I had a nice, low-key sort of day today. I did a few tarot readings in the morning, then Kiki and I went to go find a bolo tie to send his father as a gift for Father's Day. It was an interesting request from his mother. I've never spent a lot of time in western shops despite being Texan, but it was interesting going. There are so many varieties of cowboy boots! And they're so expensive! I saw a "sale" pair that was about $600. I've always wanted a nice pair of my own, but gosh... I think I'll stick to my single-digit-price loafers. We had delicious chicken lunch and went to a café to chill and play a card game that we love.
I originally planned to bring my laptop when I went to hang out, in case we had some downtime so I could code or something, but I decided to go out and commit to relaxing and enjoying myself—living in the moment. I'm glad I did because life is better when you can clearly set boundaries between "fun" and "work". I often enjoy my work, but that doesn't mean it should always be sitting on my shoulders like a stone gargoyle, dictating what I can and can't do with my free time.
We even had a nap in the evening. It was great. I needed the sleep and relaxation so, so much.
(Photo by Christopher Campbell)
Sometimes burnout just creeps up on you. I develop serious tunnel vision when I work on projects. I've talked about this before, but it bears repeating: I've long struggled with this boom-bust cycle. Either I'm ridiculously productive or I'm just dead. I still have trouble pacing myself.
I picked up an older issue of Breathe magazine that I've had sitting on my desk for a while. Even though I love it, often I don't make time to actually read it. But I flipped through it and was once again reminded of how much I need it. There was a short one-page article on the very last page about "maximizing efficiency" and how we...shouldn't strive for that! I've never been told that before. I'm always trying to maximize my efficiency and getting frustrated when I can't do it.
- I compare my monthly wordcount to that month I wrote 60,000 words for Ristorante Amore.
- I get upset when I start getting sleepy while coding at 2AM.
- I always think about bringing my laptop or Freewrite when I go places. I even have a code editor on my phone—just in case.
- I've planned out my days by the hour to do as much as I can.
I don't think any of those things are inherently bad on their own, but I have a fixation that can be unhealthy if I let it push me to the point of burnout. The cycle of unproductivity->guilt->productivity->burnout->unproductivity is dangerous, a siren song that has called me back to it time and time again.
[...] Inefficiency means that you won't have time for other activities, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you can drop your least necessary habits (checking Facebook, anyone?), you'll get as much done as you need, and save yourself neural overload into the bargain.
Most importantly, if you don't want to become frustrated with yourself or others, you'll have to let go of the mantra that your life on Earth must be spent optimally.
It's blowing my mind.
A while back, I had a discussion with my brother where I said point-blank that as much as I enjoy creating things, a large part of that is tied to the attention I get from it. If I create a piece of writing and nobody else reads it, that would be the worst thing in the world for me. I used to feel guilty about that. A true creative should be able to create just for the sake of it! For the sheer ecstacy of creativity! But I came to realize how silly that is. Creatives still have to put food on the table. Getting attention is linked to that. I want my creative work to be viable as a career on its own. I want to someday be able to write full-time and pay the bills with it, not just write in the gaps between one retail shift and the next. If nobody reads what I write, if I completely fall into irrelevance, there's no way that can happen.
And that prospect scares me. So I try new things, I try to be flexible and get out of my comfort zone. Yet I can't seem to leave behind the idea of being creative and productive 24/7 being the goal.
Creativity runs on a battery. When it gets low, I have to recharge it. I have to take care of myself, take time to read other writing—especially contemporary writing related to what I want to write. I've long been so concerned with creating the best device to maximize that battery that I've lost sight of the important part: the battery itself. And I've left it dead and uncharged for so long that sometimes I worry that the battery life itself has been permanently, negatively impacted.
But this is just a metaphor and that's not how creativity actually works. I feel mine getting stronger day by day. I develop new ideas again, get excited about original characters and novel ideas that might come to nothing again. I can take the metaphor as far as works for me—and stop there.
This is a roundabout way of saying that I've done almost no productive, creative work outside of this blog for the last few days and I felt guilty about it, but now I feel refreshed and like I made the right decision after all. I need to let go of guilt, especially guilt over treating myself right.
Remember to rest. Remember to take care of yourself. There's only one of you and your passion project will never get done if you're dead.