For as long as I can remember, people in my stream of consciousness have held several occupations at once. When my dad was a bookstore owner, he also dabbled in writing and editing for the local paper (eventually becoming a journalist full-time, and now he's back to being an entrepreneur). During my early years working in the magazine business, all the editors I knew had other things going on besides turning over the monthly issue. Whether it was in the form of writing for sister publications, fashion styling, or makeup artistry, it was the side jobs that paid for cars, trips to Europe, and so forth.
I've pretty much kept the same outlook when it comes to my own work and career: have as much on my plate as possible.
So, suffice it to say, whenever I feel lethargic and all I want to do is stay in bed and watch cooking shows—eating and snacking along the way—I tend to feel guilty. Whenever I skip my to-do list for the evening, it becomes some sort of existential inner debate.
Last night was one of those moments: I had a ton of laundry to do, invoices to work on (for my other job), taxes to file, blogs to write…but all I did was remain in bed, watch TV shows on the desktop, and flip through an unfinished magazine. I simply felt tired—I didn't even feel like making dinner (although I did prep the pastry cream that will go into cream puffs that I have yet to make).
This morning, on the train to work, I read the following in this month's O, The Oprah Magazine:
"Georgia was a proto slacker," writes Karbo. "There were days and weeks when she would read, spend hours tramping around outside, write letters, sew, and play dominoes…. But when Georgia worked, she worked her ass off."
[Sidebar on the book, How Georgia Became O'Keeffe where writer Karen Karbo spotlights the life and times of "a Midwester farm girl as she becomes a self-assured art world phenomenon."]
I immediately felt a sense of relief after reading that paragraph. And, as the day went by, I realized that all these years and even leading up to today, I have benefitted from pockets of listless time. Whether it was a 30 minute afternoon milk-tea break, wasting the living daylights out of one weekend, or even a full-year sabbatical (which I did back in 2009 resulting in a page in a cookbook, among other fun stuff!), so-called lazy days have surprisingly yielded productive results.
A couple of months ago, on a bus ride out of town, I sat next to a writer and editor named Sara Marcus, author of the book, Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution. We were talking about writing books and self-imposed deadlines, and I told her about this long overdue novel in the works. She asked, "What's stopping you?" But during the course of our conversation (it was a long bus ride), she turned to me and said—and, I paraphrase—"Oh, don't be so hard on yourself. In the last four years, you immigrated to a new country, worked on becoming a citizen, got married…that's a lot."
These days, it's good to be reminded to never underestimate slower-than-usual moments, or even one's self—knowing and having faith that a productivity boost is just right around the corner. In the meantime, enjoy the slabs of dark chocolate.