Getting Personal for a Minute

There are some things I don’t talk about on my blog or social media. It’s not that I’m embarrassed or ashamed, but they don’t fit in with my brand. Some of that will be changing, but there’s some that still won’t be talked about much.

One of the things I don’t talk about is my health. On one hand, it doesn’t fit with what I want to be known for and what I do. On the other hand, it definitely does because our health directly impacts everything.

I am diabetic. I have been for 14 1/2 years. I am a mosquito magnet. I always have been. About four years ago, I got a mosquito bite in the middle of my left shin. Instead of welting up like most mosquito bites do, this one turned into a blister.

I had what is known as skeeter syndrome.

As blisters do, it popped. Then it turned into a sore. I put Neosporin on it and took care of it myself. But it kept getting worse. I kept hiding it. I wouldn’t even think about wearing shorts, capris, or skirts. Keep in mind this is probably in the middle of summer and I’m only wearing jeans or long pants.

This went on for about six months. Maybe longer. My mom caught a peek of the bottom edge (which was, at that point, near my ankle) and made me go the emergency room. I was angry. I shouldn’t have been, but I was.

From there, they referred me to Wound Care. I went to Wound Care twice a week for almost three years. It would get smaller, ultimately to the point where it closed, but it would open back up. I was on strong antibiotics on multiple occasions. They talked about out-patient IV antibiotic treatment and even admitting me to the hospital for IV antibiotics.

Finally, with all of the medications, compression wraps, staying off my foot, getting my blood sugar under (much) better control, and keeping my foot elevated as much as possible, it closed. At this point, it has been closed since the first of February.

To summarize what all happened and what I learned while I was going through Wound Care:

  • The doctor who first saw me called me after lab results came in and asked if I was still on the hospital grounds. (I wasn’t. I was at another doctor’s appointment.) If I had been, he would have had me admitted because my blood sugar was so high.
  • You can develop an allergy to Neosporin. It causes skin breakdown, which can make sores and wounds grow and get worse instead of heal. This is what was happening to me during the time I thought I was taking care of it myself.
  • You can also develop an allergy to Bacitracin. Yes, I can no longer use Neosporin or Bacitracin. I have no idea what I will use if/when I need it.
  • I had MRSA three times in my left leg. That’s why I had so many strong antibiotics.

Some takeaways:

  • Some absolutely wonderful people work in Wound Care. I have made some very good friends.
  • I am so very glad my mom made me go to the ER. (For the record, I’m also legally blind so I don’t drive. She literally took me herself.)
  • I feel fortunate to be alive.
  • I feel fortunate to still have both legs.
  • Never assume ANYthing as a diabetic.

While I was going through this, I had some very low times. I had times where the only creative thing I did was crochet because I could do that with my foot propped up. That’s also why I learned to knit. (There’s a knitting/crochet/weaving/all-around fiber-y group that I go to once a month that was definitely a sanity saver.) I didn’t do much writing. I did some, but it was difficult to sit at the computer with my foot up.

Why am I telling all of this now?

I’ve been going to Wound Care for the past three months as a kind of maintenance strategy. Everything has been good in those three months.

Yesterday, I had my last appointment. This has been an emotional journey. I am grateful for the people who helped me on it.

(Phileen, Misti, Stephanie, Sparky, Vicki, Barb, Dr. Boren, Falisha — yes, I mean you.)

I hope nothing like this ever happens again, but I know if it does, I will not let it get bad before I get help.

Don’t take your health for granted. It literally impacts everything. Even your creativity.

Fatigue and Creating

black and white photo of a porch light ona rock wallI have been talking a lot about making your creativity a priority and planning for it and so on. But…

Do you create when you’re tired? How?

That depends.

It depends on you and what you can handle.

And, to be honest, it will vary. There will be times when you can create while you’re exhausted and there will be times when you just can’t. There are times when I can create when I’m overly tired and times when I can’t.

Here’s the key: Listen to yourself.

You will know when you can keep going and when you need to rest. If you find yourself trying to write and you’re just watching the cursor blink, shut it down and get some sleep. If you keep making mistakes on basic knitting or crochet stitches/patterns, it’s time to put it down and take care of yourself.

Here’s the thing…

It might not even be physical fatigue that is interfering with your ability to create. It might be mental or emotional. It’s still an indicator that you MUST take care of yourself. Maybe even more than physical.

I can’t — and won’t try — to tell you how to take care of yourself. Everyone has somewhat different self-care methods. I like to get my nails done or just veg and watch TV or YouTube videos. If my issue is related to writing, I may knit or crochet or play with stamps or alcohol inks. I also like to have a cup of hot tea when the weather is chilly.

Your favorite ways might be different. Find out what they are. Remember them. Use them when you feel “off” or when you feel any kind of fatigue.

In the meantime, happy creating!

Do You Have Creative Clutter?

Crayons scattered on white paperSaturday, I gave a talk at the Ada Writers’ Group. We talked about creativity, some tips, ways to jump-start your creativity, some creativity exercises, and more. We even talked a little bit about clutter. If you know me and my attitudes about housecleaning and clutter, this is at least mildly amusing.

I was talking about clutter. As in getting rid of it.

Here is the gist of what was said.

  1. I used to say I had creative clutter.
  2. When I was sick (long-term, a period of two years), I would toss something in my office and say “I’ll take care of it later.”

First, let me just say I was fooling myself with the creative clutter comment. I think we lie to ourselves far too much when it comes to clutter and our creativity (in general, not necessarily related to clutter).

Second, the clutter wasn’t creative. It was constraining. I couldn’t really think. I couldn’t really create in my office. In my self-described studio. There was … too much … stuff. It was everywhere. “Later” had finally arrived.

Let me just say that it’s not perfect. There are still some things that need to be done. Now, however, I have designated spaces for jewelry-making, product photography, writing, knitting/crochet, and videos. (For the record, the first two are in my kitchen, not in my office. My space isn’t quite that big.) It is a lot better. There isn’t near as much clutter and what there is will be easily managed.

What is the biggest difference I have noticed?

Other than being able to walk across the floor without knocking piles over, I have room to think! I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. I feel like I need to repeat it.

I have room to think!

The first time I came in the office to sit at my desk felt different. I sat down and mentally went “ahhhhh!” because it felt good. I turned to my computer and was able to do some work without feeling stressed or cramped.

All because I got rid of (most of) the clutter.

It makes a difference.

Stop telling yourself you have “creative clutter” or “creative organization.” It’s not. You don’t. It’s just junk. It’s clutter. There might be important things you want to keep — maybe even things you need and have been looking for — under the piles of stuff. But that’s not an organizational system.

Take it from someone who’s been there. Think about cleaning it up. I mean seriously think about it. And do it. It will be worth it.

What are some of your experiences with cleaning up the clutter in your creative spaces? Leave a comment and I might use it in a future episode of the podcast.

Inspiration Station

&copy 2014 Jen Nipps
&copy 2014 Jen Nipps

You know how it goes. You’re going along, keeping on keeping on, and you run out of steam. You feel like you’re going through the motions and not getting anywhere. You’re in a rut. Your get up & go finally got up & went.

What’s a person to do?

Get it back, of course. You have to be motivated to get work done. You have to be inspired to be motivated. Where do you get that inspiration?

The easy answer? All around you.

The hard answer? All around you.

It isn’t a cop-out. It really is both that easy and that hard. It’s easy because we don’t have to go far to find a source of inspiration. It’s hard because, since it’s always around us, we don’t always see it.

One of my favorite sources of inspiration is my youngest niece. We’ll call her Miss J. She’s 5. She’s cute (absolutely adorable, actually!), smart, busy, and curious. She asks questions about everything. (I know. All kids do, but she’s the one currently in my life doing this to me.) Sometimes, a lot of times, I will find inspiration in the questions she asks me. I will get ideas for something to knit or crochet because of something she says. I take a lot of pictures of her.

She wants to know how I feel, how my leg feels, why Gabby (my dog) is running around outside like that, where Papa (my dad) is, when Nana (my mom) is going to be home from work.

She’s worried about not being able to read “good enough” for kindergarten in August!

She is a huge source of my inspiration for pretty much anything I do.

 

How Jen Got Her Groove Back

Used under a Creative Commons license.
Used under a Creative Commons license.

I can’t actually say I have my groove back, or even that I have a groove, yet. I am, however, on my way to getting one.

As a result of having to keep my foot up for so long, I lost any kind of momentum I may have had. Because of my eyesight, it’s difficult for me to work with a computer in my lap. It can be done, but with a lot of difficulty. I prefer to use an external monitor adjusted for easy (well… easier) viewing and an external keyboard. It just makes my life easier. If I were working for someone else, they would call it accommodations. I call it doing what works for me.

Anyway, I digress.

Since I don’t have to have my foot up as much (though I still do a few times during the day), I can start getting back into a routine. It looks something like this:

Morning: Morning routine & housework (including tidying my office & living areas)
Noon: Lunch & a walk
Afternoon: Writing & marketing (and other work as it comes along)
Evening: Dinner, knitting or crochet/TV, family, & end-of-day routine (maybe another walk, especially if the noon time is too warm as the summer progresses)

It’s nothing major in the grand scheme of things, but it will help me get back to where I want to be, so it’s pretty major in that way.

I used to think schedules and routines were anathema to creativity. A few years have passed since then. (OK, more than a few.) I have come to realize that having a schedule and following a routine actually allows room for creativity. For me, creativity requires structure. If I have no structure and it can have free rein, nothing ever gets done. It’s funny how that works.

As things progress and I get assignments and other work coming in, I have no doubt the schedule will change. It will have to in order to accommodate deadlines. For now, though, this is a start. And I think it’s a good one.