The Cure for Writer’s Block

I spent last weekend in Guadalajara with a new friend, and I wish I could say I had a great time, and there were some wonderful moments, but for the most part, it was a massive cluster fuck.  I was trying to force myself to be chill and have an amazing time, but I wound up falling down some stairs while playing guitar at a little shop, lost my keys to the AirBnB and nearly had to sleep in the courtyard all night, and generally felt all out of sorts.  I wound up having a panic attack in the street, and completely making a mess of everything.  I got up early and jumped on the bus back to Leon first thing Sunday morning, putting the disastrous weekend behind me.

When I got back to the condo, I felt broken and defeated.  I didn’t feel like myself, and all sorts of bad thoughts kept surfacing.  Part of me was feeling massively frustrated with how slowly and off-track my start-up was going, and none of it was under my control.  I swear, I work with a lot of Mexicans, and even more Mexi-can’ts.  I felt that I had wasted time and money and I was no closer to where I needed to be then when I got off the plane from Chicago 2 months ago.

Monday, I didn’t do anything.  Well, that’s not completely true – I spent all day putting my priorities in order and trying to figure out why I was in such bad shape.  My friend from the weekend had mentioned something in passing that stuck in my head all the home, and started to resonate.  To paraphrase, it was a general impression that I’m a very motivated and bright fella, but I’m all sorts of fucked up right now.  And it’s true.  So I spent the day trying to figure out how I got so far down the wrong path, and what I could do to steer back to where I needed to be.

First, the most obvious issue was that I’m 2,000 miles from home, and completely out of my comfort zone.  Trying to figure out customs and holidays and the general mindset of the culture, while having the vocabulary of a 3-year-old was trying, every day.  I try to go with the flow, but sometimes it can just get unnerving and weighs down on me.

Then there’s my health, both physical and mental.  Back in Indy, I’m better at recognizing when I’m in a slump, and I get myself back to the gym regularly, keep a tight reign on my diet, and I tend to bounce back.  Seriously, the endorphins I get from a few miles on the elliptical every day, and staying away from starchy carbs, are enough to keep me going at top condition and keep me sharp.  But the last two months have been erratic and even though I had joined the gym down the road, I didn’t go.  I was grabbing fatty tacos and tortas and tequila shots and slowly melting into a blob of crap.  And the same holds true with my state of mind.  Blob of crap.

Thirdly, I was getting very erratic, and taking little weekend vacations to try and get back into my best form for my burgeoning company, but it wasn’t helping like it should.  Unfortunately, traveling like that was only a band-aid for my troubles, and it actually gave me an excuse to splurge on even more fatty foods and cocktails.  I found some kick-ass t-shirts, but for all of the wandering, I was getting nowhere.

I put all of this into perspective, and told myself, “Wow.  You’re being a dickhead.  Fix it.”  So I started with what I knew would be a massive surge forward, and that was to get back to my healthy routines, just like I’d do back home.  Stop eating unhealthy, delicious street food and back on my good diet routine.  Go the gym every day and run through the woes of the morning on the elliptical.  Get moving and motivated every morning, by cleaning up, putting on pants and dressing for work, even if it’s just a shop day alone.  There’s a serious psychological effect of putting one’s shoes on – it puts someone in the frame of mind to do things, rather than lay around feeling lazy.

The second thing I did was look at the overall scope of everything that I need to do with my new company to get it moving and start selling product.  It was a long and daunting list of tasks with many unknown pieces of the puzzle that I was nowhere near figuring out.  My original timeline was completely broken, and even though I’d been making some traction, it was a mess.  I thought about how other little startups are put together, and rarely do people venture out on this sort of thing alone.  My biggest issue was that I have all the necessary skills to make all of this happen, but I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  I was unorganized and chaotic.  I needed some help to keep everything in order, or I was gonna drive into the wall.

Fortunately, I knew someone who is partially retired that used to be the Director of Operations for a large company.  Even better, I knew I could trust this person implicitly, and that they might be interested in coming on board in an operational capacity for a few hours a week, and might be willing to do it in exchange for a small piece of company ownership.  It’s my mom.  I called her up and told her about how everything was progressing, but that I needed someone to help keep my day-to-day in check, work with me to establish deadlines and help manage workflow.  A coach, if you will.  Luckily, she was wonderfully excited to work on everything with me and take on the much-needed role.  All of a sudden, some of the weight that I was carrying on my shoulders evaporated.

The next day, I dragged myself down to the gym and started running.  That 45 minutes of solitude gave me a moment to take inventory of my day, and to sort out the tasks that I needed to do.  I got back to the shop, started making emails and calls and getting back into full swing.  A couple of pots of coffee later, and it was midnight!  I had been sharp and focused all day, and made a whole new dent in my workload.  The following day, and the day after, and the next, I got more accomplished than I had in the whole month of April.  I finally had a fucking plan, and got moving.

If you were to ask my mom, she would tell you that the turnaround in my work was some sort of karmic retribution, and something about a mind/body/spirit connection.  Maybe.  All I know is that I was able to find so many answers to things that were looming over my head, in a short time.  For example, I’d been back and forth on the different types of hardware that I was intending to use for my bags.  I had jumped in headfirst, and the different pieces didn’t really feel as if they were appropriate as a wholly designed group, and it was bugging the hell out of me.  However, after a bunch of research online and some searching in the leather district downtown, I found an epiphany.  I went back to the foundry with the new solutions, and pivoted some of the loose strings from the designs into a formulated, structured, branded plan for all the bag hardware across the whole line, that would simplify everything.  The head of design wholly agreed with the new plan, and we left the meeting with a rock solid scope for the next step.

In fact, every day is starting to take shape with recognizable goals and appropriate meetings and sudden focus.  If you were to ask me a couple weeks ago why I was stuck in place with progress, I would have probably blamed it on all of the problems with the production facilities and Mexican work traditions that made no sense to me.  Truthfully, if I just sat around waiting for inspiration to strike, I’d still be sucking down carnitas in December with nothing to show for it.  Instead, all it takes to be inspired, is to make it happen for yourself.