[PERSONAL] Re: The Bans & Why They’re Good

The Bans & Why They’re Good is a post I wrote in June 2013. I was browsing my older posts, deciding what to respond back to, and I ultimately decided on this one.

In the post, I talk about being on “another drawing ban”. This was something I used to occasionally do when doing artwork stressed me out. I explained the difference between taking a break and doing the ban, why it’s not black and white thinking, I also explain why they help me.

My 2020 Response

My first thought to this post is I actually remember why I wrote this. The second thought was, haha, my “good friend” at the time is now my husband. The third thought was I can see I was missing the point and I needed to flip my point of view, which is something I’ve been slowly working on for a long while now.

So, I’m just going to start with why I wrote this, besides from well, I was going on another ban.

It has to do with the therapist who ended up calling me “whimsical” in 2015. I was seeing her at the time and would mention I was banning myself from drawing for a bit. Through her eyes, it looked like I was being too harsh – that I was being too “black & white”, as I kept quoting in my post. I can’t remember at this point if she had also had an issue that I included doodling in the ban. I’m guessing she did though if that was the follow up to the black & white comment.

illustration of trainerkelly explaining to their therapist that they're not thinking in black and white

I remember being irritated that I couldn’t explain exactly why I did these bans and why they weren’t black & white. Looking at this entry with a 2020 lens, with all the insights I gained over the years, I definitely agree with my 2013 self: I was not being black & white. I will say though, however, both myself and my therapist were looking at my issue wrong.

I’ve gained a lot of insight and experience in the past decade that has allowed me to gain a better and deeper understanding of myself. The seed was planted during therapy, when my therapist asked why I seemed to get depressed in cycles. That was a helpful bit at the time. However, I had to leave therapy in order to grow. Therapy ultimately ended up as a part of my own self-sabotage. I needed room to spread my wings and grow as a person with as little interference from people on the outside as possible. It was time for me to go inward and go deep.

As I’m reading myself attempting to explain why I do the bans, I already know the reasons for my struggles looking through a 2020 lens.

I think if I was to explain what the bans were today, I would say that they are recharging periods for myself to give myself a clean slate, like clearing out cache and cookies on a computer.

I missed a really crucial part that I would do now if I were to take such bans: I would reflect. I would be asking myself WHY am I getting so worn out, so exhausted, why am I crashing and burning? All non-judgemental. I would be curious, not condemning.

In 2013, I was working through a large back catalog of artwork that ended up being posted too fast for me and ultimately ended up unsatisfying. Although I don’t recall doing any art commissions that year, I was still drawing a lot of artwork for other people – something I’ve definitely noticed over the years have a negative effect on me. I also wasn’t listening to myself at all and pushed myself way too hard. This was before I really even started having a good concept of what TrainerKelly’s Network is. I was still stumbling around in the dark, in a lot of ways, knowing certain things about my life, but not sure about others. I also guarantee I was having momentum problems where I was either scraping by or I was going so fast, I was crashing and burning.

illustration of trainerkelly covering their face

The bans I’m referring to actually remind me of the large bouts I have had in my artwork over the past several years. I don’t draw or illustrate anywhere near the levels I used to. Some people might want to chalk it up to me getting busier as I get older, but no – it’s a result of all that had happened in previous years. I miss the days when I could do artwork regardless how I was feeling – I’m aiming to go back to that because it was a wonderful thing to do.

If I was to approach the same scenario today, I would probably do the following:

  1. I would do a hard stop like in did in 2013. I actually think this step was RIGHT!
  2. I would ask myself why. If my question(s) and they’re too judgemental, I go do something else, like throw myself into a book or play an immersive video game;
  3. Regardless if I had to go temporarily run off somewhere else or I successfully asked myself why, I move onto the next step: getting to the core of the issue;
  4. Once I figure out the core issue, I work on the solution to it through more honest questions;
  5. Implement my solution and make adjustments accordingly.

Using the 2013 problem as the scenario, let’s go through the steps. I’ve been pounding out artwork and feel stressed out and burnt out. I had a momentum at one point, but I’ve snowballed out of control and crashed, yet I tried to keep working anyway.

The first thing I do is STOP. I ditch all my plans for the moment and retreat to my bed to read a bunch of manga on my iPad until all the helpful chemicals in my brain have restored some sort of balance.

Next, since I’ve calmed down, I’m just laying in bed and ask myself why did this happen. I’m probably mad and/or frustrated with myself. After being in the middle of the frustration storm, I mentally take a step back and acknowledge it. This could be simply “I’m angry at myself for not being able to do this work. What even happened?”

illustration of trainerkelly in bed asking "why"

I probably get up and start pacing around. I might go and make some food, which gives me an excuse to pace around in the kitchen and better reflect. I find pacing around helps me really think. I start saying what I’m thinking and feeling. Usually, this is framed in the context as if I’m talking to someone else. I may imagine a family member or friend in this case. “You know, to be honest, I don’t really want to do all of these art pieces. I don’t even think I like all of them. It probably doesn’t help either that I’ve been working a ton on my website recently with no break. I love making my website, but DANG, sometimes I think I need a break, but then, like…my momentum! I always think I’m going to lose it…”

In response to my honest feelings, I start to think: “Okay, so I don’t want to do all these art pieces. Which ones don’t I want to do? Like, genuinely do not want to do?” I start getting more excited, more uplifted. I look through my folder and start to go through the pieces. I look at each one carefully and poke around internal (i.e. I mentally feel around my body to see what my reactions are) for how I feel about each piece. Soon, the pile shrinks and I feel a lot better. I also end up following up on doing my website, deciding to take a break from that and get back to artwork. I decide to figure out my issues with getting worn out from working on my website later on.

(The conclusion later on ends up being working in 45 minute intervals with 15 minute breaks and limit myself to 4 hours a day.)

When I write up my schedule, I take my new conclusion into consideration. When it stops working (I think it’s my ADD – and yes, I’ve been diagnosed), I just change my approach. It’s more important that the work gets done in the first place, rather than the pace it’s being done at.

It’s interesting looking back at myself because I’m better equipped nowadays. I wonder where I will be in 2027? Will I still have the same conclusions as this year? Or will I have developed some further insight?