How guavas and working from home is the ultimate refuel strategy
“That should put more lead in your pencil.”
When you visualise something, you imagine it in your mind. When I visualise breakfast, I conjure the dynamics and disruptions making and eating it entails. I am tempted to find everything that takes me from my writing as a distraction. This morning I resented being pulled away by my partner who was happy, and in a good mood, and wanted to make breakfast for me. He wanted us to go together into the garden and pick fresh guavas from the tree.
“So what’s the problem?” I hear you ask. The problem—if I chose to see it that way, which I did at the time— was that I was in full creative flow. Stopping for breakfast was the last thing I felt like doing. My writing was being fed. My writing was being nourished. My writing was chomping down, after days of famine, on a plate full of word-porridge.
The worst thing anyone could possible do was to drag me kicking and screaming to my highchair. I didn’t need to be fed. I was happy. I was productive. I was writing.
I had to do a quick mindset shift. Or rather, I chose to, because I don’t want to be a lonely, solitary, unloved writer. “But we love you. We love your books,” I hear you say. “You are the queen of uplifting inspiration.”
To inspire others I need to inspire my self. And love sustains that. I know not everyone agrees. Many creatives are adamant that they need to live on their own to create great art. But I don’t. I want to share my life with an actual person. One that makes breakfast for me!
I know with Lorenzo by my side life it is a whole lot easier. It’s a lot, lot easier to do my work. Well sometimes.
The encounter and my attitude to Lorenzo’s cheerful request challenged me to reprioritise what is truly important. As I wrote in The Art of Success, Coco Chanel once said, “A simple life, with a husband and children—a life with people you love—that is the real life.”
Chanel shared that one of her biggest regrets is that she didn’t spend more time devoting herself to love—instead she chased the wrong dream. Wealthy, lonely, and childless, she died by herself in The Ritz.
So I affirmed to myself, “This is good. This is fine. This is time to be together and nourish my mind.”
Later as we ate together my king said, “That should put more lead in your pencil.” And it’s true. Having a loving partner and eating good food should not be seen through the lens of distraction. Instead, it should be celebrated as fuel for our creative soul. I write more about powering your creativity with nourishing choices in The Happy, Healthy Artist.
The truth is that there are greater, more dangerous demons, masquerading as distractions.
Deadly distractions are also created by manic multi-tasking, all-consuming emails, frequent family dramas and other demands on your energy and time. Even seemingly reasonable requests can deter you from your course. Like my king suggesting today that I should create a blog about working from home.
It’s not an unreasonable idea. Especially, as I write this chapter, the whole world is in lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis. His suggestion may even be profitable. But I don’t want to write about working from home. I want to write about creative unblocking. And then I want to create some art and put into practice what I’m sharing with you.
So here’s the thing that worked for me today. I have to say it’s a beautifully simple and effective strategy, but it’s also one I actually haven’t been doing. I just simply said to myself, “I am in lockdown from 2 to 4 and I am not to be distracted.”
I took myself to a non-distractive place, which was sitting outside in the garden. And I wrote. In this case, it was dictating into my manuscript something I had handwritten during a restless night of insomnia. Dictating is the perfect strategy when you feel blocked because you have something you can actually do. You can just engage the other side of your brain and put some flesh on the bones of your ideas.
That’s not to say I wasn’t tested. The thing about working from home is there are always distractions. Especially when your home is a 10-acre property and you live with a perfectionist. The wonderful thing about living with Lorenzo with his distaste for chaos is that there is not a blade of grass out of place and everything is manicured—perfectly.
It’s a beautiful serene non-chaotic place to create. The truth is that when I feel everything is getting messy and chaotic, it does my head in to be surrounded in mayhem. I find it hard to focus.
When my king approached my little locked-down bubble of writing mirth in the garden later that day and told me he was going to spray some weeds between business calls. I felt guilty. I should be doing some housekeeping and cleaning. I should be helping!
My intention to be in lock-down from two to four protected me. I just took a little mind-spa break and I did a micro clean. In 10 minutes I dusted and wiped and swiped, which cleansed eyestrain and mental overload and mopped away any guilt. The old, non-quarantined me might have mopped the floors, cleaned windows or flogged the linen with my procrastination whip until I had cleaned the whole damned house.
But no, I had an important appointment. I had a non-negotiable time blocked out in my calendar. And it felt great. Empowering. Freeing. Validating. But I doubt it would’ve felt so great if I was hungry, famished, my blood sugar levels plummeting because I hadn’t eaten breakfast.
Okay, maybe this could be a blog about working from home.
This has been an edited excerpt of Word by Word: Lessons on Writing, Love, and Life. COMING SOON
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