can be an effective motivator, but it's not a sustainable one and the cost is too high. Fear is something that has motivated me a lot in my life. It's also cost me my mental and physical health. One of the things I've been practicing over that past year is to not allow myself to take action as the result of fear. I'm learning to take action because I want to, not because I'm afraid of the consequences of inaction.
The protagonist in "A Bionic Holiday Ballad" is Elanor Sharp a parallel to Ebenezar Scrooge. Scrooge is a character that if you really start examining their motives for their heinous behavior, you start to realize that their primary motivator is fear. Fear is going to be a major theme that is explored in the character of Elanor Sharp and I'm going to incorporate my own experience with being a workaholic motivated by fear into that character. However, getting to know Elanor Sharp is another blog post for another day.
For now I'm just going to work on my action plan for this week and enjoy the process. If you enjoyed reading this blog, and want to stay updated with what's going on with my project, then sign up for the mailing list at the top of the page. I love hearing feedback from you, so feel free to leave a comment or if you have any questions about what I've written just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org