I started this summer break the same way I’ve started all summer breaks–with a bang. And a whole lot of ambition. I’ve always had a tendency to bite off more than I can chew (literally and figuratively) so of course I wanted to do it all this summer. Explore every inch of my new city. Get in shape (finally). Write 1000 words a day. Eat a healthy and sustainable diet. Put a dent in my reading list. And things started off well enough… but then that thing happens that always seems to happen when I pile my plate far too full: I burnt out.
I had a very productive three weeks–I was working out EVERY day. I was getting up before 10 AM (that’s early for this girl). I was eating all of the food groups. I was writing. I was reading. And I think I was happy. But about 10 days ago it all came to a very abrupt halt.
One morning, when my alarm clock went off I just couldn’t get up. I hit snooze once twice three times before turning it off. I slept half the day away every day for about a week. I didn’t go to the grocery store except to buy a black forest cake which I promptly polished off in three sittings (dinner, midnight snack, and breakfast). I stopped exercising and even though I was forcing myself to write… I don’t know that I created anything that doesn’t completely suck. It’s unsettling to go from one extreme to the other like that. It pissed me off, to be truthful. And I spent a couple days eating cake and beating myself up (for eating the cake, for sleeping in, for sucking, for just being me). It’s a brand of negative self-talk that I’m unfortunately very familiar with, but after a full 48 hours of treating my brain and my body like a trash can–I stopped it. I realized that I might not have had the ability to take myself for a run or to do my dishes or to wash my sheets or to buy groceries… but there was nothing wrong with that.
I mean, was I living in filth? Yes. Did I die? No.
I realized that I needed to adjust my expectations. I was trying to do too much at once. And there’s nothing wrong with that… It actually was working for me, I thought. I was feelin’ fit and writing stuff and eating good meals. But it wasn’t sustainable. At least, not for me. Now might be a good place to point out that even though I might be mostly unemployed, I’m taking this summer to write the first draft of my Master’s thesis project… and that’s no joke. I’m also TA-ing for a spring course. And I’m in a workshop group that meets once a month. So, there’s more going on in my life than might be seen on my Instagram.
So, I decided to prioritize. What is important to me? What’s most important to accomplish this summer?
First, I needed to give myself a break. Second, I needed to clean my apartment. Third, I needed to write.
So I did.
And as a bonus I’ve been going to the beach everyday–it’s been proven that being next to large bodies of water boosts your mood AND your creativity, so I think of it as therapy, almost.
Working on a large project has changed the way I look at my writing and at my life. I used to be very conscious of perfection. Anything less than perfect was a fail… and failing was bad. But creating such a thin line between success and failure is limiting, both personally and creatively. Art is not the pursuit of perfection. And the end product isn’t more important than the process of making it. I will have ups and downs in my creative process, but one doesn’t negate the other. Both will contribute to my eventual success.
Failure is not a bad thing. It’s just another opportunity to try. And that’s all part of the process.