As I was planning my weekly schedule this past Sunday evening, I had planned to write about how to tame emotions and ignite focus. As a creative person, I have struggled with a wide range of emotions as I go from project to project: insecurity, fear, anxiety, mania, flow, excitement, and dread. It’s amazing how difficult working on a project can be.
About an hour ago, I was reading Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields and he artfully dismantled my feelings that I was the only person who struggled with these emotions. He tells several stories about how creativity can sap your brain power and leave you vulnerable to emotions as well as a loss of willpower (which explains my Hot Tamales addiction). Because the brain is easily fatigued, Fields provides two reasons why this should cause everyone to take notice:
What we often experience as resistance, desire, distraction, burnout, fatigue, frustration, and anxiety in the process of creating something from nothing may, at least in part, be PFC [prefrontal cortex] depletion that reduces our willpower to zero and makes it near impossible to commit to the task at hand . . . . In addition, what so many creators experience as a withering ability to handle the anxiety, doubt, and uncertainty as a project nears completion may actually be self-induced rather than process-induced suffering (p. 56).
Lightbulb moment: This explains a lot of my emotional struggles the past year. But what I love is that it hasn’t been the work that has made me suffer, it has been me. I have been forcing myself to work longer hours, with less breaks, eating horrible (although tasty at times) food, and not working on passion projects.
What is the solution? Fields suggests, through a literary hat tip to Tony Schwartz, that we work in 45-90 minute bursts, then refuel our prefrontal cortex by walking, relaxing, or engaging in activities that refresh us. In addition, he talks about the importance of maintaining a daily ritual for the purpose of gaining momentum through difficult times.
What does your daily ritual look like? Are you planning every moment or do you give yourself time to breathe?
Thank you Mr. Fields.