Second wind

I hit “publish” and take off my headphones. 

After an intense period of creativity, the sudden silence sets in. I realise how much energy I expended. How deep I was locked in.

Then I begin to worry. I feel anxious. Restless. Anything I try immediately after that is always sub-par. I can’t concentrate. I feel both tired and energised and I don’t know what to do.

It happens frequently. So I reached out to Derek Sivers and asked about it. His response

“At first I didn’t know what you were talking about.  I could relate to everything else, but not the anxiety.

But as I thought back about my own writing, blog posts really, I do know/remember that super-adrenaline feeling after posting something.

I could see how it could feel like anxiety if not channelled into something.  To me, I just throw myself back into programming.  Programming feels like my “real” thing, whereas writing is supplementary.”

The rush, the tingling fear that rises up whenever you show your work to the world. I hadn’t considered it as adrenaline. 

So I took Derek’s advice. I tried to immediately throw myself into another project or pursuit. After writing, I’d focus on reaching out to people. Or cross-posting my work to other sites.

It didn’t work.

So I went a step further. I changed the format. After finishing my primary creative work for the day, I disconnect. I take myself out of the digital world and put myself in the physical. I’ll go for a walk. I’ll go to the gym. I’ll go and read a physical book. I’ll take a long shower or do some stretching and soft tissue work.

The switch from digital to analogue soothes the anxiety that rises up after I finish creating. But it also sets me up for a second wind, later in the day. I’ll feel energised and able to do high level conceptual work again. It may not reach the same intensity as the work done in the morning, but it gets pretty close.

I’ve seen James Altucher, Cal Newport, Ryan Holiday and many others discuss the limitations of creativity during a single day. The general consensus seems to be that three to four hours of high level creative work is the limit. 

But by alternating between the virtual and the physical, you can unlock a second wind.