The Heartbreaking Task of Not Doing Everything

This post is inspired by The Art of Non-Conformity’s “When to Let Go of an Unsuccessful Project.”

Those of you who know me in the non-digital landscape, and perhaps those who only know me in the digital landscape, know me to be a do-it-yourself and do-all-the-things sort of doer-maker-creative. In essence, when I hear about a new project/venture and asked by friends/peers/coworkers to join in, I don’t know how to say “no, thanks.”

On the one hand, this has opened great opportunities for me to broaden my horizons, learn new skills, meet new people, and try new things. On the other hand, I overload my schedule and time, leaving me feeling burned out, exhausted, and not a little emotional due to my INFJ-introvert sensibilities not being satisfied.

I have gone through phases of being known for doing certain things depending on my focus at the time. In middle school, high school, and some of undergrad/grad school, I was known as a writer and author due to publishing historical fiction. Then things started to shift in grad school from being a writer-author (though I did publish another book just after grad school) to being a sketchnoter and  dancer (though I had no real training, I was just always dancing around the halls).

Almost three years out of grad school and somehow I’m known as a sketchnoter and swing dancer only. I have to admit, a part of me mourns the writer-author. For twelve years that was my focus, to read and write and read and write some more until something is ready for some semblance of publication. I’ve had a really hard time making it work this past year, though.

As much as I want to publish historical fiction again, I’m not making the time investment it requires. I haven’t gone to the library to scour history books in about four months. I haven’t picked up my writing journal to jot down a new scene, plot point, or character quirk in almost as long. Every now and then (usually when trapped on a plane) I will write two pages of this book I’ve been struggling to write for three years, only to have all imagination, verve, and interest deep dive into crippling doubt at my ability by the end of the second page. I still read fiction, but it’s mainly to take advantage of having a couple hours to myself on the off-chance I’m not running around after The Boy’s dogs or my family or swing dancing.

It’s been a tough six months of me coming to terms that I am shifting my attention from an activity that once defined me, to something new. It’s been something of a heartbreak for me to realize I really can’t do all the things. Despite society telling me (and I kind of believe) that I can and should and must do all the things because I am part of a generation that has the best opportunities of any American generation to date.

All this to say, last night I realized my passion is not in historical fiction anymore. It might come back, but for the time being, the time I’m supposed to be writing and editing is spent sketchnoting and swing dancing. This is called “procrastiworking,” from Jessica Hische, which I love.

“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.” – Jessica Hische

I daydream about how to teach people sketchnoting, the benefits in attaining this skillset and how to improve my own. When I have the time, I watch hour-long talks in my evenings just so I can sketchnote the content. I write books about sketchnoting and give talks at conferences. I’ve dreamed about having a virtual classroom to help non-local sketchnoters critique their results. I’ve also begun taking commissions. And when I’m taking a break from sketchnoting, I’m geeking out at lindy and balboa videos, due to a particular spin or clever  footwork or fantastic connection style.

To go back to the first sentence in this post, I’m not letting go of my writing because it is unsuccessful. I make roughly $50 – $70 a month on royalties, without me doing much of anything anymore. The problem is the lacking passion. I am heartbroken by my apparent lack of passion for something that fueled me for so long.

I’m struggling to be ok that this one passion has splintered into two instead: 65% sketchnoting, 45% swing dancing.

And no, that math is not off. I have a habit of giving 110%.

So therein lies my update: I am heartbroken that I can’t do everything, while at the same time feeling so excited that I’ve found these new passions in my life. It’s an odd place to be for a creative, this transition stage. But it’s probably also rather healthy. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Am I the only one who goes through this?

2 thoughts on “The Heartbreaking Task of Not Doing Everything

  1. “I’ve dreamed about having a virtual classroom to help non-local sketchnoters critique their results.” Have you heard from other people interested in that? =) Might be fun to build. Alphachimp University’s heading in that direction too.

    And speaking of this shift in interests and passion and activities – it’s normal, don’t worry about it. =) I’ve written about it in the context of shifting personal value propositions and, three years before then, my thoughts on the book “Refuse to Choose”. It’s okay to be less interested in the things you used to be really passionate about; it creates space for new interests. It may help to wrap up the interest neatly, like the way I’ve temporarily put away my sewing machine and my serger. Other times, you might let go of an interest without plans on the horizon to revisit it.

    Why fight it or feel bad about it? Follow the hints of your changing interests, and you might find yourself rediscovering old friends down the road. =) It’s funny how different things combine to give you a unique backdrop for your current curiosities.


    1. So I did a short survey on Twitter but really just got a couple of RT’s so I’m not sure if that means they are interested, or if they are looking to help, or if they are looking for critique. I wonder if Alphachimp University is looking for more teacher/critiquer/mentors?

      Haha one thing you’ll learn about me is that I’m kind of a worrier. Always worrying that I’m missing out, somehow. Never on a social scale however, always about creative pursuits.It does seem to be a natural thing, I guess I’m just mourning the particular feeling I would get while writing, which I just don’t get while doing some of these other pursuits. But I suppose that’s ok too.

      Thanks for the encouragement! So you sew as well? I don’t own a serger but the other day I made a dog hammock for the back of my car with my sewing machine. Felt good to make something physical again!


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