Thursday 6 February 2014

Mojo & Muse versus Twitchy Brain

Hi all!

Did you think I'd emigrated to Jupiter? Heh heh...not quite, not quite...  This will be quite a personal post, so settle in with your favourite beverage, and also some cake (because cake is awesome) and we'll ride this roller coaster together!  Here's a contents guide:

Part: The First - A Big Thank You!
Part: The Second - Twitchy Brain: A Potted History 
Part: The Middle - Exit Strategy
Part: Hurrah! - Feeding The Muse
Part: Finale -Mojo Returns

Part : The First
First of all, I would like to send out 'thank yous' and some seriously big love out into the universe, to Vicki at 2 Bags Full, and to the beautiful, BEAUTIFUL people who participated in her incredible 'Grow Your Blog' party, especially to the fabulous bloggers who added themselves to my followers or to my circles. You all get a MASSIVE hug from me for pretty much saving me from jacking the whole thing in, You are all EPIC, just so you know. And that's a fact. No arguing. Your blogs are're all lovely - and my cat (Colonel Fluffpants) and I love you squillions.

As a special and very personal thank you hug to my blog readers - ALL of you! - I'm running a promotion in my Etsy shop.

on any purchase from now till 15th February by entering the code: VALENTINE2014 when you check out with Paypal!  Click the sale link  above to take you right there.

Part: The Second
So... where the hell have I been for the last two weeks? Ok.... Here's the thing. I have a REALLY awkward and annoying brain. It doesn't behave well at all.... it chatters away and twists my reality - sometimes in a cool and energetic, creative way, and sometimes quite the opposite. I'm not alone... there a squillion (I'm just estimating there....*ahem*) people in the world who have awkward brains, acting up to some intrusive degree, for whatever reason, and it can really - REALLY - interfere with stuff.

I've always had a few head-glitches... I can clearly remember being 7 years old and realising that the way I perceived the world was QUITE different to those around me. I was 13 when I decided to understand why. I made a conscious choice to 'handle' the differences; to find a way to work with them, rather than fight them all the time. I've had varying measures of success and generally the constant 'background noise' is manageable. In fact, life would be pretty weird without it now!

There are several side-effects to having 'twitchy brain', one of which is that ya finds ya weird-ass self spending a LOT of time in your own weird company. That being a given, it's best to find a hobby - and a creative hobby is THE best thing for keeping the chittering head-monsters quiet and subdued. I chose to read, write and draw - and the greatest of these is... DRAW! In fact, I'm a firm advocate of art (and craft) as a theraputic tool, because not only have I seen the excellent and positive effects when working with people - from children with special educational needs, to adults suffering from mental trauma - but it's saved me over and over and over again.

***Aside: It's worth noting that the effect of my sharing my hobby via this blog has been
that I have met some, frankly, EPIC human beings 
- talented, intelligent and funny people who have made me richer for knowing them. 
Who'd have thunk?***

Art has been a vital part of my life since I first sat upright and held a pencil - mum says at about 9 months old....I say the day after I last enjoyed a lovely bottle of powerful red wine! I've always felt the need to illustrate pretty much everything. When I was a kid, I'd sit at my grandparents' dinner table copying paragraphs of prose, or various poems, and illustrating each one lovingly. I'd draw my way through every car journey I ever had - which drove my poor mother mad, until she realised that I never missed ANY of the beautiful scenery we passed ... although she did have to factor in an hour or more of departure delay as I'd be up in my room packing every art supply I had into a bag 'just in case'. Never leave home without....well....pretty much EVERYthing! I drew in my diaries, I drew in my school books (not popular with teachers!), I drew on aything I could get my hands on. All the time. And it was a wonderful release and a safe, absorbing introspection all at the same time.  It was at once freedom and joy, security and peace.

Skipping ahead, the past few years have brought their trials. Everyone has them - I'm not special by any means. The unfortunate by-product is a resulting great big heavy dollop of P.T.S.D (post traumatic stress disorder). Yeah - it took me by surprise as well! Now - this is an art blog, not a forum for me to unburden, but mental illness (twitchy brain) is such a social taboo that I want to wear my 'courage hat' and wave a little flag of solidarity here in my teeny corner of t'interweb for those who suffer from ANY form of mental wibblyness - we're just like you, just occasionally we'll wear  a jacket made of cheese-squares for no apparent reason. Like Lady Gaga on a mundane day! 

I know my brain is twitchy. It's ok - it's a part of who I am. Now and again I get a 'dip' where I have to go off-line for a while.... not just interweb-wise, but pretty much from everything.  That's where I've been for a week-and-a-half: off-line. A combination of insomnia and a simple, boring cold left me in a bit of a spin. When that happens, the smallest things seem like a massive pressure - even art, probably because I've set my heart and mind on making a career out of it. I've had to take a break as this is what happens if I try and 'art' when in this state:

Yuh-huh. THAT'S why I keep nothing but current journals at my house. Everything else is hoarded by my mum who 'rescues' things on a regular basis!

Part Middle: The Exit Strategy!
It's vital - for us wot have twitchy-brain-face - to have a functional exit strategy; a path out of the gurgling gloom. It should be something we trust and remember as easily as how to make a cup of tea.  It'll be different for everyone, but MY path begins with cutting stuff up. No - not my neighbours.... paper! I add to my ffffffabulous stack of ephemera by slowly and methodically cutting images and shapes out of paper. For example:

 - a box filled with a variety of eminently collageable images. The amount I cut out is directly proportional to the extent of brain twitch. Here're the results of last week's sojourn into Foofsville:

... about 3000 individual collage elements. Five boxes almost completely stuffed. It's amazing what I can get out of just one sheet of scrapbook paper...and it saves a fortune as I no longer feel compelled to spend a fortune on those branded ephemera packs. (I wrote a post about it HERE). This is such a methodical process that it calms the brain-storm to a mill-pond. It doesn't matter if the storm's still going on underneath the surface, the main thing is to still the raging waves so I can see a path to firm land. As it very much were...

Once the path's cleared, I can start to create again. I have discovered that when my muse is feeling battered, and my arty mojo is having a crisis of self that journaling acts as a perfect bridge between an artless funk and the happy world of productive arty fartyness. I find that there's a big difference between 'art journaling' and 'journaling with art'. My art journaling tends to fill the page, expressing my state of mind almost entirely in imagery with little or no text. It's enjoyable, but often beyond me when I'm in that bad-brain state. 'Journaling with art' is a stepping stone...a confidence builder....a way for me to re-build my self-confidence and steady my thoughts.  It usually includes short paragraphs of rambly text surrounded with simple colour and collage. It doesn't take long, takes little thought and makes me happy! I've even found a technique to stop me ranting - I add a limited text space into the collage. It's an excellent focus. Here are a couple of recent pages (I've fuzzed up some of the text 'cos it's a bit personal, but you'll get the idea)

I start  by recording the mundane, then work up to expressing my thoughts and feelings. It works. Well, it works for me. Stepping stones - choosing papers, cutting elements, selecting images for collage, layering, recording events, then thoughts, then feelings... then......-

Part Hurrah!: Feeding The Muse
The last thing I do is to completely clear, clean and tidy my art station. No jumble, no mess. Just the favourite things I enjoy using. Once they're back, organised and ready,  I find myself more eager to use them, to play with colour and texture on a page just for the joy of it. All that pressure and stress is gone.

See, now I've gone a bit 'Sound Of Music' and I'm humming '...Brown paper packages tied up with strings; these are a few of my favourite things'....tra-la-laaaa! Hmmmmm..... my favourite things..... I find it so effective to open up the trays of colour and just drink in the loveliness of these products.

My favourite pens - Uni pin fine liners, Uni Ball gel pens, Marvy Le Plume brush pens, Faber Castell Pitt pens, my Rotring artists pen... Then my graphite pencils and favourite brushes... My coloured pencils - Derwent Inktense, Coloursoft, Graphitint, Charcoal, and watercolours... My favourite Winsor & Newton inks, Tattered Angels Glimmer Glazes, a few Cosmic Shimmer watercolours, washi tapes, glues and mediums. Not forgetting my yummy Caran D'Ache Neocolor II soluble wax pastels -

Part Finale: Mojo Returns!
I'm ready to 'art' again! And that's a pretty awesome place to be, frankly. Pressure's released and the twitchyness has quietened down to a comfortable chitter - won't get in the way.

That's it. I mean, I probably make it sound a lot more simple that it actually is, but like I say - this is an art blog, not a soul-bearing forum. I did consider making up a reason for being away, but I don't believe that anyone is served well by dishonesty, and I'm content with who I am - it's important to me that I encourage other people to look upon their glitches and weirdisms as being a PART of who they are. So, they make us 'different'.... Different from what? I believe we're all unique individuals and we should celebrate that fact. After all - there's a LOT of everyone else...well and truly enough... Why be commonplace? Be an exclusive!

Has this been rambly? I hope it's not been rambly. I hope that something in this post might be interesting and/or useful to someone, somewhere along the line.  It's important to admit when we find things difficult, but I choose to see them as a challenge, rather than a struggle - the difference is significant. I encourage anyone with an awkwardly twitchy brain to strategise, find your stepping stones back to a functioning life and celebrate each step - because it's a success!

I'll be off now to make a journal entry.  I want to mark my return to I have, like, a gajillion cut-up pieces of ephemera to use up!

Thank you for visiting and a huge pat on the back for those of you who've made it through this post without chewing off your own legs! I love you all completely, for you are all legends in your own epic time! Go be awesome! See you soon, love and hugs from Shroo :) xxx

ps - thanks to Pinterest for the looney photos! x


  1. Hi Rachael. Well here I am at 4am reading blogs because my mind won't shut up. My sewing/crafting has helped me recover from a breakdown and deal with my bouts of depression so I'm totally with you and it was great to here how you cope. Love the picture of the dog in the wind, hilarious.

  2. Hi Gill! Yep - insomnia's a real pain in the behind... although, in common with a lot of people I know, I feel weirdly more secure at night. I'm really glad you liked the post - and the windy dog! ha ha! What would we all do without the awesomeness of Pinterest?! Sending you a great big hug from Shroo:) xxx

  3. Oh I hear exactly what your saying...we are so not alone. Your post was brilliant and so matter of fact if only the other half of the population understood..... what a wonderful world it would be to live in.

    1. Aside from the fact that I honestly think everyone goes a bit wibbly at some point, do you ever find yourself thinking that non-twitchy-brainers are missing out, in a weird way? Errr - like, rather than thinking 'If I didn't have this, they'd understand', I think 'They can't understand because they've never experienced anything like this.' Mum once asked me if I could have this twitchyness removed, would I do it.... I replied 'no' - because, good or bad, I know who I am with it here....I'd feel like I had a big gap in me and wouldn't know myself if it went away. .... Although on a bad day I'd scoop my brain out with a spoon!!! SOLIDARITY! and big smoooshy hugs from Shroo:)xxx

  4. I know how you feel! Hugs, Valerie

  5. This post couldn't have come at a better time. I am currently in a brain twitch phase. The house is to busy, I have nowhere to escape to and to top it all I have a back condition which has decided to go into spasm for the past couple of days. I'm questioning everything - my ability to art, be a mother, be a partner, my existence on this planet. Etc, etc. I haven't had a spell quite like this for a long time and I tell you for why. Art. My blog. Rocking Fridays. For the most part Rocking Fridays has re-trained my brain to look on the positive side but even that I haven't done for a couple of weeks. I need to start journalling I reckon. I love yours. I have little from my childhood because of my twitchy rippy uppy hands so I can totally understand that but please, please, tape those beautiful pictures back together again? - sketchbook I did a while back about feeling similar.

    I'm going to start cutting things up in a good way. That's a good tip.

  6. Hands in the air here I am bi-polar and had several breakdowns and my brain is really twitchy all of the time :) After years and years of depression and trying to be 'well' I excepted who I was and have never looked back...I am also medicated for my 'illness' which again is better once I excepted the pills do work and I am not a freak.

    I love your post but wow that is a lot of cutting out! I too find solace in my pencils and my hands are rarely still but that is helpful to me. Except who you are and leave behind those that don't except you for all your quirks they are not worth knowing and are probably super boring anyway :) x

  7. LOL I am also a bit dyslexic and that should be accepted not excepted...:P

  8. I am drooling over your art supplies! I love your journal pages, those raindrops are perfect! What a fun post.

  9. Great stuff! And wise words. Creativity has got me through an awful lot of things over the years - and you knocked the nail on the head with the old mental wibblyness reference. I usually say 'woozily'. Any road up - fab journal pages and thanks for letting us salivate over your scrummy art supplies.

  10. A wonderful post! I have various brain wibbles and emotional wibbles and stress wobbles and the hardest part is always finding the way back to solid land. You know its there, you know you want it but the path can be near enough invisible, right? Obscured by the brain fuzz. I love your advice to make the steps back as 'familiar as making a cup of tea' - that is such a great idea and something I think I'll work towards in the coming months. Thanks for sharing this with us :) x

  11. You have touched my heart! I was an art teacher for 11 years and I know that art can take people to special places. Places of healing, peace, excitement, silliness, you name it- art can give it! I'm visiting from the GYB party and I'm so glad I did. I'll be back to see more and all I can say is "keep making art"!