These days, I should be outlining my next short story or reading books for review or at the very least thinking about how to promote my recently-published work (when I’m not doing my day job).
Instead, I’ve become the mistress of distraction—I play with my foster fail kittens (nooooooo you can’t have my babies!) or repeatedly refresh the homepage of CouchTuner because new episodes of my favorite shows are on. Heck, even trawling through medical ASMR videos is becoming addictive (damn my brother for introducing me to those things).
I feel horrible about it, of course. I feel so horrible that I’ll queue up Scream Queens and stare at pictures of baby bunnies born at our condominium lobby for the next 30 minutes.
It doesn’t even matter that I have a sort-of-legitimate excuse, that I’m actually feeling under the weather this week because I seem to have caught a virus. I SHOULD BE doing promotions work, because I give a damn about it.
All creative people get like this once in a while (and it seems that in my case, it comes more often than not): you become useless to your craft and to yourself. The very shape of your ideas exhaust you because they’re so twisty and complicated and you’d rather be buried under a small mound of cats.
A hill of cats.
A cathill, if you will.
You feel awful about it. I feel awful about it. And we should feel awful about it, because it is, in fact, extremely awful when we have deadlines to consider.
But you know what’s worse? It’s beating ourselves up over our uselessness. It doesn’t make us any more useful. It just makes us more beaten down than we already are.
So here’s what we do: we admit that, for a few hours (or days), we can be super-duper useless. We acknowledge that it is, in fact awful that this is the case. But then, we work towards feeling less useless.
It doesn’t need to involve the work we’re supposed to be doing. It could be something that affirms our roles in the world (my cat babies need me!), or reminds us why we create stuff (I want to write Scream Queens-type dialogue). It could be as simple as surrendering to pestilence, overdosing on medication and various citrus fruits, and sleeping for 18 hours.
You know what that gives us?
Time to refill our proverbial ink pots. You see, when we get our useless days? That just means we’re running on empty.
So repeat after me:
As long as you get work done at some point before the (presumably distant) deadline, you’ll be fine.
So how are you today?