Earlier today, my five-year-old daughter asked me to help her to work out a math problem. She has been learning to add and to subtract two-digit numbers that go past being able to use fingers and thumbs as mathematics aids.
So, with my teaching background in practice, I taught her a couple of tactics to make the sums simpler: Counting up or down from the big numbers and understanding the relationship between addition and subtraction. She understood it when I did it with her. But, on her own, she felt a bit overwhelmed.
Enter a simpler method: I asked her to get a piece of paper and draw 12 small lines, then, erase 3 lines (for 12-3). She counted the lines and asked if 9 was the answer. I said yes and praised her. She continued solving the rest of the math tasks using the simple line drawing and then erasing or adding more lines approach. No more math stress. For the time being.
Small steps. Simple solutions. Sometimes, that's the key.
Yet, today, as I list down my work tasks for the week (as I often do on a Monday), I also began to feel overwhelmed.
When I look at the progress of my daily photos and daily hand lettering, my stomach turns. Yes, I have a handful of images that I feel quite happy with, but for the most part, I feel a bit foolish. They just seem so blah at times. And, I start questioning my sanity for doing another 365.
Especially when I pore over blogs of incredibly creative folks.
In fact, I seem to have spent an unusually long time reading other people's blogs lately. Some, I've left comments on. Others, I just devoured and moved on. But yes, there have been times when I spent hours looking through some folks' archives and simply admired the photos, art, and writing that they've been doing.
And, moments when I still wish I'm able to do what they're doing.
Then, I pause and remind myself that they must have been spending hundreds, if not thousands, of hours, doing the work that they do. I have only recently started paying closer to attention to photography again. I've only started using my new DSLR. My new camera and I still need to get to know each other. The Nikon D7000 doesn't even have a name yet.
And, I've just made the decision to learn nicer hand lettering to use on my creative projects. I've only just given myself some space and time to think about creating again for real.
In fact, it was only a few days ago when I finally decided to convert our laundry room in to an art studio/laundry. It's not ideal - certainly not "Pin-able" - but it's the best I've had in many many years. So, I'm happy. Or at least, happier.
I look back on some of my old sketches, paintings, and photos - and wish that I can just pick-up from where I left off. But, I'm learning that creativity isn't quite like riding a bike. Sure, you always remember to be creative. But, if that creative muscle hasn't been used properly in a while, it will take a bit of time to be limber again.
Just like my work task list and my daughter's math woes: I just need to take it one step at a time.
Breathe easy. Check off one small task. Get one little thing done.
One shot. One word. One piece of work.
That's all I need. The important thing is not to get so overwhelmed that I end up staying still. Like I know I have done many times before. Often, reverting to what I find easy - and where I can excel best.
Sometimes, it's okay just to do small, simple things. Yes, those cute little baby steps. Even when it feels like each step does not really get me very far.
Now, where's my piece of paper and pencil? I need to start drawing my little lines.
Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.