Today I’ll be answering Katie’s second question:
2. Do you ever have days where, despite your best efforts and wishes, you end up doing nothing at all?
Abso-freaking-lutely! In fact, I’ve been plagued by on-and-off bouts of days exactly like this for months. It is very rare that I will do NOTHING at all, (mostly because doing nothing creates MASSIVE anxiety for me…I mean, I’m not even sure I would know HOW to do nothing…do I sit in a room and stare at a wall? Does that count? Am I doing Nothing right?? AUGH, it freaks me out just thinking about it…) but some days the body or the mind or the heart, or a combination of all three, simply isn’t in the comic-making game.
Lulls in motivation have happened to me for a variety of reasons and can last for a wind range of times. There are many causes of lulls, and we’ll cover some of them in more detail next week, but what I can say is that lulls are normal, and beating up on one’s self for experiencing them is a great way to extend them. Dealing with the cause of a block is work enough without adding on layers of guilt and obligation and expectation.
Not that knowing this usually stops me.
Growing up, I always thought of willpower as an unlimited, inexhaustible resource. I viewed a lack of action, therefore, as a character flaw. If willpower is unlimited, than an inability to bring it to bear and force one’s self into motion is either weakness or laziness. Or both.
I still feel this way sometimes.
However, I am learning that willpower is, in fact, something that can be depleted. It is not boundless. It is not all in the mind. There is no switch that can simply be fixed at “ON” all the time. Sometimes willpower just runs out.
It’s very much like a muscle, in that way.
(Creativity is also a muscle, but that is a different discussion all together.)
If you want to be able to lift heavy objects or run a marathon, it’s not possible to just grab the weight or your running shoes and expect to succeed with aplomb and perfection. In fact, you’re very likely to hurt yourself in the attempt. Instead, you train. You build up your stamina. You also consume fuel to help the effort by eating things to help your muscles develop and staying hydrated so your body can perform.
Willpower is the same way. It needs to be built up by regular exercise, and sometimes you need to refuel it by taking a break and engaging in what I call “life affirming activities.” (Okay, to give proper credit, my therapist called them that, and I’ve kept the term.) This can be reading a book, watching a favorite movie, having lunch with a best friend, playing a game, listening to beautiful music, going to an amazing place, exercising, anything that makes you feel alive and refreshed.
What happens when you push that willpower muscle too hard, too fast, too long, and you don’t give it the fuel it needs?
Well, much like an actual muscle, it gives out. When that happens, it’s a hard-stop lull. A burn-out.
So embrace the lulls, in moderation. They are part of the process, and often a symptom of something that it’s important for a creator to pay attention to. We’ll talk more about some of the causes I’ve come across in my own experience next week. In the meantime, train those willpower muscles, and be kind to yourself when they need a break to recover!