So today is one of those days when I can’t seem to get anything checked off my loooooong list of consulting projects. Truthfully, these lulls in the action occur more often than I would like.
I took a few days off work last week, and am now at the starting point of a bunch of new projects and new phases of previous projects. For approximately eight different clients. I feel pulled in a lot of different directions.
This is when working for oneself gets challenging. A sense of urgency is needed to get this operation kicked into high gear. But the reality is that there is nothing that absolutely must get finished today. My schedule is pretty much my own, the deck is inviting, my hip aches from all of the gardening I’ve been doing, the house is incredibly messy, I have a prescription to pick up, and I have to go do the milk run to pick up the boys beginning in an hour. All of which makes it very difficult to decide on a course of action and make some tangible progress.
As I survey the list, some of the projects require big chunks of concentrated time (grants research, writing proposals) and others demand a spark of inspiration (designing logos/ brands, writing a guest blog). Neither of which can be accomplished in a 45-minute timeframe.
So how do I get past feeling stuck? How do I get inspired?
Sometimes I simply have to try a number of mundane things–perhaps walking around the block, organizing my desk, changing locations, getting a letter into the mail, planning dinner, taking care of scheduling an appointment–anything to generate some kind of movement forward. Sometimes I have to do something creative which comes more easily to me on that particular day, i.e. writing this daily blog post or designing a party invitation. Sometimes I just have to hope for a more productive day, tomorrow.
And sometimes I have to allow a deadline to loom a little closer.
The really great thing about getting older–and having the hindsight of experience to draw upon–is that you can remember multiple times when you felt worried about something similar in the past. And you can also recall that everything turned out ok. In spite of your certainty at the time that a disastrous outcome was inevitable.
When I was writing papers in university I used to get freaked out if I didn’t have my thesis idea or the paper started at least a week in advance (I know, I know…some of you procrastinators out there are laughing at me right now.) My ideas wouldn’t come together and everything would feel incredibly vague and unclear for days and days and days. Then, just as I thought literally nothing useful would appear, my subsconscious, creative, brainy mind would coalesce everything I had been thinking about while awake and asleep into something wonderful. Boom! The solution to my problem would suddenly be clear and the organized thoughts and writing would flow generously from there. It felt miraculous, supernatural, awe-inspiring.
So, I have learned that when it comes to focus and inspiration, it is not particularly helpful to force things to go according to a prescribed timetable (though obviously sometimes I don’t have another option.) I can pay attention and absorb what’s happening around me, but the actual inspiration is out of my control. I have to trust that it will arrive when it’s ready. Jeremy and I have talked about how–in the realm of creative pursuits especially--this percolating time is an essential aspect of the process. Not usually billable, but necessary nevertheless. And if we anticipate this, we can temper some of the anguish we feel while waiting.
So, though I have not yet started the guest blog post on inspiration which I need to send to Gina by tomorrow, I’m not overly concerned. And the other reams of projects to begin and finish? I’m frustrated and annoyed, but I am not panicked. I know that at the right time, everything will get done.
I just have to accept that today’s a day for percolating.