Today’s my birthday. It’s a quiet sort of birthday, a bit of an anticlimactic one after months of heady and exhausting action. And instead of going out to a bar with friends, or a fancy dinner like we might normally do, we’re sneaking away for a few stolen hours of quiet in the mountains. It’s been interesting to remind myself that this is good too. It’s a different kind of good than getting drunk with fifteen of my dearest on juleps in New York City when I turned 24, or fancy dinner where we talked about the big year to come last year. But it’s still damn good. Quietly good. Which is about where my life is right now.
It’s strange, because the beginning of the year was so huge that I’m still getting used to trudging through the period of quiet after the (lovely) storm. When I got home from the book tour, of course I knew I needed to sleep for a week, and then catch up for, well, about a month. But then I had plans and projects! I figured I’d be back on my feet in five seconds, ready to knock out the next thing. (Have I mentioned that my work life tends to be lived at full tilt, in a super productive, never resting enough, mode?) Well, it turns out not so fast. First, life had other things in store. We were moving. I had business problems I had to solve. Nothing was going to happen right this second, APPARENTLY. The spring shaped up to be a very Slow And Steady Wins The Race around here, (which is not the kind of season that I’m naturally good at).
But then there was also my mind. It turns out it wasn’t ready to dive into something big again right away. I would give it jobs to do, and it would just sit and stare and the screen, tapping its toe, thinking about nothing in particular.
I want to say that all this was easy for me, and I sorted it out right away, and I have a pat and wise solution for times when you are going through the same thing. But I’ve got nothing. (Literally nothing. I just had to pull myself back from staring out the window a second ago.) And it’s been emotionally tough for me. I expected to have some sort of meltdown last spring when I finished writing the book, and it never came. I thought, somehow, I’d been spared. But it turns out that when I was really done with the book—when I’d finished promoting it, I’d sent it out into the world, and I knew it was going to do very well without my help—that’s when the hard part came. And the hard part wasn’t a crying meltdown (something I would have had an easier time dealing with). The hard part was my brain deciding to take a break, whether I wanted it to or not. My brain took off, leaving me bored and a little lonely.
And it’s funny to feel bored and a little lonely when everything is going so well: the book is selling far better than I ever expected (thank you, all of you), we’re publishing work on APW that I’ve never been prouder of, and I’m lucky enough have plenty of future projects to tackle whenever I’m ready. But yet. Apparently I’m not ready. Apparently my brain wants to kick dirt for a bit. It wants to get through this move. It wants me to get my business-y ducks in a row (business ducks are adorable by the way, because they wear bow ties). It actually wants to be bored… no matter how much I hate it. And for all that I want to panic and worry that if my creative spark leaves the building EVEN FOR A MINUTE, it might never come back. My creative spark is completely determined to go kick some dirt and think things over. It says it will come back when it’s good and ready, and that I don’t get a vote. (Rude!)
So the best I can do is throw this out to the rest of you creative types. What does your downtime between projects look like? How to you remind yourself that you can’t push the creative spark when it needs to take a break? And how do you refill the well? How do you deal with a creative change of plans? Go!
PS. This is a brilliant time to watch, or re-watch Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity. It’s nice to be reminded that my Genius is just taking a nap right now, and there isn’t much I can do about it. (Except nudge at it with my toe. Though to be fair, it totally bites.)
Photo: Me with one of my advance copies of my book, by One Love Photo