We have a great infatuation with busyness in western culture. Calling someone “busy” is one of the highest complements we pay (If you want something done, ask a busy person); it’s also a rock solid excuse for saying no to things you don’t want to do. (Oh, I’d love to help you but I’m just so busy!) In fact, “Busy” is such a popular state, it has replaced “fine” as the standard response to the question “How are you?”
I’m Not Saying Busyness is All Bad
It provides a great adreniline rush. It is incredibly satisfying to look back on a full day and feel like you’ve really earned your TV or rest-time. Then there is that deep sense of satisfaction that comes from a completed to-do list.
It’s no wonder so many of us are addicted to the rush of too much to do in too little time.
But. . .
Busy also has a downside. By holding action in such high regard, we make it difficult to focus on important, but undefined, work. We also get so used to movement that we keep pushing, even when we aren’t getting anywhere. (Or am I the only one who sits in front of the computer when the words* won’t come alternating between refreshing Facebook and staring at a blank document?) By the end of the day we are exhausted–with nothing to show for it.
Then, for me at least, the fear sets in, usually disguised as an overwhelming belief that I’ve written my last useful word, that I’m out of ideas, that I was never a good writer to begin with and I should just go get a job like everyone else because I do not have a creative soul. This sort of monster talk does not help me write better.
I only know one way to turn this train around.
Stop. Don’t push harder, don’t try to do more, don’t distract yourself. Learn to sit. Learn to play. Learn to allow yourself empty time and space to think. Daydream. Go for a walk. Color. Knit. Call a friend. Do whatever it takes to back off from the pushing and the guilt. Learn to trust that the words will come back.
If you would like to avoid those feelings of doom altogether, build time to recharge your creative batteries– before they run dry. Pay attention to the kinds of activities that feed your creative spirit,** and make those activities a priority.
If you find you don’t have time for “play” when you are done with your work, schedule the play first, and then plan your work around it. It sounds counter-intuitive, but if you are the sort of person who already works too hard, you’ll be surprised by how much more you get done this way, and how much better you feel at the end of each day.
What do you do when you fear you’ll never be brilliant again?
* As a writer, when my creativity is dried up, the words stop flowing. If you create with a different tool, the symptoms of too much busyness will be different, but the feeling will be the same.
**this video is an hour long and worth every minute you spend watching it.