Unexpected flow state

I had a pretty great day at work today, unexpectedly.

I arrived in the office completely exhausted and with a major overhaul needed on my UI designs before I go on holiday in two days. As I sat there, barely able to keep my eyes open, and having a hard time understanding the contents of my emails, it seemed unlikely I was going to make it through the day without either falling asleep under my desk or running screaming from the building. (Neither of which has happened to date, but there’s always a first time…)

When I realised I hadn’t yet taken my meds, I figured I’d better do that at least. They haven’t seemed to be helping a lot lately, but on a morning like this morning I need all the edge I can get. I grabbed a coffee, took my medicine like a good little girl, and sat down at my desk with a plan to take it one step at a time and see how much I could get through.

HappyAnd it worked! It never works, and yet I keep trying. (It’s a sign of insanity, apparently.) But today I had that beautiful, blissful experience of settling down to work, and then lifting my head a few hours later to realise that not only is it lunchtime already, but I have a bunch of stuff written down that didn’t exist a little while ago.  (Not fiction writing, which would have been even nicer, but specs and designs, which contextually was more important.)

So I went and had lunch, and chatted with a friend, and headed back early because even though I had been very productive in the morning, there was still a whole bunch to do.

It happened again!

I don’t know if it was the meds, or the coffee, or the impending holiday, or just because it was a lovely sunny day outside, but I got a ton of stuff done, and I might actually get everything prepared before I go away so that it doesn’t all explode while I’m away.

I would like more days like that, please.

(And I wonder if excessive parenthetical asides is also a sign of insanity?)

© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Photo credit Michael R Perry 2013


How to learn?

I was always a bright student, not a good one.

I learned by incorporating new information into the existing web of what I knew, so that once I understood something I was unlikely to forget it again.  Hence I was able to mask my undiagnosed ADHD and my complete lack of study skills successfully enough by piecing together the parts of lessons I had been paying attention to, and making educated guesses.  I didn’t get brilliant marks, but I didn’t fail either.

I never had any particular strength of will, but I could fake it by putting myself into a situation where it was easier to follow through than to give in.  I can also draw on my reserves of stubbornness and bloody-mindedness at a pinch; they can look like willpower and perseverance if you don’t know what’s going on under the surface.

I seem to have missed many of the ‘meta’ lessons which I should have learned at school – I have no strategies for dealing with the frustration of not understanding something, or for persevering when things become difficult and it would be easier to lie down and quit.  I never learned to ask for help in a gracious way; by the time I have to admit to myself that I need to lean on someone else, I’m pretty much going to be a prickly and messy ball of nerves.

I would very much like to retrofit a ‘good character’ on to myself.

Clearly my failure to learn these techniques means that I am a bad person.  This is continually being driven home to me by the sort of writing exercises which attribute strength of will, determination, perseverance, self control and the like to the hero, whereas the villain, or even worse, the comic relief is vacillating and racked with self-doubt.

So the question remains – how to learn?


© Gloria Hanlon 2016 All Rights Reserved

Photo credit Michael Anderson 2013


Proprioception is a great word.  It literally translates as ‘sense of self’, but it’s not some kind of abstract ‘self’ as an individual.  It is a fundamental physical sense, just like one of the five we’re taught about as children.  It’s the sense that tells you where the parts of your body are even when you can’t see them, so that, for example, you can reach behind you for something out of sight.

I saw an amazing documentary when I was younger that had a huge impact on me.  It’s called ‘The man who lost his body’, and it’s about someone who lost his sense of proprioception, and learned to work around it through pure determination.

The ability to overcome obstacles through sheer strength of will has been a fascination of mine for a long time.  Thinking back, I wonder if watching this documentary was where that fascination started.  It’s something I envy – I don’t posess that kind of determination myself, although I’ve been known to make a working replica using a mixture of motivational techniques and bloodymindedness.

Which brings me back to a different ‘sense of self’ – the sort of self that goes with self-image, self-esteem, and self-determination.  Does a high level of motivation require a strong personal identity?  It seems plausible; after all if you’re not even sure who you really are, how can you be certain what you really want?  How can you be so certain that you are willing to sacrifice less important wants and needs in the pursuit of a single goal?


(With thanks to A Writer’s Path, who reminded me about proprioception.)



I can’t words today

The day job is really getting to me at the moment.  It’s starting to feel thin and unreal compared to what’s going on inside my head, and dredging up the energy to do productive things and make progress on a project which frankly doesn’t excite me any more is wearing me out.

When I’m this tired I start to lose words.  Not exactly non-verbal, but maybe deverbalised.  Which is not a good frame of mind for writing in.

Luckily, I wordsed a bit yesterday, so I will share this for your amusement and delectification.

The Musician

He was a large man, and it was a small guitar. It would have looked like a child’s toy in anyone’s hands, but as he hunched over it and began to move his fingers softly across the strings, it looked as though it had been created in that moment, just for him.

The notes were low at first, melancholy, but with a touch of mischief. They sang their longing to the waiting room, and promised to satisfy that longing. The musician became more animated, and the sound grew in volume. Larger and larger it grew, filling that tiny space until it pressed in on our ears and squeezed our chests. Almost unbearably, the pitch climbed higher and dragged us helplessly along with it. Then before we could catch out breaths, it dropped away and left us suspended in mid air, grasping at the fading chords, not wanting to come back to earth.

Power and Agency

I realised the other day that my little girl characters are always angry.

“What’s that all about?” I asked myself.

When I think of my childhood, ‘angry’ isn’t the first word that comes to mind.  Sure, it was a bit chaotic; I moved schools a lot, and I was a small, strange, introverted child who never fit in, but I lived for the most part in books and my own imagination and built a warm, safe bubble around myself.

Why would I be angry?

Sure, I felt there was a lot demanded of me.  Things like chores and homework confounded me, and keeping my room tidy seemed like an impossibility.  These were the monsters I battled with.  No matter how safe and warm I felt inside my bubble, they were always waiting just outside to grab me.

And sure, I resented it.  The adults around me made baffling demands, and tried to hold me accountable for things I couldn’t possibly achieve.

Aha, we’re getting somewhere now.

It wasn’t until my twenties that I heard about ADHD, and battled for, and ultimately won a diagnosis and treatment.  Until that point, no matter how much I wanted to do something, now matter how important or how dire the consequences, I never felt there was much I could actually do to change the outcome.

Self-control is a widely admired trait.  And lack of self-control is generally looked down upon.  Society rolls its eyes and looks the other way when one of its members indulges in reckless and self destructive behaviours.  “No self-control,” it mutters.

Let me tell you, it’s no picnic from the other side either.  Feeling like you have no self-control, no control over your self, the one thing which you own completely, is debilitating.  Without the confidence that you can take a decision and follow it through, it’s difficult to develop any sense of agency.

Little wonder then, that my younger self is so angry.  She doesn’t know what’s wrong, or why everything is so difficult, or why the people who have power over her impose these impossible, incomprehensible restrictions on her.  The world is far too arbitrary and scary, so she retreats into her bubble, where it’s logical, and warm, and safe.