Last week I talked about how you can start to work towards your goals by taking at least ten minutes each day to work towards it. Today I’d like to visit the opposite side of that and talk about when I think you should just walk away. Now, there are going to be creatives out there, fellow artists and writers like myself, who will balk at my advice but hear me out anyways okay?
In every class I’ve taken as a writer, and most of my art classes as well, professors and instructors always had the same advice: create every day. One of the best creative writing teachers I’ve ever had said he wrote at least 1,000 words a day no matter what. I don’t disagree with that advice. I do believe that no matter what you want to do in life, the only way to get better is through consistent practice. That’s pretty basic information right? You’ve heard it since elementary school. Practice makes perfect and so on.
When you’re an artist, or a writer, it is important to practice your creative skills regularly because it’s the only way you get over “the fear”. What’s “the fear” you ask? Well, it’s when you’re so concerned that what you’re creating is of low, poor, or basically shitty quality that you decide you should just not do it at all. We’re all humans and we’re all at least a little (although for most of us it’s a lot) worried about what others are going to think. But in order to get better you have to create some bad stuff. Whether you’re a writer or an artist, you’re never going to be on point all the time. There will be days where your work falls below your expectations and that’s okay. We don’t all come out writing like Hemingway and painting like Monet the second we start our creative journeys. You should get up and work at it until you become less afraid, bit by bit, and (eventually) you’ll just grow a thick skin because unfortunately there will always be negativity out there. Working in a creative field is not for the faint of heart, but it is so worth it.
So, yes, I do believe in the golden rule of writing or creating each day, but I also believe in honoring and recognizing our limits.
There was a point in my not so distant past where I felt completely burnt out. I was writing and painting each day and running a business, all on top of running a home, trying to be a good spouse and parent, attempting to maintain friendships and somehow manage to find time for myself. It was a lot and I was physically and mentally exhausted 24/7. But I told myself I couldn’t stop. I had to create every day, because that’s the golden rule. Yet, when I looked at my work I saw zero growth and it was frustrating. I was following all the “rules” and advice, but it felt like I was going nowhere.
Then along came The Journey Junkie’s Body Mind Soul Detox, a yoga program to cleanse the (you guessed it) body, mind and soul through a 21 day yoga and meditation journey. To be honest, I wasn’t 100% committed right away, but my beautiful yoga family did this journey with me and helped keep me motivated. And to keep a very long story short (I could talk about this program all day), the detox required me to take an hour or so out of my day to take care of me and that practice of self care opened my eyes.
I wasn’t growing as an artist or writer because I wasn’t giving anything my best efforts due to exhaustion.
I was so worried about getting everything right and following all the advice I’ve heard that I stopped listening to myself. I stopped believing that I might know what is best for me, and instead tried to do all the things everyone else said were the keys to success at once. Even if that advice was good advice, I was extending myself way too far to learn anything. I had overwhelmed myself and viewed taking a step back as failure.
Working and growing as an artist and writer are important to me. It’s important that I work on my skills as much as possible and that does mean a consistent practice, but that doesn’t mean working myself into the ground. Skipping one day of work to go explore the world, or just binge watch Netflix, doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly lose years worth of growth. So, in addition to my advice last week, I also think creatives need to learn when it’s time to walk away. Always honor that inner voice. You’re going to hear a lot of things from other creatives and (more than once or twice) you’re going to go searching the Internet for advice. Maybe that’s how you come across this blog post.
I still struggle with finding the balance between working hard and self care. I know I’m at least moving in the right direction now and I’m writing this blog post to remind myself to listen to that inner voice. The first step is to take the time to back away a little and that’s what I’ve been attempting to do these last few days. I’m not stopping everything, but I am lessening the self-induced pressure and reminding myself it’s not about being perfect.
And so that’s why, I think, sometimes you just have to walk away, take a deep breath, and then come back.
Next week, I’ll talk about how I’m building a schedule and a daily checklist to hopefully help create a better sense of balance in my day to day life. If you have any advice or insights into this discussion let me know in the comments below!