Like all things we wish would stay around, those that become solid streaks eventually end.
So it is with my run of several years of doing something creative every day.
In retrospect, I should’ve avoided sitting in one of our newest, most comfy reading chairs that has a tendency to put me to sleep. That was the clincher.
I’ve been working part-time at two jobs seven days a week for the last couple of months. So pretty much daily, I’m coming home more tired than my usual tired — which is to say, TIRED — and then sitting in that chair after hours to get some reading in or… you guessed it… creative work done.
With my shift hours all over the map day-to-day over the last year and a half, nothing has been regular from waking times to sleeping times and everything in between. So doing creative work could never become a routine as far as time or place it was done. Sometimes I’d do it first thing in the morning when I got up. Other times I’d have to remind myself to squeak it in just before I went to bed. Usually it was somewhere in between those two.
But it finally happened last night: I was on that chair, and even though I had my phone out for jotting down some content for a new writing project I’m working on, I was tired enough that blinks became long blinks, and long blinks became quick bits of sleep, and soon I fell asleep as late hours approached. Then woke up in the wee hours this morning, and realized I hadn’t done anything creative the day before.
I thought of everything I could that may count, hunting on my phone for support.
Had I already jotted something down earlier that day and forgotten about it, as I sometimes do?
Had I sketched anything?
Had I taken any photos and done any editing on them to make them their best?
Had I… I dunno… thrown anything onto a social media post that was remotely creative that I could call sufficient?
… and that last part shows the desperation I felt about wanting to keep the creative-every-day streak alive: Trying to find something, anything that I could label a creative effort for the day.
But everything I thought of as a potential option was a dead end. I hadn’t done anything creative the day before. The streak was officially over.
I felt regret. I felt like I hadn’t tried. Like I hadn’t prioritized it as I should’ve for something I was trying to maintain. Which was, of course, absolutely true. I mean, let’s face it, if actually maintaining that streak was the top of my list of things to do each day, I’d take the time — even just a few minutes — and do that right when I got up each day. As it was, it often became the very last thing I’d do each day. In that respect, I’d been flirting with a failure for years.
But then in the acceptance of the streak being dead, I realized that, while I was still disappointed in myself for not keeping it alive, it had only ever been an arbitrary challenge I’d laid out for myself anyway. It could’ve been anything else I tried to do each day: A good deed, or trying new food, or yoga. Learning more stuff on the guitar. Drumming. Learning a new language.
The arbitrariness of the challenge took away some of the sting of failing to keep the streak going.
And the other part that really sealed how relatively small a deal it was: I genuinely don’t know how long the streak was.
*needle scratches the record and the music stops*
Because I started it so spontaneously, it was such a small thing at the time, I never made note of what day, month, or even year it was when I started. I remember where I was when I started doing it, but that was a pretty typical day in the part-time gig I had at that time. There was nothing notable on most of those days to distinguish one shift, or even a week or month of them, from another.
My crappy memory doesn’t help matters, of course.
I know it was at least a year — I think at least two — before the pandemic hit. So I’m thinking it would be in the 2018 range. Possibly earlier (I do recall something about 2017), but that may just be me misremembering and adding on for not really having anything stopping me from doing so.
But that’s just it: I don’t know when I started doing it. I can’t even be sure of the year. So come on, without even that hard fact to start with, what use is bothering to keep track of how long a streak has gone?
Five years for sure.
Six, I think.
Like… no sour grapes moment, but in a real sense, what have I been bothering to keep count for at all?
And of course, as I’ve realized about other challenges I’ve put on myself: They’re just challenges. I did better with this one than I ever have before. The longest streak I’ve ever worked at and kept track of (if admittedly poorly). Still, that’s something to be genuinely proud of. And if I opt to start it up again, this time I’ll be sure to make very good notes about precisely when I started.
But in the meantime, I also realized in my bleary, waking-at-2:30am-state, there’s way more important real world stuff to focus on. We could really use more money coming in, and I’m the one without the three decades of money-earning career like my wife has. So that’s me needing to figure out how to make more money. Ideally without continuing a seven-day-a-week schedule (a streak I’ve no intention to keep running, thanks very much), and ideally in fields that don’t put a lot of continuing wear and tear on my middle-aged body.
And speaking of bodies, I’ve been gaining weight lately, which I could do without. Part of that is definitely the erratic work shifts that aren’t literally all around the clock, but are uncomfortably close to it for optimal mental and physical health. No regular eating time lends itself to early or late or continued snacking, and let’s just say that tends to not be noshing on carrots and apples.
I’m a husband to a fantastic woman and dad to an amazing kid.
So yeah… I put things in perspective pretty quickly and reminded myself that countless parts of my life of course matter way more than a self-imposed, arbitrary challenge. They need my attention more than anything else in the world. And I’m lucky enough to have so many needs and wants already covered that I even have the luxury of time to be creative at all.
I’ll take it when I can get it.
Having said that, I did something creative today. Not to start a new streak, and not because I felt I had to. But just because I had the time and I wanted to.
That feels much more my speed.