c&p #12: A reminder to come up for air

Every so often, I get into this weird state I often have trouble labelling.

It feels like being depressed, but only in the clinical sense of losing interest in everything, rather than losing interest in life or being sad. It's this feeling of not having the motivation of wanting to do much of anything. It's a feeling where productivity and putting my time to good use is quite literally the last thing I want to think about. It's a time when impulse, lying on the couch, and irresponsible eating are the heroes of the day.

But I'm not sad. I'm not upset. I'm not unhappy. 

But I'm not happy, joyful, or thriving either.

It's a weird place in the middle. 

It's in this space that life, for me, seems to go on a bit of a pause. And the interesting thing is that it happens in waves, and it always comes back. Throughout my decades of being a creative person, it always comes back in some way, shape, or form.

It doesn't feel "full-blown". I'm just tired. And when I'm tired, I don't want to work. I don't want to generate new ideas. I don't want to see anybody. I don't want to get out there and make the most out of my life. And when you're your own boss, it's very easy to give in to this impulse and let life slide away.

If I had to sum this feeling up in one word, I think, perhaps, I might call it burnout. But honestly, while I'm getting better the older I get, I've never really been very good at connecting with my emotions and labelling them, so I don't really know.

All I can recognise is that when I'm in these states, I'm not my best self. I'm not very high functioning, I'm not very charismatic, and I don't really care about anything. 

And I used to hate this feeling.

"It's such a waste of time", I thought to myself. "I could totally be doing something else right now". 

I used to try to brute force my way through these states and do anything in my ability to muster up the willpower for just a few hours of solid work.

But over the years, I've learned that rather than fight these waves of extreme lethargy; actually, life is a lot better if you give in to them.

See, creativity is like a muscle. 

In the gym, we stress our bodies. We fatigue ourselves. We create micro-tears in our muscles, which force a biological adaptation, usually a signal for growth. When you put good quality food and the right nutrients into your body, you feed that adaptation, and the muscle grows; in strength, in size, in ability. 

We need this cycle of stressing, feeding, and repairing not only in the gym and in our bodies, but also in our creative abilities as well. We need a challenge in the things that we make; it's literally the only way we can grow our creative abilities and constantly iterate on ourselves and progress. 

And for a Type-A personality like me who is constantly striving for success and continually pushing themselves, this can actually end up unintentionally destroying me.

What I've realised over the years is that much like when you enter a workout program for an extended period of time, your body needs a break. You don't do back-to-back 12-week programs because you'll burn your body out, and it won't grow at the same rate as it did previously. 

You need a few weeks in-between to reset. To recharge. To let your body adapt to your newly found strength, skill, and size. 

Creativity is a lot like that.

Especially if you're pushing yourself for an extended period of time, it's easy to get caught up in the momentum and keep going, but that's also where the trap lies.

And after 5 back-to-back snow trips, journeying to the end of the world with my Antarctica trip, a couple of dozen smaller domestic trips around Japan and Tokyo, trying to start a new business in Japan, doing 2 commercial jobs, 4 sponsored jobs, 12 YouTube videos, starting a new newsletter (this one!), posting a short form video to 2 platforms every single day for the last 30 days, editing hundreds of photos from all of those trips, and honestly, so much more in just the first 3 months of this year, I'm pooped.

With the Cherry Blossom season here in Japan and every other creator who is here right now, I feel absolutely exhausted, and my creativity is fizzling out whenever I call upon it. 

This is the cycle of hard work and rest, of intensity and breaks, the undulation of waves.

I know that this is all just another wave, and after some rest, I'll be back to my old self again rather than resenting my sloth-like behaviour of playing video games and eating too many Japanese snacks.

I wanted to make this post this week to serve as a reminder that it's important to come up for air every now and then. If you're anything like me, I can go on working forever, especially because I love what I do, but it's dangerous. When the quality of your work and the quality of your life and the quality of your relationships start dipping, it's time to come up for a breath, enjoy the air, feel the satisfaction of what you just did, and then get ready to go back for another round. 

If you need it, I hope you can restore that creative energy too, creative.

See you next week.

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