I have a question for all the creatives out there, grinding away at the latest project, or practicing until their hands go numb: When’s the last time you felt good about taking a break? If your answer is never, then I promise you, you aren’t alone. It seems we and our colleagues are plagued by this cheeky little voice that says if we ever stop working, if we ever stop applying direct thought and action to our everyday lives, we are worthless; “we are only as good as what we produce.” Well, I’m here to tell you, that voice did not learn that from you, and is, quite frankly, full of shit.
My name is Naji, and I’m a self-professed creator & storyteller. On a daily basis, I wear several hats, like “producer,” “singer/songwriter,” “CEO,” “strategist,” “accountant”… and the list goes on. My most popular hat might be as the “artist” Naji, or as a “host” on my platform & podcast, Thousand Story. Needless to say, I’m well-versed at producing and managing content in order to earn a living. And that’s where the whole “Do-Be-Do” thing comes in.
“We spend all of our time doing, to the point that we actually shame ourselves and others for embodying the other half of the spectrum – being.”
My own progression in adopting the mentality came out of necessity. I happen to be fortunate enough to have a stupidly-intense work ethic, which comes with many pros and cons. Pro: I get shit done. Con: If you saw me even a year ago, left to my own devices, I would’ve died of starvation from forgetting to eat. The more I got enveloped in a project, the further I detached myself from reality. And that meant my social life + health all fell by the wayside, for the sake of appeasing the little voice in my head that said, “you are only as good as what you make,” and the bigger voice that said, “If you aren’t working, you’re wasting time.” This obviously took a toll on many aspects of my life, and I had to do something to stop myself from turning into a human-shelled robot.
At some point, I remembered watching this quantum physics documentary that featured a man name Dr. Amit Goswami. He was talking about something in relation to metaphysics, and I really didn’t absorb much of it, but what I did catch onto was his concept of “The do be do be do.” The gist of it was that we, as humans, especially in The United States, have an imbalanced prioritization of doing and production and efficiency. We spend all of our time doing, to the point that we actually shame ourselves and others for embodying the other half of the spectrum – being.
“A lot of our STRESS can be alleviated by finding that healthy balance of doing and being.”
Being is reflection. Being is observation. Being is relaxation. Being is rest and restoration. And for some reason, we have it ingrained in our society that those are bad things. That it’s undesirable to need a break or to have to stop working. And that’s scarily dangerous for us. And a lot of our woes, a lot of our concerns for our lives, a lot of our STRESS can be alleviated by finding that healthy balance of doing and being.
So after that whole revelation, I decided to adopt the mentality in as many ways as I could. I stopped attempting to bring (do) new people to me, and just enjoy myself, letting the right energies gravitate towards me (be). I could then enjoy the people around me, because they were who I wanted around me. In my work life, I started figuring out how I learn new things best, how to practice effectively, and in less time (do), so I could feel less guilty about taking time to binge watch a new series (be). I found that I could better schedule time with family (do) when I gave myself dedicated down time throughout the week (be). You see where I’m going with this?
As a result, my ability to keep making music has thrived. As someone who is constantly seeking to try out new styles and different sounds/directions, I had to develop a means of sustaining my creativity, because burnout is REAL, and I was headed in that direction. But that’s not to say I don’t work just as hard. I still have the occasional all-nighter mixing session. I still make at least 5 to 10 release-ready songs or creative ideas a month. But I’m smarter with my time, and kinder to myself. If a lyric just isn’t coming out, I don’t force it, I work around it. Instead of telling myself “this has to fit this cadence/line/melody” I say “well, we’re changing the cadence/line/melody.” Or, I work on something else entirely. Or I just stop.
My point is, there’s no point in wasting time feeling bad about why something isn’t coming when 50 other things can and do come. So I choose to take advantage of those other things when I can, and my body, mind and company appreciate me all the more for it.
So I ask you again: When’s the last time you felt good about taking a break? Because you definitely deserve one, no matter stage in the game you’re at. Yes, be productive. Yes, learn things. But do NOT feel badly about needing to pause or walk away. Discipline is not just doing for the sake of doing. Discipline is knowing yourself, and sticking with what works best for you. Hell, I even had to apply the same logic writing this article. I wrote the first two paragraphs a few days after prompted, then had to pause for a week. And here we are, with a completed thought, and article. Life goes on, but shit still gets done in my world. So figure out how you work, and run with it. Your life will thank you every day for it.