Do the Boring Stuff

healthy, relaxing breakfastAnother great podcast today from Liz Craft and Sarah Fain’s “Happier in Hollywood,” their podcast about life as TV writers living in Los Angeles. I would encourage you to listen to the whole thing. (One instance of bad language very early on, BTW.) Anyway, they have a guest this week, Melissa De La Cruz, a mega-best-selling author of young adult fiction. (Who knew? Not me.) But Melissa’s fabulously successful career came at the cost of a stroke.

She was a heavy user of the popular prescription drug Adderall, a stimulant often used to treat ADD but now popular across all spectrums of the population with anyone who wants to be more alert and productive. De La Cruz was taking the drug, sleeping about four hours a night, and churning out the work . . . until she had a stroke. Fortunately, it hasn’t left her with any debilitating after-effects, at least not any that were mentioned, but now she’s had to give up living with her artificial friend. (She wasn’t abusing the drug, by the way—at least in the sense of taking over the recommended dose. Her doctor told her that some rare people are prone to this reaction from Adderall and called her scan a good example of “Adderall brain.”)

So what has she had to do instead? Well, in her words from the podcast, “We just have to do the boring stuff that everybody says to do. . . . All the things I’ve rolled my eyes at I do now, and it’s so helpful.” She specifically mentions exercise, adequate rest, having time to herself, and keeping a gratitude journal. Like, really groundbreaking stuff, right?

I was pleased to have my own ideas echoed by such a productive and popular writer. Remember my principle (which I’m not linking to because I don’t remember the name of the post) of the inverse relationship between the drama of the procedure vs.. the drama of the results. Good, normal, boring habits produce great results. Big, dramatic, stressful actions bring mediocre (or in this case, harmful) results. The mad dash to the finish gets your heart pumping and that tremendous sense of relief as you mail the tax return, turn in the paper, finish the party preparations, or catch the plane. But that’s all you get. It’s very probable that the end product isn’t as good as it could have been, and in any case you’ve accomplished nothing extra by your last-minute stress. Isn’t all this terribly obvious? I’ve said over and over that it’s just weird for me to get something done ahead of time, or done by a schedule, and not to have that added upset. I’m sure it was weird to De La Cruz for awhile to write a script or a book without staying up until 4:00 AM as the buzz kept her going. As I’m writing these very sentences I’m reminded of a phrase I heard years ago from the professional organizer Sue McMillin: “addicted to adrenaline.” (I like that her website is called “With Time to Spare.” Wh-a-a-a-t? Isn’t rushing in at the last minute part of the experience itself? I guess not.)

There will be lots more to come on this topic of boring procedures equaling great results. But perhaps that’s enough for now.

Are you addicted to unnecessary stress?

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