I didn’t mean to just stop blogging for most of December. I just sort of… found myself forgetting. Part of this was intentional—I wanted to spend less of December rushing around, trying to get a million things done and more time with Forrest, with Danny, with the important people in my life. And part of this was unintentional—I helped plan a wedding, attended that wedding, made more Christmas cookies than I probably should have, and in the evenings, I was so tired that it never even occurred to me that I needed to be writing those Blogmas blog posts I had planned in approximately June.
Part of why I fell behind was that I didn’t do enough forward planning.
And another part of why I fell behind, and stopped blogging, and struggled to restart was that I was just plain burnt out.
The first week I missed, I told myself that I’d work on it and I’d get my blog posts written over the weekend. I was just busy, I thought. That’s it! Nothing big!
But by the 2nd week of one measly blog post, I knew it: I was burnt out. I needed to take a break or I was at risk of just breaking myself.
I decided to keep doing just the bare minimum. I know that sounds awful. We are trained to believe that the “bare minimum” is the worst thing you can do aside from just quit, but I knew I was at risk of not just not being able to blog for myself, but for my day-to-day work. You know, the stuff that pays my bills.
A big part of me felt incredibly guilty and bad for the fact that I wasn’t blogging, wasn’t really doing much on social media, and definitely was just trying to get by. I had brands I was talking to, content I needed to create… but I was tired. It was the holidays. And sometimes, I know I do things when I don’t want to at a detriment to myself. So a very small part of me said: this is ok, you need this.
And I did. On January 1, I felt better than I had in months. I didn’t feel the pressure to be constantly writing, constantly working on something. But another part of me still held that guilt. I haven’t been posting on Instagram like I know I should. I haven’t been returning emails as promptly as I usually do and that’s what made me start to feel really guilty.
I had been burnt out and I was teetering on the edge of too much, absolutely too much. Giving myself a break was what I knew I needed to do—but there was still that niggling little voice that told me I was just being lazy. I think this is something that everyone my age struggles with; we’ve been told to work hard, constantly, our entire lives. And we also rely on our 24/7 gigs to get by (or at least I know I do). It makes us unable to do certain small things (like the fact that I’ve been meaning to mail a package for exactly 3 weeks) and it’s honestly just really bad for our mental health.
So, I had a slump. It happens. I took a break. I feel better. But what did I learn?
1. It’s Not That Urgent
I have about 5 emails in my inbox right now that the sender has marked urgent. That’s what it says in all caps in the subject line: URGENT, Brand Collab. Or URGENT, Want to do a giveaway?
And, bless you brands, and your brilliant PR teams, but those things aren’t urgent.
I often struggle with others perceptions of me. I don’t want to be appear lazy or like “one of those” influencers or bloggers. I want to appear capable, down-to-earth, responsible, and dedicated. I reply to emails within 2 days, always (that’s my rule). But sometimes even my two-days-and-I-swear-I’ll-get-back-to-you, I’ll get emails after 24 hours with, “is everything ok? I’m concerned.”
I understand that for many people their jobs are putting them under pressure to get a response. It happens at my day job, it happens in my gigs, and it definitely happens for this blog. But as a society, we really need to put our foot down. Sometimes, when I email a brand back, they won’t reply for a week. For 2 weeks. Then they expect a 3-day turnaround for content. I just don’t have the time! Everything I do revolves around a calendar and right now, that calendar is full. My 30 minutes of email time is all I’ve got.
I’ve realized a lot of this means I need to put up boundaries. In initial emails to brands, I need to tell them about my 2-day rule: If I haven’t replied in at least 3 days, send me a follow up. But don’t badger me. And please, it’s not urgent, we’re not performing surgery here or changing the world. All the reliance on the word urgent, when it’s not, just makes me anxious.
2. It’s Ok, You’ll Survive
About 18 months ago, my husband asked me why my blog was so important to me.
And my answer was: who am I without a blog?
I’ve always been the girl with the blog. I’ve always been that girl.
I don’t believe in being an artist without creating. And a lot of influencers, bless them, are artists without creating. Without naming names, there has been an influencer in the news, after being profiled on a Twitter thread, who is one just like that: she talks about giving creativity workshops, about creating art, but she doesn’t seem to actually create an art. She doesn’t publish, she doesn’t blog, she doesn’t even post on Instagram anymore. I feel bad for the callout, because who isn’t a bit of a poser at 22, but good gravy.
I’m a writer. It’s what I do. And a big part of me believes that if I were to stop blogging, I would lose my last tenuous connection to writing. I know this isn’t true. I know that I write more in my dayjob than most people do in their lifetimes, but it’s an unshakeable notion. I need to be writing, I tell myself, so I can at least convince myself that I’m creating.
But that ignores all the ways I do write. During my slump, during my break, I wrote a lot. I journaled, and wrote a few poems, and wrote a few short stories. I had ideas. And I’ve realized that sometimes blogging, as much as I love it, eats up the time I could spend reading, writing things that light my brain up, and being creative. It’s a hard balance to maintain: writing for work, writing for my blog that I love, and writing the stories I want to read. I don’t really know how to combine them quite yet, but I realize this now: It’s ok, I can survive without this if I have to.
3. I Don’t Know What To Do With Empty Time
This is perhaps my starkest lesson. After the holidays, when I cleaned up our house, took down the tree, and spent several frantic hours cleaning, I realized that, once I’m done, I don’t know what to do. What do people do with free time? Even in my downtime, when dinner is over and Forrest is playing and I don’t have any cleaning or work to do, I find myself getting antsy. I have to be doing something. I struggle to watch TV shows. Sometimes, I even struggle to sit still to read. I like being productive. I like moving. I like producing things. While many assure me there are worse ways to be, I realize I need to work on the fact that I always feel like time needs to be filled. That I have to go somewhere or do something. It’s ok to just sit and look out the window. It’s ok to play on my phone. It’s ok. It’s all ok.