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“Don’t try so hard.” —Freddy Mercury

I am writing this one from bed, sick for the first time in forever. Now, I can give you all the excuses for why I’m sick—just got off 10 weeks on the road (and luckily, my mind does a good job willing me not to get sick out there on the highways), major changes in several areas of my life, a lawsuit over some music of mine that was stolen, a score for a film I love by a director I love that I am very behind with, this insanely divisive election, behind on calls, etc., etc. blah, blah, blah

But all I’m really saying could be said in one sentence.

I’m sick because I took on too much and didn’t take a break.

If you don’t stop every once in a while, your body is gonna make you stop.

A good friend of mine called and she said, “Hey, bud, I see you are working hard—but are you having any fun?”

In America, we think working too hard is a badge of honor. There is no medal for this. If anything, you don’t know what it is taking away until you grow too old to know you have wasted so much time on things that don’t really matter in the big scheme of things. I always take it as a compliment when someone says, “Man you are working on so many things!” But doing 100 things pretty well is not as powerful as doing one thing incredibly well. And doing 100 things at the sake of your health and well-being? That’s just stupidity.

My friend was not commending me for keeping a full calendar. She was saying, what the hell are you doing? 🙂 She told me to read The One Thing, which I plan on doing after I learn to do nothing for a while. 🙂 (And, yes, I realize I am saying do nothing while I write a blog to you… We preach better than we practice around here, folks.)

Self-care is not selfish (Thx Doc). If you don’t have energy, you can’t give anyone else energy, either. Get over the guilt of taking some time off. It might just be the key to your next idea.

Don’t do anything—just sit there.

When I finish a tour, it takes a few days to get back into my regular schedule. I know many musicians who can’t get off the couch for a few days after moving from town to town for weeks at a time. (Sturgill Simpson talks about this perfectly on Joe Rogan’s podcast.) The road is amazing, but the road can also be a monster. Most people think they want it till they get out there for months on end and find out just how stable they really are. Sleep schedule? Forget it. Able to call everyone back and keep your loved ones happy with calls dropping and people coming up to your phone every five minutes? Forget it. Burnt out while people are thrilled to talk to you, and you let them see it? BOOM. One fewer fan who will tell about 50 other fans what a jerk you are. 🙂 And rightly so—you asked them to be there, and you are lucky to have the work. Living on the road seems romantic until you get out there and months vaporize in the blink of an eye. We still love it like when we started, but we are getting smarter about setting our own schedules and protecting our off time.

Whether on the road or at home, two words that have become very powerful for my sanity and in writing and creating music:

Airplane Mode

The muse doesn’t need much to help you out. She wants to be there, but you gotta get out of your own way and gotta let her work for you.

We sit down to knock out an idea or a goal, but we keep checking the news feed, we keep multitasking. We tell ourselves, well, I’m just gathering ideas by watching YouTube or checking in on Instagram. I better look at this thing my friend told me to check, or this band I’m supposed to listen to, or this speech that might—or—or—or…

NO. Such a small and powerful word. So easy to write and so hard to use.

We are all getting really great at creating chaos that drowns whatever inner voice might rise up and give the world something valuable. Tech allows us to never ever have one quiet thought to ourselves. We’ve got so much tech now that we are creating new tech to protect us from the tech we have created! There is an app to block you from your own social media use, to turn your phone off for you. Seriously? Is this our level of willpower?

Most of the people I know who write, whether books or songs or comedians working on a set, they set a time and they DO THE WORK. Without distraction. They fight to create lives with less noise and more signal. I don’t think we get our very best ideas from multitasking. When you stop, when you just lay around thinking of nothing, that’s when really cool things actually pop into your head. I have forced myself to write daily for some time now, but I gotta say, it’s the few times I take a day off that I get the most creative. Removing the pressure to create actually allows the channels to open.

Einstein (and a number of Nobel peace prize winners) says to take breaks. Sometimes you even solve problems when you sleep. Our phones are the enemy in both these cases.

Put the phone in airplane mode. Dream. Imagine. Write a postcard. Doodle on a pad. Write in a journal. Read a book on the couch—read anything that’s not on your phone. There is proof that scanning headlines is making us poor, impatient, less empathetic readers.

Just let it all go for a minute.

I bet when you return to your work, you will do it better, with more fulfillment and reward. When we can feel like that even for a bit, it’s easier to be a little more kind to those around us, and we could sure use a little of that right about now.

Thanks for reading. See you next Wednesday.


PS When this post comes out, my man Kevin Deems is gonna send me an email in HUGE type that says GO TO SLEEP!! 🙂

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