Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I'm a creative spaz. If you know me or visit this blog regularly then this is not news to you. My wheels are always turning. A million ideas. Half a million goals. I'm not happy if I'm not doing something creative.

At the same time I occasionally suffer from feelings of being overwhelmed. I worry that I'm falling behind in goals. I worry that what I'm working on isn't good enough. I worry that I burned out and the creative well is dry. Worry, worry, worry until all I'm doing is worrying and doubting and not producing. Which takes me back to: I'm not happy if I'm not doing something creative.

A few days ago, when I was convinced I was nearing burn out, I thought the key was to relax. I still think that's true. What I've learned over the past few days, however, is that relaxing is different things to different people. You might be saying, "Well, duh." But for some reason that never occured to me until I tried do what I thought everyone did to relax: Not work.

I put in an eight hour day at the library Saturday. When I came home I gave myself permission not to write. "You will relax tonight." So I didn't write. I read a little, but I was disappointed in the story so I soon lost focus. I watched an episode of LOST. Loved it. Felt inspired. But I still didn't want to write because, just now that felt like work, and I was trying to relax. I thought about vegging out for another few hours in front of the TV, but honestly it held no appeal and actually made me feel tense. Counterproductive to my goal to relax, no?

Since I was sitting at my computer I opened the files to my new website. The one I'm creating. A bit of a challenge for a techno-goober like me, but I have solid reasons for tackling the job. Before you shake a finger at me and say that's not relaxing. Well, turns out it is. For me. Scott Oden plays fantasy video and role games. I diddle with new website and blog themes. I diddled for hours and was totally jazzed as I finally created a theme I liked. Now it's just a matter of transferring all of the information. I just might have it done and uploaded by my original target date of November 1. Maybe.

Yesterday, I had the entire day free. I started to blog, but I didn't know what to write. Instead of worrying about it and wasting an hour trying to come up with a topic, I gave myself permission not to blog. I opened up my WIP instead. And what do you know, the words flowed. I ended up writing eight pages yesterday. They were dialogue heavy. I knew I hadn't grounded the reader with apt descriptions. I knew I should delve more into emotion. I knew what I was writing wasn't perfect, but I gave myself permission not to get it right the first time. The characters were driving the story, moving it forward in a way that made sense. For now, this was good enough.

When I broke at one point to shower and run errands, the characters yakked in my head all the while. This made me deliriously happy. They're alive. Which makes me feel alive. And happy. I rewarded myself by shutting down at 8pm, even though the words were still flowing. I'd been writing for hours. Why push myself to the point of feeling drained? I watched a movie instead and went to bed inspired. And happy.

This morning, as you can see, I'm blogging. Easily. Happily. And I know I'm going to make progress on my WIP today because I didn't push myself to exhaustion last night and my characters are still yakking in my head.

Wondering if there's a point to all this babbling. Yes, there is. Sort of. I've come to the conclusion that the anxiety I felt wasn't because I was overworked. The anxiety was due to self-imposed expectations. I cut myself some slack. I lifted any deadline that wasn't contracted. I don't have to have my new website up and running by November 1. I don't have to have a new proposal written and turned into my agent by Novemeber 1. I don't have to blog every day.

Lifting non-contracted deadlines, lowering self-imposed expectations, eased my anxiety and bolstered my creativity. Don't get me wrong, I still think I'm a creative spaz. I'll continue to wrestle with a million ideas and half a million goals. I get this feeling I'll forever be seeking balance. But that's all okay. It's all managable. As long as I remember I'm not Super Woman. As long as I remember that I don't have to be perfect and accomplish all of my goals yesterday.

Slow and steady wins the race. Who am I to argue with Aesop?


Jennifer Elbaum said…
Glad you're feeling better Beth!
Scott Oden said…
Amen! Relaxation is all about finding what relaxes you . . . I know a guy whose idea of relaxation is rappeling down a wall or going to the gym for a couple hours; my friendly ex-girlfriend relaxes by playing games online; my friend Kris finds relaxation in a cigarette and coffee.

To each his (or her) own! :)
Cynthia said…
Yay for feeling better!

Yay for writing!

Doesn't it feel wonderful when you break through and words pour out? I did that last night.

Oh and who says the writing has to be good the first time? I guess I missed that memo. My writing, once I've gotten into story and character comes out in huge dialogue dumps. I'll go back in later and put in all the description and movements. I just don't worry about it any more. I know who did what and it all ends up right where it's suppose to in the end. That's all the matters. No one who reads your work will ever know which came first.
Beth Ciotta said…
Thanks, Jen! Feeling much... lighter. :)

Scott, I WISH I found working out relaxing. LOL Like you said, to each his/her own!

Cynthia, sounds like you and I had break throughs at the same time. Yay, us! Yes, it feels wonderful when the words flow. BTW your process sounds like a solid one. Thanks for sharing!
Anna Lucia said…
I cut myself some slack. I lifted any deadline that wasn't contracted.

Okay, ridiculous as it is, I'm crying here. Crying and cheering!

So glad to see these words posted here, and also to see the realisation that relaxation doesn't have to mean doing nothing. It just means doing the things that recharge us.
Stacie said…
Happy [late] birthday! Sorry I missed it!!!!

Congrats on all your progress, too!
I totally get it! I'm in the middle of a move and I'll be in my new place by Thursday eve. I keep thinking I should be doing some "real" work in between moving tasks -- I'm still recovering from surgery so I have to rest alot physically, although I am not under any real mental strain -- but I find that I can't concentrate on writing while surrounded by boxes and little else (I've sold all my furniture and am bunking on an air mattress). I had to give myself permission to start writing and working on the conference on about Sunday or Monday, after I've got everything put away in my new digs.
Beth Ciotta said…
*Beth clears her throat and sings* "Don't cry for me Anna Lucia!"

Sorry. Couldn't resist. :) Thanks, Anna. I could hear your sniffles and cheers from across the pond. You're right. Recharging! That's the ticket!
Beth Ciotta said…
Thank you, Stacie. Miss seeing you around. Hope all is well!

Toni, I knew you were moving, but didn't relaize you were in the process. Plus, your'e recovering physically. Bleh! Good luck with clearing the boxes and your mind. Take it easy. Take it slow!
chryscat said…
I was just bemoaning to my coworker the fact that I don't have any hobbies.
That if I'm not working at my (gainfully employed) job, then I'm writing and working on that. Or doing something for the short people at their school or whatnot.
I don't particularly need downtime, I need something that I enjoy doing that doesn't stress me out or put pressure on me.
But I love to write.
So...I may actually let all those little inspirations come out and type them as they come. Quit trying to bottle them and make them come in MY time.
The key IS different for everyone. Glad you've found yours.
Bethany said…
This sounds oddly familiar.... this relax but not relaxing thing. ;-)
Anna Lucia said…
LOL! Isn't it supposed to be, "Don't cry for me Marge and Tina?"

Beth Ciotta said…
Cystal, I often bemoan that I don't have traditional hobies. Actually, I've tripped upon crafts that enjoy... at the time. But then they seem more like a time-sucker than an enjoyable way to pass-the-time. Hence, said hobby is no longer fun and relaxing. Here's hoping you find relief and joy in lifting time restrictions and just letting the words flow.

Complicated creatures, aren't we? ;)
Beth Ciotta said…
OOPS! TYPO ALERT. That was supposed to be CRYSTAL. Jeesh. Sorry. ;)

Bethany, you know of what I speak. :)

Anna.... *snicker*
Glad you are working past the burnout.

Popular posts from this blog

I've Moved!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Reality of it All