Help! Do you ever have days where you don't want to write or revise but you know you should? What do you do to get through them?
Okay, so this is a thing that happens. Maybe not to everyone, but it happens to me, and when it does it is almost always for one of two reasons. Each of these reasons has a slightly different solution (there is also a third reason, which we may get into in a minute, but it’s more of a crisis than a reason, so mileage may vary).
Reason number one is, I’m easily distracted and full of thoughts and kind of lazy. So if I’m being that, there is only one solution and it is “Brenna, sit down in front of that screen and make a book, it is your JOB.” It usually works—boredom maxes out after about five minutes of staring at my document file and I start working. And there are some secondary tricks too: I work in coffee shops a lot because I like the background noise. I have big headphones that feel good squeezing my head and fill me with a sense of wellbeing. I find a song and listen to it on repeat. I always drink or eat the same thing. I wear a sweater that I like. (I fall into habits very easily and have learned to use this quality to trick myself into working.)
Reason number two, though. Reason two is that sometimes my brain is empty. I’ve been working too much too fast and not refilling my thoughts and now all the fuel is gone and I’m just grinding metal. Sometimes that means I need to not work and do something mindless, like wash dishes or vacuum or repot houseplants or drive or go outside and dig a hole and then fill it back up. Or sometimes it means I need to not work and go read a book or watch a movie or go to a museum and see things other people made when they were expansive and excited and not out of thoughts. And then, once my brain has had enough food and enough rest, I’m ready again.
Both of these reasons for not writing are totally normal (for me) (for you?) but it’s important to be able to tell the difference, because one is solved by powering through, and one is not. Which brings us to the third
Sometimes, I am on a brutal deadline. Sometimes it’s non-negotiable. Sometimes I have pulled two all-nighters in a row and am staring down the barrel of a third, and I know I’d want to work if I could just have a second where I’m NOT working, but that is only a beautiful dream. This is a problem. You know those people who only ever seem to operate at 100% when under extreme duress? *raises hand* A weird thing happens where I don’t WANT to work anymore, but the overdrive switch has flipped in my brain, and it will do the work until the job is done, whether I want to or not. And trust me, I DON’T. It is like being dragged through a drippy alligatory swamp by a robot—you’re just like “please, robot, stop moving my legs! This was the actual hardest thing for me to figure out a solution for, because:
1) Deadlines are a part of my job, and sometimes they are quite tight, and the work still has to get done anyway.
2) As much as I absolutely hate it, there is another part of me that likes it.
But I know more now than I used to. Back when I was 23 and completely unwise and taking a course overload in grad school while interning and also working 30 hours a week, I was just like “this is how we live a life!” That is not true. Can you hear me in the back? THAT IS NOT TRUE.
But sometimes you still have to do stuff and there’s a lot of it and you also have very little time to do it in. So let me tell you a deadline secret, it is very important: the answer to Brenna’s acute deadline crisis is, drink water, eat almonds, divide each 24-hour cycle into two discrete sections, allowing for one 3-hour sleep cycle and one 4 to 5-hour one. This is because if you are me, you start to feel like you are not allowed to sleep. This is a lie. And in fact, if you don’t sleep, I promise your work won’t be as good. At very best, it will be pretty weird. Also, drink less coffee. You think you need it, but you don’t.
I realize the answer to this question escalated quickly. Probably just focus on points 1 and 2—telling the difference between when your brain is empty and when it’s just dragging its feet. Unless you are a person who is currently living my 23-year-old life. In which case, you are not just allowed to sleep. Dude, you HAVE TO.