Have you ever experienced having so many things on your to-do list, or so many creative ideas on your to-make list, that instead of working through them, your wheels just roll to a complete stop? It can feel a bit like the horse who’s pulling the cart is rearing its head to the passenger shouting too many directions and saying “I can’t work like this”, and unharnessing itself.
Or, for another analogy, if you’re familiar with sleep paralysis, where the mind is conscious but the body is unable to move — it can be like that; the creative mind is alive and activated, bubbling over with inspiration, but the body is exhausted by all of the ideas and instead would rather shut down and take a nap.
Maybe you’re like me and have notebooks of scribbled inspirations that if you were to actually pursue them all you’d be busy for lifetimes. It’s not a bad place to be, over-inspired, but it can also be energetically paralyzing.
Where do I start? Which idea should I explore first? Is there one that’s better than another? Which has the greatest potential to pan out? Which will be the most fulfilling?
Doing to little
This morning I woke up feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the things occupying my mind space — some of it’s obligatory to-do’s, a lot of it is over-inspiration for Hina Luna and for personal projects, some of it’s heavier, bothersome human stuff. I thought for a moment about how relieving it would be to do very little with one’s day, to have just one thing to do and to do it very well. An oversimplified version of this would be having the sole responsibility of tending to a potted plant, à la The Little Prince, a small child who lives on a very tiny planet only in the company of his rose. We don’t wonder how the child got there, or what he eats, or what he does with his time — we only know that he has a rose companion who requires a certain amount of tending to. If we had but one thing to do, imagine how well we might do it, how much time and energy we’d have to pour into it to make it the best it could be. And also, how boring.
Doing too much
On the other side, there’s the over-worked, over-stimulated, over-booked, over-tired who’s got too many plates spinning, all in risk of crashing down at any moment. Maybe you know this person — maybe you are this person — who prides themself in their ability to multi-task? There may very well be some super-human anomalies out there who are able to tend to all the things, do them all well, and still feel rested, but with all things considered, does multi-tasking really allow for each thing to be done well or does something inevitably get neglected — like one’s own wellbeing.
Finding the Goldilocks place of “just right”
There’s a sweet spot between the spectrum of purposeful productivity and rest, a balanced place that inspires but doesn’t overwork, where the Country Mouse isn’t bored and the City Mouse isn’t overwhelmed; it’s paced, it’s intentional, it’s meaningful, and nourishing to the creative soul. So how do we get there? Where is this elusive sweet-spot? I’m as much a victim of creative over-inspiration as anyone else, so what solutions I have to share are merely practices that I’m implementing in my own creatively over-active life that feel supportive and help me to clarify and simplify.
[Weekly Jotter undated planner. Minimal, simple, intentional, beautiful. Find it in the shop here]
While it may seem pretty ordinary and mundane, handwritten lists are my best friend. They serve a similar therapeutic purpose as journaling; getting it all out of the head and into a visual reference; like a glimpse into the inner-workings of one’s brain. Once the scattered collection of thoughts, mixed-up priorities, budding ideas, and distractions gets dumped out onto the page, they can be sorted and organized which may give clarity to what you want to say yes to. For me, nothing beats physically writing the brainstorm down with a pen on paper [bullet journalers, this is your jam!]. If I have a lot to purge, I’ll use different pages that are categorized, say, one for work related to-do’s, one for home, one for a vision-boarding a specific creative project. Having tangible pages that I can easily reference and sift through in my hands feels most supportive to me, but if the idea of loose paper or tucked away notebooks only overwhelms you more, then use a digital system, by all means!
Next, I take a step back for some perspective and ask myself a few reflective questions to asses my priorities.
Gauging level of excitement
Which idea do you feel most excited by?
Which do you find yourself spending the most time dreaming/thinking about?
What would feel the most fulfilling to explore and complete? Why?
Gauging level of accessibility
Which feels most accessible at this time?
What do you have time for right now?
What resources needed do you already have available to you?
Getting realistic by assessing the now and looking ahead
How much time am I willing to commit each day/week to seeing this project through?
How can I support myself with some structure for staying focused on this project I am choosing to commit to?
Is there a timeline or goal I want to set to motivate myself to seeing this project through?
What is the first step? [time to start a new list...]
When will I begin?
Never underestimate the power of a moment of pause
These solutions are simple, really, but they truly can be effective. Taking some moments of pause to check in with yourself, ask some questions, and answer honestly can help you to gain some invaluable clarity and sift the gems from the excess. It may serve you to save those ideas you’re not saying ‘yes’ to in this moment for another time. Your potentially low-on-inspiration future self may thank you for reserving your extras to revisit at another time and fresh eyes may have the ability to work some new unexpected magic.