It happens every year. Leading up to Christmas, I shift into maniacal work mode, as though saving up for time off I claim to be desperate for. Meanwhile, thoughts of curry feasts, bubble baths, peppermint spiced cocoa, hang-time with family and generally partying like the holiday obsessed kid I still am keep me giddy. In recent years, I’ve also claimed that I rest enough, busy or not.
The break adoration and sufficient rest bits? Questionable. While I definitely prioritize both more in recent years, having learned that R&R benefits everything from moods to work quality, my e-book release may have tinkered with that ever so
On December 26th, while at my parents’ place in Minne-snowda, the combo of overwork and giddiness sent me plummeting from spazmo to sick in a snap. This year my family nearly replied to my sniffling, shivering tankage in unison: “You always get sick after Christmas.”
Oh yeah… At least I didn’t un-eat curry on an elderly woman at Woolworth’s this time, I reminded them, to which their eyes rolled harder. Compulsivity isn’t always pretty, but it can be if channeled appropriately.
If you’re one who has a tougher time pressing pause than start, I hope you find the following tidbits as comforting as I do.
5 Reassuring Facts for the Creatively Compulsive
1. We’re not alone. Being creatively compulsive can feel lonely, particularly around others who don’t understand. The truth is, many artists function similarly. Connecting through social media or in person with fellow compulsives can remove the edge from lonely feelings. Same for simply realizing that they’re there.
2. Breaks help more than we realize. I’m not the only compulsive in my family. My brother, a visual artist, can be too. Before heading home, we both work like crazy then bring work with us. Once we arrive, our work usually sits in our respective rooms while we chill elsewhere. Post visit, it benefits hugely. If you’re not compulsive, starting is probably toughest. If you are, it’s the stepping into relax time that’s daunting. When it hurts, remind yourself that respite and work are equally important.
3. It’s okay to have an on/off switch. In an interview with Oprah, Simon Cowell shared that he works like a maniac in the midst of projects, then slogs around in a moody, sleepy state for some time after. Bestselling thriller author David Baldacci writes like mad then takes total off time , according to his ThrillerFest talk last year. Daily word count goals and structured time slots work well for many. As compulsives, we’re more likely to have on/off switches, or low, high and highest gears. As long as we can turn them on and off when necessary, we’re gold.
4. Doing what we love isn’t selfish. Doing anything we enjoy can seem selfish, but following our passions makes us stronger individuals, partners, society members and friends. If we’re compelled to write, even during an “inopportune” times, such as during a family getaway, doing so might help us more than the hurt we’d cause by stifling it. When the desire strikes, tell your loved ones you need some craft time. Then if possible, claim it. Even small doses can help. For me, waking up early to write during busy life times is key.
5. Healthy compulsivity pays off. Unlike creative compulsive disorder and hypergraphia, two debilitating conditions, a healthy amount of compulsiveness wisely utilized can facilitate prolificness. Agatha Christie, the world’s bestselling mystery novelist, wrote 69 novels and 19 plays. “The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes,” she said. It seems that compulsivity and breaks served her well. Regardless of how long it takes to complete our work, intense passion and overwhelming desire to create are gifts to be cherished.
How about you? Are you creatively compulsive? Any challenges, success stories or pointers to share?