Sometimes, I just don't want to...
...and it's really hard.
Lately, I’ve been having what I call the “don’t wannas.” I used to get really mad at myself about this, but this week I’m going to share how I stopped being mad.
I used to get mad because I’m not a procrastinator, or a person who doesn’t finish things. I’m productive. But lately (by which I mean over the past year or so), I’ve been having a hard time getting things done. I do them, mostly, but it’s just so hard. Sometimes I even cry.
I put things off. I avoid them. Unless they’re on fire, like prepping for teaching. Or things that have to do with taking care of my kids, which I do in an instant.
But when it comes to my writing, something I love to do, I just…can’t. I don’t have an explanation for why this is, or what it feels like.
I do, however, have a diagram of what it looks like, metaphorically. Here it is:
I just can’t wrestle my writing into any kind of shape that makes sense to me. It keeps trying to buck me off.
But then, just last week, I gave a talk on mental health and burnout—and higher education, because I was speaking at a college—in Kansas City, and I had an epiphany.
I am burned out. It’s easy to see these things in other people, and impossible to see them in ourselves. (I should say, I’m burned out again. If you’ve heard this from me before, I do realize this is a pattern.)
Here’s why: Ever since last June, I’ve been turning in words to my writing partner, at an average rate of 5000 per week, on Wednesdays. That’s a lot of words. Then we read and give feedback on each other’s writing on Thursdays. And finally, we meet to discuss that feedback on Fridays. Each week.
We’re both high-performing individuals. Like Formula One cars. But you know what happens when you run an F-1 car for six months straight without taking care of that engine? Shoot, even for 1 month?
It flames out. Hard.
I don’t care how good you are at your job, you will flame out if you push yourself too hard without a break. The only incredible thing about this story is that we didn’t flame out sooner.
Last week, hilariously, we emailed each other at the exact same time, emails that sounded like this:
I’m so so sorry, but I don’t think I can keep up this pace. I think I need a break. I don’t want to disappoint you. And, like, if you need to keep going to meet a deadline, I totally get it, and I’ll keep reading yours, I just can’t, you know, keep writing right now, and…
OMG, seriously. We sounded so apologetic for being in so much pain. Why? High achievers always apologize for not meeting our own expectations of ourselves, which are frequently built upon the imaginary expectations of others.
The point is, we were both just done. When I received her email, I felt so relieved that I wasn’t letting her down, and she me. And now we’re just going to do some slow writing and heal. We’re still meeting once a week, because finding a good writing community is hard, and we didn’t want to let that go.
But now, we are just going to sit next to each other, peacefully, and put words on the page. But without pressure. Just peace.
Love to you,
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