Do [the thing] no matter what!
That is not a rule that I embrace, as a rule. There’s always something the matter. And if there isn’t, there will be. But now there is the matter of Beth Pickens’s new book Make Your Art No Matter What: Moving Beyond Creative Hurdles. And I have to admit that if you’re an artist—and you are, of course—Beth has some solid points.
I won’t go through all of them, and instead recommend the book to you. I do want to revisit one of her suggestions which is something we’ve talked about here before: the personal inventory day, brainchild of Sabrina Hersi Issa. This is the practice of taking a day every month to attend to needful life maintenance like scheduling doctor’ visits and cleaning the WaterPik, but also larger things like checking in on life goals.
I still do this and have it in my calendar to do, but if I’m honest, it’s gotten a bit perfunctory. Bit slapdash. Beth got me asking, Oh, hey: how’s MY side of the street looking? Answer: Needs attention.
Now as with any area of life where I’ve been foot-dragging, I started with a special notebook. A special notebook always lights up the ol’ neurology, and for next to nothing. And I proceeded with a fresh list (because fresh notebooks and fresh lists go together like, well, fresh notebooks and fresh pens. If you need a fresh pen, by ALL MEANS.).
The personal inventory day is not an argument for datamania. You won’t become an obsessive documentarian of life minutiae. (Unless you have a rage for data, and then fine!)
The point is to stay in touch with what’s important and what our actual life rests on. It’s a commitment to not losing the thread. It’s Current Me asking how am I going to feel five years from now if my Italian hasn’t improved at all? If I said I wanted to be fluent and idiomatic, but actually I’m having trouble telling someone what I had for lunch? Future Me would be so mad at Right Now Me! Let’s spare all of us.
Here’s my current working list.
Health: Complaints, follow-ups, stats, tests, appointments, questions. Don’t forget teeth!
Finance: Bookkeeper, biz, budget, savings, checking, IRA. Pay the thing. And what’s the Social Security Administration got to say for themselves?
People: Friends, fam, cards, notes, postcards, birthdays, thanks, gifts for no reason! Just check in. Paying bills is important but sending love is more important.
Pending: Where’s that thing I ordered? And what about that class* I downloaded and haven’t worked through yet? (*It’s at least four classes.)
Evidence: Like everyone alive, I leave bits of my soul all over the internet. What are all these things? Why do I still have a Quora account? Pick that stuff up.
Social media and email: An even more efficient soul-extraction system—if I’m not careful. Unsubscribe from unhelpful emails. Clean out the inbox. Unfollow anything that feels bad.
Odious tasks: Paper filing, recycling, find out when the next hazardous waste day is. Unsexy mending. Everything that makes me weep or drag my feet.
Workout: Progress check. It should be clear at a glance that I’m lifting more weight.
Projects: Anything that’s not the above. Is something languishing that needs love, and would just maybe love me back?
Annual plan: I worked so hard on this! It should be working for me now. How are those goals looking? Am I hewing to those high-minded values I bragged about last January?
and Follow-up: Month over month. It’s what this whole thing is for. Are the things I noted last month looking okay or better this month? Is anything being neglected?
How to do it.
Block off the day. Check your list. Take some action, pick up the phone. Pray for inner strength, as needed. Bookend the toughies with a text to a friend: I’m gonna do it. I did it. Hydrate. Have lunch. Go back in, maybe for not as long as you did before lunch. Then down tools. That’s your day.
And guess what? You won’t get all the way through the list. Sometimes you’ll just look at an item and say, Ugh I’ve been looking at that item for a lotta months now. And that’s what I’m gonna do again today.
But I predict that seemingly bottomless list will actually get shorter. One day, it’ll be current. That’s the dream anyway; ask me about that next year.
But seriously a whole DAY?
Now then, in answer to the inevitable question you may be asked, or may even be asking: What are you saying to me, you intemperate woman!? A WHOLE DAYYYYYYY for my own little concerns? The World! Needs! Me!
Agree! The world, literally the whole world, could use your help, and you should give it to the extent you are able, and also: It’s JUST ONE DAY. One day a month to tend to your own side of the street. That leaves another 29 at least for everyone else. This one’s for you.
And as always, if you’ve been doing a personal inventory day, or the like, please share your tips—and your wins!
- Sabrina Hersi Issa explains the personal inventory day on Call Your Girlfriend
- Self-care Inventory Day
- Make Your Art No Matter What by Beth Pickens
- Self-care in Checkbox Form
- Never not handy: the MDK journal
PHOTO CREDIT: View of Houses in Delft, Known as ‘The Little Street’, Johannes Vermeer, c. 1658, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.
MDK receives a commission for books purchased through the affiliate link in this article.