When it comes to maintaining a productive, creatively fulfilling life, the simple answers are terribly alluring. I’ve swooned to the siren songs of bucking up and toughening up and not giving a fuck and pulling on my bootstraps just a little bit harder. But like the Sirens themselves, those songs are just myths.
What I’ve found to be true about productivity is that I don’t need to be harder on myself. I need to be kinder.
Look, if your own baseline mental health never dips below “bummed”, if your struggles with productivity can truly be remedied with the installation of a new to-do app, if a pep talk on grit from some dude who makes most of his money from selling vitamins online actually does the trick, then bully for you, I suppose. I’m happy for you. But that’s not me.
For me, it seems like there’s an orbit to my creative habits. I lose them and find them, lose them and find them, over and over again. When I have them, they seem easy, and natural, and part of me. I sometimes write about my techniques and habits and methods, and what I write and believe about those habits at that time is, in a sense, true.
Until it’s not.
So the actual best advice I have to give myself about being productive and creative is to remember that a lot of the time I’m just not going to be. It will come and go. When I’m off my game, I try to remind myself not worry about it too much:
- Don’t get angry that you’ve lost the habit.
- Don’t try to force it back into being.
- Give yourself room to find it again.
“Give him some room!” That’s what they yell on TV when a guy really gets his clock cleaned and is gasping on the ground, struggling to find his breath. “Get back! Give him some room!”
Between a COVID-related layoff, big opportunities lost to the pandemic, and some depressive episodes that may have come to pass no matter how I handled myself, I’ve had to give myself a lot of room these past two years. Ever, ever, ever so slowly I feel my breathe coming back. Just needed a little room.