Left Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net; Right Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
To people who have not had the pleasure of being overwhelmed to the point of breaking… consider yourself lucky. Very lucky. It was and is one of the most difficult time periods of my life. It’s a burden I’m still fighting to work through day by day. A good allusion might be to Atlas and holding up the world, because that is 100% what that shit feels like.
But let’s Tarantino this a second and go back to the beginning. What happened? Well, when you are you’re own boss, employee, client AND worst critic… lot’s of things can go wrong. You set deadlines for yourself, you don’t meet them because of reasons X, Y, Z and suddenly there’s ten-times the pressure you already had. It’s exponential. Because you’re looking from within and without and basically having a conversation with yourself on your own failings. It’s kind of like this:
Boss: “Hey me, you didn’t meet that deadline.”
Employee: “Yeah, I know, boss. Shit just came up. Not much I could do. I will work double-time to get that going.”
Critic: “You suck.”
Employee: “Shut up, Critic. I got this.”
Client: “Um… excuse me, but when am I going to get this product delivered?”
Boss: “ASAP, sir. We have are best on it.”
Critic: “If by best you mean the absolute worst… then yeah, you do.”
Boss: “He’s right, you know… you got to bust some serious ass and prove you aren’t full of fail, son.”
Employee: “Sigh, yes sir. I’ll get right on it.”
Client: “So… when am I getting it again?”
Boss & Employee: “Soon.”
Critic: “Never… he sucks.”
Employee: “Fuck my life.”
Now imagine having that conversation internally ALL THE FUCKING TIME. I’m not talking once in a while, or when you hit a block or a dry spell. I mean 24/7, 365 days a year. You’re working, you’re living, you’re trying to relax… doesn’t matter. That spectre is just haunting the back of your mind with that freaking recorder from Home Alone 2 and he’s laughing maniacally as he keeps clicking play over and over and over and over.
And you know it’s bullshit. It’s just you’re mind. What boss is there? What timeline? If you’re getting paid for what you’re doing by SOMEONE… then you got something to worry over. But you’re WORKING. There’s a difference. When you are doing what I do, which is just amateur design and work, it’s more a creative outlet with the pipe dream of someone going, “Hey… that’s pretty bad-ass.” You aren’t in that situation of you HAVE TO GET THIS DONE OR YOU’RE FIRED!
But that’s what it feels like. Only you’re being fired from your personal life. That’s what happened to me.
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
To the few people and friends who have read my blog from the times of yore… I do a lot of different creative projects. And quite frankly, adding the blog to that overwhelmed me. I was trying to maintain a ridiculous schedule between my life, my work, my creative pursuits, my need to have decompression time and the blog. It just was too much. I started missing my own pre-set deadlines for having things done or having certain projects to a certain point. And every time I missed one, I was beating myself up. And then it got added onto the stack of holy fuck that I already had. Eventually, I shut down. And I mean completely.
I haven’t worked on ANY of my games or worlds in over a year. I totally abandoned everything: my writing, my music, my blog, my design. All of it, Kevin… all of it. The mania side of my bi-polar needed an outlet though, and that became my obsession into the tabletop miniature war game that is Warmachines and Hordes.
The upside to this, is that it’s a wonderful hobby for me, and one I can move at a snails pace and not really feel like I’ve lost much. It was definitely what I needed. But I started suffering from another problem after several months… It wasn’t challenging me.
Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Wait, what? Yeah, I know… I just complained about how overwhelmed I felt only to immediately commenting about the EXACT OPPOSITE. Yeah, welcome to being bi-polar and the concept of living life in extremes.
I was missing a large part of my life because I was blocking so much of it out. I was focused on only a few things… my wife, my work and Warmahordes (as the two games are called typically). It was peaceful. But it was too peaceful. I got lazy… REALLY lazy. It was so easy to just say, “I don’t need to go back to my writing, I’ll just put together some more miniatures and maybe paint, maybe not. No dramas.” Worse part was that it took me a long while to realize I’d swung so far to the other extreme. I was now unmotivated and indifferent.
So here we are, over a year later, and I’m trying to bring the extremes into balance. We’ll see how this goes. But first, I’d thought I’d share some thoughts and steps I’ve been doing to try to find that balance, in case anyone else ever gets into this kind of situation:
1) STOP EVERYTHING. Seriously. I don’t mean quit your job and ignore your spouse. I mean set down that massive lists of projects for a day, take a step back, and BREATHE. I can’t tell you just how important taking just a DAY to focus on the minor details of your life and letting some of the more major ones just lie for a bit. Now obviously some things you can’t do this with. You can’t just stop taking care of your child, for instance. But you get the idea. Take a breather. It’s OK TO NOT WORK EVERY HOUR OF THE DAY. More importantly it’s OK TO DO NOTHING ONCE IN A WHILE. With the absolute hell of day to day life that most of us “normal” folk deal with, we deserve an hour here or there to just close our eyes and fucking veg out.
2) Prioritize, prioritize, PRIORITIZE. Let’s face it, if you are HALF as chaotic, ADD or scatterbrained as I am, you have like twenty BAJILLION ideas and projects you want to work on. Write those fuckers down, organize them and more importantly PRIORITIZE THEM. Sometimes, its ok to put off writing that in-depth article about your gerbil’s afternoon snack because you need to get some work done on that 18 tier birdhouse you’ve been meaning to build…
3) Reach an agreement with yourself. I mean it. You have fifteen voices in your head and all are saying something different? Have a fucking committee meeting and get that shit sorted. Accept the fact that it’s ok to not have strict deadlines on EVERYTHING. Come to an agreement with yourself about number 1 and 2… Seriously. You have to be on the same page in your head and that sometimes is the absolute hardest thing in the world to do, but it’s maybe the most important. Nevermind, it IS the most important.
1) Choose one MAYBE two things to slowly start working back into. Like for me, it’s this blog. That was my one thing. I’m still focused on my miniatures, but I’m adding the blog back in. And even though it’s been a month since my last hiatus post, here I am. And I’m not stressing. But I feel great because I’m doing something MORE. But it’s baby steps. Don’t just dive back in with both feet. That pool could be covered in fire or something… I dunno. You have to view the landscape first. Check things out, toe in, and when you feel more comfortable, step into that fucker and start swimming again.
2) Set a goal. Not a deadline… a goal. There’s a miracle waiting for you in the world of language called positivity. Words are the biggest weapon (and inspiration) we as a species possess. They can incite everything from rage to joy so powerful you can’t help but cry. George Carlin once said that the quality of our thoughts and ideas can only be as good as the quality of our language. What true fucking statement. Here’s how it works. Setting a deadline is making a hard point where you HAVE to be finished… or else. Else what? Doesn’t matter. That’s its connotation. It’s negative language. You have until THIS DATE to get THIS DONE. On the contrasting side, setting a GOAL is positive language. You are setting a point you WANT to achieve. You might set a time for it, but it’s not something that necessarily has any pressure to it. It’s just… I want to have this done by end of the year. Goal. Positive. You WANT to do this, not you HAVE to. That’s the power of positivity. That’s the power of positive LANGUAGE and positive THOUGHT. Use that shit.
That’s it for now. It feels good to write again. Let’s do this again some time.