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.
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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.