As a creative person, I’ve historically found administrative to-do lists terrifying. I’d start off gung-ho, then turn into a morose Hamlet-type. “To get it done, or not to get it done. That is the question.” All those unticked boxes came to symbolize shame and guilt. They mounded up so heavily I couldn’t lift them. Why try?

In retrospect, each administrative task I listed was made of a subset of smaller tasks that could have comfortably been completed had I tackled them over a realistic timeline. But that would have been too kind.

I eventually decided to content myself by moving the needle ahead a bit each day. Everything I needed to do is recorded in my brain, I told myself. But somehow, the things in my head rarely shape in reality. To friends, I described my undone to-do’s as a nebulous cloud of spacejunk orbiting my head. In complete overwhelm, I would procrastinate. Ironically, I felt constantly busy everyday. I’d close the word doc of my novel-in-progress and open the internet browser. Elephant-sized dread weighed on my chest and my brain would skid to the curb.

Cut to years later, when my anxiety escalated. I realized that the dormant to-do’s I needed—nay wanted to get done—could allow me to unstifle myself and share my words. They would allow the true me to step forward into the vision I hold. This realization changed everything.

I love to write, so the creative half of my day comes easily. Through expressive journaling, I yanked up the roots of my resistance to the administrative half. At the suggestion of a friend, I began journaling daily as a way to make friends with tasks I’d previously avoided. My anxiousness about what to do next has shushed for the most part. Some days I let tasks slide, because if I don’t love me …

We artists must be kind to ourselves, especially during this pandemic period when we’re all thrown off centre. At the best of times, left-brain activities fit most of us like tight suit. For many, even consistent creativity during COVID represents struggle. I call on the Buddhist idea of joyful exertion. We each find our way in when we’re ready. All steps, even baby ones, are a cause for celebration.

Sharing this feels a bit like modelling a bathing suit under fluorescent lighting—which puzzles me because I’ve shared more personal things without batting an eyelash. But the spirit moved me and so here I am.

 (PS Thanks for stopping by. Click here to join my bimonthly newsletter and receive Chapter One of The Last Hoffman.)

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A widower and young mother struggle to overcome their tragic pasts in a dying mill town. The Last Hoffman is the story of a quiet man who is tested and discovers his courage. It will restore your belief in second chances.

“I Loved Your Book The Last Hoffman It is insightful and honest and a great read. So to all of my reader friends Gwen is writing about us. Canadian literature at it’s finest.” –A Reader

“For all the novel features characters that are alone, it is a story driven by human connections (…) With vivid descriptions, natural dialogue and in-depth characterization, Tuinman compels us to look beyond the surface. The ending is triumphant.” –Gail Murray, Historical Novel Society