Sometimes, You Need a Good Veg Day.
Between the ten [billion] responsibilities you’re juggling and all the writing rules out there — write 750 words every morning, write something every day, edit 100 times before you submit, always be submitting — it’s easy to feel overwhelmed to the point of inaction. This can be the case even when you enjoy every single item on your to-do list.
I feel this, the enjoyment paradox especially. This fall, traveling to a writing workshop in Italy, serving as my friend’s maid of honor, celebrating my birthday, and enduring the Sisyphean task that is an email inbox meant that I had no spare moments from late September to just before Thanksgiving.
Under these circumstances, work requires a great deal of motivation (read: coffee). Attempting to write is nigh impossible.
Bottom line: it’s difficult to sustain and motivate as a creative professional if you’re experiencing burnout. Sometimes, you just need a good veg day.
Science Supports Veg Days, Especially for Creative Professionals
According to Scientific American, "Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. [… It] is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved tensions in our lives and to swivel its powers of reflection away from the external world toward itself.”
This is why we, especially as writers, feel more stressed when our brains don’t get conscious downtime.
My Ideal Veg Day
If you’re so deep in the hole of busy work that you don’t know what a veg day would look like, here’s a sample veg sesh I had the Saturday before my birthday. (This was post-Italy and pre-wedding, and my head felt like it was going to implode.) The veg day was marvelously lazy and has helped me hop back into writing and editing like a champ.
Basically, I Netflixed and solo-chilled for twelve hours. I know that sounds insane, but I had a lot of TV to catch up on. The “Captain’s Log" below shows how the veg day moves from relaxing and therapeutic to the point of poking me, the test subject, in the direction of future productivity:
- 2:00 p.m.: So thrilled to be sitting in front of the TV doing nothing! I proceed to catch up on my shows.
- 7:00 p.m.: With credits rolling on The Good Doctor and Beyond Stranger Things, I go out searching for new material. I think I’ll check out Mindhunter on Netflix, see what that’s all about.
- 7:30 p.m.: The show is decent: classic Fincher but nothing groundbreaking for the thriller genre. It should be good background noise for doing laundry, which I'm now itching to do.
- 9:00 p.m.: Intermission for a shower. Get hungry, pop popcorn.
- 11:30 p.m.: Netflix shows me the “Are you still watching?” screen. I’m pleased that I get to use my favorite meme in this follow-up post.
- 1:00 a.m.: Start feeling incredibly lazy and useless, a little bit grungy.
- 2:00 a.m.: Finish the entirety of Mindhunter. Feeling drowsy from veg day, I brush my teeth, hop into bed. Tomorrow I’ll be a more productive member of society.
And do you know what? I was! On Sunday, I cleaned all of the things, went to the grocery store, wrote a bit, and went on a walk with the boyfriend. You couldn't have kept me on the couch if you paid me. (Well, maybe then.)
Other Examples of Veg Days
If TV isn’t your thing, or if one Netflix binge just leads to more bingeing, there are other ways to have veg days.
Essentially, you’re looking for something either frivolous and fun OR mind-clearing and calm. An activity in which you don’t have to think, especially not about work, expectations, or deadlines. That’s what we’re aiming for here. At the end of it, you’ll be rested and relaxed, your brain will have processed all of that material it needed to, and you’ll be ready to take in more active stimuli moving forward.
So, go for a day hike. Binge read. Go to a movie or take yourself shopping. Go out dancing! Try an adult coloring book. Meditate.