I don’t know where this image comes from — my apologies, as it was forwarded by a friend. Mostly, for the cat. But the sentiment is something my grandmother always says, and it’s true: whatever you’re going through, good or bad, it won’t last forever. And not only for the obvious reasons (like death). Life has its own movement, its own evolution. We’re compelled to change, whether we want to or not.
I’ve told this story before, but here’s the two-second recap: a couple years ago I wanted to re-prioritize — focus on me, as opposed to the work. So I did that, and everything turned out swell. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there was upheaval. Absolutely no plan. My social skills had gotten rusty. I had to dust off my pluck and gumption. But I put my heart into the transition, and worked hard for me (in a different way than I had before).
The problem, of course, is that I didn’t do much writing during that period. Comics, yes — novels, no. It wasn’t just time that was the issue — I had plenty of that. It was that my habits had altered. I’d had a routine, pretty much unchanged for eight years. Eight years. With limited deviation.
Dude. I was set in my ways.
Lest you think I was a total stick-in-the-mud, however, let me assure you that changing the routine was not hard to do. But learning how to work again outside the routine? Learning how to fall into a new, productive schedule that would best fit my altered life? That was hard. I felt like I was starting from scratch, and in some ways that was true. Imagine you have to learn a new dance form after eight years of doing the same one, over and over? Different muscles, different outlook, whole new set of training exercises. The goal is the same, though: dance, expression, art.
How did I manage? I just had to throw myself at the wall until I stuck. I tried getting up super early. I slopped over to coffee houses, bookstore cafes. I cut out blogging. I meditated, plotted, took long walks to clear my head — I sat with my computer on the couch, trying to recapture the groove. It started to come back for real after I began going to the Cambridge Public Library every morning — two hours of work, then lunch. Very productive. I installed “Freedom” which was even more of a life saver: amazing what cutting myself off the internet does for work.
And it all finally came back. I started to write again, productively. Slowly, but surely. No internet, I must admit, was the key. But even if I’d figured that out earlier (you can all respond with a resounding, “d’uh”), I’m not sure it would have immediately helped. I had to mess up and experiment, and figure it out — in the same way that I was figuring out the rest of my life, apart from the work. I muddled, and muddled through.
One of many important lessons I learned during this time: When you’re in the middle of a big change, and you’re frustrated and wondering what the heck you’re doing (even though you know you’re on the right path), be gentle to yourself. Don’t punish yourself for daring to try something new, whether in life or work. This is just a stepping stone.
This too shall pass. We too shall pass.