It’s winter here in Texas, which means almost next to nothing since Texas is a female state. Today, I think I will be SPRING! No…winter. Wait, why not BOTH?
While the temperature is all over, and most of the time we have no clue what to wear each day (aside from one of everything), the plants and animals at least seem to have a plan. They go dormant, hibernate and basically take time to REST.
**Sorry about the four-letter word.
Rest might seem an odd topic for the first week of January when everyone is ALL SYSTEMS GO. Yet, failure to appreciate the importance of R&R is why I believe so many people fail to ever reach those goals, meet those resolutions.
We can fall into all-or-nothing thinking and that is a fast track to burnout.
Ask me how I know.
Last time, we talked about New Year’s Resolutions and why it’s imperative to choose our pain. Because anything worth having or doing in life involves some sort of pain.
We exercise agency when we can embrace the process as much if not more than that glorious—and often short-lived—summit. Now that we’ve addressed pain, let’s talk about peace.
Trees go dormant for a lot of reasons, but the best one is TO STAY ALIVE. Metabolism slows and the tree goes into a sort of hibernation to survive the cold months and low sunlight levels.
But trees also go dormant because it’s impossible to be fruitful 365 days a year. There has to be some time to REST.
Plants are smarter than some of us *points at self*
Ferris Jabr wrote an excellent article in Scientific American, Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime that I recommend reading in its entirety. Our modern Western culture’s puritanical devotion to chronic busyness, in my POV, is nothing short of psychotic.
Though study after study empirically demonstrates that humans are not created to be ‘perpetual doing machines,’ the data does little to deter our world’s increasing determination to pile more on our plate.
Multi-tasking, email overload, meetings, meetings to discuss meetings, deadlines, through-lines, pipelines, downlines.
Our workplace has begun reflecting our world…borderless. The 9-5 workday is relic of our not-so-distant-past. In 1989, we got mail…in a mailbox or in a ‘finite’ In-Box (which was a LITERAL BOX). We could leave work at work, read our mail and see our in-boxes actually EMPTY.
This gave us time to rest. Really rest.
Now? We wake daily to digital avalanches. Data poured over us from reservoirs with limitless capacity, all dumped into a human brain that can only hold so much. Our In-Boxes never empty…ever.
I gave up on my Yahoo e-mail and finally just let it go feral a few years ago. It’s easily at over 100,000 messages by now. Every SUPER IMPORTANT message promises to only take a couple minutes.
Now multiply a couple minutes by twenty or fifty. We maybe make it through our URGENT messages just in time for…another meeting. We eat breakfast and lunch over our keyboards or in our cars while listening to voicemails and memos.
By the end of the ‘work day,’ we aren’t even close to ‘finished,’ but frankly we wouldn’t recognize finished if it peed on our leg.
Finished is the Bigfoot of the modern world.
Since we aren’t ‘finished’ we take work home. Work bulges over its boundaries into our marriages and family lives where we check our phones instead of paying attention to what our significant other is saying or our children are asking. We do all of this because we are ‘working hard,’ but are we?
Yes, I am a Corporate America Refugee.
This same ideology has oozed into the schools. Children are plugged into iPods and tablets and computers all day with no play. They come home and the homework is often another two to three hours.
As they get older, this additional work seeps into weekends and holidays. All the while, rest is moved further and further down the priority list.
Then, if we add in how human ‘socializing’ has shifted over the past decade, we have a Molotov Cocktail for a meltdown or burnout. I grew up in the 80s where every academic hailed how computers would usher in Utopia. Get your kids on a computer early, the earlier the better.
Companies sold widgets and gadgets to parents and schools so young malleable minds could leap frog into the future and reap the boundless…
This probably sounds insane coming from a ‘social media expert,’ but social media is making us more antisocial than ever before. Granted this is merely my professional opinion, but I stand by it.
When we do get a chance to rest, where do we choose to GO? We scroll Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever the social platform de jour happens to be.
We’re not hibernating, we’re hiding. Hiding from responsibility, overwhelming email chains, all the demands that assail from every angle.
Like rats in some deranged experiment we tap buttons, get superficial dopamine highs off likes and loves and emojis. Speaking of emojis, we tell our young children to ‘use their words,’ and meanwhile we communicate using happy faces and anthropomorphic piles of poo.
Instead of having coffee and talking and, more importantly, listening, we trade authentic and healthy social time for the artificial easy substitute. Aspartame adventures, saccharin smiles, and partially hydrogenated conversations.
Instead of rest, we scroll and tap and like and on and on and we’re as bad as a toddler who refuses to part with a pacifier. If, for a second, we can’t find our phone, check our messages, look at what ‘amazingness’ everyone else has posted on InstaSnapFace…we panic.
No Rest for the Weary
Invariably, all this busyness has a cost. One cost is that stress, like alcohol, impairs our prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain we use for making sound decisions.
There’s a reason we have designated drivers if we’re going to imbibe while out on the town. The reason is because after one or two drinks we might not ‘feel’ impaired, thus because we don’t FEEL impaired, we make bad decisions.
Same thing with all this busyness.
We’re constantly checking email, Messenger, messages left on 42 social sites and this behavior—like drugs or booze—impairs our ability to discern we’re tired…or that we’re teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
We also make a lot of bad decisions.
***This explains the success of sites like Tinder SO much #LandOfBadDecisions
Fundamentally, the speed of our lives isn’t allowing enough interstitial time—code for REST BREAKS—for us to process all the influx. Downtime is critical for us to make sense of all the information we’ve ‘taken in.’ We sort through ideas, tie loose connections, note patterns, and ‘hot wash’ our decisions.
When we rest, our brain shifts into another mode that sifts through conversations, seeks ways we could improve, where we messed up, what we could do better.
In ways it reminds me of my childhood when my mom helped me clean my room (since FEMA was unavailable).
She’d dump out all my dresser drawers and we would sort through clothes that no longer fit, needed repair or were plain worn out. Then, the good stuff, we folded and organized and it made room for NEW STUFF.
Same with the toys.
We’d sift through what was broken to trash, or what didn’t interest me for donation.
I’d always find Barbies and Barbie clothes (and a crap ton of Barbie shoes) all buried places where I couldn’t enjoy them. Mom and I would return pieces of games back into their correct boxes so, instead of the games simply taking up space, I could actually play them with my friends.
Our brains do the same thing. Rest allows the mind to sort, sift, repair, reconnect, and get JIGGY creating and thinking and innovating!
We’re In Charge of Rest
The irony of all this is that we’re the ones choosing to run about like kids hopped up on Dr. Pepper and Pixie Sticks.
Just say, ‘SIT!’
Now, I get that a lot of us can’t fully control our workplace @$$hattery, so we’ll simply have to accept what we can’t control. Ah, but when we DO have time off, we can use our interstitial time more wisely.
***Yes, I learned a new term and it makes me sound super smart. ‘I have to go manage my interstitial time,’ sounds so much cooler and grown-up than ‘I need my blankie.’
Suffice to say, I’m all for some goofing off on Facebook or YouTube. I do that myself. But my advice is to use a timer and limit how long we’re in cyberspace.
We also should heed how deep we go down the Wormhole of Distraction, lest we get the bends when we decide to suddenly surface for air.
I’m an introvert and social media is great because I can pace how much people-ing I do. Social media permits me to connect with fantastic people I’d meet no other way. Additionally, I work from home and also homeschool. On-line, I can talk to other adults…and discuss something other than Nazis (Spawn has been on a WWII kick for a YEAR).
Facebook gives me a place to laugh and chat and take a break, but it’s definitely an area best managed with strong boundaries.
Cyberspace is like the sun. Some exposure is good, even healthy. But too much? We fry and DIE.
I’m sure you’ve heard of pain management, but REST is brain management. A lot of y’all might be like me and believe if you’re not doing something every minute of every waking hour you’re—GASP—lazy! *screams* Yet, again neuroscience to the rescue.
Our brains frankly never turn off.
All the writers TESTIFY!
In fact, when we rest, nap, sleep, or even take power naps or do mini-meditations, our brains shift over to what’s referred to as the default mode network.
According to Jabr’s article (above):
‘…the default mode network is especially active in creative people. It’s believed that the default mode network may be able to integrate more information from a wide range of brain regions in more complex ways than when the brain is consciously working through a problem.’
This is why I tell consulting clients with a plot problem to give me a night. I do my best problem-solving when I sleep 😉 .
And after all of this, trust me, I’m preaching about rest with one finger pointed at y’all and three back at myself.
For those who’ve followed my blog for a long time, you might have noticed I haven’t been blogging as frequently the past two months.
I needed to REST.
Refuel the Muse
How many of you have been on fumes for months? Ignoring the warning lights? Hey, been there and done that. Decided to change my ways.
During and after NaNoWriMo, I didn’t get on social media as much. As an introvert, socializing takes a lot of energy. Also—me being me—inside words take energy to remain inside words.
I still blogged because self-discipline doesn’t come to me naturally. It requires maintenance. So I still posted, just not as often. Y’all deserve my best, and I was too burned out to do that multiple times a week.
I’d rather post one longer FANTASTIC post that’s a great use of your limited and valuable cyber-time than simply slap up post after post of fluff out of a misdirected need to ‘be omnipresent.’
If I fail to post ONE week an y’all forget me, I need to be a better blogger 😉 .
Over the holidays I slept…a lot. I meditated and worked out hard at the gym. I discovered the Meditation Studio App on my iPhone and AM IN LOVE! There are guided meditations for everything—sleep, anxiety, joy, eating, pain management, work, performance, gratitude and on and on.
***I need guided meditations because if I have to sit still and do nothing? I’ll be playing with spit bubbles inside a minute.
Anyway, this app has exercises as short as a couple of minutes and as long as almost an hour. What I love is that I can take a break, put in headphones, and recharge in ten minutes or even less.
I can choose to add ambient noise or silence (in THIS house I turn up the thunderstorm LOUD).
App crush over…
All this to say, make goals. Set resolutions. If we dream big, we need to daydream bigger. Instead of ‘dressed for success’ how about we ‘rest for success’? Perhaps instead of dressing for the job we want, we might consider resting for the calling we feel 😉 .
Especially creatives! Yes, we need a platform and brand and all that but NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF THE ART.
More on that another day *smooch*
Happy New Year, y’all!
What Are Your Thoughts? I’m Listening!
Do you struggle with focus? Feel guilty for taking a break? As a mom and pet owner, I’d be happy to go to the restroom alone.
*cats paw frantically at my bathroom door certain I’m escaping out secret passage*
This year, would it be good to plan in more ‘not doing’ instead of more ‘doing’? Do you have a hard time playing? I do. This year my goal is to LIGHTEN THE HELL UP. I really don’t need to be cleaning all the things all the time.
Really *left eye twitches*
Or are you AWESOME at meditation and resting? Are you good at loosening up and having fun (without heavy drugs or alcohol)?
What are some tips you could share?
Also, if your New Year’s Resolutions are to finish the novel, become a faster, stronger writer, land an agent, build that brand and platform, make sure to check out the classes below, many BRAND NEW!!!
All W.A.N.A. International classes are virtual (pants optional) and you get a FREE recording with your purchase. So you can take your TIME.
Enjoy the live class, play the recording again later to pick up what you missed. Or spend time with the family and catch the class on recording. You choose.
No muss or fuss and leaves time for that walk in the park 😉 . The FULL CLASS LIST IS HERE or scroll down.
I LOVE hearing from you! Comments come with REWARD…
What do you WIN? For the month of JANUARY, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
***December’s winner will be announced next post.
Self-Publishing for Professionals
Taught by USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynold’s on Friday, January 11th 7-10 PM EST PLUS EXTRA GOODIES ($100 for THREE hours of training plus bonus material)
The Business of Writing
Taught by Kristen Lamb on Saturday, February 2nd 1-3 PM EST ($55)
***GET ALL THREE (Self-Publishing for Professionals Jan. 11th, The Business of Writing Feb. 2nd & Pitch Perfect Feb. 7th) IN THE PUBLISHING TRIPLE THREAT BUNDLE for $155
Story Master: From Dream to Done
Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, January 12th, 1-3 PM EST
Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind
Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, January 17th, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)
Yes, I will be teaching about Instagram in this class.
A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting
Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, January 19th from 1-3 PM EST $55
Harnessing Our Writing Power: The BLOG!
Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, January 24th 7-9 PM EST $55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD
Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE
Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, January 26th 1-3 PM EST $55
SALES: For Those Who’d Rather Be Stabbed in the Face
Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, January 31st 7-9 PM EST $65
The Business of Writing
Taught by Kristen Lamb on Saturday, February 2nd 1-3 PM EST ($55)
Pitch Perfect: How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS
Taught by Kristen Lamb on Thursday, February 2nd, 7-9 PM EST ($55)
I love all your posts Kristen. Once a week is better than none. :)I feel you on the not being able to rest. Between my job, kids, school upgrading, household stuff, I barely have time to write and do the things I want to do…taking time off is a foreign concept. lol. But you are right and I do try to do some down time. I’m getting better at it as the kids get older and more independent. Thanks for the pep talk and inspiration.
…or a dog that plants himself between your feet as you pee…staring…always staring…
Get advice and many thanks, Kristen. I missed you, but also knew that you needed a break. We saw it. We didn’t want to say anything, but we wanted you to be okay.
So…nothing is worth having to shut down to get back to balance, eh? We all need to defuse every day — not maybe every day, but every-damn-day! I have splurged on stuff for my own defusement (not a real word). First, a Sisyphus table, which is this fascinating thing where a steel ball is pulled through a series of design patterns, carved through sand that is absurdly smooth. I also emptied my dining room (where no one – ever – dines) and put the Sisyphus table, a Swedish chair (reclines), a case full of books, and muted lighting. I read there. I stare at the sand patterns there. I sit with aforementioned dog and zone-out, staring out the several windows.
Also, my Echo/Alexa gizmo is in the living room and plays a soundtrack of the ocean — waves crashing, etc. This sound (or rain or birdies) must replace the ambient sound in the room at least 2 hours a day. The living room is where I work/write/edit.
We’re glad you’re back — and I hope you continue to take naps, build yourself a ‘quiet’ spot, and give your head time to percolate all the cool things you have in there. :O)
My thoughts exactly on everyone being
on overdrive! Thanks for timely reminder – was just getting in a funk because I’m being slowed down from an awesome start because of a newish puppy in the house & a sick aspiring musician dragging around…
This is the BEST thing I’ve read in weeks and weeks. Thank you for this. Your whole message resonates with me and gives me courage to be honest about how exhausted I am post-holidays. Time to reclaim some time and my health. Thank you again!
I feel like the Puritans sometimes get a bad rap for the Protestant work ethic. They worked hard, for sure, but they also had unyielding boundaries around their Day Off. And they took time to meditate on the Things That Really Matter, because -shock!- that really matters. Otherwise it’s like leaping into the car and driving furiously along the road before figuring out where you’re trying to get – and why.
I am taking a couple of months off most writing (still some blogging) while I get my house and garden in a slightly less feral state post NaNo. But it feels weird, and kind of lazy, not to be trying to do something All The Time.
I feel like I need some kind of expert opinion each morning on how much I should reasonably expect to get done in that day, so I don’t either loll around reading novels endlessly, or work myself into a collapse.
When I have difficult tasks to complete, I put a timer on for an hour knowing that I will have a 15-minute break at the end of my hour. That works for me.
I’m not naturally good at slowing down but rest is SO important- the validation and reminder here is invaluable! Thanks and happy new year! 🙂
Omg thank you for writing this. Great reminder. Especially since we’re so alike! ? I have to make myself NOT clean and take a break. My two weeks off from work reminded me of the importance of taking a day of rest each week, which I don’t think I’ve done since 2012, when you mandated it. Ha!
Fantastic advice, Kristen, and great that you practice what you preach. I only blog once a month and even then, told everybody I’d be skipping January. The guilts hover, but I tell them to get lost. My belief is you can’t write if you don’t give yourself time to think.
I love all your posts. It’s quality not quantity. Right? Too many post several times a day. I don’t see how they get anything else done, and not judging but only so many hours in a day. I have limited my social media use and am less stressed, happier and have more time for writing and working out. We decide what’s important in our lives. Glad to hear you took some time off during the holidays. All the best & Happy New Year. Kat Kent.
I loved this post and you’re absolutely right about resting. And I would rather read one long post every now and than have them too frequent. I get so much in my email now that I can’t read it all and have to save some. I have 227 in there now that I can’t get to. And some don’t even say much except to ‘buy my book’. There are some I’m even unsubscribing to because of it. Some of them have articles that I copy and save that really helps me as a writer and I love those. I probably have some of yours.
My daughter always says she’s so busy. and I tell her it’ll be there tomorrow and she needs to enjoy life more. She’s under a lot of stress and I’m trying my hardest to teach her to let it go.
I don’t have a blog to refer to but I do love your posts and always read them.
This was wonderful! Just what I needed to hear.
Having health issues forces me to constantly evaluate what I can and can’t do. Putting extra pressure on myself because of the goals I’ve set and the writing and art dreams I refuse to let go of. Chronic fatigue makes me feel like some weeks all I do is sleep (which is different than the rest of which you speak.)
Your wise words shall not go unheeded. I’m off to try and rest with my blankie.
Thank you so much, Kristen!
Good advice. Like so much advice, it is hard to follow even though you know it’s true.
We no longer have to be bored. Ever. And it sucks.
Some of my biggest problem solving moments come in the car when I am on my way to work or in the shower. It’s one of the only times there isn’t a new show on Netflix to distract you, or a new app, or a new…pick your poison.
I will look into that led meditation. I had tried meditating and just couldn’t.
As someone with 2 chronic illnesses, I don’t always get much choice in terms of rest. My body doesn’t know what the heck it’s doing and that really wears me out. LOL
My hubby clued me into our brains working on problems in the background. He’d often note that if he got stumped at work, he’d go goof off on Reddit and before he knew it, the answer hit him. Whenever I hear someone saying they’re stumped, I tell them not to worry, switch gears, and let your brain work on it in the background.
I love this! I agree with your thoughts on not even being able to recognize success when we achieve it. We definitely live in a world that prompts us to never be happy with our success, which can be motivation to always strive for more, but it is so important to revel in the “smaller” successes every now and then.
Thanks for the enlightening post!
Thanks for this thoughtful post, Kirsten. I too have to be busy all the time. Spare time spooks me, along with self-accusations of laziness.
Right now, I’m struggling with formulating some realistic goals for the year. These will include giving up my teaching job at end of academic year and focussing on getting The Novel published. At the moment, it’s with beta-readers.
You are talking to me, girlfriend’. I NEEDED to hear this. Recently I participated in a workshop where you “visited” with an assigned partner for ten minutes, then each partner had to describe the other in ONE WORD. Awkwardly, I heard my “Partner” describe me as “driven.” If I am “driven” I am not driving, therefore, not in control of my life. I am going to make changes starting from the minute I finish commenting on your helpful, well-written blog. Greetings from the Texas Gulf Coast. I was not born in Texas, but as the maxim says, “I got here as fast as I could”!
yes, I rested so much over the holidays! i’m still not back on top of everything. I struggle with feeling guilty about this and yet realize it’s what I NEED!