Getting Back in Gear After the Holidays

snowflake

It’s snowing today – many, many, MANY of these falling from the sky and making me feel SO cozy. Love it!

How long does it take you to get back into the swing of things after the holidays? How much time do you need to find your usual groove and get all the gears turning smoothly again? We are seven days into the New Year, and I’m only just starting to ease fully back in to my usual routines.

I was fortunate enough to be able to take the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. I didn’t turn my computer on once. I spent time with my family, especially my daughter and my beau. We watched a LOT of movies (mostly chosen by  my daughter, so there were many superhero movies in the mix). On the Thursday after Christmas, I had the loveliest day, all to myself. I had a great riding lesson, wrote in my journal in the morning, read a beautiful illustrated book about faeries by Charles Vess and then a novel called A Wolf in the Attic, which was the perfect magical, gothic tale for a day of solitude in the lull between holidays. Later that night, still alone, I watched the not-so-great-but-still-lovely movie adaptation of one of my favorite books, Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale. Did I mention it was a lovely day?

I had the best intentions to use the week’s “down” time productively. I meant to do some organizing and administrative work. I was going to get a head start on some proposals and follow up on some existing leads. I was going to (finally) deal with the massive to-be-filed pile of paperwork that I had shunted into a drawer while cleaning for the holidays. But, I did none of those things, and – honestly – I should have known better than to believe for a moment that I would.

You see, I’ve known for a long time that I have two speeds: 100mph and standing still. I’m usually going at 100mph, juggling multiple client projects, personal projects, running the household, raising my daughter, and trying my damnedest to also put some effort in to taking better care of myself (journaling, yoga, meditation, etc.), while still finding time for pleasurable pursuits (mainly reading). But, when I manage to carve out some time to relax, I really relax. The first two days after Christmas were spent sprawled on the couch with my daughter, binge watching movies and series on Netflix. I already described my blissful Thursday, and the rest of the days in that week were subtle variations on those two themes. Translation: I did next to nothing. If it weren’t for my beau coaxing me out for walks in the woods, I might not have left my house at all.

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I did feel a little guilty about my complete lack of activity. Mostly, I felt guilty for not using this precious free time to do some writing. I am, after all, forever lamenting my lack of available writing time. And here I was with the better part of a week at my disposal. But, sometimes, you just need a break. Sometimes, before you can do any creative work, you need to give your mind and your muse time to unwind and unfurl.

I know it kind of sounds like an excuse, but it’s true.

You’ve probably heard the expression about “replenishing your creative well.” That’s what last week was all about for me, and it’s a valid (I’d even go so far as to say “non-negotiable”) part of the creative process.

After months of being mostly away from my morning pages and feeling uninspired when I did sit down to write, I was thrilled to feel the hum and whir of my creative machine coming to life as my pen raced across the page, scrawling lines that felt like poetry after a long period of mostly dull accounts of daily activities. It made my heart race a little to know that I still had this kind of emotion inside me, looking for a way out. I was relieved to discover that I hadn’t been sucked completely dry by the challenges of 2016.

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While I am not one for New Year’s resolutions, I do tend to be more open to change in the month of January. So far, the changes I’m making are small, but that doesn’t mean they are insignificant.

For instance, earlier this week (as part of my effort to get back into the groove) I took my own advice about using Trello to organize my writing projects, and am very pleased with the results. I’ve even created a couple shared boards to use with clients and am finding them to be super helpful on the collaboration and communication front.

I also deleted a couple self-improvement apps off my phone. One was meant to encourage and track my efforts to form positive habits, and the other was a collection of games meant to improve brain elasticity and speed. In my week of enjoying the unstructured nature of down time, I realized that these apps, though designed with the best intentions, were really just creating more stress in my life and taking up time that could be better spent reading or writing or simply staring off into space and letting my mind wander. Seriously.

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The point of all this is that it’s okay to cut yourself some slack. Take a break. Ratchet things down to zero miles per hour. Do nothing. It’s a necessary part of the creative life, and if you deprive yourself of these times of rest you will feel depleted and uninspired.

You will get back into your usual groove soon enough. I promise. I can already feel myself sliding back into the familiar routine. It’s taking a little extra time, but I’m not worried about it. I’ll get there. Right now, I’m actually more focused on making sure I remember how to give myself the gift of unstructured time off so that I stay tapped into my own creative energy. The routines will always be there. I need to practice a little free falling.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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29 thoughts on “Getting Back in Gear After the Holidays

  1. Pingback: Getting Back in Gear After the Holidays | O LADO ESCURO DA LUA

  2. I had 2 week down time as well and planned so many things to catch up but its time to get back to the grind tomorrow and im not even ready lol

    • It is difficult to taste the freedom of unstructured time and then return to the more rigid arrangements of the daily grind. 😉 But, even there we can find some comfort and even pockets of respite. Good luck in your re-entry into the post-holiday routines!

  3. I have kept ticking over with adapting the book for a drama competition but it wasn’t until yesterday that i could attempt something fresh. Having bronchitis over the new year didn’t help but it did keep us indoors. I’m tempted to stop using social media for a bit and try to work.

    • Sorry to hear about your bronchitis. I hope you’re feeling better now.
      Finding the right balance between work and social media is a tricky thing. Though many will advise a complete ceasing of social media browsing and chatting, I cannot believe that a full and ongoing withdrawal from the conversations of the day serves our creative purposes. I think your “for a bit” approach makes much more sense, even if it is challenging to strike and maintain that balance. (As I mentioned about my 100mph-vs-standing-still nature, so it sometimes seems about my use of social media. Each day presents its own set of choices. We can but do our best to make ones that, in the long-term, help us create a creative life we love. Good luck with the adaptation and your new work!

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been dealing with guilt over the fact that I have had a long and lazy break over the holidays. The intentions were to use the time off to catch up on projects and to prepare for clients and classes to begin at the start of the New Year, but the jet lag (we took a trip back to the US from South Korea for a break and to see family), having the flu, and then having the kids still home on break has made it very hard, and I’ve had to postpone seeing clients/teaching classes for another week. The kids go back to school tomorrow and I look forward to getting back in gear, and finding my groove again this week… So nice to see I’m not alone in this.

    • I am not sure I would characterize time spent dealing with travel, jet lag, the flu, and having kids home for the holidays as a “long and lazy break!” I think perhaps you need to go a little easier on yourself. 🙂

      Also, you are definitely not alone in any of this. The challenges of re-entry are something that everyone, and especially each creative person, faces more often than not. It’s simply a natural reaction to having our usual routines disrupted.

      You’ll find your groove again soon, I’m sure. Good luck with that, and remember to cut yourself some slack once in a while. You deserve it!

  5. You’ve described it all perfectly, complete with the guilt part that really shouldn’t be there at all for an otherwise super active person. You’re lucky your beau coaxes you out: mine’s the original stay-at-home 🙂 It’s freezing here by our standards, which has been my excuse not to go swimming since the beginning of the year 😦 Anyway serious work starts tomorrow, so like it or not I’ll get myself back into humming mode in no time!

    • Hello, Bea! So nice to “see” you. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I feel like I’ve been away forever.

      I am lucky that my beau gets me out. We got almost 10 inches of snow last night and the high for the day will only be in the mid twenties, but we’ll be heading to the state park in a couple hours to get some sunshine and fresh air. (Though, I’ll probably get plenty of that while shoveling, too!)

      Good l uck with your “serious work” tomorrow … hope everything goes swimmingly! 😉

  6. I am also a 100 mph or nothing kind of girl. And I came to realize that does not serve me well. This year I am working towards changing both those numbers. During the post Christmas space, my focus was 20 mph. LOL. Very relaxing compared to my normal but still makes gentle progress.

    • Love to hear any tips you have for finding that middle ground. I expect it starts with moderating the 100mph times so they are not quite full pedal to the metal. I know that the run-run-run pattern inevitably leads to full-out crash and burn. 😉

      • Yes, yes, it does. So I decided I would only do what I wanted when I wanted to do it. Which meant things got done slower sometimes but still got done. Then I felt that wasn’t quite right, so now I do one thing I don’t “feel” like doing once a day.

      • So interesting. I’ve often felt that there’s a lot to be said for working with our natural rhythms, so to speak, and not forcing ourselves to do tasks “at the wrong time.” I have learned, for instance, that pushing myself to keep hammering at a writing project late at night is a complete waste of time. I will hack away at the same paragraph for an hour, and end up with nothing usable. Morning is the better time for writing in my world. I have also found that sometimes when I’m “supposed” to be doing one thing, I find myself drawn to do something else. For instance, I might have a first draft that I need to get out, but I’m suddenly consumed by a desire to take care of a slew of follow-up emails to clients. In the past, I would have kept my nose firmly to the first grindstone and put off my urge to deal with administrative things by convincing myself that the latter was simply a procrastination tool. I’ve since learned that if I temporarily put aside the writing deadline and take care of the admin items, it doesn’t upset the balance of the universe and I am substantially more efficient in my execution of both tasks. It’s all a learning process, but worth the time to experiment!

  7. I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this; how much guilt has been plaguing me for not getting back into the routine immediately and accomplishing everything I need (and want) to be accomplishing. But when you wrote about having two speeds–100mph and standing still–that resonated so much. And was very needed.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    • It may also be important to note that we only just came out of Mercury Retrograde yesterday, an astrological phenomenon that contributes to confusion, lack of focus, and general miscommunications. I’m not heavily into astrology, but I have come to respect the real-world affects of the full moon and Mercury retrograde. Hopefully, you’ll feel better able to hit the accelerator now. 😉

  8. I could use more holiday or time off, I didn’t get any during the holidays because my company had to schedule for what was best for business. I had two 3-day weekends and one of them was spent getting over a head cold. I need a further break.

    • I’ve had holiday seasons like that, and I offer my sympathy. I hope you get that much-needed down time soon. And I hope you feel better!

  9. Remember Sunday nights when you were still in grade school, high school, or college? Major panic about homework/assignments/projects not done. I still get the Sunday night guilt even though I’m already retired. Also had a devastating cold, was kind of nice to not be able to think straight for a week, let myself off the hook. I’m almost never sick, so when I am I know it means I need a break

    • Ha! I do feel that sometimes.
      Sorry you were not feeling well. I hope your health has improved. I can relate, however, to the sense of near relief that being sick with something temporary like a cold can bring. It’s like we need permission to take a break, as you said, and only an illness will give us that permission. Maybe we need to rethink that. 😉
      Meanwhile, feel better & happy writing!

  10. It has taken me a couple of guilt filled weeks to get back into the swing of things. While I don’t regret my holiday at all I do with I set some time aside (even an hour a day) to get editing and writing done. I’m extremely good at free falling and taking unstructured time off so I think I should focus on the opposite. Haha!
    Oh well, I have my groove back now. Hope you’re back on track too!

  11. Every time I see an image of a snow flake it reminds me of the fact that no two flakes are ever exactly the same. This reminds me always of how uniquely wired up and different each one of us is too.. It’s taken quite a long time in my life to realize I do not travel in anyone else’s wheel track. Now I have accepted – it is later in life I grant it – my wheel tracks and my unique differences mean I have drop ‘out’ holiday space in every day. I have ‘frantic’ writing, journaling on others. I no longer plan…….I let it ‘happen’. Working for someone else would mean adapting to their ‘time clock’ BUT …..choosing your own timing and way of doing what you have to do. Certainly I do not ever feel guilty about the things – ie walking, etc etc.I did not do. Each day must be balanced Mental, physical, spiritual, Creative and REST. Then and only then do I feel a sense of accomplishment.

  12. Pingback: Top 5 Writer’s Weekend Edition Posts of 2016 | Live to Write – Write to Live

  13. Thank you for the post…. I’ve spent all day in my PJs wondering why I just can’t get back into work (my leave is officially over) and your comment about all or nothing makes perfect sense to me! It also got me thinking that after an excruciatingly busy year, 3 weeks off, 13 days of which we had a house full of in laws (lovely but busy), I’ve been left feeling like I just haven’t had enough restorative time.
    So at 5:30pm, I’m having a shower and starting my day 😊 and doing my best and then I’ll try again tomorrow!

  14. Pingback: Writer’s Weekend Edition – This Is Who I Am | Live to Write – Write to Live

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