Monday, March 3, 2014

Pass the Burnt Toast

Lately I've been suffering from that dreaded ailment all writers and artists fear: creative burnout. I've always thought creative burnout was something that happened when you spent too much time creating. But the truth is, I haven't done a whole lot of creating at all lately, and what I have done, I haven't exactly been enjoying. You may have noticed the blog has been quiet silent for the last couple of weeks. The reason is simple: I haven't had anything to say. I've been fresh out of ideas, even if I did have the energy at the end of the day to write something. I don't even have a book review to post because I'm only halfway through the novel I started reading a month ago. UGH. Enter cranky Ashley. Apologies to my poor husband and children.

This weekend I decided enough was enough. I was going to figure out what the problem was and fix it. And here's the conclusion I've come to: My creative burnout is really just plain old, everyday burnout. I suspect most of you will identify with me when I say I've just been too damn busy. I wake up in the morning with a to-do list at the forefront of my mind and by the end of the day if I haven't checked off EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM I feel like a complete and utter failure. There's always one more thing that needs to be done, but no matter what I'm doing I always feel like I should be doing something else. And relaxing? Ain't nobody got time for that. (Sorry, I couldn't resist)

As a result, my post-kids'-bedtime writing routine is no longer working because by the end of the day I'm exhausted, frustrated, and the last thing my brain wants to do is function. Writing has become a chore, just another thing on my crushing to-do list. And when your passion becomes a chore, you've got a problem.

So...what to do about it?


Easier said than done, right? It's a question I've heard a lot from my creative friends, especially those friends who are also moms. How do you balance doing what you want to do with doing what you need/have to do? Yes, I'd love to finish writing that novel, but there's also a house to be cleaned, the kids have to be taken to school (or if you're a homeschool mom like me, be schooled), the family has to be fed, this job has to be finished by that deadline...and on and on and on.

So how does one go from complaining (because let's be honest, we've all had a good whine about our schedules) to changing?

I'm not sure I have a one-size-fits-all answer, but I'd like to share my personal plan with you. I'm going to shake things up. I'm going to stand my usual routine on its head and attempt to go from night owl to early bird. Why? Because I'm tired of busyness stealing my joy. I really want to write that novel. And I want to implement something awesome from Don Miller, author of one of my all time favorite books, Blue Like Jazz. On his blog, Don has provided a free download of his Storyline Productivity Schedule. The first thing that struck me about the idea behind this schedule was Don's opening question: "What if problems like writers block and procrastination were less about your shortcomings and more about how you structure your work day?" The Storyline Productivity Schedule is all about managing your mental energy, not just your time. It helps you focus on one thing at a time, prioritize your day, finish projects, and allows for rewards and rest to help you periodically recharge. 

I don't know about you, but I think that sounds fantastic.

So for the next 30 days, I'm going to utilize the Productivity Schedule and hopefully be on my way to a healthier, more creative, more productive, and--most of all--more present and happier me. I'll let you know how it goes. If you're interested in joining me, you can read more about the schedule and download your free copy on the Storyline Blog. And if nothing else, I hope you find some encouragement knowing you're not the only one who struggles with finding a daily balance. We're all in this together. 

Here's to doing more by slowing down. Cheers!

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