“Can’t you just skip it?” one of them asks.
I’m talking with my weekly Intention Setting group and have just spent several minutes describing both my mental fatigue and all the writing that I nevertheless need to do this week.
All three projects have short deadlines. One of them can’t be late. The second one can, but it’s the most important. The third is this essay--which I guess technically I could skip. But I don’t want to, because...
“Well...I skipped the last one,” I say. And it’s possible that I’m inventing this memory, but I feel them nod their heads in weary understanding--skipping just isn’t gonna work.
The thing is, when this kind of thing happens, the path forward is relatively clear. Our brains need rest, so we have to find a way to do a good job without doing all the work we’d originally imagined we should/could/would do.
Don’t get me wrong--figuring this out takes some work. If you have trouble doing this on your own, it helps to call on friends and colleagues. They’ll help you think expansively about how to shave down what you need to do.
But honestly, I find that’s not the hardest part. The hardest part comes afterwards--when we think about what it means that we’ve decided to do less. What does it say about me as a writer and as a coach? Should I have muscled through? How’d I even get to the point where so many deadlines collided? Many more questions spring to mind. And all of them are a variation of What’s wrong with me?
And that’s the most challenging part: the discomfort we feel when we put our health, not even ahead of, but just on par with our work. It’s a discomfort that lingers for hours and sometimes days after our decision. And knowing how to bear that discomfort is a writer’s most important skill--and honestly, the work of a lifetime.
At this time of the year, we have the least amount of energy but all the things are due. We know how to bear the discomfort of cramming all the work in. But how do we bear the discomfort of letting some of it go?
This essay has an answer, one I didn’t expect.
Check it out. See what you think. Then find some work you can let go.
Want the monthly InkWell blog delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to Inkling, a bite-sized, monthly newsletter filled with ideas, inspiration, and information for academic writers.