My tank is nearing ‘E.’
As for many of you, too much is going on, and it’s exacerbating a co-existing condition of always being tired.
It’s hard to be creative when you’re exhausted, when your gears are grinding, when all you want to do is binge cookies, fries and RuPaul’s Drag Race. Amirite?
Lately, I’ve been saying ‘no’ to things that take too much effort. Writing essays takes a lot of effort, even for prolific writers. Especially for prolific writers. We are trained monkeys, private dancers, wizards with tricks up our sleeves. But I have no more tricks. My feet hurt and I don’t wanna dance.
But then, again: I’ve written 100,000-word drafts. What’s a thousand-word essay?
When you’re tired and your feet hurt, essays become Game of Thrones books 1-4.
When asked to write something for CrimeReads, I wanted to say ‘no’ because I’m tired. But I couldn’t say ‘no’ to CrimeReads and Molly because. But even though I said, ‘yes,’ I didn’t know what I’d write about. I didn’t have anything to say, and if you know me, I don’t speak or Tweet if I have nothing to say.
This is the perfect topic, though, for my essay-under-the-gun. Because the question is: What do you do when you’re tired, but you have to get up from the couch, brush off those cookie crumbs and shake your money-maker?
Burn-out is for real, bro. Some of you are going through what I’m going through: writing a book a year (and some short stories and other stuff) while also raising a kid, working a day job, living in America and surviving pandemics and so on.
How do you box against all that to be creative again? Here are a few suggestions:
Don’t. There’s an old African American proverb that states, “I ain’t gotta do nothing ‘cept stay Black and die.” This is truth. If you don’t feel like going to the social, don’t. If you don’t feel like washing dishes, let them bitches stay in the sink. To help ease my dirty sink anxiety—because we get those stupid gnats—I bought these apple-fruit fly trap things. Now, when I visit the kitchen, I don’t see the gnats. For real: my name ain’t Alice and nobody’s paying me to keep the kitchen sparkling clean.
Disconnect. Twitter ain’t paying you. Lurk and scroll, but don’t feel that you must engage. Screw people. Keep your thoughts to yourself. Keep your summer pictures to yourself. And then? Leave that tab and find another website. One of my favorite non-news websites is The Impulsive Buy.
Eat. My daughter’s been ordering these fancy cookies from Crumbl. Such lovely combinations of butter and sugar. Sweets aren’t your thing? Then, find a place that fancies up French fries. Order Garrett’s popcorn on-line. Go on-line and find a new restaurant. Drive to a new part of town with different choices of food.
Combine. Do laundry while binging true-crime documentaries. I have a very hard time with ‘don’t-ing,’ so doing laundry while indulging in doc after doc is a perfect compromise.
Enjoy someone else’s art. And I’m not talking about reading—for me, reading is only relaxing during my true summer vacation. Immerse yourself in art like the Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo exhibits. Get lost in a videogame and leave the main quest to just… wander. Walk a trail and take deep breaths. Take in a concert. Go to the movies. Yes, you are a creator—but someone else has created something just for you. Enjoy it!
Spend time with friends. Put out a card table and play spades. Get mad cuz your partner reneged, or someone stacked a bunch of Reverses and Take Fours right before you were about to say “Uno.” Do the Wobble. Drink cheap liquor. Shout ‘Hey, that’s my jam!’ when a song comes on that reminds you of the time when you were young and fly and barely dressed. You may not be young, but you are still fly and you can still back that thang up and wear Daisy Dukes and drink a youngster under the table. White Claw? GTFO. Boone’s Strawberry Hill, son, and whatever the hell they put in Jungle Juice that sloshed around that big orange cooler back in the day.
Sit on the toilet. That’s it. Just sit. I have a dog, two cats and a kid, and if they’re not bothering me, I enjoy quiet time behind the bathroom door.
Take the long way home. Don’t rush to that house filled with dirty-dish gnats, litter boxes and food that you have to cook. Listen to that podcast. Let that song on the radio end. Enjoy the wonders of being alone in the car with Jill Scott, Steely Dan or the My Favorite Murder ladies. This may be the last time you’re alone until you sneak quiet time on the toilet.
Create a win jar. On January 1, 2022, I started a win jar. Every time I’ve completed an important task (finishing a novel or getting my kid into college), I write that win on a slip of paper, fold it and drop it in a jar on my desk. It reminds me that no matter how stuck I feel, I’ve done things.
Let your mind go flabby—it may lead your eye to see something that you’ve never seen before. You’ll feel new feelings, learn new things, find something else to get angry about. Tasting fancy cookie flavors and drinking mastica for the first time will linger with you and you’ll wonder how to fit mastica and coconut lime cookies in a crime story.
On my recent vacation to Greece, we enjoyed a sunset tour. The catamaran made two stops to pick up passengers—the stop where we boarded, and then, a stop about 20 minutes away. Together, we all sailed that evening, eating, drinking, swimming in the very cold Aegean Sea. Once the sun set, the boat made its way to the second stop first–and a lot of people disembarked. Too many people disembarked. We reached the first port—our port 20 minutes later… and many travelers who left with us had disembarked at that second port. The wrong port. And I wondered: How did those vacationers get back to our port at 9:30 pm? What did those arguments between partners, families or besties sound like? What do you do when you’re stuck on a little island in Greece? I still wonder what those folks did that night—and I’m sure, years from now, I’ll write a story inspired by this.
Step away from writing to be the writer that you are. Look away and wander another path to revive yourself, to learn new stories, to meet new characters. Writing thousands of words in addition to doing the other things you do requires a recharge, requires you to say ‘no.’
Requires you to ‘don’t.’
The writing will be there.
This is now 1,171 words.