The Great Life Experiment

by Mhairi Simpson on August 23, 2014

This is where I find out how good I can really be.

My head is all mushed about at the moment. Not exactly confused, because I’m very clear on a number of things, like the fact that I love helping people, and the fact that whenever I really put myself out for someone, it’s completely not appreciated. But also the fact that I like writing for other people and the fact that I like writing for myself. Trying to find some middle ground between these things is what has me feeling all over the place.

It makes it hard to figure out where my priorities should lie. The best I can come up with at the moment is that I should do what makes me happy. This is different from doing what assuages any feelings of guilt over things I can’t control. I’m allowed to live in my own home and eat what I want and work how and when I like. It’s hard, sometimes, seeing friends struggling with jobs and homes and family lives, to believe that I’m allowed to be happy. That I’m allowed to be productive. That I’m allowed to be successful. They have it so hard, so many of them. Why should I even aspire to be happy?

I have held myself back many times in my life. Most recently in August 2011, when this blog garnered almost 3k hits in one month. I promptly had a crisis of self-confidence, for pretty much no reason at all, and let it all trail away to nothing. Deep down I thought, who am I to have such a popular blog only six months after starting it? I’m no one!

This is where the life experiment comes in – can I achieve success? Can I reach through my barriers to grasp the things that really make me happy? Can I change the story I’m telling myself every day that I’m not this or that enough to deserve it?

It all comes down to stories. When we change the stories we tell ourselves, or even just tell them differently, we change how we see the world and that is what I need to do. Or maybe I just need to change how I see myself. That would be a story worth telling, even if I’m the only person who ever hears it.

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Day 4: the first wall and having no limits

by Mhairi Simpson on August 22, 2014

So, we have hit the first wall – specifically that I have completely run out of money. I’m actually okay with it because I would be in this position even if I were still employed. Running out of money in the middle of the month is, I’m sure, nothing new to many people.

It may seem counter-intuitive to go from too little money to even less money but the Universe kind of threw me into that one – the job was going anyway since I wasn’t able to work after the accident. So here I am, living the dream and already over my overdraft limit.

And like I said, I’m okay with that. It’s temporary – these things always are. I have creative endeavours to be getting on with and focussing on those is like a balm, it really is. Not because it’s like taking a break, though. I’m pushing myself harder now than ever before and not because I know I need to start earning a living. And that’s what’s so great about this whole situation.

Be A Bard won’t be earning for a while. There’s a load of playtesting which has to happen before anything else. But right now, it’s stretching me. And I’m letting it.

You see, I did all the easy images first. There are something like forty-five different images in the deck, many of them things I thought would look cool (ie, batshit insane) and most of them I have never drawn before. So I actually have no clue how to draw most of these things and have had to make liberal use of Google in search of references.

But the biggest thing I’ve had to do is not give up. Four or five times now, I’ve wanted to give up because I just don’t know how to do this stuff! This project really is beyond me – I have a modicum of artistic ability but very little experience and suddenly I’m expecting to be able to draw, well, anything, really. The first time, I did give up. I decided to just leave it because I simply wasn’t at the level I needed to be at yet. Better to leave it for when I’m better, I thought. I’ll be able to do it justice then.

Anyone who knows me can hazard a guess at how long that lasted. I think it was a couple of hours before I picked up the pad and thought, well, just try. Just freaking try.

So I tried.

And I did.

And now I have seventy-six images drawn. Well, technically I have eighty but four are still in the sketch stage.

This project has been the best thing that ever happened to me because it’s forcing me to push myself, to ignore what I think I can do and just keep pushing forward. I’m not saying it’s the best art in the world but it’s certainly the best art I’ve ever done and the project itself is huge – a deck of a hundred and five cards which is also a game and I need to sort playtesting (I actually do have a vague plan for this – surprisingly enough it involves a bar), then get the money together for a print run (don’t even ask) and then somehow I have to figure out distribution, with zero contacts or indeed any idea whatsoever about how these things work.

And yet, I don’t care. Because right now I’m getting something huge out of this project – I’m getting the knowledge that my limits are where I put them. Do you know how enormous that is? To know that the only thing holding me back is me, specifically my beliefs about what I’m capable of? At this moment in time, I have nothing to lose by pushing forward and I would never have believed how far I’ve been able to go.

If it took coming off my bike and losing my job to allow me to get to this point in my life, then I am incredibly grateful for that. It seems a tad extreme, I will admit, but if that’s what it takes, so be it.

And if that’s the only thing I take away from this phase in my life, I will still be forever changed and I can’t help but be happy with that.

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