Redirecting Your Energy

As is well known to anyone who’s followed the blog for a long time, the guy who writes it is a broken man who becomes crippled at the mere sight of flower petals. Allergens are my greatest enemy, and they’ve often made getting up in the morning difficult. Hell, today they made getting up in the afternoon difficult as I temporarily fell asleep face first on my desk. Generally that means that I’ve got a touch of derailed productivity, the need to step away from certain tasks to chase down others instead. And, despite my own advice, sometimes I still fall into the trap I described back when I first mentioned the phenomenon.  It’s easy to think that you’re not doing your best if you give into some physical ailments, even if everyone around you tells you that it’s okay.

But, having finally come to realize that I was just being silly in trying to chase down my original task for the day, I’ve accepted that I should have listened to that guy hopped up on benadryl many months ago. I shouldn’t push myself to do a task that I know isn’t going to be getting my best effort. I shouldn’t damage the work just to appease my guilt over my physical failings. There are other things to be done, other tasks worth my time, which I can still do even if my head feels like it’s been stuffed with cotton and can only be relieved by the blessings of the MyPurMist given to me for my birthday.

Slowly becoming more man than machine, just don’t let me buy a Navage.

But then, a question presents itself: What the hell do I do then?

Knowing Your Limits

One of the biggest problems in finding an alternate task when you’re sick as a creative person is that how we feel generally influences what we create. Our emotions, ability to focus, and raw energy are vital to the end results. You have to be invested, interested, and sometimes forgiving. And, frankly, that isn’t going to happen when you’re surviving off of nothing but heated water vapor, migraine tablets, antihistamines and lotion (I won’t go into why I need that today, but it’s not what you think). So there are a couple questions that people as stubborn as me have to ask themselves before they try to power on.

First of all, what do you feel like doing? There are some aspects of a project that just shouldn’t be tackled if you aren’t emotionally there for it. Someone who has no patience for anything will definitely not have patience for their own work in editing. Someone who’s miserable may not feel like being  “light” and “fluffy” with something upbeat and positive. And someone who has no real focus is unlikely to be ready to do some more detail oriented work. So identifying just what emotional and mental resources you have available is a good first step. And, sometimes, you can work with even things that shouldn’t be useful.

Misery is an incredibly useful emotion if you have a good idea on how to use it. Darker emotions can make interesting stories, poetry, and even comedy if you’re willing to go the distance. After all, some of the greatest creative minds in history were terribly miserable people and for at least the day that you’re sick you can be just as miserable as they were. And misery loves company, so if you’re really good you can bring the rest of the world down with you for having the gall not to be suffering alongside you. Or you can try to make the world happier… if that’s your thing.

Another consideration is whether or not you have the focus to make a good show of anything detail oriented. Some people can be incredibly focused on mundane tasks while they’re sick, others can’t. It’s important to know just where you sit because that determines whether you should be doing something silly like editing while on the verge of falling asleep. If it’s something that won’t have any other eyes on it, you can at least take a dry run, but it’s probably a bad idea to do anything that requires being able to read if the background burns your eyes or the world’s as blurry as a drunk driving PSA.

And, lastly, the question becomes what you can really become invested in. This is in part a trial of focus, but you should never really pick up a task that requires your unwavering attention if you’re currently wavering and lacking attention. The instinct for people who need to consider stuff like this is to try to power through that, but the fact you need to consider this and fight your instincts means that you’re probably not as mentally prepared as you think you are. There are some projects, first drafts in particular, that are forgiving of your other problems if you happen to be really passionate about it even on what feels to be your death bed. And, if you’re really energetic about that, it’s probably the only thing you’re going to be energetic about for the foreseeable future.

I admit, it’s surreal that I’ve got a process for figuring out what I can and can’t work on. I know from experience and conversations that most people feeling as bad as I am would have just decided to take the illness as a sign to stay down. But I also know I can’t be the only one who has to think about things like this and talk myself down from tackling the biggest project I can find. Parts of me still feel a little ashamed for a little bit of phoning it in. But the rest of me is just going to have to be content today doing prep work for next week, picking at a script that doesn’t technically have a due date, and humming along to this…

As my breathing is supported by a raspy hissing machine over my face.

(I write novels… but not today. In the meantime, you can shame me for slacking on twitter.)