the Little Red Reviewer

Anger, Anxiety, and Art

Posted on: October 16, 2016

I’ve really struggled with the blog in the last year. Fewer posts, fewer book reviews.  You’ve noticed.

and NO, this is NOT a “I’m retiring as a blogger!” post. Although it is a very long, rambling post.

This is a post about how I figured out why I was struggling with the blog. It’s easy to know what’s going on. A little harder to know why something is going on.

Here’s the what:

I’d read a book, I’d enjoy the book, I’d have plans to write a review.  I’d sit down at my computer, or sit to write some notes longhand, and nothing would happen.  I’d have thoughts about the book, I’d have things I wanted to say, but I absolutely did not care about saying those things. I was completely apathetic. I’d play candy crush for hours, watch cartoons, bingewatch whatever on Netflix, read cooking blogs. Three hours later, it’s the middle of the night, and I haven’t started a book review, or put together interview questions, or comment on anyone else’s blog, or anything. And I didn’t care.

Ya’ll know the spoon theory?  It’s where you have a finite amount of “spoons” to spend on physical and mental energy expenditures. Stressful activities take more spoons. If you have chronic pain, you’ll use a lot of spoons just to get dressed in the morning. The phrase “I haven’t got the spoons” is a polite way of saying participating in whatever activity will cause you to go into an energy deficit, and because #selfcare, it’s best if you don’t schedule that activity.  When it came to blogging, I was out of spoons.  When it came to a lot of things in my life, I was out of spoons.

I know what I write on this blog doesn’t matter. I know none of this counts as “writing” or as anything, really.  But in my mind, I put a lot of energy into this.  I like pretty metaphors, ornamented sentences. I like to write book reviews and other articles that I am proud of.  It’s not art, by a long shot, but I am creating something out of nothing. for the purposes of this particular blog post, let’s call what I do here art.  And art requires mental energy. or at least it does for me.

So, where were all my spoons going?  And was there any way to get them back? And thus, we get to the why.

My first thought was maybe I was depressed.  But I didn’t feel sad, I didn’t feel tired, I had very very few of the checklist things you find on those “do you suffer from depression?” internet quizzes.  What I did have was  anger and frustration, and heightened anxiety because I felt I couldn’t control the anger. I wasn’t depressed, I was Angry with a capital A.

I was angry at things in my life that were frustrating me. Things that made me feel helpless. Things that made me feel like I was bashing my head against a wall. Things I had no control over.  Those things aren’t going to be going away anytime soon, but here’s the thing the anger and anxiety was blinding me to:  I am in full control of how I respond to them.

I heard a great news story on NPR the other day, unfortunately I missed the beginning. It was a woman police officer talking about a time earlier in her career when she had lost control of a situation, it escalated, and the motorist she had pulled over spent the night in jail, and for about 15 minutes she felt like “she’d shown him!”.  But then she said that the moment he made her angry, she had lost control of the situation. And as a police officer, she should never have lost control, she should never have gotten angry, that it was her anger that allowed the situation to escalate. Had she not gotten angry at things this man had said to her, she simply would have kept calm and written him a ticket, and they both would have gone on their way and no one would have ended up in jail that night.

Anger and anxiety did nothing for me but eat my spoons. It took and took and took, and gave me nothing. Because I was so angry, I didn’t have spoons left for art.  Anger and frustration and the resulting anxiety was like a curtain that fell in front of me. I kept thinking if I just tried to create art on that curtain, everything would be fine. What I didn’t realize was the art was behind the curtain. My anger was keeping me from the bloggy art stuff that has brought me so much joy and satisfaction for the last six years.

at last, we come to moment of clarity:

I can have anger or I can have art.

I can realize that I am in control of how I respond to frustrating situations, or I can allow those situations to control me.  Thoughtlessly spending spoons on anger means there are barely any spoons left for art.


And you know what?  I’d much rather have art.


It’s been about two weeks since I had this little epiphany, and while those frustrating things in my life are still there,  they’ve become noticeably less bothersome.  And when they do reach the bothersome level? I’ll just reread this post, and know that I am in control of them, and not the other way around.

20 Responses to "Anger, Anxiety, and Art"

Darn you, Donald Trump!


My parents are visiting for Thanksgiving, and I have already instituted a “no talking about politics” rule.


Andrea – don’t let anybody take your spoons! Seriously though – hope you’re okay.


they are gone before you even realize it. dumb stuff just sucks your mental energy away.


The good thing is – like you’ve found out yourself now, is you are in control of you (even though that might slip every now and again). It’s empowering to be back in the driving seat! And, I love your posts – I’ve pretty much been reading this blog since it started and the one thing that your posts always have is plenty of heart and soul.


At the risk of sounding incredibly pretentious—

No, wait, I don’t care. I am pretentious. I’m rolling with it.

This is why I study philosophy and meditate. For the former, I practice Stoicism primarily—I suggest William B. Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life ( to everyone—while the latter I try to do every day (and frequently fail, but accepting that is part of the package). Both prepare me to react to life’s difficulties not with anger or despondency, but with acceptance. Stoicism is why I was able to get laid off from a job and leave the building smiling, while meditation gives me the ability to pull my attention back to the present in any situation.

Realizing that you can’t control external events, but CAN control your reactions to said external events is 9/10ths of the battle. Seriously, kudos! I think you’ll see a noticeable uptick in contentment if you can really internalize and practice that lesson.

I also think you’ll slip up on occasion, because I know I do. Just yesterday I spent half the day in a fury because of computer problems. That’s just part and parcel of the whole human experience thing I suppose, alas!

(See what I mean? So pretentious, yeesh.)


it’s funny (a little) that you mention getting laid off from jobs. This was years ago, but I’d gotten let go from a job and had the biggest smile on my face driving home. I really hated that job, and the fact I wouldn’t have to see those people again made me very happy. Unemployment was a little scary, but as it happened I landed a great job only 2 or 3 weeks later.


Sometimes we need a little push to get us to move onto that better pasture, haha. I definitely did—I hated that job, but it was sooooo easy (and lucrative, for the level of effort). Was too easy to coast.


I’ve honestly never heard about the “spoons” before, so you can rest easy knowing you’ve given one of your readers a new expression to use! Oh man, there is so much to be angry about right now, but everything you said makes perfect sense. I’m going to remember this post:-)


this is where i originally learned about Spoon Theory.

My experience is different from hers, i have a variable numbers of spoons each day. I’ve found that if I am mentally motivated to do something creative, I better do it right that second, otherwise it probably won’t happen.

Liked by 1 person

I learned something new today (spoons!), but I’m sorry you had to go through this for me to learn it. But, I guess, that’s how life is, spoons and all.

Your reviews, your art, DOES matter; exactly because of those things that anger you. Write on, sister.

Liked by 1 person

thank you. it matters.

Liked by 1 person

Missed seeing you on the Interwebs, but I understand. My free time is taken up looking for a new job and caring for Shortcake. I want to post more but sometimes there are only so many hours in a day…and something has to give.

But I know it won’t be forever and i will be back

Liked by 1 person


Oh, no! But your blog *is* creative writing and it *does* matter. It matters a lot! There are very few quality book review blogs out there. Not just, “I liked it, it was good” but honest-go-goodness, in-depth reviews that are thoughtful and spoiler free, yet tell readers everything they need to know. And your blog has been long-running, which is also important. Anyone can have one or two opinions. But it’s when you keep going that it has real impact. Readers trust your words!

I don’t comment on every review, but I read them all, and I’ve learned that our tastes align more often than not. And you’re at a level now that even on your “off” days, your words are gold.

I’m glad you’re not quitting.


(WordPress changed my formatting to something odd. Thanks, wordpress.)


That was helpful for me to read today. Thank you.


Today, this post, what you wrote, created here, it does matter. Thank you for sharing a little wisdom.


I’ve been trying to figure out for a couple days what the heck to say about this. I’ve read many times that anger is often the response to fear, but I don’t know if that applies here. Talking about me doesn’t seem like it’d help in any way, and talking about you…you know yourself so much better. It’s like whistling at the clouds: doesn’t accomplish much. But the first thing is to identify the source of the anger and modify it. Or at least step away from it as much as possible.

Instead of those hours of Candycrush, just write, stream of consciousness. Anything as long as it’s about something you said, saw, read, did, thought. Get it out and down Save it but don’t re-read it right away. Just info-dump it. Later, there might be the kernel of a review, or something, there. God knows if I waited for beauty in my blog posts I’d still be waiting next decade. Just punch it out.


[…] KEEP TRACK OF YOUR SPOONS. Andrea seeks the reasons she’s not writing more reviews in “Anger, Anxiety, and Art” at the Little Red […]


This is keen insight, admirable self-reflection turning a negative into a positive, inspiring storytelling, and undoubtedly an artful post. The shape of it, the pacing, the language, the flow, the well-placed anecdote, the paragraphing, even! You done good! It’s highly readable and affecting. Take heart. You can invest more in your love of art by knowing you have talent and skill in it, too. You are an artist who is also a human being. Art doesn’t have to be perfect, or the absolute best example, to qualify as art. Without qualification, I can say you’re qualified. Keep it up.😉


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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