#weekendcoffeeshare: Circles of control

If we were having coffee, I might tell you how I’m in my second year of my MFA program, have just started NaNoWriMo, and I’ve been generally thinking about burnout.

The past few weeks I started doing something that I first learned about in a book called Embarrassment and the Emotional Underlife of Learning by Thomas Newkirk. It’s an exercise where you think about a goal that you want to achieve and you draw a circle on a blank page. Within that circle, you write all the things that you can control. Everything outside the circle—even, to some extent, whether or not you achieve that goal—is outside of your control, so focus on the things that are in the circle. It’s one of my favorite things to do right now. The tension between my expectations and my reality have often caused me the most emotional strife. By drawing the circle, I at least manage my expectations.

It’s NaNoWriMo and I am participating as I have been since 2015. And I’ve been thinking about this blog post I wrote on the first day of December of 2016, the last year I “won” and wrote 50,000 words in a month. At the time I wrote that post, I felt submerged in all the despair that swept through my personal and professional spheres in the weeks after the 2016 election. I wrote about a quotation that I carried with me that entire year:

Art can’t save you from pain, but the discipline of hard work can drag you through it.

Molly Crabapple, Drawing Blood

I haven’t thought about that blog post or that quotation in a while, and in a way, I’m lucky to be able to set that strife aside. But this past week I have been reminded of the ways in which I have internalized the idea that the discipline of art has helped me through pain.

So far in my second year I have been trying to prevent burnout. It’s a fine line to walk between working hard and taking care, between being ambitious and being too ambitious. I’ve been trying to keep sight of the things that matter, and maintain balance between work and play. When I feel out of control—from pain, frustration, worry, doubt, anything—I draw my circles. I recommit myself to my vision. And it’s NaNoWriMo—I intend to write in a fury.

If we were having coffee, I’d invite you to write with me.


Header image from Pixabay.

This post was created as part of #weekendcoffeeshare. Check out more posts in the hashtag.