It’s all the same.
Despite how much solitude involved in this kind of craft, writing is also very much plugged into working online. There’s the social media aspect, networking, blogging, posting pieces for people to see, all that good stuff.
And right now, the entire Internet can be quite…
And that’s putting it lightly.
Scary shit is happening in the world. We are perpetually bombarded with new Bad News about what certain high-powered individuals are doing to fuck over the population. And as if the news itself wasn’t bad enough, there’s also seeing the reactions and horror stories and opinions, and the responses to that, and…
Now more than ever, it’s important to understand balance and taking care of yourself.
Here are a few tips I’ve been using to help stay productive while also staying informed about current events:
- Decide when and how much you are going to expose yourself to the news: I am trying to limit myself to one particular point in the day to get a rundown of my news around the world. I’m also trying to move away from first thing in the morning, because it can easily set the tone for the day.
- Recognize when it’s time to unplug: You may need some time completely away from the computer, the phone, etc. Fall back in love with the pen and paper. Or…
- Disconnect from the Matrix: Sometimes it can be as simple as losing your Internet for a while. Check out programs like Freedom to allow you to work without the temptation of surfing.
- Mind your physical traits: eat, sleep, drink water, meditate. Go outside and stand in the sun. Even if it’s cold. Make yourself exercise (I just got a small fitness stepper for my office and it has been awesome).
- Keep creating things: just by putting things out into the world, you are doing a great service to many. People need art right now more than ever. People need to escape. People need to be inspired and to see characters doing the things that they may not be able to. Don’t stop. Don’t give up.
This time last week, I was on top of my game. I had words running off my fingers like honey from a comb. I was making magic, awesome and fierce and unstoppable. I was a musician working on my self-titled album, music flowing through me. I was a wizard over a cauldron of promising toil and trouble.
And then Tuesday happened. The storm.
And then Wednesday happened. The aftermath.
And it hurt. I want to say that I kept moving. That even though someone increased the gravity inside the chambers of my heart, I said, “Nope. Still going to keep doing what I’m doing.”
But I didn’t.
I got depressed, and basically from Thursday through Sunday I didn’t really write anything. I felt like garbage. I was tense and anxious and no matter how much I wanted to will things into existence, everything just shorted out. And I was so mad at myself because I wanted to continue. I wanted to say that I was bigger than everything that was happening. But I wasn’t.
Now, as I’m finally getting back to a state of normalcy, I want to tell you that it’s okay.
It’s okay to lose your way. It’s okay to get angry and upset. It’s okay to rage quit now and then. It’s normal. Don’t beat yourself up over it. No sane self-help book has been written that says, “Self-flagellation is a sure-fire way to get yourself in the state of mind you want to be in!!” It’s okay to step away from your work and have a good cry.
Know that you won’t feel this way forever. It will pass. Even if it’s something indicative of a larger problem that you’re dealing with and even if it’s something that isn’t just going to go away (it rarely is)…your heart is surprisingly buoyant. You won’t always be at the bottom of the ocean. Eventually, you’re going to float back up to the top.
It’s okay. Get back to work when you’re ready.
And you will be ready again. I promise.
Anybody who tries to say that Creation is easy is a damn liar.
First, you need the foundations: air, water, earth. Animals come very last. Otherwise – woops – Death. You hadn’t even plotted out what that was supposed to look like!
You have to think it through, right? Because with enough time, it’s not like it’s all going to stay like that. You shape and mold and craft and then, oh shit, heavenly bodies.
Lastly, the hard part: giving it away. You hold your breath and hope they like it. Don’t break it.
Don’t watch. Walk away.
Make time for good
When it is easy to say that you are
Dare to say that you will give yourself an hour
To be the truest you:
The one who shapes things
And destroys castles,
The one who makes miracles
Out of shoelaces and spit,
The one who builds meadows
And does not part the sea
So much as rules it from the center.
You must allow yourself to be
Who you were meant to be
On the other side of numbers and populations
And formulas and chemicals;
You must be the sunlight
And the moonlight,
Shrug off the hard shell of facts and figures
Because everyone who matters is waiting to bask in your glow.
I can’t get the line of the Ukulele Anthem out of my head. Amanda Palmer sings, “Quit the bitching on your blog, and stop pretending art is hard.” It’s a great song, but something about that line specifically has stuck with me for, like, months.
There’s the song, if you haven’t heard it. Holy fuck, it so fantastic.
The line gave me pause I think because I remember a time when I would have been really angry about it. I would have gone, “Yeah, okay, let’s all pretend this is easy. Right. ARTISTS SUFFER.”
And now I’m like, “She’s right.” Simple as that.
When did art get complicated? When did we look at it as something that is a cause for suffering and anxiety and worry? And not just the occasional “I’m a fraud” kind of worry, but the paralysis of not working on anything, of not doing anything because we’re gripped with indecision. Because we are obsessed with the questions of “who will even read this?” or “why would the world even want this?”
At some point, I think I just got tired of constantly not doing things. Or, worse, taking all the precious time I had to make those things and instead griping about how difficult it was.
So I quit bitching. I quit pretending that everything had to be polished and perfect. I just made shit. I’m still making shit. It’s awesome.
Try it. It may save your life.
Have we already gotten through January? What the heck is up with that, guys?
So I thought it would be fun to do a bit of a check-in on the REBOOT thing. Just in this past month, there’s been a lot going on, and I still feel like I made the right decision with taking that word for this year.
Just in January I have:
– Gotten hit with huge work stress. As some of you may recall, I changed to this day job in March of last year, and this is the first “busy season” I’ve experienced. It’s been rough. BUT…
– Been writing a lot. Every day. It’s stuff that I’m doing for my own pleasure, but it’s still word output, which makes me happy.
– Been reading. I’ve particularly been reading, “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrik Backman. It’s beautiful and painful and magical, which is a good combination.
– Gotten involved in a NEW PROJECT. More details to come.
I think that the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is that by coming back to things that are really important to me and that I’m really passionate about, and not just in a ‘oh yeah, I guess that could be good for me’ way…I just feel generally better. My productivity has sky-rocketed. I feel in control.
And that’s big for me, as a writer, and as a creative person.
So we’ll just have to see what the rest of the year holds, huh?
Recently, I have found that music has been my saving grace, so far as my productivity/creativity/sustainability has been going. The importance of my life having a great and appropriate soundtrack has been crucial, and I want to share some tips because you all deserve to have a swelling orchestra on your side, too. Or Nirvana. Nirvana has been working really well for me.
- Decide how much you are willing to pay for it, and do your research: you don’t have to break the bank to get streaming music from the magical world of the Internet. There are plenty of free options, but you’ll have to stomach the commercials every now and then (more frequently when you decide to skip a song). Recently, I’ve been exploring the Google Play Radio, because you not only have the choice of customizing a radio station by a song/artist, but there are also a lot of stations by activity, genre, etc. Some are pretty damn specific. There’s also Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Prime (that one pays for itself with the shipping and Kindle lending library), so on.
- Get the right stuff for the right time of day: I try not to listen to mellow stuff in the morning, because it makes me want to go back to bed. This inevitably leads to one of my ‘dubstep’ stations. Likewise, at night, I usually want something chill, like a movie soundtrack. I’ve also been taking a strong look at how certain types of music impact different kinds of tasks. If I’m reading or doing something text heavy, I avoid stuff with complex lyrics that my mind will get hung up in. In fact, the more I need to focus, the more I go to something without any vocals at all – which doesn’t have to be baroque, by the way.
- What am I making and what does it sound like: when I’m writing, using music in a smart way can actually really add a dimension to my characters and scenarios. Is it a face-off between the hero and the villain? Anime soundtrack! Is it a romantic moment between lovers? Cue the REO Speedwagon! Is it an actually serious moment between lovers? Maybe opt for some Andrea Bocelli.
Life can be busy. Times can be tough. Don’t do it in silence. I dare you.
Dare to grab hold of things that make you really happy. Even if no one else gets it. Even if there isn’t a greater goal.
Watch cartoons. Read comic books.
Draw. Paint. Get a bucket of chalk and work your sidewalk until the rain washes it away.
Make things without agency or intention beyond bringing something into existence that wasn’t there before. Don’t you realize how godly that is?
Dress up and stay home.
Play with action figures.
Make castles in the sand.
Stop thinking about it.