Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Que Sera...

I had hoped to update this particular blog at least twice a week(my MySpace one gets some attention every Monday).

Alas, the past week or so has been 'one of those' - which I'm slowly learning to accept.

Age has finally started to mellow me somewhat.  When I was younger, I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself to accomplish an impossible number of things in a rediculously short space of time.  Invariably, this wouldn't work, I would berate myself accordingly - and often give up on whatever projects I hadn't completed.

It's clear to me now, that I was setting myself up for failure; overwhelming myself to the point of not accomplishing anything at all.  And doing quite a bit of damage to my self-esteem in the process.

I pretty much did that to myself this week - I wanted to beta read two novels and a screenplay, work my day job, write some new things myself, do a couple of interviews...

What was I thinking?  My 'day job' while not regular, tends to require 16 hours or more out of that day.  Usually, I write during my breaks, but this week I caught up with a friend of mine that I hadn't seen in several years.  Wasted time?  Hardly.  

I did photograph two events, as well as taking a bit of video footage from each of them, after that 16 hour day.  On my day off (which I had somehow imagined myself doing another interview and reading quite a bit), I slept.  The body's way of telling you point blank that you're doing too much, and just shuts you off for a while.  Listen to it.

As little as a year ago, I would have been kicking myself over that 'recharge' time, and it would have spoiled the rest of the day.  As it was, I shrugged it off and edited some of the photos and video of the past week instead.  

How often do you beat yourself up over what you don't get done?

When reading the news or talking to our friends, it often feels like everyone else in the world is accomplishing more/farther along than we are.  Don't forget that those articles never mention the burnout, or the years of getting to that point; our friends often (at least in the USA) tend to exaggerate current accomplishments and how busy they are.

We are the only country that seems to put such a status on being 'busy' all the time.  How much of that business is reality, and how much of it is running around like mad, taking more time to do the same things through simple disorganization?  How many small tasks become large through that needing to feel rushed all the time?

Let it go.  No successful person I know runs around in a panic shouting to the world how busy they are.  They're relatively calm, collected, and focused on solving the real problems.  And they accomplish amazing things in time frames that seemed impossible to me.

The big difference between those people who did great things and me?

1. Don't sweat the small stuff - it really is true. You have to figure out for yourself what the 'small stuff' is, and stick to it - what's small to you, may be key to someone else, and vice versa, so I'm not going to tell you what's not important to me, though I will give one example.

I take the train. A LOT.  I used to rush like crazy to make the earliest train back, and go a little nuts when I missed it.  One day, I realized that missing the train is not a big deal (with the exception of the last train leaving the station for the night - that still sucks).  Now I make sure that I have a book, or a sketchbook, or some paperwork in my bag.  If I miss my train, I order a cup of coffee and sit in a cafe for an hour doing what I would have done at home anyway.

2. Stop beating yourself up.   All this does is make getting back up harder - and you're doing it to yourself.  Stop it.

3. Try a different route.  This was a big one for me.  I would keep bashing my head against the same brick wall in the same place, and try for different results through sheer force of will.  I broke through one place eventually, but the amount of time, effort, and frustration it caused was not worth the progress I made.  Don't give up, but if one method of moving forward isn't working, look for another - rather than bashing that same part of the wall over and over, hop the fence.  Or find a door.

4. RELAX.  This did more for me than anything else.  Putting unrealistic expectations on yourself leads to desperation - and desparation leaves a palpable stink on a person that others can sense.  When I started working in theater, I was broke, knew nobody, and didn't have access to enough venues to keep working.  I tried talking myself up to anyone, anywhere, and it didn't work.  
Because I was desperate, which made me annoying, even pushy.  When I was finally in a position that I could relax a bit and just do my job, people noticed that I was good at it.  I became, instead of that annoying person who kept talking up my skills, the quiet, pleasant person who could just get the job done.  People WANTED to work with me, and were willing to suggest places and people to talk to.   Employers came to me asking if I was interested in working for them - and good ones, not the shady ones that I'd half killed myself for years ago.
This is the position you want to be in.
No matter how good at something you may be, don't sell yourself like a used car.  'Sell' yourself through a winning personality and competence.

Getting where you want to go is a relatively simple process; just don't confuse simple with 'easy'. They're not the same thing at all.

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