I’ve been reading a new memoir called ACID FOR THE CHILDREN, written by FLEA of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame; slipping in moments of reading when I feel my ability to focus on the task at hand waning. I have been a voracious reader at times, plowing through novels in an afternoon. But there are periods when I have gone weeks or longer without reading a book at all. A kind of fasting, I guess. This time I’m allowing myself to sip. Putting the bass down, or stepping away from the computer for a few minutes to walk around in the childhood of a hero from my own childhood. This kind of thing doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m much more likely to get bogged-down in a project or task, and then bang my head in frustration, rather than simply step away for a few minutes.
For a long time allowing myself this kind of break was not something I’d do, it always felt like I was wasting precious time when I stopped actively working. Even pausing to take the dog out for a walk, which I otherwise enjoy doing, would leave me feeling stressed out for the fifteen minutes we’d spend making a lap of the block. That stress would stay with me when I got back to work, and as a result I usually wouldn’t get much done. In my mind every day was all-or-nothing when it came to productivity, which meant I often wrapped up the day with nothing. Rather than making sure I was taking bites of the apple, I’d leave it on the table if I thought that I couldn’t finish the whole thing at once. And I’d feel a little mad about it.
I’m learning to feel comfortable dropping what I’m doing as soon as I feel myself unable to keep my head in the game, even if I’ve accomplished little-to-nothing in a work session, and I think I’m more productive as a result. But, I first had to give myself permission to walk away. I may even have given myself this license out loud a few times before it became a habit, and I’m finding that the time away isn’t really wasted at all. Instead it allows me to process the thing I’ve been working on so that when I come back to it, later that day or on another day entirely, I’m ready to complete the next step, or execute something in a better way than I could have before. I’m not eating an entire apple every day, but each one I’m nibbling at shows a few more bites all the time.
When I stopped touring full-time I put some pressure in myself to produce work on a routine basis. I’ve largely stuck to the bi-weekly blog posting schedule that I set for myself, but you might notice (or not) that this post is a week late. When I normally would have been dutifully writing for public consumption, I was instead writing a bunch of music to meet a sort of deadline that I had unexpectedly put on myself-more on that another time- and so here I am; wrapping up this piece a week later than I had planned. I gave myself permission for that too.
Thanks for reading.