The 4 Things I Learned From Taking a Break
You know how I recently took a hiatus from writing, right?
It wasn’t planned, and I mentally flogged myself daily during the nine months I was away from the keyboard, telling myself I was throwing away the following I’d worked so hard to build, and then mentally arguing back that, “yah, but what’s the point?”, and then mentally consoling myself, saying, “hey, there are always people who tell me how meaningful my posts are to them, so just keep on keepin' on, gurl!”, but then mentally belittling myself with, “I could poop out a basket full of Japanese howler monkeys before anyone would pay attention.”
It’s not like I’m buying a yacht with the money coming in from blogging. And my subject matter is hardly changing the world or creating some kind of movement.
I didn't have a dark childhood or anything major that I've overcome - nothing at all that important to share.
The best I’ve got to offer is shouting obscenities during youth sports and getting stuck in a toilet just before giving birth.
While taking time away from writing for the last ¾ of the year did give me some space to get our new house decorated and to do some volunteer work, it also pushed my ADHD “quirks” to disturbing and sinister levels and, up until just last week, I found myself surrounded by piles of unfinished projects, and a gaggle of irritated friends and family members.
My friend, Sarah, urged me to get back to writing, convinced it’s what I needed. She was right, of course, because she’s always right. But getting some distance from work helped me figure some stuff out.
Here are four things I learned from my writing hiatus:
1. I need a treadmill work station. I’ve lost a little weight during the last six months or so, and it’s certainly not because I’ve been dieting. I’ve been juning around all day each day, going from room to room, hanging something on a wall, then realizing a painted canvas would look perfect on the adjacent wall, so I pull out paints and a spare canvas (everyone has spare canvases, yes?) paint one coat, then clean the droplets of paint off the floor, and - noticing dog-hair-dust-bunnies - I pull out the vacuum cleaner, and as I pass a mirror, I realize how pasty I look, so I stop vacuuming to go throw on some makeup, and then figure - I don’t want to waste a freshly made-up face, so I’ll run into town for a Target run, then argue with Mark because he’s annoyed by having to step over vacuum cleaner cords and pots of paint.
But the last several days - since I’m back at the keyboard - I’m sitting much of the day, and I miss moving around (these are not words I ever fathomed I’d say, and I’m tempted to check my temperature, except the thermometer is downstairs and I don’t miss moving around that much).
2. I discovered how therapeutic it is for me to write. Blogging is almost like a journal where I’m able to sort through things that needle at me during the night. (Am I ever going to hang the spice racks in the pantry? I should get with some high school friends to plan our reunion for next summer. Crap, I never made an appointment to have this tooth looked at. I wonder if my foot skin is ever going to stop peeling off after that exfoliating foot mask?)
Thoughts come at me like flashes out of nowhere, and distract me from the one that came before it. Writing helps me put the thoughts in order, air out any dirty laundry (mine or that of my friends and family), and saves me money I’d otherwise spend on Adderall or therapy.
3. I realize I've gained focus in my subject matter. Before The Break (from here forward, we’ll call this BTB), I wondered, “what’s the purpose of the bullsh*t I write?” I mean, I poke fun at myself for my idiosyncrasies, but there’s only so much self-deprecation one person can put herself through, and besides - how helpful-to-others can it possibly be for me to talk about my sweaty hairline or having an almost-crash in the parent pick-up line at my kid’s school?
But now it’s all so clear to me: my subject matter is universal. I love to write about trying to muck my way through the messy parts of life, and we all have messy parts of life.
It’s ok that I’m not solving world hunger, as much as I’d love to, or having some global freaking impact. I’m just not that person, and that’s ok. I just want to speak to the heart of people who want desperately to have their sh*t together (or at least look like they have it together), but laugh about the fact that they don’t.
Or laugh about the fact that I don’t. I’m totally cool with that.
4. My son says my writing is more relatable than it was BTB (see #3 above, if you’ve been a naughty little skimmer and missed what that stands for). This is huge. My son has very high standards, and has always turned his nose up at the lack of grammatical eloquence in my posts, which is exactly what I always thought was the magic ingredient for being relatable.
I asked him about it, so that I could find out what’s changed:
Me: Can you tell me what it is that you find more relatable about my writing, now? I mean - I know it was sort-of a turn-off to you in the past that there wasn’t a tremendous amount of grammatical eloquence in my writing - so what’s changed?
Him: Ooh, well what’s changed is that I’m not reading a bunch of stuff, anymore, that has a lot of grammatical eloquence - like textbooks and stuff like that - so I get it, now.
Me: Oh, so it doesn’t have anything to do with me, really.
Him: Oh God, no, nothing’s changed with you - you haven’t improved at all.
He’s joking*, of course.
So I’ve decided to stop looking at myself all judgy in the mirror for taking almost a year off.
My burnout wasn’t just from my blog or other writing I was doing at the time, or even my other projects. It was the combination of all of it.
I was burned out on trying to do it all and be the winner at everything because I thrive on impressing people and hearing people fawn all over me with, “Ohmygosh, you are so amazing!” or “You do everything! You’re the bee's knees!”, which, in truth, nobody’s ever said to me, but here’s hoping that someday…!!
It’s really sickening how desperate for approval I am. That’s a post for another day.
Now you! Feel like you’re burning from both ends? Any way you can take a break from any of it - even from all of it?
*Wait, he is joking, right?