What I remember most about my twenties is having so much energy I could barely get any sleep. Now in my thirties, I have managed to get it up to 6 hours a night. But back then four hours was an excellent accomplishment. And it wasn't just any kind of energy; it was a very specific manic creativity. My idea generator was stuck on full speed. I had new ideas constantly, and they were all variations and solutions for work. For example, 5 different ways to layout type would simultaneously build themselves in my brain. I’d sketch them to remember them all, because they'd disappear if I didn't focus on them. From there I could pick the best ones then render and refine them. It was fun, frenetic, and useful.
But these constantly evolving models had their downside. I couldn’t control how and when they’d come up to steal my focus. So I’d infamously leave places without my purse or keys, walk into furniture, even walk into people. I also have a hard time remembering names of new people. I'm so busy imagining all the possibilities of who the new person is and forget to note what they are called.
So when I was young not only was I absent minded, wearing mismatched socks, and forgetting people. All the comical stuff was manageable. The problem was that all the creative energy had me by the throat. My work is obviously important to me and to my collaborators. And generating so many ideas was very exciting and satisfying. We’d have a solution and then move onto the next problem. But eventually I’d collapse on a weekend and sleep for 10 hours straight. I’d wake up slightly calmer and avoid thinking for five or six hours and then the cycle would begin again.
But now in my thirties, I have learned that even if this is profitable and useful, when my mind works this hard ceaselessly it’s not actually a healthy state. It’s the “sugar high” of creativity and I will regret it later when the consequences are exhaustion, irritability, migraines, and even . . . subpar designs. And maybe most astounding is that it turns out my very best ideas now come when I walk my dog in the park, visit a museum, take a long bath, sit next to people I love, or read for pleasure.
My brain for years fooled me into thinking I could will great ideas to appear. But in reality, it’s when I slow down and behave like a healthy being, instead of an obsessive designer, that the clouds part and rays of insight can finally warm the top of my head. This year I had a lot of highs and some lows like everyone else, but I am determined to grow the “unproductive” side of my life, since it’s from where all the best stuff comes from.
For this post I want to feature some book jackets and covers that take a self-care view on passion, drive, creativity, and accomplishment. But when I started researching books about self-care, I found a lot of books titles that were frankly unappealing. There were a lot that had a lot of quick fix promise titles, so that even if I liked the designs, I felt they weren't in the spirit of what I was writing about. Hurry up and be Happy was not the message.