Recently, I heard about an astonishing study. Two groups of individuals were placed in a room with a bowl of radishes and a bowl of cookies. Each group was then given a puzzle to work on. The puzzle was impossible to solve, though none of them were told that. One group was allowed to eat the cookies, the other could only have radishes.
Guess which group took longer to give up on the puzzle?
Yup, the cookie group. They plugged away at that impossible puzzle longer than the radish group. Now that could simply mean that cookies are better brain food than radishes (wouldn’t THAT be good news?), but the researchers took it to mean that because the radish group was already exercising their willpower to avoid the deliciousness of the cookies, they had less to give to the task at hand.
On one level, this is not new news. But it came at me like a revelation. It’s not an excuse to give up, but it is a reason to stop being so hard on myself when I feel like I just CAN’T write, the well has run dry. Research show the well DOES run dry. One cannot simply push oneself relentlessly under ordinary circumstances and expect positive results.
I expect an awful lot of myself, occasionally an unrealistic amount. I want to achieve so much, and I want it all NOW. And I wonder why, in the middle of all that pressure, I find myself staring at a blank page, or at Facebook, or into open space, unable to produce a word. The lesson I take from research on willpower is to be gentle and patient with myself, that I will be a published writer one day, for example, even if that means, as one of my writing group members shared recently, to only write one sentence a day and consider that a success.
Plus, starting a new job will really take it out of you. I’m on week three of a new gig and it’s draining my brain. Another drain on my willpower. Add to that a ton of new music to learn with Uptown Express, with a fundraiser to plan for them as well, and you have a seriously depleted bucket of willpower.
Any suggestions for refilling the bucket so I can get back to writing?