Lessons from Mexico

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Mexico was incredible. 

M and I spent 10 days in beautiful Playa Aventuras earlier this month, doing nothing but laying in the sun, reading, eating and drinking. 

I came back with a tan, a broken toenail from playing beach volleyball, many beautiful photos, and a newly gained respect for the people of Mexico, all of whom were incredibly friendly, and full of life. 

I really tried by best to unplug from all the shit that has been clogging up my mind in recent months. 

Work dominates my thought process 12 out of the 14 hours I’m usually awake during the day. It’s just my reality. If I’m not actually sitting at my desk, I’m thinking about all the things I need to do once I sit back down. If I just finished a story and stand up to go get a cup of coffee, I’m already thinking about the next story, the next lede, the next paragraph, the next thing to add to the to-do list. It’s like an avalanche of thought, all the things just piling on top of one another, pushing all the other thoughts out of my ears until there’s no room for anything else. 

Well, in Mexico I wanted all the thoughts of work to melt away. Thoughts of stories and photos, deadlines and edits, I wanted them all gone. Even the dusty ones that have been hanging in the back of my mind for some time; those story ideas I never got to, or that feature story I started but never finished and always planned on going back to. 

I wanted to wash it all away. The sun, the salt water, and the beer, definitely all helped with that. 

With that cornucopia of consciousness gone, it opened up so much more space to focus on me, and the things that matter most, like Mackenzie. Books, beer, and beaches were also high on my priority list throughout the trip. 

I came back feeling like a new man. Despite the winter temperatures being an alarming wake-up call in the days after, I found it didn’t bother me too much, and all the tasks at work didn’t seem all that heavy and troublesome anymore. 

A sort of sanguine bliss comes over my brain when I sit down at the desk now instead of an anxious twisting in my guts, which generally happens when I’m feeling stressed and buried beneath the weight of it all.

Doing my best to get the most detail, and not drop my camera in the water.

Doing my best to get the most detail, and not drop my camera in the water.

Come on, you didn’t expect me to go to Mexico and NOT take pictures of birds did you?

Come on, you didn’t expect me to go to Mexico and NOT take pictures of birds did you?

The Tulum Archaeological site.

The Tulum Archaeological site.

On the beach one day, I was standing at the edge of the water, sipping a beer and soaking up the warmth of the sun. Generally, my skin only has two tones, white and red, so I was lathered with sunscreen and I could smell the coconut aroma each time I took a sip of the cold beer. 

After one sip I looked down, I was standing only about ankle-deep in the Caribbean Sea, and watched my feet sinking into the soft sand. The slightest twitch of my foot and more sand slid over top and I sank a little deeper into the rut. I wondered how deep I would sink if I just stood there and didn’t move? Up to me knees? Waist?

I bring this up because the editing process on my latest novel has been kind of like this. I’ve done nothing. I’ve done nothing and sunk deeper and deeper into a rut of procrastination. 

The deeper I’ve gone it gets harder and harder to make that one simple decision that would get me out. That being just open the damn novel and start making the edits. 

My brain is always telling me, “Oh we’ve gone this far, what’s one more day?”

A week passes and that logic begins to make even MORE sense. 

“We’ve gone THIS long now, so why not just wait, you worked really hard, just sleep in and forget it.”

The pillow and the sheets always feel extra warm in those moments, like a venus fly trap enticing it’s prey, closing in a warm embrace of death. 

Too dramatic?

Yeah probably. 

I’ve gotten out of the rut though. Earlier this week I opened up the thick black binder. 

My mind was confused. My brain looking from side to side as if wondering where he was. 

“What are you doing?”

“Are you really doing this?”

“No, you’re not doing this.”

Yes, I’m doing this. 

I made it through three chapters before 7:30 a.m. and was able to close the binder with a smile before hopping out of bed to get more coffee and the newspaper from out front of the apartment. 

Procrastination can be a real bitch sometimes, and I think it’s right to be scared of it. 

It keeps you working, keeps your goals moving forward, it keeps you doing.

So yes, if I’ve been in touch with you about being a test editor on this book, know that we’re getting close. 

How close, I can’t really say, but closer than we were three chapters ago, I can tell you that. 

Thanks for reading, 

J.J.W. 

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Even with a beautiful sunset I still can’t take my eyes off of her.

Joel Wittnebel