When it comes to great advice, no one is better at ignoring it than yours truly. I can listen, rapt, for hours as someone tells me exactly how to fix x problem in my love, professional, or social life, and within five seconds of exiting the conversation, I'm already pondering all the ways I won't use any of the information given to me.
I hate it. Trust me, it's not intentional - I'm hard-wired for chaos thanks to my ADHD, and part of that chaos is my uncanny ability to quickly forget things I was deeply interested in five minutes prior.
Over time, I've learned to accept the chaos that so often defines me. As much as it can be a hindrance, it can also be a strength when I shift my perspective a little bit. Everyone lives with some level of chaos, after all, and the only big difference between any of us is how we view it.
When you learn to embrace chaos, however, a new level is achieved. A new level of what, you ask? Mind your own business.
Just kidding. Chaos is a nebulous force that can inject almost any area of your life with a bit of panache and flair. Since I am, as you might have noticed, a writer, I'll mostly be talking about how chaos helps me in that specific area. But you'll also find ties to numerous other parts of my (allegedly) human experience tied in.
Buckle up, kiddos, we're diving into my own personal chaos matrix.
Chaos Is Unavoidable, So You Might As Well Get On With It.
According to Some Very Smart People in the field of physics, the entire universe tends toward disorder. Have you ever attempted to build a new routine? Promised yourself you'd really keep your house clean this time?
Yeah, how'd that go for you?
Most of the time our habits are a perfect example of how entropy - the tendency toward universal chaos - works. It's just easier to be chaotic. It really is.
As a writer, I spend a lot of time plotting and outlining my work, for example. This is all well and dandy and I wouldn't call it a waste of time, but ultimately my characters and plots tend to go off in about five thousand unexpected directions by the end of chapter three.
This is natural, apparently. And wise people throughout history (maybe not physicists, this time) have always said that it's important to "choose your battles" in life. To me, this means looking at chaos as something at least neutral, if not a frequently positive force in my life.
Since chaos and disorder are bound to show up frequently in your life and mine, isn't it better to look at it with an open mind and find ways to utilize it? Sometimes chaos is precisely what a person needs to get out of their own head and into a new, better place mentally.
Okay, Smarta**, How DO I Use Chaos, Then?
Well, I'm glad you asked! Like any low-bar street magician will tell you, it's all about misdirection. If you ask me, mis direction is the best direction of them all! To achieve this lauded state, you simply need to become aware of chaos when it's happening.
You might think you are already quite capable of doing this, thank-you-very-much. I'm here to tell you that you're wrong. What you are seeing is "mess," "bullsh**," "confusion," or any number of other unpleasant things. The moment you label something as negative or bad, you've already lost much of the chaotic potential that was there before you so callously whipped out your socialization.
Chaos is everywhere you think it'd be, but it's also everywhere you don't. I find plenty of obvious chaos while editing my drafts, but I also find a lot of it when I'm managing the unexpected success of one of my other writing platforms. Both types of chaos challenge me to improve and grow as a writer.
But they wouldn't if I sat around lamenting their disorder. Yes, writing is messy - and so is life. "Mess" is just a quitter's synonym for beautiful, potential-ridden chaos, however. "Mess" is the "stuff" that makes up our day-to-day chaos and offers us numerous opportunities to change things for the better.
Chaos is what happens between something and the next thing, you see. It's the transition, where everything is up in the air and waiting for you to put it into a new form, into a new way of seeing, living, and understanding the world.
To put it in less poetic terms, a pile of sh** makes the best fertilizer. You just have to stop calling it "sh**" long enough to label it "fertilizer." Pull out the shovels, boys, and stop griping.
There's A Reason The Term "Agent Of Chaos" Sounds So Cool.
Look, my partner is the opposite of messy, disorderly, or otherwise chaotic. He's as neat and put-together as they come. Even he can respect my ability to use chaos like a tool (or a weapon, depending on who you ask), and that's really saying something.
If you're a naturally chaotic person, it's not going to do you any good to become orderly in any significant way. Seriously. I'm not your self-help guru and I'm not going to lie to you. At best you'll achieve a thin veneer of order, beneath which lies a roiling, seething mass of...you guessed it, chaos!
Personally, I suspect that the most organized people are just compensating for particularly chaotic mental landscapes, but I digress. I'm still kinda jealous of them. Kind of.
Agents Of Chaos like me and possibly you are a vital breed in an industrialized world. Chaos used to be the baseline of existence, the razor's edge our ancestors gleefully danced upon as they like, shot mammoths or something. Chaos created art! It forced us to forge language, systems, civilizations!
Man's foolhardy, perpetual quest for order was born of chaos, and to chaos it frequently returns. Like I and all those unspecified smart people said, the universe is in a perpetual slide back toward disorder. Chaotic people are just more honest about the whole thing.
We tend to bring out the worst and the best of humanity's many potentials, if you think about it. My chaos teaches me and others (my poor, long-suffering boyfriend included) all about patience. Remember that whole "choose your battles" schlep? Chaos is the teacher that imparted that lesson to me in a lasting way.
Chaos also frequently causes the miscommunications I find myself in, and it can factor into my rampant anxiety with alarming regularity. I'm chaotic, but I never said it was easy to embrace that fact. Sometimes I get a bit freaked out and have an existential crisis. It's part of the job.
Either way, there's a lot to learn from the Agents Of Chaos among us. We're not trying to teach people things, usually, least of all ourselves, but like I said - chaos is the transition state. And transitions tend to be the main ingredient in a little concept called "personal growth."
You've got to trip off the beaten path to find your treasures, sometimes. Especially if you're Indiana Jones. He was pretty chaotic, and it worked out great for him.
Oh, Right - I Mentioned Niches, Didn't I?
One thing any "solopreneur" or content creator (writer, artist, or otherwise) will be frequently hit over the head with is the concept of "choosing a niche." You know what I call that advice? Nothing, because my eyes glaze over and I fall asleep whenever someone mentions it.
If people were meant to be in niches, they wouldn't be people. They'd be...I don't know, plants? Or something. Definitely not people, though.
You're going to change. The world you live in is going to change. The people around you are going to change. We call that kind of change, unexpected as it so often is, "chaos." Life is unpredictable. Picking a niche is just another way to try and ignore that fact, often at the long-term expense of authenticity. I may be chaotic as f***, but I and others like me are nothing if not authentic.
Embracing chaos and using it to succeed - however you might define that - is about refusing to niche yourself down. Niches don't provide the opportunities for mess that chaos does, because choosing a niche soon becomes a synonym for "choosing a rut to spend the rest of your life in."
People who label themselves too firmly tend to end up unhappy. Niching down your own personality, including your work as a creator, is a way of embracing fear rather than infinite potential. Impulse, mess, disorder, chaos are all opportunities to accept fear and then flip it off as you zoom away at warp speed.
You want to live an authentically extraordinary life? Entropy that b*tch. Screw niches. Write, take pictures of, draw, and try the most chaotic things you can think of. Free yourself up to make fertilizer out of the sh** of life. Thank me later.
To Conclude, Though - Don't Take It TOO Too Far.
I'll end this disjointed (dare I say chaotic?) ramble with a word for the wary - chaos is as much a weapon as a tool, as I mentioned before, and you need to respect it as such. While it's a better strategy to embrace chaos where it can be realistically embraced, ultimately human society is built on some semblance of order.
You want to be free, but you also don't want to f*** everything up. Therein dwells the precariousness of a chaotic life. Where do you draw the line? Hell if I know. I just know that there is a line. Somewhere.
For example, there is less room for chaos in a cubicle job than there is in an artistic one. Either you accept this and utilize chaos more carefully in that situation, or you accept that you're simply too chaotic for the corporate shtick and try to strike out on your own. Either way, you have to minimize how much chaos you bring into other people's lives.
Consent, people. It's important.
Relationships, for example - they require some level of order to grow and thrive. That order comes in the form of communicated boundaries, agreements, and shared visions. Chaos can only come in when it is allowed by both parties, and when it adds something to the big picture.
The same goes for writing, to some extent - stories are by nature planned and follow a plot, otherwise, they wouldn't be stories. Chaos has to fit into the naturally occurring "cracks" that form as characters and events shape themselves out of nothing.
When it comes to embracing your inner chaos, the key is to see the process as organic. It begins when you stop labeling the natural disorder of life as "bad" and start to view it as "potentially awesome."
If anyone has felt the truth of that process in their own life, it's me. Chaos is why I am happier and more certain of myself now than I ever was when I was obsessively planning and attempting to fit into an orderly place I simply didn't belong.
To embrace chaos is to embrace a deeper facet of life, and it's an act of honesty as well as bravery. Most of us cling to order because it makes us feel safe. Some of us view safety as less than a sure bet when it comes to making ourselves happy. It's all about perspective!
Now go mess something up, you crazy kids. I'll wait here.