A few years ago, I remember bloggers sharing lists of things they didn’t do, as a reminder that even when it looks like they’re being super productive, they’re intentionally saying no to other things.
My list is inspired by these, but with a twist. I have a tendency to be very all-or-nothing, so I go through cycles where I’m really active here and on Instagram, doing all kinds of things behind the scenes and making big plans, and then – I falter. Maybe something comes up in life that throws my schedule, or a post doesn’t turn out how I’d like it to. And all those plans come tumbling down because I tried to do too much too fast.
This is particularly so because I’m autistic, so I have a tendency to get obsessive over my interests. For weeks or months a single one of my special interests will take prominence in my thoughts, and everything else can easily become something that distracts my attention from it.
One of the great things about autism is hyperfocus. I can become so excited about a special interest that I will spend hours researching and working on something because I’m just that enthusiastic about it. Of course, I need to be careful not to bore the people around me by talking incessantly about something they’re just not that interested in, but it really is a joy to dive into a new project that captures my enthusiasm so thoroughly.
The problem, of course, is that these things can crowd out everything else in my life. For much of January, my special interest was fitness and exercise. I was lifting 4-5 times a week, plus a couple of karate classes, and spending a lot of my free time researching lifting programmes, fine-tuning my programme for my goals, and idly reading about the difference between back squats and front squats. I was completely uninterested in writing – both fiction and non-fiction – so I let my writing projects fall idle, and other aspects of my life fell by the wayside.
It’s okay to take a break from creative projects sometimes, of course, but for me this is more intense than just feeling like I need a break. Sometimes my special interest du jour can switch seemingly overnight; one day, all I want to think about is lifting, and the next, all I care about is my novel.
I’ve been working really hard recently on balancing these things so that I can take advantage of the passion and excitement while at the same time making sure that no single interest eclipses the other things that matter to me.
A big part of this process is working on building habits. In particular, I’m trying to build the habits that will allow me to keep moving towards the things that I care about in the long-term when any one of those might not be the thing that I care about the most at any given moment. Things like writing every day, even if it’s only taking ten minutes to outline a scene, or making sure I lift weights at least twice a week, even if some days all I do is a few sets of deadlifts and call it good.
The other part of it is being realistic about where I’m at now. When I fall into the creative flow of a project, I get impatient. I see the future laid out for me so clearly and I’m certain I’ll get there if only I do the dozens of things on my brand new list.
Enter the Things I Don’t Do (Yet) list.
Things I Don’t Do (Yet)
This list is specific to my blog, and my related presence on other platforms like Instagram. I’ve made similar lists for other things in my life before, but I wanted to share this one in particular because I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently.
The point of this list is, in a sense, to capture all the things I would like to do but that feel beyond me at the moment. It’s also to remind me that the most important thing, at the moment, for both my blog and Instagram is consistency. I want to show up here more often and more consistently, and I want to develop a habit of taking and sharing photos regularly. So this list serves as a reminder to focus on building those habits first, and worrying about all this other stuff later.
But there’s another reason, and that’s that I don’t want to kill my creative spark before it’s had a chance to catch. Although I’ve been writing for years, I’m still finding my voice as it fits in this blog, and although I’ve been taking photographs as a hobby for a long time, I’m still developing my own style and learning some technical aspects of photography. I don’t want to focus too much on the external side of blogging until I’m confident that I’ve developed a strong sense of what this blog is.
A consistent Instagram aesthetic
I’m very much a novice photographer. It’s been a hobby of mine for years, but I’m still very amateurish at it. I can’t try to create a consistent aesthetic when I’m still learning technical aspects and figuring out my own personal style as a photographer. To put it bluntly, I don’t yet have the level of skill needed to develop a consistent aesthetic because I’m still learning how to take photos at all.
The reason for this is that what I need to do most right now is practice. Experimentation and honing my style are part of that, but if I decide I’m going to go with, say, a moody, desaturated aesthetic, with lots of earthy tones and low light, then I’ve immediately excluded a lot of photos I might otherwise be taking because they don’t fit this aesthetic, and the end result is that I’m going to take fewer photos, not more.
There will come a time when I am ready to stick to a specific aesthetic, at least for a period of time, when I want to restrict myself to let my creativity blossom instead of opening the doors wide for it, but I’m not there yet. And that’s okay.
This is another one where I get eager to run before I can walk, so to speak. For me things like SEO and directing traffic to my blog through Pinterest are very much tied up with writing a blog at all. I write a blog to connect with others, not to have a personal journal – that’s what a pen-and-paper journal that no one else reads is for.
But, just like I can’t develop an Instagram aesthetic before I’ve improved my photography, there’s also no point in spending my efforts on SEO-optimising my posts when they’re only being updated every couple of months.
This is the same kind of thing. Why would I pitch a post to someone else when I don’t have any consistency with writing for my own site?
This list is all the things that always crop up in my mind when I get excited about this blog again. Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that I disappeared from there for several months, and I’ve only recently started showing up there again. So I’m currently in a stage where I’m excited about all things Savour & Dream.
And often when I get into a stage like this I want to do ALL THOSE THINGS. I want to perfect my Instagram, I want to attract people to my site, etc. I have this clear vision of building a community of like-minded people who care about the things I care about, of having a beautiful Instagram feed that attracts new followers and a site filled with resources and engaged readers. And it’s so easy to get caught up in that and forget that to do all of that, right now I just need to keep writing and keep taking photos.