I wrote this for my writer’s list this week, but it applies to all makers, not just writers.
I had a bad virus this past week. Okay, I say bad, but it wasn’t the stomach flu, and it didn’t come with a high, terrible fever.
It just enervated me, leaving me spent and mostly useless. I lay around like a Victorian damsel on a fainting couch. I groaned intermittently, pleased with the hoarseness of my voice. I sighed a lot and blew my nose like the trumpets at the gates of Zion.
Then, when I started to feel better, I stayed down. (Okay, this is a lie. Friday night, I went to see Kate Tempest at a club and passed out after mainlining Gobstoppers, my first processed sugar in 3 months. Seriously. I didn’t even have a drink. Just. Passed. Out. I have to tell you, fainting is not as cool as it’s cracked up to be. In a moment that is funny in retrospect, I knew it was coming and apparently told my wife I thought I was going to faint — I barely remember this — so she had time to tell a stranger “Here, hold my drink,” as she caught me, which is why she still had her Manhattan after they carted me outside for air.)
So for the weekend, I kept resting.
Even though I felt guilty about it.
You see, I measure my life by the Things I Do.
You might feel me on this one.
On Saturday, while resting, I made great cheese (coconut cheese that is healthy and tastes like the best/worst kind of nacho cheese ever – it is AMAZING) and terrible muffins, and besides that, I stayed in bed and watched The Americans on my phone.
It was okay that I stayed in bed, because I could look to an accomplishment. I had cooked. I had baked. That made me worthwhile, as a person.
On Sunday, I was almost better. I could have powered through almost anything, given the right dose of DayQuil and liberal distribution of hoarse groans.
But instead, I didn’t.
I just stayed down. I watched TV on my phone. I read. I napped a bit. I groaned pleasantly and petted the animals that piled happily on top of me.
I got NOTHING done. Not one single thing.
I was feeling awful about this, until I saw a tweet in my timeline. Bethany D. Lipka said, “If all you do today is take care of yourself, your day has been productive.”
This blew my mind.
Did she mean that lying in bed was actually a Thing To Do? A thing I could be proud of?
Yes, she certainly did.
So it got me thinking. Everyone is inherently worthy, with or without being productive.
This is something I’ve always believed.
Except about myself.
For me to be worthy, I have to make. (Many creative people feel this way. You might.) I have to sew a dress or bake bread or write a book or make a podcast.
Otherwise, how will my worth be tangible? How will I prove it?
This is what I realized this weekend: I need to work on loosening my grasp on this belief.
I am worthy when I write books.
I am also equally worthy when I do absolutely nothing.
We could dive into the field-lying-fallow metaphor, but that one has always rung hollow to me. Yo, have you met me? I AM NEVER GOING TO LET A FIELD LIE FALLOW. I will add fertilizer (organic!) to that shit (get it?) and get back in there as soon as possible.
So let’s use the sleep metaphor. Our brains and bodies need sleep. We have to rest. And sometimes, we need more rest than we’re used to giving ourselves.
I’m my own boss. (As of one year today! Today is my first anniversary of self-employment! This is a huge, happy, exciting thing to me!)
And I’m also my only full-time employee.
I’ve got to take care of the boss and the employee residing in this body. Sometimes I need a vacation even without going out of town. Sometimes I need an extra hour of sleep, or a whole weekend in bed.
Sometimes accomplishing nothing is the absolute best thing for me To Do.
I am worthy, no matter what I make or don’t make. No matter what I do or don’t accomplish. No matter what I write or don’t write.
So are you.
If you’re beating yourself up, stop it. You’re already worthy of being a writer. You ARE a writer. Write a little bit.
Rest, if you need it.
Then rest some more.
(Of course, ask yourself honestly if you’re resting or procrastinating. You’ll know the answer, deep in your heart. And depression is a different beast entirely. Good lord, if you’re fighting depressing and taking care of yourself by resting? GOOD FOR YOU. Don’t have a second of regret about that.)
If all you do today is take care of yourself, you’re being productive.
I believe this. And I’m going to try to remember it, too.
Take care of yourselves, dear ones.
PS – There will be no writer’s email next weekend – it’s my eleven-year wedding anniversary, and we’re leaving the dogs with a sitter and going up the coast. To rest. And to soak in the hot tub. To read books and dance by moonlight and celebrate each other.
PPS – The weeks after that might be sporadic, too, since I’ll be in Venice for two weeks, on retreat. OH YEAH. That will be less restful, since I’m leading the retreat, but I’ve built in time afterward for a retreat of my own, in which there will be much writing and even more napping.
Encouragement, once a week. Free.
Do this for yourself, for the writer you want to be.