Writing for pleasure, as well as more frequent writing, has taught me a lot about myself – both personally and professionally. I’d like to share two of these lessons with you now, because a number of you may be able to relate; others may simply gain a measure of understanding of me as a person.
I noticed that I have no middle gear: stop or go, on or off, all or nothing. That’s how I am with studying, working, socializing, and, as it turns out, the creative process. I work in short, intense bursts. And, I have a really hard time just churning out “some” content consistently; instead, I have periods where I will write 6,000-7,000 words a day for about a week, bang out term papers like it’s nothing, and do everything right. Other times, I’m useless and can’t motivate myself to even answer more than a few emails or write a grocery list.
The second lesson is a result of the first: recently, I’ve learned how much my attention and will power function like a battery, or a gas tank. If I go through extended periods of extreme productivity, I find myself on low fuel; it’s not that I run out of things to say or ways to say them, but instead I run out of energy and motivation to set pen to paper – or, for that matter, fingers to keyboard – and actually do it.
I simply can’t keep up a crazy pace of working without taking time off. I have to recharge and replenish. This lesson was valuable, because it’s led me to realize that if I can identify “fuel sources”, I can have productive periods more often. And more awesome ones, too. What’s more: If I can recharge at least a little bit, I can keep functioning. Of course, I may not be on a tear – like I am with a full battery – but I’ll have enough to get the things done that I need to get done. And that can be equally valuable.
Finding those fuel sources is the challenge. It’s not always as simple as taking a few days off. At least for me, it isn’t. Sometimes, taking time off destroys my momentum and takes the wind out of my sails.
It’s the stuff which gives real inspiration that recharges my batteries best: It’s a long conversation with someone that really gets me. It’s dinner with the one I love. It’s a day at the lake with some of my close friends. It’s travelling to foreign countries. And it’s time alone, just for myself. It’s watching The Prince of Bel Air and pretending I’m 6 years old. It’s making a playlist of my favorite songs and rocking the hell out to them (probably looking an awful lot like this). It’s reading Siddharta and Conversations with God, underlining passages that are so beautiful they dishearten you.
And, it’s falling in love with the beauty and power of words all over again.
It’s the prospect of something different, a new chapter.
That’s why the key to moderation, for people like me, is alternating periods of “all” with periods of “nothing”. I found my balance. Now, it’s your turn. Do something you enjoy, and then get back to being awesomely productive.