I am, admittedly, not very good with balance. I usually don’t have any, which is usually the source of 98% of my stress.
I’ve been in crazy-focus mode since May, when I decided it would be a good idea to create a very rigid schedule to dictate exactly how I’d spend each remaining month of 2013.
May-August: Finish writing my book (utilizing all non-work, non-sleeping hours)
September: Query my book, study for therapy licensure exam
October: Keep querying, cram for therapy licensure exam
November: Take licensure exam, apply to MFA program, keep querying, Thanksgiving, prepare for Chile
December: 2-week trip to Chile, holidays
These are all pretty major undertakings, especially to fit around two jobs. I was often finding myself having thoughts like, “I cannot WAIT until January when I will finally have the time to watch last week’s episode of Catfish.”
I even started keeping a list of all the things I wanted to do starting in January:
- Catch up on Catfish
- Cook a meal
- Figure out what to do with the car that I haven’t driven since April
- Watch that Orange is the New Black show everyone is talking about
- Read Gone Girl
- Trip to Chicago
- Take a walk
- Have a social life again
- Marathon Glee season 4
And then August started to happen, and I started to freak out when I realized summer was ending and I had nothing to show for it. But then I opened the file where I store my revised chapters (aptly titled “Polished Like A Fucking Stone”) and realized that, indeed I did have a lot to show for my summer, it just didn’t feel that way because I’d spent it almost entirely indoors and alone.
And I just don’t think that’s the way we’re supposed to live. Plus, talk about poor planning: by the time I’ve accomplished everything on my list it will be the dead of winter in Iowa, which by its very definition means spending time indoors and alone. In my crazy brain I’d been thinking of January as the month where I’d get out and start doing things again. MY BAD.
So, for August I tried to add one more thing to my rigid schedule: finding balance.
I started saying yes to the type of things I’d spent all summer saying “no” to. I joined a community writing workshop. I danced in a flash mob.
Two weeks ago I had a bonus 3-day weekend, which I’d forever been planning to use as a chance to do nothing but write. But instead I ended up: canoeing, painting my nails, reading Nic’s book, cooking dinner, and watching Orange is the New Black with a friend. AND writing.
And you know what’s weird?
It actually ended up being one of the more productive writing weekends I’d had in a while, despite all the other things I did.
Which reminded me of a Stephen King quote:
“In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not the pearl-making seminars with other oysters.”
Touche, Stephen. Touche.
To accomplish any major undertaking, it does certainly take commitment, determination, and sacrifice.
But also? It takes balance, which can only come from a willingness to frequently stray from the schedule. I will try to be better at remembering this.
I leave you with my flash mob.