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Winter #9: Feeding yourself with delight
Sometimes slowing down is not the move.
Welcome to Winter, Issue #9 of Making Time. Each week, I share a seasonal perspective on the creative process. This month, my theme is Storytelling. If you’d like to follow along on this year-long experiment, you can subscribe for free.
I’ve found myself in one of those wonderfully fertile creative periods lately. I say this not because my output has increased (although it has) or because the quality of what I’m making is better (although I’m hoping it’s improving), but because of how I feel about the entire creative process.
In a word, it feels fun. I’m making all kinds of stuff, from clothing to writing to videos and podcasts, and none of it feels forced. It still challenges me, and I still fail, but somehow every bit of it feels like an absolute blessing.
This feeling may or may not last. There’s a fearful part of me that resists it. I worry that my passion will push me beyond my capacities and right into burnout. It’s a cycle that begins with tremendous excitement and continues until I hit a wall, followed by a period of creative block, then rest. Repeat.
It seems to me that there are two ways to approach this cycle. The first would be to attempt to tamp down the enthusiasm, take things a bit more slowly, try to do a bit less than I’m capable of, and pace myself. This seems entirely sensible.
The second is to lean into that feeling of excitement and accept the fact that I’ll probably tire myself out after a while, and just expect that I’ll need a break.
Until recently, I would have said that option number 1 is the obvious answer. I’ve long sought some sort of sustainable balance in life that leaves me feeling serene at all times. I told myself that if I could just slow it all down and learn to pace myself, life would be easy.
But what if that is just another form of wanting to control everything? What if the answer is not avoiding the pain of stress, but accepting it as part of the creative process?
I want to be clear. I’m not talking about working crazy long hours or sacrificing relationships or ignoring my mental health. I did all that for years, and have no wish to return to that place. I’m just talking about giving my all to the things that fire me up. I’m talking about being open to the idea that I have no real say about when I am inspired, and just running with it as long as I can. I’m talking about allowing myself to find joy in the work, without the fear that I may get stressed later on.
In Ideaflow, authors Jeremy Utley and Perry Klebahn write that one of the keys to a successful outcome is “expecting delight.” We have to learn to look for excitement and never allow cynicism to take over, even when things are difficult. They write, “We don’t want to get emotionally invested in ideas because we don’t see a clear path to making them a reality. This sense of inevitable failure around innovation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Delight seems to be a key ingredient in making anything worthwhile, and also to taking action. So I’m just going to feed myself delight as long as it’s there for the taking.
Head, Heart, Hands
Things to make us think, feel, and do.
How to reframe your relationship with exercise. Physical activity is a lifeline for me, and one of the greatest joys in my life.
On the psychological benefits of commuting. There was a time in my life that I had to spend 3-4 hours in Los Angeles traffic daily to get to and from work. Although it was hellish in some respects, I have so many vivid memories of driving through the city at sunset, alone with my music after a long day of dealing with the public.
How to live at 80 percent. I guess this is an argument against everything I wrote above (at least on the surface). It might make sense for you, at this time.
We all have three voices. After thinking about this, I’ve realized that my writing voice feels most like “me”. That seems sort of strange.
I kind of want to add some pizzazz to my stand mixer now.
I read Your Head is a Houseboat: A Chaotic Guide to Mental Clarity over the weekend and it is delightful. It’s a heavily illustrated, metaphorical guide to the inner landscape that would be perfect for a sensitive teen, I think.