Being a creative in today’s world can feel like that Verizon (now Sprint) guy (real name Paul Marcarelli), walking around with a big crowd of people following him (Can you hear me now?).
There are so many things to get done, and crushing deadlines, and kids’ homework, and dogs that need to be walked, and that thing called grocery shopping.
It can feel like trying to squeeze a whole ball of yarn through the tiny eye of a needle.
When it is go time
There are stages of a project where you just need to plod along every day to get things done. You don’t need to create undue pressure for yourself, or work ungodly hours, because to do so over an extended period of time will burn you out.
In the eye of the needle stage of a project, you DO need to get a lot of work done in a short period of time.
Because the nature of the eye of the needle stage is that there is a big, immovable deadline, that involves more than just you.
Your publisher needs your manuscript.
You have to walk on stage and give a talk.
Your client needs their website up and running.
And you absolutely, positively must get this thing done, in the short term.
This is a real deadline, and you need to treat it as such.
Clear the decks
Anything, and I mean anything, that is extraneous to your critical eye of the needle task needs to be whacked.
Sunday dinner with Grandma? She will have to forgive you.
That Homeowner’s Association meeting? Hard pass.
Fun projects that you love to work on? On the shelf. This is no time for fun!
Clear everything that is not totally essential so that you can focus on your eye of the needle task (really call in a lot of favors — someone else could drive your kid to school for once, your family can live on those cans of beans in the back of the pantry for a few days, or you can forgo showering for, I don’t know, 3 to 5 days.)
It is what it is
Do you know what I feel every time I complete a book?
“Oh my god, if I had just had 6 more months to write it, it would have been perfect!”
That is probably true.
But right before the deadline, you don’t have six more months. You have the exact time allocated to get the task done, so do not thrash around and shame yourself for not getting to it earlier.
Treat the available time to complete your task with great reverence and appreciation. And build your work plan around that, because that is all the time you have.
When the entire project is complete, you can go back and analyze how to make it better in the future.
But for now, use your emotional energy for productive output, not to beat yourself up.
When you are done, celebrate and then rest
You have accomplished something very few people are able to do. Congratulations!
Take a nice deep breath and thank yourself for doing it! Revel in your drive and productivity.
Then, as soon as you can, build in as big a block of rest as you can manage. Depending on your life obligations and support structure, this may be two hours, or two days.
It is really, really important that you let yourself physically and emotionally rest from such a huge use of effort and energy.
Do not be surprised if you get the sniffles.
Do not be surprised if you don’t want to do much else but sleep and watch really bad romcoms (just me?).
If you have too many eye of the needle moments, you may want to look at how you set boundaries and manage your projects.
But for now, you can and will get through this one.
I believe in you!