As much as I get energy from creating something and feeling productive, there are days where I need a day off. For instance, if I’ve put in two 8-hour drawing days over the weekend, have a long day at work on Monday, and am just not finding the motivation to draw later that evening, I designate it as a rest day and go all-in on the recovery (for example, a movie, ice cream, and comfy clothes). I’ve found that if I force myself to work when I’m not feeling engaged with the project, I won’t do my best work, and those feelings will only be compounded each day I feel that way. With creative projects, it’s important to feel excited to work, otherwise the lack of interest with show through.
There are little tricks that I use to see if I genuinely need a break, or if I'm just feeling lazy. Some moments of waning motivation are salvageable. It's one thing if I really can’t get into the headspace that I need to be productive, but it's another if I would prefer to just watch another episode of whatever on Netflix. In those moments, I try to find a quiet and introspective task like boiling water and making herbal tea. I put the cup of tea on my desk, set up the project I’d like to work on, and set up my workspace as if I am about to work. I let my tea cool for a few minutes, drink it while looking at everything in front of me, and often by that point, something grabs me and I’m good to go. Other times, I kick up my feet and start looking at pictures of my niece on Instagram or start making a playlist. If working is not in the cards, I try not to force it.
I have also noticed that I have a tendency to collapse after a long day of work and all I want to do is go to bed. If I’m feeling that temptation bubble up at 2 or 3pm, I will sometimes make a cup of lightly caffeinated tea to perk myself up but not keep myself awake at bed time. Usually at those points, my goal is to remove napping from my list of motivations; I know I will get sleep later on, but there is no need to dive into a nap at 5:30pm, feel disoriented when I wake up, and then struggle to go back to sleep when it’s actually bedtime.
I’ve been listening to Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani’s quarantine podcast, in which they share the insight, “You are not working from home; you are trying to get work done during a global crisis.” I try to remember that whenever I feel like I’m not being as productive as I'd like to be. While I've celebrated having more time and space to work over the last couple months, the normal measures of productivity just don’t apply right now. I try to walk the line between taking advantage of the extra time and not holding myself to an unrealistic standard given everything that is going on.
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Brookline, MA.