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Back To The Brushes

I recently took a marketing class with Shelley Avellino through The Voice Actors Studio in Las Vegas.

It was an intense, comprehensive look at a lot of what is entailed in promoting yourself as a Voice Actor.

Usually in a class scheduled to go for three hours, there will be a break somewhere between the middle of the class and two hours in. I think Shelly came up for air after about two-1/2 hours and asked if we wanted a break, but at that point, we were all so immersed and mesmerized by all of the marketing gems she was spewing that we seemed to be under some sort of spell and just waved her offer on. "Let's keep going," we all said. We finally came up for air after over three hours of quite literally soaking up all that was being thrown our way.

When we finally clicked off of the Zoom call, my body felt stiff as I turned my head from side to side to stretch my neck. I stretched and splayed my fingers, finally dropping them into my lap instead of using them on the keyboard or holding a pen after taking copious notes. Over six handwritten pages. Completely covered.

I felt as if I had just left the gym and had a good workout. I felt the strange sensation that my brain had just been massaged. Hard to explain but like it wasn't my body that had experience a good workout, but that it had been my brain. I really had the sensation that there was more oxygen and blood flowing up there than usual. Like corners of my brain that hadn't been used in quite a while were awake and actually clamoring for more!

I went to sleep with a smile on my face and realized when I woke up, that I was STILL smiling. I felt great!

I don't usually wake up feeling 'great' so started thinking about why this morning was different. Based on connecting with how I had also felt the night before, I made the connection with the concept of my 'brain workout' I got to thinking that it had been a LONG time since I had actually been engaged for more than an hour on anything. I find that when I am sitting at my computer, I flit from idea to idea like a magpie following a trail of bright shiny objects. Or food! And I can't even say that I'm going from idea to idea because where I'm going doesn't necessarily originate in my own brain. I start following along whatever is in front of me on the computer screen. I go down the 'rabbit hole', and follow other people's thoughts by reading their posts and before you know it, large chunks of time have slipped through my fingers.

I had actually been wondering if I had some sort of adult attention disorder. Except that I can concentrate when I'm playing piano. I can sit and play for an hour and think that I've only been playing for ten minutes or so when I actually do stop long enough to look at a clock and check my time. But I assumed that was just because playing piano is such a big part of who I am, that I was just going on auto pilot when I play. But I did notice a similar bodily feeling between when I play piano for a long stretch of time and how I felt after the webinar.

Making these connections in my head made me realize that I can concentrate and dive deep into a subject and that my head can stay focused and I don't have to blow with the wind with my thoughts. And not only can I do it, I want to do it. It feels good! In fact, it was a little addicting. I wanted more of that feeling.

A couple of years ago I had taken up watercolor painting. I had heard that it wasn't easy but I so loved the looks of many watercolor images that I wanted to try it for myself. I found that it was very difficult. Much harder than I would have imagined. I thought just coming up with an idea would be the tough part but actually getting brush, water paint and paper to coordinate and work together to achieve a goal of a completed image was tough!

Tough, but relaxing and satisfying at the same time. And it was something that I would engage in for one, two or three hours at a time. And while I often would feel physically tired at the end of a session, I also noticed that throughout the day I actually felt more energized and was aware of an over all feeling of calm and contentment.

I would feel just like how I felt after Shelley's webinar. I made the connection! One way for me to experience a feeling of calm and contentment was to engage my brain for long periods of time. To really think about one thing. I don't meditate as a practice but based on what I have heard are some of the benefits, I feel as if my times of working-my-brain may have been resulting in similar outcomes and benefits.

I realized that to deep-dive into something is what I need to do for my brain now and then. Actually, the more I get it on a regular basis, the more of the benefits and the better I feel over-all.

And while playing the piano whenever the urge moves me in that direction isn't always possible and in fact I feel that urge way more than I can actually act on it based on the physical location of the piano in my house and the other people living in my house, I can find other things to do that could bring me similar beneficial feelings and benefits to me overall. I can read a book that I find interesting or entertaining, write a blog entry or add to my memoir, go for a walk that is longer than I usually take, work on a class such as music theory or learning to speak Spanish or I can go to the closet and bring out my water color painting supplies and just sit and paint.

I used to view these types of activities as either time wasters or just ways that I was finding to avoid doing other seemingly more important things that I could be doing to further my business and career goals. But now I see that in exercising my brain in such deep-dive ways, that I am actually doing more for my business than if I was spending the same amount of time scrolling time away on social platforms or checking my emails countless times during the day.

Stepping away from busy-ness and feeling like I am making headway just because I am sitting at my computer and my fingers are going through the motions of typing something or moving through the internet, will actually serve to make me more productive, not less.

Another benefit from deep-diving into a particular area or subject are the long-term aspects of actually mastering a skill or something. The 10,000 hours we all have heard about that it takes to master something? Well, each hour spent in an endeavor puts you that much closer to that goal. If nothing else, it gives you something to talk about and communities filled with like-minded people to learn from and engage with.

Now that I more fully aware of how such deep-dives affect my mental state, attitude, energy level, ability to concentrate for long periods of time and my over-all disposition, I am relishing the fact that I now look for ways to add activities such as these into my calendar, if not on a daily basis, then at least a few times a week.

So for now, I'm going to schedule into my weekly calendar some time each week to include activities that engage my brain. Or stop what I'm doing, when I can, whenever I feel myself becoming a little frazzled, distracted, or frustrated. I'll remember that it's a way to be good to myself.

One hour at a time.


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