By Steven Pressfield | Published: October 24, 2012
We were talking last week about acquiring mojo, which I defined as that state when we are going gangbusters in our writing, art, or business. It’s “flow.” It’s “the Zone.”
The only problem with having Big Mojo, in my experience, is you can’t keep it up for long. I know I can’t. My nervous system can’t take it. Three weeks maybe, four tops.
What do I do then? I flake out. Deliberately.
I knock off. I get outa Dodge. I take a break.
Years ago, I had a small freelance business. I used to get into trouble because I couldn’t say no to my clients. I was afraid if I weren’t available 24/7, they’d dump me. What happened was I never stopped working. I’d work myself to the point of collapse. I didn’t know how to stop.
Then one day I got some advice from my friend Morrie Weiss. Morrie was a lawyer in a two-man practice. “I used to have the same problem, Steve. I was like a fireman on-call 24 hours a day. Here’s how I solved it. At the start of each year, I sat down with my calendar and blocked out my times for vacation. Say, a week around a Fourth of July, another week in September, two weeks around the Superbowl.
“Then I wrote a memo to my clients and informed them in advance.
“It turns out that people have no problem with you going away, as long as they know in advance when. They can plan and work around it. Which makes perfect sense, right? I don’t mind when my shrink goes away in August. I lay in a month’s supply of Xanax and I’m cool.”
Here’s the wrinkle if you’re a writer or an artist: instead of telling your clients in advance, you tell yourself.
At the risk of jinxing myself by saying this, I’ve got some Major Mojo going right now. But I can feel myself starting to burn out. I can’t keep this level up much longer. So I’ll write a memo to myself:
Steve, just want you to know I’m heading out of town the second week of November. Back after seven days.
This is the way to take a break. NOT crapping out in mid-stream. NOT dropping the ball Wednesday, Friday and the next Monday.
Take time off in one big glump.
The other trick, in my experience, is to set the work aside completely when you’re en vacances. Don’t stew. Don’t fret. Don’t feel guilty. You’ve busted your ass; you’ve earned this time away. You’re giving your nervous system a chance to recover from excessive transmission of mojo.
The Muse won’t mind either. She got the memo. She knows you’ll be gone, but she also knows you’re coming back. She’s cool with that.
The goddess, I have found, works something like the Post Office or the New York Times. She understands the concept of “vacation hold.” All the ideas that she was planning on giving you next week … she’ll save them for delivery the week after. You won’t miss any issues.
I’ve found, too, that I don’t need to do all this vacation planning at the start of the year. It works just as well on the fly. Better though, in my experience, to slate our break two or three weeks in advance—rather than only a few days. Knowing we’ve got that length of time focuses our concentration. We can tell ourselves, “Okay, let’s really hammer this stuff for the next fourteen days.” We can go hard, because we know we’ll have time off at the end.
The final plus to taking “little vacations” is it jibes with our natural human rhythms. Our caveman ancestors didn’t work 52 weeks a year. When they made a good mastodon kill, they kicked back and hung around Bedrock for a while.
They got tan, they got rested, they got ready. They built up energy for the next acquisition of Mojo.