What it feels like to be a scanner

Just before I start, let me clarify that I’m not talking about a heart wrenching look at a day in the life of my HP colour multi-copy device.  Although now I’ve thought of that it does sound kind of fun. No, I mean what it feels like to be a person who identifies as a ‘scanner’, a term coined by coach, author and speaker Barbara Sher to describe certain personality traits that are highly stimulated, motivated by a love of learning and seek novelty… and what that feels like.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
Walt Whitman

For me:

  • EVERYTHING* is interesting. Not an object in my already cluttered room does not hold a multitude of ideas pinned to it. I look around to tidy up and a simple thing – hand carved stamp of a sunshine face – needs to be put away but as I look at it it reminds me of the project to make more stamps, the project to photograph the artworks I made using stamps in different combinations to show how easy they are to make and use creatively, and that reminds me also of the idea of making an online course to show how I use the stamps.   I deflate a little. I’ll never get all that done today. Not as well as all look at all the other lively objects in my room and the invisible plume of ideas and projects they trail around behind them. This one brochure that I collected from an art museum, it lists places to go in my town. I could put it in the recycling bin but now I want to go to those places, and also send the brochure to my friend who is getting to know this city after being away a while. Or wait, I could make a list and then send it to him. But wait, a few of the phrases and pictures would be great for collage. Oh, best not do anything with it I’ll just leave it here on this pile on my desk.
  • I have incredible concentration once I get started on something. I dive in so deep to this creative task that you wont see me for days… well hours at least. I forget to drink water. I forget to go to the toilet. I forget to do whatever else I had planned for today. I am engrossed and transfixed and this blog post/ collage/ list/ brochure design etc has me now and I will be glued to it for the next 2 or 3 or 4 hours in my happy place. I come out slightly dazed – huh? what time is it? where am I?
  • There is a sense of possibility and beauty and interest almost everywhere. I am constantly getting inspired – thwack – another project idea, thwack another idea for art making, oh gosh look at that amazing beautiful something with lovely shadows that just needs its picture taken, oh wow look at that book that I definitely need to read and learn all about and maybe later also study and maybe get a PhD in or maybe interview people about or maybe go on a field trip for. I catch the updraft of excitement more readily than some people.
  • My ‘materials’ collections (for art and craft) are wide ranging and grand in scale, my book shelf has some funny combinations (from textbooks to hand made zines, from trashy crime fiction to fabulous literature, from books about systems thinking and sustainability policy and psychopathology to books on goddess archetypes, and printmaking, and vegetable growing and cake decorating).
  • My career… well, let’s just say I have squeezed in as many disparate topics and projects and experiences as I possibly could under my last ‘umbrella career’ (of environmental / sustainability management-policy- education and research) that lasted 15 years and intend to do the same thing in my current one (art therapy and coaching).
  • There is a funny dance with time taking place – when I am interested and focused on something I am turbo charged, I can get a whole lot done in just a day, time expands. The rest of the time I am panicked that everything has to happen today and that I am falling terribly behind. I forget tomorrow or next week or next year. I underestimate tasks so that I find I have put a whole week’s worth of activities onto my plan for a day. I get caught up in my projects and find myself running late to meet people because I now just want to finish what I’m working on and feel desperate like if I don’t finish it now I will never ever get the chance to work on it again.  I sometimes feel hampered by being in a physical body like I am slowed down more than I want to be, like I want everything to happen just as quickly as I can imagine it. You wouldn’t always guess this is going on above the surface, I can appear calm and even slow on the outside.

When I am happiest I am unstructured, emergent, led by delight, messy, productive and generous.  I like structure around me to allow a safe haven for the wild, expansive dance inside my own mind.

Under stress I become despairing and the light of hope gets buried. If life gets too busy and I don’t get time to play with my projects and express myself creatively I feel despondent like all the juice has gone and I’m left with a withered dusty fruit to eat.

How about you? Do you relate? Do you have a zillion creative projects on the go? Are you sick of people telling you that you ‘just need to pick one thing and settle down’?

Unlike those people who seem to find and be satisfied with one area of interest, you’re genetically wired to be interested in many things, and that’s exactly what you’ve been trying to do. – Quote from ‘Are you a scanner?’ by Barbara Sher 

For more information on being multi passionate/ a renaissance soul/ jack and jill of all trades / polymath or SCANNER please do check out the work of Barbara Sher, especially her great book ‘Refuse to Choose’. You might also like the various Facebook groups for scanners including ‘Scanners Look What I just Made!’, ‘Scanners – check out what I just learnt!’, ‘Scanner Tribe’ and ‘Scanners and Renaissance Souls’. Might see you there!

To work with me to uncover your dreams and bring them gently into the light – no matter how quirky you think they are or how diverse and numerous they are – just drop me a line to arrange a free 30 minute introduction session, and check out my coaching packages for some options going forward.

* Ok not everything. Trains, and accounting and how to hook up the TV and many many other things are on my ‘not interesting’ list. Barbara Sher makes this point in her book ‘Refuse to Choose’ – that we often say or feel we are interested in everything (and therefore can’t possibly get around to doing all of them), but if we begin to really list our interests there are great big areas we usually AREN’T interested in – so this narrows things down, and reduces the feeling of overwhelm.

12 thoughts on “What it feels like to be a scanner”

  1. Yes. I see possibilities and patterns & interest in sooooo much visually. I must look at Barbara’s book. I know my plethora of possibilities can be paralysing somewhat unless I can make myself start! Interesting!! Thanks for this.. “To know we are not alone” Is definitely applicable here! D

    1. Oh my gosh yes Denyse definitely check it out. If you’ve ever felt like ether isn’t enough time for all your interests it’s a great one. As is ‘It’s only too late if you don’t start now’ and her classic ‘Wishcraft’.

  2. Hello Jade,

    I’m Jo, I’m 62, and I’m almost certainly a scanner (I love the term ‘renaissance woman’ myself).

    I’m an artist, writer, wild westerner (www.kitty-le-roy.co.uk) and traveller with a zillion other interests. I have a canoe and we own a narrow boat, I enjoy cycling and walking, reading, smartphone photography, history of photography, medicine and medical history, social history, fashion history, flying (I learned straight and level flying when I was 17!), cinema, films, star gazing, space research, the paranormal, archery, archaeology, gardens… *sigh*.

    I’m NOT interested in Greek legends, natural history, cooking, umm…

    There you have it! And yes, I do struggle with ‘What shall I do next? Aaarrghhh!’ But I’d rather be like that than not. 🙂

    And now I’m just starting a blog…

    Jo UK

    1. So great to hear from you Jo! I LOVE your list of interests and am fascinated by many of those things myself (thanks for reminding me LOL). Except I’m not into space research, archery or the history of photography. What a relief! That’s a few books I don’t need 😉 Have you come across Barbara Sher’s work before? Best of luck with your new blog and I LOVE your wild west story. Thanks for connecting.

  3. Hi Jade, oh my gosh you just summed up my whole creative functioning process!! I never realised it could be so similar for others- im blown away! Fantastic post, i wish i lived in Sydney as i would love to work with you 🙂

    1. Ha ha ha Renee no you are NOT alone! 🙂 You should definitely check out the scanner groups if you like that kind of thing. Also, I work with clients all around the world, so give me a hoy if you ever want to connect!

    1. Yah! I’m glad Nona thankyou. I’m still working on a post on those great topics you suggested for me last time.

  4. I’ve been meaning to read this post for a while… I’m so glad I did as it reminds me what it’s like when you’re in that positive place and on a roll, and that I know I’m not the only one! (I knew that I just need reminding now and then…!) Am looking forward to positive focus once again. 🙂

  5. I loved this sentence from your post ” look at all the other lively objects in my room and the invisible plume of ideas and projects they trail around behind them.” This resonated wih me. Thanks

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