First of all, I'm sorry. To those who haven't noticed, I should've published this newsletter weeks ago.
Life is about maintaining balance. You may have heard a lot about the work-life balance, which many employers are trying to sell you these days. This is not what I'm talking about. What I mean is the careful balance in all the things we do. Flying not too close to the Sun and not too close to the water.
Research shows that in relationships, the careful balance is five positive interactions to one negative interaction. Too many negative experiences will ruin the relationship. That's obvious. But it is less obvious that too many positive ones may make it dull, unchallenging, and taken for granted.
Keeping the balance is hard enough even when the weather around you is still, and the ground is solid. But of course, life is never like that. The conditions around us change constantly. So when we think we finally have the stability we were aiming for, something exciting shows up and we have to find the new balance.
I'm at this point right now where some new projects knocked down the established ones. That's probably the reason why I'm getting so philosophical about my inability to deliver a newsletter on time and looking for some wise-sounding excuses.
Regardless of that fact, I still believe that this balance is essential. In our creative projects, we don't want to spend the whole day creating. This will make it feel like a chore.
Let's take writing as an example. To write an article or a book, we don't want to write all day each day. Instead, we want to write a few hours a day and then do something unrelated to writing. But, on the other hand, we don't want to go several weeks without writing anything, as each passing day makes it harder to return to the creative practice.
This is where routines help. Scheduling some time each day (or every few days) to work on your project helps us maintain the balance. When I have to deliver something very fast, I'm anxious about it and feeling stressed. The quality of the work suffers, but also my health and attitude. I then need a lot of time to recharge. But if the deadline is not looming, creating is fun and enjoyable.
I discovered it the hard way recently, trying to write a newsletter "that I'll send in an hour." I now have lots of drafts that I'm not very fond of that I tried to write under pressure. What helped was dedicating some time without an absolute deadline to collect my thoughts in writing and share them with you.
So if you struggle with your creative projects, think about how you can balance fun and chore while working on them. Give yourself permission to play and see what happens. I hope it will help you get unstuck too.
Paul Jarvis — author of the book “Company of One” and co-founder of the ethical analytics platform Fathom Analytics used to write a very interesting (yet now retired) newsletter about building the projects slowly.